For my birthday, I wanted to go to a fancy place downtown that my husband and I have never been to. They have an outdoor balcony, and I thought it would be nice to sit there, drink wine, and have a nice dinner.

But, because I have a ton of food allergies, I cannot simply go out to dinner, especially at a place I’ve never been to before. If I want to live through the experience, I have to do a ton of research first.

This particular restaurant seems to be one of those places that likes to change up its menu, maybe seasonally, maybe whenever the spirit moves them, I don’t know.

These kinds of places make it super difficult for me to eat there because I cannot ever be sure that there will be something on their menu that I can safely eat. Things are a bit easier when a restaurant doesn’t ever change their menu, and I can be certain that the one or two safe menu options will actually be there for me.

So, my husband and I are looking at the menu for this fancy place downtown that I thought would be nice to dine out at. Let me start off by saying that we were looking online at their “Spring Dinner Menu 2017″.  Yep, it’s one of those restaurants that make me have to do additional research, beyond the usual amount of research that I have to do. I figured If I found something safe for me to eat on their current menu maybe I could safely eat there ONCE.

Me: “Is there anything on the menu that I can eat?”

Husband:  “Well…..”

We start the usual process of elimination by mentally crossing out stuff that absolutely has one or more allergens in it. From there, its still a gamble. In general, a steak is safe, but this one has “marrow butter” and I’m not sure I wanna eat that. Plus, the steak is always gonna be one of the most expensive items on any menu.

So, we go through the menu items, one by one. I can’t eat anything with gluten in it, and have allergies to lettuce (cross reactive allergy with ragweed – my body can no longer tell the difference between the two of them). I can’t have most citrus fruits; strawberries make me stop breathing. I can handle SOME dairy foods, but it’s best that I try and avoid them.

There’s a bunch of ingredients on this menu that neither I, nor my husband, have ever heard of. It takes time to look up what the heck those things are, and to try and figure out if they happen to be a cross-reactive allergen. It’s best to just skip anything unfamiliar.

The pork ribs have a coca-cola glaze, and I react to the Carmel coloring in the soda. None of the cheese plates are a good idea. The salads are right out. Soup is a gamble at best because many soups contain gluten – and this menu only says “market soup” which could be almost anything.

The chicken meatballs have pineapple in them, and might not be gluten free. (Most meatballs contain bread that isn’t gluten free).  I might survive eating the French fries, but am not sure what the sambal aioli is. Also, if I’m going through the trouble of doing research so I can have a birthday dinner – I want it to be more than French fries.

Then, we find a potential solution.  This restaurant has an appetizer of fried Brussel sprouts with goat cheese, dried cherries, and picked mustard seeds. A quick Google search says that Brussel sprouts are in the cabbage family – which means I can safely eat them.

And then…. when it seemed like this would actually work out…. I find it.  The restaurant has another appetizer, roasted cauliflower, which has pine nuts on it. I am deathly allergic to pine. There are pine nuts in their kitchen – which means I risk having a huge cross-contamination allergic reaction if I eat or drink anything in the restaurant.

I won’t be going to that restaurant on my birthday – or possibly ever.

Dining Out Requires Research is a post written by Jen Thorpe on Book of Jen and is not allowed to be copied to other sites.

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