Food Allergy Counseling

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

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dining at Work Events



I was invited last minute to a last minute media event. Normally, last minute is not good for this allergic girl; no time to plan, talk to chef, go over menu, etc.. If I don’t have time for all of that, I’ll still go but I’ll just eat beforehand, especially for a cocktail event. However, this past week the California Fig Advisory Board invited me for a very intimate sit-down multi-course dinner. Still, I thought, I’ll go, have a drink and move on to my next event (another dinner) that evening. Then I looked at the restaurant that was hosting: Rouge Tomate.

I wrote about Rouge Tomate a few years back and have been a few times since, all with wonderful results. They had put all of my allergies into their computerized system in the past and I was betting that they still had all of that information stored. In coordinating with the California Fig Advisory Board, they checked with Rouge Tomate who said yes, they had all of my allergies and were happy to make the necessary accommodations to the menu.

Upon arrival, I did my usual routine: introduced myself to Rouge Tomate General Manager, Sean, explained who I was (he was waiting for me) and he took me to see the Rouge Tomate Special Events Manager, Matthew. Matt was warm, welcoming, knowledgeable and professional. He was also a former server, now in management, who had served my table before and who remembered me, fondly. He greeted me with major hugs and laughs and then got down to business going over the menu, the accommodations they had already made and we discussed further tiny adjustments.

The first course was a salad with hazelnuts, second monkfish, third squab and fourth dessert. We worked out that I’d have the salad without hazelnuts and I asked if they could push the third course to the second for me as I’d have to leave early, and couldn't eat the monkfish anyway. All those adjustments were made swiftly and graciously. Our Rouge Tomate server Jessica, who was taking care of everyone at this sit-down dinner in their Walnut Room (no joke), was informed of the special meal (moi) and introduced herself to me in case I had any questions (so lovely).



The salad arrived – here is a picture that does not do it justice – and well, I punked out. I had gotten spooked when Matt told me that the salad came with hazelnut oil and hazelnuts, and that they would be making mine without of course, but I was already nervous. When it arrived dry and nut-free, I still couldn’t bring myself to tuck in. Kind of like that beet salad moment I talked about in Allergic Girl.

Rouge Tomate did their part text-book perfect to ensure my meal was allergen-free: I just couldn’t bring myself eat it.

Sigh. It happens: getting spooked. In the moment, I do my best not to feel self-conscious about it, it being a totally irrational food allergy moment, and try to enjoy myself regardless. But I don’t force myself to eat something that I don’t feel right about. And I move on. The next course arrived, the squab, all happy and glistening in its perfection. Our server Jessica went over all ingredients and I tucked in and it was delish (and completely safe). Here’s a picture.



So what’s the upshot? I talk about food allergy confidence in my book and during touring with the book. My basics steps to food allergy confidence are:

Understanding your diagnosis
Knowing how to communicate it clearly
Forming positive and supportive relationships
And being patient with yourself

The top three all happened without a hitch. It was the last one that's the lesson here. Sometimes getting spooked is part of a food allergic life. Being patient with yourself means, for me, that I accept this part of myself. And if when I can, and if I feel up to it, and it's safe, I try the next course.

A big thank you to the Rouge Tomate team: Chef, Matt and Jessica for taking such excellent care of me, yet again. I look forward to returning soon.

Rouge Tomate
10 E 60TH ST
NEW YORK, NY 10022
TEL: 646-237-8977

3 comments:

AiXeLsyD13 said...

Wow, it's great to hear that they have a computerized system in place to keep track of allergies. Genius in my humble opinion! Great to know that they went the extra mile to help you out, and glad that you have a platform where you can spread the word! If more places like this keep getting excellent word of mouth & press... they're more likely to inspire other restaurants to heighten their allergy standards.

The other thing that I find comforting in this... is that you still get spooked. As someone who's assertive with their allergy needs to the point of coaching & helping others, it's good to know that even you can get shaken and that it's "OK", and you just move past it.

I get a panic when I get an odd tinge of an unknown taste in something... even though I'm sure & have been assured it's safe. We've all been there. It gives strength to the rest of us in that if you have an "oh oh" moment, it'll pass.

Lindsay said...

I'm an allergic girl who gets spooked every now and then too, Sloane. I enjoyed your story, because I can SO relate.

Jenny said...

I wonder if this is what happens with my son sometimes, when we try a new restaurant. We always make sure that the food is 'safe' for him, but when it comes, he usually will take one bite and then refuse to eat it. Granted, it may not be safe and he recognizes that, but he could also be too afraid to try also.