A message from one of the owners of Arenas del Mar about Gluten Free Dining:

My daughter has a severe form of celiac disease. She seldom takes a vacation or frequents restaurants because it is just too risky. When on the road, she cannot guarantee that she can eat safely 3x a day, 7x a week. And being sick on vacation, in her words, “really a drag”.

She is far from being alone. It is estimated that up to 10% of North Americans and Europeans suffer from celiac disease or are gluten-intolerant.

To make matters worse, many kitchens and restaurants do not know enough about preparing gluten-free meals, and are actually worried that many customers would react by saying ……”Oh, that restaurant is gluten-free: they can’t possibly serve food that tastes great!” In effect, the restaurant business is unwittingly saying to millions of people “Don’t come here.”

So, how did Arenas Del Mar break this logjam, and how did it get out ahead of the curve?

There’s nothing like a father:daughter relationship to motivate a man.

We started at Arenas Del Mar in 2014 with three major initiatives:

  1. We consulted with Monica Glass, from Boston and Philadelphia, who is a top restaurant pastry chef who also has celiac disease. Her advice was both simple and persuasive. Gluten-free cooking is easy, and often tastes better, when you learn how to do it….even desserts! Her guidance was invaluable.
  2. We invited four celiac bloggers to come to Arenas Del Mar to advise us and to write about what they experienced.
  3. Then, most important of all, I went to see Alice Bast, the President of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA). After many discussions with Alice and her team, the kitchen and dining room staff all took the Great Kitchens course of the NFCA. It was demanding, but it was both invaluable and successful. Both restaurants at Arenas Del Mar are now certified by the NFCA as having the ability to prepare gluten-free meals……the first hotel in Central and South America to achieve that distinction.

The southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica (we call it Paradise) is the ideal part of the world in which to accomplish this. The national diet is corn-based, rather than wheat-based. And, because all our ingredients, from both land and sea, are so local, so fresh and so full of taste, there is almost no need for artificial preservatives and for pre-pared sauces and other products.

This whole initiative also took place at the same time as 12 of Philadelphia’s top chefs, under the overall guidance of Chip Roman of Blackfish Restaurant, also came to Arenas Del Mar throughout the year to train and inspire our kitchen staff .

So, how’s the food?

  • It’s really, really good.
  • Reviewers on Trip Advisor rave about it.
  • Bloggers in the celiac community rave about it.
  • And, perhaps best of all, the Mirador Restaurant at Arenas del Mar was recently featured in the magazine Latin American Luxury in an article entitled “Costa Rica is waking up from its Culinary Slumber”!

Arenas Del Mar is an awesome, luxury boutique hotel with two stunning, highly rated restaurants. And, for celiacs and those others with an intolerance to gluten, Arenas Del Mar is also a safe place to spend your vacation.

As my daughter now says, “Dad, you all get it!”