Gluten-Free in DC!!

Approaching my one-month anniversary of testing out a Gluten-Free diet, I'm facing my first big test in managing what is already a precarious lifestyle even in the comforts of my own home.  A week in DC for a work conference.  I'm on Day 3 and already have some lessons learned to share:

Plan ahead and pester the hotels!  
I called my hotel in advance to find out if I would have a mini-fridge in my room. I was advised they were only available in the suites, not the regular rooms, but after befriending the clerk, I learned any guest with a medical need (or otherwise, perhaps?) could request one be placed in their room.  Two thumbs up for JW Marriott in DC!


My general plan was to run to the Whole Foods in Georgetown upon my arrival and stock up for the week.  I had requested special meal accommodations throughout the conference, but had a premonition on ten years of experience at these shindigs that it doesn't always work out (more on the faults of hotel buffet lines later!).   I found my daily protein shakes by Rainbow Light available on Amazon in single packet servings, which worked out great to keep from bringing a bulky 11oz. large packet with me.

I love the Rainbow Light products!!



I also packed lots of ziploc bags of various sizes so I could plan snacks for each day and store things in the fridge in ready-made snack bags if I were in a hurry.  14 hour conference days do that to you.  :)

I brought a shake to-go bottle I found at Target - Blender Bottle (see picture below) - and a milk frother to serve as a makeshift blender... the little blender that could (but just wont mush that banana!).
 


And lastly, I bought an adorable picnic set of utensils - including chopsticks! - from The Container Store.  Read my Travel Tips page for a picture and more information.


Getting a Taxi at Kickoff on SuperBowl Sunday?!

When I arrived at the hotel an hour before the SuperBowl and after a harried 1.5 hour flight delay, I was told the fridge had not in fact been noted on my account (despite calling twice to confirm??), but they would send one up.  I waited impatiently for 20 minutes and knew with the icy weather I should head on before nightfall.  Let's just say that Whole Foods and SuperBowl Sunday is like a war zone.  Packed with about as many fans.  And everyone making a mad dash for the check-out line that I kid you not stretched halfway around the entire store  - and that my friends was just the express lane.  Luckily they have about 20 express check-outs so the line actually moves faster than you realize.

My staples for the week:

  • Bananas - epic fail in finding any not green  - Day 3 and they are still not usable as Crohnie's are advised to eat only ripe bananas.  I cheated and had one this afternoon - we will see how it goes!
  • Applesauce
  • Rice cakes
  • Glutino glutin-free crackers and cashew butter (which unfortunately turned out to not be ground enough, although it was labeled "creamy")
  • Probiotic chocolate bar
  • Rice milk for my smoothies
  • Tons of goat and sheep's yogurt - in fact every last sheep's yogurt that had not already been snagged!
  • Manchego sheep's cheese and Drunken Goat cheese
  • Powdered goat's milk for my coffee (I brought my own Stevia as well)
  • Coconut ice cream for a nighttime treat


Unfortunately, after returning to the hotel, my fridge had still not arrived.  Three phone calls and an hour later, it did; however, most of my foods were in dangerous territory of spoiling.  The hotel didn't even have an ice bucket so my next resort would have been filling the sink with ice to keep $70 in food from going bad!

Why Hotel Buffets Suck:

As predicted, although I discussed with the conference event planner my dietary needs of gluten/dairy/soy/nut free, I was assured the hotel would accommodate and that every meal would be buffet style, that there would be options for me, and that EVERYTHING would be labeled.  The reality:  nothing whatsoever in 3 days has been labeled, there are hardly any options for me, and even what is available is still cheating some.  Chicken has been coated in breading, salad dressings do not include an oil/vinegar option, etc...  Most of the time I end up doing what I call the "food shuffle" - putting bits of food on my plate regardless of whether or not I can eat it, and shuffling it around my plate while chatting with others.  And hoping no one notices I'm not really eating much of anything.

So I have been toting along my snacks and making quick dashes to the room when possible.


Restaurant Week in DC:

For most people, restaurant week is to be celebrated.  For someone with dietary restrictions, it is cause for alarm.  It's already hard enough finding something on the menu at most places.  When you literally have one to three options, it can be near impossible.  First up, I had to bow out of a planned dinner at an Indian restaurant - not the best idea for day one of a conference if I want to make it to the rest!  At another restaurant I was given the eye by a waitress when I asked that my scallops be made without bacon.  You know the eye - an accusatory stare that you are being picky as opposed to have a sincere and medical need to be accommodated.  I always open with a disarming smile and saying "I have some dietary restrictions" and even sometimes a little joke like I will try not to be much of a trouble maker.  This usually sets the others I am dining with at ease, as it can be very uncomfortable in a business dinner setting to ask a lot of food questions when you're already trying to avoid additional attention as to your health condition.  However, I will say when asked by business acquaintances, 8 times out of 10 they will say they know someone with Crohn's.  And then it is I who am put at ease.  I got the evil eye on the scallops but asked again more forcefully and she finally agreed to serve without bacon.  The rest of my meal - roasted chicken with carrots, was lovely, as were the sea scallops.

A link to my restaurant reviews, on Trip Advisor:

Occidental Grill
Grillfish
Old Ebbitt Grill




So, post and share what your favorite DC experience is!  The Newseum and a monument walk a night are among my favorites!


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