Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Visiting DC? Here’s a Food Allergy-Friendly Game Plan March 4, 2015

Despite all this snow and ice, delays and cancellations, Spring Break is really just around the corner.  And, for many people, the spring and summer seasons offer a chance to visit our nation’s capital.  There’s so much to do in Washington DC, it’s almost mind-boggling.  I’m pretty sure I could keep a visitor busy for a solid 6 months here.  So, consider the below an outline and fill in with extras that pique your interests.  And, please let me know about some of your own allergy-friendly finds via Twitter or Facebook using @shmallergy or #shmallergyDC!

Day 1:  The Mall – Part 1

See:  What ISN’T there to see on the National Mall?!  Start at the Washington Monument (and definitely go to the top, it’s amazing – even the ride back down is memorable) and wind your way to the Lincoln Memorial, passing the WWII, Roosevelt, MLK Jr., Korean War and Vietnam War memorials.

Eat:  I’d recommend packing a lunch and having a picnic right on the mall.  There are some beautiful shaded lawns, benches beside the reflecting pools and vistas along the Potomac River.  There’s a Whole Foods in nearby Foggy Bottom (2201 I St NW) that will help you accumulate your dairy-free, gluten-free and other food allergy friendly snacks.  And, Foggy Bottom also hosts a SweetGreen (vegan, dairy and egg-free dishes), dc dosa (gluten-free options), as well as Roti (some gluten-free choices), Chipotle and Subway (where you can find their allergen menus online here).

Day 2:  National Zoo

Eat: Start the day with a hearty breakfast at Open City (2331 Calvert St. NW) where you can enjoy some straightforward favorites like poached eggs and ham alongside mouthwatering brioche french toast.  They serve tofu and fresh fruit here as well if you’re avoiding eggs, dairy, or wheat for example.

See:  Make your way up Connecticut Avenue to the unmissable National Zoo.  Wind downhill while at the zoo via the Asian Trail, passing by our beloved pandas and impressive elephant habitat.  And, take a rest in sight of the famous O-line, an overhead ropes course that the orangutans freely travel from one building to another.

Eat Lunch: Take a short taxi ride to the kid-friendly and ever-delicious 2 Amys Neapolitan Pizzeria.  They don’t take reservations so you don’t need to worry about rushing through the zoo to get there.  Just sit back, and try not to drool over the amazing crust.

Then, See:  Take the opportunity to walk off lunch by strolling a couple of blocks across the street to The National Cathedral.  Between the stunning grounds and gardens, serene setting and unusual gargoyles – there’s something for everyone here.  Bonus points if you can find the Dark Vader gargoyle.

Map of Smithsonian museums on and near the National Mall

Day 3:  Back to the Mall – Part 2

See:  Did I mention that the National Mall hosts EVERYTHING!?!  Get there early and snag a ticket to the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing to see money being printed.  Then, meander over to any of the MANY amazing Smithsonian museums.

Eat:  Walk over to Old Ebbitt Grill.  This restaurant was a favorite of several presidents including Teddy Roosevelt (*read its full history – it’s like eating in a Washington historic landmark). Bonus, Old Ebbitt Grill is part of the Clyde’s Restaurant Group which takes food allergies very seriously.  I’ve found their serving staff to be knowledgeable in regards to food allergies and willing to thoroughly find solutions to allergy questions and substitutions.

Then, See:  A very short walk from Old Ebbitt Grill is The White House.  Regardless of politics, you just have to see it.

Day 4: Capitol Hill

See:  In addition to touring the Capitol building (and trying not to sing “I’m Just a Bill” from Schoolhouse Rock aloud), be sure to stop by the Library of Congress.  Thomas Jefferson’s personal library is on display there and the LOC’s exhibitions are fascinating.

Eat:  Tortilla Coast is probably one of my favorite restaurants in DC.  It’s great for families, relaxed and a favorite of Hill staffers which is how you know it’s good!

Then, see:  Head to Penn Quarter where you’ll find the National Portrait Gallery and catch sight of portraits of all kinds of history-making Americans.  Or, cross the street and check out the Spy Museum!  Being in Penn Quarter sets you up perfectly for a night out.   Catch a Washington Wizards or Georgetown Hoya’s basketball game, a Capitals hockey game, or concert at the Verizon Center.  Or, hop a cab to the National’s Stadium.

Eat Again:  If you’re in the mood for a burger, you’re in luck:  Clyde’s has a fabulous one along with its many other offering and (as mentioned above) is very food allergy savvy; and Shake Shack is an easy go-to with a well-informed online menu to browse before you go.

Day 5:  Georgetown and Arlington

See:  Today is a day to stroll.  Georgetown is full of history from its cobblestone streets to its beautiful university.  But some of the fun in Georgetown is shopping, checking out the canals, and strolling by the Potomac’s waterfront.

Eat: If you find yourself at Georgetown University, you have to eat at The Tombs.  It’s an institution and, again, part of the food allergy aware Clyde’s Group of restaurants.  It purportedly inspired the setting for the 1980s classic “St. Elmo’s Fire” and is a great place to catch a game on TV.

Then, See:  Hop across the river to visit Arlington National Cemetery before plopping back on the bed in your hotel room and realizing you’ll have to plan a second trip to see all the DC has to offer!

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Farmers’ Markets Might Just Be Fabulous January 26, 2015

Today, my daughter and I took a little field trip to Union Market in Northeast DC to have lunch with my brother from out of town.  Leave it to him to already be tuned into the cool DC-find that is Union Market.

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I pulled into a ghost town of a closed wholesale food district and thought I must be lost.  But as I have a fascination with industrial areas of cities (don’t even ASK where that comes from!), I was fascinated, not flummoxed.  Making one last turn, I stumbled upon the spot.  A bright, industrial warehouse housing what is basically an upscale, indoor farmers market and series of food stalls.  I’m glad I had only brought my try-anything toddler.  I’ve long been a little leery of farmer’s markets, food trucks and small stalls because of their limited offerings and my belief that the limits of their kitchens might make for a potentially dangerous cross-contamination situation.  With my oldest son allergic to peanuts, tree nuts and sesame seeds and my middle guy going through a picky eater phase, this type of establishment can be a disaster.

But, boy was I surprised today!!  Look at some of the great things I found today:

Here was a bakery that posted the ingredients of all of their breads (and there were MANY – all delicious looking).  Notice what they don’t list:  dairy, eggs, sesame seeds, and peanuts**?

[**I did ask at the stall and the breads were made in the same facility as tree nuts.]

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While not everything fit the allergy-free mold here, they did have several dairy-free options:

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Vegan means egg and dairy-free!

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Let us not forget all the fresh fish, meat, fruit and vegetables on hand to prepare something safe and delicious at home:

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I can’t wait to bring my food allergic son here (below)!  I checked with the staff and their biscuits are peanut, tree nut and sesame seed-free!  Breakfast sandwiches on biscuits.  I’m still stuffed but my mouth is watering!  Mmmm…

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And, my younger son will LOVE the bagels they import (below) from New York.  There’s nothing like a NY bagel!

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Whether it’s Union Market, Eastern Market, or a farmer’s market near you, get out and explore.  These small businesses were extremely responsive to our allergy concerns and, no matter whether the food was safe or not, I LOVE supporting them!

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Union Market, Washington DC

 

McKeever’s Pub July 16, 2013

I can’t believe I just discovered a gem in my own backyard!  We have a local pub here in McLean that impressed me.

 

McKeever’s is a little place with a great, big response to food allergic patrons.  When my son was ready to order his burger and fries, we asked our usual litany of food allergy questions:

 Can you check the bun’s ingredients for sesame seeds?;  What kind of oil do you use for french fries?;  Is there any concern of cross-contamination in the frier?;  etc…
 

The waitress waved over the manager and both ladies informed us that not only was everything assuredly safe, but that the restaurant’s owner shared similar food allergies.  At that, my sons perked up!  The owner uses dairy-free butter (begin hallelujah chorus) and fries their food in safe vegetable oil.  In fact, after a customer began frequenting their restaurant with different food allergies, they began keeping a book listing all the ingredients in all their food, including those from each of their suppliers (Cue the choir of angels!).

 

McKeever’s staff is not only knowledgable and serious about food allergies, but they respond with a smile.  If you go, you’ll likely see us there!

 

 

Summer Camp With Food Allergies – Our Experience May 31, 2012

Filed under: Preparedness — malawer @ 11:25 am
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Last year, we enrolled my oldest son in Headfirst Summer Camp.  He was enthralled with the idea of his week at their all-sports program and even more ecstatic to be participating with one of his best buddies.

 

As excited as we were for him, I was – as always – a little apprehensive of sending him to a camp where lunch was involved.  Before enrolling, I called Headfirst’s administrative office to ask questions.  To my surprise, they couldn’t have been either more professional nor more prepared for handling food allergies.  Campers bring their own lunch – already a good start – and snacks were not served.  Phew!  There is a nurse on site (yay!), nut-free area for dining and the counselors carry each campers emergency medications (for us, EpiPens and Benadryl) in a fanny pack (poor counselors) or backpack with that child everywhere the child goes.  Headfirst was both prepared and thoughtful about food allergies (see the policy in their words) – I was impressed and happily signed him up!

 

We had one little snag for the whole week:  the camp wound up rewarding the kids with ice pops one afternoon – something that was not communicated to me, as a food allergic parent, in advance.  When my son came home and admitted to having the ice pop because he didn’t have an alternative snack and he was sure he had eaten the same kind before, I was concerned.  First of all, this wasn’t the protocol we taught him and secondly, ice pops occasionally contain dairy.  Thankfully, my son showed no allergic symptoms but I checked with the director before camp the following morning, confirming that the pops were, in fact, something my son had eaten before.  I let her know that food allergic parents should be made aware of this reward as they register on the first day of camp – giving them a chance to okay the product in advance.  She agreed and we both called the main office with this suggestion.

 

All said, my son had a fantastic week at camp!  The program suited my son (and his friend) soooo well.  They were excited going to camp each day and left wanting more.  And, I could send him off without worry knowing how well thought out the camp’s food allergies plan was.

 

What has your summer camp experience been like?


 

Chasin’ Tails…. Laissez Les Beignets Rouler! May 7, 2012

A new restaurant opened near us in Arlington, VA:  Chasin’ Tails.  And because I loved their sense of humor (their coming soon banner read “Chasin’ Tails… A Crawfish Seafood Restaurant” just to stay in the good graces of the neighbors as they built), I had to try it.

 

As usual, before we went I reviewed their menu online and phoned in with questions.  The manager was happy to hunt down answers to my many questions, and as a result we had a great experience.  This was a fun, casual, family friendly place that we can’t wait to return to.  Best of all, we had great success with my son’s allergies.

 

Here’s the skinny:

  • The manager checked the full ingredients of everything from the dessert (beignets!!!!!) to the breading of fried items;
  • He was quick to bring up issues, like the fact they use buttermilk to bind the seafood/chicken to its breading;
  • The chefs were willing to alter the way they operate in order to prepare food safely for my son.  For example, when he wanted chicken tenders, they used egg (thank goodness he’s now outgrown that allergy!) to bind the breading to the meat;
  • Their fry oil is a canola/soybean blend.  If you’re allergic to dairy, you may wish to check to see if the fries are fried with the buttermilk-bound seafood and, with the help of your allergist, determine if that is safe;
  • The regular fries are flavored with a cajun spice.  They are DELICIOUS, but a little spicy for the kids.  Like most items, you can order them without the spice.  (P.S.: The amazing sweet potatoes fries – of which I ate 2 lbs – come UNspiced);
  • The beignets are nut-free!  They are warm and they are yummy!
 

My son excitedly tried my lobster, my friend’s shrimp in addition to his own chicken tenders.  Everything we ate was so good, we are all talking about going back very, very soon!

 

Cava March 22, 2012

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I just enjoyed a fabulous meal at Cava in Clarendon with some girlfriends the other night.   Not  only was the food delicious, but I suspect the menu would be pretty easy to negotiate with food allergies.  Although none of us were avoiding foods that night, I saw a number of dishes I would order for my son.  As you can see above, each menu item lists its’ ingredients – making ordering just a littler simpler if you’re avoiding certain foods.

 

Cava features Mediterranean fare – all of which was so good that I could barely choose one dish over the next.  Our waiter convinced us dessert was in our best interest (if we must! ) and he was right.  Warm, dessert-style French Toast was out of this world.  That said, we didn’t even see the dessert menu, so I’m not certain if the other desserts are particularly allergy-friendly or not.  Good news is that you’re in Clarendon and a safe dessert (if you need one) is likely just a walk away.

 

Cava also has additional locations on Capitol Hill and in Rockville and offers some recipes (great for checking for your allergens!) on their CavaFoods products website.

 

Buy Me Some Popcorn and Cracker Jacks? Peanut-Free Baseball Begins! March 19, 2012

According to Reuters, roughly half the MLB plays host to peanut-free sections throughout their seasons.  For those who are severely allergic to peanuts, the idea of sitting next to someone unshelling peanuts seems daunting.  Although the risk of a reaction at an outdoor venue is very small, according to Dr. Wood (see http://nyti.ms/aFiHNY), these special accommodations offer enormous peace of mind at a traditionally peanut-full sporting event.

  

Many teams now offer peanut-free sections, including the Milwaukee Brewers, Seattle Mariners, Minnesota Twins, St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Sox, San Diego Padres, Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets among many others.  And, don’t forget about the minor league teams joining the peanut-free trend!

 

As for our local team, the Washington Nationals will host peanut-free sections during certain games in June, July and August games.  These typically sell-out quickly, so be on the look-out for peanut free game announcements!  Baseball season kicks off March 28th.

 
 
 
 
For details, check out:  Peanut-Free Sections In Baseball Stadiums Welcomes Allergic Fans