Food Allergy Counseling

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

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Conde Nast Traveler, Pure Rooms

Conde Nast had a look at the new Pure Rooms at the Wyndham in NYC a few weeks back. Here's what Conde Nast Traveler thought including some quotes from this Allergic Girl.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Allergy-Free Shop, Miami, FL

Have you heard about the new The Allergy-Free Shop in Miami? Started by Jennifer, mom to a food allergic child, The Allergy-Free Shop is a place for our community to shop in a physical space, with three aisles of companies that cater to those of us with food allergies and food intolerances and other special dietary needs.



I visited The Allergy-Free Shop during my Florida trip during this 2008 Christmas/Chanukah holiday season (that is, this past Saturday afternoon). From the moment I walked through the glass door, I felt like I was like seeing old friends. At every turn, companies we all know and love are stocked on the shelves: Cherrybrook Kitchen, Home Free, Enjoy Life were there as well and many, many more companies' products available only online, like Miss Robens.



The Allergy-Free Shop's owner Jennifer has created a symbol system to aid shoppers who are looking for specific free-from food items.



The freezers are filled with more goodies; things I had only heard about, legends in the food allergy world, all here for the buying. Did you know that Kinnikinnick makes frozen doughnuts?



Jennifer said the cinnamon sugar ones are to die.

The Allergy-Free Shop also carries books, t-shirts for children, beauty and bath products and even household cleaning supplies and devices.







Maybe someday she will open one in the northeast. For now, south Floridians have a new allergen-friendly destination: The Allergy-Free Shop.

The Allergy-Free Shop
8803 SW 132 St.
Miami, FL 33176
305-254-2828
1-877-212-2828
jennifer@allergyfreeshop.com
www.allergyfreeshop.com

Friday, December 19, 2008

Gluten-Free Finger Foods

From my boy Marky Mark at the New York Times. Easy "rolls" that are naturally gluten-free and simple to prep. I'm eyeing the asparagus and prosciutto rolls.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Connecticut Enacts Olive Oil Standards

Fellow blogger Nixed Nuts tipped me off to this recent National Public Radio story about olive oil fraud. (Here's an earlier New Yorker story as well.)

"We came across cans of olive oil that were for sale in Connecticut that had, after testing, these other oils in there — peanut oil, soy oil, hazelnut oil..."


Frightening.

The NPR story continues. Because of this, "...Connecticut became the first state in the nation to enact standards to protect the purity of olive oil...They mirror regulations set by the International Olive Council in Spain, and create legal definitions for "virgin," "extra virgin" and "olive-pomace" oil. And the state has the authority to fine wholesalers who sell diluted olive oil without proper labeling."

Yay, Connecticut!

According to The Boston Globe: "Other states, including New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island, have told Connecticut officials they're interested in creating their own regulations. A new law in California, similar to Connecticut's regulations, takes effect in January."

Ok, good, glad other states are on it. However, until then, what to do?

Boston Globe quotes importer Sclafani (Connecticut's whistle blower), "... who buys his olive oil from Sicily, said consumers should look for a known brand when they're making a purchase. Often, he said, the frauds come in a bottle or tin with a conjured-up Italian name on the label.

He said people should also think twice if the price seems too cheap.

"If it's too good to be true, it's not true," he said. "Let the buyer beware."

Always good advice.

Another thought from Dr. Andrew Weil: "I suggest that you buy small bottles from a reputable company or source. Look for the yellow-green color and deep olive flavor that indicates high quality products. Certification as organic can also be a sign of quality. If you can find imported oils with IOOC certification on the label, go for them. (The California Olive Olive Oil Council [COOC] certifies purity of oil produced in California.)"

Those lovely little artisan bottles of "evoo" are nice but the opposite of cost effective. (Unless, of course, you're traveling in an olive oil producing country and can pick up a bottle or two, which I did in the south of France a few years back. I'd never seen such virginal olive oil, it was like liquid olives!) I'm a fan of the large bottles of olive oil by Bertolli that one can buy at Costco since I go through so much of it.

Here's what Bertolli says on their site about quality:

"Which guarantees assure me the quality of my Bertolli olive oil?


Firstly the experience and history of the Bertolli family. Bertolli is the leading olive oil brand worldwide. Furthermore, Bertolli undertakes extensive quality control. Strict European laws regulate the production and sale of olive oil. An established brand such as Bertolli is your best guarantee of an oil which meets these stringent regulations. Bertolli olive oil is exported from Italy worldwide, and so the strict European laws and International Olive Oil Council standards are always applied. "

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

New Food Allergy Study, Multiple Cities

From the New York Times last week:

The international study, led by Dr. Xiaobin Wang and Dr. Jacqueline A. Pongracic of Children’s Memorial Hospital here, is searching for causes of food allergy by looking at hundreds of families in Boston, Chicago and Anhui Province in China.

In China, for example, skin-prick testing found that large percentages of one rural population were sensitive to shellfish (16.7 percent) and peanuts (12.3 percent). Yet actual food allergies in that population, as diagnosed by physicians, were all but unheard of: less than 1 percent.

“We found something unexpected,” said Dr. Wang, director of the Smith Child Health Research Program at Children’s Memorial. “The apparent dissociation between high allergic sensitization and low allergic disease in this Chinese population is not seen in our two U.S. study populations.


And they are trying to uncover the reasons for the difference. We shall wait and see with great interest.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dr. Nicholas A. Christakis, Nut Hysteria

As an adult with food allergies (certainly a very sympathetic adult but still one that is on the outside of the world of having a child with food allergies), I believe there is a grain of truth in this article by Dr. Nicholas A. Christakis, “This allergies hysteria is just nuts.”

We, as a culture, seem caught in a loop of increasing anxiety about keeping ourselves and our children safe from offending allergens. The question remains: how much safer are we once say peanuts are removed from a classroom or a restaurant or an airline?

From Livescience.com: "Measures to control nuts are instead making things worse in a cycle of over-reaction and increasing sensitization," Christakis writes. He calls the prohibitions part of a "mass psychogenic illness" (what used to be epidemic hysteria) "involving otherwise healthy people in a cascade of anxiety."

However, are we all engaging in or are caught up by mass hysteria? Eh, dunno about that.

Read the article. (Here's the NYTimes spin and FAAN's reply) What do you think?

Monday, December 15, 2008

WFD Events in 2009

I didn't have a chance to tell you: We're having a Family Worry-Free Dinners™ event in February 2009.

I didn't tell you yet because I posted it last Friday and it sold out last Friday. I know, crazy woo hoo!

There are more coming up in the first quarter of 2009 and if you're a member you'll hear about them first. (Becoming a Worry-Free Dinners™ member is super-easy and there's no obligation. Just send an email to worryfreedinners@gmail.com to request an application so you can join us for the next WFD event.)

SAVE THE DATE for the next WFD Family event: March 8, 2009.

If you're adult and want to join us for a WFD, come January 25. 2009. More WFD adult event details here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Going Organic

Interesting New York Times story about a doctor who ate organic food every day for three years as a personal experiment.

Have you considered going organic or are intrigued by the idea?

Join our next Worry-Free Dinner Adult event at the first all organic restaurant, GustOrganics.


(photo credit © Elbert Chu)

Drop on by the WFD site for more info! (PS Our next family event is March 8th, 2009, save the date!)

Scorpios Get More Asthma

The title is catchy (I’m a Scorp and I have asthma) but the reporting is contradictory.

Sigh.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Marcus Samuelsson, Food Allergies

From Grub Street: World-renowned Chef Marcus Samuelsson of Aquavit, among other restos (and a super cutie BTW, I said a shy "hello" to him at the Sweet/Food Network event) is allergic to buckwheat! Who knew?

I hope he also stays away from rhubarb; they are cousins after all.

Giving and Giving Back

Wondering how to give this season and still give back? I was recently emailed about this interesting program called GoodSearch.

(NB: this is not an endorsement of any kind).

From what I can gather, when you shop through their website a percentage of your purchase, at no cost to you, goes to the charity or non-profit org of your choice.

And even more interesting, a staff member at GoodSearch told me that, “… [her]11 year old nephew is fatally allergic to peanuts and so much of [her] family GoodShops and GoodSearches to benefit a [food allergy non-profit].”

She says: “It would be wonderful if you could let your readers know that they too can benefit any other organization helping people with allergies via GoodShop and GoodSearch!"

Pretty cool, right?

Here’s is more info about how GoodSearch works and how you can start getting and giving right away!

American Girl Place, New York

I've heard good things about American Girl Place here in New York City and how they handle food allergies for children. This recent from the frontlines report is from an Allergic Girl reader who wanted to share how they have handled her requests PRE-visit:

The American Girl store has been amazing with food allergies.

When I called their general hotline to make a reservation they asked me if I had any food concerns. I told them that my daughters both had food allergies [tree-nuts, peanuts and sesame seeds]. They assured me that they take food allergies very seriously and that they were a nut free facility. One daughter does have a sesame seed allergy so I had additional questions about that. I also wanted to know that even though they were a nut free facility, was there a risk of cross contamination with say the chicken fingers or the desserts.

The person that made our appointment left a message for a manager at the American Girl store in NYC and he called me back. He told me that they make all their desserts there and that they were not cross-contaminated. The only food that my girls would not be able to eat would be the bread and only because he cannot be certain about cross contamination. He sent me the menu, was extremely accommodating, and made me feel so comfortable. He said the only thing I will have to worry about is having a good time with my girls and not that they will be eating safe food or not. I cannot wait to go!


Thank you reader! I like where this is headed. For any of you planning on a trip to NYC for the holidays with your precious ones and want to dine at American Girl Place, here is the manager’s info:

Kevin Moore
AGP NY
Café Lead
212-401-6475
Kevin.Moore@AmericanGirl.com

And def. let us know how it goes!

American Girl Place
609 Fifth Avenue at 49th Street
New York, NY 10017
1-877-247-5223

READER UPDATE: I spoke with the reader post-lunch who said their lunch was: "Very organized. Really informed staffed. And a ton a food and very cutely done for children".

Monday, December 08, 2008

Benjamint Crunch by Divvies

I'm not usually this emotional about candy, especially chocolate. In fact I'm not even a chocolate person (I know, gasp, shock!) probably because when I was little chocolate bars gave me hives. No, I don’t have a chocolate allergy (those are in fact extremely rare) but all the chocolate was contaminated. (Remember, I was noshing on Twix and M&Ms twenty years before FALCPA). So, as of late, I’m discovering this whole new side to myself with the allergen-friendly chocolate that is entering the market this year and that is delicious and hive-free.

For example, when I got home after dining at Candle Café last week, (one of my safe spots where you can find me bi-weekly or so) I really wanted something sweet. Wasn’t I lucky to have this package of Divvies samples waiting for me? I tore through the box and tore through the candy. Here’s a picture of how the Divvies box exploded on to my dining table:



I rarely “tear through” to get a candy bar. Remember I’m not really a chocolate person. So why could I this time? Because it was all Allergic Girl safe! How exciting was that? Safety is the first feature I look for in a new product and then taste is the second.

The taste of these two new chocolate products by Divvies rocked my Allergic Girl non-chocolate eating world. Seriously, I’m in love with this new chocolate bar: Divvies Benjamint Crunch. Here are the ingredients FIY. "Made with: Chocolate (Sugar, Chocolate Liquor, Non-Dairy Cocoa Butter, Soya Lecithin (Added as an Emulsifier), Vanilla Extract, Salt) Mint Candy (Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Natural Peppermint Oil, Natural Red Cabbage Color)."

And my thoughts? Great chocolate mouthfeel, crunchy with Divvies -made peppermint candy bits, dark chocolate flavor but not too dark. I had to stop myself from gobbling the whole thing in one swoop.

Here is a picture of the adorable way they pre-divided the candy bar--into sections called “Mine” and “Yours”. Adorable.



Of course as I was eating I reminded myself that the “mine” section can also stand for whose waistline too much candy will end up landing i.e. moi-meme. So I only had a few bites (ok. I had half the bar) but at 150 calories per serving it’s totally doable for a treat. Also as it’s dark chocolate I bet it would melt well to be incorporated into all kinds of desserts or mint chocolate delights.

I have found my new after dinner treat and travel dessert option. Thank you Divvies for hitting it out of the park, again!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Rouge Tomate, NYC

The Rouge Tomate open kitchen:


Sanitas Per Escam = Health Through Food

I was at a post-concert party a few Sundays back and a woman asked me what I thought of vitamin supplements. I said I believe that with proper nutrition, one should have the vitamins and nutrients we need through food. Now there’s a restaurant that serves patrons with that very idea at its heart: health through food. But how exactly do you accomplish that when you have dietary restrictions that if not accommodated could mean dis-health through food? I suspect Rouge Tomate can step in and answer that question. Dining with the Rouge Tomate team was like stepping into a warm bath: comforting, safe, and utterly delicious.

But I’m jumping ahead.

Opened at the end of October, I took one glance at the Rouge Tomate menu online and thought, “Oooh way too nutty.” So I put it out of my mind as a place to try. But Shari suggested trying it saying that if after talking with them I was still concerned about the AG sitch, we’d go to plan B. She’s such a cool, safe person when it comes to trying new restaurants; she really helps me to push myself as well.

Running low on time, I called them only hours before our 830pm reservation. Brett who answered the phone said, “Let me put you through to the kitchen to talk with them directly.” We likee.

I spoke with Chef Andy who said, “We can handle nut allergies, it won’t be an issue. We can easily make substitutions, it won’t be a problem.” Alrighty, let's see I thought, still apprehensive but feeling more confident.

When we entered the dining room, the hostess wrote down all my allergies, putting them into the computer right then and there which has a direct line to the kitchen. Super! She also mentioned that I should tell my server. But of course!

Before our server reached our table, William, beverage manger, swooped in. He calmly listened to all my allergy concerns and said, “It won’t be a problem. I used to be a chef and I can tell you that this kitchen really understands, as do I, what your concerns are. We will be able to handle this without an issue.”

He asked me if I had an allergen card. Folks: HE asked ME for the card.

Now I was feeling pretty special. He came back, saying: “The kitchen will make you the Brussels sprout dish without nuts and they are going to make a completely new batch to ensure that there is no cross contamination with the Brussel sprouts they had previously prepped…In case someone put their gloved hand in the bowl after touching nuts”.

I know...wow.

Here’s what the room looks like. Our table:


They brought out an amuse bouche of beets and citrus:


Here is the "Salad Of Brussels Sprout Leaves market pear, berkshire prosciutto, balsamic"-- lovely:


My main was sirloin with mixed mushrooms, spinach and a red wine reduction (no flour anywhere):


William explaining Shari's main dish:


William brought over a glass of Sancere on the house. Smokey and smooth it was a perfect compliment to the meal. By this point I was feeling safe enough to drink. (I typically don’t drink unless the meal is safe. Nota Bene: Alcohol increases the allergenicity of the stomach.)

I felt completely at ease, taken care of and safe. And the meal was a pleasure. William mentioned that if I gave them two days to prepare the Executive Chef Jeremy Bearman wanted to create an entire menu, not simply their menu with deletions or substitutions, for me, according to what I can eat and what is in season. The Executive Chef Jeremy Bearman, according to William, finds this a welcome challenge and is happy to create this for this Allergic Girl (any allergic person really).

I know, I know. Crazy right? I hope to go back before the end of the year.

If you are looking for a special experience, put Rouge Tomate on your list (use opentable.com to book and list your special needs). And ask for William!

Rouge Tomate
10 E 60th St,
New York 10022
Btwn 5th & Madison Ave
Phone: 646-237-8977


UPDATE: Went back mid-December for another entirely Allergic Girl safe meal from amuse bouche to dessert and vino.

The menu:
Cauliflower three ways for the amuse.
Mushrooms with potato hash topped with a perfectly poached egg for the app.
A glass of Blaufränkisch with the entree.
Guinea hen with roasted veggies over quinoa for the entree.
Fresh mutsu apple juice for the palate cleanser.
Three sorbets: grapefruit, pomegranate and cinnamon pear for dessert.

No nuts, no fish, no dairy, no wheat = no problem!

Chef Andy and Chef James ensured everything they made was AG safe; our server Noel was lovely; manager William was charming, funny, relaxed, reassuring and completely understanding of the AG sitch, fears and doubts (because you know I still had them).

It was another pleasurable and safe dining experience at Rouge Tomate. And did I mention totally delicious? It was. Totally delicious. Every bite. I can't wait to try the cafe upstairs when I return again in the new year.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Dairy-Free Restaurants in Philadelphia?

This comes from an Allergic Girl blog reader who is severely casein-allergic and is looking to book a nice place for her rehearsal dinner in the Philly area.

“My casein allergy is so extreme that if anyone kisses me or touches my food after handling any dairy products I begin to go into anaphylactic shock. Since I cannot control the rehearsal dinner the same way that I can the actually wedding meal I was hoping you might know of some restaurants in Philadelphia that would be good for a casein allergic girl and her dairy loving family.”


Any suggestions for an allergen-friendly and/or dairy-free restaurant that can handle a large party would be so appreciated!

Please let us know where a Philly Allergic Girl should look.

Thank you!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

HomeFree



**UPDATE 2012: They have added a GF line. Here's their FAQ. **

I had been meaning to try Gak’s Snacks as I had heard so many positive things about them, but I hadn’t gotten around to it yet. Assistant Ami went to the Natural Products Expo and ran into the former Gak’s now HomeFree team and voila I now had an opportunity to try the treats. And treats they are: organic; free of peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and dairy!

From the HomeFree press release:

§ Free of peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and dairy

§ Certified whole grain – each cookie serving contains at least ½ serving of whole grains

§ Certified organic

§ Fine for most people allergic to wheat (not gluten-free; contain oats and barley)

§ Fine for most people allergic to soy (most contain soy lecithin)

§ Baked and packaged in a dedicated bakery

§ Allergen tested

§ Without trans fat or cholesterol

§ Without corn sweeteners, artificial colors, artificial flavors, MSG, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs)

§ Certified vegan (oatmeal cookies, and coffee cakes)

§ Certified kosher pareve


To be *super clear* about HomeFree non-Gluten-Free status: they use barley flour in their chip cookies and their oatmeal cookies use oats that may have traces of wheat. Here’s their GF info from the site's FAQ.


Since I’m not celiac but wheat intolerant, I deemed these cookies AG safe for me to try. (If you have further questions, please contact the company directly for more information: info@homefreetreats.com.)

So on to the cookies. The chocolate chocolate chip and the chocolate chip tasted exactly like commercial cookies to me. Really, like what I remember Chips Ahoy tasting like (even though I haven’t had those since grade school.) I gave them to assistant Tammy to try (she has no food intolerances or allergies) and she tried them with her friends who all thought they were not only terrific but couldn’t believe that were “free from” treats.

You probably all knew this because you ate them as Gak’s Snacks. But as a newbie to Jill Robbins’s creations, I’m impressed. So much so, that after a taste (or two or three) I had to give away my free sample boxes of HomeFree for fear of becoming a cookie monster and gobbling them all up!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Early Exposure to Nuts

From last week's New York Times.

The Claim: Early Exposure to Nuts Can Raise Allergy Risk By ANAHAD O’CONNOR

THE FACTS

Peanut allergy is one of the most common allergies in the United States, afflicting up to 1.5 million Americans and killing about 100 people a year.

To prevent an allergy from developing, doctors have recommended that small children and nursing mothers avoid peanuts. But recent studies questioned if early exposure limited the allergy or increased the risk, perhaps explaining a rise in allergies.

The latest study, published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, found that early exposure might provoke tolerance. The authors examined two populations of genetically similar children, more than 8,000 in all. In one group, most ate peanuts by 9 months; those in the other had little or no early exposure. The scientists found the unexposed children were six times as likely to develop the allergy.

Dr. Robert A. Wood, a pediatric immunology expert at Johns Hopkins, said the research was intriguing but not final, and parents should be cautious. Some children may be genetically destined to be allergic. Parents should be on the lookout for infants who show allergies to other things or have a family history of allergy.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Early exposure to peanuts may benefit some children, but it is still unclear.

Go Dairy Free by Alisa Fleming


(© Alisa Fleming, GoDairyFree.com)

Did you know that severe dairy allergies are the third fastest growing food allergy worldwide, after peanuts and tree nuts, according to Dr. Philippe Eigenmann of Geneva, Switzerland? (I saw him present about the causes of anaphylaxis at the 2008 American Academy of Asthma Allergy & Immunology (AAAAI) conference).

I know, scary stuff.

Alisa Fleming, blogger and publisher of GoDairyFree.com, has a new book called, aptly enough, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living and it arrives just in time.

As Dr. Eigenmann discussed last spring, dairy allergies these days are not being "grown out of" so quickly, if at all. Alisa explains in her introduction: she had a milk allergy but back then no one thought to really keep her away from milk. She suffered for years with all kinds of mysterious sicknesses, allergic reactions and ailments until one smart doctor said, “Why don’t you try cutting out milk?” Thus began her journey to regained health and sharing all of her hard earned wisdom with us.

Are you a milk-allergic girl or boy? Or are you the parent, grandparent, sibling or friend of one? Then this might be the book for you this holiday season. Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living is a very well-researched book, covering all aspects of MILK, from how it's produced to the chemical compounds that cause the allergy or intolerance; how to manage your milk issues inside the kitchen and outside the home; the good and bad milk substitutes; and dairy-free recipes: all written by one who knows.

Wunderbar!

Thank you Alisa for adding this much needed voice and tome to the canon of food allergic literature!

Available online at Amazon or through Alisa’s site GoDairyFree.com.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Oak Room, NYC

Reopened only three weeks ago, the Oak Room in the historic Plaza Hotel was one of my favorite place for drinks before the Plaza Hotel was sold.

I'm so glad it’s open again. The last time I was there, there was still smoking allowed. I know, gasp! They’ve restored much of it’s former glory (here's a New York Times slide show about that restoration process): huge windows overlooking central park, oak paneled walls, paintings depicting various New York City scenes, 50 years or so. (Management has added a cheap looking plastic divider separating the bar from the clubby seats. Oak Room MGT: Please get rid of it, you don’t need it.)

This is how it looked before the Plaza was sold, from Go NYC. And how funny? Coincidentally, I took some of the same views.

Here's the Oak Room from drinks the night before Thanksgiving.

The picture behind the bar:


The new copper-topped bar:


My prosecco on the copper topped bar:


One of the murals:


Just gorgeous. One of New York’s most elegant spaces is back.

UPDATE: Or not. Vanity Fair piece this month about troubles at the Plaza. [Through Eater.com]

Divvies in the NYT

Short piece in the New York Times, about Divvies unveiling their new chocolate bar and their factory which they call the Land of Yes. Love it!