Are You Serving #Cookies or #Dookies? Click to not break your guests’ hearts.


Nothing kills holiday cheer faster than when someone offers you Christmas cookies; you gleefully accept and are presented with a tray covered in little jelly-filled things, lemon bars, and crap with nuts or coconuts all over it.

“Cookies” implies deliciousness, like chocolate chip, Hershey’s Kiss or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup cookies, peanut butter cookies (fork-pressed cross-hatches with no chunks of nuts), Rice Krispies treats (in any iteration including chocolate and peanut butter shenanigans), Christmas wreaths, or even lady-locks or lady-fingers (or whatever you call them).  I’ll even give you buckeyes.

“Cookies” does not include anything with jelly in the middle, anything with nuts on or in it, lemon squares, Fig Newtons, anything with coconut shavings or flavoring.  These are (in a term coined by my friend Saurav I believe) in fact “Dookies.”

Cookies vs. Dookies

Sugar cookies and shortbread are barely passable as cookies. (Sorry, Eat n’ Park.)

Pizelles can be tricky.  Some of them are delicious, and some taste like what I imagine licking the inside of a dumpster in August would be like.  If you use a spice called annis that sounds almost like anus, you get what you deserve.

Chocolate covered pretzels, Oreos, peanut butter crackers, etc. are acceptable.

Red licorice is OK, black licorice is not.

Thumbprints can be tricky too.  If they have chocolate icing, usually only the icing is edible.  The rest is tasteless powder formed into a cup of lies.

Do we need someone to make a flow chart?  Are you getting this?  Don’t ruin someone’s Christmas by offering cookies when you’re presenting dookies.

Please, sort it out in the comments.

Advertisements

Five Guys Burgers and Fries: Doing It Right


So, the other day I posted a Facebook status about Five Guys Burgers and Fries, and I thought I’d share it here and maybe even add some more thoughts.  It seemed to get a lot of comments pretty quickly.

Here it is:

I’ll tell you what, for all the customer service and food service that I do complain about… one place stands out as incredible. Every time I’m at a Five Guys Burgers and Fries no matter the location, they are fully staffed… everyone is doing a job & doing it quickly & efficiently with a rather pleasant look on their face. They communicate with each other quite well. The employees seem to be having fun while getting their job done, and they seem to take pride in what they do. I can only assume they pay much better than the average fast food joint, or just know how to delegate responsibilities evenly & know how to treat employees. I was in the one in Robinson when they got SLAMMED at lunch time today, and they put more people on registers, and worked down an ridiculously large amount of people in a short time. It helps that they only have burgers & the occasional hot dog as a menu item I’m sure, but it still is pretty impressive.

I'll tell you what, for all the customer service and food service that I do complain about... one place stands out as incredible. Every time I'm at a Five Guys Burgers and Fries no matter the location, they are fully staffed... everyone is doing a job & doing it quickly & efficiently with a rather pleasant look on their face. They communicate with each other quite well. The employees seem to be having fun while getting their job done, and they seem to take pride in what they do. I can only assume they pay much better than the average fast food joint, or just know how to delegate responsibilities evenly & know how to treat employees. I was in the one in Robinson when they got SLAMMED at lunch time today, and they put more people on registers, and worked down an ridiculously large amount of people in a short time. It helps that they only have burgers & the occasional hot dog as a menu item I'm sure, but it still is pretty impressive.

I’ll tell you what…

I should take a video of 10 minutes in a Five Guys and 10 minutes in this damn McDonald’s on West Liberty Ave. and compare how they’re run.  McDonald’s employees are slow, confused, careless, and sometimes even slovenly.  Five Guys employees seem to be the exact opposite on every front.

I’ve been to several locations, the Waterworks, Murrysville, Robinson, and Greensburg… and they’ve all been run with the same efficiency, pleasantness, and extreme cleanliness.  I just think it ought to be said that it’s noticed by the customers, and they need to keep doing what they’re doing.

Of course, I’m very aware of food allergies, and peanuts are a big thing at Five Guys.  This seems to get a bunch of flack, but they do take allergies seriously.  The peanut-allergic have to accept it just like I accept that being allergic to shellfish, I’m not going to get a safe meal at Red Lobster.  It’s OK.  There are many many places to dine & choices to make.  I’m glad that I have Five Guys as a choice.  I’ve heard that they are excellent in handling a dairy allergy.  Just check out the comments in the image above to the right.  I see the allergy warnings on the door as a very responsible thing to do.

Even after all that… the burgers are just absolutely delicious.  I tend to get a bacon cheeseburger with A1 and green peppers… sometimes even mushrooms.  The french fries are almost as awesome as Kennywood’s Potato Patch fries, and that’s hard to do.  The ingredients are always fresh, the burgers always cooked perfectly.  One of these days I want to try a hot dog… but I can never get past the burgers.  Maybe a little burger & a hot dog will have to do some day?  I don’t even know if I can handle that.  I’m glad I don’t live too close to one of these places, I’d be there way too often.

I hope to send a link to this to Five Guys, just to tell them that I appreciate what they’re doing, and to keep on doing it.  Customers can see and appreciate that the employees are enjoying what they do, and doing it well.  It does make a difference.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries on Urbanspoon Five Guys Burgers and Fries on Urbanspoon
Five Guys Burgers and Fries on Urbanspoon Five Guys Burgers and Fries on Urbanspoon

Related Articles

This is why we need epi-pens in schools!


Finally, some good food allergy related news from a school surrounding the use of epinephrine auto-injectors…

English: Adult (0.3mg) and pediatric (0.15mg) ...

Epi-Pens to the rescue!

I for one was growing tired of the tragic stories.  Jared Smyth and his school had an action plan, and it saved his life.  This is how all these types of stories should end!  Congratulations to all involved!  The kid himself, the school nurse, the parents, the administration, the hospital, and the media for covering good news.

Sadly, I can only find one source for the article, while there were a plethora for Ammaria Johnson & Katelyn Carlson.  More media outlets need to pick this up & run with it!  Get the word out there that having epi-pens in schools is a great thing!  Of course, it always helps to educate your child on not taking any food from others… but as evidenced, it’s not always that easy, and accidents do happen.

AllergyEats | Defining allergy-friendly restaurant survey results


So, a while ago I posted asking for you to help out Paul from Allergy Eats with defining “allergy-friendly” as it pertains to a restaurant.  I also took the time to post my own thoughts before I sent them on to be tabulated.

Well, now Paul has posted his summary & survey results to the still mysterious government body.  I enjoyed reading the results, so I thought I’d share:

AllergyEats | Blog Logo

AllergyEats Blog

The AllergyEats Blog | How do we define an allergy-friendly restaurant? A look at the survey results

It’s great to see the results, and I can’t wait to see where & how they’re put to use.  It’s also great that all of our comments were passed along with the report, so rest assured that your voice has been heard thanks to Paul.  Hopefully it lays groundwork for more gub’ment organizations to follow by example!  (Although, we need to push from a consumer level too.)

My take on the results… it looks like we’re all looking for everyone in the restaurant from kitchen to wait staff to managers to be trained in food allergies and cross-contamination and possibly even certified… which seems like a no-brainer.  Even if that’s all we get, it’s a great start.

Employee answering phone needs to be knowledgeable: 1

Apparently, I’m the only one who wants the person answering the phone to know what they’re talking about.  Ha ha.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to define shellfish on the phone, or ask if they have any only to get there after being told no… and they totally do.  Perhaps it’s shame on me for not asking to talk to a manager…  but the person answering the phone ought to be knowledgeable enough to hand-off such questions, so I stand by my statement.

Cross contamination: (42 responses)

Understands and avoids cross-contamination:  21

Separate and cleaned prep areas and cookware:  20

Should wash hands:  1

Who said they should wash their hands?  Seriously?  I hope they’re doing that anyway… and that they don’t really need those signs in the restroom as a reminder.

Treats ALL allergies the same, not just the Big 8: 1

Apparently I’m the lone theorist there.  Really?  Well, I’m in the Top 8 category, so I guess… yo hell with the rest of you!  Ha ha.

No nuts strewn about the restaurant: 1

This one agitates me.  If it’s part of the restaurant’s shtick/ambiance/personality… then just give it up.  I like being able to walk into Five Guys and grab a tray of peanuts.  I don’t expect (or want) to dine at Long John Silvers or Red Lobster any time soon.

Specific allergen menus available in-house (not just online): 13

Allergen symbol list on menus: 12

Online food allergy menu: 4

All excellent points.  I’ve blogged about the need for menu symbols before.  Let’s get this done, people!

Ability to print out all ingredients for customer / show labels to customer if necessary: 11

Great idea.  A representative from Bob Evans once emailed me a chart detailing where everything was cooked in the kitchen & what surfaces would be safe with my shellfish allergy while they has a seasonal Shrimp stir-fry dish.  How cool is that?

At any rate, read the Blog at AllergyEats, and leave some feedback whether you participated in the original survey or not… it’s still valuable.  I’d also appreciate any comments here.  I’m sure the peanut thing will get some people riled up.  Ha ha.

 

Get a proclamation from your state governor that says “diarrhea”!


Food Allergy Awareness Week

FAAW

So, Food Allergy Awareness Week 2011 is still a little far off, but at the same time it’s quickly approaching.

Personally, I’m all about pushing it from a consumer-level rather than having some government mandates handed down to reluctant (and perhaps allergen-ignorant) business owners.

But, at the same time, I see the monumental importance of government recognition.  It spreads awareness and gives hope to those of us trying to express the validity and seriousness of food allergies and anaphylaxis.

So, I urge you to do your part, and write to the governor of your state asking for them to declare recognition of Food Allergy Awareness Week.  From the FAAN website:

Take ActionFood Allergy Awareness Week: May 8-14, 2011

Ask your Governor to Issue a Food Allergy Awareness Week Proclamation

Issuing a Food Allergy Awareness Week (FAAW) proclamation is a great way to help raise awareness in your State!

Ask your Governor to declare May 8-14, 2011 Food Allergy Awareness Week!

In 2010, FAAW was recognized in a RECORD 37 STATES! Let’s break this record in 2011!

As of Feb 8, 2011, only one proclamation has been issued (Minnesota). Only 49 more states to go!

So, what are you waiting for?  It only takes a few minutes, and you may even get a nifty official-looking document from your governor with a state seal that has the word “diarrhea” on it.  I mean, how funny is that?


Defining Allergy-Friendly


AllergyEats.com

AllergyEats.com

So, quite a task has been put to the food allergy community by Allergy Eats:  Define what it means to for a restaurant to be “allergy-friendly”.

You may have seen it in a recent re-posting by me, or on your own.  I urge you to form your own response and send it to contact@allergyeats.com.  I figured that I’d use this blog to sort out my thoughts before I sent them on to Paul at Allergy Eats.  I don’t exactly how I’ve morphed in to a food allergy advocate of sorts, but I feel that it’s important to help out any way that I can, and encourage others to keep up work that moves us all in the right direction.  There are already some great comments on the blog, and I’m sure he’s got an inbox full of suggestions already… but it’s important to keep them coming so this can be looked at from multiple angles.

AllergyEats T-shirtI like bulleted lists for some reason, so that’s how I’ll try to organize my thoughts:

  • The restaurant has to have a policy that reaches to ALL levels. Too many times restaurants claim to have god allergy practices, but it doesn’t trickle down to the wait staff, the cooks, or anyone past management.  Having a policy is great, but it needs to be understood and respected through all levels.  I feel comfort in a place when the waitress has the manager or even the chef come out to discuss allergy & cross-contamination issues with me.  Training, some sort of certification, and re-training annually or semi-annually would be excellent.
  • Changing current thinking. This is a good one…  Today at Boston Market, I noticed a sign on top of the cash register that read something to the effect of “If you have food allergies, please talk to the manager before placing your order.”  It’s great they’re recognizing the fact that there are food allergies out there, but… the cash register is at the end of the counter, and only reached well after you place your order.  Also, I’d hope that someone with food allergies would already have a heightened awareness when going anywhere to eat.  (If not, please read this.) More thought needs to be put into place, not just “CYA” measures.
  • They have to exude reassurance. A poster is great.  An “allergy-friendly” menu is great.  A sign at the cash register or on your table or on the salad bar is great… but not enough.  In with the training on all levels, the sever (or whoever answers the phone) must bee confident with the answers that you want to hear.  No “I don’t think” or “not really” or “I’m not sure so you’d just better not order that” will do.  Have the right answers.  Know why.  Understand the severity.  Knowledge of the kitchen and where everything is cooked should be a must for servers and managers.  Nuts can’t just be “picked off”.  There’s no such thing as “oh a little won’t hurt” with butter.  The fryer doesn’t “get hot enough to kill anything you’re allergic to”.  It’s unsettling fr someone with food allergies to dine out.  Making them feel safe is a must for “friendliness”.
    • On a related note… especially the person answering your phone.  When dining out of town, I try to call ahead (or get my wife to call ahead for me).  My favorite response ever was an Amish place in Ohio where I asked if they had shellfish (“like shrimp or crab or oysters” I said)… the girl went on to say “No, we have oysters, but they’re in soup, and there’s shrimp… but it’s not in a shell.”  Needless to say, we didn’t go there.
  • All allergies are equal. It’s great to see “nut free” options, or “gluten-free” menus, but let’s treat all allergies with the same respect to cross contamination.  The top 8 are; Milk, Egg, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Fish, Shellfish, Soy, & Wheat.  But, there are others too!  I know of people with severe allergies to peppers, and have heard of corn allergies.  These people need to feel safe too!  Current government regulations don’t regulate the labeling of any allergens other than the top 8, so that’s all that people seem to pay attention to.  Special attention needs to be given to all kinds of allergies, not just one allergen or group of singled-out allergens.
  • Know what you’re serving. Are their anchovies in the Italian dressing or Worcester sauce?  Is this fried in peanut oil?  The server shouldn’t necessarily need to know off hand, but this information should be able to be provided upon request. Having it in written form would be tremendous.  (We could go into other special dietary needs here too… not an allergy, but I have an aunt with Diverticulitus who needs to know if there are seeds or nuts that may be ground up and hidden in things like dressing or soups or bread.) Listing all this on a website would be excellent.
  • Separate locations & utensils for allergy-free meal preparation. Cross-contamination is huge.  I don’t worry about a mutant lobster crawling into my mouth by itself… but I do worry (immensely) that some scallop juice might be on the grill where my steak was cooked… or that someone who just made a shrimp cocktail didn’t wash their hands before making my salad.  I’d love to know that the place where I’m dining has a fish or shellfish only fryer, separate grill spaces for different kinds of meat (even a vegetarian/vegan section would be cool), even separate cutting boards, prep areas, knives, and other utensils.
    • Keep the nuts off the salad bar… near their own station.
    • Hey Subway, don’t put the “seafood” sub stuff right next to the other lunchmeat, and don’t cut those subs with the same knife you use for all the other subs!
  • Ability to accommodate the unusual. Say someone has an inhalation allergy to peanuts…  Can you seat them somewhere so that the people at the next table are able to order some peanut-encrusted dessert without throwing them into an anaphylactic fit?  Can you do this without rolling your eyes, sighing, and making it a big deal?
  • Special markers/identifiers. I saw a commenter note this in the comments on the Allergy Eats blog post, and it’s absolutely brilliant.  Something ought to be a literal red flag… in the system, on an order ticket, on the check, on even the plate itself.  Everyone knows that orange-rimmed coffee pots mean decaf.  Why not red for allergies?  Or get crazy & assign a color to each of the top 8 & one for “other” allergies?  Did I read that Legal Sea Foods does double-plating or something to that effect?  It’s genius.  I’d like to extend the symbols idea to the menu too… why not have some sort of system with easily recognized food allergy icons?

That’s my take for now, but there are already many other great suggestions in the comments section over at Allergy EatsPlease, take the time to send yours to contact@allergyeats.com before Feb. 2nd!

 

Prepping for Food Allergy Awareness Week 2011


Okay, so I’m on a roll this morning.  That Subway stuff struck a nerve.  It reminded me that I would like to have more consumer-driven responses to food allergy issues, and less government mandates.  Food Allergy Awareness Week is not for a few months (May 8-14, 2011), but it doesn’t mean that you can’t start getting ready now.

I just wrote to the Food Network, requesting some Food Allergy Awareness.  I used their contact form, and this is what I had to say…

I’m a big fan of all the Food Network shows.  I’d love to see an Iron Chef battle where they can’t use any of the “top 8” allergens.  I am allergic to shellfish, and always recoil slightly when it’s a lobster or crab battle… or when the inevitable prawn works its way into a dish.  There is a Food Allergy Awareness week every May.  It would be great timing for such an event… and really help the allergy awareness and cross-contamination cause.  There are MANY food-allergic foodies out there!

I’m sure you’re aware that the top 8 allergens are Milk, Eggs, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Fish, Shellfish, Soy, & Wheat.  TO have an Iron Chef battle where they ahd to prepare meals without any of the top 8 allergens would be truly epic, and help show others out there that there ARE indeed alternatives & work-arounds when dealing with a life-threatening allergy.  Food allergy awareness week this year will be May 8-14, 2011.

Thank you for your time, I hope to hear your thoughts on this matter!

-Eric

I’d like to ask that you also write your own letter or email.  And, why stop at one? Please, share with me other places where you think we ought to write, and I’ll write to them too!

I’ll definitely be writing more, perhaps armed with statistics like the following (from Top8Free.com):

Prevalence of food allergies in the United States

Ninety percent of food allergies in the United States are caused by eight foods:  Milk, egg, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, fish, and shellfish.  This website is dedicated to a diet free of these allergens.  Of course, it is possible to be allergic to just about any protein.  In Japan, rice allergy is one of the offenders.

Just to give you a sense of how many kids are suffering from food allergies today, here is a table of the most common food allergies.  This does not count children with milk-soy protien intollerance or Celiac disease, only children with Ig-E mediated food allergies.

Percentage of young children with allergy to:

  • Milk 2.5%
  • Egg 1.3%
  • Soy 1.1% (There is little agreement on this number.  Estimates range from 1 to 5%)
  • Wheat 1.0%
  • Peanut 0.8%
  • Tree nuts 0.2%
  • Fish 0.1%
  • Shellfish 0.1%
  • Overall 6 to 8% of population

Percentage of adults with allergy to:

  • Shellfish 2.0%
  • Peanut 0.6%
  • Tree nuts 0.5%
  • Fish 0.4%
  • Milk  0.3%
  • Egg 0.2%
  • Soy 0.2%
  • Overall 3.7%

Source: Hugh A. Sampson, MD. “Update on food allergy“, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, May 2004

While writing to politicians does gain some inroads, there are other productive avenues to explore.