One of the things I was most concerned with as a traveler was being gluten free in another country. I know things have been changing in the US and more people/restaurants are familiar with being gluten free; but I had no idea how well this would transfer to New Zealand. To be safe, I brought a box of gluten free protein bars. I had no problem getting them through customs (but I was sure to declare that I was bringing food in with me as I was told if you say you don’t declare it and they see it they will confiscate it automatically, whether it is allowable or not).
Thankfully on arrival I saw that eating gluten free was well established in New Zealand. There was a gluten free segment on their morning news show. There was a Gluten Free Expo poster up around Christchurch. My hotels always had a GF next to safe meals, and most restaurants did too. Some smaller shops did not carry anything, but would often be able to refer me to where I could find something.
As in the States, the main issue simply became finding something gluten free that was different than what I was having every day. Being on a coach tour, we had buffets for our meals at the hotels. Most of the restaurants would have gluten free bread available for toast; but they would toast it in the same toaster as the gluten-containing bread so it was contaminated. They also seemed unaware that blue-cheese contains gluten. I even had to explain why buffets are not very safe for those who are gluten free, as people tend to drop gluten-containing items into the gluten-free food. As it was, it seemed every hotel offered the same gluten free items on their breakfast and dinner buffets, so I ate a lot of scrambled eggs for breakfast and roast beef with roasted potatoes and a vegetable for dinner. To their credit, most of the hotels who did not have much to offer on their buffets would offer me something else that they had back in their kitchen that was gluten free. For example, one hotel had a shocking three gluten free desserts on their buffet, but they all had citrus. When I explained I was also allergic to them they came out of the kitchen with a gluten free ice cream sundae for me.
I did have some terrific gluten free experiences while on my trip. My first full day there I went on Hasselfreetours.co.nz Lord of The Rings Edoras tour. I was already excited about this as a huge LOTR’s fan. Hasselfreetours asked me if I had any food allergies since they provided lunch as a part of the tour. I still wasn’t expecting much; but boy was I pleased with them. On the way to and from Mt Sunday (Edoras) we stopped at a little tea shop. The lovely lady who ran it confirmed with me what my food allergies were and came out with a gluten free sausage roll with my tea (see picture below). Sausage rolls are everywhere in NZ and I was thrilled to get to taste something that was an authentic part of NZ culture, and it was something that I had never heard of in the States. It was delicious. In fact, it was so good that when the tea lady came back out to ask if I wanted a GF sandwich, a GF toasty (toasted sandwich), or another sausage roll when we stopped for lunch on our way back, I gladly accepted another GF sausage roll. She also provided a GF carrot cake bar with tea and a GF macadamia nut/white chocolate cookie (they call them biscuits) with lunch. It was my first authentic NZ meal there and it ranked as one of the best.
Another perk from Hasselfreetours was that since I took the LOTR tour, they offered me 1/2 off the double decker bus tour of Christchurch the next day. I had nothing to do that day so I jumped at the chance. While this 3 hour tour did not include a meal, we did stop near the beach for a “comfort stop” and most of us ran to get something to eat. The tea shop did not offer anything gluten free, but when I walked back and heard the tour guide chatting with another couple on the bus tour about their fish and chips, I looked over at the food truck where they pointed and saw this:
I nearly skipped with glee as I ran across the street and quickly ordered the GF Blue Cod fish and 1/2 chips (the 1/2 portion of chips was so huge I’d hate to think how much would have been wasted had I got the full portion). This was the only place I found gluten free fish and chips, and it was fantastic. My only regret was that I couldn’t return to try their other varieties of fish. Again, I was thrilled to get an authentic eating experience that I thought I would miss out on due to being gluten free.
I joined a coach tour the following day with Grand Pacific tours. One of our stops was a little beach side town called Hokitika. I asked the tour guide if he knew of a shop with gluten free selections and he said he thought they all would. The first shop he recommended did not carry anything GF. The next shop had one item, a GF vegetable quiche, that looked burnt on top and like it had been sitting there awhile. The next shop we tried had nothing but referred us back to the previous shop, knowing they had something. We then tried a pizza place who had a GF pizza crust, but there was only one left and the other American lady on our bus was also GF so we both left. From there she and her husband found a bar where she got a GF meal, and my friend and I found Hokitika’s The Deli that had several GF selections. While they had a vegetable frittata (veggie frittata’s and quiches are the standard solitary GF offering many of the locals had) it was by far the best one I had on the trip (see below). It is not like the frittata’s in the States, far more solid and custardy, but very good.
A post-tour day trip into Akaroa (a French settlement in NZ) led me to L’Escargot Rouge. They had the standard GF Vegetable Frittata which I passed on at this point, having had them nearly daily for the past 13 days; but I did come back here for tea and a delicious apricot and toasted coconut bar (see below). I almost forgot to take a picture of it before it was gone, it was so good.
The challenges of eating GF while on tour in NZ were not as bad as I feared. While I certainly wished at times for more of a variety to choose from, I definitely had access to safe GF choices while on the trip; and several, like the sausage roll and the fish-n-chips, really made my trip by providing me with a true taste of NZ culture.