Food Allergy Counseling

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

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Worry-Free Dinner in NYC?

So I have this idea to put out to my fellow New Yorkers with food allergies and food intolerances.

Would any of you who live in NYC or nearby be interested in getting together for a pre-paid, prix-fixe meal that would be allergen-friendly and worry-free? Either a dinner during the week or possibly a weekend brunch?

Allergic/intolerant/special needs diners are the most loyal patrons a restaurant can hope to attract. I know many of you are anxious about eating out at a new place but this would be a way to expand our dining horizons, meet new people who understand why you want the "sauce on the side", and have a yummy dining experience.

Let me know, leave a comment or send me an email: allergicgirl@gmail.com.

PS: It's finally here: Worry-Free Dinners!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Island Cafe Bar, NYC

Last Wednesday I was treated to a friends and family evening at Island Cafe Bar in Long Island City, Queens.

Island opened about six months ago with some buzz given that a former contestant from Top Chef was chefing there. Then I didn't hear much about it until this summer, and this invite for dinner came along with news of a new chef: Chef Dan Morales.

A sit-down, fixed menu fall tasting was on offer that evening, showcasing their new chef; however, a pre-set menu is not necessarily allergic girl or guy friendly. Regardless, I thought I'd go look at the space, have a drink, mingle, see what was what.

I wasn't disappointed by the space. Nestled in Long Island City, just over the 59th street bridge, in a residential neighborhood, this two-story building is an oasis. The space features white washed walls, white pillows and furniture, soft candlelight, double height ceilings, lanterns, tall clay urns and blond wood beams. The vibe is Miami Beach meets Mykonos.

Because the room was so inviting, I thought, "Maybe I will try some food." After speaking with two out of the three owners about the allergic girl sitch, my mind was put more at ease about trying a dish or two. (I'm never completely at ease until I eat without incident, I'm sure you know what I mean).

One part-owner John is also the Maitre D'Hotel at the St. Regis in midtown Manhattan. He said he's very used to handling all kinds of food allergy requests. On a more personal note, he told me that his niece has very severe food allergies, and traveling with her involves all kinds of separate pots and pans. Aha! Here is a man who really seemed to get the cross contamination issue. Excellent!

Then I spoke to Tim, part-owner number two, about the menu and what was allergic girl safe. He was only too happy to accommodate me, reminding me that "there is always a way" to accommodate a patron's requests or needs, dietary or allergic or otherwise. They have three grills where meat and fish are grilled separately and three Fryolators, two for calamari and one for squash blossoms etc.. It was that point in the conversation when he happily offered to fry something separately for me or anyone with allergies.

His statement, "there's always a way," resonated in my ears all evening.

These two men made it clear they have years of experience working in the food service biz (as Tim reminded me he's in the SERVICE industry) and aren't frightened off by a special request or two. Both owners said they have special requests all the time and they both made a point of reminding me that their job is to make the customer happy and feed them safely.

This business attitude is music to an allergic girl's ears and I wanted to make sure you all heard it too. You never need to patronize a restaurant that will not accommodate you as they are plenty of wonderful restaurants that will. Go out there, get to know your local business owners, your Maitre D's, your managers and servers: find the ones who want your business and want to feed you safely.

What did this allergic girl end up having? I had the Australian lamb chops, which were delectable, grilled simply with a bit of salt and pepper, tender and tasty. Funnily enough, they seemed to take a very long time to show up. Tim came over apologizing saying the waiter made a mistake and brought my dish to another diner - with shellfish and nut allergies! Totally proving their point that they get special requests and allergic diners all the time. How funny!

The upshot: I admire the owners respectful and understanding attitude towards allergies and special requests; the space is inviting, it had the kind of light that made everyone look great, relaxed and happy [or was that free flowing wine?]; and next time I find myself in Long Island City I would definitely stop in to try more of their nouveau Greek menu.

If you want to try out Island Cafe Bar for yourself here are the guys to talk with: From left to right, Tim, Shari their publicist, and John.


Island Cafe Bar
35-15 36th Street
Long Island City,
NY 11106
Main: 718.433.0690

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Food Allergies on The Today Show

I love it when mainstream media covers food allergies.

The Today Show did two segments on food allergies this morning.

One segment in the 8am hour about women and food allergies -- video here.

And another segment just now about deadly peanut allergies -- video here. (thanks Ruth!)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Lunch with Chef Michael Lomonaco

OK, I didn’t exactly dine WITH Executive Chef Michael Lomonaco but he was nearby, ensuring every dish was Allergic Girl friendly. Really. This is the kind of place that keeps a file on you and not in the Stasi way but in the “this customer can’t eat such and such” kind of way. They knew all about my dietary restrictions and allergic girl needs before I said a word based on my past few visits: the file, honey, the file. Gotta love that!

Now why lunch you ask? Lunch is an insider secret of this foodie town. Bruni did a story on lunches recently so did Ed Levine. The upshot: you can go to a great restaurant, helmed by a superstar chef, eat delicious food and can get a rezzie, all with ease at lunchtime. Porter House is no exception to this secret and even more, they have a special that's a great deal: three courses for $24. On offer is a terrific hanger steak, usually not my favorite cut of meat but I had a taste of this one and it was tender as could be.

See the October menu below [courtesy of PHNY]:


Also, have a peek at my steak tartare appetizer picture (excusing the amateur quality, pls). This was my first raw meat foray and it was outstanding: clean, fresh, well-seasoned and minus the anchovies, Worcestershire sauce, and egg for yours truly.


PHNY is an elegant, comfortable room that’s not too uptight. The staff is welcoming, knowledgeable, and friendly. The steaks are all natural beef from Brandt. And if that weren’t enough, they make handcut potato chips in a dedicated fryer.

Simply stated: Porter House New York is meticulous about special dietary or allergic needs: they fully disclose ingredients, they explain their cooking methods, and the staff is well-trained on food issues. It makes me wonder why other restos and food establishments can't be as easy an experience for an allergic girl.

Porter House New York
10 Columbus Cir
New York, NY 10019
(212) 823-9500

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Babycakes NYC

Babycakes NYC: A Final Word

An interesting set of events occurred over the last few weeks between this Allergic Girl and Babycakes NYC.

A friend, knowing I have multiple food allergies/sensitivities and this blog, made a generous email introduction to a colleague who works at the PR firm that is now representing Babycakes NYC. My friend was completely unaware of my past history with Babycakes NYC but I followed up with her friend, thinking this might be a golden opportunity for some allergen-free healing.

After I explained my past history with the bakery, the publicist said she would, “…pass along your questions to owner Erin McKenna to her to allow her an opportunity to address them.”

Great!

However, I still felt mistrustful of the owner and the bakery based upon my previous experiences and my questions reflected that level of lingering mistrust. Below is a sample of what I sent.

**

Question: Is your bakery nut-free?

Question: Do you still use spelt as a wheat-free cupcake option? [NOTE this is from the Babycakes website.]

Question: Please tell me about your staff training on food allergens. Who conducts your training? How often?

Question: If a consumer needs more allergen information than the website or sales staff can provide, who can they contact?

**

This was the reply I received: “Erin does not wish to participate in this Q&A as she reviewed the site and does not feel comfortable giving any further information to you at this time. I apologize as I know you have been waiting for these answers, but unfortunately, Erin is not willing to participate”.

Sigh. That's a shame. It could have been the start of a beautiful allergen-free friendship.

Shame too because many of you write in asking about an allergy-friendly bakery in NYC. I would've liked to recommend Babycakes NYC. I’d like to eat there myself; but I can’t feel comfortable and safe when I don’t know what I’m eating, how it’s been prepared, or how the staff is trained about allergies.

So, my final word on Babycakes NYC: I can not patronize, endorse nor recommend any establishment, especially one advertising itself as allergen-friendly, that does not have transparent food safety and business practices.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Gluten-Free at the Institute of Culinary Education

Last Friday, I attended the Institute of Culinary Education’s first gluten-free cooking class taught by two sisters with celiac. Here are their bios:

"Keri Danziger MS, CCC-SLP, has had a hate/hate relationship with food her entire life which ended with a diagnosis of celiac disease in 2005. Since her diagnosis she has changed her view on food and eating, including learning to cook and actively educating herself and others regarding gluten intolerance and treatment of other autoimmune diseases. She has over a decade of teaching experience across disciplines and currently is a medical speech pathologist specializing in feeding and swallowing disorders at The Brooklyn Hospital Center in Brooklyn, New York."

"Lauren Danziger, a 2005 graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education, has always loved cooking and entertaining from a very early age. It was only a month after graduating from ICE, while working at Prune Restaurant that she realized that she too had celiac disease. Confused about how to eat and cook as a Celiac, she began the challenging journey of living and cooking in a gluten-filled world. Today she looks forward to helping others have their gluten-free cake and eat it too! Lauren currently works full-time as an international meeting planner for a financial firm in New York City and is a volunteer chef for City Harvest."

**

The class was mucho fun! It was wonderful to be in a room of 20 people (16 participants, 2 instructors, the kitchen helper and me), all of whom were either celiac or gluten intolerant -- and all of whom understood what one participant Erica called having a “celiac moment”, the tummy rumbles or the three-day embargo on wellness after eating something with gluten by mistake.

**

Lauren, the ICE grad, went over recipes and basic cooking techniques and then we broke down into four groups of four to begin preparing recipes.

Here's the welcoming plate that ICE presents at every class, minus the bread and tree-nuts that are the standard fare:


I was a floater, talking with participants, chopping here, listening to people’s stores of illness and wellness there.

Here’s our gang doing prep and Brendan de-veining a shrimp:


Here's Andrea chopping an onion with the technique Lauren had just demo'd:


Here's Ned julienning some veggies:


**

After prepping we got down to the business of cooking, sauteeing, stirring, mixing and baking. It was a bit chaotic as everyone had different culinary skills, levels of comfort in the kicthen, and varying relationships with food. One particpant said this portion of the class felt like TOP CHEF as everyone was scurrying around to find ingredients, bowls were dropping, food was frying.

Before you knew it we were sitting at the table with gluten free beer, [Dragons’ Gold made from sorghum and too sweet for my taste].


Whilst sampling the beer, Keri, speech pathologist and lecturer, broadly outlined the definitions of food intolerance, allergy, and sensitivity; the definition of celiac disease; where gluten can be found; issues of contamination in the one’s home and when eating out; and how to stay safe. (PS:Did you know people who have celiac disease often have other autoimmune disorders like Grave’s disease, or thyroid disease?)

**

Then it was time to eat [for everyone but me sadly, all fishy and nutty]. Here's what was cooked: Salad with Gluten-Free Citrus-Dijon Vinaigrette Dressing; Cornmeal Fritters with Chipotle Dipping Sauce; Sea Bass en Papillote over Julienned Vegetables with Stewed Tomatoes, Olives, and Capers; Spicy Shrimp and Vegetable Risotto; Almond Dacquoise Cake with Whipped Cream and Marinated Berries; and Fudgy Chocolate Walnut Chews.

**If you want any of the recipes, just let me know, I have them on a word doc.**

Here’s what the finished plate looked like:


**

Participants expressed pleasure at their gluten-free creations, hungry for more time with one another and more time to cook and play with food. I hope Institute of Culinary Education has more GF classes, I think they'd do very well. (Is there a cooking school near you? Ask them if they plan on having any recreational classes that cater to the gluten-free or food allergic community. The more people that request these types of classes, the more likely they will be offered.)

**

Thank you to the Institue of Culinary Education, Lisa, Lauren and Keri for a great gluten-free time!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Gluten Free Girl: How I Found The Food That Loves me Back…And You Can Too

After months or even years of unexplained symptoms like brain fog, lethargy, anemia, gas, bloating, loose teeth, hair loss, stomach cramps after eating, malformed bowels multiple times a day or no movements at all, finally you see the right doctor who administers the right test which comes back positive: you have celiac.

So you’re diagnosed. Now what?

Most likely, you begin the process of eliminating gluten from your life. Maybe you feel sad, even a little depressed eliminating some of your favorite foods. Worse, after a few weeks you still don’t feel well. Now you start bargaining: maybe I’ll only eat semolina pasta once a week and I could still get better, right? Fingers crossed? Nope. That won’t work.

After 38 years of illnesses, some of them explained but most of them unexplained, Gluten-Free Girl and blogger Shauna James Ahern was finally diagnosed with celiac disease. Her book, published this month, details her journey: after a lifetime of illness she is now able to say YES to a future of wellness. And there’s no cheating necessary because what she’s found is even better. Really.

Specifically, she has some excellent advice for those who are just beginning the process of healing:

"Involve your friends and family in your diagnosis". Allow the people in your life to know how to help feed you. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes the understanding of friends and family to help heal any illness.

"Avoid cross-contamination in your kitchen". Throw away the cutting boards, give away your old toaster [glutinous crumbs lurk everywhere], make separate containers for GF goods that are clearly labeled so the household knows.

"Make food from scratch". Shauna reminds us food in its purest simplest form doesn’t have gluten; boxed chicken broth does. “Take the time to do it right”, she says.

"Be mindful". I love this suggestion, and it’s useful for so many areas of one’s life. In this case, Shauna reminds us it is a luxury to pick food off the shelves and not examine it for gluten. One must be a detective all the time. As someone with allergies, I can tell you I learned this very early on, including international names for the foods to which I am highly allergic.

To that end, "only use a packaged product if it says gluten-free". Seriously.

"Don’t cheat". This is especially difficult if you’re asymptomatic but vital to regaining your health.

"Own your diagnosis", accept it and everyone around you will too.

Want to know more? I know you do. You can find Shauna blogging here most days and you can find her book here.

Say YES to life, love, to food, to health!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Peter’s Gourmet Diner

**As of September 2012 is CLOSED**

This is one of those GF places mentioned in both the Gluten-Free New York Times article and by many GF bloggers here in NYC. I had never been until a few weeks back when Ms. Bay and I had breakfast there [Hey Ms. Bay!].

I don’t frequent GF restos regularly because my feeling is that just because you’re a GF resto doesn’t mean you’re necessarily allergy-friendly. During my decades as a vegetarian I found veggie restos were NOT friendly to my nut allergies at all, just the opposite: nut loaf seemed to be a staple. I may have to amend this as the two out of three GF restos I’ve been to have been VERY accommodating to my allergies [Peter’s, Sambuca were great. Risotteria, the waiter was totally befuddled and actually pitied me. Out loud. Never a good sign.]

Back to Peter's Gourmet Diner & Bar. They have a typical extensive diner menu with most items available as a gluten-free option. How cool is that? It’s also a new breed of diner: white tablecloth diner dining. A bit over the top but hey it’s serves gluten-free bread with eggs, Sterk’s bread to be precise.

I’ve been there twice now and just had eggs and toast but after over 2.5 years of NOT being able to utter that phrase, I was pretty happy to do so. Here’s a pic with grilled chicken on mesclun salad in the background.
It was yummy.

I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way to dine there, so not my ‘hood, but if I’m in the nabe and want solid diner-fare, Peter’s is on my list.

Peter's Gourmet Diner & Bar
1606 1st Ave,
New York 10021
Btwn 83rd & 84th St

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Gluten-Free at the Institute of Culinary Education

I've been invited to take part in a gluten-free cooking class held at the Institute of Culinary Education here in NYC. The one the celiac chicks mentioned. I believe this class is full but the Institute of Culinary Education is running two vegan dessert classes in the coming months with dairy-free dessert diva Chef Fran Costigan and those might still have places available.

Below is the GF class description. As you can see, the menu, if consumed or prepared by me, could cause major damage to this fish and tree-nut Allergic Girl. However, the GF sisters teaching the class are also allergic girls and I'm sure sensitive to multiple food issues! So, yay, and I’ll let you know how it goes.

"The Gluten-Free Gourmet, Fri Oct 12, 6-10:30

Living gluten-free does not have to mean forgoing delicious, tasty food: while a gluten-free lifestyle can be very challenging, it does not have to be hard or bland! This class offers you the opportunity to benefit from the experience of two sisters who lived with the effects of celiac disease for years and were not diagnosed until adulthood. They then had to alter their diets significantly, and essentially re-learn how to cook.

Whether you have a gluten allergy or are the designated cook for a household with a celiac, Keri and Lauren Danziger can teach you how to create a "safe" kitchen and how to cook a gluten-free, flavorful meal. Combing Lauren's kitchen flare (she is an ICE alumna) and Keri's knowledge-base and teaching background, the sisters will also teach you how to revamp old favorites that may seem off limits for someone who cannot eat gluten, as well as answer questions on the gluten-free basics.

Recipes covered include: Salad with Gluten-Free Citrus-Dijon Vinaigrette Dressing; Cornmeal Fritters with Chipotle Dipping Sauce; Sea Bass en Papillote over Julienned Vegetables with Stewed Tomatoes, Olives, and Capers; Spicy Shrimp and Vegetable Risotto; Almond Dacquoise Cake with Whipped Cream and Marinated Berries; and Fudgy Chocolate Walnut Chews."

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Gluten-Free Pantry Says They're Nut-Free

Now this is some great news for those of us with nut-allergies and who are gluten-free. The dry mix products of Gluten-Free Pantry [NOT GUTINO] are peanut and tree-nut free! Really!

At the last food fair I attended I met the head of marketing for Glutino, Eric whose assistant Tina put me in touch with Karine. Karine runs the plant where these products are created. Her title: "Superviseur Asssurance Qualité, Quality Supervisor, Glutino/Gluten Free Pantry." Excellent.

This woman knows her stuff. She told me that the plant is completely nut-free and that they refuse dry products that were made in plants with peanuts/tree-nuts.

To quote Karine from her email to me [English is her second language folks]: “In our GFP products they have no any kind of traces of peanuts, tree nuts or nuts. In our plant we have nothing of that even traces.”

This is great news, as I love their pancake mix. Now I feel safer to try other GFP dry mixes.

Yay! Thanks Karin, Tina and Eric!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Pure Prevention and Allergic Girl

I was invited to be part of an expert blogger panel podcast about breast cancer prevention sponsored by Luna Bar in conjunction with the Breast cancer Fund. They’ve created this fantastic site: Pure Prevention.

It was a fascinating and eye-opening call. You can listen to the call HERE. Some of the issues covered:

--What role does soy play in breast cancer?

--What are some the issues that may be flying under the radar regarding some potential causes of breast cancer?

--The Luna Bar/Pure Prevention campaign-what is it?

--For the babyboomers/menopause, how does the 50-pluser deal?

--What mini steps can we make immediately?

--Is there a dietary impact versus genetic impact on the incidence of breast cancer?

--Why is there a higher incidence of reproductive lumps and tumors in young women in this generation?

--What can we do about inflammatory breast cancer?

--How do we combat big biz and their stranglehold on manufacturing etc.?

My take away from the call [which again you can listen to HERE]: get rid of the plastics in my home [including using water bottles], and stop eating ANYTHING that’s been sprayed with pesticides. Immediately.

My question now is what do I do with all of the plastic stuff I have and the non-organic foods and dry goods? Throwing them away is simply wasteful but shouldn’t I start helping myself right now? Any ideas?

Regardless, please check out the Pure Prevention site and their prevention guide.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Top Chef Finale

I know I’m a couple of days late, Bourdain hasn’t weighed in yet either, but I had to get over my shock at Casey’s complete meltdown. Seems like she had some altitude sickness to contend with at 11,000 feet. Understandable. But then she just couldn’t pull it together for the final showing.

In the end, technique and a classical French cuisine training background pulled Hung onto the winner’s circle. Congrats Hung! I’d like to try that duck, maybe it will show up in his inevitable resto menu next year?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Dr. Praeger's - An Update

In a fast turnaround, the PR firm that's handling Dr. Praeger's sent the below email in response to my tummy upset from their delicious products [they really were tasty, pity]:

"Please note the following statement and attached gluten test results from Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods: Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods previously tested samples of other Gluten Free products and the independent lab that performed the testing found no detectable Gluten in those products. Following your concerns, Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods performed an independent lab test on the specific batch of Littles that you received. As you will see from the attached final independent lab results all of the products that you received contain no detectable gluten. Going forward, please let us know if you have any other questions."

Additionally, they sent the independent lab results for potato,

sweet potato,

and spinach. Littles,


Indeed, all tests indicated no detectable gluten was found in the batch of products they sent to me. Rah for them! However, where does that leave Allergic Girl and Dr. Praeger and the bad tummy? I'm not exactly certain.

Perhaps I reacted to something else? Although I can't imagine what, this is NOT an overly processed food product; it only has a few ingredients none of which I've had problems with historically.

So, I have a small tummy mystery on my hands. And truthfully all of these many months that I’ve been blogging and receiving products to try I’ve only had bad tummy reactions to two or three times. On the whole, the products I receive and try are great and Allergic Girl friendly.

However, this incident only underscores the potential pitfalls in tasting new to market allergen-friendly products.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Allergic Girl and HeathCentral

I’m thrilled to announce that I will be blogging about allergies and asthma in a new twice-weekly blog on Health Central!

About HealthCentral.com from their press release: "The HealthCentral Network, Inc. is a new and unique online offering, comprised of over 30 general health and highly specific condition and wellness web properties, each committed to offering a voice in everyday and personal language people can understand and connect with at critical points in their lives. Each site provides timely, interactive, in-depth and trusted medical information (from Harvard Health Publications among others), and connections to leading experts and thousands of people who share their related experiences and inspiration."

Feel free to come over and visit me here and say hello! I'll be relaying allergy/asthma news, interviews, book and product reviews and personal stories--all the good stuff basically.