Food Allergy Counseling

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

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 HealthCentral.com, 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 Amazon.com 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 www.unos.com.

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 MSNBC.com 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.

True.

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 HealthCentral.com:

“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 HealthCentral.com.

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.

Harrumph.

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 healthcentral.com.

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!.

Thanks!

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 Reuters.com.

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 TMZ.com.

Earlier in the day, Spears' family posted a statement on her official website, www.britneyspears.com, 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
212-366-6633

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.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Jennies Macaroons

UPDATE APRIL 2009: Jennies Macaroons made some changes on their packaging to reflect new FDA rules. It now says :"peanut-free facility" & indicates that coconut is now considered a tree-nut by the FDA.

Jennies Macaroons sent me some samples of their product to try.



An all-natural product, made with only 3 ingredients and gluten-free, I was looking forward to tasting. Also, it had been so long since coconut was in my diet, I wanted to add it back in, safely. (This is why I went through coconut boot camp and ended up just fine.)

I had a total Proustian moment when I took a nibble of the Jennies Macaroons. Sweet, soft, moist and very coconutty, I was transported to my grandmother’s house in Brooklyn. Happy memories of holidays, being with family, a connection to my Jewish heritage.

Ah macaroon, welcome back into this Allergic Girl’s world; I've missed you.

If you aren’t familiar with the macaroon, coconut, chocolate and almond macaroons with a coconut base are a typical eastern European Ashkenazi Jewish treat, especially around Passover. These Jewish macaroons are often found in your local grocer around Passover in the special foods section, Manischewitz makes them as well.

However, these macaroon’s shouldn't be confused with the French macaron (a sandwich cookie) although from what I’ve read the have a common origin. So interesting.

So does any of this sound temping? I hope so, because these macaroons are yummy and better yet, Jennies Macaroons are NUT FREE.

“Made from only three ingredients—coconut, honey and egg whites—all Jennies products are Kosher Parve, Perfect Weight America approved, free of soy, wheat, sulfites, dairy, trans fats and gluten, nuts and yeast, and are manufactured in a gluten, peanut and tree nut free factory. They have no preservatives, sulfites or fillers and are the #1 selling macaroon in the natural food market.”

What? How? Huh? How does a company that makes almond macaroons have a almond-free facility?

This is what Lisa, VP of Sales at Jennies Macaroons told me: “Jennies is a peanut-free and almond-free facility. The almond macaroons do not have almonds in them; rather they are flavored with an almond extract. The almond flavoring does not contain any actual almond or any other nut. It is a taste which comes from apricot pits.”

Still confused? Often almond extract is made from stone fruit pits since they have the same botanical origin.

Any questions, feel free to contact Jennies Macaroons.

Any other questions about your specific allergy needs, ask your board certified allergist/internist.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

boom CHOCO boom by Enjoy Life

Finally, Enjoy Life Foods has been making in-roads in to my local Whole Food stores where last week, the boom CHOCO boom™ bar showed up.

I was extra excited about trying their crispy rice bar. I was thinking (read: hoping) for a Nestlé’s Crunch kind of experience. I loved those as kid and they inevitably gave me hives. I don't have a chocolate allergy, those are very rare, but back in the day there was no allergen warning, so the bars were probably contaminated with nuts. (See the Nestlé’s Crunch website for updated allergen information).

I think a Nestlé’s Crunch kind of experience is what Enjoy Life Foods might have had in mind when they created this product. Or not. I don’t know. However I do know that compared to the Nestlé’s Crunch of my memory the Enjoy Life Foods bar was not as sweet, doesn’t have the smooth mouth feel and has way less crunchies.

But that is only if you are like me and are comparing your memory of a candy bar to the one you are munching. I don’t recommend doing that. What ever lives up to your memory of a thing? Precious little. (Except maybe this "Music to Your Mouth" commercial from 1980--it's exactly the same.)

On it’s own merits, the boom CHOCO boom™ crispy rice bar is so delicious I would eat one every day if I didn’t have a waistline to watch and my health to consider; a candy bar, even an allergen-free one, is still a candy bar. I don’t even love chocolate and I found this bar addictive: not crazy sweet, a firmer chocolate texture, low crispies and just so good. I've found another allergen-friendly sweet indulgence, like I needed another one.

Have any of you tried them yet? Well, you're in luck. Good through November 7th, Enjoy Life Foods just emailed out a coupon.

Gone Voting!

The vote. Go rock it. Right now!

**

Don’t know where you’re registered or if you are? CanIVote.org will show you your polling place so will Google Maps.

These national websites can assist with more info:
League of Women Voters
Rock the Vote
Federal Election Committee
US Election Assistance Commission

PS Henry Kissinger was in my line!
PPS WOW. President Barack Obama.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Friedman’s Deli, Gluten-Free

From The Feedbag: "Friedman’s Deli to Go Gluten-Free"! You may remember hearing about Friedman's on Kelly's CeliacChicks blog. Or on Catherine's Gluten-free Guide. But now MSM media, sorta MSM, is carrying GF info.

Love that!
Friedman’s Deli
http://www.friedmansdeli.com/
75 9th Ave
New York, NY 10011
Phone: (212) 929-7100

FreshDirect Handcrafted Chocolates: Tree Nut & Peanut Allergen Advisory

Look what my friend received from Fresh Direct in her inbox:

Please be advised, The FreshDirect Handcrafted Chocolates you purchased within the last 3 months were manufactured in a facility that also handles tree nuts and peanuts and trace amounts may be present. If you have allergies to tree nuts or peanuts we'd like you to know that:

1. The full line of products has been removed from sale until updated allergen-labeling is in place
2. We are working with our co-manufacturer partner to improve their allergen-labeling practices
3. The possible products are:
* FreshDirect Handcrafted Dark Chocolate Bark with Almonds and Golden Raisins
* FreshDirect Handcrafted Dark Chocolate Bark with Cashews, Dried Banana & Coconut Flakes
* FreshDirect Handcrafted Dark Chocolate Bark with Figs, Pignoli (Pine Nuts), and Cinnamon
* FreshDirect Handcrafted Dark Chocolate Crisps
* FreshDirect Handcrafted Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Crunch Bar
* FreshDirect Handcrafted Dark Chocolate Mallos
* FreshDirect Handcrafted Dark Chocolate PB&J Bar
* FreshDirect Handcrafted Dark Chocolate Sampler
* FreshDirect Handcrafted Dark Chocolate S'mores
* FreshDirect Handcrafted Milk Chocolate Bark with Almonds, Ginger and Apricots

If you have any questions or concerns please contact us immediately at service@freshdirect.com.

Sincerely,
Your FreshDirect Customer Service Team


Interesting...

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Children’s Eczema in the News

From the New York Times:

...infant eczema, with its unpredictable outbreaks and vicious cycle of itch and scratch, has been raising discomfort for babies and anxiety in parents to a new level.

“It used to be, 20 years ago, one baby in 20 was affected by it,” said Dr. Anthony Mancini, a pediatric dermatologist in Chicago and head of dermatology at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Now, that number is roughly one in five or six.”

“It’s got to have something to do with our Western lifestyle,” said Dr. Hugh Sampson, a professor of pediatrics and immunobiology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan, and president of the Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. “There are issues of pollution, preservatives, the potency of pollen.”


Read more from the New York Times and my article about some natural remedies that work on the HealthCentral.com website.