Food Allergy Counseling

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

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Little Giant, NYC

*AS OF 2012 CLOSED*

A couple of weeks back I was invited to attend a cooking event/fund raiser for the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University. You can read about that event, see some pictures and get the recipes at MyAllergyNetwork.com.

Whilst there I sat next to the lovely, recently celiac disease diagnosed Sanae. She mentioned that she ate at Little Giant all the time and they were very careful with special needs. She also mentioned that she was friendly with the owner/chef Tasha. I said let’s go!

The night of our sojourn, massive snow was predicted [it turned into rain] and one hour before dinner was the first time I looked closely at the Little Giant menu online. Nuts, nuts everywhere: hazelnuts, pistachio, pine nuts. Oy, oy, oy! Everywhere. How was this going to work? Why did I wait until the last minute to look? Sigh. I almost backed out.

But I didn’t.

I spoke with Sanae who told me she had spoken to the chef again that afternoon and had emailed her my list of allergies and intolerances. That made me feel better. And going to diner with someone as kind and as understanding as Sanae, who has celiac disease, helped.

Sanae is safe.

Finding a safe person with whom to dine is half the battle of dining out with special dietary needs. By "safe" I mean, someone non-judgmental; who gets that you will be talking extensively to the kitchen to get what you need; that you may indeed order everything on the side; or that you may punk out and not eat anything at all if you don’t feel comfortable. Also a plus when dining out with special needs is someone whom you can trust if you do feel ill; who understands either that you need to go home NOW or how to help you administer medication and then help you get home or to the hospital.

Enlist safe people to be in your camp, rooting for you and your health; someone who is understanding, calm, helpful: safe. As you may have already guessed I have many of those people in my life; I meet more every day. I feel incredibly lucky to have them and I encourage you to enlist those around you to eat safely with you!

Back to Little Giant. Our reservation was nice and early, 6:30pm, so there was plenty of time to go over The Allergic Girl list with the Chef. Go early, it helps to talk with management before they get too busy. Chef Tasha was kind enough to sit and chat for 20 minutes about the ingredients of each dish that might or might not be Allergic Girl friendly. Thank you Chef Tasha!

Little Giant makes everything in-house, so accommodating my allergies was relatively simple for Chef Tasha to do. When you are dealing with a restaurant and a chef that really cares both about their food and their customer’s special needs, it’s a great step in the right direction. This isn’t to say accidents don’t happen with orders and miscommunications of all sorts. They do. All the time. If you eat out you need to be prepared for that probability. Bring your allergy card, like the ones from SelectWisely.com and bring your charming self to that table. Tasha put my concerns at ease with her reassuring manner and an understanding of allergies and the cross contamination fears.

I choose the house-made sausages smothered with onions and a warm lentil salad. To start I had a plate of their house made pickles; I do love veggies in brine. Everything was delish, and completely Allergic Girl safe. I’m looking forward to returning in the New Year to try Little Giant's short ribs; braised meat holds a special place in my heart and my stomach.

Little Giant
85 Orchard Street
New York, NY 10002
t. 212.226.5047

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Crave on 42nd, NYC

Shari and I checked out Crave on 42nd last night in the freezing rain. I was warmly welcomed by Chef Dave Martin, himself, Top Chef alum and now Executive Chef of this westerly outpost.

I mentioned that I had meant to call in about my Allergic Girl needs. Quick as a flash, Chef Dave picked up a pad and paper, wrote down my allergies, went through the menu in his mind, aloud, about what they use in the kitchen typically: no nut oils and nuts easy to stay away from; no soybean oil and a dedicated fryer with fresh oil today; no flour thickeners in the soups or in sauces; fish/shellfish obvious to avoid.

“Cool,” he said, “Look over the menu and tell me what looks good to you and then I can make any modifications necessary. But this won’t be a problem.”

Excellent. I had a tender, juicy roasted chicken with roasted asparagus. The chopped salad looked good as well as the chicken burger, which is one my list to try next time. Chef Dave Martin, brought out some home made pickles for us to sample for the new burger he is creating [he’s in the bun-testing stage]. The pickles were sweet and slightly spiced, allspice and tumeric added an interesting dimension to the brine. I love sweet pickles and these made me very happy.

Located at the end of theater row on 12th avenue and west 42nd street, this American bistro would be an easy pre-theater dinner pick. With Chef Dave Martin's gracious and welcoming attitude, I’m looking forward to returning, especially to try that burger with pickles!


Crave on 42nd
650 WEST 42ND STREET,
NEAR 12TH AVENUE, NYC, NY 10036
212.564.9588

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Second Avenue Deli, NYC

I wanted the brisket.

I've been thinking about it, having a sense memory of it. I'd even invoked a quasi-Proustian experience of it: tender, perfectly seasoned, never dry, not fatty—it was an exceptional brisket and I’ve been waiting for two years to enjoy it once more.

So, I asked the waitress how the brisket was on Christmas Eve day.

She said, “Everyone’s ordering pastrami.”

“Hmm. May I have a taste of the brisket, please?”

She did not look happy. She replied, “They’re real busy up there, they may not do it. But I’ll ask.”

If you’ve ever been into a real Jewish deli, you know this is a customary request. Often at the old Second Avenue Deli, the waiter/waitress or counter person would ask if you’d want a taste of whatever you were considering. Now that I think of it, counter men often just handed out tastes, it’s good business: it gets the customer excited about the product, it shows that the deli is proud of their product and a free taste makes even the grumpiest customer happy.

Similarly native New Yorker and equally Deli loving, Bo Young, my lunch companion, and I looked at each other. This wasn’t the waitress of the old Second Avenue Deli. I mean there’s funny-surly-server as in “you’re a colorful character” and then there’s less-funny-harried-sever who makes you think they're doing you a favor, as in, "I can’t be bothered.”

True, on Christmas Eve day, when Bo Young and I made the pilgrimage, the first of many I hope, we waited online for 30 minutes; the tables were jammed; the bus boys looked like this was their first time busing; and the health salad and pickles that come gratis had to be requested, twice. Shonde I know. Still, we persevered.

And the waitress brought me a taste. Yay. Here it is after we gobbled most of it down.

She was right, it wasn't great; I ordered the pastrami.

So the food, the food! I know, you’re dying to know. I was too. Especially after all the recent press: The New York Times, New York Magazine and its blog, Grub Street, Save the Deli, The Jewish Week. Oy, they've all weighed in.

Let me say this first and foremost: It’s been open a week. One week. If I’m going to rekindle this deli love affair I think, to be fair, I need to give them time to get on their feet. However, if you’re reading between the lines then you’d be right, it wasn’t exactly as I remembered.

This brisket on Christmas Eve day 2007 was not the brisket of my memory which was Christmas December 2005, days before its unexpected closure. It wasn’t bad, in fact it was quite edible. However, both Bo Young and I found it dry, and bland. It didn’t glisten. It didn’t melt.

But we didn’t give up.

I had the half soup and sammy. My soup was chicken consume with rice and carrots. It wasn't as day-glo yellow as its predecessor; the beloved dillweed was scant in flavor as was the chicken flavor, and it too was bland:


Bo Young had the "Heart Attack", pastrami wedged between potato latkes.

I had a half pastrami sammy. We both thought the pastrami was tasty but our cuts were the crumbled ends and overly fatty. There’s great pastrami fat and then there’s just fat fat.

The health salad, my precious, was pretty good, the cabbage fresh and sliced thin, sweet and vinegary, but again not oh-my-god-I’ve-been-transported-back-in-time-great.

Here’s our spread on Christmas Eve day at the newly revived Second Avenue Deli.


And here's the bill, speaking of coronaries.


The upshot? When the lines have died down, the service will be less harried and confused; when the cuts become more flavorful and the seasonings adjusted, I shall happily return and reevaluate.

2nd Avenue Deli
162 E. 33rd St.,
New York, NY 10016
nr. Third Ave.
212-677-0606

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Allergic Girl and Padma Lakshmi

When I was in Miami for the Miami Book Fair International, I had a chance to interview Miss Top Chef herself: Padma Lakshmi. Her new cookbook, TANGY TART HOT & SWEET was just pubbed and she’s been on tour promoting it like crazy. [Bravo also just finished shooting the next season of Top Chef in Chicago -- get ready. PS: It’s a three week shoot--no wonder they're all so exhausted by the end!]Because I know you want to know: Yes, she is that beautiful (even with the sniffles which she had during that weekend); yes, she is that cool and smart; and yes, the girl can cook!

You can get the spicy low-down on Foodfit.com.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Lilli and Loo, NYC

UPDATE 2009: After multiple mistakes involving food allergy orders (egg, soy, fish etc), I believe Lilli & Loo and its sister Lilli 57 are safe primarily for the gluten-free community. As always, double check with your server or the owner/manager about your individual needs.

Gluten-Guide had written Lilli and Loo’s up recently and invited me to join her there for a GF meal. I begged off because Chinese food has been a no-no, er, forever; the cross-contamination possibilities are simply too great when everything is cooked in one wok.

Then Vanessa, celiac gal, gluten-free menu innovator/creator and daughter of the co-owner of Lilli and Loo’s invited me to lunch last week to give their new GF menu a road test.

Still, I hesitated.

This may not be obvious if you’re new to my blog and read only recent posts about my bopping around the city, seemingly eating freely around town, but I ALWAYS have trepidation about trying a new restaurant or a new dish. I mean, I ate at home before going to a black-tie dinner at the Waldorf last week because I didn’t trust that even at a Food Allergy Ball I could eat safely. I was happily surprised at the Waldorf's level of service and accommodation [Thanks Waldorf!] but that’s not usually the case.

So why do it? Why try a new dish, a new chef, a new resto? Even if it means I eat a safe meal at home and have a glass of Pellegrino with friends, I'm going out!

After a childhood of “I can’ts”, I want an adulthood of “I cans” in all forms!

**

Vanessa and I emailed about creating an AG specific menu which allowed me to try out Lilli and Loo’s allergen-friendly recipes, dishes, and training.

Over lunch, Vanessa and I talked about her long struggle with nebulous symptoms that escaped diagnosis until she met with the dream team of Dr. Peter Green and Anne Lee at the Celiac Disease Center. That was 5 years ago and many of her symptoms have cleared up, some have not. However, her diagnosis has helped her loved ones grasp her very real condition. Thus her idea for creating a menu that she could eat in her family’s wheat-focused restaurants was born.

In conjunction with Maggie and Alfred, the co-owners of Lilli and Loo, and the ones to talk to if you plan on dining there anytime soon, they three came up with a GF menu. GIG was brought in to do the training necessary to get on the GFRAP program. The GF menu has been kept small and focused so it maintains its GF and allergy-friendly integrity. Because Vanessa has celiac disease and understands the pitfalls of eating out, she is committed to the notion that any restaurant that has a GF menu must be a “safe haven” for those that want to dine there. Brava Vanessa!

Lilli and Loo’s allergen-friendly menu means:
-The kitchen is aware about the 8 major allergies as outlined by the FDA.
-Everything is made to order in a segregated part of the kitchen.
-They specialize in a gluten-free menu but can accommodate other allergies.
-There is no cross contamination.
-Every member of the staff, from the busboy on up is educated about special dietary needs. They are trained to be welcoming and understanding about those needs and there are no eye-rolls.

Here’s what I ate.

GF egg-drop soup:


Teryaki Pomegranate chicken, sauce on the side, natch:


Chicken fried rice:


My happy plate:


How did they do?

I have to say, they did really well on all fronts. My lunch was delicious, gluten and allergen-free, if not a bit chicken focused. That was probably because I didn’t tell Vanessa that I ate red meat. Regardless, I realized I hadn’t eaten fried rice in almost 20 years [17 years as a vegetarian, 3 as a GF person and a lifetime of fears of a contaminated kitchen where seafood lurks everywhere!], so I went crazy for the stuff. So much so, I went back a couple of days later to have it all over again.

Christmas Day, where am I going to be?
Lilli And Loo's
with the GF chicken fried rice of love. Thank you Vanessa and Maggie and Alfred for creating a GF/allergen-friendly Chinese food alternative!


Lilli And Loo

792 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10021
Tel:212-421-7800
Fax:212-421-8700

Monday, December 17, 2007

Gluten Free Holiday Cooking Class at Cooking by the Book

Two weeks ago I was invited to attend a benefit for the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University. The benefit was an activity and a dinner: a gluten-free gourmet cooking class held at Cooking By the Book where we ate our efforts. Yum!

You can read about the evening at MyAllergyNetwork.com as well as get the gourmet gluten-free recipes from the evening's cooking lesson.

Enjoy!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Namaste Foods, Blondies

I’ve been dreaming about these since I read Alisa's post, from GoDairyFree, about making them.

A few weeks back I was at an upstate Price Chopper. They have a new natural foods section and they carried many of the Namaste mixes. Woo hoo! I can never seem to find them at the Union Square Whole Foods, my usual haunt. I happily bought the Blondie mix to try. For days, I kept taking them down from the shelf and placing them back; when to make an entire 9x13 pan of Blondies and to whom should I feed them?

Ms. GlutenFreeGuide invited to me a holiday party and after going through the entire menu to make sure there were Allergic Girl friendly snacks (thanks again, Ms. GlutenFreeGuide !), she asked if I’d like to bring an AG friendly dessert. Aha, this was the perfect excuse to make the Namaste Blondies, see how they really taste and also bring them somewhere else so I didn’t end up eating the entire pan myself.

Truth be known, Ms. GoDairyFree's post looked so inviting, that after I mixed the mix, spread it in a pan and sprinkled some Enjoy Life chocolate chips on top, I couldn't help but take some pix to try and replicate her money shot.

Namaste and Enjoy Life , what a marriage!


My-pan's-in-the-oven shot:


The finished goodies:


And the taste result? Oh. My. God. The Namaste Blondie mix delivers a truly decadent result.

I had to bring the entire 9x13 pan to the party save one or two squares which brought share with my theater buddies the next night who kept saying, "How did you make these? They're what? Gluten-free?" People were swooning.

The Namaste Blondie mix is definitely swoon-worthy.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Food Allergy Companies in the New York Times

I love when our cause gets national attention. Some of my favorite companies got some great publicity recently in the New York Times. Have a read.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Second Avenue is Coming Soon

Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn king! December 17 by all bloggy accounts is the date of the rebirth, re-opening of the King of Delis: Second Avenue Deli.

All hail the King.

Next Monday.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Food Allergy Ball

Last night, I attended the 10th annual Food Allergy Ball at the Waldorf Astoria which raises money for the Food Allergy Initiative. Over 1000 attendees and 5 million dollars were raised to help find a cure for food allergies. Fantastic! It was an inspiring event.

Now to the most important question: what did we eat? Well, being an Allergic Girl who doesn’t like to hedge her bets, I ate a 100% safe dinner at home early [veggie chili with brown rice]. Yes. Even though this was the Food Allergy Ball, it seemed a good idea to eat at home. I wanted to enjoy myself and not worry about being hungry.

My instinct served me well as the menu was not particularly THIS Allergic Girl friendly:
-Chicken pate [made with flour]
-Salmon en croute [salmon=death and pastry is wheat]
-Various desserts that all had chocolate [from an unknown source], eggs, dairy, and/or wheat or some combo therein.
-There was a vegetarian option, which were veggies en croute [with eggplant which equals itchy throat for me].

Ah well. I can’t blame them; salmon is a tried and true benefit dish and the Waldorf Astoria was feeding 1000 people!

However, what was completely Allergic Girl friendly, and an innovative surprise, was that the ingredient to each and every dish served was available on the evening program! I have never seen that before and it put me at ease knowing exactly what was in every dish [even though I wouldn’t be eating any of it].

So what happened after I explained to my table captain that I was unable to eat anything on their menu including the veggie option? He went to talk with the chef and promptly returned saying some very magical words:

“Tell us exactly what you can eat and we will make it for you.”

“Anything?”

“Yes. Anything, the chef will make you whatever you like.”

That response from the kitchen rocked my Allergic Girl world!

As I had just eaten, I asked for a simple fruit plate. However, as I’m allergic to certain fruits I told him “exactly” what I wanted [I felt like such a queen!]: grapes, apples, oranges, pears and berries. In a flash, a beautiful square large plate was delivered with a flourish with exactly those fruits, [no more, no cookie, no powdered sugar—you know how chefs love to add on!]. I happily dug in as my table mates looked on with envy. [It has happened that more than once when I’ve gotten a special order, especially at an event like a wedding or a benefit, others often ask if they can have it too because it looks so good!]

The evening program lasted until well after 930pm and by that point I was starting to get peckish. As the salmon was being served, O Captain, My Captain came by to again inquire: “What may we make for you, Madame? Anything you'd like, the Chef will prepare”. I really just wanted a little something. So I asked for a burger. Yes, a humble burger in a sea of en croute. With some steamed veggies. My captain was off with my request and returned with a burger fit for an Allergic Queen.

Here’s the proof in candlelight:

Folks, I have to tell you this guy made my night. He couldn’t have been more solicitous or kind; I already called the Waldorf this morning to tell them what a great job he did! And Devin who kept me company through drinks did too. And Megha, my lovely tablemate with the severely walnut-allergic brother did as well.

It was a great event for a great cause made better by an allergen-free dinner!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Executive Chef Jeffrey Brana, The Raleigh Hotel

At The Raleigh Hotel, in early November, I had a great sit-down with Executive Chef Jeffrey Brana about food allergies. Chef’s anaphylactically allergic to the fungus family. You can read that interview and his tips about navigating the dining experience on MyAllergyNetwork.com.

**

After the interview, Chef Brana treated me to a very juicy burger, so yum! I mean, juice dripping down my chin good.

When he suggested I return later that week when they were rolling out his menu how could I say no? I happily returned and brought friends.

Oy, oy oy. Note to self: don’t go to a resto’s first night when they are rolling out a new menu, with new staff--it was an expensive, small comedy of errors. At least The Raleigh Hotel is a gorgeous outdoor dining spot; hard to complain when you are under the stars and palms trees.

For you fellow allergic diners, the crucial part of the story is what all of that comedy/tragedy going on I didn’t get allergic to anything. The staff was very careful with my needs and my dinner. I had the chicken, which was succulent. It was cooked in a modified sous vide method, served in a winey au jus and chanterelle sauce:

Super yum. Thank you again GM Nick and Chef Brana!

If the juicy juice burger and succulent chicken are any indication of future goodness coming out of The Raleigh Hotel's kitchen, I look forward to eating allergen-free there again very soon.

Raleigh Hotel
1775 Collins Avenue,
Miami Beach, Florida 33139
Phone: (305) 534-6300
Fax: (305) 538-8140
Info@Raleighhotel.com

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Allergic Girl and Life Coaching/Counseling

Back at my Allergic Girl one-year anniversary, I mentioned there were big things planned for year two, so here goes!

I’m a licensed social worker and psychotherapist trained and experienced working with adults, children, couples and groups. One of my biggest announcements in year two is: I started my private coaching and counseling practice! I'm helping people like us, those that have food allergies and food restrictions.

**

Many of you write to me privately asking how I’m able to eat out so often with food allergies and food intolerances. I’ll tell you: a lifetime of experiences with allergies and my social work training has enabled me to talk with anyone and get the service and information I need.

Now I help others develop the same clarity and confidence!

• Do you feel limited by your food allergies or food intolerances?
• Do you restrict yourself from enjoying a meal in a restaurant?
• Did you discover something you’ve eaten your entire life now makes you ill?
• Are you embarrassed to tell friends why you can’t share their meal or eat at their house?
• Does it seem like no one understands your dietary needs without judgment?
• Do you believe it would be helpful to have someone who understands you to talk to on a regular basis to work through food issues as well as other life goals?


If the answer is YES to any of these questions, coaching may help you get to that next step in advocating for your needs, educating those around you, feeling confident about being in social situations and eating allergen-free! Contact me by email to schedule a free sample coaching session to see if we would work well together.

SESSIONS FEATURE:

• Achievable goal-setting based upon your needs
• Building up your existing strengths
• Ongoing support
• Assistance with food choices, grocery shopping and meal planning
• Learning how to create a “safe” person and “safe” places
• Resources: books, websites, organizations, support groups
• Ancillary service referrals available: psychotherapy, acupuncture, nutritionist, yoga, and doctors/allergists
• Field trips in NYC available

BENEFITS FROM COACHING:

As a direct result of working with me you will experience:

• An increased confidence eating away from your safe zones
• A heightened ability to communicate your needs to everyone
• A strengthened support system
• A decrease in overall anxiety around food allergies and intolerances

Coaching can be conducted by either telephone or in person if you live in the New York area. Contact me by email to schedule a free sample coaching session to see if we would work well together.

Happy Allergen-free Eating!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Bob Fisher, Frommers.com

Recently, I had a chance to sit down with world traveler and fellow food allergic person [he has peanut allergies], Bob Fisher.

The man travels the world.

With food allergies.

He is my new hero.

You can read the interview online at MyAllergyNetwork.com.

I hope you find him as inspiring as I do!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Quality Meats

Recently, a date took me to Quality Meats for our first dinner together. Before we went, I called and spoke with the manager on duty, Mauricio, who assured me that the staff took allergies very seriously and the chef would be pleased to accommodate me. Rah!

Up entering Quality Meats, the manager on duty, Jody, told me Mauricio had apprised them of the Allergic girl situation, he had made notes in the computer and that Chef Drew would come by our table personally to discuss the menu. Fantastic!

Upon sitting down a warm and smiley Chef Drew indeed came over to our table, walked me through the whole menu, telling me what was Allergic girl safe. Sadly, not too, too much. For example, they use the fryers for everything, and a lot of the sides were in some delicious way fried. However, we settled on a nice filet mignon and some steamed asparagus, which were done perfectly. No allergic or food intolerance issues, and I was able to thoroughly enjoy my date. [PS because I know you're going to ask, the next date fizzled. Ah well.] The Executive Chef Craig Koketsu came by our table after the meal to check in make sure everything was fine, and executed without any issue, which it was.

Thank you Quality Meats!

I left Quality Meats thinking: this can’t be a fluke. I’m certain I'm not simply stumbling upon the “right” chefs, or just the few sympathetic chefs out there. There is a true understanding of the issue afoot! And there seems to be a real desire to feed patrons safely.

It only gets better if people with allergies like us continue to patronize restaurants, let them know what we want and how to feed us and return often and tell friends.

Quality Meats
57 W. 58th St.,
New York, NY 10019
212-371-7777