i have these amazing friends - and being that it's canadian thanksgiving today, i'll take this moment to be very thankful for these friends - and all 5 of us get together for something involving wine, at least once a month. i kid you not, it's an ab workout, an antioxidant superboost, and a night out all at the same time. we laugh the night away, always drink red wine, and usually go somewhere pretty cool - be it a hipster restaurant, a new band's concert, etc.
so you've got the "who", now let me tell you the "what" and the "where". last night we chose a cool restaurant that is in an old bank, where one of the tables is actually in the old vault - we did not sit at the vault table, but nonetheless this restaurant has a cool feel to it. cool brick walls, leather seats, exposed beams... you get the picture. and best of all, fresh food! upon hearing a great review of the hotpot from my sweet gluten sensitive friend, i asked my usual questions - where is it prepared, are all the utensils clean, is the chef thinking about gluten when he makes it... just kidding, gluten-containing thoughts are allowed, even i have them from time to time. all sounds good, and when the server's eyes got really big and expressive as she assured me that they take gluten "allergies" very seriously, i thanked her for her enthusiasm and had no problem believing her. the seafood hot pot arrived, and it was delicious! red coconut curry, vermicelli noodles, all sorts of seafood... it was super.
now, onto dessert... anytime creme brulee is on the menu, i get pretty excited. it helps that i love that dessert, but more importantly, i've yet to find a creme brulee that has any gluten in it. of course, i still ask the questions to be safe, and that i did. in the case that a restaurant doesn't have any g-free options on the dessert menu, being the foodie that i am, i generally go for whipped cream (if it's real) and fruit (ideally fresh berries...yum). my gluten sensitive friend and i were going to share this one, so we ordered the creme brulee with a side of whipped cream..... and then we salivated while we waited... just kidding, kind of. it arrived with a drizzle of chocolate syrup overtop, so my first question to our sweet server was - are you able to check if this chocolate sauce is gluten free please? bingo, she did, and yes it was. so we dug in - obviously into the whipped cream first, who wouldn't? dun dun dun... (imagine that sounding just like it would in a horror movie). this was not your average whipped cream, it tasted like something. what a terrible feeling it is to have something in your mouth, and know that in that very moment you might be causing some serious suffering that could last for the next few months! shoot! i asked the server, and she didn't know what was in it - possibly baileys (which we can't be sure are safe, based on their current ingredient and processing info). oh man!
after talking with the manager, them making some phone calls to find out who made the whipped cream that day, and what she put in it, about 45 minutes later they were able to assure us that in fact it was kahlua and cinnamon. pfeuf!! in that case, what delicious whipped cream!!!!
i have to say that the manager would have rather not dealt with the situation and we had to press the issue in order to get the fire lit and get to the bottom of things. however, the server was heartfelt and incredibly apologetic - she doesn't know the inner workings of celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, she doesn't suffer from that herself and therefore really has no idea where it could be found, beyond the obvious. and as she apologized yet again, with tears in her eyes, we assured her that the information needs to come from the top down, and we weren't going to shoot the messenger. we did, however, make sure that they changed their system on making whipped cream from last night onward - either there needs to be a standard recipe for it which remains the same, regardless of who makes it, or whomever makes it needs to record what exactly they've put in it that day. and if they don't know whats in something, ANYTHING, they certainly shouldn't serve it to their customers with "allergies". bam.
but more importantly, as it always comes back to me being the advocate for myself, i learned my lesson. i should have asked what was int he whipped cream, at which point she would have told me that she didn't know as its different each day, and i would have declined it. problem solved. so i gave her a great tip, and vowed to share with all of you that we need to ask just a few more questions about the simple things, like beautiful whipped cream.
*it must be noted, if i'm going to tell this story accurately. my great friend, not the gluten sensitive one, but one of the two red-heads in the group, was actually the one who got to the bottom of this at the restaurant last night. the mama-bear in her came out when someone may have hurt her friends, and she went all red-head, made things happen, stayed classy, and is the real reason why the system at this restaurant for making their whipped cream has changed. she is amazing, and i love her. and, how cool is it that my friends know enough about my needs that they can advocate for me and give me a break from doing it myself?