Restaurant Dilemma

Recently I was out to dinner with someone who had made the reservation ahead of time and had alerted the restaurant that someone at the table would need a gluten-free meal. The restaurant assured the patron that they very much understood “gluten-free” and would easily be able to accommodate the diet.

As we sat down, the server was handed a card by our hostess indicating the need for a gluten-free meal and she promptly asked who needed menu information. I indicated that I was the diet challenged individual and the server then proceeded to go through the menu with me.

I loved her line, “You may think you can’t eat the scallops but you can and you may think you can eat the pomes frites but you can’t.” I was totally impressed but also thoroughly bummed about the pomes frites, so I pressed for more information.

“Why can’t I eat the pomes frites?”

“They are fried in the same oil as our crispy onions, which are slivered onions dusted in flour and then quickly fried.”

That explained it, but I was torn. I really wanted the pomes frites, so I took the immature route and played the parts per million game in my head. It’s called the “I-can-rationalize-any-sort-of-diet-kerfuffle-and-make-the-gluten-disappear-by-denial-that-gluten-could-possibly-be-present-in-the-thing-I-want-to-eat game. It’s a game I play often with soy sauce, one draft beer from a bar and things fried in shared oil.

Of course there could be traces of gluten in the pomes frites from the oil, but would there be more than 20 parts per million in one serving? Pomes frites do not have any gluten containing ingredients, but they share cooking oil with something dusted in flour. The thought bubble in a cartoon image of me would have said, “If I don’t have pomes frites, I will end up very hungry at the end of this meal of grilled salmon and salad…possibly tipsy too since neither will soak up the wine we just ordered.”

All of this was like Ping Pong in my brain and then I made my decision…what would you have done? What do you think I did?

  • I have to comment on this one. This is a big misleading factor that any celiac should always remember and know. Fries, Frittes, and anything simular is always dipped in the same oil as the “floured stuff”. You must always ask if it is cross contaminated due to the oil process. Some restaurants like Pastis located in the meatpacking district in nyc NOW uses seperate oil for their fries!

    Never forget this thought!! because even that amount of cross contamination IS going to effect you.

    From one Celiac to another…

  • At the moment I think I wouldn’t have eaten them. But I do like how the server knew what you could/couldn’t have.

  • I would have had the frites, but not the beer. I frequently take a chance on the fries, unless they have some sort of coating to begin with and have not had problems (to date)

  • I frequently eat fries from restaurants as well (as long as they aren’t breaded themselves) and I’ve never had a problem with them. I consider myself pretty sensitive to gluten- I definitely couldn’t drink a beer but of course it’s different for each person.

  • I often chance fries, playing the same ppm game. Not smart, I know, but I do it.

  • I take the very strict approach and am very cautious about cross-contamination, so I would not have eaten them or even thought about eating them. Even if you don’t have symptoms, eating gluten can still cause intestinal damage. I would suspect something fried in shared oil would contain far more than 20 ppm of gluten, but that would certainly make an interesting study.

  • This is a typical tough experience for us gluten-free folk.
    But the pain and digestive complaints aren’t worth the cheat.

    I would have asked if they could do a baked potato or if they had polenta on the menu.

  • I don’t think you should have ordered the fries after the server specifically told you they could be contaminated. You would make it seem like cc isn’t as serious as it is. If you were doing the questioning and didn’t ask about cc of the oil, then it it wouldn’t be a problem with public perseption, just your own “gut feeling”

  • I agree with Wendy, I really hope you didn’t have the pommes frites because too many restaurants don’t understand just how serious gluten cross contamination is. My family recently walked out of a restaurant in Massachusetts with a gluten free menu featuring fried foods after learning that the restaurant only had one fryer. When I spoke to the manager he insisted no one had had problems and my daughter must just be very sensitive. He did not get that with celiac disease obvious symptoms are not the only signs of damage. I hope no one would cheat, since they would not only be cheating on themselves but on other persons with celiac who will then have to deal with confused restaurant staff.