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)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Eating Allergen-Free at Other People's Weddings

I attended two weddings this month at two different restaurant/catering spaces: Bryant Park Grill and Tribeca Grill. In both instances, one without prior warning, both restaurants handled my allergies beautifully and without incident [i.e no mistakes]. I ate like an Allergen-free Princess and was able to fully enjoy the wedding[s].

How did I do it? Here are my steps (which include the assumption that you've brought your medication and have a designed safe person if possible):

1. If you can, without bother to the wedding party, do the usual: calling ahead, speaking with catering manger, floor manager or chef and explaining your needs just like you would a restaurant and like I’ve outlined in this post: "The Cheers Experience".

2. Sometimes, most times, you don’t have that luxury. So first and foremost: Don’t panic. And don’t go starved! Always bring along a safe snack. I’ve made it through a whole evening on some fruit juices and dried fruit. Yes, I may be hungry but I’m not starved; I eat when I return home. No, it’s not ideal but it’s safe. And when you feel safe, you can enjoy the party!

3. Upon entering the dining room, immediately ask for the manager in charge of catering. Don’t waste any time getting to this step; give the catering hall or restaurant as much time as you can to accommodate you.

4. Introduce yourself by name and ask for their name. This is not only more pleasant and courteous but when you sit down you will tell your serve to whom you spoke about your needs, they will know that you spoke to the top dog.

5. Gently and clearly explain to said top dog that you have food allergies/food intolerance/special requests.

6. List your needs; hand in a chef card if you have one.

7. Follow up by asking what they are planning on serving that evening.

8. Then make a YOU-friendly, allergen-free suggestion about what you’d like/need for your repast given the menu the wedding party has planned.

9. If the manager says they can take of you, great! (If the manager seems nervous, hesitant or uneducated about your needs, don’t risk it. Have one of your safe snacks instead that you packed; they’ll come in handy now.)

10. If it was a yes, when you get to your table, let your server know your needs, repeating that you have spoken to said top dog.

11. After every course, if you feel you need to, repeat your needs to the server. If there is any problem, never tell the bride/groom. Go directly to the person who is the liaison to the kitchen: the manager.

12. During and after your meal, check in with the manager (if they haven't already checked in with you first). Give the staff feedback about how the kitchen has handled or mishandled your requests. More often than not they will have done a great job, in which case thank them!


In my experience, and I’ve been to weddings all over the country, catering halls, hotels and restaurants where weddings are held more often than not are accommodating and can make adjustments as needed .

Remember to be VERY clear, assertive, and courteous with staff about your needs and the seriousness of those needs and more often then not they will be met.


PS: A public bloggy THANK YOU to Executive Chef, Stephen Lewandowski, managers Matt and Meghan at Tribeca Grill who were complete dolls and made everything so easy and delish. And to Tom and Bryant Park Grill who made that wedding a delight!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Allergic Girl and Culinary Institute of America

Back in the spring, the Culinary Institute of America invited me to participate in their food allergen awareness training videos.

From the website:

“Created as an industry service by The Culinary Institute of America participation with the National Peanut Board, this food allergy education program is an Internet-based educational program that encourages foodservice professionals to explore and adopt more carefully calibrated responses to the food allergy issue. Through informative text, video interviews and allergy free recipe ideas, this free program helps educate foodservice operators about strategies for meeting customers' needs without unnecessarily eliminating foods with potential allergens from their menus.”

A super long video of me is here which will be released to the public and CIA students in a few weeks.

Essentially, I talk about what it’s like to dine out from an allergic diner’s perspective eating out and what my steps are to ensure a great dining experience, both in terms of my responsibility to communicate my needs and the chef/restaurant’s responsibility to hear those needs and tell me honestly if they can accommodate them.

Allergic Girl
readers are getting an early exclusive invite to check out the landing site they created [it won't be made public for a few more weeks]. The site has all kinds of videos, recipes and resources, like a free downloadable chef card.

Kudos and thank you to the Culinary Institute of America and the National Peanut Board for training young chefs about diners with special dietary needs, requests and concerns i.e. us!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Interview with Executive Chef Cliff Saladin

Last week, I had an opportunity to sit down and talk with Executive Chef Cliff Saladin at the Sheraton Tarrytown whilst there for an allergy-friendly product media luncheon (more on that very soon).

I asked him one question: What do you need to hear from a diner with special needs in order to serve them safely and well?

Chef Cliff's tips:

--"We are here for you, the guest, so let us know what you need".

--"When making a reservation for your hotel room, in the section for 'notes' add your special requests right then and there".

--In notes: "Tell the staff then what you need and ask them to make the kitchen aware of your food allergies or food restrictions."

--"If you are dining in the hotel, give them at least 24 hours notice of your needs".

--"When you arrive, make yourself known to the chef".

--"Bring a chef card detailing your allergies". Chef Cliff loved the card saying "it takes the mystery out of it" and "eliminates surprises".

All of this you know by now, but it’s great to hear it again from another smart chef out there in the field.

Interestingly, Chef Cliff said what helped him the most is when I told him exactly what I wanted for lunch and for dinner.


You might think that some chefs wouldn’t want to know what you want or be told how to make a certain dish for you. That's certainly true for some chefs out there who want to give you what they determine you need. But more and more the attitude is: we are here for you; tell us how to feed you.

So three days prior, the Chef and I touched base by phone and then by email. I sent him my list being very clear about what I could NOT have and what I could have and thanking him in advance for any assistance he could provide.

When our group arrived, the below lunch was the set up. Chef told me he made many of the dishes with my needs in mind. So considerate--how wonderful! And it looks lovely, right?

Mozzarella Salad [GF]:

Romaine Salad with Ginger Dressing [GF]:

House made Hummus [GF] except for pita:

Curried Coconut Shrimp with Rice Noodle [GF]:

Chicken and Polenta [GF]:

Veggies and Rice [GF]:

Dairy-free Butternut Squash Soup [GF]:

Dishes laid out beautifully:

Dessert plate 1:

Dessert plate 2:

Truthfully, I just wanted a simple salad plate for lunch with some mozz, tom, and ava (I took a Lactaid and was cool). So, Chef Cliff went back and prepared this:

And then for dinner he made this lovely dish for me.

Talking with Chef Cliff reaffirmed that more and more chefs out there want to know how to serve those of us with food allergies. They need our help: communicate with them them clearly, kindly, politely; enlist them to help you. So many chefs I've spoken with are like Cliff, supportive, nurturing and want to hear from you.

Thank you again Chef Cliff and Sheraton Tarrytown for taking such excellent care of my dietary needs!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Coconut: Is It A nut?

A pineapple isn’t an apple nor is a cauliflower a flower; but when it comes to allergies, if you are like me (and I think you are) anytime "nut" is in a name your antennae go up.

Coconut is neither coco nor nut (discuss). Seriously, coconut is a drupe.

From wikipedia: In botany, a drupe is a fruit in which an outer fleshy part (exocarp, or skin; and mesocarp, or flesh) surrounds a shell (the pit or stone) of hardened endocarp with a seed inside. These fruits develop from a single carpel, and mostly from flowers with superior ovaries. The definitive characteristic of a drupe is that the hard, lignified stone (or pit) is derived from the ovary wall of the flower.

Some flowering plants that produce drupes are coffee, jujube, mango, olive, most palms (including date, coconut and oil palms), pistachio and all members of the genus Prunus, including the almond (in which the mesocarp is somewhat leathery), apricot, cherry, damson, nectarine, peach, and plum.

So, NOT a tree-nut genetically speaking. However, few "nuts" in the tree-nut allergy world are actually nuts, many are in fact drupes or seeds. (The FDA has categorized coconut as a tree-nut--look at section 25 here).

Since, historically I have NOT been allergic to coconut, I thought it was time I re-tried some.

I’m always looking to add foods to my diet, to expand it. I try to add a new thing a week. I know, wild and crazy but it’s vital not to feel restricted even when one is, well, restricted. More importantly, the world of food is huge and there are lots of safe foods out there for this Allergic Girl to try [in a very safe way of course--see below].

Sometimes it’s a new company, like Home Free Treats, I’m going to try them soon and I'm looking forward!

Or a new dish at a safe Allergic Girl approved restaurant: I tried the braised pork at Shorty’s .32 on Monday, sweet and sour, a simple preparation, with only a few ingredients. All was OK for this AG.

In some cases it’s a reintroduction of a food I haven’t had in many years. I’ve done that recently with coconut and woo hoo, it's a keeper!

Trying new foods side note: I always try something new with a safe person present; not on a Sunday when hospital rooms don't have their A-teams on or on a Saturday night which are typically busy with Saturday night shenanigans. I try a tiny bit once. Then if no reaction the next day or so I will try a little more. Slow and steady with this one. I only do this process with foods that I am 99% certain will NOT cause an allergic reaction i.e. foods I've had before without reaction but not in many years, like coconut.

For anything else: a food challenge at your allergists office is the only way to go.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Children's Food Allergies on the Rise

A lot of local/national mainstream media picked up one the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention press release about the rise of kids allergies that I linked to yesterday through the New York Times.

[Full report here: Food Allergy Among U.S. Children: Trends in Prevalence and Hospitalizations, Amy M. Branum, M.S.P.H. and Susan L. Lukacs, D.O., M.S.P.H.].

But, HEY MSM: Don't forget, adults have food allergies too!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Allergic Girl at Natural Food Expo East 2008

Speaking of Boston, lovely AGR, Inc. assistant Ami attended this year’s Natural Products Expo East 2008 on Allergic Girl’s behalf. Thanks Ami! Here's her on-the-ground report:

“What a treat, literally, to be at Natural Food Expo East 2008. I was thrilled to see just how many vendors there are with natural, wholesome products. And for those looking to eat allergy-free, the options were plentiful!

The Expo center was filled with great energy, as we all made our way through endless aisles of product - from food to vitamins to beauty to cleaning - natural products for people who want to be healthy in all aspects of life:

Here’s Laura from Cherrybrook Kitchen, the sponsor of our first Worry-Free Dinners event for kids. The CBK booth was just as welcoming as the products are delicious. We love them!

Another of the many booths I was really excited to stop at was Home Free - makers of an organic and allergy-free line of products. A fantasy combo! And so yummy too.

It's a pleasure to reintroduce our readers to products they already know and love and to some new ones that will be sure to be a hit.”

Stay tuned as some samples come my way and some tasting is done and there will be give-aways and samples for you too!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Allergy-Friendly Bakery in Boston Area?

I’m wondering if any of you have a resource for an allergy-friendly bakery in the Boston area?

This email below comes from an AG reader:

“My parents actually were the ones scouting bakeries for my wedding a few months back. (I’m allergic to allergic to soy, legumes, nuts, tree nuts, shellfish, eggs, alcohol, yeast and all fruit.) I know that two of the bakeries that my parents went to said that they did not want to "compromise" the name of their bakery by making a cake that would not have all of the ingredients that they usually put in and didn't want people eating that at the wedding and having their reputation for tasty cakes ruined.”

Please let me know your Boston area suggestions so perhaps this reader can have an allergy-friendly cake for her first anniversary.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Night of Four Stars: October 17, 2008

Something fun and cultural for all of you NYC folks (not allergy related but life is about more than just allergies). Nittin and Indro are buddies and I'll be in attendance. Come join me in supporting this incredible musical event!


Rare concert appearance with sarangi maestro Pandit Ramesh Misra in a duet with Snehasish Mozumder of Kolkata playing the mandolin. These two musicians together are awesome! Introducing Indrajit Roy-Chowdhury performing an opening sitar solo with Nitin Mitta accompanying all the musicians on tabla. Indro and Nitin are making their marks on the Indian classical music scene both here and touring in the U.S. and Canada.

Be part of an exciting Indian classical music happening!
All seats are reserved.
Call (212)772-4448 or go to the Kaye Playhouse Box Office on East 69th Street between Park & Lexington, Monday through Saturday, from 12-6.
Buy your tickets now to get the best seats!

VIP tickets $35 (first 2 rows)
$30 (3rd, 4th & 5th rows)
$25 rest of auditorium
$20 students with ID & seniors

Date: Friday, October 17, 2008
Time: 7:30pm - 9:30pm
Location: Lang Recital Hall at Hunter College
Street: East 69th Street (4th Floor) between Park & Lexington

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sweet, Food Festival

Was at the NYC Wine and Food Festival last night to go to Sweet. I went with Fab Foodie One, Shari Bayer, to check out the scene. Of course I couldn’t really sample much. However, we did bump into a nice woman who is wheat intolerant ["not celiac," she clarified] and she was happily sampling away.

Fab Foodie One and I chatted with Chef Dave Martin and Danyelle Freeman, Restaurant Girl. We bumped into Marcus Samuelsson and Chef Francios Payard. [Payard once threw me and my dear friend out of his jerky UES Payard outpost because she had her baby and stroller with her. How dare she bring a stroller into his inner santucm?! Needless to say, I did not say hello to him].

I took some atmos pictures so you could get a feel for the event. Most people were quite well dressed which is a departure from the Florida event, where shorts and drinking hats seemed the norm. The space, la. venue, was nicely laid out with Target setting off a living room type feel before one proceeded to the stretch of sampling stations from some of the best spots in NYC. The below pictures are all from the samples areas.


The Evian station, they kept all Sweeters hydrated:

Dessert from The Modern, so pretty:

The NYTimes is giving out T-cakes:

Kyotofu desserts [all soy based, the only "healthy" thing at Sweet]

Infamous Levain bakery cookies [nut-laden to be sure]:

Ono Candy Sushi:

Champagne Station on the way out or on the way back in, in case you were thirsty for some bubbly:


Upon exciting, grown people were holding their tummies saying "Too much" and "I over did it" and "Too sweet". But dollies, isn't that what you came to see and do? Sweet, the event, clearly delivered; a No Trick, All Treat for the discerning foodie/Food Network lover.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Getting on the Ticket

No, not that ticket, I'm not running for office...yet.

This is about getting your dietary needs on that all important meal ticket. The below is from Otto Enotecca Pizzeria a few weeks back.

I LOVE seeing "Nut Allergy" posted there--it's why I go back often and feel confident that the kitchen will serve an AG-friendly meal.

Where have you been of late where you felt safe?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Enjoy Life Foods' Halloween Tips

(From a recent press release)

Enjoy Life Foods teamed up with Gina Clowes of to help ensure that kids with food allergies aren't scared to trick or treat this Halloween. These helpful tips for being allergy-aware this Halloween can make trick or treating safe and fun for EVERYONE:

1. Be proactive. If you know of children in the neighborhood with food allergies, ask their parents what types of candies are safe. They'll be thrilled to know you care.

2. Keep a stash of “safe candy” or fun trinkets. Kids with food allergies or intolerances will be grateful to receive something they can actually enjoy. [Enjoy Life has a range of products to choose from].

3. Be discreet. If you know a child has food allergies, don't ask “Oh, you’re the one with the peanut allergy, right?” Kids want to fit in and don't like to be singled out.

4. Everyone loves ingredient labels. Give out candy with clear ingredient labels so parents and children can decide which candies are safe.

5. Don't drop candy into kids’ bags. Allow each child to select his or her candy. More often than not, they'll know which candies are safe and which aren't.

6. Listen to the children. If a child says “No thank you,” it may be because they don't see a safe option in what’s being offered. Don't make a fuss by insisting they take candy that may not be safe for them.

7. Parents know best. Don't assume that peanut allergy is the only allergy. There are many types of food allergies and food intolerances, so it’s important to let parents decide what candy is safe for their child.

8. Think of your guests. If you’re entertaining for Halloween, don't leave candy dishes unattended and be mindful of children “stashing” candy. Young children with food allergies may be easily tempted by “unsafe” candy.

“More than anything, children with food allergies just want to be included, and Halloween is no exception” says Gina Clowes of “We need to do our best to protect them, but we need to do it in a way that doesn't make our food-allergic kids feel as if they are being singled out,” she adds.

Great ideas EL and Gina: Thank you!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Gluten-Free Cake Recipe from

Hurrah! A gluten-free cake recipe video demo on!

This is such cool stuff, such a great move forward towards normalizing the dietary needs of us with food restrictions. Kate [in the vid] began to learn all about GF [she created the recipe] because her BF, Nick, has celiac disease.

So we have a double-whammy: a GF recipe in mainstream media and a very nice nod to how partners can and do support their loved ones with special dietary needs!

Rock on and pass it along.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Café D’Alcase, NYC

Went to brunch two Sundays ago with the lovely Casilda at one of her neighborhood faves: Cafe D'Alsace.

It was brunch, an easier meal for this Allergic Girl since I’m not allergic to eggs, so I didn’t do the whole call ahead thing. And Casilda is one of my “safe” people, meaning that she would understand if I couldn’t find anything suitable to eat there or felt uncomfortable and wanted to leave. [Get your safe people in place, it makes all the difference to dine out without judgment!]

I did start by talking with our waiter Duane who reassured me that the potatoes were sautéed not deep fried and no flour was used anywhere, a clean pan would be used for my eggs and that generally the kitchen could handle my needs without issue. [He even mentioned they don’t use a roux. What server talks to patrons about roux? I haven’t heard one do that in a long while].

Duane told us it was very common to get allergy requests, they were very used to it and the kitchen was very prepared to handle them.

Hmmm interesting and yay!

He checked on us several times after brunch was served to make sure I was ok and the food was safe. Great.

When we were done I had to ask him: who trained them about food allergies and food intolerances? Duane said, “Management.” In this case management is the team that owns several restaurants owned by Simon Oren that I have been to safely here in NYC including: Nice Matin,Marseille and 5 Napkin Burger.

My brunch of a mushroom omelet with roasted potatoes was yum and safe. I will have to try them for dinner and see how they do… but for now they get points for good communication, training and a good happy brunch.

Cafe D'Alsace
1695 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10128
(212) 722-5133

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Max Factor by Fred E. Basten

Cosmetic allergies.

Any of you allergic girls or boys and especially parents of allergic girls and boys know exactly what I mean.

When you think about it, how did we get to this make-up wearing era? Where did it all start?

The movies, the early ones, the silent ones.

And who was putting make up on those early moving picture stars? Who reinvented the industry for the then modern age?

Max Factor.

If you're curious about the cosmetics industry and the man who started it all, Max Factor, then check out this latest book: Max Factor by Fred E. Basten. (Full disclosure: the editor of this book is a close friend).

Here's the beginning of John Updike review from the New Yorker:

"The happy story of Max Factor, as enthusiastically told by Fred E. Basten in “Max Factor: The Man Who Changed the Faces of the World” (Arcade; $24.95), begins, like a movie, at a high-energy moment of extreme peril:

On a winter night in February 1904, twenty-seven-year-old Max Faktor huddled with his wife and three young children in a Russian forest, frightened more for the family he had kept secret for nearly five years than of the wind and snow or even the approaching czar’s men calling his name. Only days earlier, Max Faktor was a favorite of the royal family and was esteemed by the royal court. Now he was being hunted as a fugitive.

The little (“barely five feet tall”) Polish Jew’s involvement with the czar had advanced with the quick progressions of a fairy tale. One of ten children born to a worker in the textile mills of Lodz, he was reared by his siblings and had scant formal education. At the age of seven, he was set to selling oranges, peanuts, and candy in the lobby of Lodz’s Czarina Theatre; he later called this his “introduction to the world of make-believe.”


Thursday, October 02, 2008

Interview with EpiCard Founders

I had a chance to interview Intelliject twins founders Eric Edwards and Evan Edwards via email about their allergies and their new epinephrine delivery system currently being considered by the FDA for approval: EpiCard.

You can

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Rosh Hashanah with Food Allergies

Last night I celebrated Rosh Hashanah with friends and family. Dearest friend, lovely supporter and safe person S. was the cook and hostess [with the total mostess] who created a Sephardic Rosh Hashanah.

Sephardic tradition on Rosh Hashanah is to have a seder of sorts [not unlike Passover] eating symbolic foods. Since Rosh is all about the head of the year, and harvest and bounty and the circle of life and forgiveness of past wrong doings over the year, we ate lots of yummy things relating to fertility and dates and beans.

Add to that in Sephardic tradition they serve green and gold foods [which I blurted out mid-seder were the colors of color war at my summer camp], it was quite a bounty.

At the table too was this allergic girl, her slightly less but still allergic mother, a vegetarian who is gluten-intolerant and dear friend C. who eats no veggies and fruit [by preference].

A lot for a hostess to juggle, but S. is up to the task. She introduced each dish with a list of its ingredients as a special nod to everyone’s needs so we all knew exactly what was safe for us and what was not.

Yay and thank you S.!

Below are some pictures of our Rosh seder. Did any of you have a Rosh dinner last night? How was it?


Symbolic foods for Rosh:

The special round challah for this time of year:


Lamb with black bean sauce:

My filled dinner plate:

Chocolate babka:

Honey cake with walnuts:

The now famous [if you heard Martha Stewart radio last week I mentioned these] homemade quince paste:

Flourless chocolate cake with almonds: