Adventures in Gluten (and Sugar) Freedom from a southern blogger chick!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

If I had a gluten-free menu

Remember that song by the Barenaked Ladies, "If I had a million dollars?"

(Thanks to my BFF Angela for reminding me how much I love that song the other day on Facebook...)

So I had a number of gluten-free dining experiences of Spring Break, some delightful, some good, some bad, some dreadful (some the fodder of upcoming posts on Ging Recommends!) And here's what I decided: I'll write a song. 

If I had a gluten-free menu:
First, I'd educate myself.  What does it mean to offer a gluten-free menu? Is this something I should broadcast on email, blogs, and Twitter? And what is the difference to the gluten-free diner in a gluten-free menu and gluten-free offerings?  Here's a hint:  I can find gluten-free offering almost everywhere if the chef/cook/staff is cooperative.  But a gluten-free menu means you're taking that extra step to insure my safety. And my loyalty. And my devotion. And most of all, my repeat business. (Having just been tarred and feathered on Twitter because of this issue, I will never take this lightly.) Before you jump? Ask a gluten-free patron. 

If I had a gluten-free menu:
I would make sure there was bread. I wouldn't make the gluten-free people drool over the delicious rolls the others were eating while the gluten-free people looked bewildered. I'd especially have bread when I knew a month in advance the gluten-free people were coming. For a celebration (MASSIVE fail, btw).

With all the bread options today, you can go out and get almost everything and keep it in a small freezer space.  From artisan Joan's Great Bakes to Van's to Food for Life to Udi's, there no reason not to have bread that you can heat and serve.  And mixes are everywhere! Buy a Ten Buck toaster and mark it GLUTEN FREE with a Sharpie....Need suggestions? Ask a gluten-free patron.  (or call the Four Seasons Park 75 Restaurant in Atlanta and speak to Marvin and Chef Rob.)

If I had a gluten-free menu:
I'd make sure there was dessert.  You make an awesome pecan pie, do you?  Put the pie in a ramekin without the crust and bake in a Bain Marie. Freeze. Thaw. Serve.  Or buy some individual desserts from the specialists out there -- from Moondance Gluten-Free Bakery, American Gra-Frutti, French Meadows, or even Pamela's, find a dessert and dress it up.  Need suggestions? Ask your gluten-free patron. (I have that recipe, BTW. Crustless Pecan Pie. To the right.)

If I had a gluten-free menu:
I'd hire a gluten-free consultant (Like my friend Jennifer Harris, or me, for that matter) and have them sit down with the staff to make sure the staff understood what gluten-free meant. That getting them a NEW salad when they've eaten half a contaminated salad would not help. And when someone says Gluten Free, make sure you don't add angel hair pasta crisps to her salad. And if they don't know what gluten free means?  Ask your gluten-free patron. 

If I had a gluten-free menu:
I would send my chef to training. I'd send him or her to the NFCA Chef's Training Program. Chefs need to be trained, too, that things like vinegar (unless malt) modified food starch (unless it says WHEAT) and caramel color can be gluten-free. Then the chefs can train the sous chefs, and the line cooks, and the others in the kitchen.  

If I had a gluten-free menu:
I would fire a server who took a gluten-free request lightly after the first offense. And I would discipline a server who plopped down an item in front of an identified gluten-free diner and said, "I don't know if you can have this or not, but if not, you can give it to them...."  That has happened to me twice in the last six weeks.  TWICE.  At MAJOR chain restaurants who are certified by the GFRAP by GIG.  Would you give peanuts to someone allergic to peanuts? Wait. Don't answer that. (P.S. I'm reporting you both.)

If I had a gluten-free menu:
And I glutened you in any way, or mistreated you, or for goodness sake, took you for granted, then I'd ask you to tell me in concise terms.  I'd want to know.  And I'd make it right. EVERY time.  And I'd do more than buy you a free dinner -- because you know what, I know you might be a blogger and would tell the world.  And I wouldn't like that.  The gluten-free customer is not only right, he or she is almost ALWAYS completely well informed.  

If I had a gluten-free menu:  I'd be safe, because *****Dining out is RISKY*****

Much love,


a kelly said...

Oh so well said!
I got glutened last was horrible 24 hours of pain. Dining out is very risky.
But I keep trying!
Can't comment on your other blog, can I enter the contest too? Since my father was from Greece and I am from Toronto (same as the BNL) I'm hoping for a win!

...and along with everything else you are spot on about the bread! that's what won me over at EnergG tapioca rolls with butter wherever I went...AMAZING!

Anonymous said...

GREAT article, Ginger. I agree with you - bread! I want bread at restaurants so I can dip it into the olive oil. To eat with my salad. Let's hope more and more restaurants catch on.