Renewed Faith: A Waiter Who Cared

The smiling white-coated waiter glided up to our rooftop table and introduced himself as Paul.

“I understand there are some food allergies at this table,” Paul said,  handing  us leather-bound menus.

When I’d made the reservation for Watermark Restaurant in Nashville on Urban Spoon, I listed my son’s and my celiac disease as well as my allergies to soy and dairy. We were driving through Nashville on our way home to Colorado and wanted to have a special family dinner with our college boy. Watermark was on our bucket list of restaurants to try.

“I’ve gone over your food restrictions with the chef and I’ve marked what dishes have your allergens.” I looked down at the extensive menu where Paul had placed an X for not gluten-friendly and crossed out the items containing dairy. “Of course, we can also make accommodations, such as leaving off butter. And you don’t have to worry about soy here.”

The chef marked what I could and couldn't eat before I arrived

His words were music to An Allergic Foodie’s ears. I told him how much I appreciated his efforts. Little did he know I had recently had a terrible experience when a chef didn’t want to communicate with the waitstaff and didn’t take my food restrictions seriously. I actually think this demon chef, as I’ve come to call him, intentionally “poisoned” me by including allergens in my food.

After taking our drink orders, Paul then told me because we had decided to eat outside, he didn’t have our table. I panicked. I wanted Paul! The waiter who had done his homework to provide a complete stranger with a safe meal. We considered changing to an inside table, but after a day in the car driving for eight hours, we were enjoying the pleasant evening air.

Watermark Restaurant in Nashville

Paul returned with our drinks. “Well, looks like I’ll be your waiter after all.  The other waiter is uncomfortable with your food allergies.”

This was a first.  A waiter who fully admitted food allergies alarmed him. I appreciated the other waiter’s honesty, especially since it meant I got Paul back. I’ve often witnessed  a waiter’s anxiety over serving me, but I’ve never had someone pass the reigns to a waiter who was more experienced and comfortable with special dietary needs. Kudos to the waiter who didn’t want to serve me for the right reason–not because I was a pain in the neck, but because he wanted to keep my son and me safe.

Executive Chef Joe Shaw’s  food was heavenly. Each of our appetizers and main meals were a work of art and just as delicious as they looked.  For appetizers, Steve had pan-seared scallops with duck confit over a sweet potato puree and poultry demi glace. I had New Orleans style barbecue shrimp, and George had corn and duck egg custard with pan-seared foie gras.

Watermark Restaurant

Watermark uses a wood grill–absolutely no gas–that lended my main dish,  a Niman Ranch pork chop a mouth-watering hickory flavor. Even the rapini melted in my mouth. Steve had lamb on ratatouille and George had his usual ribeye though he said there was nothing usual about it.

Renewed Faith: A Waiter Who Cared

Since developing food allergies and celiac disease I’ve had more terrible experiences than good ones. But Paul gave me hope that there are those in the restaurant industry who do take my son’s and my health seriously–and who take pleasure in serving us.

Thank you, Paul, for renewing my faith.

Renewed Faith: A Waiter Who Cared first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Musings and Morsels 11-07-14

What a week! I spoke during the online Food Allergy Wellness Summit on a topic close to my heart: Living with food restrictions in college. As a nonfiction writer, I love to research and I read everything available to prepare for this interview. I have enough material to write a book! Well, at least a few blog posts.

I’d like to thank the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and Food Allergy Research and Education for providing PDFs of their college-related handouts. Also, my appreciation to Well Amy, Surf Sweets, and Carrie S. Forbes, author of The Everything Gluten Free College Cookbook, for generously donating giveaways for those who signed up to follow this blog. (A little bribery never hurts. Wink, wink.)  Lastly, kudos to Crystal Sabalaske of Cluttershrink for organizing this valuable summit to help families with food allergies and for including me with such an impressive list of speakers.

Musings and Morsels 11-07-14

Last night I grabbed a glass of wine and a Daiya pizza–by the way, the crust has been greatly improved!–and listened to NFCA’s webinar on Gluten-Free Labeling with Tricia Thompson, RD. She’s the dietitian behind Gluten Free Watchdog, which if you aren’t following you should be! I learned so much about the FDA’s gluten-free labeling rules and I’m going back today to re-listen. It’s a lot to digest (pun intended)!

Good News: NFCA will be providing the webinar on their website. so you can listen, too. Check here later today.

On a sad note, this week I also learned a nonprofit task force I’ve co-chaired with a good friend would be ending. For 12 years my friend and I provided support to high-risk pregnant mothers on bed rest in local hospitals. We’d both been on bed rest during our pregnancies, and I delivered a baby 12 weeks early. We were the substitute families for these women whose families weren’t always available (we live in a military community). It’s hard to have the door close on something we believed in so much.

But as the saying goes–when one door closes, another opens. I truly believe helping others with celiac disease, food allergies and EoE is my new calling. This blog is just the start. If you have ideas for how I can do more to help you, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

Okay, enough musings–on to a few morsels!

As I’ve mentioned more than a few times here, I react to soy worse than any of my other allergens. So when I saw Soy Allergy Survivor’s helpful one-page soy list I immediately printed it. Because I have so many allergies including corn and dairy which can hide in many, many foods, I always appreciate guides like this one.

Musings and Morsels 11-07-14

Speaking of hidden allergens and labeling, which seems to be a theme this week, a new FDA consumer report, Finding Food Allergens Where They Shouldn’t Be, says the FDA is working to reduce undeclared allergens on labels by:  researching the causes of these errors; working with industry on best practices; and developing new ways to test for the presence of allergens. From September 2009 to September 2012, about one-third of foods reported to FDA as serious health risks involved undisclosed allergens. This is frightening, to say the least. You can help the FDA by reporting  food-allergic reactions to the FDA consumer complaint coordinator in your district. 

I’ll end with a little gossip. Who doesn’t like gossip? A little bird told me that the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference would be held in a different state than Nevada next year. Turns out it’s true! Pop on over to their Facebook page to learn more. If you aren’t familiar with FABlogCon, it’s a wonderful conference and opportunity to connect with the food allergy community and learn from experts. It’s for everyone–not just bloggers.  I, for one, am pretty excited about a new venue in a new state.  Come to think of it Colorado would be an excellent choice . . . hint, hint.

Musings and Morsels 11-07-14 first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Food of My Dreams

I stuff fistfuls  of potato chips into my mouth.

Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.

“It’s four in the morning,” my husband says. “Are you eating chips?”

I swallow and look  down at the half-empty bag of Cape Cod Waffle Chips sitting between us in bed. Baffled, I set them on my nightstand, pull up the blanket, and go back to sleep.

When I enter the kitchen in the morning, my husband’s head is inside the refrigerator.

“I think you ate last night’s sausages,” he says.

My husband tends to be a bit OCD. He freaks out when a sock goes missing and the drink glasses aren’t ordered by size. I ignore him and make coffee.

“My sausages are gone,” he announces again.

Now I’m peeved that he’s making such a big deal about leftovers which are most likely behind the carton of eggs. I am not a morning  person.

I march over to the fridge and  pull out the drawer where I stored the baggy of sausages from last night’s meal. But only half  a sausage, the half that was somewhat burnt, remains. I’d put two and half links in there last night. I am sure of it.

“That’s weird . . . ”

Then I remember the predawn chip episode.

“Oh my God, I think I was sleep-walking and sleep-eating! Have I ever done that before?”

“Not that I know of.”  Content that he’s made his point, my  husband picks up the morning paper.

The sausages in question were grilled last evening for my husband. While they are gluten-free, the corn ingredients tend to make me ill.  I prefer Boulder brand sausages or chicken sausages from Al Fresco.

Evidently, I’m not that discriminating about brands or ingredients when I’m asleep, nor do I care whether the sausages are warm or cold.

Dream Food

At first, I’m embarrassed by my late-night munchies. Then it hits me.

I’ve deprived myself so much these last six or so years — passing on slices of birthday cake and Christmas cookies, avoiding crackers and cheese plates during cocktail parties, skipping on the movie popcorn but smelling it throughout the entire movie, sipping my water while the rest of the table chews on warm bread lathered in butter — why wouldn’t I raid the refrigerator or the pantry in a unconscious state?

In fact, why has it taken me so long?

I’ve woken in a sweat from dreams where I’ve eaten an entire chocolate cake with vanilla whipped cream frosting — I’m not only allergic to dairy and eggs and gluten but also vanilla. Still, I’ve never eaten in my sleep. Or even walked in my sleep.

I saw a TV show once about overweight people who have to lock up their food to keep them from eating in the middle of the night. Has my celiac disease and multiple food allergies created some sort of sleep-related eating disorder? Will my husband have to start padlocking his full-of-gluten-and-allergens food before heading off to bed?

After a quick Internet search, I discover that some people who are on diets may unconsciously eat at night. Eliminating gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, corn and so many other foods could certainly be called an extreme diet. That particular night I went to bed hungry because there’d been little for me to eat at a social event and once home I didn’t want to consume the extra calories before bed. With that in mind, it doesn’t seem all that odd that I  raided the kitchen at 4 a.m.

The funny thing is I could have grabbed some peanut M&Ms or some leftover pizza or even a brownie that was sitting on the kitchen counter. But I didn’t. I chose gluten-free sausages and gluten-free chips. I’m so accustomed to avoiding foods that will make me sick, I’ll even avoid them in my sleep.

The chocolate cake with vanilla whipped cream will remain in my dreams.

Food of My Dreams” first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

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Don’t forget to sign up for the Food Allergy Wellness Summit! Read all about this free online event here.