Promise Pizza

Posted: November 16th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Restaurant Reviews | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Today my wife and I decided to try a new pizza place in Round Rock, Promise Pizza (also on twitter @promisepizza), for lunch. They offer all natural and organic ingredients, have a gluten free crust, gluten free sauce, and gluten free toppings, and, for the vegans or lactose intolerant out there Daiya “cheese” and a vegan crust and sauce. They also have a great lunch special, a personal 8″ one topping pizza (additional toppings at a small added cost), a drink, and cinnamon knots for $5.95.

My wife got the lunch special with chicken and mushrooms for her toppings. She enjoyed the pizza (and I was jealous of the thick, puffy, chewy crust), but absolutely loved the cinnamon knots. She said they were much, much, much better than the typical cinnamon pizza or stix you get at most places.

As is fairly normal, the gluten free crust was only available in one size, the 10″, and wasn’t part of the lunch special. I checked and the italian sausage was gluten free, pretty rare for sausage at a commercial restaurant, so I decided to get that along with red peppers for my toppings. The pizza was very good. They use a more complex and flavorful dough than the typical rice flour crusts I’ve encountered since I was diagnosed with celiac. It was more than simply a platform for transporting the cheese, sauce, and toppings. I actually enjoyed the crust itself. Oh, and they had natural gingerale at the soda machine, immediately endearing their restaurant to me. 😉

My wife’s assessment was that Promise Pizza is a place she wouldn’t mind going back to in the future. Since I have so few quick lunch options and the ones I find are not always thumbs up for her, that was good news. Moreover, it’s the closest place to our home that offers any sort of gluten free pizza. It’s my luck that it’s the best I’ve found so far. Pizza is not really “health” food, but more “comfort” food. But they offer pizza that is as healthy and eco-friendly as pizza can be!


Brick Oven on 35th

Posted: July 26th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Restaurant Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Brick Oven on 35th

After an afternoon of rollerskating yesterday, my youngest daughter and I got dinner at the Brick Oven on 35th restaurant. The restaurant is an old house in one of Austin’s older areas near the Seton Medical Center. They have lots of artwork by local artists on display (and for sale) on the walls. The old plaster walls and hardwood floors provide a certain ambience. We enjoyed it.

They have an extensive gluten free menu that includes pizza! I ordered their Hawaiian pizza on a gluten free crust. Even though it was a small personal size, I thought I would only eat part of it and take the rest home. But it was soooo delicious I gobbled the whole thing. My daughter ate all of her pizza (with gluten crust) as well. It’s now the next day and I’ve had nary a sign of any gluten contamination. Of course, if they are going to claim a gluten free menu in the middle of all the medical buildings and practices that surround a major hospital, I suppose they better know what they’re doing!

This is now officially on my list of favorite restaurants! I just wish it was closer to us. Their gluten free pasta dishes are made using brown rice pasta. Their gluten free menu even included gluten free beer! I didn’t have any, but the fact that there’s a place in Austin where celiacs can safely order the classic American combination of pizza and beer is pretty amazing to me.

Definitely two thumbs up!


3 Months Gluten Free

Posted: July 21st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Celiac | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Actually, it’s more like 3 1/2 months now, but I decided it’s time for an update. I finally got the results of all the latest series of tests in and I have no other condition besides celiac causing bone loss. That’s the best news I could have expected under the circumstances, and hopefully means I will begin to recover bone density in my spine naturally at some point. The endocrinologist wants to do another scan next year. In the meantime, she’s increased the calcium + vitamin D supplement I’m taking to 3X daily: morning, midday, and evening. I do wonder how many years I had undiagnosed celiac for the malabsorption of calcium to actually lead to osteoporosis in my spine. I don’t think that happens overnight.

Otherwise I’m beginning to settle into something of a routine with the gluten free diet. I wouldn’t say it’s easy, but I try to keep my focus less on what I can’t eat and more on the goal for which I am striving. All things considered I could be in worse health. For now it’s a matter of taking it one day at a time.


Outback

Posted: July 15th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Restaurant Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Outback

Tonight after watching Harry Potter 6, my family and I decided to try the Outback Steakhouse for dinner. They are one of the chains that have a gluten free menu. Still, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I needn’t have worried. The words, “I can’t eat wheat. I have celiac” were barely out of my mouth when the waiter interrupted, “You need the gluten free menu.” I said yes. Exactly. It’s always a relief when I get better than a blank stare. When I ordered, our waiter made a point of telling me he would double-check with the manager to make certain that what I had ordered was safe for me to eat and that he would make sure to let the kitchen know so nothing got accidentally contaminated.

Wow!

That’s the level of service, knowledge, and concern I had previously only associated with premium restaurants like Flemings and locally owned non-chain restaurants. I liked Outback somewhat before my diagnosis with celiac. My opinion of them just went up several notches. Needless to say, we will be going back. Definitely impressed.


Shady Grove

Posted: July 12th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Restaurant Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Shady Grove is a wonderful and very “Austinish” local restaurant. It’s located on Barton Springs in south Austin and is one of the places the people with whom I work like to go for lunch. I haven’t been to Shady Grove (or many restaurants really) since I was diagnosed with celiac.

Last week, my coworkers were planning a lunch and were also planning to meet a friend of ours who is now retired. I really wanted to go, so I called the restaurant the night before and went through my normal spiel and discovered they had a gluten free menu! (I suspected they might. It’s that sort of restaurant.)

We went to lunch on Thursday and I explained my need to the waitress and she came back with a gluten free menu. Actually, it wasn’t just a gluten free menu. They had sections for dairy free, vegetarian, and vegan selections as well. I had the brisket tacos which were great. There weren’t a huge number of gluten free options, but there were enough for some range of choice. And mostly I was just happy to be able to go out and have lunch with friends safely somewhere.

Two thumbs up and a shout out to Shady Grove!


Taste of Ethiopia Take Two

Posted: June 28th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Restaurant Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Tonight, after our new roof was installed, we had made plans to go back to Taste of Ethiopia for dinner. My wife had called the owner, Woinee, several days in advance so that she could make her gluten free injera (Ethiopian flat bread made primarily from teff). Unfortunately, she had a catering engagement when we got there. Her husband is very nice, but we missed her personality and conversation at dinner. However, before she left, she had left the special injera for me!

I ordered the vegetarian sampler so I would could share and still have plenty of leftovers tomorrow. My younger son got a ground beef dish. I believe it was called kifto or something like that. My wife had the doro wat this time. My wife and son shared one family style dinner plate on the normal injera. I had a separate plate on top of my injera. We both had rolls of injera on the side. I also splurged with two cups of their coffee. I love it.

My injera? Wonderful. It was flexible and spongy, not the slightest bit crumbly. It had the texture of a real bread. And I loved being able to tear off pieces of it to use as my utensil picking up bites of food. I’m looking forward to my leftovers tomorrow. If you live in Pflugerville or the Austin area, you have to try out the restaurant. If you can’t eat gluten, call Woinee at least three days in advance and explain your special need. Otherwise, show up any time and indulge. If you can make a lunch visit and try their vegetarian buffet, I recommend that as your intro to the cuisine. If you have younger kids who tend not to be adventurous, they do have very American options like chicken nuggets for them.

My wife does recommend the doro wat with rice the way I had it last visit rather than eating it with injera. The rice mixes with the sauce and makes it easier for you to get more of the full flavor of the dish in every bite. My wife loves Woinee and missed her tonight but does not love the food as much as I do. Still, she likes it and will be happy to go there with me any time I crave another dose of Woinee’s food.


Taste of Ethiopia

Posted: June 22nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Restaurant Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

My wife, our law school son, and I headed to Taste of Ethiopia for lunch. None of us had had any prior experience with Ethiopian food, but the reviews were enticing. This restaurant is truly a dining jewel hidden away in a corner of a strip mall here in our own town of Pflugerville. If you live here and have not yet eaten here, you need to correct that omission as soon as possible.

We were met by the owner, Woinee Mariam, as we entered. My wife and I got the coffee while our son got the spiced iced tea. Since this was lunch, Woinee explained, it was not the full coffee service, but the coffee was still amazing. As a big poster declares, coffee truly is Ethiopia’s gift to the world. Apparently, in the full evening coffee service, Woinee will roast, grind, and brew the coffee in the traditional way. (Actually, I’m not sure if she does that at the restaurant or not, since it would certainly take time. But I’m anxious to find out!)

I then explained to Woinee that I had celiac and couldn’t eat wheat, barley, or rye. While not exactly an allergy, for practical purposes it can be treated that way. She said that her daughter can’t eat gluten or dairy, so she understands the diet. And she makes everything herself, so she knows exactly what is in it. Unfortunately, the injera (ethiopian flat bread) they typically make does contain wheat, so I couldn’t have any. However, Woinee said that if I call three days in advance, she can ferment the teff and make traditional gluten free injera for me! Wow! Obviously, that’s now high on my list of dining plans. I can’t wait!

I had the Doro Wat with rice (since I couldn’t have the injera). The chicken fell off the bone. The hardboiled egg was delicious. And the sauce was absolutely wonderful. I thought I would start with what is considered the national dish of Ethiopia for my first visit and it lived up to the reviews in every way.

My wife and son got the vegetarian lunch buffet. Woinee wouldn’t let them get forks! She came over and walked them through how to unroll and tear of pieces of injera and pick up and eat the food using the injera as their only utensil in the traditional Ethiopian manner. They tried some of everything and cleaned their plates – picking up all the food with their fingers.

At one point an older gentleman who was eating when we arrived left and Woinee ran out the door to ask him if he wanted some water to go. She came back in to get it for him and told us he was working outside and it was too hot not to have water. That sort of individual care and attention characterizes her approach to everyone. It’s as though we were guests in her home. When Woinee found out that our son was in law school, she gave him a big hug and told him that he must be very smart and a hard worker to be doing that.

If you live here and you’ve never eaten at Taste of Ethiopia, 1466 Grand Avenue Parkway, Pflugerville, TX, then go. You won’t regret it.


The First Year – Celiac Disease and Living Gluten-Free

Posted: June 20th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Book Reviews, Celiac | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The First Year – Celiac Disease and Living Gluten-Free

One of the books I picked up on celiac (and by far the best so far) is a book by Jules E. Dowler Shepard, The First Year – Celiac Disease and Living Gluten-Free. Jules has celiac and shares her story in the book. In a guide intended for those who are newly diagnosed that’s a critical factor. As she describes things to do and how to work through all the issues we encounter, you know she has been there. She’s not just imagining them.

The book is formatted so that it could be read and followed over a period of adaptation lasting a year from your diagnosis. I suppose some people might read that way. I’m not sure. I definitely don’t. I’m a sponge. I read it the first time over the course of a couple of day, marking pages of particular interest as I went. I’ve since referred back to it a number of times.

The days of the first week are focused on providing the history and the most accurate current information available on celiac disease. The information is easily the most current and most accurate of any book I’ve read. It’s also extremely thorough without ever being dry or overwhelming for someone who just received a pretty major disease diagnosis requiring a fairly dramatic life change.

The book is divided into sections on learning and on living. The sections on living include a wealth of recipes and extremely practical advice for a wide array of situations: birthday parties, business lunches, handling college, eating out, and talking to friends and coworkers about celiac. I highly recommend this book. If I had three thumbs, I would give it three thumbs up! As it is, Jules with have to settle for two thumbs. 😉

The foreword is by Alessio Fasano, MD, the founder of the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland. (I recall that my father did some of his education at the University of Maryland, but I don’t remember any details.) For additional historical information, details on the research done by the center, and studies underway, I recommend watching the following video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQHiBC_O9Y4

And If I Don’t Heal?

Posted: June 17th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Celiac | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

I prefer the best and most accurate information I can obtain. At all levels and circles of my life I try to interact with reality as it is rather than as I desire it to be. That does not mean that my understanding of reality does not adapt or evolve. It is constantly doing both — anything less would simply be another form of hiding from reality. I think I understand some of the reasons I am shaped that way. Some of it probably has something to do with developing some sense of control in situations where I often had very little.

But sometimes reality can be a little disheartening.

I’ve read this article, When Celiac Disease is Diagnosed in Adulthood, Intestines Don’t Always Heal Completely, several times now. The article reports on two studies presented by two different research teams at a recent medical conference.

The Irish study is not too bad — though I do have a lot of Irish in me, so that catches my attention. In it, at least two-thirds of those who did not have intestinal healing at the two to three year mark also had poor compliance with the gluten free diet. They did not stick to the fast. That stresses the importance of strict adherence to a gluten free diet over the long haul, but I had already absorbed that. Believe me, I am taking this seriously.

The Mayo Clinic study, though, does not share that problem. Most of their participants had good adherence to a gluten free diet. But their percentages were not markedly different.

In one presentation, Dr. Alberto Rubio-Tapia and colleagues from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota described their study of patients whose celiac disease had been diagnosed (and confirmed with a biopsy) during adulthood and who later had additional biopsies to determine whether or not their intestines had healed.
— Of 141 adults who had been gluten-free for less than 2 years, only 79 (56%) had healed intestines.
— Of 65 adults who’d been gluten free for 2 to 5 years, only 37 (57%) had healed intestines.
— Of 27 adults whose intestines were examined more than 5 years after they became gluten-free, only 14 (52%) had intestinal healing.

It seems that my odds are about even that my small intestine will heal completely. I can do everything I’m supposed to do and it still comes down to a flip of a cosmic coin. I do not appreciate the irony.

It seems that two of the factors that appear to influence recovery are age when diagnosed and the extent of villi damage. Neither of those are in my favor. I’m a middle-aged guy in my forties and my villi were basically gone when I was diagnosed. Visually, instead of white shag carpet, my small intestine looked like pink tile. Under the microscope, my doctor said it looked like my villi had been mown down by a lawnmower on its lowest setting.

On one level it doesn’t really change anything. I have to continue to develop the rythms and patterns of a life free from gluten. I will continue to work to shape my life with the rythms of prayer, not because I believe it is some form of magic or that I can somehow manipulate God, but simply because I know I need help to maintain this fast. It goes back to that integration between body and spirit I’ve discussed elsewhere.

I’ve already seen some of the acute symptoms, including ones I had no idea might be related, subside. And as I maintain the fast from gluten, I will heal at least some. And some healing has to be better, even if I remain at greater risk for complications associated with celiac. And who knows? My particular coin might still be heads. I might heal completely. If these studies had not been done, I wouldn’t even know that it’s something we need to monitor.

Still, I would be lying if I said the study didn’t bother me. I had more of a sense of control before I read it. And at least when it comes to my closest circle, the circle of my mind and my body, I strongly dislike loss of control. I suppose I find it threatening.

Oddly, I’m already doing as well as I know how on the gluten free diet. I will try to make it even healthier to the best of my ability. And I will continue to learn more. But there is little more I can do in that arena.

I can, however, do much better at developing and maintaining the rythms of my practice of prayer. Perhaps a place to start?


The Didache 5 – Abstain from Worldly Lusts

Posted: June 15th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Celiac, Didache | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Didache 5 – Abstain from Worldly Lusts

This series is reflecting on the Didache if you want to read it separately.

Abstain from fleshly and worldly lusts.

This line has always confused me since it’s dropped in the middle of the section on the way of life and does not seem to relate to either what came before or what follows. It just sits there. What does it mean? There is a translation of the Didache which may offer some insight on this line.

Refrain from the impulses of your selfish nature and the self-serving world.

But while I think there is some aspect of that involved, judging by the unity in the various other translations, I think that one misses the earthiness of the actual language. It does not seem to be as neat or sanitary as the above translation makes it seem.

Here celiac, since it is primarily a fast, helps me understand this a little better, I think. In order to follow the way of life with celiac, I must curb my impulses and desire to eat or drink gluten. If I am to remain in the way of life, I must abstain. It makes little difference what other good or positive or helpful things I do. If I do not abstain from gluten, they are all for naught.

Perhaps there is something of this dynamic in the way of Jesus? There are things from which we must learn to abstain, desires we must quench, or it will spill into all the other areas of our lives? Is this a parallel to the Orthodox perspective on the passions? If we allow them to rule us rather than learning to rule them, we cannot progress in theosis?

Perhaps so. Or perhaps I’m on the wrong track. Nevertheless, the line in its context is an odd one.