Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you a Merry Christmas, and a continued Happy Chanukah, as well. Best wishes for a Happy and Healthy 2009! Back with all allergy-related content in the New Year!

Seasons Greetings,

Your Allergic Diner

Monday, December 22, 2008

To my Jewish readers, wishing you a very Happy Chanukah (the fabulous holiday you can spell more than one way).

Best wishes,

Allergic Diner

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

An honest response is always appreciated!

They answered. They answered in a reasonable amount of time, and even better, THE ANSWER MAKES SENSE. Please read on, and thank you, Continental Airlines, for a prompt reply!

Thank you for your interest in our services. Your business is very important to Continental, and we look forward to seeing you on a Continental flight in the very near future.

Please be assured, the safety of our passengers and crew is always our first priority. The challenge we face is that even if we discontinue allowing pets onboard we cannot guarantee that the aircraft will be 100 percent free of animals. Because we allow service animals onboard it is impossible for us to ensure the cabin will be animal free, or any safer for passengers with pet allergies. For these reasons, we do not offer pet free flights.

We truly appreciate your concerns and take this issue seriously. We limit the number of pets allowed per flight and pets are required to stay inside approved kennels that fit completely under the seat in front of the customer for the entire duration of the flight.

Our primary concern is the safety of our customers. We want you to know that we cannot provide an "animal-free" flight. We continue to encourage you and all customers with pet allergies to take whatever medical precautions deemed necessary to prepare for the possibility of exposure.

Thank you, again, for taking the time to communicate with us. We value your business and look forward to serving your travel needs in the near future.
Regards, Customer Care Manager

Most interesting. Most honest.
~Your Allergic Diner

Thursday, December 04, 2008

allergies, ears, earrings, and a discovery....

My whole life I've been allergic to silver. I can wear it on my wrist (not a watch, too close to my skin, and I've been able to wear silver rings before by simply painting the inside with clear nail polish - allergic dad was SO smart with that one!). I'm not writing to lament the fact that I miss out on jewelry, because I don't. NAH has been very good to me over the years, and I have some beautiful pieces of jewelry, I just wear less jewelry than most people, and certainly less often. Every once in a while it would be fun to put in a pair of dangly earrings, or buy a pair at a craft show. This isn't dire, and it was never worth the pain and the subsequent reaction. I did this once when I was fourteen (wore a pair of earrings with silver posts), and had blowfish-of-the-ear syndrome. I tried again in college and had an even more severe reaction, not only blowfish-of-the-ear syndrome, but purple-blowfish-of-the-ear syndrome. I'd learned my lesson.

Except...the other day I was in Kohl's finishing up my Holiday shopping. I was waiting for NAH to pick me up, and I started browsing in their fashion jewelry department. I spied a pair of earrings, "Axcess - Liz Claiborne" (in case any of you have similar jewelry allergies). What interested me was the bottom piece of the card that said "surgical steel earwire." With the sale, they would cost $7. Eternal allergy hopeful that I am, I purchased them.

I waited a full week to try them, and did so the weekend after Thanksgiving. I wanted to make sure I was at home, near the Benadryl and rubbing alcohol and Neosporin. My rationale behind this purchase was simple, I had a med-alert bracelet that was surgical steel, and my online research confirmed that yes, in fact, surgical steel is the same material that knives, scalpels, etc are made out of. In other words, it's not silver, and there's no nickel involved (Even the nickel-free silver earrings gave me problems, by the way, and I've read plenty of stories on the Internet about other women who had the same problem). So last Saturday, I put a delightful pair of silver-toned teardrop earrings made of surgical steel earwire in my ears. I left them in for 2 hours, and took them out. Sunday I wore them all day, and Monday I was able to confidently wear them to work! I have discovered something new, and inexpensive, that I like a lot! One more stride towards 'normalcy,' no?

I went on yesterday to see what they sold in terms of surgical steel earrings. Gone were the fun colors and funky shapes I had seen in Kohl's, and what was available was silver, small, and very cold looking (not to mention pretty ugly).

The moral of the story? After the holidays, I'm going back to Kohl's to get some more dangly earrings (they have turquoise and other stones in some of them!). Hopefully they'll be even cheaper than $7.
One small step for your allergic diner, one giant danger for my credit card (because at $7 I can LOAD UP!)

Yours in allergies,
The Allergic Diner

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Turkey days and stuffing dreams....

2 posts in one day is pretty darn good, if I do say so myself, and I do.

I just wanted to wish all of my readers a VERY HAPPY THANKSGIVING. If you're new to the blog from Wellsphere, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving as well.

I am thankful for a wonderful husband (NAH - that's you!) and two loving and supportive families. I am thankful for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you, my allergy-support group of sorts, and grateful that my thoughts seem to interest you. I am thankful for a good job, a roof over my head, and a hot meal every night. I may be young, but I'm quite content with my life in a way that I never could have dreamed. I wish the same for all of you. Enjoy your turkey and football, and take a moment to tell your loved ones how much they mean to you (attention my loved ones: A LOT!)

~Allergic Diner


Here's what gets me about menu labelling. If I don't see an ingredient in the listing of what comprises a sandwich, and I don't see the ingredient in the picture of the sandwich itself, then I'm going to assume said ingredient is NOT in what I'm ordering. With me so far?

Here's what I ordered last weekend at Chili's. Cut and pasted from their website menu (this is also how it looked in the printed version.
Mouth-watering smoked turkey, Swiss cheese, mayo, lettuce & tomato.
We were out with another couple, friends of NAH's from work. Both of them are good people, both completely familiar with my allergies, and both would walk out of a restaurant in a second if I couldn't eat there. That has absolutely nothing to do with this story, but it's a nice thing to be able to say about people, so I'm putting it out there regardless.

Anyway, when I ordered, I was a little nervous because our waitress was not writing things down (order by Jedi mind trick, perhaps?), and she was young. As I've expressed before, I really have a bias about young waiters and allergy-awareness. I know not from where it stems, but its there. So sue me. I showed her my med-alert bracelet and stressed the importance of leaving everything off my sandwich but the turkey and mayo. Both friends said to her, "please be very careful with her order, she's being polite but she has severe allergies." I reinforced this and explained that please, were a tomato to touch my sandwich, if the kitchen picks it off and then sends it out, I will still get sick. She seemed to understand. I was incredibly nervous, and the wife leans over to me and whispers "Would you rather go elsewhere?" I figured we'd give it a shot.

Imagine my surprise when about 15 minutes later our waitress came back to the table with apologies, but that she was resubmitting all our orders b/c mine had come out with the evil tomato, and she wasn't letting the kitchen just remove it from the sandwich. She even resubmitted wife's quesadillas, so they'd be served piping hot. Problem solved, attentive waitress, and it should have made for the perfect meal.

About a half-hour after we ordered, our meals were served. Mine had some sort of weird spice all over it. On the turkey, not just on the outside edges, so that I could not remove it with a knife. Everybody else started eating, but I spent close to 10 minutes scraping the turkey and all the spice off of my sandwich. I ended up with a slightly-mayonnaised roll. Now, it was a tasty mayonnaised roll, but I was really hungry and that simply wasn't going to cut it. After I explained what had happened after dinner, we went to the nearby supermarket and picked me up some snacks for the rest of the evening.

Why didn't I send it back? Well, after remaking it for me once, and having been told nothing about spice (because there was nothing on the menu or in the picture that looked/sounded even remotely like spice), I didn't want it to return to the kitchen a second time. I didn't want my dining companions to have to wait another half-hour for their food, or worse, to have to sit and watch me eat after they were done.
Not a big deal, but I have learned an important new question, "No spice is listed here. Is there any in this item?"

It was a most informative evening.

Your Allergic Diner

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Continental Airlines, I await your response

I'm used to hearing about peanut allergies on airplanes, but I have never seen the issue of pets on airplanes addressed in the allergic community. If there are stories and/or links that I am missing, please let me know.

Recently, as you know, NAH and I went to Vegas. The experience with Continental started badly, and was then fixed by some very competent and congenial customer service representatives. We were originally flying out of Philadelphia, with a connecting flight through Cleveland. Before we left the house for our trip, we checked the flight status only to find out it was delayed close to four hours,and we were going to miss our connection. After about an hour of phone calls with various customer service people, we were in the car on our way out to Newark, to fly direct out of there to Las Vegas. Like I said, bad beginning, good end result.

When we arrived at the terminal, there was a woman travelling with a very small dog in a carrying case. Cute puppy, well behaved (i know this b/c he was walking around our gate at the terminal), but I was quite perplexed. What was I going to do if I ended up next to her? My reaction would be far worse if she kept the case on her lap, but as a plane is pretty much several hours of recycled air, what was I going to do? Take enough Benadryl to knock me unconscious and just pray I didn't get blowfish syndrome?

Luckily, I was not seated next to or in proximity to the woman, the puppy slept the whole flight, and we all made it to Las Vegas safe, sound and blowfish-free.

But I was intrigued. For a peanut allergy, they inform the passengers, so how do they handle pet allergies? Shouldn't I have been notified in advance of boarding the plane that there would be a dog on board? What if I hadn't seen him in the terminal?

So I sent the following letter to Continental this morning,

Flight out of EWR to Las Vegas on Thursday, November 6, 2008. Flight was fine - this is NOT a complaint.

To Whom It May Concern:
I was recently on a flight run by your airline. When I got to the airport, I noticed that there was a passenger traveling with a small dog. I have a severe pet allergy. While I was lucky enough not to be seated next to or in proximity to the passenger with the canine companion, had I been, it would have been problematic.
Does Continental have an allergy policy? I am aware that if there is a peanut-allergic person on board, then your staff will notify the rest of the passengers. Is there a policy in place for when people are allergic to the pets travelling on your airline?
I’m a freelance writer who reviews companies for their allergy policies, and I’d be happy to share Continental’s policy with other allergic consumers. I have read your FAQ on travelling with animals, but it does not address pet allergy concerns. Please contact me at your earliest convenience. I’m sure my readers would be interested to hear how an airline handles pet allergic-patrons.

So now I wait. I will keep you apprised. But quite frankly, it' s just one more reason to stop travelling! Staycation, here we come!

~Allergic Diner

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Joining the sphere of wellness

Good evening, dear readers. You may have noticed the nifty little badges on the side of my blog. I was invited by Wellsphere to become one of their featured bloggers.
I waited to tell you, as I have been invited by some rather shady websites in the past, but this one seems to be quite above-board. I especially like their community features. What better place to get allergy information than from fellow allergy sufferers (and some hand-picked, really smart doctors?). This website exemplifies the benefits of what we can do for each other, simply by sharing information.
I'm proud to be a Wellsphere Health Maven, Featured Blogger, and Patient Expert. Find me here, or find me there, but definitely check them (ME!) out!


Your Allergic Diner

Thursday, November 20, 2008

That Darn Cat....also titled "Why I'm an Idiot"

If I were a character in children's literature, I'm relatively certain I'd be, "The Big-Hearted Idiot." Let me explain why...
All my life I've been allergic to cats and dogs. Never as severe as in the past several years, but allergic all the same. In the past three years my pet allergy has gone through the roof, and the moment my face gets near a dog or cat, presto! Instant blowfish. If it were only as simple as keeping my face away from an animal, I'd be more inclined to visit my friends with pets more often. Other factors that make or break an allergic reaction include, but are not limited to, cleanliness of the house, cleanliness of the pet, friendliness of the pet (a dog that doesn't want to sit in my lap causes a far smaller reaction than one that does), etc.

Now I want to tell you a story. The story of the big-hearted idiot. This is my story, my friends.
About two weeks ago, on Monday evening, NAH came home from work and left the garage open, b/c it was garbage night. As he was in the house collecting the garbage, I heard crying coming from inside my garage. It was growing louder and louder, and increasingly more frantic. If I'd had to place bets, I would've told you there was a small goat being strangled in my garage.
When I opened the garage door, there was a very frightened cat sitting there, asking to come in. Not really asking, so much as trying to dive-bomb herself into my house the moment I opened the door. I quickly shut the door and called NAH (who himself grew up with a cat). Together we got a small bowl of milk and a small plate of tuna and took it outside.

He/She/It (?) Ate hungrily for a while, and we sat on the driveway while it did, trying to figure out what to do. The cat, when finished, jumped right into NAH's lap, purred a thank-you and promptly fell asleep. We noticed immediately that the cat was declawed, and had a perfectly smooth coat, ergo, she was someone's pet. No collar. When she woke up a few minutes later, she ran into our garage and frantically tried to get back into our house. So, we let her in. And yes, allergic parents and non-allergic parents, it was stupid. And I'd do it again (so there!).
See, a coworker of mine told me once that you don't adopt a cat, they adopt you. We spent that first night at the windows, hoping somebody would be outside looking for her. Nope. We knocked on every door on our block, hoping somebody would know to whom she belonged. Nope. So we had a house guest. NAH ran out to Petsmart, picked up food & a litter box, I started on Allegra and my inhaler, and we said a silent prayer that we'd find her owner before we left for Vegas.

Day 2 - Called every animal shelter and vet in a 30-mile radius. She hadn't been reported missing. Not helpful. Posted fliers around the entire neighborhood, at the local polling stations, with vets, animal shelters, etc. Nobody called. Allergies getting worse, breathing getting worse. Your allergic diner was growing increasingly frightened. I couldn't very well take someone else's pet to a shelter, so we were just going to have to keep her(like I said. I'm an idiot. But my heart is in the right place). In the midst of this, allergic mom calls from her vacation to check in and see how things are going (knowing nothing of the cat). "You're wheezing," she says to me. "Must be the connection," I said to her. She didn't buy it. We walked the cat around the block that evening trying to see if she'd go up to one of the houses,or recognize anything. She simply kept running straight up our driveway and back to our house. While I was pleased that she was happy there, I was getting a little worried. Again, asked around the neighborhood, but nobody seemed to know where she belonged. In the meantime, the cat owned our house. It was really quite funny. She took to a chair in NAH's office and would spend HOURS curled up on it, purring and rolling around.

Day 3 - took her to the local vet to see if she was microchipped. She wasn't. But we learned she was a she, in good health, and relatively getting up there in age. Local vet had no record of having treated her. We both sent frantic emails to everyone we worked with explaining the vacation situation and requesting the possibility of "foster parents" until we could locate her owners? Night of Day 3, it finally happened. Despite my attempts at preventive medication, I woke up with an asthma attack, gasping for air. I think I woke NAH out of a dead sleep by grasping at his arm while choking. It was official, our friend had to go. (Mind you, we weren't letting the cat upstairs or in our bedroom, and I was still having so much difficulty).

Day 4: Just as I resigned myself to the possibility of having to hand her over to our local no-kill animal shelter, I got a phone call from NAH -- "Her name's Delilah." -- Owner found! Yes!
The kicker? They lived four doors down. We'd knocked on their door 5 times over the course of the four days. Never reached them. Put a flier in their door on day 2. Nothing. Trust me when I tell you, this is not a cat who knew what to do outdoors, so she either wandered too far and got lost, or they just didn't care. I love people. Really, I do.

Regardless, Delilah went home, we did a very good thing. I spent the evening before we left for Las Vegas de-catting the entire house (it was very nice to come back from vacation to a spotless home). I know it was stupid, and like I said...I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Interestingly, this seemed to solidify for NAH that we can never get a pet. I still refuse to say NEVER, though I will also never pay the thousands of dollars for the non-allergic cats they are breeding, but that's a story for another post. Have a nice weekend!

Your Allergic Diner,
The Big-Hearted Idiot

Friday, November 14, 2008

I would never feed these guys to the lions (which is only funny if you read the previous post)

Let's balance out the bad Las Vegas customer service story with a good Las Vegas customer service story, shall we?

The trip to Las Vegas was a birthday present for NAH. We were able to go because we found inexpensive airfare (which in this economy is NOTHING to sneeze at, my friends). We hadn't been out to Vegas in several years, and were looking forward to it. When we were out there years ago, NAH loved the Luxor hotel. It's a gigantic black pyramid, complete with a sphinx, and a host of other Egyptian-themed decor. I found a decent rate there and booked us into it, specifically requesting a non-smoking room.

I'm asthmatic. Not a shock. I have no problem with people who smoke (their body, their right), I simply like to not inhale their smoke. I am intelligent enough to realize that in Las Vegas, I will inhale smoke perpetually, so my attempt is to simply not to inhale smoke in my sleep. I think this is quite fair.

When we arrived in Las Vegas, it was close to 1 a.m.. We were given our room key and told we were in a non-smoking room on the second floor. Here's where it gets interesting. The lower-floored Luxor rooms overlook either a part of the casino, or the busy, heavily-trafficked lobby.
We were given a room that was directly over a bank of slot machines, and across from the elevator. We proceeded to dump our things and go out with the friend for a quick bite to eat, and returned to the hotel at close to 3 a.m. I smelled smoke in the room, figured it was our clothes from the restaurant, took a shower and fell asleep. (Important non-asthma related side note, the Luxor has gotten rid of most of the Egyptian-themed interior in place of a more-modern, less-themed decor)

I woke up gasping at 7 a.m. and quickly got up, got ready, left the room (and a sleeping NAH) and took myself to breakfast. I told NAH NOTHING. It was his birthday, and I had an inhaler, and really, it's Vegas, what could they do? It's sort of a smoking kind of place.

When we met up with friends later that same day, NAH was joking about hearing the Wheel of Fortune machine (which loudly proclaims "Wheel OF Fortune!! when someone hits a bonus spin) as he was waking up. When he walked away, I told our friend about the smoke wafting up from the casino floor.

He looked at both of us incredulously and then marched us over to the concierge. "My friends here have a room on the second floor and need to be moved. Not only can they hear the slot machines, but his wife is asthmatic and there's smoke wafting into the 'smoke-free' room from the casino floor."

The concierge pointed us to a manager, and in LESS THAN 5 MINUTES we'd been moved to a smoke-free room on the 27th floor. No fussing, no treating us as awful whiners, just a smile, an accommodation, and an "is there anything else we can do to make you more comfortable?"

From then on it was a clean-air vacation, no asthma problems. We were so grateful that I sent the Luxor a thank-you note. It's always nice to know that superior customer service still exists! We even got to take the "inclinator," their elevator that ascends the pyramid-shaped floors as opposed to moving straight up and down.

All in all, it was a lovely hotel experience.
Thank you LUXOR!
Your Allergic (and asthmatic) Diner

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


MGM Grand is just a neat hotel. They have lions in the hotel. They're behind an enclosure, but it is just a cool thing to see lions in a hotel. That being said, I'd like to feed one of the employees at a sandwich shop called 'wichcraft TO THOSE LIONS.
On our first full day out and about in Vegas, we met up with a friend who wanted to go to MGM. He wanted us to eat lunch at Seablue, a restaurant in the MGM Grand of much acclaim. As is our luck on vacation, it was closed. Next door was this nice little sandwich place, and as he wanted to use his MGM dollars to treat us to lunch, we went there.
I'd like to pause at this point in the story and tell you that the following was entirely my fault. I screwed up, badly. However, the manner in which it was handled by those in the customer service industry? Abominable.
We ordered sandwiches, and I ordered a good old pb&j, figuring that was the safest thing on the menu (who knows what spices are on the outside of the roasted turkey? And really, meatloaf and bacon? why not just charter me a private shuttle to the hospital?). As they're ringing up, I very quietly say to NAH "I've got nothing to worry about, right? I mean, how can they screw up peanut butter so I can't eat it." He VERY intelligently replies, "Really? It's not worth just asking to make sure?"
So I asked. After the fact, and against all the advice I usually offer on this site. I was tired, I was jet lagged, and I was hungry. None of which is an excuse for letting my allergy alert down. Again, this was my fault.
The response to my question of our cashier blew my mind.
Me: "This is just regular peanut butter, right? Nothing fancy?"
Now, at this point our friend makes me feel like some sort of social leper and states emphatically, "BECAUSE IF IT ISN'T, SHE'LL DIE." (I understand the point he was trying to make, but that's not how I handle things.)
Cashier: "Oh, this peanut butter is heavenly, we roast our own peanuts and mix in a ton of whipped butter. It's fabulous."
Me: "Ok, I'm sorry, I can't eat the butter, and I know I should've asked that question ahead of time, I'm going to need to change my order. I'm REALLY sorry (and I was. I also wanted to crawl into a hole and die because at this point everyone in the place, though it was small, was staring at us)."
Here's where it gets handled badly.
Our friend's comp had already been put through. So now we had to get a manager on the phone to reverse the comp and input the order again. As I'm apologizing profusely, the woman next to the cashier very snidely says to her, making sure that I'm in earshot, "Why the f$@* would someone order a peanut butter sandwich that's allergic to peanuts? What kind of f-ing sense does that make?"
Now, our cashier looked at me apologetically, and seemed kind of embarrassed over her coworker's snit. She got the manager on the phone, reversed the comp, and I asked for a completely plain roasted turkey sandwich. Imagine my surprise when her coworker, a minute after my order, serves me a turkey sandwich with roasted peppers and a ton of seasoning. This time, I said, "I'm sorry, but I asked for this plain."

Her: "Plain? As in you want nothing on it?"
Me: "Plain. Just turkey and bread."
Her: "Really? Do you even care if it's heated? (and then yelling) HOT OR COLD?"
Me: "Cold is fine" (Because at this point, I wanted the earth to swallow me up).

So I ate a cold turkey sandwich, after cutting the ends of the turkey (which were heavily seasoned) off. It was not good. And as I said at the beginning, this is all my fault. But it was handled VERY badly.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Off and running again....

Well, NAH and I are leaving for Las Vegas tomorrow for a long weekend and a reunion with friends! I will be back next week with restaurant reviews, allergy info, etc....

Viva Las Vegas!

Your Allergic Diner

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day 2008

From time to time I mention my two favorite words on this blog that are NOT allergy related. Civic Duty. Election Day 2008. I don't care for whom you vote, just that you exercise your right to do so.

I'm the Allergic Diner, and I approved this message.

Friday, October 31, 2008

For those of you with egg allergies....

Here's a little known fact. Candy corn contains egg whites...find the ingredients, and other interesting candy corn facts here. Please remember to read the labels on your Halloween candy.

Have a Happy and SAFE Allergy-Free Halloween!

Your Allergic Diner

Thursday, October 30, 2008


I was reading an article the other day about a gentleman who bought the license to the 50-yard line seats for the Jets for close to half a million dollars. In the interview, he says that the true measure of a fan is one who is willing to stand by their team until they win, as opposed to just when they win (I'm paraphrasing, of course, but the idea is there).

Congratulations to the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies!!!!!
We always knew your day would come.

Your Allergic Diner

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Elderberries do not deserve your respect!

NAH and I had the loveliest of weekends, a couple we love dearly (and how often do you like BOTH people in a couple?) was married in a beautiful ceremony in Philadelphia. We attended the rehearsal dinner, and the after-rehearsal dinner party/Phillies game viewing. We went to bed around 2 a.m., and attended the wedding the next day a bit bleary-eyed but quite happy nonetheless. It was a perfect day, and A&J had their ideal night. It was wonderful. We drove home that night from the wedding listening to the final innings of our beloved Phillies (and yes, they won that game, methinks in an homage to our friend's wedding, but it could just be my tiredness speaking). We got home, stayed up to watch the game, and then realized in horror that all of the things we normally do over the course of the weekend hadn't been done, because we weren't home. So we set out making lunches, unloading the dishwasher, getting the coffee ready for the following morning, etc. All's well that ends well and we went to sleep (or rather, fell face first onto the pillow only to groan at the alarm the next morning).

Where, you may ask, am I going with this, and how is it allergy-related?

Well, thank you for asking.

I brought a salad to work with me yesterday, and grabbed the only unopened bottle of dressing in the cabinet, an organic strawberry-balsamic that I serve with an amazing blackberry feta salad I make(if I do say so myself, which I do). I've never tried it, but it gets rave reviews when I serve it. Now, sleep deprived and just bone-weary from two nights with next-to-no sleep, I should've known better than to try something new. I should have, but again, I wasn't functioning properly on NO SLEEP. I'm too old for that kind of schedule (and hell, when I was young enough for it, I couldn't keep it, to be honest).

So we partied, we slept, and now we're back to the salad and the new dressing. As I poured it on the salad, I read the ingredient list. The only ingredient I did not recognize was "elderberry juice extract." Hmm. I was coherent enough to know that the extract would be the strong, pure form of whatever an elderberry was, and as I mostly have good luck with berries, I worked and ate my salad at my desk.

It started as a tingling in my throat/mouth...and then it spread. Not anaphylaxis by any means, but the kind of allergy where the allergic person goes, "damn...I have to take a Benadryl, and I'm going to be sick for quite awhile." Now, my purpose of the above was to explain just how tired I was. NO WAY was I getting behind the wheel on less than 5 hours of sleep having taken allergy medicine. So I rushed home with a folder filled with work, took the Benadryl (at home), waited for the onslaught, and yes, was calm enough to get some work done.

Mid-work (and into my second benadryl, my curiosity got the better of me, and I googled elderberry). I wanted to know what exactly had made me so ill, and what I'd need to avoid in the future.

It's a shrub. I was ill from a shrub extract. I love it. Only me. Did I mention I had company coming for dinner (thankfully my husband's family is used to seeing me in pj's)? Or that the lovely wedded couple was stopping by on their way to New York?

See, here's what I've learned in the last couple of years: allergies get in the way. They interrupt your daily life, but you really only as much as you let them. Sure, it took me four doses of Benadryl and some severely swollen and sore insides to get through the evening, but I did (and all on an incredible lack of sleep). I had company over, saw friends and family, and outside of my not having an unexpressed thought last night (seriously, does anyone else talk incessantly when they take Benadryl? I couldn't stop. I couldn't even get all my thoughts out coherently), nobody knew how sick I'd been. Now of course, they will now because they lovingly read this blog. But that's ok. Dinner was good, the company was nice, and the ball game, well, see the below.

The thing is this. I try new things. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't, but I'm not going to stop trying! I may not love food, but I no longer view it as an obstacle or an enemy. That alone has taken a number of years...So it's a trade-off. Pineapple off the list, elderberry on. I think I'm far more likely to find pineapple on a fruit tray, so this is one I can accept without much fuss.

And did anyone else notice how they didn't call last night's game until they allowed the Rays a chance to tie? Grrr...

Your Phillies fan,

an exhausted allergic diner

Monday, October 20, 2008

A milestone for every married woman

Alright, I admit it. I’m 28 years old, I’m married, and up until several weeks ago, I was a turkey virgin. Now, retrieve your mind from the gutter and follow along. I love to cook. I collect cookbooks and read them as part of the hobby. I have two huge shelves in my kitchen (that are starting to buckle under the weight, actually) filled with cookbooks, and have made recipes from every single one of them. I may not do a lot of things very well, but I can cook like a dream. NAH is forever joking that if I left him, he’d starve. He wouldn’t starve, but he might get hooked on some god-awful food like pork and beans in a can. (Ew. Really?)
I had never made a turkey. Every year I have spent Thanksgiving with loved ones, and I will bring dessert, or an appetizer or two, and help with the dishes, but I always stayed far, far away from the turkey. Damn things scared the hell out of me. I would even get the free turkey from the supermarket after I’d accumulated enough bonus points, and I’d donate it to charity. Turkey breasts? Sure, I can cook those. Turkey loaf? You betcha, but not a whole turkey. Can we say intimidated?
Which brings me to Rosh Hashanah. There are many traditional Jewish foods that are made for the New Year and other Jewish holidays. Here’s something most Jewish people won’t admit (and rest assured, I’ll be catching crap from my allergic parents after this post, but I’ll deal with it). Most traditional Jewish foods are…well…icky. Gefilte fish? It’s a last resort over Passover when you simply cannot stomach another piece of matzo. Carp? Herring? Brisket? UGH. I’m not a big fan of noodle kugel (but I’m in the minority on that) – it does not help that I can’t really eat it, which admittedly clouds my judgement. Stewed prunes (tzimmes)? Enough said. There ARE some traditional Jewish foods that are to-die-for good. Matzo ball soup and challah are fantastic. Knishes, when done properly, are yummy, and I love me some lox and bagels.
NAH and I have worked very hard to introduce both of our religions and cultures to each family. With that in mind, I host Rosh Hashanah now, as my allergic mom has gracefully passed on the crown (and still lovingly makes the best matzo ball soup on the planet). My non-allergic inlaws and brother-in-law attend Rosh Hashanah dinner with us. How could I possibly inflict brisket upon them? My mother makes fantastic brisket. It melts in your mouth. I just DO. NOT. LIKE. BRISKET. So Rosh Hashanah was somewhat of a challenge. 1 – I wanted to make something everyone would eat, and 2 – I wanted to make something that was allergy-free.
Enter the turkey. Everyone eats turkey. It’s a big, festive, celebratory bird, so I decreed it perfect for the Jewish New Year. We still had the apples and honey. We had matzo ball soup and challah. We even had apple cake on the table for dessert.
And boy, did we have turkey. I spent an entire day not only basting and seasoning, but frantically calling both moms (and as my mom-in-law was not in synagogue, she caught the brunt of the questions – non-allergic mom, if you’re reading this, THANK YOU!).
Here’s what I’ve learned: Turkeys have two cavities. You have to pull out bags of icky and disgusting things from both. A 22-lb turkey (because, really, why do anything small?) does not take into account the weight of the roasting pan, 5 lbs. of potatoes, 10 portions of stuffing, or the liquid in said pan. You need serious upper body strength to pull the damn thing in and out of the oven. A turkey should be covered for the better part of the cooking. It takes DAYS to properly defrost. I've also learned that it's better to attempt a meal like this with family, because if it had failed, they'd have had to love me anyway, and we'd have had a good laugh (and then ordered pizza).
The end result? While it was heavy, completely gross to touch, clean, and stuff, it was, however, damn good to eat. I was really proud of what I accomplished (and quite full). We had a lovely Rosh Hashanah dinner with quite a few traditional foods, and I believe I’ve started a new tradition of my own. Oh – and food nerd that I am, that’s a picture of my very first turkey.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Blog Action Day Follow-Up: Stretch Those Dollars!

How NAH & I squirrel away a few cents when we can:

We joined Netflix (and with the rate things go to DVD, there really isn’t a time lag of more than two months anymore). If we see a movie in the theaters every couple of months, it’s a big deal. Netflix is approximately $18 for their 3-at-a-time movie subscription. We keep a running list of movies we want to see, and probably watch 5 a month. That’d be 5 x $5 at Blockbuster (with no late fees assumed), which would be $25. A Saturday night movie in the theater is a minimum of $17 and that’s before the popcorn. Insanity! Just say no.

I’ve recently returned to a money-saving technique I employed right after we were married. I use the sale circular for the supermarket to plan my meals ahead of time. I had stopped in the past year, simply purchasing proteins, grains and vegetables and figuring it all out when I got home. I’m now saving $20 a week on average just by sticking to my list.

Use coupons. It doesn’t make you old. It doesn’t make you cheap. It doesn’t mean you’re adhering to any stereotype. It means you’re smart. Case closed.

SEND in your rebates, and when that check comes in, no matter how much it is for, put it straight into your savings account. It was already spent, it was months ago, and it will serve you better earning a small amount of interest.

Make your own damn coffee. Every advice column in every magazine says the first way to save money is to bring your coffee from home. Saving $2 (conservative estimate, I know) a day, 5 days a week, is a monthly savings of $40, and a yearly savings of $480. If more than one member of your household purchases coffee every day, you can double or triple that savings. If you drink one of those Starbucks candy bar concoctions several times a week, you should be ashamed of yourselves for several reasons. 1 – it’s bad for you. 2 – it’s expensive. 3 – THAT’S NOT COFFEE (whip cream, caramel sauce, and flavored syrups are DESSERT) !!!!! Cut these out and save calories and money.

While we’re on the topic of make your own, make your own damn lunch. As a former teacher, I brown bag every day. I always have. NAH does now, too. I’m not saying we never ever go out to lunch, but $5 once or twice a month is FAR better than $5 a day, every day (yes, I know, conservative estimate again). $25 a week, at $100 a month, is $1200 per year! I showed the math on this to a coworker last year. She saved $700 last year by simply bringing her lunch.

Buy generic when you can. NAH has introduced me to this. We both have a list of things we won’t compromise on (admittedly, mine is a bit longer because of my allergies), but I’ve learned that supermarket cotton swabs work just as well as Q-Tips. I can’t taste the difference between supermarket apple juice or pretzels, etc. Suave shampoo works as well as, if not better than, Pantene. It is amazing what you can learn by trial and error.

Make a budget. Stick to it as best you can. Differentiate between needs and wants. Good luck!

Your Allergic Diner

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day and the Blurring Poverty Line

Participating in Blog Action Day is something new for this particular Allergic Diner. Recently, I've read several blogs on the Internet in which the writers participated in the San Francisco Food Bank Challenge. They were to live for an entire week, 3 meals a day, on $1.00 a meal, the approximate amount of the food stamps per person. These bloggers/food writers were working with the S.F. Food Bank to develop tasty/healthy/filling recipes for their patrons. Some of the recipes were extremely creative and looked quite tasty. You can check them out at: Cooking with Amy, The Inadvertent Gardener, and Vanessa Barrington. I admit to finding Vanessa Barrington's the most interesting because she thought a lot about other constraints of those with limited budgets (i.e., transportation, cooking tools,etc). The link I've supplied you with to her blog shows you what a modest donation to the Food Bank gets them (you can see her other articles about the challenge as well).

This got me thinking, however, what happens to a person with food allergies, or a condition such as diabetes? How do they exist on food stamps with special food needs? Could I feed myself for a $1 a meal? The sad, but realistic answer is, probably not. Someone who had to purchase specialty foods, like sugar-free, would probably be even further out of luck. The thing nobody tells you about having allergies, or celiac, or diabetes, or any other condition that affects what you eat is that it's EXPENSIVE.

$1 a meal. I could probably subsist on beans, potatoes, and frozen veggies, but what about protein? How could I vary my already allergy-proof diet so that I might eat well and still adhere to the system? Lactaid milk at last check was $4 for a half-gallon. I spent days thinking about this challenge and it's possible consequences and ramifications for someone like me, and came up with this: I can't keep my allergy-free diet with that cost factor ($1 meal/day = $3 a day). I'd miss out on calcium, among other things a body needs. This makes me feel angry and very lucky all at the same time. You have my word you will never hear me complain here about the high cost of specialty foods again.

See, my family will forever joke around with me about my not being a “food person.” They’re not wrong, I’m not. I’m definitely an “eat to live” person, not one who lives to eat. I don’t have the luxury of being a foodie. I can’t eat without paying attention to every single ingredient every time. When NAH and I were in Florida earlier this year with my non-allergic inlaws, we were out to dinner at a lovely restaurant, the Lighthouse. I took out my Lactaid pills when my food arrived, explaining that there was cheese in the Caesar salad dressing, the possibility of buttermilk in the fresh-baked rolls, etc. My mother-in-law looked at me and said words that were truly magic to my ears. “Every time you eat, you have to stop and think about it, don’t you?” The thing that she understands, and that sometimes people spend their whole lives not understanding, is that food for any allergic person is a process, and a difficult one at that. Now, I couldn’t ask for better families, as both sets of parents keep their homes stocked with “allergic diner safe food.” But what happens to someone without the same resources and support? What happens to someone with my allergies who ends up on food stamps? How can they do this for $3 a day?

Half the recipes I read on those blogs were things I was unable to eat. By tweaking them so that I could eat them (i.e., removing the tomato paste, canned milk, etc) I would either lose a good portion of the nutritional content, or I would’ve been over my budget on that particular day (substitutions of chicken broth are EXPENSIVE).

Blog Action Day 2008 is about poverty. Every night, more children are going to bed hungry. Hardworking, decent people are living paycheck to paycheck, and praying that they will be able to put food on the table and keep their roof over their heads. Animal shelters are bursting at the seams because pets have become a luxury most families can no longer afford. Our economy is in the toilet, and what nobody seems to understand is that this isn’t a “poor” problem. It isn't a Republican problem, or a Democrat problem, or even just a government problem. It’s an everybody problem. The poverty line is blurring. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, "there were 37.3 million people in poverty in 2007, up from 36.5 million in 2006. " That was before the current economic tailspin in which we find ourselves.

Lest I be one of those bloggers who opines, but offers no real solutions about anything, tomorrow I will share with you the ways in which NAH and I work diligently to cut costs wherever possible (tomorrow’s post). When you sit down to dinner with your family tonight, take a moment to think about someone who might not be so lucky. Then DO SOMETHING about it. Donate food, money, and/or time to a charity that works with the poverty-stricken. Nobody judges your donation, the point is to do something, because as trite as it sounds, EVERY LITTLE BIT HELPS. The newspapers state that more and more middle class families are reaching out to food banks for assistance. These centers, and others like them, need the most help when it isn't the holiday season, because that’s when most people open up their hearts, wallets, and homes.

You can make a difference without altering your lifestyle. Please know that I am not suggesting you feel guilt or shame about your ability to purchase food, or own a home. That's not who I am or what I'm about.

What I am suggesting is that you teach your children that civic responsibility isn't just a notion, and be thankful for what you have.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Gandhi

Allergic Diner

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Right at Home

I've recently joined a website called Right at Home, which shares tips for cleaning and organizing and offers coupons and trials of new products. However, I didn't sign up for any of those reasons (though I do love me some cleaning and organizing, just ask anyone). I signed up because of this article, which is currently headlining their website (link to full text at bottom):

Welcoming the Allergic Guest
Here's how to make sure guests with allergies are as comfortable as possible in your home.

Entertaining guests with indoor allergies? Try these tips for throwing a great party that's literally nothing to sneeze at!

Communicate: While some people are open about their allergies; others are more reserved, requiring that you, as the host, ask the right questions to get the information you need to make them comfortable.

Talk well in advance. If you're inviting guests to a party, ask well ahead of time if they have any indoor allergies. Communicate clearly—and allow for an open-ended discussion.

Chat about pets. Fluffy the cat may be an important member of your family, but try to inform potential guests about your pets before they show up. Some people are extremely allergic to animals—so much so that even a thorough cleaning may not stop an allergic reaction. So don't let them show up and be unpleasantly surprised when Fluffy comes over to give them a big welcome. Putting your pets in a separate room away from the festivities might work well, but if your guests' pet allergies are severe (bothering them even when a pet is in another room), it might be best to leave pets with a friend or a neighbor for the evening.

Prepare: Now that you're armed with details about any of your guests' allergies, here's how to prepare your home for the evening.

Find the full text of the article here.

Thank you, Right at Home! Always nice when attention is paid to an allergic issue. It makes those of us who suffer feel a little less alone...
Your Allergic Diner

Monday, October 13, 2008

Supporting a friend.

My goodness, how time flies. I've been meaning to post since Rosh Hashanah about my very first turkey and our lovely dinner, but that post will come in a few days. I need NAH to upload the pictures from our camera. Yes, I took a picture of the very first turkey I cooked. Problem? Didn't think so.

Anyhow, I wanted to share with you the website of a start-up company of the wife of a friend, Wellspring Trading. They sell a lot of neat organic, aromatherapy, and massage-related products, but I'm a big fan of the bamboo and hemp shirts. Interested? Click here.

In the meantime, I wish you no allergic reactions,

Your Allergic Diner

Monday, September 29, 2008

Rosh Hashanah Wishes

To all of my Jewish readers, L'shana tovah! Wishing you a year of good health, peace, and happiness.

~your allergic diner

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A & J and a bakery named Red Carpet Cakes....

Well, I have to learn to take pictures before people start putting their hands all over things, but I wanted all my bloggy friends to see this. In a post this past January, I showed you a picture of a wedding cake. You can access it here, if you'd like a peek again. What I didn't tell you is that the cake was lovingly made for me as a wedding gift by a good friend who owns a bakery. Every layer was covered with cream-colored M&Ms.

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to throw a bridal shower for a very close friend. We shall call her "A." A is getting married to a wonderful man often referred to in this blog as the allergic fiancee (ergo, he was a shoe-in to be liked). I contacted the bakery, asking my friend to do something special. Boy, did she come through. We ordered a black and white mousse cake for A's mom's birthday (the lie by which we lured her back to NJ), 50 rose-topped cupcakes to fill a cupcake tree, and these little jewels, shown above (again, sorry, everybody was fascinated by them and kept poking at them). She did a tray of petit fors iced with the married couple-to-be's initials. The kick? Not only did everything look gorgeous, but it tasted even better! Don't tell on me, but I squirreled a few away to take home for a snack later.

The thing is, my baker friend has no idea that this blog exists. I want to share her creations with you. She is an immensely talented woman, with a skill and level of creativity which rival anything I've seen on the food network (and yes, I might be biased, but so what?).
Think I'm joking? Take a look at her menus and photos of her work via the link below, and judge for yourself. And if you're ever in New Jersey, she's worth the trip. You're just going to have to take my word for it until you get to try one of her creations (after which, you'll probably just move here)! Oh, a word of caution, this is not a menu to read if you're in the least bit hungry...

Congratulations A on your upcoming wedding, and thank you, Red Carpet Cakes,
Your Allergic Diner

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Allergic Girl Resources hits the big time!

Congratulations, Allergic Girl!!
Link to her prominent CNN article mention here.
Way to go!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Unexpected Birthday Celebration

I apologize for the sporadic posting of the last week or two, but as usual, work is busy. This is one of my favorite pictures taken by NAH. We actually have a whole series as the boat passes in front of the sunset, which I'm hoping to frame and put up in our house.
Let's discuss my birthday, shall we? As luck (and perhaps some skillful planning on the part of my family) would have it, I got to celebrate in Hawaii. What better place for a party? When we got to Hawaii, my parents handed me a list of restaurants, a laptop computer and simply said, "Go to work!"
We have an unwritten code, my parents and I. They like fancy food. I don't. However, we agree that birthdays will be the exception, and I promise never to make them go to McDonalds, if they promise not to make me go to a restaurant where the waiter refolds my napkin on my lap while I'm sitting there (it just irks me, ok?). Especially when they use a knife to take your crumbs off the table while you're still sitting there. I make a lot of crumbs, and I know they're passing judgement on me, I just know it... Every year my mother and I have our annual argument in which she insists that what I really want is a fancy meal in a nice restaurant, and I insist that I don't, and we go back and forth for days. In the past, we've compromised and gone to a steakhouse, and all enjoyed delicious, allergy-proof, and simple yet upscale meals.
This year? Well, I had my work cut out for me. I believe I researched 30 restaurants, and discarded just about every one of them as the result of dishes with macadamia nuts, Italian seasoning, or just too many items with barbecue sauce. I gave up, convinced that my birthday was going to be served by Mr. Sub or his daughter. NAH and I went walking up to Whaler's Village one evening, and I stopped at every restaurant on the way to read their menus. One restaurant, the Rusty Harpoon, had something that was somewhat rare for the area. Chicken dishes. As in plural. As in more than one! I read more closely, and discovered "Pineapple Chicken Teriyaki."
I have had decent luck with teriyaki sauce in the past, though I know sometimes it has unforeseen tomato spices in it, and decided to take the chance. We made a reservation.
At 7:30, on the evening of my birthday, I had one of the best meals I've ever eaten in my life. NAH felt the same way about his prime rib (Sorry, Town & Country Diner!). The restaurant, despite it's name (Rusty Harpoon? Really?), was one of fancy tablecloths and fresh, warm bread on the tables. You could see the ocean, and they had an open kitchen! The allergic parents had a great meal, NAH and I had a great meal, and I was quite content to return to the hotel for the birthday cake (which I've recently re-discovered after years of not eating).
Thanks allergic mom, dad, and NAH! It was a delicious birthday to remember.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Don't judge a book by its cover, or in this case, food by the decor of a restaurant....

Another fantastic NAH picture. We met this little guy on our last day on the island!

When I left you last, NAH, myself, and the allergic parents had heeded the warning of Mr. Blue Lagoon waiter, and we were off searching for another restaurant in Lahaina. To attract customers on weeknights (because there are more restaurants than people, or at least it felt that way), a lot of hostesses would stand at the street entrance to their restaurant.

A young woman of about 16 looked at us and said "Come to Cool Cat's. Voted best burger in Maui 5 years in a row!"


So up we went, to Cool Cat's Cafe, the deck-located restaurant that overlooked front street in Lahaina. The menu was very impressive. You can link to it here, should you ever want to go to Maui. The decor was less so, but I got the feeling that on a busy night with a few cocktails, no one would notice the chipping paint. Cool Cat's had a full bar, with Christmas lights over it, a wealth of tables on the deck in the restaurant section, and inside was an arcade for children. It just seemed a tad overdone, and a bit tired-looking.

However, the food was fantastic. While allergic dad opted for a very spicy seasonal fish, NAH had "Chubby Checker," a grilled chicken/bacon/barbecue-sauced concoction on a bun. It was enormous! Allergic mom had a "La Bamba Burger," on grilled bread and smothered in Maui onions. As for me? Well, I played it safe and had the "Johnny Angel," turkey on sourdough with mayo/lettuce/tomato (hold the tomato!). Everything was delicious, and we were stuffed after eating. Too much so to go for ice cream!

Just speaks to the fact that the decor doesn't always speak to the food. A superb meal!

Thank you Cool Cat's Cafe!

Your Allergic Diner

Friday, August 29, 2008

Mr. Blue Lagoon waiter, I sincerely apologize

Another beautiful photograph by NAH. Morning on Kaanapali Beach.
Maui became even more interesting, allergically speaking, the night we went to the Blue Lagoon. Not the movie, mind you, but a restaurant in Lahaina on the main street. It looked inviting, had a decent menu, and was relatively uncrowded, which was a rarity. We sat ourselves near one of the koi ponds (They're everywhere in HI, and these aren't small koi. They look like they could eat you if you fell in!), and read over the menus.
A college-aged kid came over to take our orders. I started. I showed him my med-alert bracelet and said "I'm very interested in having a piece of fish, but I'm showing you this because I need you to understand that when I ask for it to be cooked plain, no oil, no seasoning, no nuts, and not touching any of those things, it's REALLY IMPORTANT. I Have terrible allergies." (I freely admit that I was a tad condescending, but it's my life, my body, and this kid had the party-boy look, and he was young). He looked straight at me, and said, "Before I take your order, let me talk to my chef and make sure we can accommodate you."
Boy, was I impressed (and feeling a tad guilty). I was even more impressed when he came back to the table, extremely apologetic, and explained that his chef didn't speak English as a first language, and he (the waiter) was VERY concerned that the cross-contamination would be a major problem. He even suggested a place or two we could go where he thought I'd be safer eating, AND APOLOGIZED ON BEHALF OF HIS RESTAURANT. I in turn, apologized to him, and thanked him profusely.
Off we went in search of another restaurant (there are probably 50 on the main street alone), but relieved to have heard an answer like that!
Thank you for your honesty, Blue Lagoon.
Your Allergic Diner

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

This was the view from our balcony at 7 a.m. I never ended up taking pictures of the food and restaurants I'll be blogging about, so with each blog post I will share with you some of NAH's superior photography skills.

I traveled 11 hours (10 of flying with a 1-hour layover at O'Hare, Chicago) to Hawaii, so for my first post I think I will write to you about Mr. Sub. Mr. Sub (?), I hear you asking, while you cringe...but yes, Mr. Sub. Work with me here.

See, Hawaii food was difficult for this travelling food allergic diner. Everything was macadamia-nut encrusted, or barbecued, and while the restaurants and food were of the highest quality, I was halfway across the country and concerned about allergic reactions and cross contamination problems. So we improvised. I'm not much for fancy food (which I secretly think NAH loves about me) to begin with, so not eating at Maui's finest restaurants was not a problem. One of the days we were there I had the worst hankering for a tuna salad sandwich (sans celery, of course). We walked to nearby Whaler's Village, an outdoor, well, village, which had numerous restaurants and shops. It also had a teeny, tiny food court on the lowest level, and in that teeny tiny food court was a stand that harbored two restaurants at one counter: Mr. Taco/Mr. Sub.

Now, there was a McDonald's (that served Portuguese sausage with breakfast!), and a pizza place (guaranteed death), but I needed a tuna sandwich. I spoke to a woman whom I'm assuming was not Mrs. Sub (she was wearing a "Go Seniors" t-shirt, maybe she was daughter Sub or daughter Taco?), who assured me there was not only no celery in the tuna, but in anything they made. I tasted the tuna salad, which was made with relish! It was very unusual, and quite good. Not only did I like the tuna, they'd given me an idea as to how to put crunch back into my tuna salad. I had my delicious tuna sandwich, no tomatoes, on a freshly-baked onion roll, and then NAH and I walked off to enjoy another spectacular sunset. Maybe tomorrow I'll post one of those pictures. So many to choose from!

Thank you Mr. Sub,
Your Allergic Diner

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The vacation of a lifetime....and another state out of 50 crossed off the list!

Well Allergic Diner fans, I must bid you adieu for a little while, as the Non Allergic Husband and I are heading to Maui, HI!!!

Even though I keep threatening my coworkers that I am leaving, never to return (the idea of no computer and no need for a cell phone is just unfathomable, and yet so exciting), I will be back. I will most likely start posting again at the end of this month. 7 days of multiple meals out will make for quite a few restaurant reviews! Until then, stay allergy-free and healthy!

Oh, and NAH, if you're reading this, Happy EARLY Anniversary! I love you!

~Your Allergic Diner

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Sometimes taking care of yourself first can be really difficult...

Recently, I had the following conversation with a friend who has two cats and a dog, who just bought a new place with her fiance.

her:When are you going to come see it?
me: Honestly, I don't know. My allergies are really bad right now, and I may have to wait until the weather cools off....
her: You're still having problems with that?

Seriously? I've known this woman for almost 20 years, and I've always had these allergies (used to be just to cats, but my pet allergies are getting far worse as I grow up). People wonder why I get so gosh darn defensive.

The worst? She really didn't mean anything by it at all. She just doesn't understand. I can't put myself in that position and ignore the fact that I'm going to have a really severe reaction (ah, blowfish syndrome, how I love thee). I also can't have the reaction just to make a friend happy, but she truly does not understand why I haven't seen her new place yet.....Life gets complicated.
Your Allergic Diner

Friday, August 08, 2008

Bears on the beach!

I really like my coworkers. I'm not saying that because I think they read this blog (a few of them found me back during that whole Hannah & Mason's debacle). I'm stating it because it's true. I've been meaning to post the above picture for awhile. A few weeks back, I hosted several of my coworkers and their families for a summer barbecue. NAH and I had wanted to share the house with everyone, but weren't interested in a housewarming party. This seemed like the perfect answer.

I let them know about the party, and was overwhelmed when each of them offered to bring something. Not that I was surprised, they're all good people, but help is always welcome when you're entertaining! The photo above is of the most adorable cupcakes I've ever seen. Bears on the beach! The sand? Graham cracker crumbles. How clever!

As for the allergy-relatedness of this post? Well, outside of the 7-layer dip and stuffed tomatoes, I could eat EVERYTHING at the barbecue (it certainly helps that I was the host). All-beef hot dogs, whole-wheat buns, coleslaw, fruit salad, potato chips, etc. We all had a wonderful time together outside of work (and it was really nice being able to EAT with everyone else!)

~Your Allergic Diner

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Dear Anonymous,

Recently I received a question on my blog about Chicago. This woman has a daughter starting graduate school in Philadelphia, and wanted to know about restaurants in which I've had good allergy-free experiences, as her daughter suffers from tree nut and peanut allergies.

I am publishing this list, however I feel that it is important to state that as all allergy and allergy-sufferers are different, this list can only be used as a guide. Every allergic person needs to contact the restaurant and let them know about their individual allergies. These were the places that were not only receptive to the conversation, but were places in which I enjoyed a good meal...

For casual dining:

Buca di Beppo


For nicer dining:


Prime Rib

Capital Grille

McCormick & Schmick's

Legal Seafoods


Places I avoid and/or have had bad experiences:

Continental (despite the Steven Starr assurance, I had a bad experience there)

Cheesesteak Places (risk of cross-contamination is too much for me to attempt). I do realize what a bad Philadelphian this makes me. They are delicious and fantastic and not for me!

POD and Moshulu are next on my list of places to try...

I hope that this helps. I enclosed links to the menus of the places that are a little harder to find. I wish your daughter and your family the best of luck! Encourage her to carry an allergy card or wear a med-alert bracelet just to be extra safe!


The Allergic Diner

Monday, July 21, 2008

A hidden gem in Robbinsville, NJ

As seafood lovers, NAH and I often search high and wide for a place that serves excellent seafood, but isn't too fancy. I've written before about Red Lobster, and the good service I always have there, and Joe's Crab Shack, and the great meals I've had there. The tricky part is finding a place that is a little less pricey, and a little less fancy, a place that we could go to often and not worry about the budget. When we were living in South Jersey, Cap'n Cats Clam Bar was our second home. Don't laugh at the name. It was the perfect seafood place. There were plastic fish on the wall, oyster crackers on the table, a plastic menu, and specials for which we would have gladly jumped through hoops. For me, fish has always been a pill-free meal. For those of you who are severely allergic, or lactose intolerant, you understand exactly how incredible that statement is. I could leave the lactaid, benadryl and epi-pen at home, and eat there time and again with no problems. Give me a piece of fish, a baked potato, and some applesauce and I am in heaven. It's up there with stuffing, seriously. Then we moved, and I had a harder time leaving our restaurant behind than our first apartment!

A coworker of NAH recommended a fish market/restaurant several months ago, and we'd been interested in trying it. Unfortunately (as you can usually infer by the lack of posting on this blog), work, schedules, and just good old life got in the way. We hadn't been out to dinner in months, and the other day NAH suggested we go out to dinner (just the two of us! not for a special occasion! YAY!). It was a much needed break. So we decided to drive the half hour and try Shrimp King.

The food was INCREDIBLE (and CHEAP!). You can find their menu here. Everything was delicious, and I think our waitress had a bit of a crush on NAH....he got an extra appetizer! We've now been back twice, and I've had perfect allergy-free meals both times. No seasoning on the plate, and no butter either. They have plastic menus, old tables, and while there are no fish on the wall, there are some great oil paintings that are totally out of the character of the restaurant/market.

I think we have a new place. Worth the drive. What a gem! Thank you, Shrimp King!

Your Allergic Diner

Monday, July 07, 2008

Redstone Delivers!

Well, Redstone American Grill was fantastic. I've finally become one of THOSE bloggers. I had the camera with me for the obligatory family shots for allergic mom's birthday, and I thought, "Why not?"

So a few seconds after we all started eating, I commanded everyone to stop and took a few photographs of mine, NAH's, and allergic mom's plate (they were sitting on either side of me).

I told the waiter that a phone call had been placed about my allergies, and he assured me that they could cook me any kind of fish completely plain. I ordered the catch of the day, the striped bass, and was told that it would come sans oil, seasonings, and dairy, and even requested that the chef hold the parsley (for some reason chefs have this compulsion that food cannot leave the kitchen looking boring). I asked for a baked potato (obviously the sauteed broccolini and tomato and onion marmalade were a no-go) and asked for that plain as well. The waiter, Michael, returned, and was very concerned that the potato had been previously rubbed in salt and that it may have come into contact with oil or butter. I simply requested that it come on a separate plate (as you can see in the first two photos above). My meal was boring, plain, and superb.

Allergic mom, the birthday girl had a cut of prime rib (first photo) with the bacon wrapped asparagus and mashed potatoes. She loved it. NAH had a larger prime rib with the bacon wrapped asparagus, and I quote, "Even that won't trick me into eating asparagus!" He also had what they call the loaded baked potato. I think his meal photographed rather well, don't you. And no, he didn't eat the asparagus.
All in all, it was a delicious meal, and a wonderful birthday celebration. The biggest surprise of the evening? The allergic brother likes calamari! You'd have to have grown up with this kid to understand the leaps and bounds he's made since the years of refusing to eat anything but macaroni & cheese. The family was together. The birthday was lovely. It was one of those nights that we'll always look back on and smile. Happy Birthday Mom!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Redstone American Grill. This has possibilities!

Allergic mom has a birthday on Sunday, and she's selected Redstone American Grill in Marlton, NJ for us to meet for the dinner and festivities. Having never been there, I told her we'd be happy to meet her down there, and while we were on the phone I went online to look at their menu. American grills are always promising, allergy-friendly places.

She stopped me mid-google. "Dad already checked on your allergies," she said. "He called the restaurant and told them one person in our party has severe allergies, and get this, the woman's response was 'gluten-free or multiple?' "

Incredible. Apparently allergic dad (who himself has no allergies but is married to allergic mom, so what the heck) responded multiple, specifically oil and seasonings, and that I would need something made plain. He was told not a problem. I'm loving this already for two reasons. One, I didn't have to do the legwork myself (thanks, Dad!). Two, I already feel like I'll be well taken care of and I haven't stepped a foot into their establishment.

Please expect a review of Redstone American Grill on Monday, and have a VERY Happy 4th of July (and a SAFE one)!
~Your Allergic Diner

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Ah, Chicago, How I Love Thee....

Well, I am back from Chicago, safe and sound. Outside of a few airfare snafus, the trip went off without a hitch. Unfortunately, we gabbed for far longer than we thought and never made it to the aforementioned restaurants. Some views from the ferris wheel at the Taste of Chicago for you to enjoy above. What's wonderful about the booths at the taste of Chicago is that they offer their signature dish in a "taste of" portion. It costs fewer tickets, is a smaller size, and it allows you to sample some of Chicago's best restaurants to determine where you might want to eat later. We had previously had a fantastic lunch at Foodlife, the gourmet food court in the Water Tower Place, before heading over to the festival, but that didn't stop us from sampling the goodies!
Mazzone's water ice booth is HIGHLY recommended, should you make it out there. Delicious water ice in several flavors. The Chicago Chocolate Company had incredible fruit kabobs (covered in chocolate, natch) and chocolate-covered strawberries. Dominick's, the produce stand, was offering a "taste portion" of watermelon that was bigger than our hands! Also impressive was the line at the fruit stand. It's always good to see people making healthy choices.
I can wholeheartedly recommend Grand Lux Cafe, as I recommended in last year's post, though we didn't eat there on this visit. Sunday morning (this visit) we did visit Chicago Bagel & Bialy II. The bagels were delicious!
It was a wonderful visit with old friends, and is fast becoming an annual event. Thanks ladies!
Yours in allergy-free travels & eating,
Allergic Diner

Friday, June 27, 2008


Hi All....
As my company hits busy season I've had less and less free time in the evenings to post. Please accept my apologies. This weekend I'm having a college-reunion of sorts in Chicago. Upcoming reviews to expect in this column: Berry Chill, a lactose-free frozen yogurt shop! Taste of Chicago, the mammoth food festival that draws millions each year, Orange, a brunch restaurant in the city, and maybe even a review of my trip to the Chicago Green Market. It's a lot to squeeze in one weekend, but we're going to try to do it. I'm packing my comfy walking shoes and I'll check back in with you all on Monday!
Happy Eating,
Your Allergic Diner

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Take me out to the ballgame...

Non-Allergic Husband (NAH - as I shall revert to in this blog because some confused people have no idea who Big Guy is. For that I apologize, he shall hereafter be referred to as NAH) surprised me on Monday with Phillies Tickets for the following night. So we raced home from work on Tuesday and made it to the Phillies/Reds game with about 5 min to spare.

I always finds baseball games interesting from an allergy point of view. Just about everything is labelled, but how much could I actually eat? The new Citizens Bank Park Stadium in Philadelphia offers a bevy of options, but I'm not exactly a cheesesteak kind of girl (which, yes, I know is sacrilegious, but they just can't stand my stomach, or vice versa). In my last couple of trips I have scouted out options, and I am pleased to report that I have successfully eaten the following:

A superpretzel

Minute Maid Frozen Lemonade

All-Beef hot dogs

Cotton Candy

It's a surprisingly small list, but given my previously acknowledged love of hot dogs, it works. Better yet, Tuesday was dollar dog night! I, of course, insist on getting the hot dogs from the stand where the sign says "all-beef hot dogs," even though somewhere in my head I have to acknowledge that they are the same hot dogs being sold at the stand next door (which does NOT say "all-beef"). It just tends to ease my nervousness. Or qualifies me to be a crazy person. The jury's still out.
Pat Burrell hit a two-run homer, Ken Griffey (Cincinnati Reds) pinch-hit (and was walked because there was no way Philadelphia was going to let him score his 600th home run on OUR turf), and we won the game! A sold-out crowd and a fantastic allergy-free "all-beef" hot dog evening.
Fast forward to this Friday night, when my company goes to a minor league baseball game. Even though we get bracelets to the picnic area as part of our tickets, I will insist on going to the stand and purchasing the hot dog from a place where the sign says "all-beef." Again, crazy, perhaps, but it's $3.00 that goes a long way towards easing my nerves and allowing me to enjoy my food. Besides, how do I know they're not feeding us the cheaper, filler-filled (can one say that?) hot dogs because it's an all you can eat picnic. I'd make that decision if I handled the food ordering for a stadium that ran this promotion. Ergo, I will purchase the food, despite the bracelet.
I will be away this weekend but returning next week with more fun-filled (not filler-filled) stories of my adventures in allergy land. Enjoy the warm weather,
Your Allergic Diner

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Ahh, Barbecue

As an allergic diner, I've never uttered the above words. Never. Please don't misunderstand, I love a good hot dog on the grill as much as the next person, but I can't exactly go gallivanting off in search of the best barbecued ribs, pulled pork, and fried chicken. I'm allergic, and yes, as its been pointed out many times, I know I'm missing out. I just can't exactly tell you what I'm missing out on.

Big guy, however, loves all things barbecue, especially fried chicken. He is to fried chicken what I am to stuffing! So when we got allergic fiance's NYC birthday invite that included this restaurant, Rack and Soul, he was ready to go.

Barbecue restaurants always worry me. So much risk for cross contamination. So much tomato and oil and spice everywhere. I was relieved to see that there was salad on the menu. Ah, salad. Safe, non-contaminated, and on one plate. When our party was seated, everyone started ordering off the good part of the menu, and I'll confess to feeling a little bit left out. Collard greens, black eyed peas, crawfish, chicken livers, macaroni and cheese, and home-style mashed potatoes, and that was just to start!. Big Guy had an order of fried chicken, and opted for the macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes, figuring that if he was going to do it right, he was all in. I couldn't bring myself to order a salad to pick at amongst the plates of all this marvelous food, and thankfully, we weren't eating until 8 o' clock at night, so I had passed the hunger period (with a fairly large bag of skittles at the movie!).

Big Guy gave me his restaurant review in typical Big Guy fashion, "Very Good."

And that dear readers, sums up my olfactory experience at Rack and Soul.
~Your Allergic Diner

Monday, June 02, 2008

New Jersey and New York City in the span of 24 hours....

Well, the bad news is that there was no foray into the Cheesecake Factory.

The good news? My non-allergic friend found a sushi place in the area and we went there instead. I highly recommend Mikado (find menus and southern NJ locations through this link). The sushi was excellent, the atmosphere nice and peaceful, and the service attentive. It was wonderful and well worth the long drive! Unfortunately, this allergic diner did not care as much for the movie we saw, Sex & The City. I realize that I may be slaughtered by womankind for this, but it was just "ehh." Ah well, you win some you lose some.

So that was Friday night, and Saturday morning Big Guy and I were dragged out of bed by the alarm to make the train into NYC for allergic fiance's birthday party. We met both our friend and her allergic fiance at the Arte Cafe at 73 & Columbus. We were a little waterlogged. Hah. As we exited Penn Station a grumpy woman to our right remarked that she might as well be waiting in line for an ark! Nevertheless, we arrived, somewhat soggy, to the Arte Cafe, a place where we've eaten before and had spotless service and spot-on food. Not to mention excellent attention paid to allergic detail, of course.

This time was a little different. I'm a big fan of their pizza, and the chef usually makes one for me, sans seasoning, oil, and of course, tomato sauce. It's a wonderful brick-oven thin crust that has cheese, mushrooms, and garlic, and smells better than any garlic bread I've ever had. I was so very crushed when the waiter informed me, up front, that the chef could not accommodate any major special requests today, as he was incredibly busy. He was kind enough to go double check with the chef after I showed my med-alert bracelet, but came back saying "the chef apologizes, but he has already mixed the oil into the pizzas(?)"

Just when I thought the meal was ruined, and by ruined, I thought that there would be no food, so how could I indulge in their endless-mimosa brunch (?), our waiter came to my rescue. "Tell me what you're allergic to," he said, and I did. He pointed to a meal on the menu that was grilled chicken with a salad that has tomatoes. "I can get this for you without tomatoes," he said. "Great! And please tell them no oil, and no spice as well." And with that, we ordered our unlimited drinks and set about enjoying a wonderful occasion with good friends.

When the orders came, and we were all on our second drink, I had Big Guy taste test the chicken for me, because it looked like there was oil on it. There wasn't, and my salad was blissfully dressing free. Interestingly enough, the piece of grilled chicken had been flattened out to look as if it were a piece of pita bread, and the salad was on top of it (where's a camera when I need one?). It was positively delightful. They have fantastic berry muffins that they serve you in place of bread during brunch, and they were snapped up by our table at once. Big guy had eggs and toast, friend had a wonderful brick-oven pizza, allergic fiance had a panini sandwich, and I had my chicken and salad. All because a waiter took the time to help me. It was a wonderful start to the weekend!

~Yours in the quest for safe food,

The Allergic Diner