Tuesday, March 15, 2011

GF Dining in the Hudson Valley

Hey restaurant owners, chef’s, waitstaff - listen up!  I read your menu’s, give warning and call ahead, quiz your waitstaff, question your chef’s, and resemble Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally (minus the fake orgasm routine) when ordering my food.  Then, when I get sick from eating your food that was sworn with a smile to be gluten free, I can never risk visiting your restaurant again.

1 in 130 people in the United States suffer from a wheat allergy.  Add the 40% of Americans who suffer from other common allergens such as milk, peanuts, fish, eggs, soy, shellfish and tree nuts, and food allergies in restaurants is a really big deal that affects a large portion of your clientele.  

As one with food allergies I have a love hate relationship to food.  I’m a self described “foodie” as  I’m always looking for new recipes, new techniques and love to experiment with food.  There are tired days when I wish that we didn't have to think about food but just ate the goop they served in the movie, Matrix.  As I remember it had “all the vitamins and minerals the body needs”.  Sounds good to me!  

Getting “dosed” at a restaurant is the most infuriating and painful experiences when dining.   When I was first diagnosed I was embarrassed to ask the questions and “bother” restaurant staff.  But then, as I suffer the consequences over the next few weeks, I’m embarrassed by the effects of not asking.  

Chefs, restaurant owners, waitstaff - ask a nutritionist or someone with Celiac’s Disease or another common allergy to look over your menus and mark the allergen safe options and or advise your staff. Just to mention a few hiding places: Lite sour cream has gluten in it.  Curry often has flour mixed in it to keep it from clumping.  And, of course my favorite, soy sauce (which seems to be in just about everything including marinades, salad dressings, etc).  Unless its organic, vegetable broth seems to also always have gluten in it.   Chalk it up the added effort to the new diet phase associated with eating gluten free.  Your customers on a diet will thank you!  I have to say that I don't understand the gluten free diet as a weight loss tool.  After being on the gluten free diet my body internally healed and I started absorbing nutrients again which resulted in immediate weight gain.  To each their own right?  

In the least advise your waitstaff to ask the chef when there is an ingredient related question.  An understood customer is a better tipping and most often returning customer.  And, those of you with the food allergies - ASK QUESTIONS.  Restaurants are in the business of providing you with good food not poison.  

Hudson Valley Gluten Free Friendly Restaurants (a work in progress):

Tomo Sushi, Saugerties, NY:  Their “to-go” soy sauce packets are gluten free.  Sushi is naturally gluten free.
Mexican Radio, Hudson, NY: stay away from the fried dishes but any baked dish can be made gluten free.  All chips served are gluten free.
Soul Dog, Poughkeepsie, NY: A fantastic go-to spot and reference for anything gluten free.  When you order a hot dog, ask them to surprise you with toppings - you will not be disappointed. Gluten free baked goods prepared weekly and to order too!  
Shadows on the Hudson, Poughkeepsie, NY: gluten free menu.  Specifically ask for gluten free salad dressing.  Not all of their salad dressings are gluten free.
Sukothai, Beacon, NY:  Has gluten free options on their menu.  Fantastic food.
Rock da Pasta, New Paltz, NY: Gluten free pasta and other delicious sides.  Invite your non gluten free friends to enjoy a mostly gluten free menu.
Mother Earth’s Storehouse, Kingston, NY:  It is not usually safe for anyone with a food allergy to risk a salad bar but I’ve been frequenting the salad bar at ME’s for more than 6 months and it is fantastic.  Sometimes they have GF pasta as a salad topping option.  You may also find some GF desserts to tantalize your taste buds at the counter.

Food allergies in America statistics can be found at: http://www.ehow.com/wheat-allergies/

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