Monday, January 14, 2013

Gluten-Free Watercooler-The Smith Restaurant

First I tweeted it.  Then I facebooked it, and now I'm finally gonna blog about it.  Alert!  

The Smith Restaurant in NYC which has three locations in NYC serves up the best Brussels sprouts ever!  Every time I go there I get them, because the waitress has always said they are gluten-free.  I mean they are veggies, why wouldn't they be gluten-free?  And I always asked the right questions. Though...I never end up feeling so great after and I would always wake up with a totally huge welt or crazy break-out that would need a cortisone injection asap (with my amazing Dermatologist Dr. Jacqueline Beer) on my face.  I always thought it was the red wine-tannins.

Nope.  Shocking news: they are NOT gluten-free.  Yup you heard me!  A restaurant that takes pride in understanding the gluten-free lifestyle has missed a step-as many restaurants do.

I was just at The Smith last week and I ordered the usual-Salmon with Brussels Sprout.  'Says the waiter, oh you have a gluten-allergy? Oh it's Celiac? Well you should know our sprouts are contaminated.  I said what?  But I've had them here before...OMG I always don't feel well after...memory of breakout after red wine-wait! So now I can have red wine? Yee haw!-back to the gluten...  Yes, says the waiter, they are fried with the fries and other breaded options in the same oil.  Well at least you know now says my friend at dinner.   True dat!'

You see the problem is, and this is why we have to be sooooo , sooooo , sooooooo careful, is because not everyone is always aware or "on" all the time.  And we are literally putting our lives into the hands of a waitstaff so being careful is an understatement.  My lesson here? Is to ask more questions.  You gotta always ask about the marinades and cross contamination, and flour, and the oil on the expected and unsuspecting products.  I always ask if the fish has been coated in flour before it hits the pan, because sometimes it is!  And many restaurants seem to think that cross contamination doesn't matter and sometimes waiters seriously ask me if I am really sensitive or just intolerant because if I'm just intolerant then the fries are fine.  No they are not! The fries are NEVER fine unless they are fried separately in a separate but different batch, bowl, pan of oil and not coated in flour, near flour, sprinkled with flour, dusted with flour etc.  If you are in a totally dedicated gluten-free restaurant then you are good to go.  That is the exception.   A diner waiter once told me that the fries and potatoes were dusted in flour after they were made-say what?

I usually ask about flour, or coating and I always ask about the fries, or anything that could or would be mixed with the fries and other floured or breaded contamination.  I ask more about the flour contamination then I do about the marinades and sauces, and the marinades and sauces are just as important to ask about, even on things you wouldn't think would be marinated.  I usually get meat and fish plain at restaurants or grilled so I don't think to ask as many questions on the marinades.  (I'll save the marinated story for my next post based on my Anguilla 2012 vacation).

Gluten can sneak up on you in the weirdest ways so... gotta know your shit, because sometimes products, produce, veggies can be marinated in an ingredients that is gluten, that you may not recognize and you can't necessarily rely on the waitstaff or even the chef to know gluten-free inside out.  They don't always know the correct answer.   I once went to another amazing just written up restaurant (name I will not mention) who's chef and staff were very gluten-free friendly and they catered to my lifestyle and made everything gluten-free which was fantastic, but then told me the dressing in one of the dishes was made with Bourbon.  Ugh!, well Bourbon is Whisky and Whisky has caramel coloring which is hidden gluten-So I was contaminated and because of their mistake, my body would pay for it in some gluten way.  And what truly stinks even more is that I didn't think to ask too many questions because they told me they were gonna take care of it and my friend assured me that they were so on it.  Accidents happen, but If I had been more careful I would have asked more questions.

But I never would have thought to ask if the Brussels sprout were cooked in the same oil as other fried, floured or contaminated oils, because first, why would the sprouts be fried (no wonder they were so good, they are sooo bad for us fried) and second I just wouldn't think that Brussels sprout would be in the same oil as breaded options.  I mean, that's just crazy.  Lesson learned, because you never know.   Lesson?  Ask more questions. 

I will still go back to The Smith, I mean it's really good there.  But next time I'll know to ask more questions.

I ended up with the squash.  It was really good.

Enjoy! xoxo Julie

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