Crop-dusting for disgusting cell-phone roaches.


This Facebook status seemed quite popular.  Thought I’d blog about it, and get some more input.  There are 2 points here that seem to universally annoy us…  People talking loudly (or at all) on cell phones in public places, and people that talk about disgusting things when you’re trying to eat.

So, I'm sitting at Chick-fil-A tonight, trying to enjoy some chicken nuggets and some chicken noodle soup... and some crazy Yinzer lady is about 4 booths away screaming into her cell phone, talking about infections, site-wounds, dialysis, and MRSA.  Besides it just being rude to be on your phone there in a public place...  Really? Everyone around is trying to eat. I wish I could pass gas on demand. I would have made several runs (pardon the pun) past her table.

So I'm sitting at Chick-fil-A...

The original text…

So, I’m sitting at Chick-fil-A tonight, trying to enjoy some chicken nuggets and some chicken noodle soup… and some crazy Yinzer lady is about 4 booths away screaming into her cell phone, talking about infections, site-wounds, dialysis, and MRSA.

Besides it just being rude to be on your phone there in a public place

Really? Everyone around is trying to eat. I wish I could pass gas on demand. I would have made several runs (pardon the pun) past her table.

Pus oozing from an abscess caused by bacteria—...

Image via Wikipedia

Click the pic above to magnify the first wave of comments, and if you want check out this old post for reference: Excuse me, I’m eating.

So, what’s your take on disgusting topics during meals, public cell phone users, and the unholy intersection of the two?

Chick Fil A 8pc Nuggets

Image by j.reed via Flickr

Our weekend of dining in PA Dutch country


Well, if you’ve been keeping up, you read about my plan for our trip, what we did on our trip, and maybe even the email from the Amish Village owner.  This one’s all about the food.  We ate a lot while we were out that way, but we didn’t hit the regular buffet/smörgåsbord places like Miller’s or Dienner’s.

If you’re reading this, you probably already know about my shellfish allergy.  Buffets can be a nightmare for someone like me… not only do I have to worry about cross-contamination in the kitchen (like on shared cooking surfaces, utensils, or fryers), but I have to worry about my fellow slovenly patrons carelessly flinging bits of deathfish on to adjacent foods, or better yet inadvertently dropping some off of their plate while at a different table.  No thank you.  No worries though, with the internet I was able to do a lot of research ahead of time on shellfish-free and allergy friendly restaurants.

FOOD

Prince Street Café
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Classic Breakfast Sandwich on Ciabatta

Classic Breakfast Sandwich on Ciabatta

The continental breakfast at the Super 8 in Lancaster was lacking, so we decided to check out the Prince Street Cafe first thing on Saturday morning.  We were quite glad that we did!  I had an email exchange going on before our trip with the manager that put me totally at ease.  I noticed there was no shellfish on their menu, but I emailed them to be sure.  It ends up that they do occasionally have a seafood soup and it would be in-house while we were there, but I wasn’t worried about the cross-contamination there after hearing how it was prepared and seeing that they acknowledged food allergies on their menu by offering gluten-free and nut-free options.  I can’t stress enough what a relief & pleasure this type of email exchange was.

The place was packed and we got there shortly after 9:00am.  The line before us went quickly & there were thankfully menus posted prominently in two places near to where you order.  My wife & I both chose the classic breakfast sandwich on ciabatta, I opted for the addition of bacon.  I also had an iced tea, and added some honey which was available on the counter… which made it absolutely perfect.  The sandwiches were great, the eggs were cooked perfectly (by a microwave of all things, I think), the cheese was beautifully melted & the ciabatta was nice & fresh.  I dug the nice slab ‘o bacon too, it didn’t overpower the sandwich.

All-in-all, this seemed like a great place to hang out.  The employees were friendly, there was a really diverse crowd, it was very relaxing.  We’ll definitely be back next time we’re in the area, perhaps for a lunch or even just some coffee.

Jakey’s Amish BBQ
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Turkey Sandwich w/ Mild BBQ Sauce

Turkey Sandwich w/ Mild BBQ Sauce

I hadn’t  seeked-out Jakey’s before our trip.  I did find a business-card sized ad in the giant tourist brochure display wall in our hotel.  I saw the word BBQ, and it was all over.  I mean, I do love BBQ.  I did find a menu online before going in, and again no deathfish, but I did do the usual awkward asking if there is/was every any shellfish prepared there before ordering & after looking over the menu.  After a no from the waitress, a confused look, then a double-check with someone in the back, we were good.  My problem in general with BBQ joints is that I want everything.  Thankfully they usually have sampler or at least combo platters.

Since we were there for lunch though, and doing some touristy running-around, I came to the sad realization that I shouldn’t fill up on BBQ.  I opted for the barbecue turkey sandwich with the mild sauce, and my wife went for the chicken sandwich.  Sadly, you don’t see a lot of turkey BBQ ’round the ‘Burgh… so I was glad to have that as a choice.  I had a side of fries, & Bethany got the macaroni salad.  My sandwich was delicious.  The turkey was nice & juicy, and there wasn’t so much sauce that you couldn’t appreciate the taste of the meat.  I did grab the spicy BBQ sauce that was provided on the table… for the sandwich & for some french fry dipping.  It wasn’t really all that hot for being the “spicy” sauce, but it was really good.  I’d like to try the other meats & the Carolina-style sauce…  Maybe some corn fritters instead of the fries?  We’ll be through again when we’re back that way!

Added bonus, it had a real BBQ joint kind of vibe… it shared space with a T-shirt shop that sold all kinds of stuff, from religious to raunchy.  The tables had that red & white checkered pattern tablecloth, and there were while plastic outdoor type chairs.  The guy behind the counter who I must assume was the owner or at least a manager was very cool to his employees who seemed new, telling them they were doing a good job.  He even sent out extra fries for us, apparently there weren’t enough on my plate when it came out!  Ha ha.  Our waitress did quite well, especially if she was new.  The order was correct, quick, and we had sweet tea refills without even asking.  Add this place to my list of favorite BBQ joints!

Stoltzfus Farm Resaurant
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Family-Style Meal

Family-Style Meal

Now, this place was just incredible.  Again, I checked out the menu online beforehand, and asked the hostess about shellfish when we arrived.  No deathfish in sight (or hidden in the kitchen), so I was good to go.  It looks like a  quaint little farmhouse with a beautiful garden on the outside, and once inside it doesn’t really lose that farmhouse appeal.  We were seated in a room off to the side with smaller tables, as large tables filled the front room (& I believe around back) and were full of mostly families with a bunch of children.  Our waitress could have played Granny in the Tweetie & Sylvester cartoons if they were to be made into a live action film.

On the way in the door, you opt in for (& pay for) the buffet, and then if you make it through that, you can order desserts à la carte.  We didn’t make it to dessert.  Why?  Well, they managed to stuff me full of literally everything on the menu.  I actually had everything too.  It was quite comforting to not have to worry about any cross-contamination or hidden ingredients… and it helped that everything tasted perfect.  first they brought out applesauce, pepper cabbage (a kind of cole slaw with red bell peppers & a vinegar dressing), chow-chow, and apple butter w/ white & wheat bread.  It was my first time trying chow-chow, and I loved it.  It tasted like bread n’ butter pickles, but was a mixture of cauliflower, carrots, green beans, cucumbers (pickles), kidney beans, and maybe peppers and onions?  Next, she brought out everything else…  Fried chicken, sausage, hamloaf, green beans, corn, buttered noodles, potato stuffing (I’ve heard it called potato filling), & sweet potatoes.  All their meat comes from Stoltzfus Meats, right next door.  The fried chicken was excellent, the breading was perfect & the chicken itself was delicious & succulent.  I could eat potato stuffing all day… I mean carbs + carbs, covered in carb-filled gravy?  Yes please.

I could go on, but you get the point.  If you catch me on a craving & a free day… I just might drive out there to get a meal & come right home.  It would be worth the drive!  I wish I had room for the tapioca pudding.

Wawa
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Steak & Egg on 6" Ciabatta

Steak & Egg on 6" Ciabatta

It’s odd mentioning it with the other places, but we did eat breakfast there.  I’m from the other side of the state where we have Sheetz & Get·Go… so of course I had to try a Wawa.  I’m a huge Sheetz fan, and had it in my head that I already liked Sheetz better.  I may be wrong.  The girl that made our sandwiches was really friendly, and offered to help us with the touch screen if we needed it.  (We must have appeared to be n00bz while we were blipping through checking out the entire menu.

My sandwich not only ridiculously large, but they eggs were really fluffy.  I think the menu said something about them containing cheese?  Whatever they do with them, it works for me.  I got a steak egg & cheese sandwich and it was delicious.  Wawa has the same problem as Sheetz & Get·Go as far as wrapping sandwiches though.  No matter where I get touch-screen gas station food, there’s always more sauce/ketchup/dressing on the outside of the bun than the inside.  You’d think that someone would have come up with a solution for that by now.  Perhaps it’s a tie.  Maybe Sheetz is still my favorite.  It’s pretty close though.  (Luckily, there was no deathfish on the menu, so it’s a safe place for me if not classy.  Ha ha.)

Strasburg Railroad Trackside Café
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Turkey sandwich, hamburger, & fries...

Turkey sandwich, hamburger, & fries.

We stopped here to get some lunch after the first train ride of the day at the Strasburg Railroad.  It was an OK cafeteria-style kind of joint, sadly cash only.  I checked out the menu when we got in there, & did ask if they ever cooked shellfish.  I was told they didn’t & felt safe.  I got a turkey sandwich & Bethany got a burger, and we shared some fries.  My sandwich was pretty good… but Bethany wasn’t a big fan of the burger.  The fries seemed a little old for some reason.  I think we both wished we had just went back to Jakey’s.  Ha ha.

Overall though, I guess we got what we paid for, it was a nice cheap quick & convenient lunch.  I did like the fact that they had up signs warning about the use of peanut oil for those with peanut allergies.  For a family attraction & with food allergies on the rise, this is a responsible thing for a business to do.

Splits & Giggles
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First off, best name ever for an ice cream shop.  Secondly, the guys that own & run the place are very cool.  I also can’t believe I didn’t pause to take a photo of the ice cream.  This was another place that I had scouted-out beforehand, and found through either Urbanspoon or Allergy Eats.  I saw that their menu was devoid of deathfish, so I sent the now standard just-to-be-sure email.  They had a soup containing seafood, but it hasn’t been in-house for a while… so I was safe.  These guys were really cool via email, and even dropped me a line about special hours for that Sunday when they noticed I didn’t stop in on Saturday.

I was hoping to make it there for a lunch or light dinner topped off with some ice cream, but as it happened we were heading home well after lunch & way before dinner, so we decided to ruin dinner & just have some ice cream.  It was a good call.  I had a hot fudge sundae in a waffle bowl, and Bethany went for rocky-road in a pretzel cone.  The ice cream was great, and the place was really cool.  It had a nice neighborhood vibe.  They even took a bowl of water out for some customers who were outside eating some ice cream whit their dog.  Next time we’re in the area, I’d like to get in & try one of their panini sandwiches.  They get bonus points for the line “Please alert us of ANY food allergies or concerns you have before ordering.” on their menu.

FOOD

Well, that was all of our meals while on our road trip.  I won’t include the Hardee’s that we hit on the way home…  it’s probably best for them if I don’t comment.

Ever been to any of these places?  Let me know what you think!

Excuse me, I’m eating.


Over my lifetime, I’ve amassed a list of words and subjects that I’d rather not discuss while eating.  This includes dining out, eating dinner at home with my wife, with a large group, or even just snacking.

This especially applies to family gatherings.  For some reason, dinner conversation always comes around to operations, infections, and/or feces when I’m with my family, and oddly… this extends to my wife’s family too.

There are just some things I don’t want to think about or even hear mentioned while I’m shoveling food into my face.  I’m I alone in this?  Please tell me I’m not alone.  I can’t watch Dirty Jobs while I’m eating either.

Here’s a short list of words and subjects that I don’t want to hear while I’m eating…

  • Infection / Infected
  • Puss
  • Anything ending in “ectomy
  • Bloated
  • Operation
  • Poop, diarrhea, feces, shit, crap, etc.
  • Diaper (…especially when it leads to a discussion of use and/or contents.)
  • Vomit, “Throw up”, puke, regurgitate, etc.
  • Bile
  • “Soupy” describing anything other than soup.
  • Anything describing a recent doctor’s visit.
  • Anything describing a recent dentist visit.
  • Maggot
  • Blood
  • The word “Hospital”, because it never leads to anything good.

I’m sure there are more, but these are the most offensive.  What would you add to the list?

A little background on my shellfish allergy before I write my next rant of a blog…


Note: I started writing this the other day, and got to a point tonight where it’s so wordy that I’d like it to simply serve as a background to the next blog to show you where I’m coming from, or as the first part to a sort of “To be continued…”


So, Sunday night we had just come home from our 3rd day of Christmas celebration in a row.  Needless to say, we were in a great mood, but pretty tired.  I got online to check my email and see what was up in the world of Facebook, and Yahoo! pointed me to an interesting article from Reader’s Digest that made me wretch in horror and disgust.  This also pointed to several other articles and blogs around the web that divulge the disgusting inexcusable practices of the people who handle your food daily.

Granted, the actions & situations described are certainly not representative of the majority of your wait staff, servers, managers, cooks, chefs, etc. out there… but I find any number of this kind of attitude and described behaviors to be unacceptable.  I was so flustered, I decided to pop some things up on an old message board just so I could sort them out later.  I’m not even sure I’m at a point where they’re all sorted out, but I wanted to get writing while this was still somewhat of a fresh topic to me.  This was initially just an allergy issue to me, but several other side issues have popped up upon further review.  Please, bear with me if I jump form subject to subject before I try to reel it all in.

Generally, I’d like to think that my blogs are mostly amusing… any complaining is usually done within the context of humor, and only marginally serious.  I have used this & other platforms to comment on the state of customer service in the food industry before… generally at the “bottom rung” of fast food places as this is where I usually end up due to dietary needs (no shellfish) and budget issues.

This one, however, is serious to me… and I hope I don’t come off as just ranting, and that the seriousness of these issues is conveyed.

If you know me in person, have dined out with me, or have ready any of my lunacy online… you most likely know what I have a severe shellfish allergy.  What does that mean exactly?  Well, it means that I can’t eat any shellfish, or I go into anaphylactic shock.  Not only can I not eat the shellfish (that’s crustaceans & molluscs including but not limited to ,shrimp, prawns, lobster, crab, crayfish, oysters, mussels, clams, scallops, octopi, squid, snails, and probably even scorpions and pill bugs), but I can’t eat any food that comes into contact with it.  That means, if you cook shrimp on the grill, take it off, and put my steak on  without washing the surface, it’s the same as me eating the shrimp.

I certainly can’t expect the restaurant to clean the grill in between every meal, as that’s certainly not productive on their end… I just usually try to see where the shellfish is prepared, and eat from another cooking surface.  That seems easy enough, right?

I get that it’s my responsibility.  Yes, I’ve had an epi pen.  But I’d really love to not ever have the need to use one.  I’ve even considered getting Allergy Cards, but they seem a little pretentious or something… like my verbal reminder isn’t enough.

Well, getting me in to a place with shellfish is an issue in itself.  Why?  Well in with the aforementioned cooking surface issue… there’s just all kinds of stuff that can run through one’s head.  Like not washing a knife when it cuts one thing then another, shares spaces in refrigerators where things may drip on to other things, places where you might grab pizza toppings like crab meat or shrimp without washing your hands before dipping into the next topping, a friend of mine has even told me he had a piece of shrimp show up in his scrambled eggs at an IHOP once… and I believe the same friend even told me that they had a long and heated argument with the servers at a Chinese place where the ‘vegetarian’ eggs rolls contained crab because “crab is not meat”.  Oops… Death!  (Usually I sadly avoid any Chinese places anyway because of the shared cooking surfaces & probably delicious sauces that can be made with oysters or ground brine shrimp.) This basically makes me never able to completely relax in a restaurant where I’m supposed to be out enjoying myself… it’s an odd paradox.

Generally I can find a safe dish if pressed, and especially if I call ahead… but I need to be in an adventurous mood.

Dining out is an important social activity… a very common social activity that brings with it high levels of anxiety for someone like myself.  Not only from the aforementioned game of Russian Roulette Kitchen Edition, but from explaining my allergy to people.  Yes, anxiety from explaining to friends, family, business associates, your server, and anyone else who may inquire as to why you don’t want to try a great new seafood place or even Red Lobster or Long John Silver’s.  Not only can it be embarrassing where it really shouldn’t be… but it inevitable goes down something like this…

Not me:  “Let’s go to T.G.I. Friday’s”

Me:  “Well, I can’t really eat much there besides a salad or a baked potato.”

Not me:  “Huh?” [Looking at me like I’m an alien.]

Me:  “Well, I have a severe shellfish allergy.  I can’t eat anything like shrimp or lobster, or any cooking surfaces that it touches”

Not me:  “Oh, well just don’t order any.”

Me:  “Well, that’s not enough.  I’ve had a trip to the hospital just from eating onion rings fried in the same fryer as shrimp.  If they have grilled shrimp, I can’t get anythign off of the grill… if they have fried shrimp, I can’t get anything out of the fryer.”

Not me:  “Well, can you get steak?”

Me:  “No, they probably make that on a grill.”

Not me:  “Well, can’t you get chicken?”

[Mind you, I have ad this conversation with seemingly intelligent reasonable people.]

Me:  “Well, no… if it’s grilled, well… we covered that, and if it’s fried… that’s a no go either.”

Not me:  “Well, that sucks.  What about … [Names 400 other restaurants, all with prominent shellfish dishes on the menu]… I don’t think they have any shellfish.”

Me: “No.  No.  No.  Nope.  Unh-uh.  No.  No. Nope.  No… ” ad nauseum.  I suggest somewhere else, usually less “classy” because let’s face it… those are the places with no shellfish.

Not me:   “Sigh, OK.”

[I look/feel like an idiot.]

Then sometimes, one of these gems gets tossed in…

Not me:  “Well, that’s just stupid.  I’ve never heard of that.” or “There’s no such thing as food allergies.”

Yes, because you have never heard of it, I must be wrong.  Off to Joe’s Crab Shack!

Not me:  “My uncle Jim’s wife’s neighbor’s cousin’s roomate’s gerbil’s vet’s dry cleaner’s podiatrist was allergic to jelly beans, and he ate a quarter of a jelly bean and swelled up and went to the hospital and stuff and just kept eating bigger pieces until he built up a tolerance”.

Not me:  “Have you tried it lately?  My mechanic’s wife’s niece’s ex-husband had a neighbor who outgrew his allergy to strawberries.”

First off, this type of behavior is stupid… even if the story is real.  It is possible to build up tolerances (allergy shots), and to outgrow allergies… I am well aware of my limitations and have been told by more than one allergy doctor that my allergy is to great to attempt allergy shots and that I’ll never outgrow it.

My favorite comes from family & old friends…

Not me:  “You used to eat at Long John Silver’s!  You can’t be that allergic.”

I know. It’s WEIRD. I get it. Believe me, I get it.  I ate shrimp like a madman when I was young, and each exposure to shellfish since I discovered the allergy kind of seems like the bee sting thing to me, each “attack” gets worse.  After the last one… I don’t want another one.  But science seems to lean toward this being more random and not a straight road to a deadly end.  I really don’t want to be the guy to solve/prove that one.

And, please… if I do go to a restaurant to eat out with you… don’t orders shrimp or lobster and ask me if it’s OK.  Every fiber of my being is screaming “No, it’s not OK.  What are you, a psychopathic masochist that’s into mental torture?” while I tell you it won’t bother me.  Again, clearly my own demon to wrestle with… but really, do you want to be that person?

Still, I feel pressure all the time to just go with the flow, deal with it, and order a salad.  Believe me, a salad more often may be a good idea in my case.  It’s still just not an enjoyable or relaxing thing for me at that point.  We may be conversing, but I’m obsessing over every unidentifiable piece of everything in the dressing and really not processing much of what you’re saying.  Imagine that I told you there’s a box of rat poison in the kitchen right on the shelf between the flour and the sugar, they’re all in identical unmarked jars and there’s only one scoop used in all of ’em.  Do you wanna eat there?

This is really just to show you where I’m coming from.  I realize that it’s not your problem.  I realize that I have some real issues to deal with surrounding my problem.  I realize that this is not a terminal illness or anything that serious.  I’m not trying to get a pity party going for myself.  This is simply to let you know what’s bouncing around in my mind.

It hopefully won’t be long until my next not-unrelated blog… basically pulling quotes form the aforementioned articles and responding one by one.

I’d really like to hear everyone’s opinions of my rant here… am I out of line?  Over-dramatic?  Illustrative?  Insane?  Do you think like me?  Do you have an allergy?