Food Allergy Counseling

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

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Blogger Summit

Just got back from a "Blogger Summit" hosted by NBC. It was a town meeting between NYC bloggers and NBC top brass and TV reporters. Some of the blogs represented were well-known like Gothamist , Media Bistro, Overheard in NY , Typepad , some, ahem, were less so - 130 of us total.

The gist: "erasing the line between TV and the internet" or more bluntly, we want your content and we will give you credit. We spent an hour or so talking, and then we got this. [Oy. I just saw some B roll on NBC that will be coming up on tonight’s news.]


It was a potentially interesting start to a much longer conversation and possible conversion of media. I’m curious to see what the next few weeks and months will bring. Very interesting, WNBC. [And no, Allergic Girl did not eat any of the shrimp].

GF Challah French Toast

For the second morning in a row I’ve indulged in GF Challah French toast courtesy of the sampler pack sent by the Everybody Eats guys. [Review will be posted this week]. I thickly sliced the GF Challah and pan-fried two slices. They cooked just as their gluten-ful cousins would; all vanilla custard-y in the center, cinnamon-y, and browned on the outside⎯yum doesn’t describe it, simply indulgent.

[Because I know you’re curious: I use a batter made of two organic large eggs, some Lactaid milk, and a 1/2 t of the really good stuff . ]

I kept thinking is this really GF? I mean it didn’t taste any different; it was a luscious dish. And I was totally too greedy to stop eating and get my phone camera to take a shot of it. I had forgotten that custard-y center. You know what I’m talking about. Oh my. Creating that is one of my dad’s special cooking tricks. And I’m glad to see I haven’t forgotten.

A Gluten-Free Challah which transformed into The French Toast of Love. Who knew?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Dr. Fred Pescatore

Just got home from a lecture tonight at the 92nd street Y to hear Dr. Fred Pescatore talk about food allergies and sensitivities. The talk centered around sensitivities rather than allergies and after defining the difference between them he never went back to allergies. Hmmm.

The crux of the talk was all the reasons why it’s necessary for most Americans to eat a better diet and if possible an anti-inflammatory diet. An anti-inflammatory diet consists of a few basics that, to those of you who have read this blog before [or even the title!], will sound VERY familiar:

--Eat only “real foods”, i.e. whole and unprocessed fruits, veggies and meats; local and organic when and if possible.
--Eliminate all sugar, wheat, and dairy.
--Add probiotics and certain vitamin supplements.

Those rules in general are solid, and from what I’ve read and more importantly done and experienced, are helpful. If that’s all he pushed that would have been cool however, throughout the talk, there were informational asides that were confusing and conflicting, and not helpful, to me anyway.

--Never cook with olive oil, only use it in it’s raw state because when cooked it looses all of it’s nutritional value. [He said use avocado oil or macadamia nut oil instead. Of course no macadamias for me].
--90% of the people in the lecture hall room [I was the youngest person by 20 years] has leaky gut syndrome and Candida.
--"IBS doesn’t exist.” He then added that none of his patients have IBS anymore. Huh?
--WE all have heavy metal poisoning.

Sigh.

He wasn’t talking allergies which was my reason for checking him out. I already follow a healthy diet so much of his talk washed over me as redundant information or worse, unhelpful. I felt like he was pitching me for of the time. And I recognize that part of being on the lecture circuit is having a product to push, usually one’s self. [By the way the first row was filled with his patients, he brought his own cheering section of ladies. And there were Hamptons books for sale in the back]. He just came across as a doctor looking to make his mark, to differentiate himself from the Master, or just take a small slice of the Master’s massive pie. I’m talking about Atkins. Atkins is the Master: of diet books, merchandising, and self-promotion. And this is the doctor with whom Dr. Fred worked for many years [and from whom it looks like he poached most of his current staff]. So all in all, I’m glad that according to him I’m pretty much eating the best diet available but I wish that allergies as a topic had been more central to the lecture.

Monday, January 29, 2007

NYDISH is Best Served Cold

Two Tuesdays ago, I went to a small event in Tribeca with Shari, underwritten by American Express. There was an hour of panel discussion with Q&A, then a reception where the chefs, and the one mixologist, got to show off their wares. As you might suspect I couldn’t really indulge in the food but I did get a chance to talk with a few of the Chefs about food allergies and how they handle them in their restaurants.

Firstly, there was the panel. Andrea Strong of The Strong Buzz moderated and here are the attendants in alpha order: Aaron Sanchez of Centrico; Andrea Strong, blogger, Strongbuzz.com; Ed Levine, blogger, New York Eats; Jack Lamb of Jewel Bako; Jacques Torres of Torres Chocolate; Julie Reiner of Flatiron Lounge; Patricia Yeo of Sapa; and Zarela Martinez of Zarela.

I took some notes based on the panel discussion:

Q: What was the most surprising or disappointing meal anyone had had in 2006?

Ed: Del Posto. I ate at the more relaxed bar and found the food delicious, the wine choices were great and all for so much less money than dining in the formal dining area.

Zarela: I discovered the outer boroughs are a treasure trove of wonderful authentic ethnic cuisine.

Q: What was the panel looking forward to in 2007?

Julie: Buddakahn.

Aaron: What older restaurants are doing with new chefs, how are they keeping it fresh. Like 11 Madison.

Jacques: I love authentic cuisine and regional specialties. I especially love NY because when you come back from a vacation, you can still eat the food from the place you just returned from.

Q: What makes a restaurant special?

Zarela: Special attention and hospitality. And with 1 million seats in NYC, if they don’t get that from you they can go elsewhere.


Q: What is the difference between a food critic and a food blogger? Do blogs matter?

Patricia: Everything matters. We can’t ignore blogs, as chefing is so personal, any praise or criticism needs to be considered.

Zarela: Bruni can kill a restaurant; a blogger can only help.

Ed: Interestingly, bloggers themselves are judged by what they write. Blogs are a two way street, two-way communication between reader and writer, although NYT is trying to remedy that, it can’t compete with the immediacy of the blog.

Aaron: Bloggers are not authorities, which isn’t great. So you’ll have them judging you without any credentials.

Ed: For blogging there is no barrier to entry. However with dreams comes responsibility.

Q: Whose cooking do you like right now?

Jacques: Jean-Georges pastry chef is very good. Anyone who doesn’t do too much, who does it well and keeps it simple will be doing great.

Q: What customer feedback is helpful to you as a chef?

Zarela: Website feedback is great.

Jacques: I look at what isn’t eaten on the plate. Or you can ask the dishwasher, they always know which dish is the hit and which is the miss.

Patricia: At my restaurant, we will take a dish off the check if it wasn’t enjoyed. Our job is to take care of you.

---
This last point was my favorite for obvious reasons. When I spoke to Patricia at length about her policies and about Sapa, I found her to be genuinely concerned about her customers’ wellbeing and very knowledgeable about allergies. She mentioned that her best friend has allergies to peanuts, so she is well versed. I’m going to dinner there in a few weeks and will report back my findings but so far, when she said her staff was well trained she wasn’t exaggerating. When I asked the reservations person if they could accommodate my allergies, he, without even so much as a pause, said, “Absolutely. Our staff is well educated on these matters and we would be happy to take care of you.” Excellent start! Yay Sapa!

Often, I’ve found that the chefs who are most aware and sensitive to special needs diners have loved ones who have allergies. Whether that loved one is a parent, their child or a best friend, a loved one with allergies drives the point home better than any training at culinary school. Of course one can’t know this before going into a resto, but time and again when I’ve had one on one convos with Chefs it turns out this is the case.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Newton’s Third Law

I must have invoked Newton’s little known Third Law of Baked Goods: for every non-communicative specialty bakery there’s an equal and opposite bakery that’s super communicative.

Everybody Eats is a local [read: Brooklyn] GF bakery that not only answered emails in record time, but fully disclosed the ingredients of their GF products, and made their famous rugelach nut-free for me! I’m having a tasting of their wares this Sunday so there will be a full report soon. But so far, their customer service gets them a big gold star from Allergic Girl.

Friday, January 26, 2007

"The Little Dog Laughed"

Saw an OK play: The Little Dog Laughed. I wish I had laughed more.

Everyone has been raving about this play. It tackles one of the entertainment industries’ most loathed and loved stereotypes: the fabulously shrill yet deliciously cunning agent. Here she is in all of her shrieking glory, given half of the best lines, and playing to pitch perfection by Julie White.

But Julie’s not on stage nearly enough. When she is, it seems she there just to keep the plot moving merrily along. The plot is the purchase of a play/movie for her star client to star in. She and the play are sidetracked by her star client falling into his first homosexual relationship. Or at least as close as he’s ever gotten to actually admitting he’s gay and being in something resembling a relationship. The play’s climax is our heroine, if on could call her that, stepping in to help everyone get what they want.

“What do you want?” “This is what I want?” “I don’t know what I want.” The characters are constantly saying: want. The play feels like drama class: “Yes that’s a nice characterization Ms. Smith, but what does your character waaaaaant?” It got me thinking about want: how often do you say “I want” in a day? I want a cup of coffee. I want a raise. I want a tunafish sandwich for lunch. 10 times. 25 times. Twice. Never?

Two Bites

Vegan cupcakes in the Times. What’s the big deal? Anyone, everyone these days, can replace the dairy and make a dessert. Dairy free, wheat free, sugar free, that is the new challenge, and that is much more difficult, my friend.

Made the NYT Granola recipe and shared it. Happy crunching and munching was had for two days and then: “Might you have any left?” Seems that this granola was gift worthy.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Dining Off the Menu with Allergies

Like the ghetto gourmet , ordering off-menu is another foodie fantasy of mine. In my fantasy, without calling ahead to speak to chef, or having an intricate conversation with the waitstaff, without even looking at the menu, and with a jaunty toss of my brown curls and a mischievous grin, I would say: “Yes, I’ll have what they're having. What? It’s not on the menu? It’s the chef’s choice? Sure, I’ll take two. Or better yet, create something new for me, I eat everything. I eat anything!” In my mind, that’s who I am. Ready to try something new, always ready to have a new experience or adventure, culinarily and otherwise. In reality, I’m pretty risk-averse, always prepared, and sometimes when I’m meant to try something new I back off because it’s just doesn’t feel right. Sigh. Fantasy and reality. The differences can be stark.

This article made me think of the precious few times I have indeed said sure the chef can create something for me. One time that I told you about was at Mas Farmhouse here in NYC. It was a yummy vegetarian dinner that didn’t make me sick in the slightest [I was still in my vegetarian double-decade]. The most memorable moment was when our server returned to the table, after I listed my list, saying, the chef would be happy to create a menu for you; he loves a challenge. Wow, did I love that moment. Was I concerned? Sure. But, at some point I decided to let go. I had told him all the ingredients that I couldn’t have and I needed to have some trust.

I can’t stress how big this point is for someone with life-long food allergies. What a turning point it is. Making food for your friends, your loved ones, your child, these are intimate, beautiful acts of necessity as well as love. But letting a stranger, albeit a highly trained one, create nourishment for you takes on a more intense level of trust and intimacy, if that’s possible.

And it worked out⎯it was a terrific meal, both from a foodie standpoint and because I didn’t get sick! I’d like to try it again.

Mas Farmhouse
39 Downing Street
New York, NY 10014
tel: 212.255.1790

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Who's Pulling Bush's Strings?

State of the Union Address. 9:32pm. Bush takes a sip of water at the exact time that Cheney sitting directly behind him, out of his eyesight and to the left, takes a sip! It was eerie and I'm certain ventriloquist jokes will abound tomorrow morning, mark my words.

Skin

Every industry has their own language, often using normal words in a new and unexpected way. And language is flexible enough to accommodate all these new uses. This is a cool book about the flexibility of language that my old, old company pubbed [aha a new use right there!] And I read it on the job. Ah, halcyon days.

In the fragrance industry, i.e. my new free lance job, when a client comes in for a “smelling session” [already a funny combination of words] the question around the office is "can you be skin?"

To wit: can you be a tester for multiple variants of a fragrance which will be placed on your outstretched arm, land of the zombies style, to be smelled by at least four discerning noses all sniffing and judging, judging and sniffing. As you might have guessed, it’s a funny sight: grown, well-dressed people smelling the outstretched arms of other grown people and making sounds of assent or dissent.

Alas I choose not be “skin”. I am sensitive to smells generally speaking and I don’t wear perfume because I don’t like smelling like something else other than myself [and all of the lotion, soaps and detergents that are part of one’s daily routine, but of course.] So, at least twice a week I must turn down a frantic account executive looking for skin. And yes I find it amusingly ironic that Allergic Girl is working for a fine fragrance company and gets asked to try on perfumes!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Morning Snacks

My inhaler will be changing for the better. No more CFCs.

Majorly missed opportunity for Hollywood and a great museum to help each other.

The House finally opens. I MAY go in for a drink. Just to check it out. But that no substitution thing is a bitch

Food on the road.

Gluten-free food at fresh direct. How super!

Article about traveling allergy-free from LAT .

Sunday, January 21, 2007

More Thoughts on Service Doggies

A continuation of the disability discussion:

Kathy Podgers has left a new comment on your post "Seeing Eye Dog Trumps Allergies":

I use a service dog and have met many folks who either do not want the dog present due either to allergy or to fear. here is how I try to handle it. If I am sitting in a theatre, a public meeting, restarant or class room, I first show that it is not "an ordinary dog" but a servise animal. This usually fails to work. Then, if the person expressed fear, I offer to "tie the dog up" and with a short lead I have for thet purpose, secure the dog with the panic stricken person watching my every move. My dog, smiling profusly, cooperates fully, and the person who fears my dog shows great releaf on their face, and sayt, "Thank you."

If it is a person with an allergy, they usually demand that the dog be removed. I explain that it is not about the dog but about me. I have a right, like other folks to be present, and acompanied by my white cane, wheelchair, walker or service animal. However, I express genuine sympathy at any discomfort that might happen, and explain that I have run into this situation before, and sitting apart has always been sufficient. We then can both change our seating so we sit as far from each other as possible.

In hotels they have rooms set aside for "disabilities" and I am usually put in there if they do not allow pets and have seperate rooms they let to folks with pets. However, in the general public, one can expect to come across many more folks with allergies than service animals.

I am curious about this issue, as many folks wear things that cause allergies, not just perfume, such as down filled jackets, and many public accomodations are filled with allergins such as dust bunnies filled with dust mites, mouse urine, etc. Some places even have plush new rugs, and use foul polish on their smooth floors.

Is there nothing that a person with an allergy can take when they see a dog that would avoid the symptoms from occuring?

PWD's do not usually think of their disability as trumping someone elses disability. No one is competing with another for more "sympathy." What most folks with disabilities want is independence and an end to isolation. We just want inclusion.

Therefore, why not speak to the person with the service animal, and arrange for both of you to change seating so you can get the max didtince between you.


Dear Kathy:

Thank you for your considered comment. I think you said it beautifully and poignantly when you wrote that all PWDs want is independence an end to isolation: inclusion. I think ultimately that’s what we all want.

I know for me, eating outside of my home as a person with food allergies, is a huge challenge. But still I go out because eating out can be a wonderful experience and I want to be a part of it; I want to be included in the eating-out fun!

I’ve read in other online discussions, and even in a post on this blog [see the comments sections], that some people think an allergic person’s needs are “excessive” and they shouldn’t bother to eat out or even leave their controlled environment. It’s a sad truth that not everyone gets: no one wants to just stay home.

And perhaps that night, as I was preparing to watch Borat, with the Service Dog in Training a few rows away, and worrying about potentially feeling sneezy and wheezy [ignoring the simple truth that I could have gotten a refund and seen the movie any other night, any other time] I didn’t quite get it. I think, I hope I’m beginning to now.

PS Regarding your questions, people's allergies differ. My physical reaction to animals is both allergies and asthma. The best medicine for me is avoidance. The gray area here for me was that this was a dog "in training"; the people with the dog weren't disabled themselves. If that had been the case, I think I wouldn't have made such a fuss.

Thank you for sharing your point of view!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Bloggy Housekeeping

A nice reader wrote in asking if the restaurants I recommended were also peanut-free. [Excellent question. And the answer is that some are and some aren’t. The McNally group isn’t, for example.] But when he asked I realized that it’s one of those super obvious things that I haven’t pointed out, mainly because I usually mention that in the post. But it should go in the sidebar for easy reference, so “Restos to Applaud” has changed to “Food Allergy/Intolerance Friendly Restos in NYC”.

This title reflects that, according to my experience, the restos listed are ones where the owner, chef, manager and/or staff have two-way communication with their patrons about their food; the resto is sensitive to the needs of their patrons and may have a policy about those needs; and with ample, clear communication by the patron of any special needs, these restos should be able to accommodate.

Of course this list is based SOLELY upon my personal experience of these restaurants, after I have communicated my allergies and needs, after several visits, and based on the staff at that moment. Always call ahead and speak to the highest person in charge that you can reach about your needs.

You many also have noticed that I’ve deleted the list of “Restos to Avoid”. I think a bad review is enough.

I hope these changes make the blog easier to navigate [that and alphabetizing the lists]. Thanks to Dave for bringing this to my attention.

Friday, January 19, 2007

BabycakesNYC

[NB: I wrote the below post over two weeks ago but before posting I wanted to give Babycakes owner Erin McKenna a chance to respond. I sent an email to her over 10 days ago detailing my experience with her sales people and have received no reply.]

Sadly, annoyingly, frustratingly Babycakes was very reluctant to tell me the ingredients of their gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free cupcakes. I had to speak to three people before I got a straight answer. This seemed unnecessary to me, especially considering this is a bakery that specializes in special cupcakes for people and babies with allergies and intolerances!

So here’s the backstory. A couple of Saturday nights ago, we took a stroll downtown, through Nolita and were near enough the Babycakes bakery that it seemed reasonable to check it out for an after dinner treat. I’ve wanted to try these cupcakes for some time.

Before I bought a cupcake I asked about its exact ingredients. Not an unusual question nor request. They are made right there, in the shop, in a tiny kitchen. There were no pre-made labels on saran around a pre-made item. There were however little flags outlining what the baked good was free from [sugar, wheat, nuts, dairy etc]. I still needed to know what exactly I was about to eat.

The saleswoman said she didn’t have my cupcake’s exact ingredients. I thought that was a bit odd; why wouldn’t she not know or have access to a sheet of ingredients especially when there’s an open kitchen right there and the baker was standing in the kitchen?

She asked, “What can’t you have?”

“Nuts,” I said.

“Well, we are a nut-free bakery.”

Uh, ok, that’s nice, I thought, but I still need to know what I’m eating. And there was no more information forthcoming from either person working in the shop. So I took mine to go, figuring I’d call the next day and inquire.

The next morning I spoke to a somewhat befuddled sales clerk who said she couldn’t give me the recipe. I explained I didn’t want state secrets but as an allergic person I couldn’t eat something without knowing its contents. I was a little surprised that I needed to explain myself to a third person. I heard her asking her coworkers for assistance, as I wasn’t accepting the “I-can’t-tell-you” line. Then a more knowledgeable and friendlier woman came onto the phone and finally told me. When I asked why they don’t have the ingredients listed, she said because they “haven’t gotten around to it”. I got the sense, especially after so much hoop-jumping, that protecting their product seems more like it.

Here’s my concern. This is a special bakery producing vegan goodies for those of us with allergies or intolerances. One would think, or rather I would think, that they would be very forthcoming with information about their vegan kitchen and the vegan products they use and make. I was expecting that the Babycakes staff would be especially understanding about a patron wanting to know exactly what she’s eating and that the staff would be both knowledgeable and compassionate. Especially after reading this from their website:

"Babycakes NYC Disclaimer: BabyCakes [sic] menu is ever expanding to create safe options for all. Although we try, we are unable to accommodate every allergy. Ultimately, it is the consumer’s responsibility to check all ingredients to ensure safe indulgence."

As I found out a few Saturdays ago, checking their ingredients is not such an easy task. It seems in the brief encounter I had with three staff members, protecting the very information from the consumer they are meant to serve seemed paramount. Perhaps I talked to a few duds, not the typical Babycakes gals. However, it was my first encounter; I was hoping for…well I was hoping for something else.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

"Regrets Only"

Here’s the official listing for this play:

" 'Regrets Only'. WORLD PREMIERE Written by Paul Rudnick. Directed by Christopher Ashley. From the pen of the inspired Paul Rudnick comes a delicious world premiere comedy of Manhattan manners, exploring the very latest topics in marriage and friendship. The setting: a Park Avenue penthouse. The players: a powerhouse attorney, his deliriously social wife and their closest friend, one of the world’s most staggeringly successful fashion designers. Add a daughter’s engagement, some major gowns, the President of the United States, and stir. This wedding gift arrives courtesy of the Obie-winning author of such plays as Jeffrey, The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, and I Hate Hamlet, and movies like Addams Family Values and In & Out. Directing is Mr. Rudnick’s frequent collaborator Christopher Ashley, whose MTC credits include Wonder of the World and Between Us."

Which really tells you nothing about this delightfully fluffy, 1 hour and 50 minute public exploration, actually open letter to Prez Bush about gay marriage. The piece is enacted by two masters who are at the top of their game: George Grizzard and Christine Baranski, with comic Jewish relief in the form of Jackie Hoffman, a one woman show in her own right.

It’s in one of the smaller stages at City Center, making the play quite an intimate living room drama. It wouldn’t work on Broadway proper and I hope they don’t try and take it there. It’s also not worth $100, but then again precious little is on Bway,

What did we find so charming about it? The humor was broad and almost cartoonish, especially in the first scene of the second act; the characters almost caricatures, yet highly recognizable; the setting, a Park avenue penthouse was all too familiar yet of course also exclusively unreal. It was written for laughs. It was written as political satire. It is very of the moment⎯it won’t work in a few years from now or wouldn't have been as funny 5 years ago. But it works in a small way. I enjoyed it way more than I thought I would.

Would I recommend it? If you can get 1/2 price tickets, yes. If you are a subscriber to City Center, I would say "enjoy!" If you were to come into NYC from far away JUST for this, I might say make sure you have a really nice dinner as well to make an evening of it.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Barbuto

My mom sent to this to me last night after her dinner at Barbuto. It was so funny, and not funny, that I had to post it. So here's a post from guest blogger Mom:

"It started out great, we were 12 people at the "Chef's Table" which is actually inside the open kitchen. I was facing the 3 cooks. The waiter started out by asking "any one a vegetarian or have food allergies"...no veggies, some seafood and fish allergies. Good start, asked it nice and loud. Also every time a waiter or bus boy served a plate (two of each at either end of the table), he announced loudly the ingredients, even that the chicory salad had anchovy dressing.

"Dish after dish after dish came out .... so much food! I of course, distractible as I am was fascinated by watching the chefs...one worked only on the grill, one was in the middle doing things (not sure what) and the one at the far left seemed to be in charge of pasta, often keeping two large skillets going at once and frequently having really big flames happening.

"At one point I saw him using a mandeline at the middle chef's station....one of our first courses was finely shredded raw brussel sprouts with a pecorino dressing. So there he was grating the brussels and mixing the ensuing salad with his bare hands, usual so far although we don't like to think about that part. Then, he popped a taste or two in his mouth, I mean fingers in mouth and back into salad bowl. Eeewww...then the other chef tasted it too from the bowl, so I'm thinking (hoping) that he had made it for them just to eat while they were working.

"Nope, hands back in, a few more mouth tastes, hand piled it on plate, other chef put something on it from the grill, waiter came and scooped it up and served it to someone in the other dining room. What to do? I didn't want to make a fuss at the b'day party, but I will call the manager tomorrow. That particular chef seemed to be munching on something constantly...again, maybe tasting, maybe grazing, definitely not washing hands in between. I realize chefs have to taste their food, but I once saw on that Chef Ramsey show "Hell's Kitchen" one of the wannabes took a big wooden spoon and dipped it into a large pot and tasted it and put the spoon back and got kicked out immediately.

"Food was great and plentiful, but how could the head chef allow that? Unless the taster is the head chef!

Mom"

My one comment to this is that touching everything with bare hands is pretty SOP. I don't think the manager is going to say much. He may apologize but how can he say that the kitchen will never touch, taste, or handle the food ever again? He kinda can't.

Animals on a Plane

Why, really why, must people drag their animals with them everywhere? And why do they get the same rights as a full-fare paying customer? This article was in the NYT business section. It highlights the airlines that allow pets, the hotels that welcome them, and the websites that tell you all you want to know about traveling with your furry loved one whilst on a BUSINESS trip!

“As many hotels and even some airlines become more animal-friendly, more business travelers are taking an animal along. Partly driving this trend are longer stays on business trips — a work project, say, that might require living in an extended-stay hotel for weeks or months — as well as the increasing number of pet-owning households headed by a single person.”

Oy. Bad enough that vacationers bring Fluffy but now business travelers want Spike to take a meeting?

Mind you, it’s not as if I don’t like animals. I love watching the Westminster Dog show on TV. I wouldn't want to see it from the front row, in an enclosed area, 35,000 feet in the recylced air. For someone like me, who is highly allergic to cats and dogs, knowing which companies welcomes them with open arms is almost as good as knowing who doesn’t. This way I can keep an eye on them, see what they’re up to. Ya know?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

NY DISH

Attended a fun event this evening: a panel of chefs and food bloggers extraordinaire. After which there was mingling and food all sponsored by Amex.

More deets in a few days--watch this space!

Fluffernutter

So I was bopping around Allergygrocer and I stumbled upon vegan “Fluff”. Might I dare to dream that a future Fluffernutter, in any form [no bread for me, but maybe on a rice cake] wouldn’t be far behind?

You know what a Fluffernutter is, dontcha? They’ve been a favorite of mine well…since I found they were Eric’s favorite; he was a major childhood crush. His mom served them at his 12th birthday party; I must have been about 10. Eating them as an adult always reminded me of that crush. And of course they’re super yummy.

Since I’ve gone gluten and sugar free I haven’t had one of those delicious sandwiches. But now I might be one step closer. I was strolling through the PB aisle in Whole Foods and happened up the very same Vegan Fluff I had just noticed on Allergygrocer's site! Even though it has soy protein and I’m off soy as it upsets my stomach I couldn’t resist the possible upset for a glimpse of PB&F. [PS no issues with the soy in this post tasting]

I spooned the tub all Sunday afternoon. They’ve gotten the taste and texture pretty darn close for a completely vegan product made from Rice Bran syrup. It’s super sweet and airy. The color is less bright white than the original fluff but it’s white enough. I’m so excited to have fluff back in my life potentially. Now of course, I’ll have to stop sneaking tastes from the tub and actually have it with the PB. It’s a great product especially if, like me, Fluff was a part of your life and you’ve missed it.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Gluten-Free Beer

GF beer has been all over the press lately so I wasn’t gonna write about it. But then Ms. Lovely Scones sent me a link to this article which was a kinda sweet about a man and his gluten free beer. Maybe now I'll make some beer and meat dish, gluten-free. Hmmm. Bureka Boy, any suggestions?

Carrot Ginger soup

You may have noticed that I don’t post recipes often [or ever as of yet]. Product reviews yes, recipes no. It’s not because I don’t cook. On the contrary, any night I don’t eat dinner out I eat dinner in. I keep a stocked pantry and usually a filled fridge. Most Sundays, especially when I have a day job, I cook for the week so I can take a yummy allergen-free and much less expensive lunch to work.

These days I’m one of those cooks. I’ll make a recipe once and then every time thereafter I’ll fiddle, improvise, pinch this, dash that and end up with something yummy. This is after years of following recipes and finding that they’d turn out a little different every time I made them so might as well improvise. Baking is another story: I stick to the list⎯chemistry is vital there. But cooking, cooking can take a bit of messing about. So I may post a recipe from time to time but it will be more of a recipe concept, a suggestion, a reminder, like “Oh yeah, I like carrots and ginger together”.

And with that preamble in mind, I made the best soup ever on Sunday.

10 medium yellow carrots, sliced [I know, cool right? I got them in a sack of “rainbow” carrots at the A&P]
2-4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
2 inches fresh ginger, minced
2 small red potatoes, cubed
1/2 medium onion, diced
Extra virgin olive oil for sautéing
Water to fill pot
Salt to taste

In a 4-quart saucepan, sweat the onions until translucent. Add the minced ginger and cook until soft. Add the garlic and potatoes. Cook garlic until it’s no longer raw and add carrots and water. Bring all to a boil then simmer until liquid reduces by two thirds. Puree the lot. Correct seasoning and serve. The soup will have a decent body, be sweet and fresh tasting with a background note of ginger. Yum!

Happy MLK!

I’m going into my free lance job today as their office is open and I can kinda, sorta understand why. They are an international company owned by the Dutch; half of the office is French. But according to this article, super duper law firm Skadden Arps thinks Jewish High Holy Days and MLK day, a day of national mourning for a beloved civil rights and black community leader, are interchangeable “floater” holidays. Blacks and Jews; forever united in marginalia.

I don’t mean for this to sound as flippant as it does but come on! MLK is a national holiday, close your offices! Reflect on where we are now versus 40 years ago! Do something to enhance the civil rights of all Americans! Don’t get me started as to why Yom Kippur is an “optional holiday” in most offices.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Indian Music Concert

Went to a gorgeous concert last night. Light classical Indian music at The Arch. The first part of the concert was so meditative that I fell into a lovely state: swaying in my low chair, breathing soft and even, and my thoughts wandered in that nice way they can when you feel completely at peace.

Hope you've all had a peaceful Sunday.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Mixed-bag of Treats

Rome starts again this Sunday. This actor is definitely the poor man’s Daniel Craig . Or is DC the poor man’s this guy?

Yoga’s power couple, born of a small yogic scandal, Rodney and Colleen, are now official.

A GF Granola recipe that I’m gonna make nut-free. Maybe with PB or Enjoy life chocolate chips. Will keep you posted.
The New York Times’ Crunchy Granola
Ingredients: (for 8 cups, at least 16 servings)
6 cups rolled oats (not quick-cooking or instant)
2 cups mixed nuts and seeds: sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, chopped walnuts, pecans, almonds or cashews [optional, I omitted]
1 cup dried unsweetened shredded coconut (optional- I omitted)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash salt
½ to 1 cup honey or maple syrup, or to taste
1 cup raisins or chopped dried fruit, optional
1. Preheat oven to 350. Combine all of the ingredients EXCEPT dried fruit. Place on a sheet pan and put in oven. Bake for 30 minutes or a little longer, stirring occasionally. Mixture should brown evenly; the browner it gets without burning, the crunchier the granola will be.
2. Remove pan from oven and add raisins or dried fruit. Cool on a rack, stirring once in a while until granola reaches room temperature. Transfer to a sealed container and store in refrigerator; it will keep indefinitely.
Yield: About 8 cups

Polenta lasagna from Ms. Bay that I’m making this weekend. Can’t wait! PS Made it tonight with spinach and fresh mozz, some lactaid pills on the side, and homemade tomato sauce. A bit wet--I wonder if the polenta released water whilst cooking--but it tasted delish nonetheless.

An Ode to the NY Bagel . H&H still rules.

Hey, I roll like that too! Ah Colson, really, we were meant to be.

Craftsteak fired the Chef AKA the Fall Guy. I still wouldn’t go back, not after that last dinner we had.

Why no one is more outraged about filth in food.

Go sustainable !

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Lovely Lurkers, Welcome!

Ms. By The Bay , the author of a great gluten-free recipe blog, posted a link to “National De-Lurking” week. Meaning it’s a perfect time for you lurkers, no, you friendly, supportive, loyal or newbie readers I have yet to meet out there to pop-in and say “Hey!” I’d love to hear what you’re enjoying or would like to see more of or what has been helpful.

Drop me a line, say hello; lurk no more! Or drop me a line and continue to lurk happily! Or ignore this, and lurk away!

Smell is in the Air

Since I’ve been working at a fine fragrance company, smell has been all over the news lately. Or is it only now that since I work with FF, that’s fine fragrance to you, that I’m noticing how newsworthy smell has become. For example, Monday there was a mysterious gas leak in NYC, the source of which remains unknown. I’m skimming this article in the Times about smell and I notice two odd notes at the end. Firstly, all the way at the bottom, there is a one [1] sentence reference to the city-wide PTSD that we all experience because of 9/11; any mysterious bad smell is associated with, well, something very bad. Even the good maple-y smell of last October was suspicious for those of us whose noses prick up at mysterious, unexplained, citywide fumes. Mass PTSD deserves more than what reads like an afterthought, no? Secondly, the next sentence is a reference to how things smelled in Steinbeck’s day circa 1950 on Cannery Row. Cannery Row, which incidently, is nowhere near NYC but in CA! Who did the research here? They couldn’t find a reference to the Bowery back in the day? Or NYC on a summer’s day? I think the opening of Chapter 2 of The Great Gatsby is even more apt. Actually, upon re-reading, I realize that it seemed smellier in my memory. But at least it’s a local reference.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Apple Tree

Saw this last night at Studio 54.They’re playing it for yawns. I mean seriously, at intermission it was a yawn fest. My recommendation, even if you are HUGE Chenoweth fan: don’t bother.


PS In case you're not a musical theater person and had no clue who i was talking about here's a bit more on Kristin.

Presenteeism

Everyone at the new office is sick. I mean really sick. Leaving in the middle of the day sick. And it’s like a ring of fire slowly working its way toward my cube. Employer, hear me--Ban presenteeism . Or be a better employer and tell people to stay home; sneeze at home, sleep, rest up; who needs a sneezy, wheezy, feverish worker at work? Yuck! Wish me luck and a good immune system!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

More Cacao

I still don't get the whole chocolate thing, even after an extensive tasting, but alot of people really do.

A Gluten-Free Slice

*As of 2012 this Slice outpost is closed. They are still open on Hudson Street.*

Slice, a spot with gluten-free, dairy-free pizza, how excellent is that?! I've been meaning to check it out since it opened but I haven't until now. One might think with allergies and dietary restrictions I’d be running to a spot like this. But it wasn’t my first impulse.

I usually make do by eating in an upscale resto that cares about their food and their patrons versus eating in a specialty restos that may have a menu more tailored to my dietary needs. Perhaps it stems from past scary experiences with vegetarian spots: back in the day [this means you,Moosewood and Angelica Kitchen], they relied heavily on nutmeats for a protein source and thus scared me away.

So when I read about Slice, I didn’t run, I didn’t walk, I tucked it away as something to try one day. Well, one day became last night. I called a head of time, as I had read that they needed some time to prep the rice crust pizza. And indeed Brian said, “If you like call me 30 minutes ahead of time and I can have it ready when you arrive.” I asked if that was absolutely necessary; it wasn’t but it was an option.

I ordered the half-pie of gluten-free, rice-y cheesed pizza when I walked in the door. The first thing I noticed, and I think their best attribute, is their attention to detail when it comes to food intolerances and allergies. Gloves were changed, my pizza was made in the back away from the wheat flour, ingredients were revealed, and there was an atmosphere of understanding, compassion, and overall we want to feed you not hurt you-ness. Brian was especially helpful, walking me through the process and Slice’s mission.

Now on to the pizza itself. To me, the plain pizza with house-made marinara sauce and rice cheese on rice flour based crust reminded me of Stouffer’s frozen French Bread pizzas that I used to eat when I was a kid [made in the toaster over, yum]. The rice crust dough, when cooled, was hard and gummy but not un-tasty. I mean, seriously now, I finished the whole thing. And half a pizza for one small Allergic Girl equaled quite stuffed. The cheese, when cooled, tasted as fake as it is. It is rice cheese after all, completely manufactured and processed. The major issue for me, in this tasting, was the sauce. The sauce was salty, too orange, thin, and did I mention really salty? I mentioned this to Brian who said it may have been a salty batch; he makes it in the back himself. Ok, could be.

My takeaway from the whole experience was that they really care about their customers’ special needs and that is paramount to me. So, despite some saltiness and the air of Stouffer’s [which isn’t necessarily a bad thing] I would say to any gluten-free person, go forth and eat pizza and enjoy.

Slice, the perfect food
1413 2nd Avenue (73rd/74th Sts)
New York, NY 10021
P. 212 249 4353
F. 212 249 3706

Monday, January 08, 2007

Allergies and the Pill

Interesting preliminary study .

Seeing Eye Dog Trumps Allergies

Went to see Borat on Saturday night. It was at one of the smaller screens at the 12th street cinema [look at 12th street and 2nd avenue] but the place was packed. We got some cozy seats on the aisle and are waiting for previews like everyone else when an unexpected patron strolled in: a service dog, in training.

A nice looking couple sat three rows ahead, on the aisle, dog in tow. The dog carried his own leash, as doggies sometimes do. He had tan colored fur, big brown eyes and pointy ears and he immediately made himself quite comfortable, lying down under the couples’ seat and not making one sound. You couldn’t ask for a better Service Dog in training.

I, however, did not ask for ANY kind of dog especially as I am highly allergic to them. And I really wanted to see Borat as I was in need of some cheering. So what to do? Whose rights win here?

Service dogs: I’m totally down for the endeavor, they are wonderful for people who need them and I’m grateful that there are people who train these pups. However, the people who had the dog were not disabled themselves therefore should they be asked to leave? I paid admission to see a movie, not get sick. I could see a later show or come back another night but frankly I didn’t want to. It was 8pm on Saturday, this was my plan I wanted to stick to it.

We went to talk to the nice but overwhelmed and somewhat out of his element manager Josh. Josh came into the theater and looked at the dog, who had his little “I’m a Service Dog” vest on, all official and looked at me with some serious puppy dog eyes himself.

“Look I can’t throw them out. I looked it up, they have the right to be here. And I can’t ask them to leave.”

“You mean training a dog for someone who has disability trumps my allergy to that dog?”

The answer was a somber, “Yeah, kinda.” He added, “Look, I will refund your tickets for this show and you’re free to come another time.”

But as I said I wanted to see it at 8pm on Saturday. So I said, “I’m gonna stay. If in 30 or 40 minutes I get allergic, I’ll know and we’ll leave and come another time.” He was fine with that.

So we went back in and I decided just to forget about it until I couldn’t. The theater was air-conditioned, the dog wasn’t in my lap and I really wanted to see the movie. So I pretended I was in an airplane. I’ve been on many flights with dogs or cats in carriers in the passenger cabin without major incident and I just figured if I could do that for three hours, I could stand a big movie theater with high ceiling and lots of a/c. I had one big sneeze about halfway through and that was it. And I laughed my ass off.

Of course when we left I was still thinking about the disabilities act and how even training a dog for a disabled person to be trumped someone who could potentially suffer in the moment. Do allergies fit into a disabilities act? If not, why not? There was an article in the Times recently about diabetes and disability. If allergies disallow one from functioning normally in certain situations, would that be considered a disability? I think I need to investigate this much further.

PS Disability follow-up link

Friday, January 05, 2007

Small NYT Bites

A lot of bad midseason-replacement-tv has been on this week--but did you catch this and the decent review in the NYT ?

Magnolia, THE cupcake shop that launched a thousand [well, more like half a dozen] shops sells out [4th item].

How we love to think we're buying green .

Bruni Blog's skinny on The Skinny.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

“Safe Cosmetics Act”

Something new I learned at the project j-o-b. California has a safe cosmetics act: all cosmetics sold in that state MUST disclose the full ingredients of that cosmetic in order to assess risk. How cool is that!

How did I find this out? One of the clients we work with asked us to get our product safety department to disclose the ingredients in compliance with the CA “Safe Cosmetics Act”. The body of the email actually had “allergen-free” embedded, which of course piqued my interest. I wanted to know more so tonight I went to this website to check it out the law:

SB 484 [the law that Gov. Arnold ratified] will:

⎯Require cosmetics manufacturers to disclose to the state any product ingredient that is on state or federal lists of chemicals that cause cancer or birth defects.
⎯ Allow the state Department of Health Services (DHS) to demand manufacturers supply any health related information about cosmetic ingredients.
⎯Authorize CalOSHA to regulate the products to protect salon workers if they determine a safety risk.

In surfing around for more info, I found this Ms article and skimmed this website.

I’m glad to see this company is compliant with CA state law. I’m even gladder to see that at least one state of the union is concerned about women’s health, the ramifications of untested or unregulated products on our bodies, and any potential long term effects.

Does this mean I have to move to CA to get body lotion that hydrates and moisturizes without any toxic ingredients? I don’t think so, or at least hope not. Hmm, perhaps I’ll have an email chat with the product safety dept and see what they can tell me about New York state products.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Smell-o-Vision, Not So Much

So get this: Allergic Girl is working for a fragrance company! Talk about ironic. I took an interim position at what seems like a lovely company, lovely in that the people are nice, the atmos pleasant, and the work is just time consuming but not difficult. And what does this company do; they create perfumes. Everything from fine perfumes to mass market stuff, like the scent in drug store body lotion or men’s underarm deodorant.

I have a very sensitive nose, an allergic nose I suppose. I can smell A LOT of smells. And I thought when I took this job, “Oy, am I making a huge mistake for my poor nosey?”

The lab is on the third floor: every flower, fruit, wood, and citrus note is there, being mixed, heated, and otherwise co-joined. I’m working in Sales on the 10th floor and will be handling samples as I send them to clients. It’s not a particularly smelly office when by all rights it should be. I’m not a tester nor an apprentice nose so I shouldn’t be smelling that much.

However, a sample for a lip gloss came up from the lab and I took a large whiff out of curiosity. It smelled like a “Jelly Belly” buttered popcorn jellybean, but moreso. Ok for a sweet not for my lips⎯maybe if I were 12. Yuck though.

So this is an experiment: working in Smell-o-Vision, my own scratch and sniff, for a few months. We shall see; I'll keep you updated.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Wow Cacao!

Saturday night, David Siegel was kind enough to comp me for one of his amazing chocolate tastings. The comp was because the chocolates were not nut-free and thus I was a spectateur but not a full participant. But David sweetly presented me with a bar of Michel Cluizel which is apparently nut-free and French so I could play along. Thanks again David!

We ended up sitting with a fun table: hey to the Venezuelans, Ruven, and Perry! And how did it all go down you ask? We sat at a medium sized table where there was water, grapes for palate cleansing and chocolate all laid out. After two seconds, the strangers at our table became buddies as David, mic in hand, walked us through a sensuous process of tasting different excellent quality chocolates; we learned about their properties and qualities like one would a fine wine. It was also somewhat of a singles mixer, which was an added surprise. The night was about two hours long. Two thirds of the way through, hilarity, chocolate drunkenness, and general mirth exploded across the many tables: the dark and powerful chocolate had kicked in and the room was a bit tough to control for poor David.

Overall a fun experience, even though I wasn't on the chocolate "high" like the rest of the room.

Monday, January 01, 2007

2007

Had a fantastic time last night: great dress, great friends, great concert, great food [I heard]. Midnight just snuck up on us as we partied away! I hope you all had an equally fantastic evening. Happy New year!