What a bizarre and uncomfortable night out I had last Friday. Let me rephrase that. I had a great time with the people I was with, but as far as the celiac stuff is concerned? Total Twilight Zone.
Before the night started, Mrs. Dude and I took a nice walk down to our local wine shop and picked up a nice bottle for dinner. There is a beer store next door. Yes, a beer store. Pennsylvania has these weird, antiquated laws that beer can only be sold in cases from state-owned establishments. Don’t ask.
Anyway, we decided to stick our heads in and see if they had any decent gluten-free beer, specifically Glutenberg IPA. They said they had two gluten-free beers. Can you guess which ones? Yep. Omission Beer, which is not even gluten-free beer, and Red Bridge, which sucks.
When I asked if they could get Glutenberg, he laughed at the name of the beer. I walked out embarrassed to be gluten-free. And hence, the night proceeded.
We arrived at the restaurant (since it was 15 miles away, Mrs. Dude and I decided not to walk it ;) ) and got seated right away. Now I have been to this restaurant a handful of times. They take their gluten-free seriously and even mark their gfree items on their menu with an asterisk. I’ve had no issues at any past visit.
Well, I take that back. Last time I was there, I took a picture of the menu and posted it on Facebook (because for some reason, that’s what we do nowadays.) Many readers correctly pointed out that one of their “gluten-free” items had wheat berries in it. I have no idea how I missed it (and no…I did not order it.) I called the restaurant the next day and they were apologetic and said they would fix it right away.
Back to last Friday. When the server first came over, I gave my usual spiel. I told her I have “severe” celiac disease and I will be leaning on her and the kitchen for help. So far…all good.
About three minutes later, another server came over and asked me if I wanted any “celiac bread”. Celiac bread? I mean…I knew what she meant, but it just sounded…odd.
I began to peruse the menu. The food at this joint is really, really good. A few of the salads were marked gluten-free. Here…take a look.
If you were me, what would jump out at you as possibly being a concern? Honestly, a few things but the second salad is the one I wanted. I assumed the fried corn tortillas were either pre-made or done in a separate fryer. WRONG. They use the same fryer for all of their fried items. The chef said they “try” to do the corn tortillas first. I kindly informed them that the salad should not be labeled gluten-free. No response. For the record, I got the third salad and it was amazing.
For the entree, after asking my questions, here is what I ordered:
Pan Seared Bronzino Fillet, Roasted Eggplant Puree, White Beans, Chorizo, Artichoke Hearts, Red Pepper Buerre Blanc
The dish came out and I felt myself just staring at it silently. It just seemed to have a lot of “stuff” on it. Mrs. Dude noticed my hesitance and asked the server to come over. I kindly (there’s that word again) asked about the sauces on the dish. She said it was fine but if I felt better about things, she could bring the chef out. Very cool.
The chef came out and proceeded to inform me that the dish was fine…there was no flour in it. Now, I would LOVE to assume she knew gluten was more than just flour, but still…
At that point, the waitress said to me “See…you’re not going to die.” It was said half-sarcastically and half-sincerely, so I had no idea how to process it. I just knew that it made me ungodly uncomfortable.
I know what you’re asking now: “Well Dude, did you eat the dish?”
I did. I had been there enough times that, even though the night’s experience wasn’t a good one, I have not gotten sick there. The meal was spectacular and no, I did not get sick.
At the end of the meal, I thanked my server for looking out for me, as I always do. She then proceeded to tell me that they get so many gluten-free fad dieters nowadays who make a huge deal about their meals being gluten-free but then order the gluten-filled dessert, they just assumed I was one of them until I made it clear I was not.
Can you imagine that? Instead of assuming that I’m eating gluten-free because of a disease, it’s the exact opposite. And that’s why the gluten-free fad sucks. And that’s why restaurants are better off NOT offering gfree unless they are going to do it right. And that’s why so many celiacs continue to get sick when eating out.
By the way, I am not going to call out the restaurant publicly. Someone last night was familiar with the menu and said that restaurant used to call their meals celiac safe, but no more. Interesting.
But I will be forwarding this blog post to them.
What a night!