Saturday, April 9, 2011

What are YOU eating?

How safe are you when you dine out in restaurants? I am referring to (food) allergies, chemicals and poisons? Really! I write this with all seriousness. 

For many, who dine out in blissful ignorance, they will brush this off with a veil of denial, but if you're like me, and you truly care about what fuels your body, this will be more than a gentle reminder.
I've been quite vocal about my allergy to wheat. People always lament, "What a bummer..." and "That must suck..." Does it, for me? Not really. Should it? The foods usually laden with wheat proteins are typically foods like pasta, bread, cookies, cereals and chips. I wouldn't eat those anyways; it's all processed junk. (There. I said it.)

In the food industry, words are tossed around so casually... "gluten-free" and "gluten intolerance", but then there are those like me, who truly have a gluten ALLERGY.

I've never complained about having Celiac's Disease.. and I don't apologize when I am a pain in the ass to wait-staff in restaurants. I just need to be cautious about which foods are hidden with wheat (and there are thousands) that I steer clear of in my diet.
Tonight, my dinner companion (a serious healthy eater) and I chose a brand new BBQ restaurant. The restaurant is crowded, with a forty-minute wait. Somewhat of a good sign. (It means the food is good, for the most part, right?)  I can ALWAYS find something on the menu, too, even in the trickiest of restaurants. (Tonight was the eye opener.)

My first "test" of a restaurant is (yes, really) the bathroom(s). How clean are they? That speaks VOLUMES of what may happen next. (Should have listened to my inner voice.) 
As I am walking into (remember- this place is brand new and only opened for a week) the restroom, a wait-staff comments to me, "Don't use the first stall. There is a problem." No worries. I chose the second. Next problem: (And you thought this would just be about food, huh?) There is no toilet paper. Seriously? 6:00 p.m. on a Saturday night, and NONE in the entire restroom? No hand towels either? Let's just end this part by saying, I had it covered.  TMI.

After an approximate thirty-minute wait, we are seated. I already know that I CANNOT (and will not) have the BBQ sauce in this establishment. The first ingredient is, YES, you know it - High Fructose Corn Syrup.  Read it directly off their packaging. (Yes, I stay away from sugar too.) So, "naked" BBQ it will be be!
The waiter takes our order. One order of ribs, one order of beef brisket, a side of cole slaw, and a side of green beans in horseradish sauce (the specialty of the house). 
I ask the waiter if there is gluten in the BBQ sauce (since I already KNOW it has sugar). He doesn't know. (I am not surprised.) Thus, "naked" it remains. I remind him I have a gluten allergy. He winks and says, 'No problem!" 
I remind him again, "You DO know about gluten allergies, yes?" 
He says, "Absolutely."

Then (drum roll) our food comes. Looks great, I might add. Arrives on a HUGE platter. On the side of the platter is corn bread. (In restaurants, corn bread is made with flour too. Beware, gluten-free eaters.) But that isn't the real problem. There is (UGH) sauce on the meat. BBQ sauce. What happened to "naked"?  Did the waiter not understand?
We laugh (after our eye roll) and say, '"Okay, so we'll have a little sugar tonight." I taste the ribs. Actually good. Sweet. (I'm thinking "sugar high".) Then I taste the beef brisket. Something is off. My dinner companion mentions it right away. Very sweet, but something is "off". I eat another slice, then poke around the bottom, and to my surprise, the brisket is piled on top of... a thick slice of bread. Bread? Seriously?

Now I'm irritated.

I call the waiter over. I firmly remind him (again) I have a gluten allergy. I point to the brisket piled on top of the bread. I point to the corn muffin, I inquire now why there is sauce on the ribs. He simply states,"Let me get the Manager."
The Manager, is quite accomodating and apologetic. He is not going to charge us for anything (I would hope not), and the food is immediately removed from our table. He says he will bring us true "naked" meat, which we have now asked to have in a "to go" bag. We're not even sure if we still want to eat it, but the Manager is certainly trying to appease us, now that we've become the aggravated patrons.

It IS clear, from the Manager that the waiter is going to be "spoken to". As he should, especially when the Manager asked the waiter if he understood "gluten allergies" and the waiter, trying to be sympathetic then said," Oh yeah, I think my Aunt has that..."

The Manager explains that anytime a customer mentions a food allergy, the "Manager on the floor" is to be brought over to that table. 
Meanwhile, as he is talking, one of the kitchen staff brings us the INGREDIENT list and food allergy component list for ALL of the foods served in that establishment.

This is the part where I wanted to faint.

The food is all crap. Crap. Yes, it has gluten (written in big black letters "HAS WHEAT") next to the name of all dishes except three. All BUT three. The ribs have it in the sauce (all the sauces), the rub on the ribs has MSG. (Seriously?) The brisket has wheat, so does the GREEN BEANS. The beans. The corn bread. All of the side dishes. How is that possible? The coleslaw slid by, but it has THREE (yes, THREE) types of sugar(s) in the dressing. Wasn't even a food anymore. The salad on the menu? You think THAT would be safe? No. Wheat. Why? Well, they preserve the living crap (I've said the word crap over and over. But I am certain I will say it more...) out of every food item in that place. There were so many chemicals in the salad, that my jaw dropped.

My dinner companion prefaced with, "Don't freak out, but LOOK at what is in the salad."  Too late... 

The bottom line? What that restaurant should have advertised, in a BIG SIGN, on their front door - "If you have a gluten allergy, you CANNOT eat here."
In fact, it should have simply read, "Our food isn't healthy. You shouldn't eat here."
(It's crap.)

Each and every food item on that menu was polluted with sugars, preservatives, chemicals, and toxic agents I could not even pronounce. 
Not one item was REAL FOOD. 
Not even the salad. The side dishes were overloaded with more chemicals than a pest control truck. 
This is my wake-up call. I think I was getting far too complacent.

Even more shocking was when the Manager hands me the "TO GO" bag, and explains they have "washed off" the meat. The meat already and previously contaminated with gluten, and served to us, has now been "washed". (Insert gagging noise here.) Was that a joke? 

See how nice I have been by NOT mentioning the name of the restaurant? That's because I have a controversial review that I'll be doing shortly and posting it on the web for all new and potential diners to view. We found the restaurant searching for the "best BBQ" in that city. What we found was NOT food.

So listen to this gluten-free girl. Be careful when you dine out. There was not one item at this particular place worthy of entering my body. 
And the idea of QUALITY over quantity certainly applies here.

Next time, we'll cook for ourselves. 
It's much safer that way.


  1. I was good the whole way (well not good with the fact of how everything was going down) seriously no - not at all - figuring new place - new staff - all the anxiety of that - so just reading along - and then I am sorry - but I starting laughing so hard at the fact that the meat was "washed" - for the love of everything real - yougottabekiddenme - WOW - makes the whole food I purchased yesterday - and the Organic I am heading out to get with the coffee and tea I forgot to buy - shine like a brand new penny!

  2. Washed! Yes! Doesn't that nauseate you? LOL. OH MY GOD. I am switching to organic everything. I will not eat anywhere new I see a list of ingredients. Have you tried the Organic 365 (Whole Foods) beans yet?
    Glad to give you a smile and chuckle this Sunday morning! :)

  3. OMG I don’t eat corn or eggs or dairy, beef, chicken… either. The ONLY places that I’ve found can accommodate, in general, are Thai restaurants (Penang Curry), and Indian. Saltgrass Steakhouse, too (pork, salmon, sweet potatoes)