The definition of cuisine is a style of cooking that is specific to a country or region. It can be cultural or geographic but for each individual the cuisine can take on a different perspective. What one person appreciates in a particular cuisine may not be to the liking of another and vice versa. For someone with allergies and dietary restrictions it can take on an entirely different light.
As a writer and one that has dietary issues finding the perfect cuisine can be a little daunting no matter where I am traveling in the world. At the same time these restrictions can also show the true colors and creativity of a chef. At many dining establishments taking the easy way out is often the case and does not bode well with writing a review or enjoying a meal. When a restaurant suggests just removing the sauce, having poached fish, or plain grilled meat, I often cringe knowing I have entered the zone of being ordinary. Why go out to dinner to have something I can make at home. I want something that is unique and will enhance my dining experience, bring out the wow.
I remember one establishment recommended to me by our hotel in Hawaii. When I arrived the chef had taken his entire menu and crossed out and adapted his menu to fit my dietary needs, thereby giving me a choice of 6 -8 items. If I had been a writer at the time I would have given this restaurant a glowing review because this chef thought outside the box.
Another restaurant, JoJos in New York would keep a record of my allergies on their computer so each time I visited the restaurant, once or twice a year, they were already prepared to assist me.
What is most fun is when the chef truly understands your allergies and suggests he will make something special that is off the menu. I love to give the chef that freedom and those surprises are the ones that do make you go wow.
No matter where you travel around the world there are those special food moments that stand out especially when your dietary issues limit you.
Here are some of my favorites from the past year where a chef went overboard to eliminate wheat, diary and soy, the main staples of most eateries.
A recent trip to Italy brought me to Trattoria Da Burde in Florence, a charming Osteria featuring regional Italian Cooking. In its third generation, this family owned restaurant prides itself in service. One will definitely encounter an exceptional dining experience. You will not go away hungry, as the portions are large. For those with allergies the restaurant staff goes overboard to cater to your dietary needs.
In Quebec on the spur of the moment, last minute notice of my allergies, the owners of Initiale while catering to a large group of IFWTWA members went out of their way to make sure my luncheon was as delicious as those attending. No wonder this French restaurant has earned Grand Chef Relais & Châteaux certification and an AAA/CAA Five Diamond rating. Initiale brings out the charm and cuisine of Quebec to the ultimate.
Cruising on the Celebrity Reflection this past summer from Rome to the Greek Isles, the chef surprised me with different and unusual desserts nightly. As I am not typically a dessert eater because the usual fair is sorbet this was a real treat and one I could not turn down. You might say it was one of those food wow moments.
On a cruise the one thing often asked of those with dietary issues especially if you are eating in the main dining room is that you order your meal the night before. That can be difficult when you do
not know what your hankering will be for the next day. It is also hard because you are given the following day’s menu right after you are satiated from the current evening’s meal. On the other hand those in your party get a glimpse at what to expect for dinner and can decide if they wish to dine in one of the ships other restaurants.
My stay at the Hotel Adler, a thermal spa in Tuscany, Italy also was welcoming in terms of cuisine. Chef Gaetano Vaccaro was more than willing to accommodate my dietary needs. The staff was equally as accommodating. Everything is made fresh at the Hotel Adler whether it be using local produce from organic farms:
herbs from the hotel garden, their own olive oil from olives grown on the property, organic flour used to produce daily oven-fresh bread, tender cuts of meat from Tuscany’s Chianina breed of cattle,or fresh sun-ripened vegetables. For those eating gluten free they make special bread, cakes and pasta. Breakfast was a treat because I could sample breads that I would not normally try at that meal. Often I avoid breakfast because with allergies how many scrabbled or hardboiled eggs can you have. It was a luxury to have breakfast at the Hotel Adler where I could pile my plate with all sorts of goodies.
If you love Santa Barbara Wine Country, one of the newer restaurants in the area is Pico in Los Alamos, California. Driving down the main drag, Bell Street one is enchanted by the flair of an old cowboy town and the restaurant is located in what used to be a general store. The food created by Chef Drew Terp is superb. Focusing on highlighting the farm, food, kitchen experience with local farm to table cuisine. If you are a lover of pork belly don’t miss out on Pico’s version.
With food allergies you can never go wrong at Café Del Rey in Marina Del Rey, California. General Manager Brian Cousins makes sure Executive Chef David Vilchez visits you table to make sure he prepares the perfect dish that will meet your dietary needs. Not only will you have a delicious meal but the view from the dining room of the marina is well worth the visit.
Most recently a visit to Obica in Santa Monica, California proved that this small plates authentic Italian Restaurant
will go overboard to enhance one’s dining experience. The restaurant is a Mozzarella bar and more. If you love Mozzarella or Burrata, Obica is a must. Mozzarella Di Bufala comes from Campania, Italy, the Protected Designation of Origin for truly the best Mozzarella. It is shipped in twice a week, guaranteeing freshness. The restaurant features an outstanding wine list. In fact Thursday nights wine is 50% off.
These are just a few of the wonderfully establishments around the
world that bend over backwards to insure those with dietary restrictions are satisfied. With it becoming more common place for people to have special requests or dietary needs, we are seeing more gluten free items on the menu, more flexiblilty and a good chef will happily take on the challenge to be more creative yet at the same time show off his expertise.