People Who Don’t Have Eating Issues Should Butt Out

On New Year’s Eve, Ox Restaurant, an Argentina steakhouse in Portland, posted an Instagram photo of myriad sticky notes with dietary restrictions. Eater published the photo under the headline This Is Just a Nightmare of Restaurant Customer Allergies.  

Photo from  Ox Restaurant in Portland on Instagram, 12/31/2013

Photo from Ox Restaurant in Portland on Instagram, 12/31/2013

I was all ready to read yet another negative review of customers with food allergies, but that wasn’t the case. What Ox owners Greg and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton wrote on their Instagram post, and Eater reported, was that the special orders were “nothin’ special.”

Nothin’ special!

Keep in mind, this was a ridiculously busy night–New Year’s Eve! And the restaurant was offering a prix-free menu. Personally, with my myriad allergies and celiac disease, I would never ever expect a restaurant to “redo” a prix-free menu for me on one of the busiest nights of the year. In fact, I called five restaurants weeks before New Year’s Eve to find one that was offering a full menu and then I asked if they could accommodate me.

I’m nice that way. Evidently not everyone in Portland with food issues feels the same way I do. Again I say, Bravo Ox!

Here’s the part that’s gonna make you mad  . . . the comments that followed Eater’s brief article.

Oh where should I start?  Maybe with this one . . .

Comment #1: The percentage of gluten allergies here is about 20%, the reality is about 1.5% in the country. So most of them must be a choice. Next time choose to stay home.

Not sure where this guy got his numbers, but I’ll go to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness for mine: “One out of every 133 Americans has celiac disease. That’s equivalent to nearly 1% of the U.S. population. However, 95% of people with celiac disease remain undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. This means that up to three million Americans have celiac disease and only about 200,000 know they have the condition.”

Wow. No matter how many times I hear those statistics I’m still astounded, and I’m always left thinking how many people are suffering and not knowing why.  Maybe they’ve figured out they should eliminate gluten from their diet before a doctor told them to.  They made a choice not to eat gluten. Therefore, according to the guy above, they should not dine out.

For so many of us eating gluten is not a choice but a medical necessity. I would like to think many restaurants are glad I choose to spend my hard-earned cash at their establishments.

Comment #2: They should go to the hospital not a restaurant. People that haven’t worked in a restaurant should not eat in one.

I worked at Friendly’s in high school so I guess I’m qualified to eat in a restaurant. What a weird way to think. I haven’t worked in a clothing store, so I guess I shouldn’t shop in one. I haven’t worked in a grocery store, so I guess I shouldn’t buy groceries. I’m just going to stop here.

Comment #3: What’s the most annoying is that most of these are preferences, not allergies.

Huh? More than 170 foods are known to cause allergic reactions. People can be allergic to odd foods like lemon and pepper and lentils; I know people who are allergic to all of these. I happen to be allergic to asparagus and capers and nutmeg. I usually don’t list all my allergies when I order at a restaurant (we’d never get to eat!), but I do request no asparagus because it’s such a common side. I’m sure waitstaff think I just don’t like asparagus, but the reality is asparagus makes me really, really sick.

Comment #4: [They’re] just begging to have their food spit on. The entitlement mentality of modern US diners is just out of control. Stay at home if you have so many stupid allergies, no one really cares.

This person is just heartless and mean. Obviously he/she has never met someone who has gone into anaphylaxis, or had a child double up in pain because he ingested wheat. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there has been a 50% increase in food allergies since the 1990s. If everyone stays home, how will restaurants survive?

Comment #5: I waited tables in the early nineties with a tyrant of a chef; he would not do special orders and if we asked, he would go berserk. I totally understand the side of the customer saying, we’re paying we should get what we want. But then there is the side of the restaurant, one special order per server upsets the whole flow of the kitchen. People take their demands too far these days.

Did you hear that people? You are taking your  food allergies and celiac disease demands too far!  You are upsetting the flow of the kitchen. How dare you!

Final comment from an allergic foodie: People who don’t have eating issues should butt out.

People Who Don’t Have Eating Issues Should Butt Out” originally appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

An Allergic Foodie: What Restaurants Did Wrong in 2013

What Restaurants Did Wrong in 2013

An Allergic Foodie’s Top-Ten List

Whittling down my worst restaurant experiences in 2013 wasn’t easy. This says a lot about the restaurant industry not meeting the needs of those of us who require extra help ordering off a menu and some special food prep back in the kitchen.  Here’s hoping 2014 will bring more attentiveness from wait staff, restaurant owners and managers, and chefs!

Drumroll, please . . . 

10.  Halfway through eating our gluten-free meals, the waiter says to my son and me, “The stewed peaches were cooked with flour—that’s why we served them on the side.”   —Urban Grub, Nashville, TN

9.  After clearly explaining my allergies—no gluten, dairy, soy, corn—the waitress returns to the table and says, “Is it okay to cook in butter?” (To be fair, the chef did come to my table later to confirm my allergies.)  —Craftwood Inn, Manitou Springs, CO

8.  The “gluten-free” oysters are delivered with saltines on top. When I explain I cannot have any wheat touching any food due to extreme sensitivity, the waitress says, “We’ll just take them off then.” (The oysters came back from the kitchen way too fast so I didn’t eat them.) The Famous, Colorado Springs, CO

An Allergic Foodie: What Restaurants Did Wrong in 2013

 7.  I order a salad sans the cheese, croutons and candied walnuts and ask to substitute veggies for all the ingredients I can’t eat. I am charged extra for the veggies. –Every Panera Bread I’ve eaten in and most chain restaurants

6.  I order an Iced Coffee at McDonald’s. I explain I have allergies and therefore do not want cream or flavoring. The cashier charges me for an Iced Latte. I ask her to charge me for a regular coffee because that is what I get–a regular coffee with ice. The manager says they can’t do that. –-A McDonald’s somewhere on the highway between Kansas and Georgia

5.  After ordering a dairy-free sauce, I rave over the delicious gluten-free pasta and veggies. “It’s the cream that makes it taste good,” says the waiter.Eden Inn, Positano, Italy (This really happened in 2012, but it still haunts me!)

4.  The waitress, who says she has extensive allergies herself, arrives with my salad topped with cheese. I tell her the kitchen made a mistake and send it back. She leaves, turns back, and says, “Well, the dressing has cheese in it, too. Does that mean you don’t want the dressing?” Walter’s Bistro, Colorado Springs, CO

3.  Finding ordering difficult and not confident in the waiter’s understanding, I ask to speak to the chef. I am told the chef is too busy to leave the kitchen. Too many restaurants to list

Restaurants and Food Allergies

2.   During the last bite of my gluten-free and diary-free salad, I bite into a big chunk of blue cheese.  Seasons 52, Kansas City, MO

 1.  Watching a basketball game with my husband at a local sports bar, I’m excited when the bartender hands me a large gluten-free menu. I ask about the first item on the menu: Buffalo chicken wings. “Oh, you don’t want those,” she says. “They’re cooked with all the other fried foods.”  Then why are they on the gluten-free menu? “Some people just like to think they’re eating gluten-free.” Flatirons American Bar and Grill, Colorado Springs, CO

Related Posts from An Allergic Foodie

Working Together to Avoid an Allergic Reaction

Get Rid of Tipping? Those with Food Allergies Will Suffer

Food Allergies: Don’t Let Your Guard Down

What Restaurants Did Wrong in 2013: An Allergic Foodie’s Top-Ten List originally appeared at www.adventruresofanallergicfoodie.com.

Food Allergies: Don’t Let Your Guard Down!

I have a habit of doing something a little odd before ordering a meal out. I pick what I might have eaten before my stomach became a sieve and I developed most of the top eight allergies and then some. I have a feeling I’m not the only allergic foodie to do this. 🙂

So For Father’s Day brunch at one of our favorite restaurants I chose Eggs Benedict with crab accompanied by homemade breakfast potatoes pan-fried in butter. Oh, and don’t forget to add one of those freshly baked scones everyone around me is oohing and ahing about. And maybe a dollop of that raspberry jam. Mmmmmmmm……

Then the waitress arrived, and I ordered a salad with salmon, avocado, tomatoes, and Kalamata olives.

And an hour later I became sick. Oh so horribly sick. With stomach cramps and everything else that comes with being allergic to soy. How do I know it was soy when I’m also allergic to corn, eggs, dairy, gluten, and so on? Because when I become that sick, it’s almost always caused by soy.

My first reaction was what it always is. Geesh, if I’m going to get this sick, couldn’t it have been from a big slice of chocolate cake? My second reaction was How could this have happened?

The waitress at this particular restaurant knows me well and has extensive food allergies herself. The chef even keeps a list of my food allergies in the kitchen! They often come back and recheck my order with me. This is the one of the very few restaurants I feel safe eating at.

A few guesses as to what went wrong. It was Father’s Day and busy and contamination occurred. The olives may have been marinated in vegetable/soy oil and they missed it. Or, they changed the brand of oil in the vinaigrette (see my post about soy oil in olive oil). Maybe they used a cooking spray containing soy lecithin in the pan where they cooked the salmon. I plan to talk to the restaurant staff the next time I see them to see if we can identify the illness-causing culprit.

Until then, this was a warning. From now on, even in the restaurants I’ve safely eaten at before, even when ordering the dishes I’ve safely eaten before, I’ll review my allergies and specifically ask how the food is prepared. Ingredients change. Chefs change. Sous chefs change. Staff change. I remember a few months ago my son got “glutened” by a sauce that claimed to be gluten-free. Turned out there was wheat in the canned jalapenos. Sometimes chefs need to be reminded to check the labels.

I have to admit I’m feeling reluctant to eat out anytime soon. I mean if I get that sick from a salmon salad, why don’t I cook my own food that’s much more tasty and interesting. Or even eat a salmon salad with my own ingredients and know for sure that I won’t react. Because my family LOVES to eat out and most of our social life revolves around food.

So I’m sure in a week or two when my autoimmune system is a bit calmer, I’ll venture out to another restaurant.  Rest assured, I’ll be on high alert for possible allergens in my food.

I won’t let my guard down again.

Stop!  Is that soy in my food???

Stop! Is that soy in my food???

Beverages and Bagpipes at the Broadmoor

Recently my husband and I took advantage of the warm Colorado evening (and the kids being at a rock concert at Red Rocks) and we ventured over to the Broadmoor Hotel’s West Lobby Bar’s patio for a drink date.  Within minutes of our beverages being delivered, a Scottish Bagpiper crossed the bridge over Cheyenne Lake and serenaded us.  Were we really only a few miles away from home?

If you haven’t been to the Broadmoor, this particular lounge offers fabulous and unusual tapas in a casual setting (though be prepared to pay a five-star price for a small serving). While we hadn’t planned on eating our dinner lakeside, I was pleasantly surprised to find allergy-free options on the short menu.  George and I shared crab claws (he dipped in a mustard aioli sauce), and then he gobbled up a lobster “corndog” while I enjoyed Wagyu beef sliders on gluten-free bread with sauteed onions and apple-wood smoked bacon. Delicious!  The server was knowledgeable about food allergies as one would expect someone who works at a highend resort to be.  I didn’t have to worry about cross-contamination or whether I explained my special needs clearly; I knew I’d wake up in the morning feeling just fine.

Of course, the tapas weren’t enough for George.  We headed over to another local restaurant so he could fill up. Sadly, there wasn’t one gluten-free, allergy-free item on the menu.  Sigh.  When it comes to special dietary needs, I wish all restaurants strived to be five-star.

Have you discovered any unexpected extraordinary restaurants this summer?