• Yesterday, we checked into the Inn at Essex in Essex Junction, VT at about 4 PM. After bringing our bags to the room, I made a beeline for the restaurant and spoke with the chef. I had actually called the day before, when I made the hotel reservation, and spoke to the chef. But when we arrived, we decided not to eat at the pricier of the two restaurants, instead opting to eat at the tavern. I was still assured that my food would be carefully prepared, with attention to my gluten free needs.

    When I met the chef, I reminded her that my sirloin steak be cooked in a separate, clean pan. She initially suggested that it would be ok to grill the steak on the grill and she was sure nothing with gluten had ever touched it. But I said that I’d prefer it cooked in a separate, clean pan. She agreed to comply with my wishes. That was about 3 hours before we actually were seated for dinner.

    Shortly after being seated at the restaurant, we placed our order with the waitress, but I forgot to remind her that I’d spoken with the chef earlier and had asked to have my steak cooked in a specific manner. I quickly found and asked another waitstaff to remind my waitress that I wanted the steak cooked in a separate, clean pan AND that the chef knew about it.

    The steak came with grill marks all over it. Much to my chagrin and disappointment, it had been grilled. By that time, I was so ridiculously hungry that I decided to take a chance, considering what the chef had told me earlier about the grill having never seen an item with gluten.

    They also supposedly prepared a special dessert for me. Or at least that’s what they told me. It was lovely. Chocolate truffle fudge cake, flourless. With creamy milk chocolate and white chocolate mousse, a pear chip glazed with sugar, all served on a plate drizzled with raspberry and chocolate sauce. They insisted it was gluten free, the entire dessert. I wanted to believe them so much. Since my diagnosis, I hadn’t once ordered dessert in a restaurant. I ate the entire dessert like I hadn’t seen food in months. I scoffed the sucker down quicker than you could say jack rabbit.

    Didn’t take long. After a few hours, the old, familiar tummy rumblings began. And haven’t stopped. 24 hours later, I’m still rumbling.

    Was it worth it? Would you have eaten it? The steak? The dessert?
    • LisaBe

      wow. how much does *that* suck? yeah, i would have eaten it. i also have never asked anyone to grill something in a clean pan, though–i don’t know that my sensitivity is that, well, sensitive. but the dessert, absolutely. i’d be pissed. i’d be asking for refunds or something. man. keep us posted :(

    • Ellen

      Well, yes, I was pretty annoyed. But it was a good reminder to take nothing for granted. As my intestines heal, I become more & more sensitive to eating gluten. I need to just advocate for myself ALL THE TIME at restaurants.

    • Anonymous

      steak yes, dessert no, just for the richness of it, especially if your intestines haven’t had time to heal. Sorry your feel bad.

    • Junior

      Hi Ellen,
      The gluten exposure could have been airborne. My “dad” would walk into Wal*mart and have to head straight to the bathroom. (how the smell of ‘baked goods’ would make people spend more…?) He and my “mom” don’t go out to eat anymore because of gluten in the air at restaurants : (

    • Ellen

      We rarely go out to eat, unless we’re traveling. It’s just too much of a hassle. The good thing is that I’m cooking a lot more at home and even though gluten free food tends to cost more, in the long run we’re saving by not going out to eat.

    • Anonymous

      I definately would have eaten the steak, but if I had any question about the dessert, never!!! If only I got stomach rumblings from eating gluten. My reaction is more like an intense IBS episode.

    • Ellen

      My gluten free journey is still so new. But what I understand thus far is that everyone reacts in their own way. Me, I lose my hair and get tummy rumblings. But with 100% compliance, I’m hoping that my hair will grow back. So far, you can’t really see the hair loss unless I show you the bare spots, so I’m hoping I caught it early. I hope your IBS episodes diminish!

    • shuna fish lydon

      I think this poses a good question, not just to eaters but also to chefs. Not every restaurant can accommade people with food allergies because of a myriad of reasons. Also chefs can’t always admit to not being able to grant someone’s wishes. Sometimes it’s ego and sometimes their hands are tied.

      I used to work at a restaurant where when a guest came in with an allergy card I would have evry cook send their utensils to through the dishwasher and have everyone wash their hands. This was because I had a good friend who could have died from her peanut allergy.

      But, in truth, few people in kitchens understand food allergies. Because so many people lie about food allergies the person who really has them loses out on being treated with respect and care. Most restaurants are basically factories.

      Would I have eaten these things? Yes on the steak, no on the dessert. And also these answers would very much depend on the severity of my reaction and how much time I had off to deal with the consequences.

      Great post, thanks for getting us thinking!

    • Anonymous

      Wow, that stinks, but unfortunately, happens all of the time! :(

    • David Marc Fischer

      Okay, I’ll take a shot at this (and thank you for blogrolling me)!

      The steak: If you’re ever in the situation again, try your best to muster the energy to return or at least question the dish to your satisfaction. The steak just wasn’t what you ordered…and, incidentally, a new steak shouldn’t be hard to cook fast. To get back to the “energy” issue, which is key: I try to avoid being hungry and/or tired and/or inebriated and/or pressured when ordering because it impairs my judgment when I need it most.

      The cake: If you were assured that it was gf to your satisfaction, you shouldn’t feel bad about eating it. In the future, if you have doubts about a food once you start eating it, you can stop, ask about each ingredient, and avoid eating more of it unless you’re satisfied. I once did that with a cake that I’d been assured was gluten-free; it was only after I finally talked with the chef some time later that he said that the bartender who had been acting as a substitute waitress had screwed up. So I ate some of the wrong cake (one of my few screw-ups) but at least I didn’t finish it.

      Just one more comment. If you’re still new to the diet and healing, don’t get too upset if you feel bad now and then. That’s part of the healing process. Try to be 100% compliant and learn from your mistakes if you make any. If you repeatedly eat gluten despite your efforts, then you’ve got a problem. Or if you feel worse and worse, make sure you’re being supervised by a caring and knowledgeable doctor. But don’t get hung up and automatically assume it’s gluten ingestion if you just feel bad from time to time. It actually might not be due to proximate gluten ingestion; it’s just ordinary for people to have digestive problems now and then (say, when eating steak and cake), so it really shouldn’t be surprising when people with damaged (albeit healing) villi have digestive problems too even when they haven’t had gluten in a while.

      I hope that’s useful! And thanks again for the blogroll!

    • Diosa

      It sounds as though it was the steak that probably made you ill, but is there a small chance you have dairy issues? That could also cause the tummy rumblings.

      I can see taking a shot on the steak, especially when hungry and tired. I’ve done it myself. :) But you always have the right to “be a PITA” (read: look after yourself, and claim your birth-given right to be healthy 😉 ) and send stuff back. It’s your health and your money.

      And thanks for the blogroll. :)

    • The Celiac Chef

      I never would have eaten either. Almost all chefs, even some who are celiac, don’t understand all the sources of gluten. In the past 5 years I’ve had many people try to convince me that their food was safe – some of them get upset – but often they just don’t know. I always bring an extra suitcase of food when I travel, and I’ll even bring the food into restaurants with me (if I’m with my wife or friends).

    • Anonymous

      #1: It could also be a dairy issue

      #2; Have you considered bringing an allergy food card (I think the GF Pantry has a sample letter).

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