Friday, January 25, 2008

Top Chef returns!

Well, it's official, my favorite show, Top Chef, is back on the air in March for Season 4. I've read the cast bios and it appears to be an interesting mix of self-taught chefs, and those who've hones their tactics in culinary school. I recently submitted this request (again) to Bravo, and I encourage everyone with food allergies/intolerances to do the same. Here's to a whole new season of adaptable meal ideas!
One of the main problems restaurants and patrons have these days is a chef's ability to adapt a dish towards a patron with allergies. This would make a great Top Chef episode. Have them construct and/or deconstruct a dish that they then have to modify for a food-allergic's extremely challenging for the chefs, and definitely a real-world problem. Thanks!
Who knows? Maybe if enough of us make the suggestion, they'll listen...
Your Allergic Diner

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Love is in the air....

What a beautiful wedding we attended on Saturday. It was beautiful not because the bride, my coworker, M, looked stunning as she was given away by her father. Nor was it beautiful because the groom walked around grinning like an idiot because he was finally married, and they could start their life together. This is an allergy blog, darn it. It was a beautiful wedding because I could eat!

The bride was married at a catering/reception facility called The Westwood, in Garwood, N.J.
Usually I don't name places other than restaurants outright, but I was just so bowled over by the food!

The cocktail hour consisted of a beautiful crudite table in the center, with various kinds of fruits, cheeses, and crackers all on separate trays (i.e., the fruit didn't touch the crackers, thereby not touching the cheese, etc). I was able to find several varieties of crackers I could eat with my strawberries, and NAH helped himself to some cheese and bruschetta from the make-your-own bruschetta platter (also on the crudite table). Interestingly and extremely allergy friendly, as the trays did not just all hold separate and uncontaminated contents, but each one (and there were close to 15) had its own serving spoon/tongs. I figured this was a good omen for the dinner.
NAH also helped himself to some braised short ribs, neglecting the calamari and penne a la vodka, while I sought turkey and cranberry relish from the gentleman at the carving station.
We were full and happy before we ever walked into the reception (as you should be at any wedding!)

When we sat down, the menu on the table listed a NY strip steak with sun-dried tomato butter (ack!), and chicken francaise with a cream sauce (ack!). What to do? Well, I was full, so I took a gamble. I asked the waiter if it was possible to get the steak without the dreaded butter death sauce. He said certainly. Now, I only had to worry that it would be placed on the steak, then removed and rinsed off, as I have seen catering staff do at weddings.

Imagine my surprise, when 15 minutes later our server came to the table to ask me about the rest of the ingredients in the steak seasoning: garlic, salt and pepper. I informed him they were fine, and started to trust that I'd be able to eat dinner, in addition to the wonderful snacking I'd just done. To my delight, the steak came out, not only cooked perfectly, but with a big toothpick in the center of it that prevented the chef from putting the butter on it (they marked my territory. I love it!). I was thrilled and it was completely delicious.

The wedding was beautiful, the location was lovely, and M and her husband danced the night away. NAH and I danced too, in between courses! This was no ordinary wedding food!

~Your allergic diner.

Monday, January 21, 2008


I thought today's posting should be topical. Tomorrow I'll be back to blog about a wedding I attended this weekend.
Remember today, and why it is important.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

excerpt from Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" Speech.

I hope that this still holds meaning today
Yours truly,
Your Allergic Diner

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Odds and ends and Smurfs!

Just so many things to tell you...

First off, chocolate-covered pretzels are a GO. Lactaid crisis is over (methinks I should blog about other crises so that they will end just as quickly, no?)!

Second, I am on allergy alert for a trip to Fort Meyers, FL with the non-allergic inlaws in March, and Maui, HI with the allergic parents in August. From my research, it appears the Maui trip will require LOTS of food-planning. Woohoo!

Third, The Smurfs turned 50 this week! I realize this isn't an allergy-related statement, but I grew up with the little blue guys, and they will forever have a soft spot in my heart. As far as talk of a Smurfs' movie? I'd suggest leaving well enough alone.

Fourth, many websites, such as "Top 10," allow you to leave your comments after a restaurant that is on their Top 10 list. To my great surprise, as I've been researching my August trip, MANY reviewers have written about their experience with the restaurant's handling of their allergies. Fantastic! Thank you!
At some point this week I will post my recipe for a lactose-free chicken pot pie that NAH and I enjoyed very much last night. I hope this rambling has found all of you well. An allergic friend is coming up to see our new home tonight so I must beat a hasty retreat to make sure it is clean enough!
Yours in smurfiness,
The Allergic Diner

Monday, January 14, 2008

Ah, the intolerance of it all.... :(

Not the best way to be kicking off the new year. I've had several good experiences that I'll write about in upcoming posts, but one downside I'm hoping if I blog about it, it will quit running around in my head! I find as a writer sometimes the only way to get rid of anxiety-producing thoughts is to write about them (but you knew I was going to say that, didn't you?).
I hit a rough patch last week. Every morning, without fail, I eat a Yoplait light-n-fit, fat-free yogurt that I mix with a cup of dry cereal, usually cheerios. I do this at work, as both are easily transported to my desk and quite yummy. This way, I get my calcium, I get my dairy fix, and it keeps me full 'til lunch so I'm not dipping into the M&M jar that's made me infamous at my company (I keep telling you people I have a sweet tooth!)
I took my lactaid pills (that's right, the plural, because just one doesn't work for me) and about 10 minutes into eating started to feel funny. About 20 minutes later I was full-on sick, at work, with a lactose-intolerance attack. For the first time ever in my life, the pills didn't work! Thankfully, it's a small company, and my assistant and boss are very understanding (though I think the look on my face combined with the need to run home was perhaps more than enough explanation). I haven't had that happen to me since I was 16 years old, and it was before they even made Lactaid Ultra. It wasn't so much of a big deal outside of the fact that I am utterly perplexed as to what happened. I've been avoiding dairy the last couple days, and my stomach is slowly shifting back to normal (those of you that have suffered these know about the achy/intestine-gripping/ bubbly stomach feeling that persists for the next few days). The kick? It's the same breakfast I've been eating for the past 5 years!
But the anxiety remains...was it something I did? When can I go back to eating normally? And the most important question that is bothering me...where does this leave me with Uno's deep-dish anchovy pizza? I could give up most of the dairy again if I had to, but I don't think I can live without it.....Yes, I know, I'm focusing on the completely wrong part of this equation. I have gotten rid of the remaining lactaid pills from the box and seem to be ok now...
Thanks for letting me rant.
Yours in allergies and intolerance of the lactose variety,
The Allergic Diner

Monday, January 07, 2008

Sweet dreams are made of these....

I have a small confession to make. I love candy. I daydream about going to candy stores. I think I even wrote in an earlier post about my birthday request of my allergic parents "please take me to the candy store." See, as much as it dismays my dentist, candy is one of the few things that for me is allergy-free. When corn syrup, sugar, and water are the ingredients, I can eat that handful of sour patch kids, twizzlers, or that lollipop, without taking a single pill or worrying about an allergic reaction. Fortunately for me, candy is one of my "safe" foods.
Several months ago, when I was home ill, I was watching the food network and saw an advertisement for a show covering the candy convention. Candy convention? I DVR'ed the show and drooled over every moment as Ham on the Street (I have fixed this post to bring you his proper name) walked around the different booths tasting what every company was debuting this year. Candy is a billion dollar business, so the expo made sense, but now I had one mission in get in to one!!
I was joking with a girlfriend of mine who owns a bakery that I would die a happy woman if I could see one, and her response was "Are you serious? I was at one last weekend. I'll take you to the next one" (she sells gourmet chocolates in her store as well).
Yesterday she made good on her promise. It was incredible. Row after row of any kind of treat imaginable, with some packaging companies taking up extra space (in my opinion, anyway). I was able to sample Birnn's chocolate truffles from Vermont - WOW (with Lactaid pills, of course), and a gigantic chocolate-covered/dipped apricot at the Asher booth. Jelly Belly was more than happy to supply an enthusiastic patron like me with a few samples, and I got to meet THE Linda of Linda's Lollies (they're usually on tree stands in gourmet candy stores, Cracker Barrel, etc, and they're delicious!). I must've spent twenty minutes talking to her. From an allergic diner's perspective, every booth was either willing to discuss the ingredients in everything (such as Giambri's caramel-filled chocolate covered waffles - too rich for me, but YUM), or willing to show me their ingredient books. This was my own personal Disneyland. I returned home exhausted from the walking and the eating, and having had a wonderful girls' day out. It's also convinced me that I will be opening a candy store in the future (it's my current retirement plan)
My friend made my life (I suppose now I need a newer, loftier goal), and as I sit here, enjoying a Linda's lolly and staring at my convention badge from yesterday I'm tempted to call her with just one question...Thank you, when can we go again????

Thursday, January 03, 2008

KC Prime and New Years Eve

Happy New Year to my allergic (and non-allergic) readers! My new year's eve was delightful and a perfect way to begin working my way back into blogging world. New Year's Eve is usually very difficult for myself and other allergic patrons because restaurants make special menus. For that reason, we usually don't do a lot for the occassion. This year we decided it was time for a change. I went with NAH to KC Prime, a steakhouse in central NJ that we've been to several times before. However, as we were starting off the new year, I wanted to order something different. I've never had vegetables there (as their salad comes complete with a tomato - ack! - vinaigrette. When we settled in to our table, I informed our waitress of my allergies (mea culpa, didn't call ahead), and she told me that due to the holiday there would be many people covering our table tonight, but she hoped for the best. To my pleasant surprise (I get very nervous when waiters "hope"), I was able to have the evening's special (bone-in filet), minus the port-wine demi glaze, a full plate of steamed seasonal veggies (the squash and carrots were delish!) and a baked potato. I wasn't the only one thrilled with my meal, as NAH had soup, my salad, and a gigantic prime rib. Everything was done to perfection and beautifully allergy-free. Our meal made for a fantastic start to the new year! Our resolution is to dine out a whole lot more, so there'll be plenty of postings for you!

Wishing you the best of everything in 2008! Looking forward to talking with you this year,
Your (well-fed) Allergic Diner.