I’m headed to Toronto for the Toronto Jazz Fest. Now...where exactly am I going to eat well and safely? Certainly, I will bring some back-up food with me and my hotel rooms will have mini-fridges. I’ve contacted both of the chefs of my hotels and they're ready for me – I may have many meals there. I know where the local markets are to stock up on safe goodies whilst there as well. But I will also want to dine out as I’ve heard Toronto is a great restaurant town. So, several weeks before my trip, I started dining out research.
What I recommend as an advocate, food allergy coach and someone who has traveled the world with active atopic disease is to break down the traveling tasks into bite-sized manageable tasks and start way ahead of your departure.
My steps for finding a potentially safe dining out spot in Toronto:
I asked friends and family where they’ve been that they like.
I asked colleagues in Toronto where they dine.
I asked my Canadian food allergy coaching clients where they dine.
I asked my followers on Facebook and Twitter.
I looked at the local Toronto Life magazine.
I looked at the Allergic Living Magazine forum.
I looked at the Allerdine listings.
I went back to the article I wrote for Allergic Living magazine about dining out back in 2011.
Then, I complied a master list of names.
Once I had that list, I used my Allergic Girl process of vetting restaurants, looking at online menus, "about us" sections of restaurant websites and emailing and calling various places.
Then, I refined my list to two choices.
And waited to see the response I received from each.
The Keg – they had great reviews on the Allergic Living Magazine forum, had great and clear food allergen information on their website. I emailed them first and was told to call the location where I was planning on dining. So, then I called the York Street location and spoke with a manager which went very well. After that, I followed up with an email detailing our conversation and reiterating my needs and requests. See the sample below:
It was a pleasure speaking just now, Shannon and Hello Eric!
As we discussed, I'm headed up to Toronto next week for Jazz Fest. I have made a reservation for 6pm, Wednesday June 27 and am very excited to join you as I have so many great things about how The Keg handles food allergy needs.
As for my needs and requests: I have severe tree nut, fish, shellfish allergies (and am intolerant to wheat, dairy and soy) and I carry emergency medication with me at all times. Please see the attached full list.
If it would be easier to jump on the phone to discuss, I'm available at your convenience via cell/text: XXX
Best and thanks again!
The other restaurant I contacted was Bar Italia. On Allerdine, there was a short video by the owner Joe about his daughter with food allergies. I emailed them but haven’t heard back yet.
Next up I will let you know how it goes at The Keg via Twitter and Facebook!