I am blessed and lucky enough to travel quite a bit and eat at wonderful restaurants often. I enjoy delicious wine and I find the challenge of the perfect food and wine pairing exhilarating. Since my Celiac diagnosis this has proven to be much more challenging. I have many stories about eating in restaurants, but a recent trip has jaded my trust.
Recently I was at an Italian restaurant that I had previously enjoyed very much prior to the diagnosis. Now living a pure gluten-free diet, I know to ask in advance for the gluten and allergen-free menu when I arrive. This restaurant happened to be in the Encore/Wynn in Las Vegas. Steve Wynn is awesome when in comes to providing an entire allergen-free menu at each of his resort restaurants. So, if you have a nut allergy, the menu will list every dish that is safe for you to eat. Same with gluten, dairy, shellfish, and he also includes a vegetarian section. I very much appreciate this.
This last time I was there I ordered gluten-free pasta with plain marinara. Totally simple. I can only eat tomatoes about once a month or so, so this was a huge indulgence. I wasn't trying to go crazy, I didn't even have to tell the server a long list of restrictions, changes and instructions. No. Just gluten-free past with marinara.
About 2 hours after the meal I knew what had happened. I had been given normal penne pasta. Wheat. Gluten. The bane of my very existence. I will not go into the very graphic detail of what happened. But, after 2 weeks, I am still experiencing symptoms of that night. What I will tell you, is that the manager of the restaurant, Yelp and Open Table did get the graphic rendition. I wasn't trying to be rude or to gross them out, but too many times servers and cooks don't care or realize how serious a food allergy can be. I wanted them to know that their carelessness caused me physical pain. As a former server and bartender, I would have never wanted to hurt anyone with my negligence.
I regaled the manager of this restaurant that one time in the early years of my food serving career, a woman asked for decaf coffee. I brought her back a cup. She asked me if I was confident enough that what I had given her was caffeine free. I told her yes, it was decaf. She then asked me if I was confident enough to give her my phone number so that if she was still awake in the middle of the night, she would call me to tell me that the coffee had caffeine. I returned to the kitchen and made her a fresh pot. This probably happened 15 years ago and I have never forgotten it.
Gluten is just as invisible as caffeine. We trust the servers and cooks at the restaurants we go to. I have lost trust for this restaurant and I will not go back. The point is, when we do choose to trust the restaurants that we eat out at, and they do trick us into eating something with an allergen, we must tell the management to inform them. Otherwise they won't know. I hate to be a nagging, complaining customer, but if that server only knew what I went through, maybe he would be more careful next time.