Tuesday, April 11, 2006

MetroCeliacs April Supper Club at Roy's

MetroCeliac Supper Club is nothing if not an adventure, culinary and otherwise. We started the evening with a bunch of new members and visitors of the celiac and non-celiac variety. Some regulars and some completely new to celiac and the MetroCeliac experience. I was excited to break them in at Roy's, somewhere I was totally looking forward to going, as their reputation for a wonderful dining experience preceded them.

I did my usual spiel about how the supper club came to fruition out of a desire for celiacs to be able dine out, as well as to encourage Chicago restaurants to become familiar with how to make their establishments gluten-friendly. I also stressed how much work I put into finding a place and working with the manager, the event coordinator and the chef to come up with a safe and delicious, sometimes offbeat (Scylla) menu. I encourage everyone to enjoy themselves, relax, talk about non-celiac topics and just feel comfortable that I have done everything in my power to ensure their security and health. To that end, I always refer the restaurant staff to celiac websites, conduct a dialogue with my contact regarding all of our needs from the actual menu to the preparation of the food to the safest drinks and I even try to get us separate checks to make thing easier (that one is always the most difficult part). But...I try to cover all the bases.

Roy's (Lauren) worked with me and the process was easy and fun and they were very invested in providing us with options they already had on their regular menu to show us that an every-day dining experience would work for walk-in visitors with celiac. It would still be flavorful, beautifully executed and varied. I was excited they had so many options that were naturally gluten-free and that the ones they could adapt would still have the same flavors and consistencies. YAY!

Following is the evite I sent out for the event. I cannot even express how hard it was to write it so far in advance. Every time I read it I was starving. If that was not bad enough, they had pictures on their website. I am not good at delaying gratification. At all. Nope, not at all. Even posting it now makes me want to go back and order one of everything. I have that gift cert burning a hole in my purse (I will get to the gift cert in a minute...) Enjoy the evite and pictures, but seriously, do not read it on an empty stomach.

Aloha MetroCeliac Supper Club Members!

This month, Spring is in our tropical city air. Break out the Hawaiian shirts and flip flops, we are taking a tropical adventure to Roy's.

Roy's is described as...Fresh ingredients, assertive flavors, deliciously wrapped in a Hawaiian state of mind, and who does not love being in a Hawaiian state of mind?Roy Yamaguchi's Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine blends fresh local ingredients with European sauces and bold Asian spices. Ask the server about the award-winning wine list. Noted for it's diverse and intriguing selection, Roy's offers a vast range of wines from well-known and newly discovered wineries alike. In addition, Roy's offers signature cuves, created in partnership with some of the world's most respected winemakers, specifically with our food in mind.

Hawaiian Fusion Menu $33/person (brace yourselves)

Asian Poached Pear Salad with Mixed Greens, Poached Pears, Candied Walnuts Goat Cheese and a Lemongrass Vinaigrette (note the bold, it comes into play later)

Entree Selections:
Tender Braised Honey Mustard Beef Short Ribs with Lomi Lomi Tomatoes, Veal Reduction and Roy's signature Mashed Potatoes

Macadamia Nut Dusted Mahi Mahi with Bacon Chive Mashed Potatoes, Asparagus and Lobster Brandy Cream Sauce
(Dema and I chose a shared dish, the best way to go!!!)
Fish of the day - Chef's Specialty, TBA on day of event (ended up being an amazing shrimp dish)

Roy's Melting Hot Chocolate Souffle Flourless Chocolate Cake with a Molten Hot Center (picture does NOT do it justice. It was so amazing and when your fork glided thru it, yes it glided, the molten center oozed out all hot and gooey and inviting....sigh. I miss it like I would miss an old delicious friend.)

Fruit Sorbet with fresh berries for those crazy enough to not like chocolate, it can happen that people prefer fruity things over chocolate I am told.

Notice there is not a picture of the salad. The adventure starts there. I had discussed the salad ingredients situation at the last MetroCeliac meeting to see if blue cheese is gluten free and it is one ingredient that we basically avoid unless we can find the GF options. Most places do not serve GF blue cheese. I asked if we could substitute another cheese or leave it completely off the menu and was told it is not a problem. They decided on crumbly goat cheese.

Since I had done such a wonderful job with making the menu (self pat on the back) and since that fact was further reinforced when we arrived and saw the printed menus with goat cheese on them and then the waitress also fully stated goat cheese was on the salad when we went over the full menu, well, I assumed all was well and I relaxed. Oops.

Now, truth be told, I am not salad-y, so I just basically eat the salad to get to the entree, which itself is just a gateway to dessert (if you ask me). When the salad came out, I was yammering on about something (most likely that lame lawsuit against McDonald's, which was a lively discussion at the table) and did not even really look at it. Everyone dove in all enthusiastically (I thought they just shared my hurry-thru-the-salad-to-get-closer-to-dessert philosophy, but people said it was really delicious). I tried mine and it tasted kind of foul. I thought I must not like goat cheese. I know I don't like blue cheese, and, although it looked like blue cheese, certainly smelled like it and for sure tasted like it, I still asked Dema (in picture with me) if it was blue cheese. We both decided that since the menu and the waitress said it was goat cheese it had to be goat cheese. I took another bite and decided there was no way something that tasted like that came out of a sweet little old goat. I pulled the waitress away from some other non-celiac table where she was taking orders (my apologies to those random not-in-any-danger people) and asked her to take a look. Much to our chagrin, it was, indeed, the dreaded blue cheese (insert dramatic duhn-duhn-DUHN). Sigh. Of course, I freaked out, got the manager, the waitress, the cooks and the very nice event planner all involved. I was very upset and explained the situation and the chef said that blue cheese is always GF. EEP! Well, I explained that, regardless of what they thought, we still ordered goat cheese, they printed goat cheese, we were told goat cheese and I don't want any of my members to worry about anything when they come to an event. There are a lot of varying views on what is actually gluten-free and we do not want controversy at a nice dinner. I explained that this was not the regular crowd, it had newly diagnosed celiacs, new members and a visiting member from another group. It was very important that the supper club maintains its stellar reputation for safe and fun dining, safe being the key word!!! They said they understood and would explain to everyone what happened and their responsibility in this "salad incident".

Everyone was done with their salads by this point, so there was the decision of what to do. I decided to press on and finish the meal anyway hoping that the members would still trust me and I would not have to fear a revolt or be overthrown or anything. Lauren apologized, told the table that it is in no way my fault, though that was not nearly as on my mind as everyone cursing me when they were sick later, no matter whose fault. She also came out with $25 gift certificates for all. I still lost it and had to go regroup in the ladies' room for a minute.

Everyone at the table was understanding and wonderful and I had the waitress give me a lovely glass of wine to calm my frazzled nerves. WHEW! I was about at my limit, but then the food came and I forgot about it (sort of, poor Dema, who sat next to me, had to hear me freak out for about 1/2 an hour). I think (hope) everyone still had a lovely time and enjoyed dinner.

It turned out that Lauren took the container of blue cheese, looked it up on the internet and it IS gluten free. She printed out the information and brought it to us at the end of the meal. She again expressed her regret and also her relief and we kind of joked about it a little. Thanks to the wine! They also separated the checks for us, which they usually do not do, and we got to keep the gift certs. I was a bit disappointed that they were not more alarmed, but since we do not go into shock and they do not see the effects, I guess it is not as worrysome as a nut allergy or something more severe. It did end up being a perfectly lovely evening and a wonderful dinner that I have made plans to enjoy again with family very soon. There was some lively chatter and all of the feedback regarding the atmosphere, the food and how the management handled the "salad incident" was positive. Whew!

I think everyone had fun and I hope that everyone returns for the next MetroCeliac Supper Club meeting!

We have a cooking class coming up for our May meeting and the supper club date and locale is still TBA. I prepared a new packet of information to share with the restaurants, one that better outlines our needs and our goals longer-term. I hope that the additional information will make it even easier and more fun and persuade the places we visit to offer celiac-designated options on their menus. Til next month, Bon Apetit!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

MetroCeliacs March Meeting - U of C Michelle Melin-Rogovin

The MetroCeliacs were proud to have Michelle Melin-Rogovin from the U of C celiac disease program (www.celiacdisease.net) come speak to our group for our March meeting. The meeting was a wonderful success. The following information about the program is taken directly from their website and then the notes from the meeting were taken by Amy Rousseau (thanks SO much, Amy!)

The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Program (http://www.uchospitals.edu/specialties/celiac/) is dedicated to raising diagnosis rates and meeting the critical needs of people affected by celiac disease through education, research and advocacy.

Their celiac disease information line provides expert help with questions regarding symptoms, testing, diagnosis and procedures.

Call Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. central time (773) 702-7593. Most calls will be answered immediately, by a live person. Messages will be returned within 48 hours.

Michelle Melin-Rogovin is the Executive Director for the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Program. She received her Master’s Degree in health policy and administration from the University of Chicago in 1992. Ms. Melin-Rogovin feels that her mission is to serve as a bridge between patients and doctors, helping empower patients so they can actively participate in health care decision making.

Michelle has 15 years of experience working with children and families facing chronic and life-threatening illnesses. Ms. Melin-Rogovin worked in health care public relations and as a consultant for the Abbott Laboratories Fund before joining the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Program in 2001.

As Executive Director, Michelle works with Dr. Stefano Guandalini, the Program’s Board of Directors and volunteers to advance initiatives in research, medical education, patient services and public awareness. Ms. Melin-Rogovin also fundraises for every aspect of the program’s work and coordinates media outreach activities.

In 2003, Ms. Melin-Rogovin created an education program called Celiac Disease: Myths and Facts in order to educate the celiac community about the gold standard for diagnosing and treating celiac disease and encourage family members to be screened. She presented this lecture to audiences in 19 cities (14 states) and, as a result, the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Program reached over 1,500 people in the communities where they live.

In 2004, she developed Taming Temptation: Practical Strategies for Maintaining a Gluten-Free Diet. The program addressed the fact that many celiacs would like to eat food containing gluten and some do. It also reinforced the need for regular follow-up testing, which is offered infrequently by physicians. Michelle traveled to 22 cities in 11 states, reaching 2,000 people with this presentation.

U of C has one of two research teams in the world that is working to understand the nature of the immune system in the gut and the earliest response of the intestine to the presence of gluten. The principal investigators on this research project include Dr. Stefano Guandalini, founder of the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Program. Research is currently underway in their dedicated celiac disease laboratory, under the direction of Dr. Bana Jabri, a pathologist and world-renown celiac researcher. Patients who have biopsies for celiac disease at the University of Chicago may be eligible to participate in the research.

For more information about these programs, please call: (773) 702-7593. MIchelle is always willing to help answer questions and while we cannot summarize the meeting notes online, the hotline number is always an option. Please call her with any questions or wait for our meeting with the nutritionist coming up soon!

The meeting went really well. Michelle discussed some of the questions submitted in advance by our members. Many of the questions had to do with labeling and with specific ingredients and foods. Michelle mentioned that we will need to address the nutritionist (we are bringing someone in this summer) about some of those questions, but she still answered a lot of them using information about the labeling laws. Michelle also provided some really great handouts about these new laws, the work U of C is involved in currently and other helpful information. If you would like copies of the handouts, call the hotline and ask for them. We are also grateful to Whole Foods for sponsoring us again and to everyone who brought treats. Those are always welcome and ever so appreciated!

Quarterly gf magazine- Gluten Free Living is a great resource magazine that offers great info on living gf. Web site, http://www.glutenfreeliving.com/

We had multiple questions about everything from liquor to our old favorite, modified food starch. Many of these can be answered by the new food labeling laws and the rest will be answered specifically in our meeting with the nutritionist this summer. Michelle really stressed how we all make our own choices and can believe what we choose to believe and are responsible for how we choose to live.

Thanks so much to Michelle and U of C for all they do and to Michelle for coming to speak to the MetroCeliacs. U of C has a really important event coming up soon, so please visit their website or click on the link to our calendar on yahoo to see all upcoming events. Thanks everyone for coming!