Spooked at Sarabeth’s.

Was at a lunch Wednesday at the uptown outpost of Sarabeth’s. I’ve been there countless times in the years since it’s opened. And I’ve never had a problem, I even recommended Sarabeth’s in my sidebar (which now will have to be amended) but then again I’ve kept my orders simple and on the brunchy side.

Wednesday, I thought I’d try a chopped salad. I asked about ingredients, gave my Allergic Girl no nuts no fish speech, and it seemed I was understood by our waiter. He even returned and asked about chopped mushrooms, was I okay with them. Yes, mushrooms were fine I said, as long as there were no nuts mixed in. He assured me there were none.

So this fresh-looking chopped salad arrived comprised of carrots, green beans, peppers, celery and some feta cheese. And there were the mushrooms. They were chopped into a fine paste. Spread on bread disks.

Hmmm, he hadn’t mentioned bread. And the disks were resting against the mini-hill of my salad.

Hmmm, I picked one up wondering what kind of bread it was?


With what looked like chopped nuts.

I called over our waiter. I pointed to the bread and asked him what kind it was.

“Pumpernickel”, he said.

“Are there nuts in it?” I asked, already knowing the answer.

“Hmm I’ll have to check.”

He returned and whisked the plate away saying he was sorry, there were nuts in the bread and he would fix it. I already was having a bad feeling so I followed him back to the kitchen to tell him I’d like something else entirely. I just had the sense that he would simply remove the nutty-mushroomy disks and serve the salad back to me. From his perspective it made sense, the bread was just leaning on the salad, he could simply remove them and bring it back up.

When I got to the kitchen I practically slammed into him carrying my salad, suspiciously quickly replated. He assured me it was a new salad, even offering to show me the old one in the kitchen. (I wasn’t about to follow him into the cramped quarters of a tiny kitchen, especially as I’ve been reading Heat and it’s not a place for the uninitiated.) I begged off but in my gut I still didn’t believe him. We returned to my table, where he set the salad down. It was then I noticed some of the mushroom pate on the plate, leftover I was convinced from when he removed the bread and brought it back as if it was new.

I was officially spooked and not eating this lovely salad.

After a few moments of not touching it, my waiter reappeared with a menu and said rather sensitively, “You feel uncomfortable, don’t you? Would you like something else?” But frankly I was done, wishing he had been that sensitive the first time around.

I know I said management is key in these areas and that is true but consistency is also tantamount in restaurant prep. Again, I was just reading about that in Heat at some point Mario Batali is barking about consistency to his staff at Babbo. But it’s true, I want to be able to go to a restaurant repeatedly and have a beloved dish that I know is safe.

So, I will have to go back to just sticking to them for bfast. Disappointing.


AllergyMom said…
That is scary but is certainly in line with the restaurant study that Scott Sicherer did recently.

I would have done the same thing. However, its not me who's allergic, its my son. So its even scarier as he cant/wont often tell me if something doesnt taste right or feel right.

I hope you let the mgmt know.

Take care,

PS It was nice to hear from you again on the call Thursday night. I really enjoyed it and appreciated Dr Stroms thoughts and insights.
Allergic Girl® said…
hey gina
great hearing you on the call as well.

and yeah sarabeth's, i think managment is alseep. i dont know that the original owners are still in charge, it feel like no one is really at the helm...

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