5 Things I Do Before Trying A New Restaurant

When you have food allergies, no matter how severe, there is one thing that strikes fear in your heart like none other…eating at a new restaurant.

Here are a few steps I take before trying a new restaurant.  They aren’t fool proof, and it doesn’t mean that you will be able to eat anything you want on the menu, but they should save you a few uncomfortable evenings after diner.

1. Look them up on line especially pay attention to their menu. If they have instructions at the bottom…* eating undercooked…yada, yada, and it also says to “alert your server if you have food allergies”… then in my experience you should be in luck.

2. Call them, but not at a peak time.  If you google the restaurant during their peak times should be listed.  When you call them ask, specifically, to speak to a chef or the kitchen manager. Do not just talk to whomever answers the phone, if they aren’t aware of food allergy severity or if they aren’t a part of the ordering process they will not be able to thoroughly answer your questions.

3. Get a name for when you go into the restaurant. This way you can give your server the name of who you need to talk to concerning your allergy.  I always call, then double check when I get there.  You can never be too careful.

4.  Get a card listing your allergies, your allerigst should be able to help here. If not there are companies who will make them for you.  This makes it easier for your server. They can take the card back to the kitchen so the chef can come out and quickly lay out your options.

I’ve been asked several times if I had a card, which I don’t because of the nature of my allergies, it’s hard to list out what I’m allergic to.  Often people assume that since I’m allergic to soy, so long as there is not soy sauce I should be fine.  But that isn’t the case. I have make sure there’s no mayo, or that the restaurant only uses real butter as opposed to a margarin butter blend. And the list goes on and on.  Never be afraid to repeat yourself.

5.  Keep your expectations in check. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to a new restaurant and had one of two things happen.

I either found I could only have one thing on the menu, or that the chef would have to make something not on the menu for me. Which I have to tell you isn’t such a bad thing.

OR

I can have anything on the menu, that isn’t asian inspired, and I’m so overwhelmed I can’t decide.

Conclusion

While I’ve come to appreciate the chef who is willing to go off book, I typically get food that is so good I’m willing to eat the same thing every night for a week.  It’s not always that easy.

Once when on a trip we went to a seafood restaurant in Las Vegas.  I had called a head and talked to the chef, so they were prepping an area in which to make my food and we had settled on what would be made for me.

We were on a field and track trip so there was a rather large group of us going.  When we got there, I spoke with the chef again confirming that I could eat what was being offered.  While I was doing this the server came and took everyone else’s order.

Once my order was confirmed: pan fried trout (a personal favorite), steamed asparagus, potatoes and brussel sprouts, and an olive tapenade.  I sat back and enjoyed the conversations going on around me.  As everyone’s orders began coming out, seafood platters, crab cakes, a bunch of deep fried goodness I sat there calmly waiting for my food.

The chef brought it out himself.  After confirming everything looked ok, the chef returned to the kitchen and I looked up to many pairs of eyes staring at my plate.  One of my friends raised his hand, while looking at my plate and proclaimed, “I think I have food allergies”.  HA!

I must admit it was one of the best meals I had had up until that point in my food allergy journey.

On the opposite side of the coin, we recently had a new restaurant open here and I made the mistake of calling during their opening night.  I checked for peak times and none were listed, I quickly realized why none were listed.  Anyway,  I talked to someone in the kitchen who was very frazzled, and she asked that I email, but also said that she would get some answers and call me back.

I emailed them asking about their menu, and never heard a thing back.  It’s rather disheartening, but I will not eat there. Hubby has asked a couple of times about it, but since I do not have answers I will not be eating there.  It’s that simple.

What are some steps you take to ensure you don’t take a hit when eating out?

Joanie’s Deli And Bakery

 

What does a girl do when she is told by her doctors to eat more calories, especially if she is a rabbit food loving freak?  Why she finds places that serve BIG yummy salads!

Can you say fresh?
Can you say fresh?  And can you say YUM?!

OK, so my doctors didn’t want me eating more salads they wanted me to eat more calories than a salad has to offer.  But when you are a rabbit food lover who has very specific food allergies, you do your best to eat what you love…because then you’ll eat more in a day, which is the over arching goal of eating more…right?

Oh. So. Yummy.
Oh. So. Yummy.

During some of our weekends –  when we have to be out the house so people can look at our house – we would go up to Woodland park and stop for lunch at Joanie’s before heading back to the house, or out into the mountains for some light hiking.

Woodland Park is a nice drive up Highway 24 from Colorado Springs, not so long that you feel as if you’ve been in the car all day, just for a salad…but also not so short that we couldn’t be out of the house for the  2-5 hour window needed.  The longer we needed to be out the more we would do, after eating.

One great thing about Joanie’s Bakery and Delicatessen, other than the fact I can eat what I like even with my food allergies, is that we can take Chaz with us and sit on the covered patio.  It’s away from the street, and well protected. So it pet friendly, provided you don’t take them inside. (Though we have been told that they just might make an exception for Chaz…”because he’s so cute”. However, we don’t want the health department to close them down, so we keep Chaz outside.)

He's ready to eat. I share the egg yolks from my salad with him.
He’s ready to eat. I share the egg yolks from my salad with him.

I can actually sit outside, kind of, and enjoy my meal. A very rare treat for me.

See that first seat on the left? Yep that's my favorite spot at Joanie's.
See that first seat on the left? Yep that’s my favorite spot at Joanie’s.

Plexi glass protects us from the smoke the wind might bring in, and the over hang keeps the afternoon sun from reaching me.   I couldn’t eat breakfast there, with the dog, because I wouldn’t be able to sit outside. But once the sun reaches noon the porch is shaded and lovely.

Joanie’s is located at 110 East Highway 24, Woodland Park, CO  719-686-9091.  They only use Boars Head meat and cheeses for their salads and sandwiches, and their staff is very knowledgable about what goes into everything – even their salad dressings.

So if you have questions go in and ask, they’ll tell you exactly what they use. For example…knowing that soy is in practically everything, but not in most mustards, I get their honey mustard dressing.  They only use canola oil in their dressings, but if there is mayo or soy sauce (duh) in the dressing it’s a non-starter for me. So that takes their ranch and asian fusion style dressings, and the blue cheese, out of the equation (I just don’t like blue cheese) leaving their honey mustard or vinaigrettes for me to enjoy.

Now their vinaigrettes are lovely, but since I typically get a Chefs salad,  there is lots of protein to be had – a must for my picky body – I get the honey mustard.  It is a better paring with the bacon.

Once I had the Chef with their raspberry vinaigrette… again the vinaigrettes taste great, but for me they aren’t the best paring with the bacon.  The honey mustard gives you a nice zip and zing without over powering the meat…bacon.

Hubby loves their sandwiches, he’s had their version of grilled cheese, the Roast Beef Melt and many others that I don’t remember. Why?  I’ll let you ask.  Because I can’t eat them.  I cannot envy something I’ve never tried, and thus I find them unmemorable.  However, my I can eat anything hubby enjoys their sandwiches.

So if you fall into the I can eat anything category, be sure to check them out also.

I have even gone with a vegetarian friend of ours, and she was able to get exactly what she wanted…catered to her liking.  We both left satisfied, and ready for our trip back down the mountain.

For Labor Day hubby and I grabbed the dog and headed out to get a late lunch and so I could get photos for you…in case you are like me and need a visual aid from time to time to ensure you are where you think you should be.  Though Woodland Park isn’t that big still I want to be thorough.

And since I am a foodie who forgets to take photos of their food…I had a purpose in going there…I took my phone and my camera.  Try not to drool on your electronic devices.

 

Next time you are in Woodland Park, checkout Joanie’s if its time to eat.  Let me know what you had and what you thought.

 

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Modern Market

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If there is one place in town that is my ‘go to’ place when I need food Modern Market is that place.

The place to go for a quick healthy meal.
The place to go for a quick healthy meal.

While not nationwide, it has a number of locations in Colorado, Texas, Arizona, and on the East coast in the Washington D.C. and surrounding areas.   Their motto is eat good food, but not too much.  However, if you are a freak like me who is often told by my doctors that I need to eat more, it is a haven of food I like that I can eat a lot of.

If you have food allergies let them know when you get the counter, they have a three ring binder that is filled with each ingredient used in every single one of their dishes.  I was so happy the first time I went into the restaurant, because of this binder.  While I have two favorites, their BLTA and their Roman Salad (no tomatoes).

Click here to find one near you! Hopefully you are able to find one, I have yet to find something I didn’t like.

MacKenzie’s Chop House

Located in Downtown Colorado Springs, 128 Tejon St. Colorado Springs, Co 80903. And reservation are recommended (719)635-3536). It is the place to go for a nice, if pricey meal, but then again... you get what you pay for, right?
Located in Downtown Colorado Springs, 128 Tejon St. Colorado Springs, Co 80903, and reservations are recommended (719) 635-3536). It is the place to go for a nice, if pricey meal, but then again… you get what you pay for, right?

Yes, I am a foodie. Want to know how I know? When I go out to eat and my plate is placed before me…I forget to take a photo of my plate to show you just how yummy it looks. I’m too busy eating said food. Ugh 😋

MacKenzie’s is our celebration spot.  There are few places in Colorado Springs that I can eat more than a salad (and then only if I bring my own dressing), and even fewer that have the proper ambiance.  Most are noisy and we come home smelling like whatever they specialize in. Not what you want after a night of celebrating.

MacKenzie’s Chop house sets the perfect tone.  Conversations are muted thanks to the dark wood walls, and thick leather seats.  While they have out door patio seating, their smoking area, and a bar area, when you enter the restaurant seating area the hubbub dies to a murmur.

You feel like you are the only ones there, most of the time, tucked into your area enjoying your time with friends and family.  The servers are very professional, taking care of you but not intruding on your time with your guests. And the food…well, it’s so good you forget to take pictures for posterity.

While I don’t mind an adult beverage from time to time, I’m not big on drinking when we eat out.  I like the good stuff and that means a high bill at the end of the evening.  I would much rather spend the money on the food than booze, because believe me their steaks, and their salmon are amazing!

However, I have it on good authority, their drinks are amazing!  Hubby got a couple of different martini like drinks when we celebrated him finishing his MBA, and said they were wonderful and you got a good amount for the price.

Now stop me if you’ve heard this before…

Hi, I have food allergies, I’m allergic to ____… and from then on, it’s one trip after another to the kitchen for the wait staff to ensure you don’t have grounds to sue them at the end of your meal.  No one wants an ambulance crew disrupting their guests dinner.

I have found a few tips that make it easier for me.  Instead of starting off with the above, I look at the menu while waiting for my water or tea or whatever I’m drinking with my meal, then I pick 2-3 things I want to eat.  So when the wait staff return with my beverage I tell them about my allergy and give them my choices to check with the Chef.

I have heard of cards you can get from your allergist with a list of things you can’t have: corn, peas, peanuts…etc,  but since my soy allergy encompasses more than the usual soy products (Soy sauce, edamame) my allergist hasn’t offered me one.  Plus when soy is in everything…mayonnaise, margarine, flavor mixes, thickening agents, face creams…even ice cream, it wouldn’t be a card I could easily put in my wallet.

Picking out a few things to focus on has helped me tremendously.  I typically ran into one of two scenarios. I either could have my pick of anything on the menu; something that was very overwhelming when you are accustomed to only having salad as an option. Or I was only allowed a salad, or something on the grill.

By picking two or three things to focus on, keeping in mind what I can usually choose from, it keeps me from being overwhelmed by tons of choices.  And typically I pick something that can easily be altered and made soy free to order.

Anyway, back to the food.  On this occasion, a night out with our daughter celebrating her making it through some tough testing so she has options where furthering her education goes, I got their Roasted Salmon.  And I loved every mouth watering, buttery, bite.

Our daughter got the New York Strip, and hubby got their tortellini (which is unusual, he’s very much a steak and potato man) but he said the tortellini was wonderful and just what his tummy was wanting.

I would highly recommend them for your next special night out.  Check them out online, and enjoy the step back in time – oh, and the food too,  only try to get photos of it, and send them to me here.

Hatch Green Chile Grilled Cheese, Oh My!

In my quest to be as yeast free and dairy free as possible, I have found one flaw…Hatch green chile grilled cheese. (No I didn’t misspell chile.)

Oh. My. Word.

If you love the flavor of hatch green chile, and you love grilled cheese...this is the combo for you!
If you love the flavor of hatch green chile, and you love grilled cheese…this is the combo for you!

I am originally from New Mexico, and there is nothing that marks the end of summer and the beginning of fall more distinctly than the smell of roasting green chiles.  If they could put that smell into a candle I would be one happy woman.

And while I can find them in Colorado (they are nice enough to truck them up here), in New Mexico every Walmart, grocery store chain, and even some of the auto parts stores, have a station set up to sell and roast Hatch green chile.

However, if you love chile, and have never tried Hatch green chile, click the link above and look at their products.   If you like a lot of heat with your chile, don’t get your hopes up where this cheese is concerned. However, this cheese is packed with the most flavorful – if heat lacking – chile ever.

When we first found the Hatch green chile cheese at  Whole Foods we couldn’t help but buy it. From there it was a small jump to grilled cheese. Perfectly golden brown bread and melted cheddar cheese infused with real hatch green chile… It is an ooey gooey  bite straight out of what I imagine food will be like in heaven.

They are so good, and so worth the side effects…stuffy nose from the dairy, which means I have to be uber conscious of my surrounds for a few days since it makes my anaphylaxis reactions more severe; and the possible stomach upset from the yeast.

As for the yeast, I’m so glad I found organic sourdough bread (I prefer Rudi’s or 365 brands). The basic reason as to why I can have sourdough over, say, white bread is simple; as far as I’m able to deduce.

Dry yeast vs. Yeast culture.

While I’m still working through the whole dry yeast theory, I’ve found that when it comes to yeast cultures I do a lot better when I eat breads made from the cultures as opposed to most dry yeast products. It’s a work in progress because sometimes I can eat breads made from dry yeast without a problem. From what I’ve experienced thus far, organic is the key word for dry yeast.

Though I still have more testing to do before I can claim this theory, something I’m not working to hard to disprove, I’m sticking with eating what I don’t react to right now.

So when it comes to my yearly vice, yearly because the cheese is only available late summer – till its gone – I feel no guilt. (I’ve only ever found it at Whole Foods Market – FYI.)

I’ll take a Sudafed for the stuffy nose, and be more vigilant where my anaphylaxis is concerned. Believe me if you love chile, and grilled cheese, this is the best of both worlds.

The morale of this story is…sometimes it’s OK to eat what isn’t good for you so long as you are smart about it.

Cheers!!!