Food Allergy Counseling

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

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hervé This at The James Beard Foundation

I had the pleasure of attending a lunchtime lecture at the the James Beard House by Hervé This, as part of their Beard on Books series held at the James Beard House, a very cool, if not terminally skinny townhouse. Seriously, you have to take a deep inhale and practically turn sideways to make it up the stairs.

Haven’t heard of Hervé This? Don’t worry I hadn’t either. However, I’d bet that you've heard of molecular gastronomy, that kind of cooking favored by Chef Wylie Dufrense and Chef Ferran Adria in Spain; it was even utilized by Chef Marcel Vingeron, Top Chef contestant in season two. Well, Hervé, is the veritable pere of Molecular Gastronomy. Did I mention that he’s a chemist, not a chef. Confused?

Hervé This made a very important distinction between molecular gastronomy and molecular cooking. Molecular gastronomy is the science behind how food works; molecular cooking [what Dufrense and Adria and others do] is the artistic application of the scientific knowledge that molecular gastronomy has uncovered.

Hervé This went on to explain that in 1980, yes 27 years ago, he started fooling around with the idea [or idée as he said in his Maurice Chevalier accent] of how food works. Hervé This [pronounced Tees in case you ever run into him], took a scientific approach to uncovering the chemical mysteries behind food and more specifically unraveling commonly held beliefs about how food works. He started collecting those commonly held beliefs, i.e. old wives tales, renaming them “culinary precisions” and currently has 25,000 recorded. Very soon they will be put up on the internet, on the site of the Institute where he works. The site is in French, natch, but he said NYU was picking up on his lead and collecting American old wives tales about cooking as I write this. [Grub Street has a round-up of Hervé This's other activities around town this week.]

It was a very cool short lecture on this new, old, cutting edge of collective food knowledge and culinary skill.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Whole Foods and Gluten-free Mixes

Have you noticed something interesting going on over at your local Whole Foods gluten-free product aisle?

A few months ago, I noticed that Whole Foods had introduced their 365 brand of gluten-free cake, pancake and bread mixes alongside the name brands I trust: Gluten-Free Pantry and Cherrybrook Kitchen. “Great,” I thought, “More GF products on the market equals robust competition”. Hmm seems Whole Foods would rather have a monopoly as they have been quietly not restocking the competition. That might STILL be okay with me IF their line had the same properties as the brands I trust: mainly that they are gluten-free as well as tree-nut free. But as they aren’t this development is not so great.

The only way to change this? Let Whole Foods know what we, their consumer base, wants. Email them, talk to the manager in the store—let them know what products you and your family need!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fran Costigan at The Institute of Culinary Education

Happy Thanksgiving!

My contribution to this week of turkey and over-stuffing is to tell you all about a vegan cupcake class I was invited to attend last Friday and I have a special recipe surprise! [PS you could try this yummy vegan GF treat this holiday].

**

I had taken a vegan dessert class about 10 years ago at the Natural Gourmet School with vegan dessert pioneer Fran Costigan and it was wonderful. Maple syrup was the main sweetener and everything we made came out moist and flavorful. Even then, she was using all natural and organic products--this is why she’s a pioneer folks!

The next time I saw Fran Costigan wasn’t until a few months ago, at the Steve Ettlinger’s Twinkie Deconstructed event, where she made a vegan version of the American classic Twinkie to great raves.

So you can imagine my delight when I was invited to attend Fran Costigan's "Great Vegan Cupcakes" class at the Institute of Culinary Education and learn about how to make dessert without butter, eggs or diary.

**

Fran Costigan is a classically trained pastry chef and thus she utilizes classic baking techniques.

-Her recipes directions call for precise measuring. As Fran says: “measure, measure, measure” to get consistent results every time you bake.

-Her method of measuring is the “dip and sweep”: dip the measuring cup into the flour and sweep your knife across to get an exact amount that isn’t packed.

-She suggests pre-heating your oven and having not one but two oven thermometers to gauge the exact temp of your oven and thus cook your treats to perfection.

-We used the French method of preparing our recipes called “mise en place” meaning to put everything in place before you start cooking/baking.

-She reminded us all to mix dry ingredients first then wet ingredient and don't combine the two until mixed first.

-She keeps all of her oils, nuts/seeds and flours in the fridge especially as natural/organic products can turn rancid quickly.

**

The class is welcomed by a fruit and bread plate [Assistant Erica made me a special bread-free fruit plate]:


Our organic ingredient and spice pantry:


Here’s the mise en place for the baking tools:


Here's the mise en place for our Vanilla Berry Cupcake:



Vanilla Berry Cupcakes ready to go into a pre-heated oven:


Many hands frosting cupcakes together:


A group meal at the end of class:


(From Left to Right) Assistants Victoria and Erica:



**
As a special treat, exclusively for Allergic Girl readers, I have the gluten-free cupcake recipe that Fran developed, which can be made into a cake as well as cupcakes.

GLUTEN FREE WHEAT FREE CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES
Yield: 2 1/4 cups batter
This recipe is an adaptation of my most popular chocolate cake: My Chocolate Cake to Live For. Over the years, I have met so many people who are gluten intolerant and allergic that I just had to give this GF baking mix a try. The batter is extremely thin, but bakes up into a delicious, deeply chocolate, moist cake that anyone will enjoy.

Ingredients

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Baking Mix
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa
1/4 cup light organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup organic canola oil
1/2 cup pure maple syrup, Grade A Dark Amber
1 cup chocolate or vanilla soy milk or rice milk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar


1. Position a rack just above the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Oil the cups and top of a standard muffin tin. If you choose to line the tins with paper liners, only the top of the tin needs to be oiled.
2. Place a wire mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Add the baking mix, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon to the strainer. Tap the strainer against the palm of your hand to sift the ingredients into the bowl. Stir with a wire whisk to distribute the ingredients.
3. Whisk the oil, maple syrup, soy milk, vanilla extract, and vinegar in a separate medium bowl until well blended. Pour into the dry mixture and stir with a whisk until the batter is smooth. This batter is extremely thin. It is odd, but don’t panic. You will notice a bean smell but this dissipates during baking.
4. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cups, filing each about 3/4 full. Pour 1/3 cup water into any empty cups to insure even baking.
5. Bake for 13 to 15minutes, or until the cupcakes are well risen (the tops will be flat), and a cake tester inserted in the centers of the cakes comes out clean or with only a few moist crumbs.
6. Cool the tin on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a thin knife between the cupcakes and the inside of the cups and lift each onto the rack. Cool completely.

Notes: They are deeply chocolate and keep well in the freezer. Most tasters detected a flavor they liked—nuts? Liqueur I was asked, but not one thought gluten free.

Ice the cupcakes after they are cool [chilled is best] with any favorite icing:

Suggested Icings: Soy creamer or coconut milk ganache or Chocolate Cream Filling & Frosting, both found in More Great Good Dairy Free Desserts Naturally, by Fran Costigan


**

Thank you to Fran’s two assistants Victoria and Erica for a great job. I must extend an extra special Allergic Girl shout-out to Erica who is gluten-intolerant as well. Erica, knowing I had food allergies/intolerance, made it her business to make sure I had some fruit to start the class that hadn’t touched any nuts or bread. Then when it came time for the end of class meal, instructed another student on careful clean prep making sure I had an uncontaminated salad to eat. Erica was my allergen-sensitive angel, THANK YOU ERICA!

**

Fran Costigan's next class at ICE is “Decadent Creamy Dairy-free Pure Chocolate Desserts”, Tues Dec 3, 10am-2pm. In addition, I will be interviewing Fran in February which will be available over at HealthCentral.com. So stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Allergy-Free Cookbook by Alice Sherwood

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Alice Sherwood, author of ALLERGY FREE COOKBOOK, [published by DK Publishing] for HealthCentral.com. The two-part interview can be found on MyAllergyNetwork.com.

If you are a newly diagnosed food allergic or food intolerant person, or have a newly diagnosed child with allergies or have any allergic loved ones, I suggest checking Alice Sherwood's ALLERGY FREE COOKBOOK out.

Sherwood’s recipes eliminate the big four [gluten, eggs, dairy and nuts] allergens with clever substitutions and easy to read instructions. Have a look at this page from her book [courtesy of DK Publishing/Alice Sherwood's ALLERGY FREE COOKBOOK]:

Additionally, Sherwood has a bright and positive attitude about eating well and cooking for food allergies/intolerances.

Enjoy!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Allergic Girl's Birthday Celebrations

My birthday is this month and I had my annual Allergic Girl birthday celebration, joined by beloved friends and family. This year, I hired La Fonda Boricua to cater. Whilst watching people go back for third helpings [!] I knew I had made the right dinner choice. Here’s the menu which satisfied both the vegetarians and the meatatarians:

White rice
Yellow rice with pigeon peas
Black beans
Red beans
Fried sweet plantains
[all vegetarian]

Baked chicken
Oxtail stew
Goat stew
[for the meat eaters!]

And a green salad.

For dessert, there were strawberries and black grapes and two chocolate cakes: one glutinous and one gluten-free.

After I blew out the candles [yes I still make a wish, world peace hasn't happened yet, has it?] and the cakes were cut, I heard my dad ask, over the din: “Did you make this cake? This ‘gluten-free’ cake?”

“Um, yes. From a mix but yeah I made it, yeah,” I replied.

“It so good! I mean really so much better than the one with gluten!”

This was my dad's way of announcing to the guests at my birthday party that my one layer gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free cake, Cherrybrook Kitchen’s chocolate cake and white frosting was better than the Costco chocolate cake that usually gets raves.

What a surprising yay!

My cake, which was moist with a tender crumb, tasted like an Oreo cookie. Or what I think an Oreo would taste like if it were a cake. Or what my memory of an Oreo tastes like. I didn’t taste the “other” cake but my creation disappeared and I still have half of Costco cake left.

I think I may have turned some of my friends and family to the GF side of life, pretty easy to do with cake that was delicious. Thank you Cherrybrook Kitchen for making an easy vegan mix [I made the frosting with butter but you could make that vegan too] which was perfect for my meat-eaters, Indian vegetarian friends, my Kosher vegan auntie, and those that were wheat allergic, egg allergic and this Allergic Birthday Girl.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Standard Hotel, Miami

The end of the property at 8am, looking toward downtown Miami.

**

Looking toward the bay from the pool at dusk.


**

I stayed at The Standard, Miami once before in April 2006, a few months after they opened. It was still in the very soft opening stage and there were issues: parts of the spa were out of order; service was spotty when they showed up at all; the pool temperature was either too warm or off completely; and my room had a major caterpillar infestation.

Despite this, last year, I found a Chef who fed me safely, bellmen/waiters/housekeeping who were lovely and I was able to broker a truce between the caterpillar hoard and me.

And to top it off, I fell in love with the hotel with all of its charm and quirks.

Set off the main South Beach drag and tucked away on one of the many small islands in Biscayne Bay, the former Lido was transformed two years ago by the Andre Balazs group into its current state.

The vision for this hotel is a spa/hotel that utilizes water as a therapy/treatment. Hence, there are the three pools: the main pool, hot tub and Arctic plunge. Here's a view looking back toward the hotel from the pool:

There is a spa in the main building with a Turkish style Hamam, eucalyptus steam room, large sauna, and a wall of sound shower [which, sadly, hasn't worked the two times I've stayed here].

The rooms are Scandinavian style, all blond wood and big white beds. There was a lack of shelf space but they've added Ikea roll-away drawers and some folding tables to compensate.

I wrote about the cuisine at The Lido earlier this week: it’s clean, flavorful, organic and local. And they do their best to make it allergic girl, allergic person friendly!

However, speaking of allergies: Balazs’ property is doggy friendly. They allow little dogs at this hotel, in the rooms and on the property. When I first stayed there last year, I thought “uh-oh” this might be a problem. I NEVER opt to stay at hotels that are doggy-friendly, just the opposite. But I took a chance here and I’m glad I did.

As I mentioned the rooms are sparsely decorated, no rugs, wood floors with cotton sheets [and a cotton coverlet for me, no feather duvet] washed regularly if requested. There’s air conditioning and the windows open so there’s ventilation. I was able to request a room where no doggy has stayed and they hotel was able to honor that request as they said they only allow dogs in certain rooms. I've never had an issue doggy-wise.

Overall, I think this is best deal in South Beach: it's serene, it's a spa and I can eat allergen-free!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Prime 112

The good news: the staff at Prime 112 was quite conscientious about taking care of my allergies. The communication between the manager and our waitress was excellent. She knew all about the allergic girl sitch before I sat down. (I had called ahead).

The bad news: there was little save the steak on the menu that was truly safe to eat at Prime 112. For example, the broccoli was steamed in the same steamer with the lobster and the truffled French fries were fried in the same fryer with the walnut-crusted goat cheese croutons.

This is not a place set-up to make special meals, and on a Saturday, night probably less so. To be fair, when I called ahead to discuss my food allergies with the general manager, she said as much. However, we booked a 6pm dinner reservation [us and the blue hairs of Miami Beach] and decided to try it with the manager's blessing that this would be the safest time. If I had felt uncomfortable it would have been still early enough to go elsewhere and eat well if necessary.

I had heard so many great things about Prime 112 and it’s so difficult to get a dinner reservation and the waitress was so on top of everything, I ordered the steak and hoped for the best.

Here’s a picture of what arrived:


It was aged, which is not my favorite taste. It was the NY Strip, which is not my favorite cut. It had a lot of sinewy flesh, possibly the result of an inferior piece of meat. I ate charbroiled edges that had been salted and were well done and left a huge tasteless hunk of pink on my plate.

It was not a great steak.

The waitress, although sweet and doing her very best kept giving me “oh your poor thing” looks. She never actually said this but the downward cast glances and the back rubbing [yes, she rubbed my back three times] said it all. I appreciated that she understood the importance of the task at hand, that is feeding a severely allergic person, but pity isn’t a great approach.

So upshot: I would not recommend Prime 112 for allergic diners nor would I recommend it to any diner. It’s a pretty place but not worth the hype or moolah.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Miami Book Fair International 2007, A Food Panel

I attended a very interesting panel at the Miami Book Fair International on Saturday entitled "Why We Eat The Way We Eat Now".

The standing room only audience pictured here

and I listened to the three panelists pictured here

discuss “Why We Eat What We Eat”. The panel included David Kamp, Laura Shapiro, and Molly O’Neill. This illustrious panel was moderated by Marcel Escoffier.

Here are Molly and David conversing in low tones

before they launched into a discussion about how we as Americans got here; how we became the eaters we are now.

David Kamp asserted that our current culinary tastes were formed by Craig Claiborne, Julia Child, and James Beard and that the new food movements aren’t elitist as many claim/bemoan. He asked: what’s wrong with better/higher quality food that’s more readily available? He also wondered aloud why Americans have such a dysfunctional relationship with food. To wit: Americans will happily wait on line for a $400 iphone; however, when Kamp suggested that Americans should spend $5 a week more on their food budget, they cried that don’t have the cash.

Laura Shapiro's comments focused upon Julia Child and Julia’s relationship with food. According to Shapiro, Julia wanted to change Americans relationship with food from the outset. She wanted Americans to “get in there with their food”. Julia made this notion particularly famous when she told her audience: “you’re alone in the kitchen; who’s going to see” after she flipped a potato pancake which splattered everywhere, broke in two and she patched it up. According to Shapiro’s exhaustive research, Julia’s lasting message was: Trust food.

Molly O’Neill asserted that in our supposedly classless society, food tastes are a determinant of class. She relayed how her mother would look down upon the neighbor children whose mother gave them coca cola for breakfast. She then talked about the earliest known American food writing, colonists waxing poetic about the American bounty and their feelings of entitlements to partake in it.

Overall, it was dynamic discussion about class, taste-makers, politics and our current collective relationship with food in America.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Lido at the Standard, Miami

Ever since my interview with Executive Chef Mark Zeitouni of the Lido at the Standard Hotel last March, I knew I was in great hands when I want to eat allergen-free in South Beach, Florida.

That is saying a lot -- this is another fishy coastal town, like Newport, RI. Floridians love their fish which, as you may know, is very un-fish-allergic girl friendly. (Quite a boon for the gluten-free folks though.) In my few past visits to the palm tree swaying, tanned, hard body paradise, I’ve had a very difficult time finding something safe and yummy to eat. That’s why you see only one recommended spot in Palm Beach. Meal mishaps thy name has been Miami.

Until now.

Now I have a new go-to spot in South Beach. Executive Chef Mark Zeitouni, his Chef de Cuisine Dennis and Sous Chef Chris have taken great care of me whilst I’ve been hanging in South Beach for the Miami Book Fair International.

**Did you notice the names I mentioned? These are the people with whom I’ve had a personal discussion about food allergies; they understand, they care and they get it! If you go to dine at The Lido at the Standard, Miami or any of the places I've recommended say "Hi!" to the manager, you'll already know their name. Please, call ahead, talk to the chef, you'll know their name too. Really, they're willing, wanting, waiting to hear from you and create something yummy, just for you.**

On this trip to The Standard, I’ve eaten most meals a l'hotel. Costly, I know but the food here is organic, natural and prepared very cleanly. And they've totally taken care of me and my allergies!

I have had eggs and potatoes for breakfast or organic steel cut oats with honey; Greek salads with chickpeas or feta; and mini turkey burgers or beef burgers with a side salad, no bun of course. For dinner, I’ve especially enjoyed a very moist breast of chicken with simply grilled haricot verts with lemon juice, olive oil. (The recipe for the chicken will be forthcoming ASAP).

Here are some pix.

Breakfast:


$5 corn on the cob but oh so good:



Salad with chickpeas poolside:


If you're in Miami or planning a trip, stop in to The Lido at the Standard, Miami say Hi to Chef Mark and enjoy!

The Lido at the Standard, Miami
40 Island Avenue
Miami Beach, FL 33139
tel: 305.653.1717

Saturday, November 10, 2007

David's Cafe, Miami Beach

Had a light dinner last night at this South Beach mainstay, David's Cafe.

An allergy card in Spanish would have come in VERY handy at this place [note to self] as only the host spoke English enough to understand "allergies".

This being the case I kept it simple with black beans and rice which were delish.


My dining companion had pork chops with sauteed onions, white rice and sweet plantains which as she ate she kept "mmmm'ing" to herself. Always a good sign.


This review is truly only a mention versus a full on review. I wasn't prepared not to be able to communicate with the staff. Next time I'm down in South Beach, I will go with an allergy card and really try some Cuban cuisine.

David's Cafe
1654 Meridian Avenue
South Beach, FL 33139
tel: 305.672.8707

Thursday, November 08, 2007

"Provisional" Status

You may see that on many of my recommended restos I've placed a [PROVISIONAL] note. This refers to the fact that I've been there only ONCE and even though I liked it, ate safely, talked with the owner/manager/chef, still it's only been tested by me ONCE.

Most restaurants I will frequent multiple times before I write them up. However, sometimes I've had such a great, welcoming experience the first time that I want to make sure you all know about it.

Especially with these provisional restaurants, PLEASE check with the restaurant first before going as chefs change, so do menus, owners, managers and attitudes towards the special request diner.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Restaurantspeak

Now I’m up for a good rant as much as the next guy. But something is off. Since when is a rant an article? Op Ed piece, sure, bring it on. But front page news in the Dining Out section of the New York Times?

In today’s NYT, Bruni takes on “restaurantspeak” as patronizing and obnoxious. (What would we do without Orwell's 1984 to guide us in newspeak?) No real argument there.

But is it newsworthy?

I think his wry observations might have been better placed on his Diner’s Journal blog rather than as an actual article.

I'm not ranting, just saying.

Still, have a read. If you dine out often you’ll recognize your evening out.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Miami Book Fair International 2007

“Who knew”, as one person said when I mentioned that I was going to the Miami Book Festival . “Who knew we have books in Miami?!”

True, there’s only the ONE great little bookstore on Lincoln Road that has all the hottest titles and stays open late; no mega stores here in South Beach, baby! But there’s a whole Miami Book Festival in the first week of November every year. Everyone is here: Rosie O’Donnell is hawking her new book, Celebrity Detox; Jenna Bush is talking tonight about a children’s book she wrote; and even authors I worked with whilst in publishing are passing through. (Hey, Abby Thomas! BTW the way her book is a truly beautifully honest look at how Abby dealt with her husband’s head trauma injury. Funny, sad, smart, elegant: a great read.)

This week, I'm amongst the literati and in attendance of one of the biggest book fests around. Specifically I’ll be talking with some food and health book authors for both Allergic Girl and Health Central.

So, stay tuned for more this week and next!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Sambuca, NYC

Kelly, Ms. Celiac Chick, and I had a fun dinner the other night at Sambuca. This was my first time there but I needn’t have been concerned, the Chick knew everyone and they knew her. So cool.

The manager David was very helpful and our waiter CJ gets extra points [and a BIG tip from me] for his allergen-friendly attitude, knowledge, and communication with the kitchen. Just one example, CJ offered to bring over ingredient listings for their home-made GF dinner rolls. Offered! Before I even requested. Fantastic Sambuca.

Here’s their gluten-free menu.

The food is family style and the restaurant is very family oriented: large portions, large groups and children are welcome, even encouraged. The Chick and shared a mixed salad. We both got GF dinner rolls and dipped them in olive. What a missed pleasure that was]. I had Tinkyada pasta with olive oil, LOTS of garlic, and steamed broccoli, it felt like the old days of eating out at an neighborhood Italian restaurant. The portion was so huge, even though I ordered the individual bowl, I had leftovers for days.

I was surprised by how comfortable, how understood and accepted I felt when I ordered. This is no small thing folks for an allergic diner or anyone with special needs. Above the GF food [which was yummy, heavy, garlicky and about par for an Italian American resto, GF or no], I left feeling happy to have a place where there was no eye-roll but just pure understanding and great service.


Sambuca
20 West 72nd Street
New York City, 10023
Telephone: 212.787.5656