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Restaurant Review: Dona Esther’s “Gluten Free” Menu

When my husband and I went to Dona Esther Mexican restaurant in San Juan Bautista http://donaesthermexicanrestaurant.com to enjoy their Artichoke Enchiladas this past May, it was my first visit since going GF last August.

Whenever I eat out, I always ask, “do you have a GF menu?”, but I was surprised when the waitress said, “yes” and returned with a 2-sided fully laminated menu! Unfortunately, as I looked it over, I saw discrepancies in what I thought was correctly, or incorrectly, deemed as gluten-free. Flautas gluten-free? Tostadas gluten-free? This was too good to be true! So I asked, “do you have a dedicated fryer? A separate fryer for your gluten-free items?” She said, no, they had only one fryer. I told her these items can’t be gluten-free if they are fried in the same fryer with everything else. To which she responded that they weren’t. I asked about the chips on the table and she said they were fried in the same fryer, so then the nachos on the menu were not gluten-free either.

We should have just left, but I ended up ordering their Veggie Fajitas (pictured), with corn tortillas, which was delicious. Although I did not have a reaction, you must question whether there is cross-contamination in their kitchen because they really don’t know what “gluten-free” means.

Be cautious, even when a menu is provided.

Great combination of fresh vegetables in their fajitas!
Great combination of fresh vegetables in their fajitas!
Las Palmas Green Chile Enchilada Sauce

Las Palmas Green Chile Enchilada Sauce

I usually check the ingredients on cans and packaging before I purchase, so I didn’t look at the label before making my enchiladas. Unfortunately, the sauce was poured before I realized that its ingredients, though none showed wheat, did have a “warning” that it “contains: soy and wheat”. From the ingredients themselves (and I did check my “Glutencheck” app), this was not obvious, and rather than dumping my artichoke & chile enchiladas, I cooked and ate them, with the delusional mindset of “what you don’t know can’t hurt you”.

Next day, I emailed the distributors, B&G Foods, through their Las Palmas products’ link…

Message: “I am gluten sensitive. The (sauce) can says it contains soy and wheat but I can’t tell from ingredients where the wheat is. Is it processed in a factory with wheat? Because I don’t recognize any ingredients as containing wheat.”

Their response-  “Thank you for your email and interest in one of our products. This Las Palmas sauce contains a wheat ingredient in the “spice” blend used in its formula. As a result the sauce is not gluten free.”

So, I learned a valuable lesson- continue to check labels, even if I purchased it and looked at the ingredients prior to buying…I might have missed something in my rush at the market.

Also, the Las Palmas site, in their FAQs pages, says “Las Palmas Red Chili Sauce, Las Palmas Crushed Tomatillos and Las Palmas Red Enchilada Sauce are all gluten-free.” So next time, I’ll go with the red sauce rather than the green.

Happy eats!

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Happy New Year 2014

Happy New Year 2014

Yesterday was January 1st and I celebrated with my favorite gluten-free meal- soft tacos, this time fish (Swai) that my husband barbecued. We regularly go to a local taqueria for Mexican food (Super Taqueria); my husband and son get burritos and because they are with flour tortillas, I get the soft tacos with corn tortillas, so I’m not feeling left out. And Mexican food seems to be the easiest to find gluten-free. I’ve found that this is my staple- soft tacos or anything that can be made with corn tortillas, even pizza.