Friday, March 18, 2016

Lunches with EF Tours in Europe

This is my second post in my series about my experiences as a Celiac with EF Tours, a travel company specializing in student tours.  For information about the meals provided by EF Tours, click here to read Part 1.

EF Tours provides breakfast and dinner each day, but you buy your own lunch.  That allows you freedom to either choose things that are more familiar to you, or to branch out and try something new.  Sadly, there were many kids who chose to head to McDonalds, Starbucks, or other familiar fast food joints.  (I even heard a teen whine that there was no Wendy's.  Seriously!)  With adult tastes, special needs, and a larger checkbook than the students, I opted for nicer restaurants when I could.  

Let me start by saying that I pre-ordered a GF meal from Delta on the flight there and back.  Three years ago, I got a GF meal on an international flight to Spain (United Airlines) and it was absolutely awful.  I was pleasantly supervised, therefore, that the GF meal on Delta was really good.  

GF Delta
Gluten Free Meal on International Delta Flight
Now, on to Europe!  There were a few occasions when we stopped at rest stops along the highway.  This is unavoidable on a tour like this, as there are days when we spent up to 5 hours on the bus.  I was always able to find something to eat, even if it wasn't always something exciting.  My favorite of these places was Autogrill, which was something like a German version of Buc-ee's.  (For non-Texans, Buc-ee's is the king of all convenience stores along the highway, with clean bathrooms and a huge selection of food and souvenirs.  It's basically a Stuckey's on steroids.)  Autogrill had everything I could ever want, including a small selection of individual Schar snacks.  Yay!

Most of our meals, however, were in the larger towns and we had many restaurants to chose from.

Rothenburg -- I took several of the teens with me into Ratsstube, a restaurant directly across from the Rathaus (town hall).  All of us ordered soup (it was a cold day) and I enjoyed my tomato soup.
GF Ratsstube
Tomato Soup at Ratsstube in Rothenburg

Dachau --  Seriously.  We ate lunch at the cafeteria at the Dachau concentration camp.  Yeesh.  It was hard to have an appetite in such morbid surroundings, but I had a surprisingly good Goulash Soup.  They had pamphlets listing allergens (in German) and the cafeteria lady happened to be gluten free, so she was able to steer me toward the soup.
GF Dachau
Goulash Soup

Innsbruck, Austira --  I was running low on GF snacks by this time, especially breakfast cereal, so I was delighted to find TWO health food stores in the middle of the tourist district in Innsbruck.  (They dropped us off at the Swarovski store.  I assume they get kick backs.  I found the first health food store about a block away.)  I loaded up on snacks and bought some cheese and fruit for my lunch.
GF Innsbruck
Picnic Lunch from a Health Food Store in Austria
Venice --  It was raining and freezing cold the day we were in Venice.  I didn't care where we ate or what we ate as long as it was indoors and warm.  As luck would have it, my random choices were good ones.  The first place was a two-story restaurant named Al Teatro Goldoni, down the street from the Disney store.  I stuck my head in and said "pasta senza glutine?" and the waitress said "si!" so in we went.  We ate upstairs, which was very nice.  It was crowded, but cozy.  Amazingly, they did indeed have GF pasta, and it wasn't terribly expensive at 10 euros, in a city known for price gouging the tourists.  

GF Venice
GF Pasta in Venice

A quick note about restaurants in Italy: they charge a service fee (coperto) per person fee of 1 or 2 Euros that's basically a charge for the privilege of using their chair, tablecloth, forks, etc.  There is no way around it, and that is in addition to the fact that the prices are probably higher if you sit and eat, rather than take your food "to-go."    So the total bill was somewhat more, and I was paying for the three teens with me, but I would happily have paid twice as much for a warm place to wait while the storms died down.
Later we went into a (random) coffee shop to warm up again, and I was delighted to see individually-wrapped gluten free cookies for sale.  My drink was delicious.  The Italians do know their coffee.

Coffee in Venice

Sirmione -- By this point, the teens were no longer willing to eat with me, preferring to wander off on their own (which their actual teachers didn't have a problem with, so I felt I couldn't object) and I was eating by myself in Sirmione, a pretty little seaside town in Italy.  Again, I stuck my head in the door of the most promising looking restaurant, and said "senza glutine?" and they said "Si!"  So I got another gluten free pasta meal in Italy.  Yum!  This time, I did get the name of the place.  It was called Ristorante Pizzeria Modi.
GF Modi
Gluten Free Pasta at Modi in Sirmione

Example of a Coperto in Italy

There was also a gelato place in Sirmione that had a sign saying gluten free, but when I asked the server about it, she warned me that there was cross-contamination issues due to the scoops touching the ice cream cones over and over again.   I appreciated her honesty.

Lucerne -- In Lucerne I was eating by myself again, and took the opportunity to finally have some wine with my meal. Molte grazie! I had gone to the Stadtkeller Brauerei, on the advice of my Find Me Gluten Free app, but was disappointed when the server didn't think there was much on the menu I could eat. I wandered directly across the street to the beautiful Restaurant Fritschi where an English and French speaking server was very helpful. I got cheese fondue in Switzerland! Often in Switzerland, you have the choice of bread or boiled potatoes to go with your fondue, and I love the boiled potatoes. Not only are they gluten free, but they don't fall apart in your cheese the way bread does. I was under the impression that "raclette" meant boiled potato, but Wikipedia tells me it is melted cheese, so I am not sure how to make sure you get those yummy potatoes in German.
Restaurant Fritschi in Lucerne
GF Fondue
Cheese Fondue and Boiled Potatoes

GF Fondue
Cheese-y Goodness in Lucerne

I was feeling pretty guilty about my expensive lunch (40 Swiss Francs) until I met back up with the kids.  One of the ravenous teenage boys went to McDonald's and spent 40 Francs for his three Big Macs, large fries, and Coke.  At least I got a gourmet meal for my $40.  

All in all, it was very easy to find tasty and gluten-free food in all the locations EF Tours dropped us at.  They tended to be very pricey meals, as we were usually in the middle of the tourist district, but that is to be expected for those areas.  I am very happy with my experiences and glad that I went along.


No comments:

Post a Comment