Some Restaurants Shouldn’t Have Gluten-Free Menus

Ten days ago I posted a photo on Instagram of an awesome gluten-free pizza using Udi’s Gluten-Free crust that I enjoyed at Flatiron’s American Bar and Grill in Colorado Springs. I hadn’t eaten at this restaurant for over six months because all I could ever order was salad. You all know what that’s like.

Some Restaurants Shouldn't Have Gluten-Free Menus

So imagine my surprise when I learned Flatiron’s now had a huge gluten-free menu that could also accommodate my dairy and soy and corn allergies. We’d just picked the College Celiac up from the airport and I was thrilled we went to Flatiron’s because he could eat safely. I even tweeted my appreciation. The restaurant is locally owned and I like to support neighborhood businesses.

Last night I was craving that pizza. So my husband and I went to Flatiron’s and I ordered the exact pizza I ordered ten days earlier: Veggie pizza but substitute the poblano peppers and garlic for pepperoni. I clearly stated that I was celiac and needed the pizza to be as clean as possible.

The pizza arrives with cheese, which was entirely my fault. I sometimes forget pizza typically comes with cheese! I send the pizza back and the next one arrives with no cheese and no pepperoni. Overcooked, barely any sauce, it tastes awful. And I know that Udi’s Gluten-Free pizza crust tastes good when cooked correctly.

I whip out my camera and show the ten-day-old Instagram pizza photo to the manager who says matter-of-factly, “That doesn’t look like our gluten-free crust, it looks like our regular crust.”

Here’s a photo of the one I got last night. The only difference I see is this one is overcooked and lacking sauce and pepperoni.

Bad Gluten-Free Pizza at Flatiron's

I turn to my husband. “So I guess I can eat gluten now.” I was being sarcastic. It was late and I was hungry.

The manager says, “Maybe you’re not allergic anymore, I’ve heard that can happen.”

I just stared at my husband with my mouth wide open. Here is a manager of a restaurant with a huge gluten-free menu–they even advertise 20 percent off gluten-free items on Thursdays–who clearly has no understanding of celiac disease or a wheat allergy.

I should have said something like, “Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease with over 300 symptoms and it is not reversible. The only cure is to not eat gluten.” But at that point, I just wanted to go home and get in my jammies and heat up a can of soup.  We left cash to cover our wines and bolted out the door.

Of course, as soon as I got home I tweeted about my bad experience.

People jumped to my defense and were appalled by the manager’s ignorance.  I just love my Twitter friends.

So here is what I woke up this morning thinking: If a restaurant is going to offer a gluten-free menu, every single employee must be educated and trained. They must understand what celiac disease and food allergies are, and why preventing cross-contamination is so important. They must understand that one wrong ingredient can be life-threatening. They must take their customers’ health concerns seriously.

Otherwise, don’t even bother offering a gluten-free or allergy-friendly menu.

I’d rather order that boring old salad than risk getting sick. I certainly don’t want my youngest son with celiac disease and my oldest with dairy and egg allergies to think they are ordering safely when they aren’t.

Ten days ago, I thought I’d re-discovered a restaurant I could eat in. Obviously I was wrong. Just because a restaurant has an extensive gluten-free menu doesn’t mean you should eat there. I’m pretty sure this restaurant, like so many others, jumped on the gluten-free diet movement to make a profit. If they are serious about serving their celiac and allergic customers, they’ll immediately remove the gluten-free menu while they get proper training for the waitstaff and the chefs and the managers. This experience makes me question every restaurant’s reason for offering gluten-free choices–unless I see a certification from a third-party or talk to a manager who clearly “gets it,” I won’t feel safe dining out.

Here’s the other thing that bothers me about this whole experience. As a blogger and social media guru, I recommended this restaurant to my celiac and food-allergic brothers and sisters. Less than two weeks after doing so, I realized this is not a safe restaurant to eat in. So should I stop reviewing restaurants and posting food photos on Instagram? I’m still trying to figure this one out.

Oh, and by the way, I did get sick the next morning–even after eating one small piece of the pizza.

Some Restaurants Shouldn’t Have Gluten-Free Menus appeared first on Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Denial after food allergy diagnosis

Denial, or Why I Ate That Damn Pizza

I never eat something I know I shouldn’t.

This, folks, is called being in denial. Denial is when you pretend something that happened didn’t really happen.

Since my gut sprang a leak–make that lots of leaks–and I developed food allergies to many, many foods, I have sometimes been in denial. Okay, the truth is I was in denial a lot after I was diagnosed.

I do not have celiac disease and allergies; it’s just a little indigestion.

The lab must have gotten my blood mixed up with someone else’s– I CANNOT be allergic to that many foods!

I am not allergic to corn. I am not allergic to corn. I am not allergic to corn.

I can eat a tiny bit of soy.

When the little voice in my  head made these statements, I believed them to be real–as real as the pain in my gut.

Denial runs in my family. My mother doesn’t go to the doctor because she doesn’t want to find out she has cancer. My college son didn’t want to admit he’d inherited celiac disease. After all, he’d taken a blood test and it had come back negative. The constant gut ache after eating, the lethargy, the weight loss must be from something else. What college sophomore wants to admit he has to give up beer and pizza?

Who wants to spend their college years in the dorm bathroom either?

Eventually acceptance comes. If you’re new to this, you may not be there quite yet, but you will be.  You’ll decide you really can’t eat those cookies without developing an ugly rash all over your body. You’ll discover almond milk and Bard’s beer aren’t so bad. You’ll start focusing more on what foods you can eat, rather than all the foods you cannot eat. You’ll learn how to grocery shop, cook and eat out.

You’ll accept life is different now, and that’s okay because you feel so much better.

Still, every once in a while, you may slip back to that old frame of mind and that tiny voice in your  head will say, “You haven’t eaten _________ (fill in the blank) in a long time, so how do you know you’re still allergic? Maybe, just maybe, your non-anaphalatic allergies have magically disappeared.”

See this pizza?

Denial and Food Allergies

 

The other night I decided I could eat it (and unfortunately blasted this photo on Instagram). I’d read all about how Mellow Mushroom had taken great strides to ensure their kitchens were clean enough to produce gluten-free pizza crust. (Kudos to Mellow Mushroom!) I’d done my pre-dining out homework.

Check.

I told the server I had celiac and wasn’t just on some fad diet.

Check.

I ordered veggies as toppings to avoid any possible soy, corn, or gluten.

Check.

I asked for Daiya nondairy cheese.

Check.

I ordered a gluten-free New Planet beer.

Double check.

BUT I “FORGOT” TO ASK WHAT OTHER INGREDIENTS WERE IN THE CRUST!!!!!

How stupid was that? I think I just wanted to eat pizza and have a beer and watch basketball like all the “normal” people sitting around me at the bar were doing. I told myself I’d be safe with the gluten-free crust. If there was a little bit of egg or corn in the crust, I minimized what it would do to me.

Good old denial.

Later that night, as I doubled over in pain, I looked up the crust ingredients on the company website. Oddly I found listings of ingredients in several places, but they were all different. However, it’s pretty likely I ate soybean oil, cornstarch, and egg–a hattrick of allergens.

Guess I needed a little reminder that denying my food allergies only makes for a really bad night.

P.S. If you have celiac disease or are gluten sensitive, the Mellow Mushroom crust was delicious. Please note though that they cannot guarantee any menu item can be completely allergen-free due to possible cross-contamination.

Denial, or Why I Ate That Damn Pizza originally appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.