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?

The Helpful Little Lighthouse

Shop Amazon – Receive a $200 credit with a select camera purchase this article has been published! http://www.travelpostmonthly.com/2017/07/helpful-little-lighthouse/ 

Skyline and bug light
Skyline and bug light
For centuries lighthouses have stood guard over the rocky shores the world over. Providing safe passage to mariners and their ships traveling far and wide for industry and commerce. Portland Maine’s Breakwater “Bug” Light is no exception. For 141 years Bug light has been a small, yet mighty, protector for Portland’s rocky coast. Surrounded by a park filled with picnic tables it is a literal breath of fresh sea air. You can easily walk to Bug light and walk around it to see Casco Bay and all the islands off the coast. Not to mention a full skyline of Portland, Maine’s largest city.

Bug light, and part of the Portland sky line
Bug light, and part of the Portland sky line
Being a desert rat from the southern most parts of New Mexico, where the air is as dry as the sand, the sight of the Atlantic and surrounding battlements of old, not to mention the small but mighty Bug light took my breath away.

Picnic area at Bug Light
Picnic area at Bug Light
The sun was high, the grass a color of green I had only ever seen in a crayon box, and the water so blue and inviting I had a hard time keeping my shoes on my feet and my body out of the water (just wanting to make sure it was real since mirages look deceptively real where I’m from).

I kept reminding myself that I wasn’t 10 and throwing my shoes off and running like a maniac, who had never seen water before, into the bay was not lady-like for someone of my – not so advanced – age.  But it was so tempting.  Decorum won out in the end, after all it is a must when strangers are around.

(My husband is rolling his eyes and snorting as he reads this.)

So pretty, and what a view to enjoy your lunch.
So pretty, and what a view to enjoy your lunch.
However, if I would have had a kite on hand I just might have thrown caution to the wind and made the delicate fabric and stick ensemble fly with its ribbon tail dancing in its wake. The winds were perfect for it. (I’m sorry if “Let’s Go Fly A Kite” is now stuck in your head. It’s still stuck in mine.)

Breakwater "Bug" Lighthouse
Breakwater “Bug” Lighthouse
The walk to Bug Light is an easy stroll from the parking area, though the walkway to the lighthouse is made of granite boulders as is much of the area bordering the sea, they were easily traversed.

Closeup of Buglight and it's steps. See the door to the right of the screen? That's the helpful door.
Closeup of Buglight and it’s steps. See the door to the right of the screen? That’s the helpful door.
Walking up to the lighthouse I was taken a back by the ornate architecture of the light house.  As a minor collector of lighthouse figurines, I was expecting something…larger…and more basic.  A cylindrical post with a light and mirrors atop with a charming keepers cottaged attached. (Don’t you worry Maine’s got those too.)  Bug light is none of those, but still incredibly helpful.

closeup of architecture of Bug light
closeup of architecture of Bug light
It’s ornate columns decorated at the top with Grecian style leaves, and molding all done in cast iron make it an oxymoron in the world – as I know it – of lighthouses.

As I walked around Bug light I had to laugh out loud at just how helpful this little lighthouse really was for the tourists.  As you walk around the lighthouse, admiring it’s architecture, the sea and land surrounding it, you come to a door which tells you in bold black letters against the bright white of the body of the lighthouse, “You Are Here”.

Bug light is so helpful, this is on the door of the lighthouse.
Bug light is so helpful, this is on the door of the lighthouse.
I was so glad to see that note of help.  Living in Colorado, where you figure out your North from your South based on your proximity to the mountains, it was nice to know where I was there out on the coast of Maine. “Here”.

From the shore if you look right, while facing the sea, you’ll see Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse.

Water and skyline, so pretty and restful.
Water and skyline, so pretty and restful.
To the left you see Portland’s skyline.  Church steeples dot the sky, as the ferries bob along the horizon.  Old and new architecture meld together for a quiet and serene view, perfect for picnics and kite flying.  Benches dedicated to people who loved their time in the park dot the coastline, as people sit enjoying the quiet while eating their lunch, or chatting with acquaintances who walked past.  The entire area is so friendly and welcoming, yet understanding when you want time to yourself.  People would call out a hello, ask if I needed help finding something, and then let me be.

Bridge, and skyline of Portland Maine.
Bridge, and skyline of Portland Maine.
As I stood there admiring the ‘new of the area, and witnessing the ’old’ world contraptions still in use – granted updated with solar panels and powerful light bulbs instead of wicks and mirrors – I couldn’t help but wonder about the area’s history. The lives saved or lost. The ships the lighthouses were not able to save. History, the vessel we use to ensure we survive and have better lives than our ancestors. Oh what stories that little lighthouse could tell.

Inspiration To Travel

I recently read an article by annaeverwhere about traveling with chronic diseases and other medical issues. It really put into perspective my allergy issues.  While mine do not physically show, thankfully, they can be the cause for some very public displays of panic. However, since she isn’t letting it slow her down it has given me a little more spit and vinegar where my adventures are concerned.

We have had our home on the market for the last month or so, and each time we show the house I have to take the dog with me…after a whirlwind clean up of the house so it is show room ready, and I head for the nearest store that allows animals, or I head to the Air Force Academy so I can walk Chaz .

Today I have a showing and I’m thinking, if I cover up properly with sun clothes, and heading out to be a sightseer to areas I typically avoid because of the sun. Hopefully there will be new photos to take and no need for allergy meds.

It is just nice knowing that there are others out there, traveling and leading full lives in spite of their medical conditions.

While I do not travel on the same scale as Anna, for me just going out of the house is huge feat most days.

 

(This post was written a few days ago, go HERE to read about our adventures in Garden of the Gods.)