Where do you like to eat in Seattle that happily assists with your special needs? How about in other cities? I would love to hear your stories and suggestions!
In this section, you will find options, recommended by readers and myself, that specifically cook without certain allergens.
You will also find a list of places that work well with a variety of allergies/sensitivities, but do not offer different menus for such.
- Silver for the King (2/22/2015)
Pretty, wild Silver, also known as Coho, Alaskan salmon is incredible when prepared with dense, flavorful King Oyster mushrooms.
This variety of mushroom combines the flavor, we love, of the oyster mushroom, with a dense meatiness that adds incredible texture to your dish. You will find them to willlingly avail themselves of the flavors you introduce in the pan. Tonight, I chose to saute them in butter with shallot and cardamom. When they were sufficiently softened, I deglazed with Oloroso sherry, then a touch of maple syrup, the sweetness balanced by Jerez sherry vinegar.
Coco, or Silver salmon are frequently found at a much better price in your fish market. Being a smaller fish, you need to handle them pretty gently, when cooking. They can dry out in a heartbeat! Keep a close eye on them as you pan roast, poach or oven roast this wonderful fish.
For those of you seeking to keep your diet free of allergens, fresh wild salmon is an excellent choice. Firm fish, like salmon, do not need a coating, as do more delicate fish, like sole. This means, you can usually count on it as a Gluten Free option on restaurant menus. Do carefully read the menu description, though. Ask you server, to be sure it is safe. At home, Salmon is wonderful with so many flavors, sauces, cooking styles and accompaniments. Be creative! Enjoy! Chef Celinda
- Friend or Foe? (1/16/2015)We know that garlic has been used by cooks since, at least, the time that history began to be written. It gives our dishes such flavor; suchzing; such personality.Garlic can be used raw in pesto,sauteed in many a dish, roasted and used as a spread or accompaniment.The use of garlic, medicinally, is historically endorsed, as well. Modern research confirms that garlic is a potent weapon in the battle against disease. “A 1999 study by S. Ankri and D. Mirelman shows that a compound within garlic called allicin is responsible for garlic’s antimicrobial, antiviral, and antiparasitic activity. It’s also been shown to combat drug-resistant strains of E. coli and could potentially battle some superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics. Allicin isn’t actually in garlic. A compound, alliin, and an enzyme, alliinase are part of the cells in a garlic clove. These two are kept separate, however, when those cell walls are ruptured, they meet and form the all-powerful and mighty allicin.”“A 2001 study by K. Song and J.A. Milner showed that heating, microwaving, or boiling crushed garlic destroyed all the alliinase enzyme activity within it. However, most dishes call for cooked garlic rather than raw.”
Since, there aren’t a lot of application of raw garlic, in ‘polite’ society, how do we get around this?
Studies have shown that cutting your garlic, at least ten minutes prior to cooking, allows the allicin to form. Less will be destroyed by the cooking process. An easy trick to improve health! Garlic can easily be sliced, chopped, pressed or emulsified with a food processor. I have a tiny little Cuisinart Mini-Prep Processor, that is fun to use.
Alas, many individuals seem to be sensitive to this ingredient. I have read a number of articles and posts regarding this. If you fall into this category, when dining out, please be polite and patient explaining this need to your server. So many people are simply afraid of potential bad breath and ‘abuse’ the word allergy. This creates a nightmare for those with actual health consequences. Take a look at my pages regarding dining out, for some suggestions.
- Winter Wonderland (12/16/2014)
Snow, rain, cold…or sunshine and ocean breezes…? Rushing about, dodging frantic Christmas shoppers or sipping this lovely margarita on a Mexican beach with sand between your toes?
If you’re planning a trip to your own version of Winter Wonderland, with food allergies and sensitivities you need to be thinking about a lot more then what brand of sunscreen to pack.
I love to travel. Dining out is a favorite hobby. As a Chef, I also especially enjoy the opportunity to cook when I am in exotic locales. The ingredients indigenous to each region tempt me like a siren song.
To achieve my need to cook, I always rent a house or condo, so I have a kitchen. With my ever present food allergies to consider, this makes it safer for me to travel. Surprises still lurk in the most unlikely places, when you are in a foreign country, though. You need to do your homework.
I was thrilled to discover that the restaurants in Puerto Vallarta are actually grasping the significance of food allergies. Some menus even stated, in large print, to discuss these with your server. A trip to Isla Mujeres , four years ago, would have been a dining disaster if we hadn’t had my friend, Maria, a native Spanish speaker, along.
When dining out in a foreign country, you must know how to say the words in their native tongue. Never expect to find that your server, even though he may have enough English to take your order, will be able to understand what you are trying to explain regarding these ingredients, you must avoid, without your ability to communicate in his language.
This recent trip did teach me some new problems, though. Mexico does not have the same standards regarding food additives. Even cooking at home, we encountered one that caused both of us some serious discomfort. According to the link I have included, Mexican beef suppliers are voluntarily discontinuing the usage of Clenbuterol. I wish that were as true as the report states. Immediately, after ingesting some grilled New York steaks, we were both showing all the signs linked to this additive, so I started doing some serious research to determine what we had gotten a hold of. Considering we had purchased the meat from a store owned by a large US corporation, this is especially troubling.
To avoid the oils we are allergic to, we generally try to only order foods that can’t possibly be contaminated. Ceviche style dishes are our favorite. Some of the beach side restaurants are producing absolutely stunning arrays of this culinary treat. Unfortunately, we discovered, they also like to dust them with MSG and additives to preserve freshness. Without the chemical analysis, I wasn’t able to determine exactly what they were using, but we certainly knew it was happening, despite requests to the contrary.
If all else fails, the margaritas and daiquiri’s are ‘safe’! The beauty above was a very tasty ‘Cadillac’ prepared at the table by our favorite server, Freddie, at The Blue Shrimp Restaurant. Afternoons were made for siestas, right? Enjoy!
- Gluten: East v West (11/14/2014)
This was my second trip to New York. The first, six years ago, was an eye opening experience regarding many aspects of the culinary world. The ‘City’ was so much more and so much less then I anticipated.
I am thrilled to have found a definite improvement to general attitudes regarding food allergies and sensitivities. From tiny cafes to old guard, star studded venues, my discussions with servers about the ingredients and how food was prepared was met with respect and a smile. Considering I was shown the door in both Portland and Canon Beach, Oregon in September, due to my special preparation needs, this was a refreshing change.
My dining experiences almost always involve ‘staff education’, regardless what city I am in. I’m never surprised when my server, and the kitchen aren’t aware of the hidden soy in many dishes. As a Chef and someone with a severe soy allergy, I must know. I was a bit flabbergasted, though, when a server in Manhattan asked me, “What is this, uh… “gluten”? He was serious!
I like to carry simple cards with my allergy/sensitivities printed on them. I can give this to the server, who in turn should give it to the kitchen. When I’m cooking for the public, I love getting these from my guests. This method is so much simpler then depending on the information to be given verbally, especially when the list is extensive or contain truly severe allergies.
Do please be aware that providing the card is still not a guarantee that you will be able to eat safely. If you have a serious allergy, you need to understand where it can be found on a menu. You need to politely ask questions and make specific requests for further information. Please always respect that the staff is going out of their way to help you. Sincere Thank You’s are a must. When the kitchen must extensively customize to create food for you, tip those hard working people, as well. The people working the hardest to keep you safe are seldom rewarded or acknowledged. A few dollars in recognition go a long ways toward keeping the next guest with an allergy safe, too.
By the way, the pretty kitchen above is Tavern On The Green. If you can consume dairy, order the Lobster Soup.
- We’ve all been there… (9/19/2014)
There are so many stories published regarding Chefs refusing to acknowledge food allergies and sensitivities. They feel many of the customers are merely trying to be controlling or get extra attention; or our favorite, the individual who simply dislikes an ingredient so claims an allergy. After my 35 years in the restaurant business, I know, in reality these Chefs are frequently correct in their assumptions. That creates a tremendous problem for those that truly must deal with allergies and sensitivities.
When I peruse a menu, with my background, I can usually suss out the culinary culprits hiding in a dish through my understanding of how it’s made. This is a very good thing, since I have been clearly lied to many times by both servers and kitchen staff at restaurants.
I almost never tell other restaurants that I am a chef and restaurant owner. I don’t want special treatment. That said, I have also encountered the restaurants that ‘show me the door’. If they care so little and/or have so little understanding of the ingredients they are working with, this is probably for the best. My allergies are potentially fatal. Luckily, most people have less threatening conditions. I can help you understand the way dishes are made and with what ingredients you may need to be aware of. You will learn things even your restaurant server probably won’t know.
You definitely need to understand that many people in the restaurant industry don’t know what is in the food any more then the average consumer. How can this be?!?! Unless you dine at restaurants that serve you pre-made food out a of a box, the list of ingredients can be an ‘unknown’ due to the number of individuals involved up to the final creation. You also can encounter the ‘language barrier’. If the server can’t communicate with a non-English speaking cook, the odds go down rapidly. My safest meals generally occur in small, chef operated establishments. Less people, more knowledge!
I am intending to provide a concise plan of attack covering both ‘How to Dine Out Safely’ and ‘How to Cook Without Fear, at Home’. The second will include lots of fun trips to Farmers Markets and exotic culinary destinations. Food does not ever need to be boring! I hope you will join me regularly on my jaunts from shopping bag to plate! Food is fun!!