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!

1 comment:

Dewma said...

That was by far the best Gluten-free dinner I have ever had (okay it was my first as well), but everything was fabulous! Jenny you did a great job with handling the blue cheese crisis (I won't mention the 1/2 an hour you were beating yourself up about it, even though it wasn't your fault). Thanks for a great dinner and I'll definitely be back for more!