Who are you and where are you?
My name is ZuZu. I’m a 25 year-old recently-graduated English M.A. student, and I live in Bozeman, Montana, USA. Bozeman is a small city (about 38,000 – big for Montana!) and home of Montana State University.
Tell me about your relationship with gluten..
I am lactose intolerant, but I have no sensitivity to gluten. My sister, whom I live with, has celiac disease, and I have several friends with celiac disease. I’m very aware of what having celiac entails, since we have to keep our kitchen strictly gluten-free. I love learning how to cook safe food for my celiac sister and friends, since I can’t imagine what a challenge it must be to live with celiac. I try to encourage awareness of celiac (and other food intolerances/allergies) whenever I can to make the world a safer and easier place for people living with celiac, etc.
Why should gluten free travellers visit your town?
For a small city in the middle of the American west, Bozeman is surprisingly gluten-free friendly and gluten-free travellers will not have to work hard to stay well-fed, be it from grocery stores or restaurants. My sister and I went to Portland, Oregon, last spring and were surprised that for such a health food-conscious city, it was harder to be gluten-free there than in Bozeman! I think this is partly because Bozeman is small enough that almost everyone knows someone else in town with celiac disease and is aware of what living with it requires. It’s also a very health-conscious, slightly hippie town. We have a ridiculous number of grocery stores, including an excellent food co-op that makes an effort to cater to the gluten-free community. There are two other little natural markets that carry gluten-free products, as well as two locations of a larger grocery store that is very good about carrying gluten-free products.
Because almost everyone in town has had to learn about safely preparing food for celiacs, most of the restaurants in town are aware of it, especially if you call in advance and speak to the chef. There is even an entirely gluten-free restaurant! It’s called Vera Fare, and while the hours are a little funky (it’s not open on Sundays, or Saturday evenings), it’s delicious. They do gluten-free waffles that are to die for.
Overall, people in Bozeman are very friendly and willing to help you find a safe, tasty meal. It’s rare you’ll run into someone who isn’t familiar with celiac, and people are usually willing to listen and be helpful.
Tell me something fun about your town..
Bozeman is a beautiful, outdoor-enthusiast heaven! It’s a little over an hour from Yellowstone National Park, and about 45 minutes from world-class skiing at Big Sky, MT. It’s surrounded by mountains for amazing hiking and rock-climbing when the weather is good, and it’s about 20 minutes from Moonlight Basin Ski Area when the snow is good. Bozeman Hot Springs is about 10 minutes from town, in Four Corners – it has a steam room, sauna, pool, two hot tubs indoors, and a big outdoor hot pool, heated by geothermal springs. Drive another 30 minutes to Norris Hot Springs, a little hippie haven in the middle of nowhere on the side of the highway – outdoor hot springs pool (built of wood!), complete with live music on weekends and a restaurant supplied by local growers and Norris’ own gardens! Drink wine (or local beer, if you’re not gluten-free) while relaxing in the water and looking at the stars. Open year-round (take a hat when it’s cold out).
Come in the summer or early fall for hiking, camping, rafting, fishing, or mountain biking, and in the winter for skiing, snowboarding, winter camping, or ice-climbing. And whenever you’re here, be sure to check out Museum of the Rockies, which holds an outstanding collection of dinosaur fossils largely found in Montana, as well as Montana history exhibits, and at least one temporary exhibit (changed every few months).
Where is your favourite place to eat out in your town and why?
My favorite place to eat in Bozeman is Dave’s Sushi. Good seafood is hard to come by in Montana (we’re quite far from the sea), but Dave’s pulls it off. They have some pretty creative rolls (my favorite is the Widespread Panic maki roll). It’s a fun place to eat with friends so you can get several things to share. Food in Montana is sometimes boring, just because the growing season is so short and cold that good, local produce is limited in variety, and because it’s a very meat-centered place (hunting enthusiasts, anyone?) – Dave’s is a nice break from the norm. The staff has always been friendly, and plus, I love warm sake! Last time I was there they did offer gluten-free tamari instead of soy sauce with wheat.
Some other restaurants in town that I know do well with gluten-free customers are:
- Ted’s Montana Grill, a chain restaurant owned by Ted Turner, specializing in steaks, burgers, bison, etc., but very good quality. I know several celiacs who are comfortable eating there, although they do usually give the chef a heads-up before they go to make sure they know about cross-contamination.
- John Bozeman’s Bistro does salads, burgers, seafood, steaks, soups, etc. The chefs are aware of how to safely prepare food for celiacs and the Bistro is becoming known as an easy place for celiacs to eat out without much worry, although again, it’s a good idea to call the chef in advance.
- Colombo’s Pizza has gluten-free crust, but the cross-contamination risk is always a question here. I know some celiacs who have been fine there, and others who have been glutened, so ask questions and eat at your own risk.
- Bozeman Food Co-op. The local health-food hub, the Co-op is a full grocery store and also has a meat counter and both a hot and cold deli. Customers worried about cross-contamination should avoid the deli – it’s too small and busy for the workers to be as careful as they need to. However, the off-site kitchen prepares several gluten-free baked goods (muffins, cookies, etc.) that are individually wrapped and have all been tested by a member of the staff who has celiac – he claims the kitchen’s precautions against cross-contamination are good enough that he’s never been glutened. The Co-op also carries a variety of pre-packaged, frozen or shelf-stable gluten-free foods (burritos, bowls, etc.), and the dining area has a microwave and utensils so you can grab a quick, casual bite to eat if you need to. There are two locations – the main Co-op has more options for gluten-free diners, while the Co-op Downtown is geared more towards people on lunch break and relies mainly on the salad bar and hot deli.
- Bars are increasingly carrying gluten-free beer, as well (mainly Red Bridge).
- There is a farmer’s market beginning in June through September (usually) – come for local produce, as well as some Celiac-friendly baked goods! Saturday mornings and Thursday evenings.
Do you live in Bozeman or have you travelled there? Where is your favourite place to eat gluten free?