Fine Dining With Health in Mind

Sparkling white soup bowls are placed before us, each with a cluster of exotic salad greens at its centre.  Our charming server pours a creamy green soup into our bowls from an elegant pitcher, and the greens become a leafy island. Thus dinner begins: a Spring Pea Veloute garnished with Lemon Scented Baby Herb Salad. The taste is an exquisite blend of sweet peas, spinach and shallots, the texture smooth. The bread basket is filled with slices of olive bread and whole grain breads; we dip these into virgin olive oil and fine balsamic vinegar.

From our table, we see planes arrive from and depart for exotic locations. Some travelers at nearby tables sit alone, with a long stretch between flights. A well stocked magazine rack allows diners to choose reading material, or they chat with their server about destinations, travel plans, and trips taken. Near us are family groupings or romantic couples, recently reunited after someone was away.

Our entrée is a Ragout of Organic Kale Buds and Corn with Du Puy Lentils, a Spring Mushroom Fricassee, Tomato Chutney, and finely sliced beets. The delicately seasoned French lentils and side dishes are arranged across our plates like a painting.

We finish the meal with coffee and a Cardamom Scented Bittersweet warm chocolate dessert, which we spoon from dessert glasses. Our entire meal has been low in total and saturated fat, cholesterol-free, and vegan; every mouthful a delight. It is suitable for those with allergies to dairy or eggs. Apart from the bread basket, it was wheat-free and vegan.

We have been exploring the local options for people with food sensitivities, for vegetarians, and for those who avoid animal products or fatty foods due to health problems such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, overweight, or diabetes. The experience described above took place at the Globe @ YVR, the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel restaurant. The team, do their best to give people a truly special culinary experience.

It can be somewhat daunting to dine out when one is motivated toward healthful eating, has health concerns, or has dietary restrictions. Yet many chefs rise to the occasion and use their creative skills to prepare a meal that is truly a pleasure, while taking these needs into account.

Fortunately, restaurants are increasingly sensitive to requirements that are related to food allergies. It’s not unusual to find a menu saying, “Tell us about any special food needs.” Some restaurants have a book listing ingredients for menu items. At others, the chef comes to the table to discuss requirements.

It takes courage and preparation to trust a restaurant, when eating is a matter of life and death for someone whose reaction to a hidden ingredient may be anaphylaxis. Clear communication helps, perhaps in advance of your visit. You want to be certain that the person preparing your food understands your situation, is aware of the ingredients used, and takes care to avoid cross-contamination.

Tips for Eating At Restaurants

* Begin with Internet research. The restaurant you considering may even have a menu posted on the Web.

* Check with allergy or vegetarian web sites for recommended restaurants in your geographical area and at travel destinations. (Go to www.vegdining.com, www.happycow.com,  or Google “Allergy restaurants”. Vegetarian restaurants can be helpful in offering meals that are free of fish, shellfish, dairy, eggs, and other animal products and gluten-free menu items.

* To speak with the chef, owner, or manager, call restaurants at off-peak hours. Explain your limitations; ask whether and how the restaurant would handle them.

*If allergies are life threatening, talk with the person who will actually prepare your food. You may need to inquire about preparation practices. Are fresh cutting boards and utensils used to avoid cross-contamination? Is the same oil used to fry various foods?

*Find local restaurants where you can become known to the staff.

* Explain why you cannot consume certain foods. No restaurant wants to be responsible for making a customer ill.

* Dine during off-peak hours, when you can have the full attention of the personnel.

* When you have a good experience, express your appreciation and tip well.

Vesanto Melinais a registered dietitian and author of seven classic books on food and nutrition including “The Food Allergy Survival Guide” and “Becoming Vegetarian” (US title), “Becoming Vegetarian” (Canadian title); she has been a staff dietitian with Dr. Dean Ornish’s program for reversing heart disease. For personal nutritional consultations, call 604-882-6782 or email vesanto@nutrispeak.com. Website: www.nutrispeak.com.

 

 

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