Roermond: 15 days surviving in the country of sauces…
In mid-May, I spent almost two weeks in Roermond (Holland) where eating gluten became quite interesting. I had been preparing this trip for months and I was convinced that I would have no problem for eating: the hotel was informed and I they got involved in the booking of the restaurant where we would go one night with the whole Team; And although at the fair there was the possibility of ordering a gluten-free catering, I preferred to bring the food myself because they could not guarantee that there was no cross-contamination. But I did not have it all controlled!
The start of the trip was like all the others: I prepared my breakfast sandwich at home and, this time, also a second sandwich for lunch, since I did not know if we would eat at the airport or at the exhibition hall. During the flight with German Wings, although they were informed, they did not give me anything gluten free – I guess due to the short duration of the flight – and, upon arriving at Düsseldorf Airport (Germany), we decided to eat at the McDonalds. I did well to bring me a sandwich to eat, since I could only eat French fries and salad (I do not know if it is the same in all McDonalds in Germany). When I arrived at the booth, I took the boxes of gluten-free food that I sent along with the rest of the material for the fair and took them to the hotel in Roermond (Holland).
That night we were only 4, so we decided to go find a restaurant, since the rest of days we would have dinner at the hotel with the rest of the Team. We decided to go to the V.O.F. Akropolis, at number 30 Sint Christoffelstraat, a Greek restaurant. While walking towards the restaurant, I explained to my colleagues – two of them Dutch – all about my food disorders and asked them for help to explain it to the waiter. When we were seated, he brought us a shot of a very strong drink (I cannot remember the name) and I automatically gave him the gluten-free travel card in Dutch. The waiter was not of Dutch origin, so I gave it to him in Greek… he was not Greek either! This is where one of my colleagues came into action and explained it in basic Dutch. I asked him to place special emphasis on the importance of preparing everything separately. You should have seen the waiter’s face!
One of my Dutch colleagues (the Manager) took care of ordering all the dishes. He ordered a variety of starters: octopus, prawns, chicken with pink sauce, tsatsiki and fried cheese. As a main course, a few trays of an assortment of delicious meats. We were all really hungry, but before anyone could start “I shouted” a STOP to all my colleagues and explained how they should act to prevent me from feeling bad. Once I finished the explanation, they all looked at me like “Gosh, you take so many risks when you go out”. Indeed! In addition, they not only had to be careful because of the gluten issue, but also because I’m allergic to fish and did not feel like having to inject the adrenaline.
The day after I went down early for breakfast to be one of the first and find everything “new” in the breakfast buffet. I spent months talking to the hotel about the dinner buffet menu, but we had talked very little about my gluten free breakfast. As I did not know if they would have gluten-free bread prepared, I went downstairs well equipped: with a pack of gluten free bread, a piece of aluminum foil and the toasting bag.
When I saw the waitress, I asked if they had gluten free bread and when I said yes, it was a relief. They brought me a round bagel and pointed out the cold cuts I could eat. I got boiled ham for breakfast and a kind of smoked ham for lunch, which I prepared every day in the hotel with the bread that I brought from Spain. That’s why I always went down with a piece of aluminum foil, otherwise I could not eat anything at the show.
We spent the whole day at the booth, preparing the samples, catalogs and doing a couple of trainings on the innovations that we were presenting. We arrived back to Roermond already at night. We had a dining room reserved for us every night at 8pm. The first day, I went down a little earlier to introduce myself to the waiters and inform them that I was the celiac guy.
The dinner buffet consisted of an entree (salad, pasta, etc.), a main course (fish or meat with and without sauce) and dessert (fruit salad). To avoid having problems, whether for my allergies or celiac disease, the person in charge of our dinners in the hotel informed me that I would have something apart every day. I did not know what. The first day I was very satisfied when they brought me gluten free bread and an entrecote with pepper sauce and vegetables. In order to finish that delicious dinner, I ordered a green tea that I brought with a little pastry right next to the spoon. Immediately I asked for a clean spoon and problem solved … The satisfaction went away after a couple of hours when, while talking with Isabel, I started to feel a little bad. The entrecote sauce! When I went down to breakfast the next day, I asked for the manager but she was not there, so I made sure she would receive a formal complaint asking her to speak with the cook. From now on he would make sure that they did not give me anything with gluten and they would prepare all my dishes without any sauce.
As you can see, although I had been talking to the hotel for a long time and insisting on how important it was to prepare something apart each day for me, they missed that the sauce was thickened with flour… after my email, the rest of the days everything was great!
The two days after they glutenized me, my dinner was still a surprise, since I did not know what they would bring me. The rest of the days, when the waiters saw me seated, they brought me the menu and asked me to choose what I wanted to eat. (You can see the photos in the Facebook album, at the end of the post you will find the link).
As an anecdote, the following day we had dinner two minutes later, since on May 4, at 8:00 p.m., the whole country stopped to go make two minutes of silence in homage to the Civilians and Soldiers killed since the beginning of World War II.
I apologize that I have talked so little about the exhibition. As every day I ate the sandwiches that I prepared during breakfast at the hotel, I did not want to dwell on it very much. Another interesting anecdote was that, in the second half of the trip, Dave (an American colleague who also followed a gluten-free diet) gave me to try a “KIND” gluten free energy bar made of nuts and honey. It was delicious! From then on, every time I saw Dave, he had a bar for me! And on the last day, he gave me the ones he had left, since they are not available in Spanish food stores. If someday you go to the US, I recommend that you buy some. They are perfect to eat between hours and bring lots of energy!
Arrived the weekend, more colleagues arrived! We were almost 50 people of the company and, being Friday, we took advantage of going for a drink after dinner. We went to Jill Murphs, which was right next to the hotel. When we arrived, everything was still very quiet, but after a while the party went up – or we turned it up. We asked the DJ some songs and between beers – or cocktails, as they did not have gluten free beer – we started to dance all in a group. Although the next day we had to continue working at the fair, some stayed until 4 o’clock in the morning. These meetings with workmates out of work environment – whether dining or going out for a drink – are perfect to get to know your them a little better.
The weekend was very good, although we continued working, as we were more people, the dinners were a bit better. Arrived Monday, we were again 30 people, and that day we went to the Italian restaurant Il Forno at number 3 on Roerkade Street, just in front of the river. Upon arrival, the Manager and I went to talk to the restaurant manager to order the group’s dinner, and mine, of course. Automatically, I gave the phone with the gluten-free travel card in Italian and Dutch and they told me not to worry, as they had everything prepared. He then asked me, “Because you can eat fish, right?” I was shocked after that question! I reminded him that I was allergic to fish, lots of fruit and celiac, he replied that the hotel person who had managed our reservation had only informed them about the gluten.
They started bringing the food. Some starters of carpaccio, salad, fried fish and typical breads. Separately, they brought me a plate of carpaccio. Although I would have separate dishes, I did the same as the first day: I explained to those around me how to eat next to me and that if they passed the bread, they would pass it behind me to avoid dropping crumbs in me plate. The face expression of my colleagues was more or less the same than in the Greek restaurant on the first day. As a main course, they brought me the same as the others (an assortment of veal, pork and lamb with cheese sauce), but in a separate dish and with some roasted potatoes that were very tasty. Based on previous experience with pepper entrecote, the first thing I did was make sure the sauce was fit. The waitress was very nice and came back quickly to confirm that everything was gluten free. As you see, in the end I ate the same, but served apart.
Leaving aside the risk we take when we go to eat out – regardless of whether we go to non-certified restaurants, while traveling or going to eat in large groups – I think, if the restaurant do things well, celiac people eat much better than others, especially when we go to a place with a closed menu. It is true that on many occasions we have fewer options to choose from, but just because they prepare all apart for us or give us the possibility to order anything we want we want, it becomes more bearable.
The rest of the trip was the same: breakfast at the hotel; prepare food during breakfast; have dinner at the hotel. And every day the same up until May 11th.
You can see the pictures of the trip here.
BY CLICKING ON THE MAP OF GLUTEN FREE RESTAURANTS YOU FILL SEE ALL RESTAURANTS WE DESCRIBED IN THIS POST LOCATED IN THE MAP OF GLUTEN-FREE PLACES:
AND HERE WE LEAVE THE CELIAC TRAVEL CARD IN DUTCH:
P.S.: Please keep in mind that in this blog I share my trips, anecdotes and experiences about gluten free travel around the world. It is possible that, in any of my trips, I go to some restaurant not trained by the associations where the risk of being contaminated with gluten exists. I kindly ask you to also take into account that the list of references can change. Please, always double check before eating in the restaurants we recommend. Thank you very much!
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