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Thank Heavens for Blogs, or Food Allergies in New York City

>> Wednesday, May 12, 2010

This post isn't necessarily consistent with the theme of this blog, but since it's about another blogger and some of the power of blogging, I thought I'd go ahead and post it.

I have a hard time traveling because I have a whole host of food allergies and intolerances.  While one might think that chefs should know what is in the food they prepare and should be used to dealing with food allergies in this day and age, such is not the case.  Most restaurants don't properly train servers to deal with food allergies, either, and there is little worse than having a server who is rude and huffy because I have to ask a lot of questions and s/he needs to do a little extra work to serve me.  Rude servers annoy me especially because I'm a very generous tipper when the server is courteous, just because I know I'm more work than most patrons.  I always try hard to make it easy on the restaurants, too - I call ahead to each of the restaurants, make reservations at non-peak dining times, and warn each ahead of time what my list is. 

However, one thing that's distinctly worse than rude servers is being sick, especially while traveling, and before seeing an opera one has been waiting for years to see.

Therefore, I planned ahead for our New York City trip very carefully.  

In some respects, NYC is a good place for me to eat because it seems more people there at least know what gluten is, and there are even a number of gluten free restaurants and bakeries.  However, I have discovered the hard way that just because a restaurant knows what gluten is, it doesn't mean they know how to handle other food allergies, including my rather long list of dairy, soy, corn, coconut, and a variety of random fruits.

In planning our trip, I stumbled on an outstanding blog written by a woman who refers to herself as Allergic Girl.  She happens to live in NYC, and has reviewed quite a long list of restaurants that are friendly for those with food allergies.  Right now she's my hero.  I relied almost exclusively on her reviews of restaurants, had some outstanding meals, and had a very pleasant time at each of the restaurants.  Three cheers for Allergic Girl, for making my trip to New York a success!

Without Allergic Girl's blog, I don't know that I would have found any of these restaurants, and I certainly wouldn't have felt so comfortable knowing that I'd be okay at them.  Allergic Girl allowed me to focus on the fun parts of visiting New York City, and focus less on what could have been overwhelming challenges.

In case anyone who ever reads this is planning a trip to New York City and needs some food allergy safe restaurant recommendations, here are the highlights:

Friday night we ate at Sambuca at 20 West 72nd, largely because its location was convenient to our hotel and Lincoln Center.  It's an Italian restaurant that serves gluten free pasta and breads and even desserts, and is generally very astute about food allergies.  Better yet, the service was friendly and very good, and the food was fantastic.  I had veal paillard, which is veal scaloppini topped with chopped tomatoes, arugula and basil, and my husband partook of their pasta.  They had gluten-free beer, too, which is an extra plus in my book.  It was such a wonderful experience I shall certainly be returning there.  In fact, I'm looking forward to my next trip to New York in part so I can go back there.

Saturday we had brunch at a place called Brasserie at 100 East 53rd Street.  While it wasn't as exceptional service-wise as Sambuca, they did serve me a good and safe omelet, which at the end of the day is what really counts.

Saturday night we ate at a place called Five Points, at 31 Great Jones Street.  It was crowded and lively, and a pleasant spot after spending the day walking for endless miles.  Like Sambuca, the server was well-educated about the ingredients in the dishes they serve and about food allergies in general, and was generally extremely pleasant.  I had an outstanding Halibut with a spring vegetable ragout, and my husband said his pork was delicious as well.


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