Allergies

The Wrong Kind of Surprise - Epi-Pen? Check. Clear tote? Check? Potential Disaster? Check.

I was packing for my quick trip to Maryland, having been invited to a pre-season Redskins-Patriots game by my brother. Thanks Mike! It was great fun and my first time Tailgating.

photo 2

My first time - I wasn't enjoying it at all.

Mike knows more about the game than most people, and also about the cheerleaders. If you get an invite, go. If you're lucky, like me, your team might spend their whole first half trying to get out of their own end zone, allowing you ample time to preview the team. It was the third quarter before New England earned their second first down and I think a minute 47 left before they put points on the board. But it was a fun time anyway. #HTTR

 

It's in the Bag

Since the NFL now has strict rules about what can or cannot be carried into a stadium, I had to take a close look at what I planned to carry. A wallet, a couple personal items, and that's about all that's allowed. See the statements and exclusions here. You can also carry a one gallon zip top bag, but I found this regulation clear bag was on sale, so why not?

tote

 

The regulation clear totes are meant to streamline the access to any game, making it easy for staff to check what you're carrying.

You'll Never Believe What Happened Next

Don't you hate those teaser headlines? Me too, but it's important info I'm conveying here, so I need to make sure you're paying attention.

Anyone who carries an Epi-Pen knows it's a pain in the butt. It cannot get too hot or it will lose effectiveness - so do NOT store it in your glove compartment. Not even for a short while. Don't think a gel ice pack is the answer, either. It cannot be too cool. So what does one do if one is tailgating and heading to a game in the heat of August? My plan was to bring my gel ice eye mask and place that next to the ice in the cooler, then wrap that loosely around the Epi-pen and bring that in the clear tote into Fedex Field.

I'm grateful to have an Epi-Pen and hope never to have to use it to save my life. Having been through this before, I can tell you, there's nothing in that experience that tempts me to repeat it. And I'm lucky to have lived to tell the story.

epipen

 

See that little window? Where it says "REPLACE if solution is discolored" -? Well I found my back up pen when packing and thought, "Hm, when was the last time I checked the one in my purse?" I couldn't recall. So I checked.

CLOUDY.

I tossed it and placed the newer (clear window) pen in my bag.

Imagine if I'd accidently ingested something that caused anaphylaxis and then took out my expired pen to save my life? Gives me the shivers just to think of it.

  • PLEASE check your pen NOW. Place a note on your calendar to check at some regular intervals - maybe the first of the month is an easy way to remember? It takes only a second to be sure you're safe. In the event of anaphylaxis you do not want to find out - as you're gasping for air - that your pen has lost effectiveness.
  • Please share this post with your friends and family and followers.

 

Skins

As you can see, we had a fun, safe evening at Fedex Field. My brother was sure to place food items for me in separate bags, cooked with separate tongs, and covered my side of the grill with foil. Bonus: it made cleanup easier. We shared food, but not allergens, safely. I picked up hotdogs and buns that were allergen free and my pen survived, too.

The Pats lost but it could have been so much worse. Get your game on and check those pens!

 

TODAY.com Misleads on Food Allergies

In a piece that will do more harm than good, Today.com purports to "bust myths" about food allergies. While some of the article is accurate there are a few points that may be technically accurate but are misleading, even harmful. 1. Gluten allergy

While Celiac disease and gluten intolerance are not true allergies, for the purposes of dining out, safe service, restaurants would do best to treat them the same as true allergies. It is unsafe and irresponsible for a server to make his or her own judgment that someone claiming to be "allergic" to gluten is faking it and then to assume a little won't hurt them. For someone with severe intolerance even a tiny amount of gluten can have severe and long-lasting health impacts.

For those with no food intolerance or allergies, but who are following a diet out of preference, PLEASE indicate that so that you are not contributing to the pervasive assumption that everyone is falsely claiming allergies. If you can tolerate gluten but choose not to because "my sister read an article that said if you eliminate gluten you'll lose ten pounds" (true story, I heard this once at a media dinner) simply tell the kitchen that you prefer to avoid gluten but it is a preference not an allergy. That will help us all.

2. Hypoallergenic pets

Sort of true, sort of misleading. While some breeds are generally better tolerated than others (like Portuguese Water Dogs). It is NOT true that people are likely tolerate or be allergic to an entire breed. It can actually be specific to a particular animal. So, someone with an allergy to dogs could be tolerant of one Portuguese Water Dog and allergic to another.

3. Black Mold

While I agree that the internet is full of misleading "expert" advice (ahem) what we do know about mold allergies is that they are common, often undiagnosed and extremely expensive to remediate. Those of us with mold allergies who, say, live in an old funky loft in an historic district, have to accept that a certain amount of allergic reaction is probably a fact of life. While it may not kill us, allergic reactions can be imagined as filling a bucket. If one's bucket is completely empty, for SOME (not all) allergic people a small amount of a known allergen MAY be tolerated. If your bucket is partially filled and you are exposed, you could be thrown into full anaphylaxis by a small amount of exposure.

This is why we must manage all the exposures we can, there is nothing we can do about the partial "filling of the bucket" from seasonal allergies, mold, etc.

4. Flu shots and egg allergy

Some shots are safe some are not, your doctor or pharmacist will be able to tell you if the shot you are getting has egg protein in it or not. Ask.

5. Advice to pregnant and nursing mothers, mothers of young children

The advice about limiting the children's exposure to the 8 major allergens has widely been disputed. It was a small study and every respected allergy doctor will tell you, likely wrong. Our immune systems have a learning curve and we need some exposure early on to enable it to determine what is and what is not dangerous. By eliminating exposure early on, we are actually hampering, not helping our children and their immune systems.

More Misinformation

  • I've been told that my overuse of hand sanitizers is likely the cause of my allergy. The so-called "hygeine hypothesis" has been debunked although its layered and complex connections are still being explored, for example triclosan and BPA in many antibacterial soaps and cleaning products cumulatively in the environment may be a contributing factor to the overall increases in asthma and allergy. It is FAR to simplistic to blame someone's use of sanitizer for their allergies. I barely use them, for the record. Hand washing with plain soap and water is highly effective and not dangerous.
  • Servers in one study of restaurant workers believed frying would kill allergens. WRONG. For example if one is allergic to dairy (as I am) eating french fries cooked in oil that buttermilk fried chicken was also cooked in is unsafe.
  • "It's all in your head. You're too nervous." This is pervasive. I'd love to be able to share my urticaria or eczema caused by allergic exposure with someone who thinks this.
  • Products labeled "wheat free" are also gluten free. FALSE products labeled as wheat-free can also contain gluten (barley is just one example.)
  • "All beef" hot dogs are safe to eat for someone with a dairy allergy. FALSE. Hot dogs often contain whey or casein as binders. These are milk proteins which dairy allergic folks must avoid.
  • "You can take a pill, what's the big deal?" FALSE. There is no pill to cure food allergies. Lactose intolerance is not an immune response as dairy allergy is.

 

Training on Serving Food Allergic Diners

Dining out is a minefield for those of us with food allergies. We are constantly battling misinformation and doubt from servers, managers, chefs. I've taken my years of corporate training skills and turned them to this subject and now offer traning for chefs and restaurants.

In the training, I cover what is and is not a food allergy, information about the rising numbers of food allergic diners, where to allergens may be hiding in food service products, how to adopt best practices for safe service and more.

 

 

 

Go Here, Eat This: North Shore Edition - Enzo Restaurant

I may be the worst (or best?) procrastinator on the face of the planet. I can use the excuse that I am intermittently reinforced for this habit and thus feel powerless in the face of it. I'm mostly joking and do get an awful lot done, but never quite as much, as quickly as I would prefer. This North Shore edition of "Go Here, Eat This" (my series of occasional restaurant reviews) focuses on the Enzo Restaurant in the town of Newburyport. Chef Mary Reilly and husband Dave invite you to relax and enjoy fresh Italian cuisine, interpreted through hyper-local ingredients. If you love knowing that your fish was swimming that morning, your pork was humanely and sustainably raised, your chef is supporting local farmers, fishermen and distillers; well, Enzo is for you.

Last summer I was delighted to be introduced to one of our local distillers and equally happy to discover that Enzo carries these distilleries' fine products on their bar. Of course! After my first meal at Enzo, I floated away on a cloud of sated happiness and promised to tell everyone. Mary was kind enough to share the recipe for one of their house cocktails, and I tested it out with my fresh-late summer produce. I muddled, mixed, sipped, and shot.

Farmers' Market Martini, Enzo

Then life happened. A lot of it. Good and bad  -- and just took over -- as it does -- and here we are in AUGUST already. Luckily it's a great time to try this cocktail (again.)

Farmers' Market Martini

This cocktail takes advantage of the smoothness of Beauport vodka and the fresh flavor of summer vegetables.

  • 4-6 cherry tomatoes, or 1/4 of a medium tomato
  • 2-3 slices cucumber
  • a few sprigs of herbs: parsley, basil, chives, summer savory (whatever you have on hand)
  • pinch salt
  • 3 oz. Beauport vodka
  • cucumber wheel or cherry tomato for garnish

In a mixing glass, muddle the tomato, cucumber and herbs well with the salt.  Really make sure you mash all the vegetables up so as to extract as much juice as possible.  Add the vodka and ice and put the top on your shaker.  Shake well to make sure the you get everything super cold and well combined.  Double strain* into a cocktail glass and garnish with a cucumber wheel or cherry tomato.

* Double straining is a technique used when you make a drink with a lot of "bits" in it. In addition to a standard Hawthorne or julep strainer (or the strainer built into your cocktail shaker), strain through a fine-mesh strainer into your glass. A simple way to do it: hold the shaker/strainer combo in your right hand and hold the fine mesh strainer over your cocktail glass. Pour directly into the fine-mesh strainer - all the small bits will get caught, leaving you with a clearer drink.  If you don't have a fine-mesh strainer, no worries, the double strain isn't essential; your cocktail will just be a wee bit chunkier!

Getting Back to Enzo

The good news is that Enzo Restaurant has passed their first year anniversary, they're gaining steady clientele and gathering a slew of good reviews along the way. You really must go and experience it for yourself. It's comfortable yet sophisticated. As North Shore folks are wont to do, there are plenty of customers in well-worn shorts and deck shoes in evidence. The freshly coifed and the couples celebrating having found sitters on the same night (so it seemed to me) were also out in equal numbers. I was pleased to see a fair number of guests who knew the staff and to learn our server likes the place so much she'd brought her partner back on her day off! Not many restaurants can make that claim. Everyone should know this is a warm and welcoming place.

This recent meal was full of delicious surprises (left to right):

The olive oil and foccacia were delicious and a statement in pink and green.

Nonna Rose - Enzo's first barrel-aged cocktail with Milagro blanco tequila, Aperol liqueur and vermouth spend a month in an oak barrel to produce this smoky, slightly spicy cocktail. Served on the rocks with a flamed orange peel.

Pat Woodbury's Clams (wanted a bathtub sized bowl of these babies, clean, ocean-y).

Rhubarbarita, Fried Polenta, Fried olives stuffed with cheese (one of the few olive dishes Doc loves).

 

Nonna Rose, Fried Olives

 

Since the Striper was caught that morning, I couldn't resist. The fish was perfectly cooked, sat on a bed of three local beans and potato dice.

Doc had the free form lasagna, housemade cheese, local sausage.

Dessert - sorbetto so rich and chocolatey you might think you were given gelato instead. Correto.

 

EnzoResto Striper, Lasagna

So, Mary & Dave - we will not wait another year to come back! I'm hungry again looking at all the delicious food. Wonderful evening beginning sips to last. Mille Grazie!

Enzo Restaurant

50 Water St., #304 Newburyport, MA (978) 462-1801

Opens at 6:00 Tuesday through Thursday and 5:00 Friday through Sunday

Closed Mondays

Highlights: Local, seasonal, handmade food.

For diners with allergies: Enzo is one of the best at accommodating allergies and offers options for nearly everyone.

Phone ahead for reservations and let them know of any allergies then.

 

Where to Go? What to Order?

Looking for a place to eat in Boston? The “must-try” spot for Chinese food? Dumplings? Dim Sum? My favorite burger? Pizza? A Gluten-free joint? Who does the best dollar oysters? Roast pig? People often ask me where they should eat in Boston and what they should order when they get there.

“Go Here, Eat This” 

Quick posts sharing notes of good spots to eat, highlighting what’s unique about the place,  favorite dishes, house specialities, indicative of the cuisine, or just ones that I really enjoy. I’ll also try to note things like whether the place is friendly to those with allergies, or disabilities, etc. Just stuff you ought to know.