Food Allergy Counseling

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

Monday, April 30, 2007

It's Not Easy Bein' Green

Oh but it is and it’s getting easier.

I was inspired by last week’s talk at the Natural History Museum to get green or at least get greener. Laurie David made a point that was very freeing: you don’t have to be perfect about it; it still counts if you do one thing consistently like using a canvas bag when shopping instead of plastic bags.

Said another way by Laurie: “Everyone doesn’t have to do everything but everyone should do something.”

So here are the small somethings I have done since Wednesday. I encourage you all to pick something, commit to it, and do it!

-I unplugged everything I wasn’t using immediately: my phone charger, my hairdryer, my electric toothbrush, my standing fan, my second computer - I turned off the whole strip. When you leave a plug in the socket the current is flowing, ever at the ready, costing you money, and wasting energy! I feel better already.

-Saturday, I took a nice long walk in the sunshine to the local, and now quite famous in its own right, Green Market. I’ve adopted the cotton bag that was stuffed with eco-swag from Wednesday's event and given out after the luncheon. And now I shop with it. I put all my newly purchased local goodies in there: local orange tulips that all have double buds, local onions, local fingerling potatoes, and local hard cheese.

-I called HSBC, my bank. They're running a promotion about Green banking for their new customers; existing customers can't take advantage of the promotion. Silly. I had a stern word with their customer service department about just how silly it was not to offer this to their loyal customers as well. In the meantime, I went ahead and ordered e-statements [paperless, online statements] to cut back on paper useage. Easy peasy.

-I’m looking into greener power through Con Edison Solutions.

-I’ve been meaning to go to Green Drinks NYC for months. Well this month, May 8th, I’m going! Right after I attend an event celebrating the relationship between the Jews and the Danes. (Jews and Danes, who knew.)

- Green Drinks NYC has linked up with wind power. I’m seriously considering it. That or some other mix of green credits.

-Also, NY Wind has a nice site with some other changes that are easy to implement:
• Reduce, reuse, recycle.
• Replace a regular incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb (cfl) CFLs use 60% less energy than a regular bulb. You can purchase CFLs online from the Energy Federation.
• Buy locally grown and produced foods - CSA and Farmers Markets- Eat locally grown foods seasonally and buy food with less packaging.
• Carry a cloth bag for shopping- turn down the plastic bag.
• Buy your electricity from renewable providers. Buy Wind Power
• Choose Energy Star energy efficient appliances when purchasing appliances.
• Use less hot water - It takes a lot of energy to heat water.
• Clean or replace filters on your furnace and air conditioner
• Use clotheslines to dry your clothes- clothes dryers consume large amounts of electricity.
• Do you laundry and run your dishwasher at night- electric demands are highest during the day- use power at night instead of during the day- it will help us all.
• Get a home energy audit- NYSERDA can help you find an energy specialist.
• Walk and use public transportation.
• Compost- make dirt and lesson your contributions to landfills.
• Fly less- Air travel produces large amounts of emissions so reducing how much you fly by even one or two trips a year can reduce your emissions significantly.
• Vote for politicians who put protecting the environment as a leading issue.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Nature on PBS

You know I love zee doggies [I have to become a little French when I talk about them] even though I'm highly allergic to them. Tonight Nature continues its series on the dogs. Oh if only my TV had dog-o-vision, without the dander of course. I’ll have to settle for doggies in HD, which works.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Green Round-up

Lots of interesting Green news items this week, post-earth day.

-Sounds like Michael Pollan read Twinkie, Deconstructed. He’s right, the Twinkie is the embodiment of the US’s subsidized crops: corn, wheat and soy [in some form or another]. Read this important article about the US Farm BIll- here in the NYT or on Pollan’s site. PS Here's an odd rebuttal to Pollan’s NYT article.

-Wednesday, I attended a talk and luncheon with experts in the environmental field at the gorgeously renovated Natural History Museum . Laurie David, Dr. Thomas Lovejoy, and Dr. Michael Oppenheimer spoke strongly but not without hope about the current and dire enviromental crisis. Here are some very easy tips from Laurie’s website that we can all do to lessen the impact of global warming and environmental decay. Godairyfree.org also has a nice list.

-Pass the Duchy biscuits. I was living in England the year the Prince brought his Duchy biccies to the market. No big media push, that I recall, just a quiet white box of Cracker-y cookie things on the supermarket shelves. The NYT does a nice piece about how that original cookie has grown into a movement where the prince has become an organic Prince.

-Localvore? Are you one?

- Organic milk legislation is about to change.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Provence NYC

UPDATE: PROVENCE IS OFFICIALLY SHUTTERED

Ok, there’s great news and less good news.

The GREAT news is Provence is back and has the potential to be better than ever.

In a shrewd move by the Meyer/Freeman restaurant team (the McNally team seems to have stumbled, at least in reviews, with Morandi, straying from their usual Franco-restos), Provence’s excellent bone structure has been kept intact. The exterior window frames are still blue. Whew. They haven’t done any serious mucking about internally either. Three rooms, like a wider railroad apartment have interlocking yet distinct personalities, as my dining companion Shari noted.

The front room was made famous, in my teenaged mind, by the movie Crossing Delancy. Whilst the sun shone through that glorious wall of windows, a Belgian cad and writer seduced our Jewish heroine with poems of ripe plums by Confucius. And it almost worked. The front room has retained that seductive charm especially paired with a light drizzle and candlelight such as it was last night. Ah, April in Paris indeed.

The middle room seems more multigenerational in tone: we were cornered by families with in-laws and parents with kids. It felt home-y, neighborhoody, very cozy.

The back little garden is intact too. (What schmuck would dismantle that institution I don’t know but atrocities like that are committed daily in the city of constant renewal). The ceiling is draped with a soft fabric, somewhere between Moroccan nights and fourposter bed; sexy without overt sex appeal and also quite date-a-licious.

More GREAT news: I called earlier in the day to let them know Allergic Girl’s allergy sitch. They said that wouldn’t be a problem. When our waiter approached the table, he had a ticket that said nut and fish allergy and he was prepared. Excellent news especially as the menu was like dodging deathly bullets for me: lots of hazelnuts and walnuts in dishes; lots of fish or meat with anchovy sauces.

Even more GREAT news: our food came with pedigrees. My chicken came from a cage- free happy environment in North Carolina, I think he said. Shari’s fish had a similar story. And given that I’m in the middle of reading the panic inducing book The Ethics of What We Eat, I was glad to hear about my happy chicken.

LESS GOOD news: The waiter never checked on our table. Not until the busmen, who had been hovering and clustering around our table like bus-buzzards, cleared away our dishes. Normally I would only note this as poor form but not a blot. In this case, had he checked in, I would have told him that my lovely looking rotisserie chicken was rubbery, bouncy, pink, and generally under cooked. The sauce was a light and tasty au jus and the snap peas were fine but the chicken, bouncy. Not nice. And not encouraging.

Not getting chicken right is like screwing up scrambled eggs. Something is not working in the kitchen. Well, not yet; they did JUST open after all.

When I told him about my still sqwaking bird at the end of our meal, after we had asked for the check, he apologized. The manager came over and also apologized and took the chicken off our bill. That was a gracious surprise. And I completely appreciated it; however, it could have been avoided if the waiter had checked in.

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that I didn’t flag him down either. He was fluttering around other tables; we never made eye contact but we could have. Frankly, I was curious. I ran my own mini-experiment about when he’d come over to check in. The answer was only when he brought dessert menus.

As we left I saw the same gracious and lovely seeming manager. I thanked her again for taking the chicken off the bill and she apologized again for its under-cookedness; all was sweetness. I asked if they planned on a brunch any time soon. She said about two to three weeks. That will be cool.

The UPSHOT: the rooms are lovely (who doesn't look great in candlelight?), they totally took care of my allergic needs without batting an eyelash, they comp’ed the chicken when then needn’t have, and they were very gracious. They’ve been open less than, what, two weeks? I think I can forgive them some rubbery chicken and try again in a few weeks.

Otto Pizzeria

I stopped by Otto last night night on my way home from dinner at Provence. Had a quick hug and catch up with Chris Crocetti, manager extraordinaire. Otto used to be an easy go to dinner spot for me a couple of years back: pizza, pasta, and salad all yummy. And managers Chris and Ryan knew how to treat an Allergic Girl right.

Chris asked why I hadn’t been by in so long.

“I’m gluten free now, so pizza and pasta is kinda out.”

“We have gluten free pasta. We’ll make it with any sauce we make.”

“No way!”

“Way.”

“For how long?”

“For a couple of months now. Mario called and said put gluten-free pasta in all of the restaurants.”

This is seriously interesting and something I’ve got to check out ASAP.

Coincidentally, I bumped into Bo on the M15 bus home from Otto, and we both thought this GF development needs a proper investigation, so that's our next outing. That and the truffle honey they serve with the cheese platter is calling our names.

GF folks out there - this could be a very good thing.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Whole Foods on Houston Street

After a quick drink with Brent and Peter at The Skinny for some bloggy/new media shop talk, I wandered almost guiltily to the WF on Houston Street. Why the guilt? I was sneaking around the back of my 14th street WF love.

Well, I could have saved myself any guilt. The place was capital “D” pressing. Maybe because it’s new. And it was a Tuesday night. And the LES was quiet. And they have too much room: 71,00 square feet spread over two floors-it felt and was empty. (I didn’t go upstairs, not yet, but the NYT did, second item).

I, like most New Yorkers, are used to cramped shopping quarters . Like Fairway on the UWS? If you don't get shoved or one dirty look, you’re doing it wrong. So all that space and no pushing, it was like entering bizarro world. Too clean, too new, too nice, too fresh: sterile. Not New York.

Sustainable Table blogged about it a few weeks back [amongst others ] much better than I in this short post. However, I think we’re all experiencing similar feelings about the Whole Fooding of the city: torn between a deep emotional loss of neighborhood grocers and a guilty pleasure for embracing the new, the clean, the big, and the organic.

Allergen-free Food at College

If college kids can get allergen-free food without bullying and insults, why can’t grade schoolers?

My question is waaaaay too simple, I know, but given Monday's discussion here, I felt I had to raise the question, even a too-simple one.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Curtains

We went to a Broadway show. On a Saturday.

Yes, Broadway. On a Saturday.

I had to say it twice because it was a rather unusual event. I can’t remember the last time I was in that part of town on a weekend. It was packed: people spilling into the streets, cars swerving not to hit the heaving hoards, police-on-horseback-for-crowd-control packed. Before you get all, “Crowd control?! What, were they afraid of riots?” this was a very benign police sighting; people were petting, stroking, and generally loving the big, brown horsey.

All was controlled giddy New Yorkiness. And my heart swelled a little. No, I’m not a fan of crowds all looking up and not walking quickly enough, but six years ago you couldn’t pay a tourist to go to Broadway. Six years ago the sidewalks were quiet, the air was acrid and the side streets closed down by police. I saw some show just after 9/11 and literally there had been a bomb scare at one of the theaters further down the street so they closed off the whole street. Not one of us enjoyed the show, how could we? I can’t even remember what it was.

But Broadway is back, people were laughing, eating, feeling safe and happy: families, couples, people dressed up looking to have a fun NYC evening. It was great to see.

However, I still prefer theater on a Tuesday.

I never said I wasn’t a snob.

PS Curtains was fun. Niles singing and dancing, doing a bad JFK impression i.e. Boston accent. The show is packed with broadways babies doing their very professional thing: kick lines, cute chorus guys and girls, silly sexual innuendos, a play within a play murder mystery, snazzy 50s costumes and hairdos, belting , and a Kander and Ebb score. Not their finest but very fun regardless.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Mean Grown-Ups

I’m an Allergic Girl but not an allergic mother nor an allergic kid. Most of what I post is about managing life as an adult who advocates for her allergy-free life. However, I’m not completely oblivious, I hope, to the large world of allergic kids and their concerned parents. Not too long ago, I was that sneezing, wheezing, no I can’t come over to your house to play because of fluffy/spike or no I can’t have some of your walnut birthday torte girl. (Ok, no one really served walnut tortes but you get the idea).

And as I, like you, surf through the net with an eye to allergies and asthma, I'm seeing an increase in allergic kids' parents’ questions about how to raise their children to defend against the bullies of this world. [Mrs. Zum posted about this last week as well.]

There have always been bullies, but now PB&Js are the weapons of choice. Who's arming these bullies? The same people who have always armed the playground bully: parents. Parents bullying behavior shows up in the playground, i.e. bully kids are often bullied kids at home. And now we have a new bully to contend with: non-allergic parents’ aggressive attitudes towards kids with allergies.

I don't recall any parents behaving like this when I was a kid. What about the other adults at my school?

The lunch ladies, all named Maria, were sweet and the kitchen was an open affair if I had any questions or needed a substitution. I've distinct memories of hanging out there with the Marias, alot; chicken a la king over rice, yum!

Ah yes, now I remember: the gym department [Yes you, Ms. Corcoran] thought I was lying when I said I had asthma. They shrugged off tons of doctor's notes and made me run in Central Park until I wheezed which didn't take long! That certainly counts as another form of an adult's lack of compassion, understanding, and/or downright stupidity about allergies and asthma.

Sigh, I'd almost forgotten about that, that was indeed a sad time.

Judith Warner in Friday’s NYT gives her opinion on this topic. It’s a Times Select piece but Ms. Scones has supplied me with the text for you below.

April 19, 2007, 5:48 pm
Mean Grown-Ups
By JUDITH WARNER

There's an absolutely horrifying article in the current issue of Child Magazine about the food fight now raging between parents of children with life-threatening food allergies and parents of the allergy-free. The latter, apparently, have started to push back against "peanut-free" school regulations to assert their children's natural right to eat whatever they darn well please.

The stories are downright chilling: One parent joked on a message board about having his daughter dress as "the Death Peanut" on Halloween. A North Carolina father at a parent-teacher organization meeting said he'd continue to send his child to school with peanut butter sandwiches and "tell his child to 'smear' the peanut butter along the hallway walls." Another father sent his child to school with a "disguised" sandwich that had peanut butter hidden in the middle of the bread.

There are many ways to read this behavior. On the one hand, it reflects widespread ignorance about the scope and severity of some food allergies, and it also reveals plain old laziness. Some parents and educators sense that peanut worries have come to verge on paranoia. And then there's a sense that some parents are going nuts about food generally.

I sympathize with that feeling – up to a point. There was a time a few years ago when I, too, conflated the anxiety of the merely food-averse with the fears of those whose kids were threatened by potentially fatal allergies. A teacher once told me about a preschool mom who took to following her daughter room to room, and screamed at staff members if they didn't walk the halls with EpiPens strapped to their bodies. The teacher felt that this mother was ridiculous, and I did, too. It's easy to turn a quasi-mocking eye on someone who behaves in this way.

That is, it was easy for me until another mother described to me the experience of watching her son nearly die in her arms after an accidental peanut ingestion. Getting into her skin – feeling the fear and vulnerability that drove her to, she admitted, sometimes maddening behavior – changed everything for me. I'd like it if all parents could at some point force themselves to do this kind of mental exercise. Empathy can be painful – but a little goes a long way.

And empathy appears to me now, in much of what I read, to be in particularly short supply, not only among different groups of parents (all those "wars," Mommy and otherwise) but in the increasingly punitive attitudes of school systems and legislators toward parents and, by extension, their kids. Frequently, I find, there seems to be a kind of studied harshness in the air, an in-your-face obtuseness that tries to pass itself off as some sort of virtue or push for justice. I'm thinking particularly now of the "war on obesity," which in some school districts is being waged through letters home to parents or in report cards bearing the bad news about students' body mass indexes. The ostensible goal is to make parents aware that their children's health is at risk, but the real effect has often been, as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have reported, to scold parents and humiliate their children. ("Do you think I'm fat?" a fifth grader asked her embarrassed gym teacher after a letter came home showing a low fitness score. "She had never thought that she was heavy," the teacher told the Journal.) Another example: a Texas state legislator earlier this year introduced a bill that proposed bringing criminal charges and up to $500 in fines against parents who failed to show up for scheduled parent-teacher conferences. Once again, the goal was undoubtedly laudable: to increase parents' involvement in their children's education. Yet the heart was missing, the compassion and understanding and willingness to concede that most parents who do not attend school conferences don't because they can't – because bosses, work demands, transportation or other limitations make it impossible. Such considerations make no difference to the would-be sheriffs in our midst, eager to correct the behavior of those deemed too lax or permissive or self-indulgent.

In every case where there are breakdowns of empathy, children are the ones who really suffer. Whether it's the peanut-allergic kids Child Magazine found ostracized in classrooms and cafeterias, or those whose newly-revealed B.M.I. scores crash-landed them into the world of the "fat," or those whose parents are additionally alienated from school districts that consider them near-criminals – it's the kids who fall victim in the crossfire of adult self-righteousness and officiousness. The worst examples of all came from columnist Bob Herbert earlier this month, when he shared stories of six- and seven-year-olds hauled off in handcuffs for "crimes" like throwing a tantrum at school and riding a dirt bike on the sidewalk.

Racism was the ingredient that pushed these incidents to the level of outright horror. Yet, most of the meanness I sense in the zeitgeist right now seems to me to be attributable to a kind of financial and emotional avarice. It is cheaper and easier to send home letters about a child's B.M.I. than it is to bring more and better physical education into the school day or spend more money on better-quality school food. It is hard to show generosity of spirit when you fear that your own family is constantly getting shortchanged.

I think of the woman quoted in the Journal article whose children's school had overhauled its cafeteria offerings in favor of healthier and less-caloric foods and who complained that her kids – athletes not big on fruits and veggies – were "getting the short end of the stick because of the obese kids." I think, too, of the mother I interviewed recently who has two sons in public school — one who gets special education services because he has Asperger's syndrome, and one who's in a "gifted and talented" program — and who must endure repeated digs by other parents over her family's suspect ability to "work the system."

"There's a lot of unrest, let's just say," she told me of her little corner of hell on the schoolyard.

The kinds of parents who willfully and insultingly resist complying with peanut-free rules may simply be people who, in this cutthroat time, respond with a kind of visceral fear and loathing to any child (or parent) whom they perceive to be getting preferential treatment. These parents may be motivated by all kinds of resentments and fears that they cannot name or properly articulate.

Or they simply may be creeps.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Joshua Bell

What gems of your life are you missing out on? What beautiful moments are right under your nose?

I can’t help but read this WashPo article and think, “Nah, that would never happen to me: *I’d* totally know Josh Bell by sight.” (It helps that we were both at the same chocolate tasting a few months back. And that he’s a seriously brilliant Jewish cutie.)

The article sets up an experiment that's deeply rooted in ancient Greek mythology IMHO. Remember your Greek myths? I lived by Edith Hamilton’s tome when I was a child; stories of gods and demi-gods descending from Mount Olympus, disguised as bulls or goats or old witches or warty old men. The virtuous young Greek, who didn’t judge the old person but fed them and gave them safe harbor was thusly rewarded: the old witch was a god in disguise! Rewards showered from above; a lesson was learned.

By placing a classical music god disguised as a common street performer in a Metro station in DC during rush hour, the question became would anyone recognize great art taken out of its natural habitat? Or in more quantifiable terms, out of 1000 commuters, how many would stop to listen to the beauty playing a beauty [Joshua owns/plays a three million dollar Strad ]. The article, and very unscientific experiement, shows not many. Only one woman recognized Joshua Bell, performer. One man thought he was a great performer but didn't know him by name. And for the hour, he made $34 and change.

If I were rushing, or worse late for a very important date would I stop to listen to a street performer if he were playing my favorite Beethoven? Would I be so tuned out of my environment, so closed down to the possibilities, that I would miss what was literally right under my nose? Would you?

As an Allergic Girl, being attuned my environment, my meal, especially to what my body is telling me, is crucial. I’m genetically programmed, if you will, by my allergies to be hyper-aware to my surroundings because they can adversely effect me.

That hyper-awareness is a gift. And a burden. It’s both. It would be nice to go out one evening and be a little oblivious. By the same token, often I get to experience smaller moments that pass others by.

For you parents of allergic kids who’ve written me wondering how your children will navigate the world as an allergic adult, one distinct positive is being aware of the world around you, open to the possibilities of danger and doom as well as beauty and grace. We are the Greeks who come to the aid of the gods in disguise. We are the ones who don’t miss a trick.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Brownies

Last Wednesday, the NYT showcased these brownie recipes; they look so simple and easy you want to go right out and bake a batch. (I wonder if rice flour can be done in a 1:1 swap with wheat flour. Gluten-free cooks, thoughts?)

But brownies and I have a past and it's not a pretty one.

Whilst in college overseas, I tried to bake Real Gourmet American Brownies for my Euro-boyfriend. I found an American recipe and dug in. There was the metric conversion thing to tackle and the fact that English teaspoons and American teaspoons are not the same measurement but as an overly confident young cook I thought, “I can wing it.”

So wrong.

Baking is chemistry. If your measurements are off, well, as any of you bakers know your soufflé falls, the crumb is crumby, and grit thy name is cake. Some chefs have made good on their mistakes, the molten chocolate cake of recent years is a great example. But I'm no Vongerichten.

First issue, the chocolate seized. This was pre-internet, so there was no one to check with about how to unseize it. And I had never seen chocolate do that on Fred Smith or Julia Child. [Now I know, add more liquid and it will calm down].

As I had used expensive imported chocolate I felt I needed to soldier on. I should have quit whilst I was ahead-chocolate covered strawberries would have worked for the boy.

I added the requisite dry ingreds and baked the mess, I mean mix.

Did I mention the oven was an exercise of guess-my-heat level? Oven temperature gauges over there were, yup, not the same.

Needless to say, this lovely chocolate brownie concept was a complete disaster in reality. I didn't even show the boy the bad result; I binned the whole thing. Big sigh.

However, and this is a big but, the recipes in this article are fairly uncomplicated and I wonder, if I found a nut-free chocolate and some rice flour, do I dare to attempt it?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Revolution Health

The link is up.

Yes, that is my iBook pinging at the beginning. And no, I wasn't aware we were recording when kibbutzing with Ms. Gluten-Free Girl. And no, I don't have an intro for some reason; my first question is about the future of meds for allergies/asthma.

Listen. Let me know what you think.

Bar Jamon

Does a Nor’easter stop Allergic Girl from leaving the house? No way!

Sunday afternoon, D. and I participated in a sherry wine tasting at Bar Jamon, the teeny outpost of Casa Mono, all part of the Batali food empire.

We tried nine sherries from Fino to Oloroso to Pedro Ximenez. Surprisingly, as it wasn’t explicitly advertised as even a possibility and not mentioned when I made my reservation, they brought out gorgeous tapas to taste with the wine.

They were traditional tapas, which meant fishy and nutty. Oh boy. Once I alerted the team about my inability to dine, they asked *how* allergic was I to nuts and fish? I said one word: dead. That got the message across. Very clearly.

Was that extreme? Yes, probably. However, I was puzzled by the "how much” question. Not puzzled, perturbed. Would, say, a tingling mouth, systemic hives or numb extremities be an acceptable risk for the resto or the diner? No, of course not. Was their question to suss out the allergy versus she just doesn’t like those things issue? Maybe. From a resto's standpoint, perhaps it's a valid question, given how many diners think it’s okay to say they’re allergic to a food simply because they don’t want it. (I could get higher on my soapbox on that issue but I will refrain right now; I’m still filled with sherry-love). But it pissed me off a little.

I had told the reservationist about my allergies which was not communicated to the tasting coordinators, natch. So they accommodated me as best they could and what there was was very yummy. I had some Manchego cheese with quince paste and some jamon but couldn’t really indulge in the full tapas tasting. And it was an amazingly indulgent little menu: almonds, olives, jamon, roasted artichokes with romanesco sauce, fried whole anchovies over salad, chorizo with roasted red peppers, foie gras with sherry vinaigrette, duck breast with sherry soaked raisins, chocolate with churros, and cinnamon ice cream with the finest Pedro Ximenez poured over it.

This was part of wine tasting series they will be having once a month through the end of summer. Roses are next and we’ve already signed up!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Landmarc

I was chatting with my buddy Dan (whilst we were both supposed to be working/writing at SoHo House ) and he mentioned that for fun he bartends Friday nights at Landmarc . He invited me to come down and have a drink.

Sweet!

Dan assured me that the resto was very careful about allergens and he would ensure my dinner would be safe. (If you met Dan, you’d trust him in a New York minute; he’s that kind of guy.) So I pitched it to C. who agreed to meet me there.

Tucked into a corner of West Broadway, this small spot takes no reservations and no prisoners. I arrived around 745pm and there was already a line out the door and a throng by the bar. Dan was holding court to the mainly couple-filled hoard, most of whom were doing their best “Norm” impression from Cheers. And he wasn’t kidding about how careful this resto is regarding allergens.

I was thinking about a steak so I asked about the grill, which is an open grill right next to the bar.

Do they also grill fish on there? No, just meat.

Do they marinate their steak? Some cuts, like the hanger, yes in olive oil, garlic, thyme, and parsely.

And the fries that come with that, might they be in a dedicated fryer? Yes, in fact, yes.

Oh joy!

I had the hanger steak - it was well seasoned, medium rare, and delish. C. had the lamb shank – practically licked the plate clean. Oohhh those lardons sent C. into spasms of delight. And I must admit I fell a little in love with the lamb myself.

I’ve already decided, I’m going back next Friday, before the seasonal menu changes and the lamb goes away. I’ll sit at the cozy bar; [it’s “O” shaped and almost feels like you’re playing blackjack but with a much friendly and chattier group]; let Dan pick me out a great red wine and enjoy some lamb-y allergen-free love.

PS Eater reports via Snack that the Columbus Circle outpost is, as of today, open.

Landmarc
Multiple locations in NYC

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Arrowhead Mills

Perhaps I should give out a new award: slowest to respond customer service. And lucky me, I already have a winner. I received an email this week from Arrowhead Mills. It reads:

“Thank you for taking the time to contact us regarding our Arrowhead Mills Product. We apologize for the delay in our reply and appreciate your patience. We strive to maintain the highest quality products and we appreciate your patronage. While this product does not contain nuts or tree nuts, it may be manufactured in a facility where products containing these ingredients are made.

We do, however, adhere to the highest manufacturing standards to ensure that, to the best of our ability, no cross contact occurs. All of our employees are educated on cross contact regulations and machines are cleaned thoroughly between each product run. Thank you for your continued support. If we can be of further assistance, please feel free to contact us at 1-800-434-4246, Monday through Friday from 7AM - 5PM Mountain Time.
Sincerely,
Karen
Consumer Relations Representative
Ref # 1361319”

To what product does she refer? No clue.

When did I write to them? On 12/5/06 I received a “we’ve gotten your email and will respond” reply. I’m certain I went to their site and filled out a form about their products and whether they were nut-free but who remembers.

The reply is so vague that I’m not even compelled to find out what I was asking about originally and try and engage them in any kind of dialogue.

So they get slowest to respond customer service award. And a big yawneroo.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Provence

This is a resto opening I’ve been anticipating. In its former incarnation, especially in the early years, Provence was an easy go-to. [And damn it if they didn’t have that Bastille Day party every year that every year I swore I’d attend the next year and didn’t but always meant to]. Come to think of it, I think that the last chicken I had, pre-vegetarian days, was their garlic chicken in the little garden in back. Delightful. The last time I was there was a few years back, after seeing Spellbound with a date, we ambled over to have a delicious post-movie crème brulee. I spent at least two Mother’s Days there, with the host fawning over the mama as only a French man can.

I was sadden to read that it had closed, but oh so excited to learn that the Five Points folks resurrected. Maybe I’ll try and sneak in this weekend, pre-heaving hoards.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Revolution Health

The tele-conference call was very interesting last night.

Firstly, meeting and hearing authors of blogs I read regularly was very cool. Secondly, it was great to hear the smart and varied questions we had for the doctor.

In hindsight, I wish that allergies and asthma as topics had been separated out. Of course, they cross over and that's fine; my asthma is allergy related, I get it. But both topics are so huge and comprehensive that we could have spent more time discussing and following up with each question. That’s what I wanted: to follow up with each question that was asked in more of a roundtable discussion format.

Here is a list of the attendees: Gluten Free Girl; Allergy Moms ; Childfoodallergy.com; Kids with Food Allergies; Allergizer ; Our Story ; Allergic Girl; moderator Cynthia , and allergy expert Dr. Clifford Bassett.

We did two rounds of one question each and I took some very quick notes as we talked [apologies to any blogger if I didn’t get it quite right].

1. Our Story : What is anaphylaxis?

2. Gluten Free Girl: Please discuss the psychology of allergies/intolerances.

3. Childfoodallergy.com: False negative results in food allergy testing? Why is that?

4. Allergic Girl: In terms of treatments, what’s on the horizon within the next ten years for allergies and asthma?

5. Kids with Food Allergies: Explain biphasic reactions?

6. Allergizer : Diet during pregnancy, how does it effect potential food allergies in children?

7. Allergy Moms : Please discuss immunology of the skin relating to multiple food allergies.

8. Our Story : Outgrowing milk/eggs allergies, is that possible?

9. Gluten Free Girl: What do you think about the anecdotal evidence about the rise of food allergies?

10. Allergic Girl: What advice would you give to the newly diagnosed allergic or asthmatic adult?

11. Cynthia: Allergic video games? Are they in development?

12. Kids with Food Allergies: The role of epinephrine in treating asthma?

13. Allergizer : Genetically modified foods - how does it relate to food allergies?

14. Allergic Girl: Natural remedies⎯what do you think?

As soon as the link is up I will post it so you can hear what the good doctor had to say in answer to these questions.

PS The link is up.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Revolution Health

WEDNESDAY 7PM, APRIL 11 2007

Allergic Girl will be part of a group bloggy tele-conference about allergies and asthma with Dr. Clifford Bassett and advocate Mike Tringale.

It will be a great opportunity for me to relay YOUR questions about allergies, asthma, new medications, food labeling laws, etc. that I know you have, especially you lurkers!

EMAIL ME with your questions - I will be collecting them until 6pm EST, April 11th.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Cruelty-Free Burger King

I’ve never had a BK burger. Light years ago, I enjoyed some of their scrumptious chicken sandwiches. We would get them in the then new drive-thru on route 27 [the route back to NYC from the south fork of Long Island] on a Sunday night. A soft bun, spicy breading, rich mayo, and cool lettuce-it was a winning combo for my pre-teen taste buds.

No matter if I haven't tasted the goods, I’m gladdened that they’ve heard the PETA-cry [or is it the vegan-dollar-cry?] and are making some cruelty-free adjustments to their "cuisine".

But I wonder: is this merely a concession, just words? Can organic fast food be far behind? Isn't that kind of a ridiculous concept?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Sopranos

So? Sopranos? Did it rock your world?

Eh, me neither.

Shhh, don’t tell, but I’ve never been a fan. When it started my then-BF and I watched an ep and both thought, “Eh”. Of course, everyone said afterward that it was the most boring ep. OK. Even after that I never hooked in. (I’ve missed the whole Grey’s obsession as well. Basically, if it’s not on Masterpiece Theater and doesn’t involves someone named Darcy, I’m less interested.) However, I *am* curious to see how it all ends, so I’ll keep watching: it is the end of an era after all. This 7 minutes of Sopranos heaven catches you up, if like me, you missed, uhm, everything.

PS Entourage is still kinda shark worthy but I watched it. And enjoyed it. And want to see how that plays out as well.

Tropicana Goes Organic

Poking around in my local Associated, Organic Tropicana leapt out at me. Tropicana? Organic? When did that happen?

My supermarket on Second Avenue is super small and super overpriced; shelf space is limited and at a premium. Within the last two years, they’ve made major changes including an organic/whole foods section. Yay. And now in the juice sections they’ve added Tropicana organics.

How do we feel about the big guys going organic? Tropicana is a PepsiCo company after all. Do they do it right? Organic is organic isn't? Or is the point for organic to be represented by small, local, sustainable farmers/orchards and not by a big, impersonal, international multi-conglomerate giant?

What do you think?

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Sunday on HBO

I'm not one to stay home and watch TV but Sunday night will feature the beginning of the end for the SOPRANOS and what should be the last season on ENTOURAGE . (That is if the producers knew how not to be greedy and jump the shark. I love those boys but it was over last season when they over-Ari'd.) So I'll be cozy on my couch enjoying some HBO love.

Watch them, love them, let's gab Monday...

Friday, April 06, 2007

Peter Pan Peanut Butter

They finally found someone or something to blame for the contaminated jars of Peter Pan. Maybe we should all buy our own peanuts and grind them in a blender. I mean, really. If I can just find some peanuts that aren’t processed with other nuts, I’d be down.

Blue Smoke Burger

I’ve been thinking about this burger for months and last night, finally, I sampled the goods.

We went to hear the fantastic Arturo O’Farrill Trio, Afro-Cuban jazz, playing downstairs at Jazz Standard. Danielle had the Kansas ribs and Rob had the pulled pork [which they both ate with enjoyment and glee]. I ordered a medium-well burger, no bun. It came smothered in BBQ sauce, which meant it had to go back and get re-made. I couldn’t tell whose fault that was but as I hadn’t specified NO SAUCE, just said “medium-well, no bun, no cheese, no bacon”, I take responsibility for that one.

A new burger arrived, medium: it was well seasoned, juicy but not beefy nor particularly tasty. And I bit down on some gristle on my very first bite! Hate that. I think I was expecting too much.

Upshot: jazz was fantastic, burger, less so.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Allergy Cards & Chanterelle

We have our work cut out for us.

For months now, several executive chefs have said to me, “Use the allergy card , we want you to”. And then Ian Tomaschik of Chanterelle was interviewed in Grub Street. He typifies the reason why many of us don’t: fear of the dreaded eye roll or worse, the this-must-be-a-joke attitude.

Not good.

Anyone who has an allergy or a special dietary request, this is our task at hand: educate and advocate with charm and persistence.

The customer drives the market; it will change when we demand it must. And the change has already started but clearly there is more work to be done.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Twinkie, Deconstructed and Vital Juice

Today, Vital Juice, the health trends newsletter of Revolution Health, features a sassy review of Twinkie, Deconstructed by yours truly.

Speaking of which, Allergic Girl will be part of a bloggy tele-conference about allergies and asthma next week with Dr. Clifford Bassett and advocate Mike Tringale.

It will be a great opportunity for me to relay all of YOUR questions about allergies, asthma, new medications, food labeling laws, etc. that I know you have, especially you lurkers!

EMAIL ME with your questions - I will be collecting them for the next week until 6pm EST, April 11th.

Second Seder

We spent a lovely and very delicious allergen-free second night Sephardic seder at the home of my dear literary agent friend and her family. As she placed each dish on the table, she listed its ingredients. If there was something nutty, she made a nut-free version [like the spiced date charoseth which is the only kind I ever want to have, ever] or it was placed away from my plate.

I was touched by the extra care she took to make sure I could eat. Telling the table what was in each dish was a lovely introduction to another culture’s traditional foods and also a subtle way of letting me know exactly what I was eating and thus allaying any minor anxieties I might have about partaking. It sounds like a small thing but it made a huge difference.

The meal:

We started with chopped liver and wine.

When we sat at the table we had several small vegetarian salads mezze style: fennel, olives, and oranges with spices; stewed tomatoes with green peppers and spices [called chuchukah and one of my faves]; spiced artichoke hearts; eggplant salad; spiced carrot salad; and fava bean salad [ I know I’m missing a few but those were the highlights].

The main course was a prune and lamb dish [heavenly and infamous in her circle]; cold potato salad with olives and onions; and roasted string beans.

We closed with typical Moroccan-style desserts, which I didn’t even look at: all nuts. I considered having a touch more lamb for dessert but settled on a care package for today’s lunch.

Thank you Cantor family!

I hope your holidays have been as delicious and as filled with love as mine have been.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern

Have you seen Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern?

A sweet faced baldie, with the wonder of a child and a perennially goofy Charlie Brown grin, Zimmern’s a lesser (sorry Andrew) version of the estimable Tony Bourdain , both of whom globetrot on their bellies. I find the show almost unwatchable but as in all things, opinions differ and this recent NYT reviewer likes him, likes his show, likes watching him enjoy a roasted ginea pig.

Check it out. Compare the two. Let me know.

Passover Seder

Wonderful first night Seder at my mother’s house for 15, yes 15 wonderful people, all related by love.

We had gefilte fish, matzoh ball soup, brisket, roasted chicken, roasted asparagus with vinagrette and a tsimmis of sweet potatoes, carrots, and prunes; grapes and strawberries for dessert with many chocolate cakes and macaroons. It was a wonderful meal (though not my best brisket, maybe Bureka Boy can help.) We rented tables, chairs, and dishes and hired a very helpful server, Rodney through Staffing by David ; he was our best helper yet.

My beloved Omah died a few years ago and predictably the family has scattered; no one has stepped up to the helm to take over. So the last few High Holy Days, my mother and I have invited dear friends-some acquired within the last two years, some that knew my parents pre-Allergic Girl-to join us as our new family: eating, laughing, gossiping, talking politics, and mangling prayers.

Although I look forward to spending time with my cousins-like this past Thanksgiving-and I love having my family by choice around me.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Soho House New York

Friday night, (after a Thursday night dating disaster-let’s just say my option wasn’t picked up), some dear friends [THANK YOU Danielle & Robin & Rob] treated me to a night of controlled debauchery to cheer me up.

We started the evening at Soho House, early. I mention that it was early because by the time we left at midnight, crowds, I mean, hoards of heaving crowds had congregated at the small semi-circular bar all looking like extras from the set of Miami Vice-the early years. After a Stella and a glass of Pinot [neither of which didn’t seem to seriously hurt the tummy, yay], we got some food.

It could have gotten tricky at this point as the place was crowded and Nancy was more host/goddess than professional waitsatff. However, burgers have quickly become my go-to dish when I’m eating in unfamiliar territory so we ordered the sliders. Soho House is known for many things but not necessarily for its cuisine; I don’t even know who the chef is. I’ve lunched there a few times and the food is perfectly serviceable but nothing worth mentioning on this Allergic Girl’s blog. Until now.

The sliders come three to an order: mini brioche buns, cheese melted perfectly over about 2 ounces of prime meat, one thin round of pickle, and slices of small Roma tomatoes. Before I knew it I had gobbled two little plain guys [cooked to a medium perfection] and was reaching for the third.

Juicy, tasty, beefy, delectable burgers! Better than the last few burger spots I’ve been to. Who knew!? Perhaps I will have a quick chat with the chef.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Gefilte Fish Chronicles

Spent all day making brisket for my first night Seder tomorrow. And watched the Gefilte Fish Chronicles on PBS. There’s an encore performance if you’re away from your family this holiday or are curious about what goes into the preparations for a Passover seder or love watching other peoples' families kvetch!

Not that there’s anything wrong with kvetching.

Flatiron Lounge

Flatiron Lounge has been favorite haunt of the publishing set since it opened in 2003. I’d been a few times either meeting a potential author or for post-work drinks with editors/agents. Cool and dark, Flatiron Lounge's long wooden bar is edged by blue velvet stools; opposite is a wall of red banquettes and intimate round tables.

Inventive drinks distinguish this spot from your average after-work lounge. They’re the creations of Julie Reiner, whom I met at the NYDISH event a while back. We thought to give it a try this past Saturday night.

The vibe: very sexy-cool; completely different from the mid-week set. Groups of the well heeled mingled whilst couples at the tables stroked and smooched.

What we imbibed: a frothy egg-white drink that looked like egg nog in a brandy snifter, something fruit-punchy with Whiskey, and beer for guess who?

Was there music? No clue.

Was a there a demi-celeb in the mix? Yes! Marty from Gilmore Girls was two tables down and is taller than you think.

Overall: Totally fun, we will definitely be back!