Food Allergy Counseling

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

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Citifield, Gluten-Free

I met Sara at a culinary networking event. She has a fun blog called Scoreboard Gourmet about eating in and around sports arenas in the city.

Last week she did a short piece on the food offerings at Citifield and apparently they are selling some GF items. How cool is that?

Also, Blue Smoke, a Worry-Free Dinners partner is also at Citifield. I've had some WFD members tell me that Blue Smoke at Citifield took great care with their FA child, natch.

Thanks for the news, Sara!

Sploshing, Food Allergies

From the Daily Mail:

"When Leanne Michael and Chris Noon decided to spice up their sex life they turned to TV show Secret Diary of a Call Girl for inspiration.

And after watching the show the couple decided to reenact a scene in which Billie Piper, playing blogging prostitute Belle de Jour, is smeared with chocolate mousse by a client.

But their game went disastrously wrong when Mr Noon had a violent allergic reaction to the nuts in their dessert while his girlfriend reacted badly to the alcohol in the trifle."


Rule number one: always check with your sweetie about any possible adverse food reactions before "sploshing" or smearing them with something you or they will lick off. In bed.

If this case, the GF in question knew about her BF’s nut allergy, and simply picked off the almonds from the chocolate mouse before said smearage. Nicht gut.

Read more from the Daily Mail here, learn from their mistake (luckily, they were both fine after a hospital visit) and seriously, practice safe food play.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Benefits, Food Allergies

Didn’t think there were benefits? It’s all about how you look at it, sugar.

The below statement came from my best friend since first grade, Aimee. Her daughter was recently diagnosed with peanut allergies, asthma and environmental allergies (none of which she, her husband or older daughter Hannah have.)

Unprompted by me, she said that she, “…appreciates that their lives have become less food-focused. They have a healthier attitude and outlook on food. Additionally they have a cleaner diet, with less processed foods.” She called these "...the benefits of food allergies".

Go Aim!

Can you think of some other benefits? Do share.

Friday, March 26, 2010

"Don't Eat Here"

“If you’re that allergic, then you shouldn’t eat here.”

It’s been a long time since I heard that stock phrase; however, on this day, I could see it coming.

***

A few years ago, prompted by a family member with celiac disease Mozzarelli’s started offering a gluten-free pizza option. I, along with other GF NYC bloggers went to a Gluten-Free Sunday party – it was big fun.

At the time I spoke with co-owner Chef Ronny about their gluten-free pizza dough. He told me that they were using Bob’s Red Mill as the base and also delineated the special precautions they had taken so one day a week Mozzarelli’s would be completely gluten-free. Sounded great.

I tried the pizza - tomato-y sauce and fresh mozz - but I had a reaction, a slight throaty, itchy thing, the cause of which I couldn’t isolate. Was is the fresh tomatoes - I have a nightshade veggie allergy (mainly eggplant though)? Was it the GF Bob’s Red Mill - they also mill nut flours in the GF facility? Was it some oral allergy syndrome to something blooming that day? I don’t know but I didn’t return.

That is until Tuesday.

Around lunchtime, I was in the Madison Park district and as I passed Mozzarelli’s I saw that now they are advertising Gluten-Free on major signage outside and inside of the pizza parlor (it's also all over the website). They want the gluten-free customer, one would presume. I thought I’d go in, ask some questions – maybe the recipe had changed, maybe I could have some gluten-free pizza. I have an Allergic Girl routine, some of which I outline here.

I saw someone who looked like Chef Ronny counting out receipts by the till. After looking at all the lovely GF pizza options, I walked over and said, “Are you the owner?”

“Yes.”

“Oh great! I think I may have met you once before. Are you Chef Ronny?”

“No, I’m Eli, his brother. But we look exactly alike.”

“Ah, OK. Hi Eli! I have some questions about your gluten-free pizza crust and I’m hoping you can help me.”

Eli was barely looking at me. He was still working with the receipts. As he had identified himself as the owner, he was the one I needed to speak with; but it was evident that I did not have his undivided attention. (First indication of an issue.)

“Do you still use Bob’s Red Mill as the basis for your gluten-free pizza dough?”

“No. We use a blend of a lot of different flours.

“Really. Chef Ronny told me that you used Bob’s Red Mill as the base.”

“No! Never. We never did.” (Second indication that things weren't going well - what's the truth here?)

“Hmm, OK, well that’s what he said last time I asked. So, can you tell me what kind of gluten-free flours you use?”

“I already told you it’s a blend of a lot of different stuff.” He was looking at me sideways, barely making eye contact. He seemed visibly agitated at my questions, and his mouth was twitching as he spoke. “Why are you asking?” (Third point - the owner was becoming defensive, never a a good thing.)

I kept smiling, kept my voice soft and not aggressive: “Because I have food allergies and it would be helpful to know if you use nut flours or gluten-free flours that are made by suppliers that mill nut flours.”

“If you are that allergic, you shouldn’t eat here.” (Pow, right in the kisser.)

Dismissed.

“OK,” I said and turned on my heels, Tweeting my displeasure as I walked down the street.

Mozzarelli’s advertised that they wanted my gluten-free business then turned me away when I asked about what I would be eating. What is going on here?

After I calmed down and stepped back from feeling personally wounded, I thought about the vital components for choosing (and unchoosing) a foodservice establishment for any dietary restricted patron, me included:

1. A foodservice establishment that bills itself as "gluten-free", "allergen-free", "allergen-friendly" or sells specialty goods, menu items or dishes for the restricted diet community must be transparent about their ingredients. Said another way, if you want our business, then tell us what you're doing. Babycakes, when they first opened, wouldn’t share their ingredients and I blogged about it. Now, they have the ingredients on their site and the owner wrote a cookbook detailing the recipes so we are all able to make an informed decision.

2. A food allergic, celiac or food intolerant patron can only establish trust with a restaurant when a restaurant is open and welcoming. If staff, managers, chefs or owners are rude, non-communicative, confused or uneducated about what they are selling *or* do not make an effort to welcome your business (including your questions), take your business elsewhere. Here’s my ever growing list of allergy-friendly and welcoming spots in NYC.

3. Anyone in the hospitality business should be hospitable. Patronize restaurants that are hospitable, period. Chef Ming Tsai, who headed up the food allergy laws in Massachusetts says this in The Atlantic Monthly:"I've always believed if you're in the restaurant business, which is in the hospitality and service industry, after all, it is your duty to serve everyone safe food." Tsai also said this in Cookie magazine: "And if a restaurant says, 'We'd rather not serve you,' get out and find one that will.".

Here, in NYC, we are very lucky. Not only is it a huge gluten-free playing field but the restaurant business is booming. There are at least 20,000 other restaurants in NYC to try and I know there is a high percentage of those who will welcome me and my business with open allergen-friendly arms. Stay tuned as I find more of those.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Holidays, Food Allergies

I received this email from a friend. She’s doing a Master’s degree in rural Virgina and hosting a Passover at her house.

“I have two friends coming to seder who are gluten-intolerant. Keeping in mind that this is only a week away and that I live in the middle of nowhere Virginia, what do you suggest I do about matzoh? and matzoh ball soup? Just have them skip those parts? Or is there an easy solution?”

I did a quick search online (also through Gluten-Free Bay) and it seems the GF Kosher sites have stopped shipping as of last week (I’m sure they have to clean out before Passover).

Here was my reply:

Ask your guests what they'd like instead. Salad? Different soup? Or just consomme?

Beware: if your matzoh ball soup is a commercial chicken broth that may have wheat in it, too.

Gluten-free rice crackers is what I use and they are available at health food stores or online. Edwards & Sons is what I like but there are GF Asian varieties too.

Whatever you make or buy, keep labels so they can read them if they want to determine their level of comfort.

**

How do you handle the holidays as a host of an allergic or food intolerant guest? Or if you’re the allergic or food intolerant one hosting, do you serve anything that you can’t eat?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

FAAN Conference, Baltimore, 2010

I just heard from FAAN that there's still room at the 2010 Baltimore conference. Dr. Wood, author of Food Allergies for Dummies and professor of pediatrics and international health and the director of pediatric allergy and immunology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, will be there if you needed even more incentive. I'm going to the Tarrytown conference in May - it's a great day of education for those families of newly diagnosed food allergic kiddies and teens, a place to make connections, talk with vendors and receive support - all things this food allergic coach recommends.

***

FAAN’s Annual Food Allergy Conference Comes to Baltimore: Learn How to “Respect Every Bite” at this Daylong Educational Conference

FAIRFAX, Va. (March 17, 2010) – FAAN is bringing together parents, physicians, dietitians, caregivers, and others for its 17th Annual Food Allergy Conferences, the first of which will be held in Baltimore and promises to give attendees new insights and strategies about food allergies and anaphylaxis.

The daylong conference on March 27 will urge everyone to “Respect Every Bite” and feature topics such as the psychosocial impact of living with food allergies, safety at school, food allergy basics, and a research update from one of the nation’s top allergists. It is the first of FAAN’s four spring conferences, which have long been known to offer a unique opportunity for individuals managing food allergies to gain a top-notch learning experience while connecting with others who share similar challenges.

This year’s conferences, to be held also in Las Vegas (April 24), Tarrytown, N.Y. (May 8), and Oak Brook, Ill. (May 22), now offer attendees more choices in the form of multiple breakout sessions from which to choose.

“We have planned a fantastic program this year that is designed to provide everyone from parents to school nurses to babysitters with the knowledge they need to avoid food allergy reactions, which can be potentially fatal,” said Julia Bradsher, CEO of FAAN. “It doesn’t matter if someone has managed food allergies for years or is newly diagnosed – everyone will gain valuable information.”

Top food allergy researcher Robert A. Wood, M.D., will be one of the featured speakers in Baltimore. Wood is a professor of pediatrics and international health and the director of pediatric allergy and immunology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The Baltimore conference will run from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel, 300 S. Charles St.

For more information or to register for one of FAAN’s Food Allergy Conferences, visit www.foodallergy.org or call (800) 929-4040.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Coconut Milk, Goya

I was at a food industry colleague’s house for a tasting a few weeks back and they used coconut milk by Goya as the basis of their tasting dishes.

I felt a little nervous.

I’ve never been allergic to coconut. I ate it frequently as a child and then for some reason stopped. So, the longer I didn’t eat coconut or coconut-containing items, the more fearful I became. Totally irrational and I bet not uncommon for those of us who have a long and deep history of “Surprise! You’re allergic” or have any adverse reaction to a food which was believed to be safe.

As part of my expanding diet project (i.e. safe food challenges), I started eating coconut again without issue. I’ve been eating coconut macaroons by Jennies for a few years now and using coconut oil by Tropical Traditions as a skin moisturizer. But I hadn’t eaten coconut oil until that evening. It was more of a mental leap than anything else and I’m glad I made it. The food was delicious and now I know I’m okay with coconut milk. One more item to cross off my list.

Making progress.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

NIAID, Draft Guidelines, Food Allergy

I saw a news story on Twitter about this yesterday (through @kfatweets and @allergistmommy) and just as I was about to post, NIAID emailed me this morning. Have a look at this press release:

Public Comment Sought On Draft Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, is seeking public comment on draft Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy. The public comment period is open for 60 days beginning March 5 and ending May 3. Health care professionals and interested members of the public are encouraged to review the guidelines and participate in the open comment period by visiting the NIAID Food Allergy Clinical Guidelines public comment site at http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/foodAllergy/clinical/comments.htm.

For more information, go to http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/news/newsreleases/2010/FoodAllergyGuidelinesComment.htm.

NIAID conducts and supports research—at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide—to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses. News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at http://www.niaid.nih.gov.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH)
—The Nation's Medical Research Agency—includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.

Pound Cake, Recipe

This allergen-free and delicious pound cake recipe is not from me, but from a bloggy colleague and a Brooklyn food allergy mom for whom I did an in-house FA group coaching session. Fun all around.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Egg Allergy, Drinks

Remember when we talked about the retro-trend of put raw eggs in drinks to get them frothy? And how if you have an egg allergy you must tell your bartender? Well, seems the NYC DOH got wind of this eggy practice and is cracking down – forgive the pun.

New York Times: Things Get Messy When Bartenders Crack an Egg

“…on that fateful evening, an inspector from the New York City Department of Health cited Pegu Club, at 77 West Houston Street in SoHo, for serving the MarTEAni without telling the customer who ordered it that it contained raw egg. The notice said it was a serious infraction that required a court appearance… Raw eggs are among the ingredients most fervently embraced by cocktail revivalists who have sought out new techniques and circled back to classic recipes. And the MarTEAni is a signature drink at a bar that is seen as a paragon of the new cocktailians. Venturesome barkeeps are finding themselves at the intersection of public health and culinary technology. So the citation has led some mixologists to think twice before cracking a shell, and has sparked passionate dialogue — not to mention feverish texting and online outrage — over how far government should go to protect the public from itself."


Also, a story in Nation's Restaurant News.

Best to ALSO tell the bartender if you have any allergies, remember this cautionary tale?

Friday, March 05, 2010

College, Food Allergies

According to USA TODAY, colleges (public, private, large and small) are paying attention, love this!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Rosa Mexicano, NYC

My last experience with Rosa Mexicano was at least 15 years ago. I went to the then only outpost, in Midtown East, with a large group. I was a vegetarian (I was until 2005) and not only were they clueless about my food allergies but everything had ham including the beans. I had guac and that was it. It was sad.

Flash forward to now. Rosa Mexicano has two more restaurants in NYC, one near Lincoln center and one in the Flatiron District and a bunch nationally. Food allergies have exploded in the American population and the foodservice industry has taken notice. I also have become much more assertive about letting a restaurant know my needs ahead of time, regardless of whether it’s a social engagement, a date or a business meeting. So, this past President’s Day I had a work lunch meeting and we chose Rosa Mexicano.

A food allergy coaching client had emailed me they now had a gluten-free menu (which you can read here) and I considered: maybe things have changed, maybe I should give it another try.

We food allergic girls and guys have long memories when it comes to restaurants that did not handle our requests well or makes any kind of mistake, from being rude to serving us a deadly dish (that hopefully we did not eat). We are equally as fiercely loyal when are restaurant embraces us and our FA or food intolerant needs, is warm, inviting and does a great job serving us delicious allergen-friendly food. Living in NYC, a city that boasts over 25,000 eating establishments, I literally never have to return to a resto that doesn’t get it. But as I said, so much has happened in the food allergy world in the last decade plus that I gave it a shot.

I made a reservation through Opentable.com (seriously, I need to buy stock in this company, it works like a charm for special requests, use it!) and when I arrived the manager Kristi was at the host’s station all ready for me and all smiles. The server approached our table and she too had been fully informed of my needs, as had the executive chef who oversaw my meal and the runner who put it in front of me saying, “No nuts, fish and gluten-free.” The server and I went over my options and menu, I picked a veggie enchilada, which was totally delish and Allergic Girl friendly. The manager came by to check on our meal, everything was great, handled very professionally and allergen-friendly.

I’m glad I gave Rosa Mexicano another look. In fact, I’m ready to take another.

Rosa Mexicano
Various locations
GF menu for lunch

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Drew Brees, Food Allergies

Like the Judith Jones thing, this article simply doesn’t make sense to me. I’m not a doctor but an IgE mediated allergic reaction isn’t about flagging energy levels or the cause of restless nights. Could be faulty reporting but this Wall Street Journal story simply makes no sense to this Allergic Girl. [Thanks to @glutenfreefox on Twitter for alerting me to it.]

From the Wall Street Journal Magazine:
In 2004, after discovering he had nearly a half-dozen food allergies, Brees re-engineered his diet, and almost immediately got more energy (he has slowly reintroduced certain foods like eggs and peanuts in moderation). “Now when I cheat and eat things I’m not supposed to, I’ll toss and turn and kick in bed and my wife knows I’ve been eating something I shouldn’t. She has extra incentive to keep my diet in check.”

Monday, March 01, 2010

Cybele Pascal, Martha Stewart

Author of the Allergen-free Bakers Handbook, and sister allergic girl, Cybele Pascal, is on Martha Stewart’s TV show TODAY (March 1, 2010) baking coffee cake, free of the top eight allergens. Oh yes!

Martha airs at 11am NYC time, see here for your local listings. Cybele's segment is the last third of the show.

I was a guest at the taping two weeks ago. (Thanks again for the invite, Cybele). I brought Lissa, my new WFD special events director (more on that soon). We sat with Cybele’s agent Mitchell, having a giggle-fest and cheering. Woo hoo!

How thrilling that allergen-free baking is getting some traction. Thank you Martha for bringing food allergies to a national audience, to the Martha Stewart producer who made it happen and to Cybele for writing this book.

Here’s Martha after the taping answering three audience questions. What you can’t see are her stunning gray, four inch Louboutins. I'm not even a shoe girl and I was like, wow.



Have you checked out Cybele’s Allergen-free Bakers Handbook yet? I think this book handles substitutions in a super smart, uber-inclusive way.

Easter and Pesach (here's Gluten-Free NYC's Passover list - we miss you, David!) are around the corner - desserts free of the Top 8 are always in demand. Might be worth checking out.