Food Allergy Counseling

Food Allergy Counseling
Sloane Miller, Food Allergy Counselor (Picture © Noel Malcolm 2013)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Later That Day...

6pm--My dinner components are coming together. Aren't I lucky?

Hmmm Bacon

Adding Organic Rice Syrup to my diet may have been a bust, ok not a total bust but not something I’d use all the time or even crave but turkey bacon? Now I think I may have found a new lunch buddy.

During my 17 year stint as a vegetarian, the smell of bacon was the ONE thing I thought could turn me. I never cheated, not even once, but that smell, that smell. I was certainly tempted.

Now, I am a full-on Me-gan. A Me-gan is what my dear friend Casey calls herself as she eats ONLY meat, NO veggies. Hmm actually, I eat meat and veggies, so okay, maybe I’m an honorary Me-gan. Regardless, one would think given my secret bacon harboring I would have run to the nearest Pork store, loaded up and gotten down.

In fact, I have only had bacon once in this past year of meat, on Mother’s Day at Barbounia, and that was a bite or two and it was killer. I tucked into a slice, about 1/2” thick. It was both chewy and crispy; the fat was mouth-melting, the meat well smoked; it was like a bacon-pop. Really bacon-y.

But I haven’t had any since nor have I wanted any. However, yesterday during my jaunt at Whole Foods, the package of Turkey Bacon, next to my Hans sausages, seemed to call to me. And I answered the call. So for today’s lunch I had two slices of Organic Turkey Bacon, with mesclun salad and avocado.

It was surprisingly decent for a processed food. A good not overly smoked flavor, not too salty, slightly chewy texture—and for 35 calories and less than 1 ounce of protein per slice, I thought why not make myself a ABLT non-wich this evening before I go out?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

What's Lost in Translation

Alot actually, but here I’m discussing food allergies and how sometimes “Je suis allergic,” or “Yo soy allergic” is just good enough. [there’s a little social work joke associated with this link so don’t worry if you don’t get it].

Last night, I met two dear friends, Chris and Trecia, for diner at Cabana as they wanted Cuban. I looked at the menu beforehand [as did they] and knew I'd keep it simple with rice and beans, pictured below.


Even though this is the simplest of dishes, sometimes restos get fancy, and fancy can mean disaster for an allergic person. For example, Cabana has three types of rice, White, Saffron and Coconut Milk infused rice. (Now the jury is out on whether I can eat coconut safely, although I believe the answer is yes given my love for the Entemann's Lemon Coconut cake that my Bubby used to serve. But that’s another story.)

I ordered the Aguacate salad [with tomatoes and avocado and no dressing!] except I think it came dressed so I didn’t eat it. The waitress, albeit pretty and seemed to understand what I was saying about allergies, became frustrated the third time I confirmed that there were no hidden nuts nor dressing on the salad esp. as the salad looked dressed. Trecia tried some and agreed with me that either it was dressed or that was just how the tomatoes tasted. In uncertain situations like these, I either send it back or if I'm feeling lazy and rich, just don’t eat it.

And then the beans and rice arrived. They looked plain and smelled plain and in theory should be plain--Cubans are not known for throwing nuts around, fish yes, nuts no—so I tucked in and it was yummy.

Luckily, this time it all worked out. Sometimes I'm less lucky.

Ode To My Pastrami Sandwich

My mother’s first cousin’s daughter had her Bat Mitzvah this summer. The ceremony was catered in a tent in the backyard for what must have been over 200 guests all by Noam Sokolow of Teaneck, NJ. I must admit one of the highlights, aside from Amy's hysterical speech about our Grandma Judy, was the pastrami. Really.

After some research, I discovered that that same caterer has a NYC outpost called Noah’s Ark. I’ve been there at least three times for the delectable Pastrami and haven't been disappointed once. It is both lean and rich; the meat tender and the spices, the perfect mixture. Sometimes pastrami spices can be too perfumy, too overwhelming, and the meat, overly salted: but this pastrami is perfection--just the right balance. Robert, the manager assured me it’s because they start with Romanian spices and they steam it. They could tell me it was Belorussian spices and boiled, I wouldn’t care; truly this is the Ultimate in Pastrami. I mean a WORLD of difference between this and the stuff that passes for pastrami at Katz’s Deli. Katz’s is like the Lender’s version of a bagel—for the masses.

Those in the know go to Noah’s Ark on Grand Street. Ask for Robert, he’s the smiley guy who will seat you. And no, I don’t get a kickback from this blog. But if I did, I’d like it in Pastrami please.

Below are some cheesecake shots of my mother’s lunch: Half pastrami/half corned beef in my mother’s lovely hand—what a combo!



What was left after 10 minutes of serious eating.



PS: They don't use nuts in anything and NO PEANUT OIL.

Thai Kitchen

Funnily enough I just returned from lunch out and a quick visit to Whole Foods where there was a sale on Thai Kitchen cup-of-noodles – you know the sale items they place in the entry-way so you can’t miss them? I never buy meal kits, instant noodles, etc for multiple reasons: I am a self-proclaimed food snob and would rather cook it from scratch; additionally, the foods are highly processed, contain tons of sodium and the possibility for allergies is high, especially with a Thai product, a cuisine that relies heavily upon nuts and fish.

However, when I returned back to my desk, what should I discover but an email from Ms. Lovely Scones with this site. It has a helpful grid outlining what product contains which allergen: wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, etc. Kinda impressive. Now if they would just write a paragraph or two on their cross contamination procedures, I might try their food. Just to try it; I always like to expand my diet, even if I am a snob.

Post Script: Ms. Lovely Scones, also a make-it-from-scratch-kinda-girl, and a fantastic editor to boot, just wrote to remind me Thai Kitchen also produces the actual ingreditents to make authentic Thai cuisine, not just kits. Which is totally true. Ok, I guess no more shorthand, the readers are reading...

Organic Brown Rice Syrup

In an attempt to expand my diet, I try one new thing a week.

This week, I’m going to try Organic Brown Rice Syrup. I think I will put it instead of maple on my oatmeal ,or maybe if I bake a gluten-free treat.

I had a small taste, and it reminded me of malt syrup: sweet but without the sharpness of honey or the definite taste of maple—a soft sweetness. So far it's not particularly memorable as a sugar substitute.

What about Agave you ask? --the new darling of the sugar substitute world? Well, it’s one of those punked out moments of mine; I just don’t know how my body might react to the nectar of a cactus. I would probably be fine. However, I thought I’d try rice first; I know I have no problems with rice.

UPDATE: Had the syrup on my oatmeal this morning [Aug 30]. It gave my oatmeal a background sweetness without lending a distinct flavor--probably quite good for baking. And I've had no funky reaction thus far. But I think I'm gonna stick with maple in my morning bowl. Hmmmmm, Maple.

Monday, August 28, 2006

McCann's

Most mornings, yes even through the summer, I have oatmeal for breakfast. I have no wheat/gluten problems with oats, although I think the jury might be out for celiacs. My oat of choice is steel cut, organic if I can get it; never quick cooking, and certainly not pre-flavored—yes, I’m even an oatmeal snob. Although, I must admit cinnamon raisin was a childhood favorite, as was peaches & cream and, of course maple--all fake but all good. But since no more sugar, no more fake-flavored.

McCann’s is like the Mercedes of the Oat world! Ok, I made that up, maybe too much branding-talk on Entourage last night. But really, it’s super delicious, healthy and cholesterol lowering--just thought I'd share.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Peanut Oil, Again

Having breakfast at The Original Pancake House in Fort Lee this morning,


and what do I see prominently displayed on the menu but this:


I asked the Host who seemed to be the Master of all Things Pancake who assured me that they only use the oil in the pancake batter. I know, odd. And that they use clarified butter in everything else--Ok.

I confimed this with the waitress and ordered my standard three eggs with home fries; it was yummy and nut-free.


However, I'm both surpised and gladdened that more restos [and this is a national chain] are letting their diners know what could kill them in their food!

Chef Becker Will Soon Speak

Chef has granted me an interview! How cool--keep an eye out for it by Labor Day.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Chef Franklin Becker

Chef Franklin Becker is my new chef-hero.

I just returned from a business dinner at Brasserie, a resto I have been going to regularly since it re-opened in 2000. They do great basic French fare, a nice brunch, they use the really good, high butterfat French butter; it’s a great room and it’s midtown.

But tonight was different. Back in December they hired a new executive chef, Franklin Becker and he is exactly the kind of chef to applaud, loudly.

When I called to make a ressie, I let the hostess know to alert the chef that I have nut allergies. This is SOP for me and I find it helps; if the kitchen can’t accommodate me, better to know over the phone then over my plate.

When we sat at our table, our server Peter greeted us and said, “I was told you have nut allergies.”

That surprised me but pleasantly; I appreciate attentive service. He continued, “We will prepare your food in separate pans as our chef is very aware of allergies and takes special care. His kids have allergies so he knows.”

I was a little floored.

I had the heirloom tomato salad, with olives, roasted red peppers and a lemon juice vinaigrette to start--that was minus the melon and Peter didn’t a blink an eye when I asked for a change, love that! The entrée was 24 ounces of oh-my-god-that’s-good-Rib-Eye which was a complete turn around from the disaster at Craftsteak. And below are the fries, made in veggie oil.


I had berries for dessert, sweet and fresh.

The meal was completely nut-free and delicious. I think extra delicious because I felt confident I could eat without fear. At the end of the meal, Peter returned to the table to check in with us. I asked him to please tell the chef how much I appreciated his nut-free awareness.

About 7 minutes later, a tall man in chef whites walked over to our booth and introduced himself. Or I think before he had a chance to, I may have blurted out, “You’re Franklin?!” like some star-struck groupie.

I introduced myself and thanked him for taking such great care and said I would be back often, as I now know there's a new nut-free chef in town.

He was a man of few words but gracious, with a firm handshake. I liked him instantly.

We need more Chef Franklins! I may have to start a mini-movement. Or write him a fan letter. Or offer to baby-sit his kids.

The Cute Israeli Waiter At Schiller's

Sadly, I didn't get a pic of him. Ah well.

Schiller's part of the McNally group and is also a spot I go to when I just want something fast and yummy and want to park the car midday.

Below is the fine herbs omelet I had with a side salad because as you may have guessed, their fries are cooked in PEANUT OIL. But as they are part of the McNally group, their servers are conscious of what goes into the food.

Their dinners are great as well. It’s essentially the cheap version on Pastis but still quite good and fun and down in LES.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Dining For Darfur

This was really a Sipping and Spitting for Darfur event.

Held on the 7th floor of the Puck building--in fact it looked a lot like the place where the wedding scene was shot for WHEN HARRY MET SALLY where, as Stephanie pointed, out this exchange occurred:

Sally: Yes...Is one of us supposed to be a dog in this scenario?
Harry: Yes.
Sally: Who is the dog?
Harry: You are.
Sally: I am? I am the dog?
Harry: Um-hmm.
Sally: I am the dog. I-I don't see that Harry. If anybody is the dog, you are the dog.

Anyway, lots of long tables draped in white linen, stainless steel mini-spittoons, coffee grounds to clear the nose and pitchers of water to wash the glasses were set-up for a serious tasting. We picked up our wine glass at the door and wandered through wines from France, Italy, Argentina, Australia, Greece, California and the Pacific Northwest. The tasting was set up very well as there was plenty of room between tables, the room was well ventilated and the view of the sunset spectacular.

The food however was entirely lacking.

In the farthest right corner was one small table with one plate of lox and one plate of pate—there were a few slices of bread and that was it. It was paltry esp. as it was sponsored by Blue Ribbon. A complete disappointment. I mentioned this to Warren, one of the T. Edward Wines reps, who apologized profusely and explained that since this was their first event, clearly that had some issues to work out.

Luckily I had eaten before hand; otherwise I would have been very unhappy and very hungry. And very allegic since salmon is one of my seriously-allergic-no-nos.

However, at the end of the night, Chad the wine guy from Walla Walla gave me what turned out to be my favorite wine—this lovely Syrah--so I really can't complain too much.



Alexandra, Stephanie and I continued the party with a high school friend of Alexandra’s that she bumped into and his buddies.

We had designs on Ñ, where I was looking forward to some sweet sherry and a slice or two of tortilla, but it was jammed jammed jammed.

We settled on L’Orange Bleu up the street, a French-Moroccan spot. Nice, except there really wasn’t much I could eat safely. They had a tapas option, and even a Spanish style tortilla, but it was made with peanut oil, and even though I’m not allergic, I just didn’t feel like dealing.

So the majority of the table had mussels and I watched. Kinda sad. One of those nights where I just didn't feel like getting into the whole deal. One of those punked out nights.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Craftsteak

Last night was dinner with my Foodie Family at CraftSteak.

A few things one should know about my family:
--After 17 years of being a lacto-ovo vegetarian, I am now a meat-eating vegan, which for me means, no processed foods, no wheat, no dairy, no soy, no sugar--all meat, veg and fruit.
--My father and step-mother, after a few years of mega-meat-eating a la Atkins, are now raw-foodists a la David Jubb [minus the urine drinking] and eat only salads, nuts and fruit.
--As a group, my mother, father and step-mother, are very discerning eaters.
--Collectively and separately, we have dined at some of the best restos in town.
--We aren't afraid to send anything back, switch tables, request more or less heat or a/c; in short, we're not shy.
--We compliment and tip well when warranted.
--We tip pretty well even when mediocre because we fully recognize that we are a difficult table.
--We love to laugh and we always have a ball even when the food, frankly, sucks.

This was the case last night with our dinner at Craftsteak.

First a few nice things:
--They TOTALLY took care of me regarding food allergies. I have found this across the board with Tom’s restos and I applaud them for that. Hence I've added Craft to my list.
--The room is spectacular; right at dusk, the sun-shades electronically slid up from the floor-to-high-ceilinged windows and revealed wispy pink clouds over the Hudson River.
--The service, although a bit green, was helpful and sweet-- esp. our Captain.
--The manager, Anthony Mardach, was understanding and patient.
--The parker-house rolls that came out in their own little iron tins I heard were buttery goodness. They looked very yummy.


--The Hen of the Woods mushrooms were delightful; we placed a second order.
--The fruit plate dessert was really outstanding, and my half-brother had the make your own sundae, which he said was terrific.
--And the whiskey that the Bourbonnier [as I dubbed the Bourbon sommelier] was appreciated by all as being quite superior.

However, the main purpose of the evening was the steak. Our captain recommended the rib-eye for two that three of us planned on sharing and here is a blurry pic of what arrived.


Totally unappetizing. And not rib-eye looking. Nor tasting. We had asked for it cooked medium and so it was sent back because as you can see it was raw. Ew.

Upon its re-arrival, we tasted salty, overly seasoned with thyme [Why?], dense, not properly marbled and tough flesh. Ugh. I ate because by then I was starved; my mother couldn’t stomach it.

The French fries came with a caked-on layer of salt, which made them inedible—those were sent back and returned salt free.

A side dish of sweet corn arrived [I was told only corn, a little butter, salt and pepper was in the dish] inedible because of a heavy hand of salt, again and sent back.

There was a mix-up about getting the right sherry vinagrette salad dressing, or a dinner plate for my Dad, and those two items arrived woefully late.

I have condensed about 45 minutes of missed cues, returned plates, missing items and serious saltiness into a few sentences but I can tell you it wasn’t pleasant and was rather frustrating and amusing.

After the corn debacle, which came out of the kitchen last and after most of the meal was consumed, the manager arrived at the table, bearing some more salad dressing that was still not the sherry vinaigrette and it was too late as the meal was half eaten and half returned.

He was apologetic but firm that this is how the chef cooks his food and if the seasoning wasn’t to our liking that was certainly our prerogative. Our point was seasoning is fine; killing the flavor of meat or corn with salt thus rendering the food inedible was not.

He very graciously took those items off the bill and the kitchen sent out two complimentary fruit plates, which as I mentioned above were perfection!

Alas the meal was not perfection and we had a BIG laugh about the comedy of inedible errors. As the bill arrived and the manager and captain made their sincerest apologies, we felt that they had absolutely taken care of us, and that level of service is to be commended.

Funnily enough, I read this in the Times this morning.

"Mr. Colicchio said the tepid critical reception for the Craftsteak restaurant he opened near the meatpacking district in May “was a wake-up call.”

“I saw that I needed to pay more attention to what I’m doing there,’’ Mr. Colicchio said yesterday on a cell phone from the eighth hole of Liberty National, a golf course near Liberty State Park in New Jersey."

More attention indeed Chef.

I wouldn’t go back to Craftsteak but I would still go to Gramercy Tavern and the Craft family of restos.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Ick At The Shack A Bit Less Icky

Maybe Mr. Meyer should run for mayor--I'd bet he'd get the snow cleared quicker than Bloomberg.

Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations Special: In Beirut

I can’t help but watch Anthony Bourdain get serious, very serious.

He and his crew are in Beirut the moment the Israeli soldiers are kidnapped and Hezbollah claims responsibility.

I'm riveted by him and his crew just trying to get through and get out.

I’m sure this program will be repeated, please try and check it out.

Lactaid

After about a year of being dairy-free, I’ve taken the plunge this morning and tried Lactaid. Months ago, my doctor had suggested that I may be lactose intolerant and not dairy intolerant and the only way to find out these things is to try the potentially offending food.

So this morning I had milk in my tea.

I had done this once before at least six months ago with regular organic 2% milk to very tummy-upsetting results which is not cute whilst at work.

But as I’m working from home today, and I REALLY miss real milk in my tea I gave it a go and I must say no issue so far… this could be interesting.

I actually like being dairy-free so I don't anticipate going Lactaid-product-wild if this turns out to be an okay experiment, but having real milk in my Earl Grey tea would be a small pleasure that I have sorely missed and would happily welcome.

Wish me and my tummy luck!

UPDATE: So approx. 8 hours later and still all good. I think I will try more than a few ounces tomorrow and see what happens.

I Could Have Danced All night

Had a wonderful time at Isabel’s wedding and successfully ate allergen-free in the Hamptons: had a yum salad at Barrister’s and a yummier burger at The Corner Bar in Sag.

And the caterer at the wedding made me a nice roasted chicken with steamed veggies whilst everyone else had fish; I heard there was a bit of chicken envy going on at my table.

The snack-mobile came in handy many times in between meals or as a supplement—especially the can of beans I had de-canned and put in a cooler. There was a fridge in the room which made the bringing and keeping of cold snacks a possibility.

Overall a pretty seamless trip foodwise and big fun.

Friday, August 18, 2006

In The Vessel With A Trestle And A Pestle

I peeked at the menu pasted in the front window and at the bottom it said, "Please let your server know if you have any food allergies or dietary restrictions." Now , I thought, this is a resto I can get behind; I eagerly opened the door.

Opened just over a month, Trestle on Tenth, situated on the corner of 24th Street and 10th Avenue, has a small menu, based on Swiss German comfort foods. The room is bi-level [a bit like Three of Cups but not as dark or as rustic], with clean blond wood furniture and floors, and a garden area twice the size of the one at Five 9th and twice as nice.

I told our lovely waitress that I had both allergies and restrictions and she didn’t blink. “No problem,” she said. I can’t tell you how pleased and comforted I was to hear that, now to see if it was true.

I had the "roasted chicken in consume" which was a yummy chicken soup. My dining companion had the stuffed veal [stuffed with spinach, mushrooms and more veal] and we shared roasted beets. Here’s the stealth kinda blurry pic I took.



We sat outside and indeed, as the home page on the website suggested, talked with the lovely lesbian couple next to us about how horrible the East End is and how much better upstate NY is for a country home.

Overall, I was quite pleased with how the chef, Ralf, has set up this resto, trained his host and instructed his servers—however, it is only the first month. I plan to hit it again in the near future to see how it holds up.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

La Brow

Apparently thick eyebrows are back in fashion which is great because I was never going to pluck one eyebrow hair, ever. And I have some serious eyebrows.

[no allergies here, just a minor rant]

I Feel Pretty

Went to Bliss to get girly-ed up pre-wedding. And if you don’t have allergies you wouldn’t necessarily think of it, but products can be allergifying as well. I always ask about the ingredients in a product and if they don’t know them or they are nutty, I don’t use it.

At Bliss their products are low on nutty things.



But as I was having a pedi, Aura warned me that this oil, pictured below, was almond oil and so not for me. We made do with Sea Breeze.



The jury is out as to whether I would actually get allergic to Almond Oil in a beauty product but I’m not willing to find out first hand.

007, Your Mission Has changed

Quickly, I’ve realized that I’m not only writing about eating out but about living out: outside of my comfort zone as one with many allergies. And hence the slight mission change. A work in progress indeed.

Trip Snacks

My family loves to eat well.

My family also becomes quite agitated if they don’t eat often—we call it “distemper”. Ha ha, but really, it’s not so funny; low blood sugar levels can get to be serious business.

So when we travel we take snacks—at least my mother does, my father usually forgets to eat and yells for no reason. And I always have a litte something in my purse.

It’s especially important for me to pack snacks, even though I’m over the age of ten, because these days I am: gluten-free, diary-free, soy-free, sugar-free and, of course as always, nut-free.

So as I’m going out to Long Island for my dear friend Isabel’s wedding, I’m packing snacks. A lot of them. I will be driving a snack-mobile.

I’m bringing organic corn chips and salsa, organic popcorn, Enjoy Life cookies , rice milk and dried fruit. And whatever else I can think of.

I’ve already contacted the chef at the Inn where we’re staying and he said they would have no trouble accommodating my needs—so that’s good. I've emailed with the bride to alert the caterer that I can't eat fish and will need something else and she said that would be no problem.

So I'm getting all set to go smell some ocean air and dance the hora!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Yoga on Rosh Hashanah

As an aside to the food chat, I have just been granted the privilege of paying $160 to study with John Friend, the founder of Anusara yoga. And frankly, I’m doing the happy happy joy joy dance right now because I’ve been accepted for this weekend of in-depth study and I can’t wait!

Oy, but hold the phone, I just wrote the date on my lovely Matisse calendar, from this year’s Met exhibition, and I see that it falls on F**KING Rosh Hashanah—are people so clueless about scheduling events on major non-Christian holidays? This isn’t one of those minor Jewish holidays; it’s printed on a non-denominational calendar! If you couldn't tell, that REALLY gets me steamed.

Well, I'm going regardless; it will be a great way to start the new year. So there.

Ick At The Shack Part Deux

Gawker is one of my guilty pleasures and earlier today they posted a letter that Danny Meyer apparently wrote to them explaining the recent violation--check it out. Still ew though.

Everythings Turning Into Beautiful

I love theater and usually there’s nothing I’m allergic to there.

[Except for the time at the Metropolitan Opera when I was placed in the seat usually reserved for the blind person and their Seeing Eye dog! My eyes and lungs were itching throughout Turandot and I couldn’t figure out why. When the lights came up at the first intermission, I saw I was covered in light blond doggie hair! Nich gut. I was quickly reseated even closer to the action and allergies be-gone.]

I saw Everythings [sic] Turning into Beautiful last night. Anyone who has asked me to describe borderline personality disorder could see this show for the embodiment of that disorder.

Act I is the seduction and Act II is the relationship negotiation between Sam and Brenda, a singer/songwriting duo. Malik Yoba’s Sam is an adorable, messed up, twice divorced father of two who’s completely in love with his singing partner Brenda. Daphne Rubin-Vega's Brenda is a less adorable, [it looked like she had some work done lately as her face was scarily expressionless, not good for a stage actress] never-been-married singer who has some serious BPD.

Sam’s intentions are more focused; Brenda’s intentions are scattered as are her actions which make her an annoying character to watch. The ladies next to me were muttering throughout Act II about "crazy Brenda and poor Sam". I couldn't agree more and it made for somewhat annoying theater. [Theater of the Annoying, could that be a new trend?]

I wouldn’t run out and see this show at full price, but for a half-price ticket, it was enjoyable because of Malik Yoba's performance. He plays his character with strength and vulnerability; he uses his physicality beautifully and is totally believable. And he's tall and hunky--Yummy combo.

Here's mini NYT review: ‘EVERYTHINGS TURNING INTO BEAUTIFUL’ Seth Zvi Rosenfeld’s thrill-free demi-musical about a pair of commitment-wary songwriters (Daphne Rubin Vega and Malik Yoba) is clearly intended to progress from wintry loneliness to heated confrontation and eroticism. But it remains stolidly at room temperature. Directed by Carl Forsman, with songs by Jimmie James. (1:50). Acorn Theater, 410 42nd Street, Clinton, (212) 279-4200. (Brantley)

Chow.com

So interesting to watch traditional media scrambling to get onto the net, to get that young viewer/readership. This new venture, from magazine to website backed by cnet is getting a big push. Hmmm, on verra.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I Think I Have Blog Envy

Seriously, I think I have blog envy. I mean overall I think I’ve drawn a pretty great lot in life, all things considered. So envy is not something I usually going around feeling.

Maybe this isn’t envy exactly. It feels more like being in 8th grade and watching all the tenth graders doing cool stuff and wishing and wanting to be like them. What would one call that?

All I can say is that this world of blogging, it’s all so new to me, I have so much to learn and just want to get there already!

But here’s the thing, because I am no longer in 8th grade and I know that I will get there eventually I know I just have to be patient and keep writing and blogging and surfing and sharing with you.

Again not so bad when I break it down. But boy oh boy there’s some fun stuff out there.

Here, just to show I don’t have blog envy, I’m gonna share what I've stumbled upon in the last few days.

http://www.abrooklynlife.com/
http://roboppy.net/food/
http://www.locavores.com/how/links.php
http://www.toomanychefs.com/
http://www.eatwellguide.org/index.cfm
http://www.accidentalhedonist.com/
http://www.ahamburgertoday.com/

Allergy Versus Intolerance

Basically they can present with similar symptoms but the main difference is an allergy will prompt the body to attack the intruder with antibodies. Said another way, an allergy will affect the immune system whereas with a food intolerance the immune system will not get involved. Another difference is that an allergy happens pretty immediately in reaction to a small amount of the allergen whereas a food intolerance needs a larger amount to create a reaction and can happen anywhere from 45 minutes to two days afterwards.

Still I don't know what happened yesterday...

Monday, August 14, 2006

Ick at the Shack

Hmm seems there's a cleanliness issue at Shake Shack...Ewwwww.

Deep Stupor But Why?

Had a lovely lunch with my Anusara Teacher, Bo at Gemini Diner [the same one mentioned below]—Yankee bean soup followed by a huge Greek salad with chicken, which I couldn’t possibly finish. Came home and had some fresh sliced watermelon and fell immediately into a deep stupor and had to go lie down.

What, lie down, a deep stupor? I know, what, why? I have NO idea. Was it the combination—of chicken and watermelon? Why would those suddenly make me fall asleep? That reaction--feeling like I can keep my eyes open and not because I'm tired but because I must lie down--I associate with an allergic reaction. But because I had eaten a bunch of things, none of which I am allergic too, I may never know why that happened.

After that, I decided to stick to a home-made diner: rice pasta with sliced grape tomatoes, fresh basil, all sautéed with garlic and olive oil and no reaction ensued. It was yummy. But still I’m stumped about earlier this afternoon. Hate that.

One Night Stand at Mas

I fully admit it: I can be a bit of a food snob. On top of that I tend to eat in more expensive restaurants. And to add a justification to my admission: the pricier the resto, the less likely I will get sick. So really, it’s a self-preserving measure of sorts. Really.

Why might this be you're wondering? At a more upscale and expensive the resto, the chef makes everything. From scratch. Very often the chef creates the recipe. Hence the reason he/she is The Chef.

I find the reverse is often also true: the farther down the line you go in money and scale, the less likely the chef, the cook, or the server [the thief or her lover] will know EXACTLY what it is in each and every dish because they haven’t made it.

For example, I rarely eat desserts out at my local Greek diner. Aside from the jello, usually everything is bought elsewhere, whether from Veniero’s or a dessert depot. Your server will have no clue what’s inside a Coconut cream Pie other than coconut and cream. And truly, it’s not fair to expect them to know what is inside what they didn’t make.

However, at a place like Mas the chef actually REVELLED in my allergies and limitations. Now this is certainly not the norm but boy it should be.

I went to Mas with my family [also foodies who like going to the newest hot spots, especially my mother] when they opened in Spring 2004. At that time I was a lacto-ovo veggie on top of all of my sensitivities and allergies [but not yet dairy-free or sugar-free or gluten-free which are a whole OTHER set of challenges]. I was a dining challenge to say the least.

Once I explained my situation to our lovely server, she returned from the kitchen bearing super-duper news: “The chef will be happy to accommodate you; he loves a challenge.”

From that moment on, I was in love. That kind of attitude made me feel not only instantly welcomed but cared for; a recipe for a great chef/patron relationship and dining experience. The server came out a few times to check my possible allergy to an herb or a spice and the love affair was cemented. I was served the Chef’s special Allergic Girl three-course meal including dessert, which I rarely eat outside of the home, that was so delicious I ate every scrap.

Sadly, I haven’t been back since: some love affairs are really one-nighters and I’ve had many with not one regret.

Onward!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Punked Out at Pigalle

Went to Pigalle on Wednesday, the night of the day that I started this blog. After thinking about and creating the mission for this blog and doing a little blogging about all the potential the dangers that eating-out holds for me, I got to Pigalle and lost my appetite. I ended up having a simple dry arugula salad.

I still had the discussion with the server—No Nuts Anywhere, etc. But really I punked out about eating out. I didn’t order the burger which I wanted to try, I didn’t ask about the fries [what oil are they fried in], I did have a bite of my buddy Matt’s steak, which was yummy, but I simply froze about placing my own order.

And that happens sometimes. Sometimes I just get exhausted by myself, by the stream of questions for what is usually a clueless server: what oil do they cook with or dress the salad with; what will they leave out of a dish or what they will put in so I can eat it. It’s all very tiring. And, it doesn’t always work.

[With food allergies, you don’t always know what it is you’re allergic to; it could be something in the sauce in combination with your cocktail and the new moisturizer you just started using and could have nothing to do with what you told the waiter to leave out of your dish. Sigh.]

Sometimes, like at Pigalle on Wednesday, I just freeze and eat nothing and then eat at home later, disappointed with myself for not trusting the chef who personally reassured me or for not trying something new that sounded delicious.

Sounds like I should eat at home more doesn't it? And I do; I’ve been cooking yummy meals for my family and myself since I became a vegetarian back in High School. But I also love the theater that this city provides by going out to dine. So I go. And I work hard at not getting too wrapped up in the if-I-eat-this-I-might-die-dilemma. Except when I do. And then work hard to be gentle with myself and enjoy my simple dry salad.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Dinner with the Girls


Chicken paillard topped by a frisee salad and fried shallots from Pastis--which last night I called "Chocolate paillard" to the server for some odd reason--Chocolate on the brain? Max Brenner flashbacks?

Last night The Girls were my mother's girls [her white bracelet barely in the shot behind the fries] and I was the happy tagalong because Pastis is a fav. dinner spot.

One of the things about having food allergies is that when I find a resto that doesn't kill me, I add it to my mental list and I go back again and again [barring a serious menu or chef change, of course. Which if that happens, it gets crossed off and the search begins anew].

One of those safe places is for me is Pastis. Actually, the whole McNally group is great.

Be forewarned and forearmed: THEY USE PEANUT OIL. But generally their servers are great and knowledgeable about allergies and they accommodate you when possible.

And their fries [which are fried in said oil] are some of THE BEST in the city. See them in the background, overflowing with fried goodness?

My favorite meal out is generally brunch: eggs and homefries don't usually have nutty issues. Pastis in particular is always a party however totally overrun by tourists, as is Balthazar. Schiller's is their newest addition, by what three years maybe? And is still mostly New Yorky and yummy.
Enjoy!

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Corn is as High...

One of the best things about August is *local* sweet corn. I keep getting the 5 for $2 deals at the farmer’s market thinking: perhaps I will make a non-dairy corn chowder, or a fresh cornbread, or use the cooked kernels in a black bean salad. But it is JUST SO GOOD I have to gobble it down on the cob, no corny transformations. Just straight corn goodness.

The Perils of Peanut Oil

As an allergic person, I’m re-discovering how much easier it is to eat in restaurants when eating meat. MUCH easier. Except of course when the waiter tells you ALL of their chicken is marinated in PEANUT OIL. [even though I’m not allergic to it MANY people are.

This happened a few months back at a neighborhood bistro called Quatorze bis on the UES.Their steak frites, although trop cher for a ‘hood spot, is super yummers.

However, Peanut Allergic People BEWARE, things are marinated in peanut oil with NO SIGNAGE ANYWHERE…Oy! Truly, a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Long Vegetarian Story Short

During High School, I was eating a hamburger at Silver Spurs on Bway and 9th Street, a junior burger to be precise, when I put it down and said aloud, “I don’t want this anymore.”

My dining companion said, “I’ll finish it for you.”

I said “No, I don’t want to eat burgers anymore. Ever.” And that was it.

Slowly, over about two years, I eliminated all meat from my diet whilst making sure to maintain a healthy, balanced diet according to what I had read in the best books I could find about nutrition and vegetarianism and checking with my Mensch of a Doctor, Dr. Marc Spero. I am such a nerd that way.

17 years later I was still not eating ANY meat, and no cheating, not even once.

Until last September when my body said “Eat Chicken.”

I’m a big believer in listening to the body and so if it wanted chicken that meant it was time to eat chicken. So, Labor Day Weekend 2005, at our country house in Amagansett, Long Island, under the warm sun beaming thru the skylight in the kitchen, I took a bite of a roasted chicken we had just bought at the A&P. My favorite bite: the oyster [a part under the shoulder bone]. And it was good.

I waited about two days to see if I had any reaction and the only one I had was my body saying “Eat More.”

And thus a newly minted carnivore was re-born.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Excellent Food Allergy article from CNN

My dear friend T. just sent me this excellent article for those of us with food allergies and the people that love them. Very basics about eating out, what to look for, what to be aware of [if you aren't already]. For anyone who's been out to a meal with me, this will seem all too familar.
Thank you for sending this, T.!

A Whole Lotta Shaking Goin’ On



Doesn't that look delicious?!

Met up with Heather for lunch today; she's a friend from my previous publishing life. We met in Madison Square Park at the now quite famous Shake Shack which was basically a hit the minute it opened in 2004. And how could it fail with the great Danny Meyer behind the concept and execution.

I’ve been meaning to try their burgers, as the last time I was there I was still a vegetarian. [It's a long story for another post]. Now at a burger joint, if all they're frying up are hotdogs and hamburgers, it *should* be nut free. The hidden issue here could be the use of peanut oil for frying fries.

Here's another thing you should know about me: I am NOT allergic to peanuts; I AM allergic to Tree Nuts. And there is a huge difference as peanuts are not actually nuts but legumes. Many people are allergic to one and not the other, or both, or none [lucky ducks].

But back to the Shake Shack: as a general rule, I'd rather not have any oil with nut in the title so I always ask.

Upon my inquiries, the manager came over and told me that they DON'T cook with peanut oil at all but they DO make peanutbutter milk shakes and so I shouldn’t have ANY SHAKES in case of cross-contaimination. Good call, I thought.

My double burger was delicious and totally gluten-, dairy-, and nut-FREE. And I was pleased that even though the staff was crazed in the back of the Shack, the manager took the time to talk with me *and* was knowledgeable about her food processes: not something to be undervalued. Excellent.

The only slight downside, even though I got on line for lunch at 11:47am, we didn’t eat until 12:30pm. Here's the line at 11:47am. But on a beautiful day like today, it was almost a pleasure.
Line at Shake Shack




It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's....

I was just thinking, if ALLERGIC GIRL were my superheroine name, do you think I could get AG jeans to be my “official” jean sponsor? I have one pair and they're my favorites but I could always use more, in my official capacity as Allergic Girl, of course.

I mean AG for AG!? Why not?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Bald Who?

Just got back from a lovely, long walk with the equally lovely Danielle. We ended up checking out what has taken over the old Andy’s Cheapee’s space on B’way and 13th Street. It’s called Chocolate by the Bald Man Max Brenner [quite an announcement about someone I’ve never heard of] and there’s a big bald head and a scribbled signature in bright yellow neon over the double doors.

Upon entering you are bombarded by chocolate being mixed, sold, spread, poured, powdered, chopped, creamed and generally conspicuously consumed. The über-chocolate atmos reminded me of the Ghirdaelli factory in SF: perhaps chocolate was once made there but you knew those days were long over.

Before I continue, you need to know: I’m not a chocolate person. I just can’t get THAT excited about it. As a kid, I was fine for the first chocolate bar, but by number two I was itchy with hives. And no, being a greedy kid doesn’t give you hives. i thought I was simply allergic to chocolate. (I'm not). As an adult, I know that most often chocolate is produced in factory that also makes chocolate with hazelnuts or almonds etc. Hey, I've been on a tour of the Ethel M factory in Vegas; I saw what they do there. And that was the main issue.

If I possibly forgot, a sign like this one below [albeit sideways] is a great reminder: DON'T EAT HERE.

So basically, no choco for me. Ever.

But not to be a complete stick in the mocha, everyone seemed very happy and buzzy about the stuff at The Bald Spot. Danielle ordered the PB and Chocloate Crepe and partook of a Nyquill measuring-cup cap-sized sample of thick hot coco [in summer? I know crazy but they were handing it out].

She took two small sips and said, “I think that’s all I needed.” There was an “Ugh” implied there.

But her crepe arrived and she had to taste that too since she already paid for it. Before they handed it to her they asked if she wanted “crunchies”—when pressed the server said “Oh it’s hazelnuts-n-stuff”.

I’m thinking: Crunchies equals nicht gut for Allergic Girl at Max Brenner’s.

Said arrived crepe was too big, too hot, and too gloopy. Danielle could only take about three bites and only two of those with any PB/Chocolate/Crunchie mixture before she was gasping for skim milk and air.

Even though Max is Israeli, so said the press material, I think he's taken the American carnival/Mall atmosphere very much to the heart of his business plan—make it big, gloopy, and chocolate-y and they will come.

Except me, Allergic Girl. And Danielle.

Lunch at Chez Moi

On the days and nights I don’t eat out, I dine Chez Moi.

Today’s lunch at Chez Moi consists of Hans organic spicy chicken sausage sautéed in organic extra virgin olive oil over wilted Earthbound organic mesclun greens [I use the olive oil I just sautéed the sausage in as a sauce over the greens, yummers!]. Oh and some bi-color corn straight from the farmer’s market. Love organic!

I go organic whenever I can, budget allowing. And I discovered Hans a few month’s back at whole foods on 14th street and I can’t get enough! They use organic products, they have a great taste, they make many sausage varieties and the sodium/calorie count isn’t horrible. If they could just bring the price down from $5.99 for a pack of four. [when I can get to Costco in Queens they sell a multi-pack which is a much better value].

The Hans, love the Hans!

Beetlejuice

A friend sent me this article--I already knew about crushed beetles as a red colorant for food, but the rest, really yick.

http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/content/aug2006/db20060807_789872.htm

Welcome!

Welcome to my blogspot and thank you for looking around.

PLEASE DON'T PASS THE NUTS™ and Allergic Girl™ will chronicle my challenging experiences as both allergic to food and a serious foodie.

Dinning out for someone with food allergies or intolerances [more on the differences later] can be like an episode of EXTREME EATING, if that existed. [Although, Anthony Bourdain's show NO RESERVATIONS on the Travel Channel comes close].

I eat dinner out at least 5 times a week, more if you include lunches--and each time I have the same exact discussion with my servers: "If this food has any [insert allergen here] I will die. I will need to go the hospital and you will have to come with me." Invariably, at least 2 times out of 5 the dish STILL has to be sent back.

[Perhaps at this point, you're wondering, "If she's so allergic why does she eat out?" My answer is because I love food, food history, the whole dining experience and innovative cuisine. Living in a great foodie city like New York affords me the luxury and the opportunity to be at the forefront of FOOD.]

Despite a few setbacks and some disgruntled waitstaff, there are many restos in NYC that understand food allergies and I'm constantly discovering more. PLEASE DON'T PASS THE NUTS will be my blog about eating out at the best new restaurants around town: which are helpful, which would like to kill me [or anyone else with allergies]; which to applaud, which to avoid. It will also include foodie articles, reviews of new allergen-free foods [I'm constantly trying something new to expand my limited diet], links to food companies that offer safe foods and much more.

If you have food allergies, or know and love someone that does, I hope you find my blog helpful!

Happy and healthy eating!