Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Aaaaand I haven't updated in weeks.  Thanks life!

Anyway... on to the salad talk.  I try to be a good girl and bring my lunch from home.  Living in a fabulous city in a really fabulous zipcode takes its toll on my wallet.  The restaurants nearby can also take a toll on the waistline.  For that reason, on the days when I decide getting back in bed for a nap after I take a shower is a smart decision, I end up buying lunch a few times per month.

My standby choice, considering both wallet and waistline, is usually a salad. Usually with popchips or riceworks chips on the side so I feel like I'm cheating but totally okay and within my daily allowances for calories. 

However, salads are no longer the conflict free choice given the complexities of salad dressings. Some chains (I'm looking at you Pax... You don't even get a link.  There's your punishment.) have zero information on food allergies on their websites.  When I stopped into a location, I was told to just go for a dry salad.  I can think of few things that are less appetizing. I even said - what about oil and vinegar? But they wouldn't guarantee that the containers didn't have a wheat based or containing dressing before the oil or vinegar so that was a no. Which is disgusting when you think about it, allergies or no allergies.

A few salad commandments that I've learned:
1. Do not get your salads chopped through a machine as this frequently leads to cross contamination from wheat products and dressings being chopped in the same machine.
2. No crunchy stuff.
3. Asian dressings are rarely okay, as they tend to contain soy sauce.
4. Many vinaigrettes are unsafe due to use of wheat containing thickeners.

Here are the big chains in NYC, from worst to best.  Pax doesn't even need a detailed listing because they pretend allergies don't exist on their website.  The next time I have a bad day, they may get a grandma-style bitchy letter from me.

Pret a Manger has information on their website. By clicking specific links on their menu you can read the nutritional content with concise allergy warnings below.  Yeehaw. But if you plan on stopping in, you best check the website because the employees were clueless.  Along side the They seemed more terrified of me having a bad reaction to the food than anything, though, which I prefer to those who could care less.

Chopt has some pretty amazing details on their websites.  And they have this handy dandy chart, which I stole.  They recommend printing it out to bring into their locations, though they state clearly that all staff, especially managers should be knowledgable on allergy friendly choices.  Below you will see that they clearly list "the big eight" components in all their dressings to avoid any confusion.

My gold medal in gluten free salad choices definitely goes to Hale and Hearty.  First of all, they have a pdf list of all their gluten free soups!  Of course, the caveat at the end of interesting, though it is at least commendable that they are aware of the cross contamination factor.  The manager that I spoke with explained that the salad chefs now only add ingredients to the bowls, so the counter is not cross contaminated.  She also mentioned that allergic peeps can request that a separate tong for salad ingredients be used to avoid THAT cross contamination.  Thoughtful! I like it.  What was best of all was that I was able to walk into a random H&H location and locate their allergen lists with no questions asked.  On the top of all counters for sandwiches, soups and salads, there is a stand with the day's specials.  On the back of those print outs are the allergen information for each station.  Bravo, H&H! You've won a customer here. 

Your prize is my continued laziness that results in my patronage to your fine establishment.  Especially the one in Chelsea Market with the ridiculously efficent checkout lines.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Nizza should be called Stupefacente.

For the non eye-talians in the crowd, Nizza translates to nice.  And stupefacente is somewhat close to amazing (Vittoria, correct me...). Which the restaurant in question, Nizza, certainly was.

Nizza served up my best gluten free experience so far.  They have a separate gluten free menu that you can request after being seated which was fairly extensive. Several pasta dishes, composed mains, lots of appetizers and soups all GF. And they take great care to avoid cross contamination. Yayyyy.

We started with an amazing thing called a socca which is essentially a patty of chickpea and olive oil that is thin and baked up to a crisp, topped with prosciutto, gorgonzola, arugula and a balsamic reduction. In a word, amazing.  Hence the title of this post. I honestly fought myself to not go down there the next night to get another one.  It was the perfect size for two to split for an app, too.  As a hint, even to the non GFers, Nizza has many more varietals of socca listed on the gluten free menu. Booyah, wheat eaters. We hold the key. My main was a delightful fettucine (corn pasta, which was super al dente and yummy) in a creamy pesto sauce. Perrrrrfection. The service was great and despite being in 9th avenue wayyy too close to Times Square, there is something romantic and cozy about this place.

I will most definitely be back. Probably to an embarrassing degree.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sambuca - More than your Grandma's Hooch of Choice

... If your Grandma is anything like mine, that is.

 I have walked past Sambuca pretty much every day in the two and a half years I have lived in my totally awesome Upper West Side pre-war elevator having apartment.  You might think I'm bragging, but you would definitely not say that if you knew how much rent my broke social worker ass is spending to live in said apartment.  Anystupid, I have walked past Sambuca literally every day.  Most of those days, if I happened to look in the general direction, I'd think to myself - Hey! I should take my cousin here! She is, after all, the family's pioneer of the gluten allergies.  Since her diagnosis a few years back, myself, and several of our second cousins have followed suit.

A month ago, that thought changed from a casual "hmm, I should go here with Amy" to "EFF a place that serves gluten free pasta and southern italian food that I don't have to go near a stove during this summer of the perpetual 95 degree heat wave to enjoy? sign me up!" My parents were in the city after lending a helping hand and a dozen mouse traps for my darling pre-war and it was our destination of choice.

They accomodate gluten, dairy and soy allergies with relative ease.  They had gluten free bread, pastas and all sorts of delectable southern Italian composed main and appetizer courses.  They even put allergy safe food on different color plates to guard against dreaded cross contamination.  And they deliver!  I was in the mood for a super rich Carbonara that day, which even after family style sharing it with three (though they had their own gluteny pasta dish that I wasn't jealous of) I got two additional meals out of.  And quite happily.  Damn good.

Don't be fooled by their ghetto, lackluster website.  Sambuca is g-o-o-d for the gluten allergic and gluten friendly in your posse.  Makes for happy, conflict free allergic tummies all across the Upper West Side.  Only strike against it?  I prefer my carbs separate from my disruptive yet adorable babies.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Take me out to the (gluten free!) ball game.

I've had quite a few gluten free adventures since my last post.  My, oh, my do I have some blogging to do.

The first of which that is notable enough to mention (and rave about) was my experience at Yankee Stadium.  Yes, the new address of greatness (Thank you for that gem, Michael Kay.) is quite surprisingly well equipped to deal with food allergies.  Down in section 125, Famiglia Pizzeria offers gluten free pizza which is actually cooked on its own tray in the oven to avoid cross contamination.  Had we not been late, I totally would have hung out and waited the 15 minutes for the pizza.  Of course, it was already the middle of the 1st inning and 125 was literally across the stadium and on a different level from our seats, so that wouldn't happen.

To my surprise, all food vendors have nutritional information lists of all the ingredients and allergens for menu items at their station or know who to ask/what was in the food us allergic folk need to ask about.  NY NY Grill fixed me a killer sausage and pepper plate (even if it did soak through its container by the time my doting boyfriend tracked down a fork for me to eat it with). Just like the ballgames from my childhood.  Only thing missing was the bun, which as it turns out, I didn't miss at all.

Only one thing separated this experience from the baseball games of my youth: the Yankees won!

Start spreading the news...