Food Allergy Counseling

Food Allergy Counseling
Sloane Miller, MFA, MSW, LMSW, Psychotherapist; Specialist in Food Allergy Management, Speaking At Mylan Specialty / EpiPen Event (© Noel Malcolm 2013)

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Conde Nast Traveler, Pure Rooms

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

Monday, December 29, 2008

Allergy-Free Shop, Miami, FL

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

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

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

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

Jennifer said the cinnamon sugar ones are to die.

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

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

The Allergy-Free Shop
8803 SW 132 St.
Miami, FL 33176

Friday, December 19, 2008

Gluten-Free Finger Foods

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

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Connecticut Enacts Olive Oil Standards

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

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


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

Yay, Connecticut!

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

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

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

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

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

Always good advice.

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

New Food Allergy Study, Multiple Cities

From the New York Times last week:

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dr. Nicholas A. Christakis, Nut Hysteria

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 15, 2008

WFD Events in 2009

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Going Organic

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

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

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

(photo credit © Elbert Chu)

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

Scorpios Get More Asthma

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


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Marcus Samuelsson, Food Allergies

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

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

Giving and Giving Back

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

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

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

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

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

Pretty cool, right?

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

American Girl Place, New York

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

The American Girl store has been amazing with food allergies.

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

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

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

Kevin Moore
Café Lead

And def. let us know how it goes!

American Girl Place
609 Fifth Avenue at 49th Street
New York, NY 10017

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

Monday, December 08, 2008

Benjamint Crunch by Divvies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 05, 2008

Rouge Tomate, NYC

The Rouge Tomate open kitchen:

Sanitas Per Escam = Health Through Food

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

But I’m jumping ahead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

They brought out an amuse bouche of beets and citrus:

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

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

William explaining Shari's main dish:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Dairy-Free Restaurants in Philadelphia?

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

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

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

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

Thank you!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


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

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

From the HomeFree press release:

§ Free of peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and dairy

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

§ Certified organic

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

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

§ Baked and packaged in a dedicated bakery

§ Allergen tested

§ Without trans fat or cholesterol

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

§ Certified vegan (oatmeal cookies, and coffee cakes)

§ Certified kosher pareve

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Early Exposure to Nuts

From last week's New York Times.

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


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

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

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

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


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

Go Dairy Free by Alisa Fleming

(© Alisa Fleming,

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

I know, scary stuff.

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

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

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


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

Available online at Amazon or through Alisa’s site

Monday, December 01, 2008

Oak Room, NYC

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

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

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

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

The picture behind the bar:

The new copper-topped bar:

My prosecco on the copper topped bar:

One of the murals:

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

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

Divvies in the NYT

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

Friday, November 28, 2008

Allergy-related Holiday Gift Giving

Chanukah time and Christmas time is here, which means gifties. And today, Black Friday, is the official start of the gift buying season.

Over at, I've written about ones that we adore and ones that frankly won’t get used, will get regifted or won’t even get opened -- can you say scented candle?

Gift dos.

And gift don’ts.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Be An Allergen-Free Thanksgiving CEO

There’s a story in today’s New York Times about approaching turkey day like a CEO. According to the article (written to the harried hostess):

The goal is to find what Dr. Friedman calls “a compelling image of an achievable Thanksgiving.” The crucial word being “achievable.”

I love goals that are achievable. And you know I’m all about advocating for your food needs. However, sometimes eating allergen-free during a Thanksgiving gathering is just not an achievable goal.

So, I say, think like a CEO. Change the goal.

Instead of focusing of the negative, what you can't eat say, focus on the real joy of the holiday which is about being together and giving THANKS. Reconnect with cousin Sue or spend more time getting to know your new in-laws; watch the game with Dad or play on the train set with junior.

Remember: food is just the conduit. Food is a good conduit, a yummy conduit, but still just the means, not necessarily the end.

OK, but what about that pesky dinner sitch?

Take Thanksgiving leadership and get what you need for your safety and peace of mind. There is no shame in taking care of yourself and your needs, in fact it can be a source of great pride! Speak up, bring a dish, talk with the hostess, advocate for your needs assertively, never aggressively.

If all else fails, bring your own safe meal with you. It can eliminate the anxiety that large gatherings with unknown dish origins can bring and help to refocus you, to give you the mental and physical freedom to really enjoy yourself.

I wouldn’t necessarily use BYO Meal as first resort but if you are here the day before and already really stressing because Aunt Bee said, “Gluten, that’s sugar, right?” then do what you need to do to stay SAFE on this holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Worries?

Whether new to being gluten free or new to having food allergies or a child with allergies, this post and (this Thanksgiving recipe post) from fellow blogger, Gluten-Free Girl is sure to help. Read it and help your family help you this Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Chicago Tribune: “A Recipe for Disaster”

Sam Roe over at the Chicago Trib continues to turn up the heat for companies who claim they employ safe practices segregating potential food allergens when creating/processing their private label food products. (Here's his first story.)

Read the story.

If you feel so inclined, send an email thanks to Sam Roe for writing it. I have. Twice.

Another thought, given all of this fabulous and frightening reporting: consider cutting down your consumption of processed foods. There are no nuts in a turnip. There's no wheat in beet root. Eggs do not come from kale. (You get my point).

“Le Veneziane” Gluten-Free Pasta

Gluten-free pasta is a tricky thing.

If you’ve tried the various brands and types on the market, you know: "gluey, dense, soggy, tastes off-putting" are just a few of the adjectives to describe when a good idea for a gluten-free pasta goes bad.

When I went gluten-free, back in 2005, I looked to the blogosphere to see which brands people loved and hands down it seemed to be Tinkyada, which I’ve stuck with as my go-to brand ever since.

But if you know me, you know I’m always pushing myself to try new things, new foods, new safe brands. So, last night when I went to Opus, I was intrigued to try their Italian corn based pasta, “Le Veneziane”. I had heard of it but hadn’t tried it. Opus owner Enzo said it tasted like “the real thing” and he wouldn’t use anything else. (Brand loyalty is so interesting isn’t it?) Made in Italy, out of two ingredients, corn and water (neither of which I have any issues with but if you are corn allergic, def. not for you) I said, “Sure, bring it on.” And had the spaghetti with homemade Bolognese sauce (which was delish!)

And the pasta? Enzo was right! Made al dente, the texture was right, the mouth feel is great and with some meat sauce on top it tasted like “real” pasta to me. Now mind you I haven’t had wheat in 3.5 years and one’s tastes changes when one eliminates a food. But for my money, the pasta that Opus served me last night was delicioso—I have half of it for lunch today and I can’t wait.

“Le Veneziane” is not so easy to find as Gluten-free NYC discovered last year. However, you can get it on and through Quattrobimbi who will be doing a pasta giveaway this month through my newsletter!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Uno Chicago Grill Goes Gluten-Free

(Reprinted with permission)

Uno Chicago Grill® is the nation’s first casual dining chain to offer a gluten-free pizza, currently testing the new menu item in its Northeastern Region. The new pizza debuts during Gluten-Free Diet Awareness Month (November) and has received a very positive reaction from guests who suffer from celiac disease, which affects approximately one percent of the population.

The company’s gluten-free menu has over 12 items ranging from entrées, salads, sides and desserts. For guest convenience and safety, Uno clearly labels menu items with ingredients that are linked to the most common food allergies, such as fish/shellfish, soy, tree nuts/peanuts, egg, milk and wheat/gluten. Diners can also preview the menu and nutritional information online via the company’s website at

The new gluten-free pizza is being tested at Uno Chicago Grill locations in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Massachusetts (excluding Worcester, Springfield/Holyoke, and Dedham).

“Thus far, indications have been extremely favorable, and sales are exceeding our expectations,” notes Rick Hendrie, senior vice president of marketing for Uno. “We hope to roll it out to all stores in 2009.”

I spoke with the publicist who said Uno is also working on a frozen GF pizza for your local supermarket. Meanwhile, I’m waiting to hear more details about their food allergen awareness information.

Since this glorious GF pizza isn’t happening in NYC yet, GF folks in New England, please let us all know how if you tried it yet...

UPDATE: From Erin of Gluten-Free Fun, the early results from this GF Uno campaign are not great. See this Meetup link.

Friday, November 21, 2008

NYU’s Fales Library, Food Writing

Yesterday was one of the crazy quadruple stacked days, meetings, events then more events.

For the pre-cocktail hour, I went to this Food and Food Writing talk at NYU Fales library. I'm glad to see someone wrote about this one, because I was late.This run down is pretty succinct by the Village Voice Didn't know the Voice was there. But Florent was in the audience as was my new best buddy, Marion Nestle.

Epinephrine as Life-Saving Accessory

Kavita Varma-White of writes about the new generation of epi-carriers for auotinjectors of epinephrine. I use a ziploc if you must know.

Kavita interviewed some of our community (including me but I didn't make the story) like Peanut-Free Mama Gabs and Zum Family Janeen.

Congrats all! Good article!

Chicago Tribune: “Children at risk in food roulette”

Great reporting today done by Sam Roe of the Chicago Tribune.

Children at risk in food roulette: Mislabeling, lax oversight threaten people with allergies

Here's an excerpt from the story:

"American children with food allergies are suffering life-threatening--and completely avoidable--reactions because manufacturers mislabel their products and regulators fail to police store shelves, a Tribune investigation has found.

In effect, children are used as guinea pigs, with the government and industry often taking steps to properly label a product only after a child has been harmed.

The Tribune investigation revealed that the government rarely inspects food to find problems and doesn't punish companies that repeatedly violate labeling laws."

Read the rest of the story here. And check out the database of recalled foods they created here.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

'21' Club, NYC

“Hurry up lady, we’re in a rush.”

This greeting, proffered by three 20-somethings hovering around my cab door as I paid the fare, was the beginning of a divine dining experience at the '21' Club.

Yes, divine.

It could have gone the other way. I’ve had those nights, I’m sure you have too, where I wanted to cut my losses early and if not for a date I’d been looking forward to, a work colleague waiting for me or for tickets already purchased, I would’ve been better off at home.

But the first reversal of the evening was when that curbside “greeting” was immediately rectified by the '21' doorman who said: “I’m so sorry,” and looked equally horrified by such surprisingly rude behavior. '21' doorman and I had a big laugh about and I thought to myself: This might be a very cool night after all.

I was ushered into '21' Club's elegant front room, instantly familiar to me from All About Eve and Sweet Smell of Success. I relished the clubby, cozy, living room/historical feel. Sometimes in these kinds of places I feel about six years old, out of place, out of my league; but here I felt comfortable and welcomed.

My dinner companions including Deb Fortune of Fortune PR, fellow panelist during the Bulldog Reporter Food Marketing & Publicity 2008 Summit, were waiting in the cocktail lounge. (Now there’s a cozy nook I want to go back to). Pausing at the host’s station, I saw my name and my allergies clearly delineated. Things were looking up.

We were brought to our table, named “Bogie’s Corner”. Yes, that Bogie. And yes, his corner table, where he reportedly proposed to Bacall.

I was feeling mighty good by then and wondering about the next hurdle: the food. How Allergic Girl safe was the whole experience going to be?

Our knowledgeable and fellow native New Yorker server Anthony--who said he grew up with another Jewish Sloane (she of park Avenue, me not so much)--had my allergies written down and memorized. He said the chef was prepared for me and happy to make any necessary accommodations.

I ordered the chicken soup without noodles and then, (sorry, Tessa) a burger. "21" Club is famous for its burger; it’s made with duck fat. Deb and I split the burger and the kitchen created two mini burgers, one for each of us. My bun-less burger was fatty and rare, well seasoned and yum. And it came with steamed veggies, without my needing to ask.

You see how good this evening was getting? Nice doorman, allergies all spelled out, great table, fun company, yummy safe food...

But then there was more. So we are all laughing and drinking and eating and enjoying the two gentlemen at the table next to us, octogenarians, ordering steaks with Châteauneuf du Pape when our excellent server Anthony leans in and asks me the best question of the night.

“Do you want to go downstairs?”

“Oh yes,” I replied. Without hesitation.

“What’s downstairs?” my dinner companions asked. Why, “21” Club’s “secret” wine cellar of course and we were in for a personal tour. We had a few minutes to wait so Anthony poured me a second glass of champagne, on him, and we continued to eat, now dessert, fresh berries for me.

We toured the downstairs secret bootleg cellar (which if I tell you about I might have to hurt you), walking through the kitchen to get there. On the wall of the kitchen, I espied a list of the top 8 most common allergens and what to do in case of an emergency.

On the way out, the same doorman, grining said, “Hey, Hurry up!” And we all had an even bigger laugh about it.

I left wondering how did I get so lucky? Is this how they treat everyone with allergies? Like celebs?

Thank you "21" Club for a great old New York night on the town. I felt welcomed, I ate well, our server Anthony was a star and no allergic issues.

'21' Club,
21 West 52nd Street,
New York, New York 10019
(212) 582 7200

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What Did This Allergic Girl Get for Her Birthday?

That's right, it's cake. Day-after cake to be exact.

What's so special about cake for your birthday? With all of the many allergen-friendly mixes out there, it much easier to make an allergen-free cake like any Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker “home cook” and have cake.


However, did you notice? It's cake in a box. As in *I* didn't make it?

It was my birthday recently and I did something bold: I asked Blue Smoke, a restaurant I patronize and host of our kids WFD event -- and a resto whose staff is very allergy aware/friendly -- if they might bake a special cake for me. It was special because I gave them a mix and asked their pastry chef to do the honors. And you know what they said? “We’d be happy to!”

Let me break this down. The pastry chef made a cake, not her own, not using any of her own flair nor ingredients nor ideas nor inspirations. She made a cake like many of us do, from a mix; this is a big deal for a pastry chef to do. She could have said something along the lines that this Boston bakery said to this young bride. But no she said: “We’d be happy to accommodate you.”

How amazing. How above and beyond. How wonderful. And of course she made a beautiful professional cake, three-layer, 10 inch round with a pink inscription.

Wowee wow.

On the whole, because of this restaurant's commitment to hospitality, (because at its heart that's what this is about, not allergies, but a restaurant’s commitment to serving the guest as best as they are able) for the first time *in years* I had birthday cake, at a restaurant, on my birthday.

So good.

But here’s the biggest gift I gave to myself: trust. Trust that they would make this cake mix and that they would make it safely. And they totally delivered.

So this is my birthday wish for you: I wish that this year you find one friend, one teacher, one family member, one chef, one restaurant, one flight attendant, one hotel, one *someone* who totally gets it and is able to deliver!

If you’ve already found them, great for you! Tell me about it!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Allergic Girl at the Princeton Club

A lovely consequence of presenting at the Bulldog Reporter Food Marketing & Publicity 2008 Summit and being a panelist about the dos and don’ts of pitching niche food bloggers along with Smitten Kitchen, Cupcake Takes The Cake and Epi Log was sitting at Jim Sinkinson’s table with other supa dupa fly panelists and speakers during lunch.

What a total treat!

Especially sitting with esteemed Marion Nestle. Of course I peeked whilst she ate her salad and only half of her fish dish before she stood up and talked about the important of portion size in the national debate about obesity--among other things, great speech.

I love practioners who practice what they preach.

Speaking of which, what did this Allergic Girl eat? How did I handle this situation: conference dining at the Princeton Club? I’m a panelist. There are a few hundred of us. It’s a set menu. And all eyes are on everyone. Could be daunting.

I did a version of the Cheers Experience and all was wunderbar.

Firstly, when the Bulldog Reporter conference producer invited me to join them for lunch I asked if the Princeton Club kitchen could accommodate my needs. He said sure, he was in touch with the chef and would send over my list of requests.

Well, what in theory sounds good isn’t always quite right on the ground. It seems my special meal requests went “missing” as I wasn’t the two vegan meals or the one lactose intolerant guest they had planned for.

No matter. In a flash, the young floor manager came over and asked what I’d like for lunch. As I had noshed before I went, in case of this occurrence, I asked for just some plain steamed veggies, only. He offered a starter of a berry plate. Yay! The entire table stopped as my gorgeous berry plate landed at my place setting.

“How did you get that?” asked my clearly envious table-mates.

“Food allergies.” I said with a big smile. The berries were plentiful I offered them to my table and Marion Nestle took some. She said she likes sharing food and wonders why more people don't do it more often.

My main dish was steamed veggies, which is really all I wanted before I was presenting; no big lunch necessary.

I was impressed with how quickly the kitchen and management of the Princeton Club was able to get this Allergic Girl something yummy to eat in a room full of a 200 or so food publicists and food marketers.

So a big bloggy public thank you to Briggs at The Bulldog Reporter and Jason, floor manager at the Princeton Club for ensuring that this Allergic Girl had some safe fuel before her panel!

NYT: 12 Year-Old Food Critic

I love this kid.

12-Year-Old’s a Food Critic, and the Chef Loves It
By Susan Dominus. "An adventurous young foodie investigates a new Italian restaurant on the Upper West Side."

Can you imagine your food allergic kid being this self-sufficient? Go on, imagine it because it can happen with your help and guidance.

UPDATE: I love this kids but jeez c'mon, buying his whole life movie rights?

Life Disrupted by Laurie Edwards

From my review on

“There are several new voices about living with chronic illness: Jenni's Chronic Babe, Kris's Crazy Sexy Cancer, and Laurie Edwards author of Life Disrupted: Getting Real about Chronic Illness in your Twenties and Thirties...Edwards has written a roadmap to what her life has been like with serious ailments that had no clear diagnosis until she was finally diagnosed with Primary ciliary dyskinesia or PCD in 2003 along with celiac disease.

Her book, Life Disrupted: Getting Real about Chronic Illness in your Twenties and Thirties is organized in three vital sections: medical life, public life and personal life. Edwards tackles each of these sections with compassion, courage, humor and a lifetime of real world experience. She's learned solid lessons about being the best advocate for your health; not letting illness and disease define you; and how "[b]eing well means being able to find a place for chronic illness within the context of our relationships and our professional lives, not at the expense of them."

You can read more of my review on

Monday, November 17, 2008

Allergies to Tangerine Seeds

As a brief follow up on the food aversion versus food allergy story, this study is proof that there are many allergies outside of the top 8 big bad boys--like citrus seeds!

From the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, Volume 101 Number 5 November 2008:

We describe the first case of anaphylaxis due to sensitivity to tangerine seed but not to tangerine fruit...The present patient, who was sensitive to several tree nuts and to tangerine seed but not to tangerine fruit, was likely responding to cross-reacting antigens in tangerine seeds and tree nuts. Cross-reactivity between seeds and tree nuts has been attributed to common allergenic structures in hazelnut, sesame seeds, and poppy seeds...because this child also had a history of anaphylaxis to almond and cashew, it is likely that he was sensitive to cross-reacting antigens in nuts and seeds. This, then, is the first report of a systemic reaction after ingestion of tangerine seeds but not tangerine fruit. -- Emily T. Wang, MD, Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, University of Michigan School of Medicine, Ann Arbor, Michigan

For more info on this abstract please see the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Hans All Natural: Where Did They Go?

UPDATE: Seems the pvt label idea didn't work so well. The new Hans label went back to the recognizable Hans with a caveat that it's pvt label for WF. So long as I can find it...

So I was looking for my favorite Hans All Natural just to be told by a Whole Foods stockist that they don’t carry them anymore. Hmmm and in their place was a 365 sausage brand i.e. Whole Foods private label. I really don’t like it when Whole Foods does that; they also did that same switercheroo with GF dessert mixes.


So I wrote to Hans All Natural and got a very speedy reply about where they went:

"If you are referring to our Hans All Natural sausages at Whole Foods, they are currently transitioning to a Whole Foods label created by us. It looks like this:

The following retailers in New York are authorized to carry our chicken; what that means is that we ship products to their distribution centers but whether they send the products to the store closest to you, we don’t know:

o Costco (Coleman Natural chicken and hot dogs; Hans All Natural sausage)
o Food Emporium (Coleman Natural bacon and hot dogs)
o Fresh Direct online grocer (Coleman Natural bacon and hot dogs)
o Giant (Nature’s Promise bacon and hot dogs)
o Hannaford (Coleman Natural chicken)
o King’s (Coleman Natural chicken)
o Price Chopper (Coleman Natural bacon, chicken, deli meat, franks, hot dogs and kielbasa)
o ShopRite (Coleman Natural chicken)
o Stop and Shop (Nature’s Promise bacon and hot dogs)
o Tops Markets (Coleman Natural chicken)
o Trader Joe’s (Hans All Natural sausage; Trader Joe’s brand natural deli meats, hot dogs, kielbasa and sausage)
o Wegmen’s (Hans All Natural sausage)
o Weis Markets (Coleman Natural bacon, franks, hot dogs and sausage)
o Whole Foods (Coleman Natural kielbasa")

Good to know! So they have gone underground (kinda sorta) and I now know what to look for in WF when I'm hankerin' for a Hans.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bionaturae Responds

I tried Bionaturae pasta once, at Otto Entotecca, a few mother's days ago.

The package clearly lists soy flour as one of several ingredients. I was still working through my elimination diet and I just didn't think soy was a major culprit. [And after seventeen years as a vegetarian, now I soy intolerant? It just didn't compute to me]. So not believing soy would bother me, I tried the Bionaturae pasta dish that Otto made for me. And that night and the next day, my tummy told me soy flour is not good for this Allergic Girl.

The internet being what it is, the owner of Bionaturae, in Italy, heard about that I was made ill by her product and wrote to let me know their side.

With her permission, I'm sharing her email with you.


Dear Allergic Girl,

My name is Carla and I am the owner of bionaturae. Someone at our company happened to read your blog about eating our gluten free pasta at Otto and getting ill. I was very disappointed to read about this experience and would like to respond on behalf of our company.

Our gluten free pasta is made in a dedicated gluten free facility in Italy and we are the largest manufacturer of gluten free pasta in Italy. Bionaturae has been the number one brand of organic pasta sold in the US for many years. We began making gluten free pasta in 1972, one hundred years after our facility first started making wheat pasta. We began selling our gluten free pasta in the US in 2002 and have sold many millions of bags of pasta since then. Our gluten free pasta is tested during every production cycle, using the Elisa testing method at a level inferior to 20ppm. Our dedicated gluten free facility is also egg free.

I personally respond to all consumer e-mails (although the consumer does not know this) because it is important for me to be in touch with the people who are eating our foods on a daily basis. I have honestly only had one mother say her daughter reacted to our pasta on two separate occasions. Your complaint is just the second one received in six years.

I wanted to let you know that I myself have allergies, as well as my daughter. It is extremely difficult for us to eat out as a family. I personally sympathize with you and other people who have food allergies. Offering a gluten free product to consumers is a very serious responsibility and I assure you that our company is producing bionaturae gluten free pasta in a very secure manufacturing process.

Please let me know if I can be of more assistance.

Best regards,

Carla Bartolucci

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Not Plain But Only

This bit of food allergy dining etiquette is my new favorite thing.

Very often I order a dish saying I want it, “plain.” And then that dish comes distinctly NOT plain i.e. sauced, dressed, with non-ordered and completely contaminated fries. Sigh. (Here's a rant about that very thing.)

I always wonder what went wrong?

How did plain not mean plain?

Executive Chef Cliff Saladin at the Sheraton Tarrytown explained that from his perspective and in his experience, very often servers will interpret “plain” to mean what THEY think it means not what YOU think it means.

What to do?

Chef Cliff suggests saying “Only”.

For example, “I’d like a burger with lettuce tomato and onion only.”

I tried it that night and everything arrived just as it should have and as I requested: a grilled chicken breast with polenta and some tomato sauce on the side. Only.

Here's a picture:

This is my new favorite tip. I can’t wait to try it out at more places.

If you try it, let me know if it works for you.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Food Marketing & Publicity 2008 Summit

I’ll be speaking at the Food Marketing & Publicity 2008 Summit, November 17, 2008 about the dos and don’ts of pitching niche food bloggers along with Smitten Kitchen, Cupcake Takes The Cake and Epi Log.

(From the press release)

"New Food Marketing & Publicity 2008 Summit Reveals New Ways to Supercharge Media Coverage and Results

PR and marketing professionals who want to meet top food journalists and bloggers, as well as new methods for increasing their visibility online and in traditional media, will discover practical strategies at a new conference from Bulldog Reporter’s PR University: Food Marketing & Publicity 2008 Summit. Attendees will come away with inside placement tips from top food journalists and media relations experts, plus explore Web 2.0 techniques that will dramatically boost coverage.

For more information on taking part in this one-day intensive summit, go to the conference home page, print our 5-page brochure or call 1-800-959-1059."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Gluten-Free Baking, Chef Richard Coppedge

Looking for some help creating a gluten-free puff pastry, pizza or bagels?

You can find the right GF recipe and many more revamped classics in the new book on Gluten-Free Baking by Culinary Institute of America's Chef Richard Coppedge.

Read more of my interview with chef and author here on

Question for NYC Parents

OK, NYC parents -- *I* need some assistance.

Friends are coming in from the burbs this Saturday and want to take me out to dinner here in Manhattan.

They have 2 little girls, 5 years old and 1.5 years old who eat everything.

So we need a place good for parents and kids and good for this allergic girl.

I can’t for the life of me think where to go that’s yummy, allergen friendly and kid friendly on a Saturday that isn’t a diner!

Any suggestions would be so helpful--write a comment or email me!.


PS We're going to Landmarc in the Time Warner Center. Thanks Shari!

Britney's Son Hospitalized Due to Food Allergies?

Looks like Brit Brit’s son might be part of the eighteen percent spike of children's allergies that's effecting so many American families. The below is from

Tuesday, Nov 11, 2008 2:50AM UTC

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Pop star Britney Spears' 2-year-old son, who was hospitalized over the weekend after he had a reaction to something he ate, has been released from a Mississippi medical facility, according to a report on Monday on celebrity website

Earlier in the day, Spears' family posted a statement on her official website,, saying Jayden James was admitted to the hospital on Sunday, and "doctors concluded he had a reaction to something he ingested."

The statement said the boy would be discharged on Tuesday, but TMZ posted a picture of Spears departing the hospital while holding the child on Monday evening.

People magazine, quoting a source close to the family, said that Jayden had suffered "a terrible allergic reaction. He had hives, was itchy and irritable."

The source told the celebrity magazine that Jayden "is doing fine" and Spears, 26, and her mother, Lynne, spent Sunday night at the hospital with him.

The trip by Spears to Louisiana, her childhood home, was the first time she had been allowed to leave California with sons Sean Preston, 3, and Jayden since their father Kevin Federline was given full custody in July.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Food Allergy or Food Aversion?

I’m all about communicating clearly and often to a restaurant to let them know about your food allergy ahead of time, asking the kitchen if they feel comfortable about accommodating you, and then continuing to be clear and polite in your communication with staff etc., etc., etc..

(And it works. See the Dell’anima post just last Thursday. Update: I thanked Joe by email. He said, “It was my absolute pleasure to make sure that you were taken care of last night.” How lovely is that?!)

When I talk about how to get your needs heard, I’m referring to those of us with food allergies for whom eating a specific food will cause a negative immunological response on the spot, quick and severe. (Food intolerant, you are in here too, no one wants a three day tummy ache or instant diarrhea or exacerbation of your genetic disease).

What about those for whom a certain food or ingredient is an aversion? It doesn’t make them sick; they just really *really* don’t like it? How should they get their needs met?

Through Serious Eats "Should picky eater fake allergies?" they report on a story pubbed by City Paper in Washington DC that talks about people who tell a restaurant that they are allergic when in fact they just don’t want a particular item. The story is called: Breaking Out in Chives. By Ruth Samuelson

“For the ingredient-averse, a dinner out can be a horrible experience. If they consume something that torments their taste buds, their meal will be ruined. So they learn to adapt.

They lie.

And while chefs and servers know that particular ingredients are unlikely allergens, they don’t dare call out their patrons—that would be discourteous and unprofessional. They have to take allergy requests seriously. So pretty much anyone can claim to be allergic to anything and, problem solved, the ingredient is removed!

But just because the kitchen staff doesn’t object doesn’t mean they don’t know what’s going on.”

The article interviews Jeff Black of Black Restaurant Group, which owns BlackSalt Fish Market & Restaurant in the Palisades and several other establishments in Maryland.

His advice:"Just be an adult, explain what you want, and his cooks will make adjustments. “Don’t play games. And don’t lie,” he says. “I’m expected as a business owner to have a certain amount of integrity. If I say something is going to be a certain way, it’s going to be a certain way—and you hold me to it. It should cut both ways.”

It should but it doesn't always. Not nearly.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard about this phenomenon usually as a complaint from chefs. They know who those people are, the ones who say they are allergic but quickly prove they aren't (usually by nibbling the offending item on a friend's plate, say) and it pisses them off. “Just tell me what you don’t like and I won’t put it in there,” chefs say to me about those folks.

As anyone with allergies or food intolerances or celiac disease or is diabetic or has any special dietary condition knows “just telling the chef what you need” doesn’t always work. This Allergic Girl blog is my chronicle of just that: which chefs don’t need to be told twice to really get it and those that are simply clueless.

My hunch is that these people with ingredient aversion have had the same experience we've had, namely: not being heard by restaurant staff. So they go to extremes, lying or misrepresenting the seriousness of their dietary request in order to be taken seriously.

This is a problem for everyone in the food allergic, food intolerant and yes, the food averse populations. It’s creating confusion and hard feelings on both sides of the kitchen.

The solution? Restaurants listen to your customers. I’m fairly certain that if these ingredient-averse patrons felt heard to be begin with the wouldn’t feel the need to break out the big guns and say that their dislike or oranges is in fact a life threatening allergy, when it’s no where near.

Food averse customers: don’t lie. Be honest and clear in communicating your needs to a kitchen. Chefs are people too; a good chef will want to accommodate you, whether you have an allergy or aversion. And if the chef doesn’t listen to your needs, go elsewhere.

From City Paper: Over at Vidalia, near Dupont Circle, Chef R.J. Cooper sees allergies, fake or real, as just part of the job.

“If I have a guest that walks in the restaurant, I’ll do whatever I can to make that guest happy. Any kind of allergies, any kind of modification,” he says. Cooper says the best thing a patron can do is call beforehand. The more time the kitchen has to prepare, the better it can make adjustments and write up a new menu, often with multiple dishes.”

Food allergic, food intolerant, food averse, and picky food eaters: take heed. Communicate early, often, assertively and politely. More often than not you will get just what you ordered.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Dell'anima, NYC

I did a daring thing last night. I wung it. No, not Wang Chung’ed it.

I wung it: going out to a new, untried, untested restaurant. Dell'anima.

Without calling ahead.

I know. Super daring. (*I am not recommending that YOU do this, just letting you know what I did.*)

It was a small group for dinner: Allison, her fiancé Brad and Allison’s cousin Matt. (Hi guys!)

I arrived much earlier than the reservation and everyone else in order to talk with the manager and to assess. The food is Italian; I had scanned the menu online and saw they had veggies, which is always my fallback posish.

Upon arrival, I smiled, a lot, and asked to speak to the manger, who happened to be at the host station. (What I didn’t know until this morning was the manager is also co-owner, Joe Campanale.)

I spoke with Joe, told him about my allergies and he said he would speak with the chef directly (who is stationed in a very open, very hot kitchen in the back of the small restaurant). Joe said he understood the seriousness of the situation and would make sure, “that certain foods didn’t touch my dishes”. He also said he would have the chef go through the menu and indicate which items were safe for me.

As we were being seated, Joe found me, said the waitress had been briefed and would go over my AG friendly menu at the table, which is exactly what she did. Discreetly. So discreetly that the others thought she was telling me the specials, which she was, in a way: a specials list just for me!

Loved that!

I ordered the chicken, which was spicy and smokey, more paprika than pepper flakes and super yummy over a bed of braised escarole and golden raisins. Simple. And no issues last night or today.

Joe swung by our table after service to make sure everything was alright. I thanked him, told him the waitress did a great job, asked him to thank the chef for taking care of me and thanked him for being able to accommodate me.

It ended up being such an easy evening. No drama, no eye roll, no questions marks: just clear communication, delicious AG friendly menu options and a lovely dinner. It should always be this easy.

Thank you Dell'anima team!

38 Eighth Ave.,
New York, NY 10014

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Pure Rooms by Pure Solutions

Recently, I was invited to a media luncheon and to stay overnight in a Pure Room at the Sheraton Tarrytown. I was excited to go and try it out.

What was my experience like in a Pure Room (keeping in mind that this was one night, in one room, in just one hotel of the many rooms they have nationally)?

I experienced no chest tightness during my entire stay. Yay!

I’ve stayed in hotels where chest tightness turned into a wheezy mess and we had to change rooms, leave the hotel or cut our stay entirely! So, staying in a room for over 12 hours straight, and not having any chest tightness, gets a big woo hoo from this allergic girl.

For $20 extra on top of your regular room rate (which is the cost of a Pure Room), I’d happily pay that to wake-up asthma free.

Here's a picture of my Pure Room bed with my O mag and a gift from the Sheraton team, the stories of Washington Irving, famously former resident of Tarrytown:

Here's the air filter, working hard to keep me asthma-free:

Here's the Pure certificate saying the Pure team has been here to inspect and will be back soon to keep up on the sitch:

Note Bene: A program like this one relies upon strict compliance by the participating hotel. In my case, there were lapses in compliance of pillow and mattress encasements which made me wonder if there were other lapses I wasn't aware of. However, because I was asthma-free during my stay, I'm thinking that most of the Pure program was in place.

I discussed the Pure program in depth with the Pure team. They don’t claim to create a "perfect environment" (what hotel room is ever perfect?) and it's certainly not a sealed room but what they've created and strive to perfect is a more comfortable room for those of us with respiratory issues and environmental allergies.

So the upshot: I enjoyed the experience, had a minimum of allergic responses *and* Pure Solutions is at the beginning of creating a potentially great allergen-friendly product for our community.