Food Allergy Counseling

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

Friday, November 27, 2009

"Share as much information as possible..."

An article from The Washington Post about diner etiquette: "How to be a better diner".

Jarad Slipp, the general manager of CityZen in the Mandarin Oriental hotel, likes it when guests share as much information as possible when they're booking a reservation. If a member of the party uses a wheelchair, for instance, the staff will make sure he isn't dragged through the length of the dining room when he arrives. Allergic to gluten? Need a vegan menu? The kitchen is equipped to handle all manner of dietary requests from patrons. However, having such wishes noted ahead of time allows the staff to better "tailor the experience for you," Slipp says, and "make it even more special."


Restaurants want to hear from you about your dietary needs. So, let them know, ahead of time and watch as many restos will do their best to ensure your culinary safety and enjoyment.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

1-2-3 Gluten-Free, Buckwheat Pancakes

I’ve been meaning to try 1-2-3 Gluten-Free for a few years now. According to the website, 1-2-3 Gluten-Free is: "...manufactured in a dedicated gluten-free (and peanut-free, nut-free and allergen-free) kosher facility utilizing only gluten-free ingredients. Your health is our number one priority. All of our products are gluten free, wheat free, nut free and peanut free. All of our products are also free of egg, dairy (including casein), all but two are free of corn and all but one are free of soy and their labels clearly indicate this." I met 1-2-3 Gluten-Free owners at two separate food shows and they kindly sent me some samples to try. Yippee and thanks!

A few weekends ago, I gathered some friends together (only two of us eat gluten-free) to try out a few pancake mixes. 1-2-3 Gluten-Free’s buckwheat pancake mix was the clear winner.

My friend Danielle, who is GF, about to dig in.

Light texture and not overly buckwheat-y, the pancakes cooked up nicely (as in actually bubbled, some GF mixes don't), weren’t too dense or bouncy (as some of the other GF pancake mixes can be) and were enjoyed by GF'ers and non-GF'ers. We made some chocolate chip versions and I caramelized some bananas just to gild this GF lily. Here’s what it looked like, so yum.

Our yummy GF breakfast with 1-2-3 Gluten-Free

The success of this 1-2-3 Gluten-Free mix makes me eager to try others in their line. Thank you for the samples, looking forward to the next taste testing.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bistango, NYC

The first thing you notice when walking in to Bistango is Anthony: tall, handsome and smiling. He greets you, introduces himself, and basically beams at you until you can’t help but beam back. He makes it very easy to say, “Hi, I have food allergies.” The first time I went in to Bistango, and every successive visit, Anthony gave me his full and undivided attention and said, “Yes of course, tell me what you need.”

I thought, this can only go well.

Bistango is a NYC GF staple for my fellow NYC GF bloggers (Celiac Chicks, A Gluten-Free Guide, Gluten-Free NYC, Gluten-Free Fun and Gluten- Free Guidebook). From the Bistango website: The Gluten-Free Option. Recently, we've focused our attention on our customers' evolving healthy lifestyle and dietary requirements. Introduced five years ago, Bistango continues to offer its customers the option of tasty and quality-made gluten-free pastas, ravioli, pizza, bread, desserts and beer.

As I’ve written before GF doesn’t necessarily equal allergen-friendly. I wish it did, but you just can’t count on it. So I don’t run to
GFRAP approved or GF blogger approved spots. I may make my way there eventually but a GF-identified resto has to win me over like any other restaurant.

I’ve been to Bistango four times now, each time has been better than the last. The food is classic home-style Italian: antipasti, salads, pasta, meat, fish and sides. However, it’s so homey, I started ordering off menu after the first visit. It’s that kind of place. Also, I’m that kind of Allergic Girl, I order off the menu at a lot of places. Nothing crazy, but something I don’t see and that I’d like. And it's been yum every time.

The service at Bistango is attentive but unobtrusive. I’ve lingered there for way past my meal, never feeling rushed. Talk directly to Anthony about your dietary needs and if you ask for ingredients, ask Anthony. He knows every ingredient in every dish. For anything they don’t make, Anthony keeps the labels. Yes, he has them in the back and is happy to share. A BIG plus!

For example: Last week when I was there with Hilary of Gluten- Free Guidebook, Anthony asked us to try some cake that he had just purchased from a Kosher, GF/DF bakery, Heaven Mills. I asked him about ingredients and he brought out the label as well as the manufacturer's contact info. I called the manufacturer's cell from the table. We had a lovely chat about his ingredients and nut-free-ness. According to the owner of Heaven Mills makes only one GF item with walnuts and employs GMP: good manufacturing practices. I felt safe enough to try the delicious brownie cake at the table and was richly rewarded with dessert at a resto, a rarity as you all know.

Bistango is a delish neighborhood find and GF staple. I see why my bloggy colleagues love it so. Anthony makes everyone feel like a regular, which creates lots of regulars. Every patron is like Norm! Go in, you'll see what I mean.

Bistango, NYC
415 Third Avenue
at 29th Street
Manhattan, NY 10016
212 725-8484

Monday, November 23, 2009

Best American Poetry, Allergic Girl

All photographs © Christopher Labzda









***

Stacey, MFA friend and writer, kindly asked me to do a Q&A on the Best American Poetry blog. Thanks Stacey! She wanted pictures as well. I, in turn, asked colleague Chris if he’d help out. Above are the outtakes that didn’t make it into the Q&A but are so pretty I didn’t want them to go to waste.

***

Chris was awarded his Master of Fine Art degree in Fine Art in 2008 from Goldsmiths at The University of London in the UK. Chris is professional, tidy with his equipment, easy to work with, captured prettiness in both the elements and the subject (i.e. the food and moi) and got some great shots in one evening in a natural setting i.e. not a studio. He can be contacted at christopher@labzda.com.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Betty Crocker, Gluten-Free Brownies



Oh my goodness.

That’s about all I can say about Betty Crocker's GF brownies. Dense, rich, fudgy and I don’t even really love chocolate. But I adored these on my bday.

These GF brownies would be a welcome addition to any party, dessert plate, Viennese table or pot luck.

Seriously, ridic. Thank you Betty Crocker food scientists for coming up with this one.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"Never serve anything that looks creepy..."

Recently, I returned to a restaurant that I’ve liked in the past. However, this particular evening, the chef was not there. Note to self, find out if chef is working before going to a restaurant. Everything seemed off: service, the food, the reception. Meh. All of the excellent allergen practices were in place and my meal was safe but it wasn’t a great dining experience. Less than great to be honest.

I ordered off the menu, something the chef had previously suggested I try, or at least I thought that’s what he had said. Turns out the restaurant makes no such dish and had no idea how to do it; at least the sous chef working that night had no clue. They made me a "special order", which was very sweet but it was bizarre. The "special" meat patty came out raw inside (I sent it back for more fire), and as if someone hadn’t actually packed it. It was in floppy sections. Very unappetizing.

I probably should have sent it back a second time but I ate it. I felt badly that they went to all the trouble. I wished they just told me they didn’t have that item on the menu and offered other options. I deeply appreciated that they wanted to please me but...ugh.

Chalk it up to major miscommunication on both sides.

My dining companion (who works in the foodservice industry) and I were talking about this New York Times article: the 100 rules of service (part 1 and part 2 and readers' comments on the article). We remarked that sadly a few were broken right in front of our eyes, like #21. Never serve anything that looks creepy or runny or wrong. My dinner was creepy and wrong and raw. My dinner companion summed it up perfectly when emailing the next day: “I would like to add a rule: #101. Never serve a naked meat patty that looks like it was made by a first grader, and raw inside.”

Do you have any rules to add? About food allergies and service? Or just service in general? I’m curious.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Nut Free Cupcakes, NYC

I get TONS emails from readers and commenters asking about where to get nut-free cupcakes in Manhattan. My answer, sadly, is no place that I know of. Everybody Eats is in Brooklyn; Babycakes is GF and vegan but NOT nut-free; there are some others in Bergen County New Jersey; but this all equals non-convenience for the nut-allergic Manhattanite.

(If I’m missing something and you know of any place in New York City's five boroughs, please do share.)

So what’s a Manhattan-based allergic girl or allergic guy or a friend/family member to do in the absence of a safe bakery and with a birthday quickly approaching? Bake them yourself.

I made two kinds but the concept was the same: brownie mix as a cupcake with white icing. I find the brownie mixes denser, way chocolate-ier and they don’t dry out as much if you bake them a day ahead of time. Both of the mixes I used also incorporate chocolate chips which helps keep the cupcakes moist and lovely.

I used Cherrybrook Kitchen brownie mix and Betty Crocker brownie mix, both gluten-free, nut-free and vegan (made with vegetable oil and water). I used soy-based Earth Balance margarine with Cherrybrook Kitchen white icing mix and also made traditional buttercream icing with Cherrybrook Kitchen vanilla icing mix and organic butter.

We had dinner at a restaurant that I know and love: Nizza. I asked them if I could give them mixes to make me a safe cake OR if I could bring my own cupcakes in without incurring a plating fee. We both agreed the latter made the most and easiest safest sense. I love when restaurants work with you and I really LOVE having cake on my bday.

The cupcakes were so rich, my dinner party could only eat one, sometimes only half and no one thought they were gluten-free/vegan/nut-free. They satisfied the need for bday cake and were completely safe for all, especially moi. Was it annoying to bake one's birthday cake? Nah, not really especially as not having safe cake on one's bday was unacceptable. So voila, solution!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Family, Food Allergies

So we’ve all heard the horror stories: grandparents sneaking your tree-nut allergic child a walnut brownie saying, “A little can’t hurt.”

I’m looking for some stories of families who support your dietary restrictions.

Whether parents, sibs, grands, in-laws, please share!

With Thanksgiving soon approaching, we could all use some great supportive family stories.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Dyson Vacuum, Allergens

Recently, I received a Dyson Ball DC24 vacuum through Dyson via Asthma & Allergy Friendly. (Disclosure: Asthma & Allergy Friendly has generously supported my Worry-Free Dinners programs with allergy-friendly donations in the past.) I already have two vacuums: a huge Hoover, with no-bag technology but heavy, unwieldy and with a square nose like a hammerhead shark; and a small more compact, bagged Eureka vacuum that gets dragged all over the place like a whiny little sibling.

As an Allergic Girl, one who has asthma (in remission, thankfully), I keep my home as dust-free as possible: no animals, natch and friends take off their shoes at the door (thanks, friends!). I have two silk Orientals: an area rug and a throw rug; and there’s a cotton rug in the bathroom that gets washed regularly. The rest of my space is parquet flooring. I wash my bedding every week and the surfaces are dusted weekly. I keep my windows open year round, so soot collects quickly but that’s where cleaning weekly comes in. Basically, the Dyson was entering a home that is pretty low-dust, low allergen.

I read the Dyson instructions and watched as it rolled it over my entryway throw rug. The mini-cyclone in the canister registered some tiny red dust bunnies. Hmm. I rolled it over the parquet floor, heard that crunch crunch as some larger stones collected, gravel probably from road work outside brought into my room on someone’s shoes (who didn’t take off their shoes?). Dyson and I continued through the apartment, turning corners with ease, swiveling, all the while the cyclone picking up a little more dust and tornadoing it into red mini-tumbleweeds. (My silk rugs are red.) The dust was whirling around so fast it almost seems like it wasn't working, but it was.

Upshot: after three weeks vacuuming weekly with Sir Dys-A-Lot, my big area rug was definitely cleaner. When using the Eureka , I noticed visible particles left behind; when using the Hoover, it pulled perfectly clean fibers out of my silk rug unnecessarily, so the rug looked cleaner but shorn. As you can see and read, much thought was put into re-envisioning this vacuum. The Dyson canister opens from the bottom, thus with a flick of the finger, the bottom drops out. Dust is deposited directly into the dustbin. For comparison’s sake, the Hoover, which is also bagless, is top loaded; you have to upturn it to get rid of the dust, thus spreading the dusty love all over the garbage and elsewhere. I do love that design point of Dyson’s as well as its curve- turning capability, its compact lightweight nature and yeah, it does just look really cool.

I have only used the Dyson’s three times. I'll have to check back in in a year to see how it held up. However, for now, it has made my other vacuums obsolete. Yesterday, I gave away the Hoover and the Eureka will be retired/recycled this week. Thank you Dyson. I look forward to many happy hours of vacuuming.

Do you any of you have the Dyson or another vacuum that helps with your allergies? Do tell.