Friday, July 24, 2009

Feeling lucky

I had a great time last week eating my way across Manhattan and trying several new restaurants. It is never easy with food intolerances to pick a place and take that risk of not only how will it taste, but also wondering if it will make me feel awful later. I am really lucky to have a friend that was willing to go try these new places with me.

One afternoon while waiting for a place to open for dinner, we were sitting in a bakery thumbing through the magazines. There was a copy of Allergic Living Magazine based out of Canada. In it was an article titled "Relative Risk: When family doesn’t get your gluten-free diet" This particular article is not online - they do have to keep some reason for selling the magazine after all. Basically it was about the misery of having family and friends who do not understand a food allergy and some tips on when and how to protect yourself or your child. I cannot imagine not being able to leave a child with a family member for fear that they will not be careful of a food allergy. While I have experienced some of the more mild annoyances of friends not understanding and not remembering, I am lucky to have family and friends who understand or at least accept and actively support the efforts to love food rather than fear the effects of eating.

Even reading the article I was even more grateful for traveling with a friend that just expected to eat gluten free and organic for the trip. Even luckier that she seems to even look forward to my ideas for eating out. We even split most meals so as not to overeat and try more places. I would like some more of this kind of traveling. I am also totally blessed that when I visit her home, her whole family makes sure there are things I can eat and even makes last minute changes to recipes to accommodate my intolerances.

I am lucky that I have a mild intolerance even if it is to several items. I do not need to panic about cross contamination. I can manage a meal every so often that has an Asian sauce where they used soy sauce which contains some wheat. I can buy a prepared salad and pick off the croutons and not panic if I missed a few crumbs.

I am lucky that my immediate family does understand. In fact I learned of my intolerance through eating with my parents. My mother is very sensitive to all chemicals, particularly sulphites, and now wheat. The more I cooked with her recipes, the better I felt.

When it was just the sulphites and preservatives it was very hard to explain to friends and other family members. This same magazine has an article online that does a nice job: "Sulphites are cooking up trouble" It is hardest to explain the chemicals that are hard to pronounce and need a magnifying glass to find on the packages of food. At least wheat is supposed to be additionally listed in the "allergen" field at the end of ingredients. Sulphites are not - at least not yet. I am lucky that I have several friends who for years now will at least remember to ask "can you eat there" when the group is looking for a place to go out to eat. I used to go with safety foods like dinner rolls, hamburgers, french fries, and pasta dishes and I didn't realize how much that was actually making things worse.

It is easier to explain no wheat. When my students see me eating a packed lunch instead of the catered lunch and ask me why there is almost always at least one who responds to my "no wheat" comment with a phrase including "gluten free" or "celiac". They know what I am talking about. I am lucky that I do not always have to do all the explaining myself.

It is a real pain to have to deal with both. Because of the risks of allergy attacks, gluten free products are often made fresh and almost always made from basic ingredients and not a lot of processed mystery. That also makes it easier to check for sulphites without having to explain every detail of that intolerance. No wheat, no wine, no wine vinegar generally works - except that too many people do not realize that balsamic vinegar is a wine vinegar.

I am lucky that there are so many newer options and every time a do a new search online I find more places to visit. Like a place for a gluten free English high tea in Atlanta and the option of organic ingredients on a gluten free crust at some zpizza locations across the country.


Whole Foods NYC - a quick review

There are now 5 stores in Manhattan and another scheduled to open in August.

Chelsea was the first and is probably the smallest. It does have a salad and hot bar but there is no place to sit at this store. I have eaten several meals on the sidewalk using the window will as a table. I have also picked up food and carried to another location to sit and people watch. Most recently, the steps of the post office across from Penn Station.

Columbus Circle was next. At the time of completion it was one of the largest Whole Foods stores. It takes up the entire lower levels of Time Warner Building which also contains a mall and a couple of towers of office and apartments. There is a seating area at this store and it has a very NYC modern look with its changing colored lights. The benches are very hard and a bit high for the tables. The higher stools at the long high tables are better.

Union Square was the third. It does have a seating area and is moderate in size. It didn't impress me as much or maybe it was just the Union Square area that didn't impress me.

Whole Foods Bowery was my new venture on this trip.
It has the Whole Body in a loft space upstairs and a cute bridge across to the kitchen utensil items. There is the standard salad and hot bar take out downstairs but also upstairs is a large eating area and a couple of other food options in the restaurant style theme that has become common in the new stores. I specifically noticed a "create your own wraps" station and a coffee bar but I think there were others too.

This store looks promising for my future trips to NYC. I generally work downtown so this is much closer than the others. It is also walking distance from one of my favorite restaurants and even closer to two new places I found this trip - a bakery with gluten free goodies and a little place with a good gluten free pizza crust.

Another plus for this store was the great selection of take out prepared food after work on a Thursday evening. A few other stores (namely in PA) have had good selections at noon but almost nothing at 7pm when I am trying to select a lunch for the next day at work.

I have not been to the Tribeca store which is now 1 year old and the new store opening next month is northwest of Central Park.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

A fun trip

We had been talking about it for a long time. My best friend lives in New England with her husband and young child. I live in the Southeast and travel enough for work and on short enough notice that it is difficult to plan a girls weekend anywhere.

But we did it. Just the 2 of us - no pets, no kids, no laptops, no errands or chores or work - just some fun. I finally got to use some frequent flyer points and most of the many hotel points I had collected over the past many years. We met in NYC for 2 nights, 3 days, 1 Broadway musical, and a lot of walking and talking and eating. It was fantastic!

We went to several Whole Foods including the Bowery store that was not open the last time I was in NYC. We had dinner at one of my favorite places: Spring Street Natural. We found gluten free cupcakes at BabyCakes. We did not make it to listen to the swing band at Lincoln Center but we did try one of the Top 5 best margaritas in Manhattan at Rosa Mexicano.

And that was just the first day.

Then there was breakfast at Whole Foods, a walk across Central Park and down 5th Avenue, and a visit to the NBA store and the Public Library. After a nap we tried a new restaurant I found that had wonderful gluten free pizza - not the easiest thing to find. I would definitely recommend Pala Pizza.

9 to 5 The Musical was spectacular! Good music, choreography, comedy, etc. That was the fastest couple of hours of the whole trip. Later, a good (but not as good as the previous night's) margaritas and some decent nachos at Iguana rounded out the evening.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Non favorite airlines

I now remember why I dislike flying Continental. [Follow up to "you have got to be kidding"].

A few of the more minor annoyances include:
1. The seats are narrow.
2. There are always youngsters kicking the back of my seat.
3. Too many families with odd bags and not enough travellers with experience maximizing space in the overheads.

I should point out that the staff - particularly at the airport - was nicer than I remember. Not as perky as Southwest but patient and polite - aka professional. The only issue I saw was the calculation of overhead space for the trip. I was on a full flight so they simply assumed that everyone in the first 10 rows with large bags would have to check those bags through to the final destination and pick them up at baggage claim. At least they don't charge for that (yet). I was one of those but after waiting for them to print a baggage tag and then taking the bag to the end of the jet way, it turned out that there was plenty of space left. A bunch of us brought now tagged bags onboard.

But the biggie this trip was the father teaching his grade school aged child how to ignore the rules. She was watching a video on her nano when the announcement came to turn off all electronics. She of course ignored that announcement. She glowered when the staff directly asked her to turn it off for take off. Then dad shows her that if she had just flipped it over in her hand as they came by, no one would have noticed it was on and she could then just keep watching. Same kid had her cell phone on the whole way and was texting during landing.

I don't care how silly the rule seems, or how much you know about electronics and interference, or how many nanos it takes to mess with ground control radio chatter. The parent should not be teaching the child how to ignore the rules. Of course, this is not a problem which is unique to this airline but for some reason I have always had some story of inconsiderate people whenever I have to deal with a continental flight.

Oh the joys of flying.