Food Allergy Counseling

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

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Asthma

How have your allergies been these past few weeks? I know I’ve heard complaints of allergies even from non-allergic adults. And I kept thinking, “Aren’t I lucky? They haven’t affected me so much this year”.

That is until I realized I’ve been overlooking the obvious: the heaviness in my chest; the cough that sounded a bit deeper that it should; the slight constriction when I take a full breath.

What is it? My allergic asthma.

I’ve had asthma since I was four years old. I spent a childhood on medications, knew my local ER too well, and got every sickness that went around-it always became worse when it hit my chest, still does. However, these days my asthma is of the mild variety, thank goodness. I don’t use my rescue inhaler often and after a decade on cromolyn sodium solutions, I only take Advair daily as a preventive because of some back to back bronchitis I had two years ago that I couldn’t quite shake.

Right now, there’s no wheezing, just a background of slight tightness. My doc even had a listen-there’s was nothing he could hear. But I know what I feel. And there’s nothing really to do, I don’t think, but relax, stay in air conditioning, keep taking my Advair, and enjoy a cup of caffeinated tea.

Tea is my cure-all (though not a cure of course, and I take big meds when necessary). Tea was my favorite drink as a baby and I can’t tell you how many tight chest instances have been helped by a cup of steamy Lipton’s or Twining’s Earl Grey.

To those of you out there with asthma, what helps you, meds or otherwise?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Katz’s Deli

It’s official: Bruni’s tastebuds cannot be trusted. It's either that or he’s not Jewish [which we knew but might explain why intuitively he doesn't know about really good deli meat]. Or both. I still have hope that he will turn this sad state of recent odd restaurant review affairs around because I don’t think he’s becoming Jewish anytime soon.

Don’t get me wrong, I totally enjoy reading him, his blog especially. But his resto reviews of late have been wacky. Especially this NYT review of Katz’s deli, a New York institution to be sure but not great Jewish deli. Not even passable deli: it’s too greasy, too fatty; the place is truly filthy and there’s not a religious Jew in sight.

In my opinion, Second Avenue’s brisket was the best and Noah’s Ark pastrami is the real deal. Katz’s, like Carnegie or Stage Deli is a shadow of its former self: the food is big and sloppy as if that could make up for lack of greatness.

I went over to Save the Deli to see what he had to say about this mess. And I totally disagree with his feeling that one star from Bruni is an insult; I don't think there should have been a review in the first place. And Mr. Save has issue with reviewing a lunch spot versus an expensive resto but has he been to Katz's lately? Katz’s isn’t an "affordable deli", does that even exist anymore?

What people [read: tourists] believe is the Jewish deli is an overpriced, bloated, greasy mess of a Disney-fied meta-concept of New York. Yeah, I’m angry. I want some Jewish deli as much as the next person and I can’t find it. But I know it’s not Katz’s and I want you to know not everyone believes that Katz’s is pastrami Nirvana.

PS some Bronx deli love from Off the Broiler.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Monday Nibbles on Tuesday

- Once. Such a lovely indie film. If perchance it comes to your town, or they get a Blockbuster distribution deal, rent it, see it, love it.

- Truffle oil doesn’t exist in the natural world.

- Eat Well, Feel Well . I’ve only heard the phrase Specific Carbohydrate Diet once before. Do you know about this? The kind folks at Clarkson Potter sent over a copy of this recipe book and diet guide. Intriguing - it’s a diet similar to the one I follow [although I’ve never heard about SCD]: no gluten, no processed sugars, only good fats. I need to read more and will report back.

-I’ve been on a burger tear the last few months. [I think it’s slowed down a bit as I’ve been doing a veggie thing the last few weeks, felt like I was over meating.] Rachel Ray, although not a favorite of mine, makes this lamb burger with a ridicchio and fennel salad that I made last summer with organic beef and it was terrific. Bittman did a fun story on how to make the perfect burger. I say fun only in that he proposes to really do it right you need to grind the meat yourself. In a perfect world, that sounds like a good idea. In a near perfect world, there would be butchers on every corner where you’d watch them grind your meat. But it feels like the only butchers left in Manhattan are Lobels or other equally outrageously priced; who else can afford the rent?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Revolution Health Podcast Link

Here it is, I hope you find it helpful. Lemme know what you think...

Sarabeth’s

Spooked at Sarabeth’s.

Was at a lunch Wednesday at the uptown outpost of Sarabeth’s. I’ve been there countless times in the years since it’s opened. And I’ve never had a problem, I even recommended Sarabeth’s in my sidebar (which now will have to be amended) but then again I’ve kept my orders simple and on the brunchy side.

Wednesday, I thought I’d try a chopped salad. I asked about ingredients, gave my Allergic Girl no nuts no fish speech, and it seemed I was understood by our waiter. He even returned and asked about chopped mushrooms, was I okay with them. Yes, mushrooms were fine I said, as long as there were no nuts mixed in. He assured me there were none.

So this fresh-looking chopped salad arrived comprised of carrots, green beans, peppers, celery and some feta cheese. And there were the mushrooms. They were chopped into a fine paste. Spread on bread disks.

Hmmm, he hadn’t mentioned bread. And the disks were resting against the mini-hill of my salad.

Hmmm, I picked one up wondering what kind of bread it was?

Pumpernickel.

With what looked like chopped nuts.

I called over our waiter. I pointed to the bread and asked him what kind it was.

“Pumpernickel”, he said.

“Are there nuts in it?” I asked, already knowing the answer.

“Hmm I’ll have to check.”

He returned and whisked the plate away saying he was sorry, there were nuts in the bread and he would fix it. I already was having a bad feeling so I followed him back to the kitchen to tell him I’d like something else entirely. I just had the sense that he would simply remove the nutty-mushroomy disks and serve the salad back to me. From his perspective it made sense, the bread was just leaning on the salad, he could simply remove them and bring it back up.


When I got to the kitchen I practically slammed into him carrying my salad, suspiciously quickly replated. He assured me it was a new salad, even offering to show me the old one in the kitchen. (I wasn’t about to follow him into the cramped quarters of a tiny kitchen, especially as I’ve been reading Heat and it’s not a place for the uninitiated.) I begged off but in my gut I still didn’t believe him. We returned to my table, where he set the salad down. It was then I noticed some of the mushroom pate on the plate, leftover I was convinced from when he removed the bread and brought it back as if it was new.

I was officially spooked and not eating this lovely salad.

After a few moments of not touching it, my waiter reappeared with a menu and said rather sensitively, “You feel uncomfortable, don’t you? Would you like something else?” But frankly I was done, wishing he had been that sensitive the first time around.

I know I said management is key in these areas and that is true but consistency is also tantamount in restaurant prep. Again, I was just reading about that in Heat at some point Mario Batali is barking about consistency to his staff at Babbo. But it’s true, I want to be able to go to a restaurant repeatedly and have a beloved dish that I know is safe.

So, I will have to go back to just sticking to them for bfast. Disappointing.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Revolution Health, Allergies and Asthma Call

Fascinating hour with not one but two experts on allergies and asthma: Dr. William Storms and AAFA’s own Mike Tringale. There were only four of us bloggers this time around: Allergic Girl, Our Story, Allergy Moms, and Allergyware and we had the undivided attention of these two incredibly knowledgeable experts.

It was less a question by question sitch and more of a round table discussion that allowed for a deeper exploration of the question. We discussed: the very broad definition of asthma; IgE and specific IgE testing; the implications of the new asthma and allergy drug Xolair; the possible peanut allergy vaccine; the possibility of young children aging out of asthma and then aging back in as teenagers and older adults as well as other issues.

I should have the Revolution Health podcast link by tomorrow. When I do I urge you to have a listen if you or a loved one has allergies, asthma or any combination thereof. Information is power. And this podcast is one power hour.

PS Speaking of powerful information, AAFA’s site is a treasure trove of realiable FREE information and downloadables, even assistance finding a doctor in your area. Check it out if you haven’t already.

Revolution Health Podcast

TONIGHT
8PM EDT, May 24, 2007

Allergic Girl will be part of a second Revolution Health podcast about allergies and asthma with Dr. William Storms and advocate Mike Tringale at 8PM Eastern Time.

It'll be a great opportunity for me to relay your questions about allergies and asthma. Post your comment and I will be collecting questions until 6pm EST.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Casa

Went to Casa, a Brazilian spot in the west village two Saturdays ago.

By surprise.

Pedro and I had discussed going to drinks but it morphed into a dinner that he planned without really knowing much about my allergies except for glancing at my site quickly on his blackberry. [yup, blind date] We arrived and Pedro voiced some genuine concern about my ability to find something to eat.

“Don’t worry I’ll find something”, thinking at the every least black beans and rice would be fine and free of any obvious allergens. [Famous last words, I know, but rice and beans are usually okay for me.] Our waitress arrived. I explained the AG sitch and the first thing she said was, “Don’t get anything fried, we use the fryer for everything.” Hmmm. An understanding of cross contamination? That’s unusual and a good kicking off point.

We ordered some wine and she promptly disappeared. A different waitress arrived, looking all fresh and dewy eyed and completely unaware of the conversation I had just had with dewy waitress number one. Sigh. I explained the whole thing over again and my date shifted in his chair.

I ordered Brazilian steak, plain rice, and sauteed collard greens. The great news is everything arrived allergen-free and decent.

So, either I’m having incredible restaurant mojo of late [which I hope I didn’t just kenahora now] OR foodservice management/staff are becoming more aware of making menu adjustments for allergic or food intolerant diners. Either way, yay.

Would I recommend Casa for my AG list? It was pretty, all white washed, bathed in candlelight, and our table was cozy. But I feel like I dodged a bullet - the menu was limited for me and lots of the dishes were fried or fish or fried fish or cheese balls or fried cheese balls. So not recommended for allergic diners per se but a nice evening.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Porter House New York

Not all steakhouses, even expensive steakhouses, are created equal.

In February, we walked out of the Miami Beach Smith and Wollensky about two minutes after we sat down, which we rarely do. From the moment we smiled and said hello to the host we knew we were in trouble. They had lost the reservation that our fancy hotel had made and berated us for that misplacement. He stopped just short of calling us liars. Really not pretty. And not a good start. When I pointed out that I had heard our concierge make the reservation myself and explain my food allergies, the host sighed and deigned to find us a table. They brought us to a dark and draughty two’er, squished between tables of 10 or more. A nightmare table. A table that is an afterthought. And frankly, in this case, was no favor. It took all of two minutes to look at each other and realize we would not be having a good time there. So we packed it in and said, “Buh, bye”. No love lost, and I don’t care how often I read about their amazing Sunday brunches with a view, I will not be patronizing the Miami Beach Smith and Wollensky again.

Porter House was an anti-Miami Beach S&W-a delight from the moment I stepped on the host’s heels. A toothy silver fox whisked us away from the host’s station to a lovely corner booth. (In this case, put baby in the corner, please!) On the way there, in my eagerness and self-consciousness-all of a sudden jeans and gold pumas didn’t seem as cute in this very grown-up establishment-I kicked his heel as I was following him too closely. I apologized and he laughed saying if that was the worst thing that happened to him all night, it was a good night.

When our waiter arrived, before I could give him my Allergic Girl spiel, he said, “I hear there’s a diner with fish and tree-nut allergies?”

Great start! The reservationist had communicated what I told them when I called earlier that day. Keir, our waiter, continued-I had introduced myself and my dinner date so we all got friendly-he said the kitchen was fully aware of my allergies and that I could go ahead and order what I liked and they’d accommodate me.

As it’s a steakhouse, it’s a pretty meaty and fishy menu. But the braised short ribs were calling to me; my on-loan-dinner-date had the duck with foie gras. We shared sautéed spinach and he had a homefried potato pancake. Everything arrived meaty and luscious; everyone who approached our table was friendly and courteous - Keir was a superstar. It was exactly as a resto experience should be [and similar to what Batali said was his perfect dining experience]: friendly staff, a great table, (unlike Mario, I don’t enjoy being shoved into dark, dank corners near the bussing station, thank you) a knowledgeable waiter, an accommodating kitchen, a pretty room/view and a delicious allergen-free dinner. Sounds simple doesn’t it? And in Chef Michael Lomonaco’s capable hands, it was; excellent execution on every level.

Which makes me wonder why it can’t be like that every time, most everywhere?

Are you thinking about cost? Of course you are, I did. We assume that an expensive restaurant will be more accommodating-better cuisine, better quality ingredients, finer manners, nicer linens, finger bowls-than a moderately priced one or a chain. And sometimes, that is the case. This delicious allergen-free dinner cost the same [a bit more actually] as my weekly grocery bill.

Let me say that again: I paid the same for one soft drink, one entrée and a bowl of fresh berries than I normally do for a week’s worth of fruits, veggies, staples and goodies, many of them organic.

But too many times I’ve been in the "best" restaurants and both the meal and the service have been seriously disappointing and the kitchen was. Similarly a mom-and-pop joint is no guarantee of service that makes you feel like one of the family and food like you’ve gone home.

What’s the ultimate answer: management. Again and again it all comes from great management and communication. And Porter House in my inaugural visit had both in abundance.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Foodaphobia

Heard this funny, quirky, and foodie song this Sunday on Jonathan Schwartz’s show that I wanted to share with you and can you believe I cannot find the lyrics on any search engine? Like none.

You try.

Foodaphobia, lyrics.

Birdbath

Maury’s sustainable/organic bakery concept got a write up in the NYT this weekend, and was picked up by Eater.

We stopped in the First avenue outpost last fall; the automaton sales clerk said there were no plans for anything Gluten-Free in the foreseeable future. Without a vegan goodie option, or a gluten-free cookie in the mix, it feels like a less powerful ethical/organic statement to me. I mean if you’re going to have a cork floor and staff wearing hemp , one vegan cookie couldn’t hurt.

Needless to say, I walked out of the little cork house that could empty handed and unmoved by the great organic effort. It’s a great idea but go all the way Maury.

PS If you've been there recently and this has changed, i.e. they're making GF or vegan cookies, let me know!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Bad Boys at Borders

On the way to Porter House last night, more on that in a minute, and we stopped into Borders. I should preface this with the fact that my dinner date, on loan, brought me his copy of Heat to read, also on loan. You know Heat, the Buford book about Buford training/trailing Batali who trained with notorious bad-boy White? Well, last night, at the exact moment we were stopping for a pre-dinner book shop was the exact moment a Food-in was happening with the Triumvirate of Culinary Bad Boys; Bourdain, Batali, and a very subdued White. We stayed for a moment, as our dinner ressie was waiting, but just long enough to hear Batali’s talk about what is a great resto experience for him. (This is paraphrased from memory and with Shari’s help; everyone was there last night):

-When I walk in they greet me with hello. They don't need to know me by my name; they're just happy to see me.
-They give me a nice table, I don’t care where, a table’s a table. It doesn't matter if it's by the bussing station, near the kitchen, up front, by a vent, or any of the other million excuses people use at my restaurants; who cares, I'm happy with whatever table I get.
-I tell the waiter I’m gonna have a good time and I want the waiter to have a good time too. I like to declare that I'm going to have a good time.
-I ask them what’s the best thing they make, then I order it. I like the waiter to guide me through the meal. That's why they're there. Let them do their job.
-I enjoy my meal.
-And I tip very well. Very, very well! (Big laugh).

And this is almost exactly what happened when we stepped into Porter House .

Cherrybrook Kitchen

Have a flair for cake decorating? Want to channel your inner Martha? Cherrybrook Kitchen is running a super promo for the next month. See below: enter their contest and you could win their allergen-free cake mix for a year! Extra trips to the gym not included.

“Interested participants are encouraged to bake and uniquely decorate their favorite Cherrybrook Kitchen cake. Once their masterpiece is complete, they take a picture of their cake, log onto Cherrybrook Kitchen and submit their entry.

Open entry begins on May 18th and contestants will have two weeks to upload their pictures. On June 1st, all entries will be posted and the voting will begin. Visitors will be able to scroll through photos of submitted cakes online, and votes will be cast electronically through the Cherrybrook Kitchen website. On June 21st, the winner with the most votes will take the cake, a full year of cakes that is, provided by Cherrybrook Kitchen, along with a $350 gift certificate to be used on cooking and baking utensils from Williams-Sonoma.”

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Revolution Health, Allergies and Asthma

Thursday 8PM EDT, May 24, 2007

Allergic Girl will be part of a second Revolution Health podcast about allergies and asthma with Dr. William Storms and advocate Mike Tringale next Thursday, May 24, 2007 at 8PM Eastern Time.

It'll be a great opportunity for me to relay your questions about allergies and asthma. Please feel free to email me - I will be collecting questions until 6pm EST, May 24th.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Sunrise Earth

What’s your morning routine? I spring out of bed, without an alarm, at 7am-I know, ridic. And by 7:15am or thereabouts, I have a cup of Earl Grey on my desk and my iBook is warmed up, ready to begin.

I like to get a good hour or two of work in before any drilling begins. Yeah, drilling. My building is undergoing major renovations: the exterior brick is being resurfaced and the garage is being demolished and redone. Additionally, there are continuous major interior renovations: individual apartments are being gutted and overhauled. For months, my bedroom wall was shaking all day. Now, it’s the upstairs apartment and everything shakes. Drilling starts at 830am.

In the first hopeful hours of the day, I'm looking for something gentle to wake with me. I don’t like morning news; it’s all bad. Or morning shows; too oddly happy. I’ve discovered Sunrise Earth. It’s a pure nature show, no voice over, no editorial content, just nature. And by nature I mean the sound of babbling brooks, or cows mooing; sometimes it’s simply mountains or snow; sometimes just a breeze, or birds. It’s always involves the dawn in America. It’s restful. I’ve meditated with it playing the background. And I have it in High Def. I’ve taped a few episodes, I run them in a loop all morning, constant sunrise until noon.

Monday, May 14, 2007

USDA Certified Organic Restaurants

A friend [Stevie!] sent me this article from the Chicago Tribune. As it’s a subscriber site, here it is in its entirety. Looks like the Chicago foodie scene is really getting on board with local, which is great. But did you know USDA is certifying organic restaurants? I zoomed around a bit on the net but didn't find much more info, not yet anyway. If you've heard anything more about this, I'd love to hear it.


When restaurants go green
--------------------
Variations in terms can feed confusion

By Trine Tsouderos
Tribune staff reporter

April 19, 2007

Sometimes it feels like you need a degree in environmental science to figure out what to eat.

Local? Organic? Certified organic? Fair trade? Direct trade? Clean? Natural? Sustainable?

What does it all mean?

We feel your pain, dear diner. It's confusing. And this enigma is no longer confined to your local Jewel or Whole Foods. These labels are popping up on restaurant menus throughout Chicago too.

"This is a movement that is exploding," said Jim Slama, president of Sustain, a locally based non-profit that, among other things, helps match local farmers with restaurants. "There has been a seismic shift culturally."

By the end of this year, Chicago will have two U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified organic eateries -- the Bleeding Heart Bakery and Crust. We've got restaurants, like Terragusto, that emphasize local ingredients, and others, like Leona's, that promise organics. Leona's also brags that your food will be free of "genetically modified organisms."

And then there are restaurants, like Big Bowl, that proudly proclaim dishes made from ingredients that are "naturally raised." Run into Starbucks and you may see coffee labeled "fair trade," while Intelligentsia serves up steaming cups of "direct trade" brew.

Over the next months, At Play will publish stories on responsible dining, defining terms that are showing up on menus and offering insight into claims by opponents and proponents.

We hope to help you make decisions about how to "eat clean," as Crust co-owner Michael Altenberg puts it.

"I am sure it can be confusing for consumers," said Barbara Hausmann, spokeswoman for the Organic Trade Association, a Greenfield, Mass.-based business association. "Different labels mean different things. What is 'natural'? Well, it depends on who is claiming what. Natural can still be made from conventionally made products."

The more you know, the more difficult the decision seems to become. Take, for example, organic and local.

Then: USDA-certified organic meant good for you, good for the Earth. Now: Some people are saying certified organic might not be as good as non-certified organic, local food.

"If you buy certified organic strawberries grown in California out of season, they have to be trucked here over 3,000 miles," said Theo Gilbert, co-owner of Terragusto. Using all that fuel to deliver the berries is as bad for the planet as spraying your crops with pesticides, he said.

Gilbert said diners often ask what on the menu is organic. At that point, his servers have to explain that local doesn't mean certified organic, but that at his restaurant, local means that Gilbert hand-picked the farmer and trusts the way he or she has grown his food. Servers "have to do it very simply and quickly and nonchalantly," he said. "It is hard to do."

Organic, he said, is not the key to solving our health and environmental problems. "Local really is the key."

Three miles south of Terragusto is Crust, which, when it opens in May, will be one of just a handful of USDA-certified organic restaurants in the nation.

Altenberg, the restaurant's co-owner, said getting that certification, which guarantees 95 percent of ingredients are certified organic, was worth the extra time, money and effort because he thinks it will pay off and believes organic just plain tastes better. "It is worth it," he said. "We are really doing something special."

For Altenberg and Michelle Garcia, owner of the Bleeding Heart Bakery, that means getting affidavits guaranteeing non-organic produce did not mingle with certified organic stuff in delivery en route to the restaurants. And allowing inspectors to check receipts against deliveries to ensure that the restaurant or bakery didn't buy a few pounds of organic flour and 50 pounds of conventional flour and still label the products "organic" on the menu.

That happens, he said. "A lot of people are putting things down on the menu and unless you are truly certified, nobody ever checks that."

This dilemma is a by-product of a happy blooming of dining options for people who want to eat responsibly.

"Consumers want this," Hausmann said. "They want to feel connected to their food."

Even if that means, with perusing a menu, the generation of a local, organic, hopefully not-sustainable headache. A headache that can be eased, perhaps, by a plate of delicious, healthy, guilt-free food.

Whole Foods and Allergies

Whole Foods ran an April promo about how to treat allergies naturally. They have a podcast about allergies on their site and an allergy pamphlet in their stores. Brent, working with WF, kindly contacted me to let me know about it. It's interesting enough information to pass along and it might be useful to some of you out there. Allergies have been particularly bad this early in the season; friends who don't normally complain are suffering.

However, I’m not a natural girl when it comes to "meds". I’m a little afraid I’ll be allergic to the herbs/flowers used to cure the issue, much to the dismay of my excellent acupuncturist who really wants me to try Chinese herbs. I just won’t do it, too potentially tricky for this Allergic Girl. But I know herbs, Chinese and otherwise, have helped many, many people over thousands of years. [On the funny tip, remember “Alice”? ]

Butterbur, one of their recommendations was also recommended by Dr. Clifford Basset on the Revolution Health podcast I was involved in with last month. Which means, to me at least, herbs are becoming part of the western mainstream medical language. Many of these natural remedies I’ve never heard of [except probotics-even Dannon yogurt is embracing this one]: have you?

From WF's press release: “Whole Foods Market has compiled a list of TOP 10 NATURAL OPTIONS that may assist in alleviating common allergy symptoms.

1. Butterbur – studies show this herb is effective in providing relief from seasonal allergies with fewer side effects when compared with common conventional choices.
2. Stinging Nettle or “Nettles” – considered by some experts to be one of the best herbal options for relief of allergy symptoms.
3. Quercetin – a bioflavonoid that research shows may support a healthy inflammation response.
4. Bromelain – an enzyme that supports a healthy immune response to allergens and works synergistically with quercetin; derived from pineapple.
5. Probiotics – support healthy digestion and immune function; studies show a link between unhealthy gut flora and allergies.
6. Essential Fatty Acids (Omega 3’s) – found in fish, flaxseed oil, dark leafy greens, and/or fish oil or flaxseed supplements; help to keep the immune system strong and play a role in regulating its allergy responses
7. Echinacea, astragalus, garlic, chamomile, turmeric, eyebright, licorice – herbs that support respiratory and immune health for allergy relief.
8. Allium Cepa – a homeopathic remedy for nasal congestion.
9. Sabadilla – a homeopathic remedy for sneezing, runny nose and an itching, sore throat.
10. Homeopathic nose sprays – for sinus pressure relief.”

*Please talk to your doctor before taking any new medication. Yes, herbs/bark/flowers/etc are medicinal and can have potent effects when taken alone or combined with prescription meds.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Otto Pizzeria

Eater’s lodged two complaints about Otto of late, both having to do with being rushed out. I’m spending Mother’s Day evening with 8 mothers and daughters there [I will be testing out the Gluten-Free pasta sitch]. We have an 8pm ressie. Let’s see if we get the push. More soon.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Keely Smith

Had the pleasure of hearing Keely Smith sing last night. 79 years old [despite what you may read, that’s what she said last night] and still swinging and telling dirty jokes; still has a voice that is clear and straight and in fine pitch.

Don’t know who she is? She was Louis Prima's straight man: her signature perfect pitch voice with very little vibrato; she was sane to his wild. Don’t know Louis Prima? Ever heard of swing? Or be-bop? Or remember their 80s revival? Louis and Keely are the originators. David Lee Roth’s “I’m Just A Gigilo”? Roth was doing a cover of Louis and Keely [who to be honest were themselves doing a 1930s cover]. Here’s Prima and Smith in prime form in 1957-gotta love you tube. Brian Setzer doing Jump Jive and Wail; a Prima cover daddy-o. Get your hands on some Louis Prima and Keely Smith, you won’t be disappointed, the music is pure fun and energy, classic and also contemporary.

Was glad to see her perform some standard ballads as well as some Prima tunes and to watch her have fun on the stage, to own her audience-such a pro. She says she writing an autobiography and naming names. Ha, affairs with Frank [Old Blue Eyes] and Sean Connery to name a few [that she named].

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Ramps

Ms. Lovely Scones made the recipe we chit-chatted about over at the Watermelon post and it looks like an easy win! I can’t wait to make an AG version.

Yael Sonia

Went to a dear friend’s store debut last night. Drank a bit too much champagne, flirted with a male model or three-here's one with some carpaccio-
saw old friends I hadn’t seen in years and played dress-up with her jewels on display.

There’s a ring I’ve been eyeing for some time: lemon quartz that spins. Yes, spins. Her jewelry is kinetic, playful, feminine and strong. Have a look. The ring on the lower left is my precious.

[Pictures courtsey of Robert Braunfeld, photographer]

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Watermelon

Bought my first of the season watermelon at Whole Foods on Sunday. It says Made in USA but doesn’t say where. Hmm, that’s a bit disconcerting; I’d like to know how far it traveled to get to NYC, since I’m trying to go local. But I’ve also been harboring a serious watermelon need for a few weeks. And as the season has begun, I gave into my non-local urges. Admitedly, the whole one was pricey. But I had to have it (is that wrong?), so I snapped it up. (Snap up is inaccurate: I happily hauled up what must have been 8 pounds or more of watermelon flesh). Thank goodness I picked a good one-don’t you hate it when you buy a whole uncut watermelon during the summer just to find that it’s rotten or tasteless or sour? Hate that.

In the local vein, I bought local luscious tulips over the last two Saturdays at the Union Square greenmarket -the ones from this past Saturday are still opening up. I also bought some local fingerling potatoes and made roasted potatoes to go with my local eggs, scrambled. Hmmm, sauteed ramps over GF pasta with parmesan and extra virgin olive oil might be spectacular. Maybe, I'll swing by today's market and pick up some, I’ll let you know.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Ethics of What We Eat

Just finished The Ethics of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter by Peter Singer and Jim Mason. Oy. Don’t eat chicken from any factory-farm producer like Tyson or Purdue, that’s all I can say.

No, I can say more: here are four ethical principals we should be demanding from our food producers [and telling our government representatives to demand] according to Singer and Mason:

1. Transparency-we have a right to know how our food is produced as well as accurate and unbiased info about what we are buying and how it’s produced.

2. Fairness-producing food should not impact the environment or humans; food production must be environmentally sustainable.

3. Humanity- inflicting significant suffering on animals is wrong. “Kindness and compassion toward all human and animals is better than indifference to the suffering of a sentient being”.

4. Social responsibility-all factory workers must have decent wage and working conditions.

Part 2 [i.e. clear tips about how to be a “conscientious omnivore”] in a tic...

Monday, May 07, 2007

Gluten-Free Brownies

Ms James-soon-to-be-Ahern has cracked the GF brownie code! Woo hoo!

Taken from the recent NYT Brownie article, (I’m assuming), adapted with GF flours et voila! GF Brownies!

Now these I can’t wait to try - thanks Gluten-Free Girl.

Zen Palate

Metal shards in the food is seriously bad business and bad news for this beloved, if not overly greasy veggie standby resto in NYC.

Sigh.

Metal shards in the food. Jeez.

Freemans Restaurant

A fave of the rumpled hipster set, Friday night dear friend D. picked Freemans for the birthday celebration with the fam. This is one of those times, like a business lunch, corporate luncheon, anything where there’s a large group that you didn’t organize, that as a person with allergies you just make do. Worst case scenario bring a snack or have a small bite pre-meal.

When I called to let the kitchen know I had allergies I was informed that they would be happy to accommodate me, especially as one of their co-owners Taavo Somer has tree-nut allergies. Eureka!

I’ve said it often: great service comes from the management and travels on through the chain of command; same for knowledge about food allergies. When we arrived at the restaurant the GM, Johnny, came and found me to discuss what I could and couldn’t eat. He was particularly worried because the kitchen uses peanut oil and he was aware that that could vaporize and cause an allergic reaction. Add to that, Freemans has an open kitchen, right next to the bar. As peanuts are not my issue, that was fine by me. I gave him my spiel about nuts and fish; he said he’d let the kitchen and our server know.

Our server, Brian, tall, scruffy, and adequately rumpled had been well informed about the allergic sitch. After everyone ordered, he returned to tell me that the dish to my left had nuts as did the dish to my right. Now that is careful. Luckily, I’m not that sensitive.

I had filet mignon, medium rare, with a roasted onion. It came with mashed potatoes and horseradish cream; I didn’t have the latter because of dairy and why press my luck. The filet was tender and juicy and flavorful, surprising for a filet, which can end up tasteless and brick-like. There were oohs and ahhs and “this is amazing” heard all around the table. Most people either had the roasted chicken with toasted hazelnuts that I was told could be done without as they were a garnish but why tempt fate, sea bass with something nutty, or the filet mignon. Everyone was happy and in this nutty kitchen, I had not one problem!

Score another one for team Allergic Girl!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Spiderman

We contributed to the weekend’s blockbuster, Spidey. Eh, it was okay. The trailer for the next HP movie was more exciting. But you go, enjoy, tell me what you think.

PS The movie on Saturday night was "sold out" yet there were plenty of seats in the front row. Odd. And uh, not "sold out". One in my group, in the indie film biz, said he heard big studios were buying up seats to boost their numbers. Sounds unlikely to me but big biz does some strange and illogical stuff to “boost numbers”.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Gilmore Girls

Gone. Yup, it’s true, no more after the next few weeks [and this blogger scooped it one month ago]. Just get Luke and Laura, I mean Lorelei together and let’s end it. (Yes, this is a bit off topic, but an Allergic Girl’s gotta have her guilty pleasures - GG in re-runs on the family channel that I tape and watch later: happily guilty!)

La Fonda Boricua

UPDATE 2012: CLOSED FOR RENOVATIONS

UPDATE: Jorge, owner of La Fonda Boricua was on Bobby Flay's Throwdown for Arroz Con Pollo and won!

Last night I dropped into a favorite spot: La Fonda Boricua. La Fonda features the kind of home-style PR cooking I imagine my abuela would make, if I had an abela and not a bubby. There is no printed menu, just what they have that day although they usually have the same stuff: stews, baked meats, seafood salads, rice, and beans.

When I go, I usually sit at the long blond wood bar, listen as regulars wander in, say a quick “Hola”, order some flan to go, or get their pork, beans and rice and sprinkle some home-made hot sauce over the top. (But only a capful at a time, it’s that hot. When asked, the owner Jorge tells me that the sauce is mostly water, a little white vinegar, a few kinds of chile peppers, whole peppercorns, and garlic). A stream of servers carrying large pots filled with savory stews of pork, beef, goat, and oxtail make their way to the front window, where food is placed in hot trays for any passing patron to see. (I had a taste of C.’s oxtail last night; tender, fatty, a little spicy, delicioso!)

I usually get an order of beans with rice and an avocado salad I saw another patron order once that of course is not even on the verbal menu. They use the larger, smooth-skinned, and bright green variety that have a bit of sweetness to them. I don’t know how they do it but their avocados are always perfectly ripe, I mean perfect! The beans are vegetarian and they usually have five or six kinds per day. The kitchen is right in back, a semi-open affair, always with sacks of rice waiting to be opened and cooked. They make the rice the way I preferred it as a child: with lots of butter, so each grain is shiny with greasy goodness.

The beans, I prefer the red variety, are probably made with some industrial/commercial grade adobo; I’ve never asked about the specific seasoning. Yup, the queen of getting every ingredient listed never asked for the full ingredients. After they told me the beans were vegetarian and in a tomato based sauce with spices, I just ate them! And I haven't had a problem thus far.

La Fonda Boricua is not a long dining experience, it’s more of an order, eat, and leave but it’s always yummy.

Asthma in the NYT

Who knew I have one of six major diseases? Tuesday, the NYT ran a story about the six diseases you may not know you already have and what to ask your doctor.

Reminds me of when I sent a friend to my personal physician (sounds fancy doesn’t it). She had a cough that wouldn’t go away; she’s also an allergic type. She asked if I liked my doc. Marc Spero is my GP as well as a Pulmonologist and I like him, a lot.

No surprise, he sees a body through the eyes of a lung/chest guy. He concluded she had asthma. She thought he was a fool and chided me for having such a fool doctor. I suggested she may indeed be having some asthma; she wouldn’t hear of it. Ah well. Can’t please everyone.

Well, years later this NYT asthma article seems to confirm what my doctor thought; the cough was probably asthma. So interesting.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Max Brenner

Oh, Bruni how far thee have fallen. What’s next? A review of the fine cuisine served at Mars 2112?

Eater reported yesterday, cos they are serious scoop hounds and must have a hairy moley-mole at the NYT, that Bruni was reviewing Max Brenner’s Chocolate Emporium. I could scarcely believe my eyes.

This place isn’t a restaurant. Regardless, it’s completely Teflon to a NYT review. It’s chocolate; all the world loves chocolate irrespective of its inferior quality. See Hershey’s. I’m sorry but it doesn’t even smell like chocolate. [Allergic Girl checked out the Bald Man in August with much consternation].

So why a review? An actual NYT times review? Why bother? Who approved this? Truly not a fair fight.

The Golden Compass

My dear friend D. practically insisted, ahem, suggested I read the first book The Golden Compass, convinced I’d enjoy it. It sat on my nightstand for a year.

“It’s YA”, I told myself, “I’m too old for YA”.

Yet I, and the great masses, have gobbled down Harry Potter, an example of YA spun to massive K, YA, and A success. And yes, of course, I’ve pre-ordered the last of the last.

One day, feeling guilty, I picked it up and before I knew it I was 100 pages in and asking D. for the second volume. It takes place in an alternate universe Oxford University. That hooked me right away. I spent a year of college at Oxford; the city and that year holds a very dear place in my heart. In the alt. Oxford, all humans have a living, external embodiment of their emotional lives: a Daemon, in the form of an animal. [ Wonder Twin powers activate indeed.] Our young heroine is "the chosen one"; an exceptionally smart and wiley child who constantly outwits her numbskull elders. Who doesn’t love that? Oxford, animals, smart children, and oh yes, it’s dark, heart of darkness dark, end of the world dark.

D. was right, it won me over in a ways I couldn’t have anticipated. And now there’s a movie coming out December 2007, woo hoo!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Restaurant Associates

Did I mention that upon sitting at table 20 underneath the impressive she-whale at the Green event at the Natural History Museum , I discovered our luncheon was pre-plated: sliced chicken breast, a whole peeled poached pear, micro greens [dressing on the side], a few crumbles of Roquefort cheese, and a sprinkling of walnut halves.

Of course. Walnuts. What's considered an elegant garnish for some is a major problem for this Allergic Girl.

I introduced myself to our waitperson, Tom, and asked if there were any plain un-plated components of the meal in the back. He recreated the dish without nuts, easy peasy. He also said next time if I call ahead they make me something special as they were very happy to accommodate requests/special needs.

Fab! Who was the they? Restaurant Associates. And they do most of the Museums in town. Now this I did not know. But it’s very, very good to know. RA, I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship.

PS Here’s a little trick my allergic friends: in a room of 850 fundraisers and socialites, I bet I was the only one who introduced herself to her lovely server. Making that human connection, especially when you are asking for a favor, helps. Yes, it’s called charm but this is an instance when charm is literally about survival.

Chef Zeitouni said it best: “Charm [your waiter], be sweet to them, get them on your side so they understand fully the seriousness of the request and the consequences if the request is forgotten, lost, misunderstood, or otherwise overlooked.”

Everyone appreciates being treated respectfully, even sweetly, when making a request. And the bottom line is when you are asking for some special attention, charm, honey, sweetness, respect, what ever you want to call it, most times get the job done. If not, leave or in this case don’t eat it and bring snacks. [ Ms. GF Guide is a great example of the issues of event dining, getting spooked that they didn’t give you an allergen free plate, and using her back-up snacks!]