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Gluten free-dom of choice

Pasta? Bread? Celiacs can have it all at Da Luciano (photo by Steve Dolinsky)

Imagine if you couldn't hold down anything with wheat, rye, barley or all-purpose flour. No spaghetti alla chitarra from Piccolo Sogno; no bread from Fox & Obel or Red Hen. ‚ No cookies, no soy sauce. NO FRIGGIN' BEER. According to the Celiac Disease Center at the University of Chicago, about one percent of the population is considered gluten intolerant (although based on the number of restaurants now catering to GF folks, it would seem that the number has been climbing for some time) and 97% of those with celiac disease have not been diagnosed.

The good news is, food manufacturers are all over this, and so are some local restaurants. The kingpin is undoubtedly Da Luciano in West Suburban River Grove. Several of the kids in this Italian family are gluten intolerant, and so the restaurant has set up a separate kitchen to handle strictly GF everything: bread, pasta, even lady fingers for the tiramisu. The solution has been to come up with a combination of alternative flours like sorghum, potato and rice, which form a different, albeit very edible and tasty dough. Other notable restaurants implementing GF menu items include Convito Cafe & Market in Wilmette, Sit Down Cafe and Sushi Bar in Hyde Park, Fattoush in Lincoln Park, as well as national chains like Maggiano's and P.F. Chang's. Next weekend, a Gluten Free Conference will be held in West Suburban Lisle, where there's certain to be a lot more products for the home cook, as well as valuable information. If you have any more suggestions for places that are GF-friendly, please let me know. As always, you can check out my story today after 11 a.m. right here.

Tonight at 10 p.m., I'm talking Thai. I talk Thai real good. I'm getting an assist from the Thai Consul General, who takes me to one of his favorite places when he longs for a taste of home. It's part of my monthly series, "My Country, My Cuisine," and we're talking about food from the Northeast part of the country: sticky rice, papaya salad and ground chicken with chili & rice powder, lime juice and fish sauce, all in the name of the Thai New Year of Songkran, which begins early next week. You'll have to check out the video, and see what "aroy" is all about.

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