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The Allergic Diner



My reviews and thoughts about my journey through the perils of not eating at home. I am an Epi-Pen carrying, sigh-inducing patron, constantly on the lookout for new places in which I can eat (and new recipes!). My hope is that this experience can help oth



Updated: 2017-09-24T10:47:21.236-07:00

 



Allergic Travel

2011-10-06T14:19:16.216-07:00

So, yes, I might have mentioned in a previous post that NAH kicks some sense into me every now and again. Our upcoming anniversary trip to Washington is a big deal, and well, to be frank, I just don't want to spend it worried about anything. It's been a long time since we were able to go away together.

Yes, he told me everything would be fine. I just have this (OCD) need to ensure that. A few days ago, my college roommate (we're meeting her for lunch on Columbus Day before we head home) selected Ted's Bulletin on Capitol Hill as a lunch spot for us to get together. To be fair, she originally picked Founding Farmers, but their menu didn't leave me with a lot of comfort (everything was buttermilk this and seasoned tomato that--yikes!). I love this woman. Didn't have to explain more than that it didn't appear terribly me-friendly, and within seconds, the menu for Ted's was in my inbox. It's classic American food, has great reviews, and looks to be a good dining experience. However, I wasn't satisfied.

Therefore, I did what I always encourage you to do, my allergic readers: I contacted them. To be fair, the menu looked safe enough that I knew I could show up and eat something, but why settle for only one or two options? I sent an email through their website informing them of my allergies and asking if it was safe for me to order off of their breakfast menu. I worry incessantly about the olive oil problem, because especially these days, it's in everything (no joke, even some cold cuts now). I didn't hear back, chalked it up to the upcoming holiday weekend and how busy restaurants in DC always are, and thought nothing more of it. I am Allergic Diner, warrior woman; I was going anyway. This morning, I received an e-mail from the EXECUTIVE CHEF informing me that none of their breakfast foods would be problematic for me, but to please not order anything in his restaurant that contained pasta or used salad dressing.

I almost jumped out of my chair in joy. An executive chef emailing little ole' me? Really? Wow. Just like that, a little of my travelling anxiety chipped away. I cannot wait to return and write a review of Ted's Bulletin for all of you. I feel like one of those NBC television spots. "Asking is half the battle....The More Your Know!"

Planning Ahead,
Allergic Diner



Disney Dining Plan

2011-10-02T14:25:07.339-07:00

Several months ago, the wife of one of NAH's friends (someone whom I would consider a friend), started beating me over the head with the idea suggesting that we should take a girls' trip to Disney. I buckled under the pressure, said yes, and we scheduled a last-minute trip to Disney World last month. To her credit, she found a GREAT deal, and we got a free dining plan. I was impressed, but equally nervous. In visits past, I've avoided the dining plan because I didn't want to order off of a set menu or have limitations placed on my already-narrow list of foods that are safe when travelling.
Well, I am here to report that I could not have been more wrong (feel like I'm saying this a lot on here recently). For one thing, you can eat anything on the menu when you're on the dining plan. She sent a list of my allergies to WDW, and they blasted it to all of the restaurants at which she had made reservations for us (I had perused Allears.net to read menus and give her a list of Allergic-Diner safe places to eat). I was impressed. More so, every restaurant in which we ate acknowledged my allergies upon our arrival at the hostess stand, and every one sent the chef - that's right, the chef - out to talk to me to make sure I could eat...and I could!

I had three of the best meals I'd had in my life at the Captain's Grille at the Yacht Club Resort, Raglan Road in Downtown Disney, and the La Cellier Steakhouse in Canada. Their chefs were knowledgeable, and extremely friendly, and I am terribly grateful. I had a vacation where I was eating seafood, and steamed vegetables, not turkey sandwiches and hot dogs. In fact, I didn't eat one turkey sandwich THE ENTIRE TIME we were there! I also had good meals at the Sci-Fi Dine-In theater in Hollywood Studios (after having to repeat my allergies multiple times, but to the chef's credit, he introduced me to a salad dressing I'd never considered: lemon juice), and the Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom. I even got to hug Eeyore at the Crystal Palace. Crossing that off my bucket list!

Having said all of that, I have no idea how anyone eats in these restaurants without the dining plan. Our meals easily averaged $30-40/pp. Nuts! I realize I'm not a foodie, but that's just egregious by me. However, I ate healthy, and I was well taken care of, and for that, I am extremely grateful.

Thank you Disney,
Allergic Diner



Thank you, Anonymous....

2011-09-29T10:59:17.768-07:00

I posted a few days ago about an upcoming trip to DC and about my concern over not being able to find some allergy-friendly restaurants ahead of time. I reached out to you, my blogosphere, in the hopes that someone out there still would be reading after all these years and could point me in the right direction. Ask, and ye shall receive....



Thank you, Anonymous. Your recommendation of AllergyEats.com is a load off my mind. Of course, a little conversation with my darling husband last night that went a little something like this didn't hurt either:



I'm really concerned about our trip to DC. It's four days of restaurants and takeout and trusting waiters/chefs, etc., and I cannot seem to find allergy info for the city. This won't be like Disney, and I'm worried.



You do realize we went to school there for four years, right?



Yes, but do you remember the attacks? And the medicines? And some of those horrible nights?



You know far more now than you did back then. We have a host of places we ate at successfully all those years ago. I checked; a bunch of them are still open. You're making too much of this.



Normally, a comment like that would upset me greatly, but the truth of the matter is, he's completely right. I can say that here because I don't think he's among the faithful still reading. If you are, dear, I apologize. YOU ARE RIGHT. See, I know what questions to ask. I know what precautions to take. I know that if all else fails, I'm with a man who will get up and leave a restaurant if there's nothing i can eat and/or if the waiter/chef fails to make me believe I can eat there safely...and that's no small thing, trust me.



However, Anonymous also came to my rescue, and for that, unkown reader, I thank you. AllergyEats (I am not affiliated, I am not being compensated for this review, I simply am an allergic patron in cyber land) is pretty damn impressive. Even though the site appears to be new (relatively speaking), I already found a list of places that he and I can eat with a little less anxiety on my part. Heck, I might even see my way to having a cocktail!




Your Allergic Diner









On saying yes...

2011-09-26T13:00:32.948-07:00

So, my trip of last month was postponed, and this past weekend I packed myself up and drove south to see my friend. I pushed my reservations and my memories aside, and we had a wonderful, spirited, hilarious, endearing girls' weekend, one that ended in a promise to see more of each other. She is none the wiser to the reason I never pushed harder to be a part of her post-college life, and we had a fabulous time together, allergy-free, hospital-visit free, and spent most of it on her couch, catching up. I am so very thankful for the good friends in my life, and this visit only solidified that. We did, in fact, eat out at different places, only this time I knew to ask the pertinent questions before digging in. I even had a cocktail, which may not sound like much to my readers, but those who know me know that I only do this when extremely comfortable.

Next up? An anniversary trip to DC with NAH. I'm already perusing menus, and I logged in to The Washington Post only to find that they have removed their discussion boards. How's a girl to find allergy-friendly good dining in the city without the help of other DC natives? Ugh. If anyone is out there and still reading, I'd sincerely appreciate a list of allergy-friendly restaurants when you have a moment. My only bright spot in this is the realization that the world of dining has come a LONG way in the past 10 years, and waiters no longer scoff when I explain an allergy. Heck, a couple of weeks ago, I was comparing allergies with the waitress!

Living. Learning. Eating.
Allergic Diner



Revisiting a nightmare...

2011-08-11T12:43:56.710-07:00

In part of my saying yes adventures of 2011, I was given an invite to see an old friend. However, calling her an old friend doesn't really do her justice. She's the kind of person that I'd like my children to grow up like. She's strong, smart, sweet, pretty, funny, and incredibly compassionate. It is that last quality that was a saving grace during one of my more difficult life moments.

Years ago, said friend an I were on a girls' trip, just the two of us. This is before I saw the stomach doctors, and the allergist, etc. Pretty much, it was back when eating was somewhat of a terrible game of Russian Roulette for reasons that were unkown to me (and GRRR to every doctor in that process who suggested I simply was under stress. Would this have been said to me if I were a man? I digress...).

Nonetheless, we went away on vacation, and out for a nice dinner. That lovely dinner ended with a hospital visit that was seven hours long (not joking), and this wonderful friend stood at my exhausted side through everything, including the bathroom visits, the injections, and the subsequent sleep-it-off day following a massive allergic reaction. I could never thank her properly for what certainly ruined her vacation, and lovely woman that she is, she never said a word.

All these years later, I know it was the tomato, and the cheese, etc. However, that night, all I knew was that I had ruined what was supposed to be a peaceful retreat. I've seen her since in the past years, though not often, as we don't live near each other.

This weekend, NAH leaves for his vacation of golfing, hiking, and beer with the guys. With her sixth sense intact, this friend called and asked me to come out for a visit. So, I did what I swore on this site that I would do. I SAID YES. Am I scared? Certainly. Seeing her brings back reminders of that fateful evening and the unreasonable anxiety that it could happen again. The truth is, it always can happen again, and has little to with her and everything to do with knowledge and vigilance. Unfortunately, when i see her, it's all those years ago, and she's holding my hand while I'm getting a shot and praying to God with all my might just to get me through. However, onward and upward. Fingers crossed for a lovely, incident-free weekend. I hope to post pictures and restaurant reviews upon my return.

Saying yes,
Allergic Diner



Never say never...

2011-08-01T11:36:42.287-07:00

I was done, over it. I used this blog as stress relief from a difficult job (seriously, you try nannying a bunch of grown men. Editor, shmeditor...) and it worked for a while. Family, friends, fellow allergy sufferers and even the occasional medical professional would read, lurk, and sometimes comment. Then, the strangest thing happened.

I found myself in a new job, with far less stress, and it was like the allergy embargo had been lifted. For the first time in years, I felt like a new person internally, and as a result, I grew tired of being identified as the allergic chick. I grew tired of having a dear friend grasp the waiter's arm every time we went to lunch to say, "You don't understand, if you pick that tomato off her salad, and serve it to her without telling her, SHE WILL DIE. And that's on you, my friend," (I kid you not). Sweet, sure, but slightly more forceful than I care to be with anyone handling my food.

I didn't want to be the Allergic Diner anymore. I yearned to be a normal person who just could go out to a restaurant without having to review the menu beforehand, and who could trust in the truthfulness of the chef and/or the waiter. Additionally, the more I grew to love my new job, and the freedom it affords me, I found that I especially loved the joy of not having to engage in petty office melodrama. I didn't exactly have stress to release. I found (and continue to find) myself in the rather odd position of just being happy and content. My zest for life is back, my friends, and it is a beautiful thing.

I recently read a blog about the idea behind trying to say "yes" to everything in life. Obviously, it's not something you can do all the time, but it is something I've tried diligently to put into practice in everyday life this year. Fly all the way to San Diego by myself? Yes. Submit a ghostwriting proposal? Yes. Market my freelance business? YES. Food test things that terrify me? Yes. It is this last one that brings me back to this blog, and to all of you.

I will be blogging again, not just about allergies, but about life and my attempts to be fearless, and I hope that you understand that by saying yes to life, and specifically to new foods and places, that I have broken out of my fearful allergic shell. It truly is a beautiful life. Say yes (and forgive me occasionally if I wander off the allergic path I started).

Until next time,
Your Allergic Diner :)



0 Comments

2010-06-02T12:10:16.662-07:00

Dear client,
No matter how many times you write it, "forth" is not a number. Please take my word for it.
Sincerely,
Your irritated editor



Are you dead?

2010-05-24T10:04:54.208-07:00

When someone asks you, "Are you choking?" the cardinal rule is that if you can answer with words, you're not choking. Right?
This past Saturday, NAH and I went out to dinner with friends, to a local Italian restaurant that has great food. It had an enormous menu, and having done my research ahead of time, I was certain that it would be an easy, safe meal.

I ordered one of their special entree salads without the cheese, dressing on the side, and specifically asked the waitress if there would be tomato on the salad, as it was not listed. She said no, that all ingredients for each salad were listed on the menu. "Great!" I said, "because I'm severely allergic." NAH and our NAFriends ordered their meals, and we sat around gabbing before they arrived. When the food arrived, the tomato sauce on everyone's plates smelled incredible, and my salad looked really nice, EXCEPT FOR THE LITTLE RED SLICES OF EVIL ON THE LETTUCE, AND UNDER THE CRAB MEAT...
"Wait a second. Do you see this?" I asked the waitress, somewhat incredulous. Her eyes grew really wide.
"Oh my god, I'm so sorry, he must've thought that he should replace the cheese with something."
"OK, Here's the new problem. You have to ensure that all of this is thrown out. I cannot eat anything on this plate once it's touched the sliced tomatoes. Please, NOTHING can be rinsed off."
Off she went. I looked at our friends and NAH and insisted that they start without me, as theirs were piping hot. It took about 10 minutes, and we didn't see our waitress at all in those 10 minutes. When she returned, it was the perfect salad, exactly as I'd ordered it, and then she said those magic words. "Sorry I've been neglecting you guys, but I wanted to stand back there with the chef to make sure that no part of her salad was reused."

Trust issues gone, and it looked incredible. I started eating. About three minutes later I caught her peering around the corner of our booth. "Are you dead?" she asked.
"Nope. Still good," and I found the comment as sweet and hilarious as it was tactless. When she brought our check, she shared with us that she suffers from an anaphylaxis to something, and is scared to death to eat in restaurants because of it, so she wanted to make sure I would be alright (having previously glanced at the offending tomato? I'm still not sure, but it was sweet).

Thankfully, our friends were both content and kind enough to let me sit and eat long after they'd finished (a 10 minute head start is sizable in a restaurant setting). To be fair, this friend and her husband once sent MY food back three separate times when it wasn't up to my allergy standards (I am often done and too nervous to eat after one failed attempt). They're keepers :).

Dinner was wonderful, and the waitress completely earned my trust. We'll be back!



vacation confessions...

2010-05-23T10:03:50.062-07:00

My good friend K. and I are trying to plan our joint birthday trip this year. We've been planning this since we graduated college, putting away money a little bit at a time, hoping that when we hit the next big milestone birthday, we'd be at a place in our lives where we could pick up and escape for a weekend without too many concerns.

Well, the summer of our birthdays has arrived, and we have begun the planning (or at least the thinking). I wrote to a dude ranch last week at which we were interested in vacationing (because nothing says girls' weekend and birthdays like boots and a cowgirl hat), and asked if they could accommodate my allergies. Then, I held my breath. I've gotten a wide variety of responses with these sorts of inquiries, so I never know what to expect.

I received this...
Dear XXXX,
We'd love to have you and your friends come and stay with us at the XXXX Ranch. Since I don't know the extent of your food allergies, it's hard for me to answer your question. We usually are able to accommodate some food allergies. But if you can't have food, for instance, that is prepared in the same kitchen that we may prepare tomatoes or have bananas, then there would be a problem. If it's just a matter of avoiding those foods, it would be a good idea to contact our cook, through our manager, in advance to discuss your allergies.Please let me know if you need anything else.

Now, to be fair, that's a perfectly reasonable and responsible answer, which is why I've crossed out their name. I harbor no animosity toward this ranch, nor would I want to encourage my allergy friends not to visit. My concern, and the reason for this posting, is that I have no clue what to make of this letter. Does this mean they will cook for me in separate dishes? Does it mean that I have to have my food sliced on the same cutting board as a previously sliced tomato? Will I have the cranky chef who sneakily rubs a banana on my plate in an effort to send me to the great beyond?

Again, they were timely, and polite, and offered their assistance, but I think we'll go elsewhere. I look for certain confidence-inspiring words in correspondence, and they were not here. Before you suggest that I contact them for further questions, I'm too much of a skeptic. Even if I could get them to agree, if I have to instruct them in allergy-safe procedures, I'd be too nervous to eat any of the food that they prepared. On the flip side, maybe a dude ranch vacation where I can lose 10 lbs. is just the ticket....

Your adventure vacation experiences/suggestions welcome...
Your Allergic Diner



holiday wishes and food test results (belated)

2010-04-06T15:03:08.105-07:00

The past few weeks have been a marathon. I got back from my visit to Atlantic City and hit the ground at a dead run. Ten hour days (minimum) for almost 12 days straight. Don't forget to throw in Passover and Easter! Now that I've cleared the finish line, I wanted to share my Passover experience with you.

We had a lovely Seder here on the first night of Passover, complete with matzo ball soup and potato kugel. I've never understood the Passover dessert spectacle (who the heck has room left in their stomach after the Seder, the soup, and the enormous meal?), and yet at every Passover I've ever attended, at the end of the evening everyone sits down to a table laden with Passover cakes, cookies, ice cream, syrup, fruit, and candy. For my non-Jewish readers, let me explain something key: nobody who sits down to this is actually happy about it. It's more of a ritual than it is a treat, and this is because of a well-kept Jewish secret: Passover desserts are AWFUL. The reason for the ice cream fixings on the table? TO DROWN THE CAKE/COOKIES. Anyone will tell you that it's the equivalent of eating a brick (or a sponge, depending on whether it was made fresh). It's just simply not edible, and it's overload on your stomach.
This year was my non-allergic in-laws first time joining us for Seder (thank you non-allergic sous chef Mom and Dad!), and while I wanted to cook traditional foods, I didn't want to have to sit and stomach the things I don't like, especially when it came time for dessert.
Selfish? You betcha. But hey, I'm the cook. Them's the breaks.

For dessert we had fruit salad, ice cream, and macaroons. See, I found the loophole. I introduced a traditional Jewish Passover dessert that actually tastes good! Unfortunately, trying to convince your guests that something is good that they don't(and won't - coconut allergy) see you eating is not usually an easy task. Fortunately, they trust me :), and the Seder was lovely and quite delicious, and the macaroons went over very well!

The other day I got to thinking, though I've known about my coconut allergy for almost eight years, I can remember stealing macaroons from the cookie jar during Passover when I was a child. I also have a few memories of sneaking the Mounds bars out of my Halloween stash (allergic mom is a big fan, and they seemed to always disappear). So, at some point in time, coconut and I got along.

How am I going to tie up this post, you ask? Well, the marathon is over, but I still have plenty of work to do. Ergo, I'm in the house for the next few days, and the macaroons are still here. I tried one yesterday, figuring that it was processed, and about an ounce, and if I got sick I was here and it wasn't a big deal. Except....I didn't get sick. I tried another one today, and no reaction again. Apparently I'm no longer allergic to coconut! I'm not sure that I was really missing anything, as this isn't an ingredient common to a lot of food that I eat, but it's sure nice to have something back on my food list.
So with that successful food test, I have logged in to wish you all a belated Happy Passover and Happy Easter. I hope this year is finding you well!
MMMM...coconut....
Your Allergic Diner



FYI

2010-03-28T09:10:00.061-07:00

Several days ago, I received this comment from a reader. I think it is worthwhile to post here for everyone to read. This was left on an old post I had written about the allergy-friendliness of the menu at P.F. Chang's.

Careful! We went there last night and found out that they have changed the recipes and that the oyster free sauce is no longer available. EVERY dish we ordered was unsafe for a shellfish allergy. The manager came out and let us know that we could not order the lettuce wraps, the kung pao chicken, the sweet and sour chicken, the orange peel beef (or chicken for that matter), and the egg drop soup. She said that corporate wide they have stopped allowing the substitute sauce.

Please, friends, ASK questions when you go to a restaurant. A good friend likes to tease me b/c we meet for lunch at the same restaurant, where without fail, I order the same dish. Each time, before I place my order, I review how it's made with the waitress.
Remember the cardinal rule of allergic dining:
YOU ARE ALWAYS BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY, so speak up!!!
Thank you to the commenter who sent the P.F. Chang's warning!
Allergic Diner



The evening was only missing the banana walnut cookies of death...otherwise known as allergic adventures in cooking class, part 1.

2010-03-26T14:09:59.081-07:00

Howdy, bloggy friends!
It's been awhile. I'm barely keeping my head above water with my freelance work, and I'm loving every minute of it. I managed to escape to visit my allergic mom on Tuesday, and we had an allergic adventure that I felt I should share with you.
Allergic mom is retired, and working her way through a "bucket list" of sorts. It's great. One of the items on her list was to take a cooking class to expand her repertoire. I offered to join her, figuring it would be a good time had by all. I like spending time with allergic mom, and I like cooking. We signed up for a Chinese cooking class. Yum. How could this not be a win-win? Oh, brother...
Tuesday evening I drove to Atlantic City Community College where the class was held. When we entered the class, we received our recipe packets. My internal alarm was sounding as I noted that every chef was wearing latex gloves. Strike one.
We opened the recipe packets, and it was not the typical Chinese food that we were expecting. This was Southeast Asian cooking, as in Thai food, as in every recipe contained either shrimp (allergic mom's one and only MASSIVE allergy), lemongrass (allergic diner no-no), coconut (allergic diner no-no), fish sauce (allergic diner no-no), chili paste (allergic diner no-no), and well, you get the picture. Strikes two, three, four, and five. Yikes!
I couldn't help it. I dissolved into a fit of giggles while the chef was lecturing. Out of close to 10 ingredients, only two were allergic-diner friendly (mung beans and mint, mmmmm....). This had all the makings of a hospital visit, and as I was extremely overtired to begin with, I found it simply hilarious. All I could think was "Where are the death cookies?"
As I'm snickering behind my packet, I looked at allergic mom, who was very nonchalantly starting to scratch her arms, and then her wrists, and then her palms. The shrimp was at every station, and I'm guessing the scent of all that shrimp was too much for her. I couldn't help myself, I cracked up. We couldn't have chosen a more inappropriate class for ourselves short of signing up for "Inject yourself with a tomato 101!"
We walked over to one of the sous chefs and explained our predicament. She even noted my med-alert bracelet (two points for her!). They were extremely kind, and offered to refund our money on the spot (after insisting we move the conversation to the hallway so my mom didn't scratch herself to death). We didn't want that! We've rolled our tuition into a "to be determined" course for May/June. Perhaps we'll bake some bread, or learn some knife skills. This was simply not meant to be.
Our cooking adventure lasted all of 10 minutes, and we went out to dinner for the Chinese food we thought we'd be making (thereby still giving allergic dad a night to himself). Adventures in cooking class, part two, will be forthcoming.
Ah well, the best laid plans...
Yours in attempting to live life on occasion,
Allergic Diner



A whole day off?

2010-03-07T11:40:35.338-08:00

Recently, I was afforded something that has become unusually rare since I began contract work: an entire day off, without any work that needed my attention. Certainly, I have time off. However, I have found that when I'm at home and on multiple deadlines, I might as well be working to make my deadlines. Happy clients keep the work flowing. Therefore, even if I have a Saturday off, I will often spend part of the day working on a project. Not this week! I was OFF on Wednesday, and decided to make the most of my day.
The highlight of my day was stopping by Wegman's to pick up lunch on my way home to watch an entire season's worth of DVRed shows (I tape them, but I can never get to them!). I was craving one of their delicious Caesar salads that I only indulge in sparingly because they are not good for you. Anything that tastes that good just can't be good for you. After waiting in line, I noticed that the salad preparer had used her tongs to touch a corn/tomato salsa for the woman who had been in line ahead of me. I very politely (and very nervously, as there were about 25 people in line) said, "I'm really sorry, but I'm allergic to what you just touched with your tongs, would you mind using a clean pair to make my salad?"
Not only did she change tongs (and salad bowls), but she put on brand new gloves as well. Color me impressed! The salad was fantastic.
Thanks you, Wegmans!
Your Allergic Diner



On Daily Calcium

2010-02-22T06:29:04.613-08:00

(image)
I love yogurt. I always have. With the recent discovery that I can eat yogurt with no Lactaid pills, I've been trying all of the flavors in the Yoplait light line. I'm a big fan of their Boston cream pie flavor, because it tastes like Boston cream pie. If I can't eat the pie, well, the yogurt allows me to pretend for a little bit. About a week ago I saw an ad for Yoplait that introduced their new flavor, red velvet cake. I bought when I was at the grocery store, and it is phenomenal! You have to get past the pepto bismol color, but it actually tastes like red velvet cake. Thank you, Yoplait :)!
Yours in the pursuit of new foods,
Allergic Diner



Really?

2010-02-21T08:16:36.664-08:00

You must be 21 to secure a credit card without a co-signer, but at 18 you can fight and die for this country....? Anyone?



Fun with Food Math

2010-01-05T13:25:52.623-08:00

1 chocolate-covered pretzel + 0 Lactaid pills = NO PROBLEMS!!!!!


Optimistically,
Your Allergic Diner



Allergic Mecca and New Year Food Test #1

2010-01-03T12:16:36.530-08:00

That's right, I'm talking about none other than the Trader Joe's supermarket chain. A friend introduced me to this place a few years back in Chicago. It's small, it's kitschy, and definitely a hang-out of the suburbanite who wants to shop at the "in" store. I was determined to dislike it, just on principle. I walked in, and immediately started reading labels. Labels after labels in aisle after aisle, and in most cases, I could eat 75% of the food in an aisle. Ah, the options. I've found delicious rice snacks that are sweet and spicy and salty and are fat free (and oh so much better for you than Doritos). A multitude of lactose-free and soy options, and sodium-free dried fruit for my homemade trail mix. I'm not allergic to sodium, I simply hate store-bought trail mix. To me it always tastes like what I imagine a salt lick would. Allergic Diner rule: the only salt in trail mix belongs on the pretzels.

A TJ's opened near me this year, and the predictable crowd flocked to the store in the first few months. I waited out the rush, and went in and bought 8 bags of the rice snacks, a host of salt-free dried fruit (mmm), lactose-free swiss cheese, and something else that caught my eye: frozen, gluten-free, DAIRY-FREE, pancakes.

As an allergic child, pancakes were something I loved, but that hated me. I thought IHOP was the greatest place on the planet (much to my foodie parent's dismay), but was always sick to my stomach for hours afterwards. When I was diagnosed with lactose intolerance (not just diagnosed, I made the doc's Lactose Wall of Fame, mind you) one of the things they tell you never to eat is pancakes. Why? Buttermilk. That wonderful flavor-giving dairy was the source of all of my upset stomachs. I stopped going to IHOP, changed over to Eggos (could always stomach these), and never looked back. On the rare occasion I wanted pancakes, I would make them homemade (and though the edges crisped nicely in the dairy-free margarine, they were never as good). I had high hopes for the TJ pancakes.

This morning I figured it would be a nice start to an absolutely raw day. I opened the box, and saw that the portions were individually vacuum-sealed (portion control, a plus!). I made them and topped them with preserves. They were...well...pancake-ish? They weren't bad, by any means. It was more like eating flavorless warm mush. Not unappetizing, but not something I will voluntarily eat again. Here's the kick - this wasn't an unsuccessful food test. This is just something I tried and didn't love!

Hey, it's a new year, which means trying a multitude of new things, right?
My New Year's resolution is twofold: I will return to regular blogging, and I will continue food testing. Read all about my restaurant visits, products, trials and tribulations here, and Happy New Year!

Yours in 2010,
Allergic Diner



In which I wax sentimental.....

2009-12-25T19:50:49.989-08:00

So this isn’t a post about allergies, not really. I haven’t posted in awhile, and I’ve decided I need to end 2009 with a few thoughts. Those of you still reading at this point are probably family and friends, and this is really aimed at all of you.

When I lost my job this year, allergic husband and I sat down and drew up a very strict budget to which we needed to adhere (ok, I drew it up and he nodded), and even though I knew we’d be ok if we stuck to it, I was terrified. Fear doesn’t always have a rational basis, and mentally, I felt as if I’d been hit by a train.

Two weeks after I was laid off, I was in the local supermarket with a pen and paper. I was adding the cost of the groceries as I placed them in my cart. I was calculating the cost of something in the meat aisle when a woman next to me asked me a question about the ground beef. We struck up a conversation about recipes and what she was making that weekend, and then we both went about our merry way. A few minutes later, she found me adding the cost of tissues in the paper goods aisle and said to me, “Here, I won’t be shopping enough to use this, and you look like you will be. Have a nice weekend.” It was a coupon for $5 off my shopping order. It may sound incredibly stupid, but that simple random act of kindness solidified for me that everything was going to be alright.

And it was. We have two wonderful families who would do anything for us, and made that fact known immediately when they thought we were in trouble. Our friends couldn’t offer their assistance quickly enough (be it their company, offers to pass on a résumé, or simply checking in to make sure we were alright).We were (and are still) nothing short of grateful (and at times, simply dumbstruck).

So as 2009 draws to a close, I leave you, my readers, with a sentiment in which I put my faith. I believe that you are simply an extension of the way you treat people (consider this the adult version of the golden rule). I have never felt more loved or blessed than in this past year, and I cannot thank anyone enough. It is my hope that the family and friends who have surrounded us do so in part because of the relationships we have with them, and will continue to do so. Oh, and if it matters to those reading, I am working :) (always a firm believer that when one door closes, a window opens).

To my husband, my family, my friends, and even to the random grocery lady, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Your walking Hallmark card,
The Allergic Diner


P.S.- If I must tie in one wonderful allergy/intolerance related note, I have discovered that Halloween candy no longer necessitates Lactaid pills!

BRING ON 2010!!!!



the holy grail...

2009-10-13T14:40:27.968-07:00

This, my friends, is the holy grail....LACTOSE-FREE cheese. I've waited two solid weeks to post about this, because I wanted to do a real food test. See that yellow label on the package picture below? It states, "naturally lactose free." (image) Over the years I've found that with lactose food tests, you need to try it not only more than once, but multiple times over consecutive days. That "lactose-free" cottage cheese made by Lactaid doesn't upset my stomach on day 1, but by day 2 I'm sicker than I'd like to explain. It isn't naturally lactose-free, but treated with the enzyme to help digestion.
Everyday for the past two weeks, I've been eating this! I'm fine, and it's INCREDIBLE, and healthy (hooray for calcium!). I've purchased the Gouda as well, and it's even tastier than the Muenster.
Before I understood what the upset stomach meant, I was the kid who came home from school, opened the fridge, and broke out a block of Cracker Barrel. Not the world's greatest idea, mind you, but there you have it. Now I have my favorite food in the world back!
To cheese!
Allergic Diner




A great article, and a child whose parents should be proud

2009-10-12T15:12:09.132-07:00

Good evening!
I found this quite interesting and wanted to share....

"Boy Pushes Congress for Food Allergy Deadlines" - CNN.com

Next? I've found lactose-free cheese. Real cheese, not the lactaid cheese that's treated with enzymes. I don't miss ice cream, I don't miss sour cream, but I miss cheese terribly. Now I have it back!

Yours in the pursuit of allergy-free eating,
Allergic Diner



Happy Rosh Hashanah

2009-09-17T14:58:24.309-07:00

So when I say I'm off to enjoy the rest of my summer, I really did enjoy the rest of my summer. More outdoors, less computer. However, as fall is upon us, I am now indoors more, and NAH has kindly made me wireless (oh, the places I'll go). For starters, back to blogging I go. Allergy stories and travels coming soon, but for now, as tomorrow evening marks the start of the Jewish New Year, I wish a l'shana tovah to my Jewish readers.

Sincerely,
Your Allergic Diner



Trust in Food.

2009-08-18T06:20:58.321-07:00

Yesterday I ran out to the local ACME to take advantage of a few choice sales. While I was there, I picked up two items I've been interested in food testing: nectarines and chocolate eclairs.
Desserts are hard for me. I never order one in a restaurant, but I've found that supermarkets, with the ingredients used by the bakery printed right on the label, tend to bring me good luck. Yesterday afternoon, I went to take the eclairs out of the fridge. I had purchased them pre-packaged by the bakery, so I could read the ingredients and determine the proper number of Lactaid pills. I stopped cold when I saw what appeared to be one label over the other on the package. When I peeled up the top label, with an expiration date of August 20th, underneath was a label with the date August 16th. I checked the calendar, to make sure I wasn't losing my mind. It was August 17th. I was really, really upset.

This morning I drove to ACME right after I took my shower b/c I wanted this out of the way. I asked to speak to a store manager, and showed her what I had found. She was appalled (good start!). Then she summoned the bakery via the intercom, and asked someone to come to the front of the store. Except - when the woman arrived - it was grandma. Not my grandma, mind you, but everybody's grandma. How am I supposed to argue with grandma?

Grandma took a look at the package and stated that the price should've been lower because it was past its date (OH BROTHER - food poisoning, on sale!). The store manager just shook her head and very calmly explained, "No. This is expired. We don't repackage expired products, we get rid of them." "Right," grandma said, "but what I'm saying is that one of the kids accidentally put a label over this one instead of pulling it to be dumped. Without being able to see the correct date, this never would've been pulled." Then she turns to me, patted me on the arm and said, "Am I explaining this correctly so that you understand what I'm saying, honey?" (OY).
I looked at grandma and very, very calmly said "Let me see if I understand this. You expect me to believe that this was a mistake, not some lazy kid who forgot to take the expired label off first before placing a later one on it? That the other packages of eclairs on sale aren't past their expiration date and that's why they were placed on sale? I don't think so. I also don't think I'll be purchasing a baked good at this store again." And then I turned to the manager and asked for my money back. She handed it to me with a sincere apology.
Now, you might think I was being too tough on grandma, but you need to understand this from a food allergy perspective. Say I had done that food test yesterday, and had gotten violently ill. I never would've known the product was expired, and I would've assumed that there was something in the eclair to which I was allergic, or it was too rich for me, etc. I never would've eaten one again, and I never would've known why.

The ONLY thing I need in terms of food is to be able to trust the places in which I buy the food I eat, and the restaurants in which I dine. What ACME did, honest mistake or not (methinks not based on Grandma's first response - it's expired, let's discount it more!), makes me very, very nervous.

So, I food-tested the nectarine yesterday. That did NOT go well. Good grief.
Today will be a better day,
TAD



0 Comments

2009-08-17T06:28:09.704-07:00

Sorry for the impromptu hiatus, folks. Believe it or not, its been a pretty busy summer!

Two happy food tests to report:
A bosc pear. I will be doing the second part of this food test today. (for some reason, I often find that I need to eat things more than once to get a real result.)
Chicken Marsala. I kid you not. One of my goals this year is to find more "safe" dishes at restaurants, so NAH has kindly agreed to bring in some take-out. Had this one in two parts, and not even a blip in my stomach! Now to try it from other restaurants...

One sad food test:
Plum. Not so much this year. Ah well, I can live with it...

One fun item to report? I received what I think is one of the neatest presents ever from a good friend (thank you K!). I get to create my own cookbook, complete with photos, on a website titled aptly, "Create My Cookbook." I'm toying with titles. Perhaps something along the lines of "101 ways not to kill the Allergic Diner?" Her rationale was that I work so hard to tweak conventional recipes in order to be able to eat them, why not put them all in one place (and she's never even seen the multiple shelves that host my cookbook collection!)? I cannot wait to try this and I promise to blog about the experience!

Off to enjoy the rest of my summer,
Your Allergic Diner



All's well that ends well, right?

2009-07-23T06:46:53.128-07:00

I'd like to start this post by saying, "Yippee!"

I heard from Dr. Rutledge of Wellsphere, and he kindly agreed to remove both my content and feed, and to discontinue my association with Wellsphere. According to the comment he left on my last post, I'm to infer that I (and a whole lot of other bloggers) just have it all completely wrong (HAH). Perhaps the agreement was changed? Ah, well. This concerns me no longer.
I appreciate that this was handled swiftly and professionally, and that there was no need to resort to any of the horrible tactics of which I had read.

Moving on with life.....
Your Allergic Diner



WELLSPHERE SCAM

2009-07-23T06:42:16.452-07:00

So I'm a little disheartened. For quite awhile now, I've been a patient expert and a health maven over at Wellsphere. I allowed them to use my content, as I got a fabulously flattering letter from Dr. Geoffrey Rutledge promising me a bump in readership and yet another vehicle through which to disseminate my information.I tried answering questions on the site, I really did, but when I received questions daily such as, "Do peanut M&Ms still count as junk food if peanuts are good for you?" (OH MY GOODNESS, PLEASE, I JUST NEED A GUN) or better yet, "My infant has a rash in his mouth that looks like an allergic reaction, what should I do" (TURN OFF THE F*#^ING COMPUTER AND TAKE HIM TO A DOCTOR??!!), I got a little unhappy. I stopped signing into the site, I certainly stopped posting to the site, and I just sort of left well enough alone, content to advertise their site on my blog while they used my RSS feed on theirs.Then the layoff happened, and with a little more time on my hands, I decided I should give the site another try. I googled "wellsphere," (because that was the original name of the site, though I received notification several months back it had been sold to Health Central). You know how google gives you a list of things you might be looking for as you type? Well, up pops "Wellsphere Scam."UH OH.Apparently I was one of thousands of health bloggers fooled by that so-called flattering letter. Dr. Rutledge had several versions that were sent out to us blog folk, all with the hopes of signing us on to his network. That's fine. Not even a problem, really. As far as a form letter goes, it was a damn good one.The problem? Apparently there was something in the fine print that most of us missed. I have yet to clear up whether this was original to the agreement with Wellsphere, or if this is under the new Health Central rules, but they are claiming intellectual property rights to our content! They can use our material any which way they want, and there ain't a darn thing we can do about it (!). This does not sit well with me. Nor would I ever have agreed to it if I had seen it in the beginning.I read webpage after webpage of health bloggers, some of whom were doctors and nurses, as to how these writers dissolved their partnership with Wellsphere. Scare tactics, lawsuits, vulgar postings, etc. I couldn't believe my eyes. I wrote to Dr. Rutledge yesterday, asking that he discontinue the RSS feed and remove my content from his site, and sent the same email to their general support. And so it begins....if it is necessary, I will remove this site and start anew. It's just so darn irritating. Here's hoping for an amicable solution.[...]