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Birthday Celebration Complete with Gluten

I know you are probably reading the title thinking I am out of my mind.  I can assure you that I didn’t eat gluten willingly, but as a result of cross contamination.  Fortunately I did not get sick.  I am not sure how I got so lucky – maybe not enough gluten present?  Who knows.  Let me back up a little bit and share the story. 

My mom came to town yesterday to celebrate our birthdays.  Many years ago I was her birthday present!  I have always enjoyed sharing our special day together.  The official day isn’t until the 9th, but since that falls on a Monday, we celebrated a few days early.  We chose Cameron’s American Bistro as the restaurant for our feast.  They are part of the Cameron Mitchell Restaurant group and have been offering a gluten-free menu for a few years now.  Within the past year or so they began serving rolls from Holiday Baking Company, which I was thrilled about!  I have never been served gluten-free bread before a meal in a restaurant before.

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The rolls were served hot along side fresh, whipped butter and a roasted head of garlic.  Heaven! 

Next up we split the portabella mushroom fries.  These melted in our mouths and the horseradish sauce was divine!

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I had a rough time deciding what I wanted to order for my main course, as the gluten-free menu is fairly extensive. 

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I had my eyes on the pan roasted scallops, shrimp & grits, filet mignon, steak frites and the salmon.  I settled on the steak frites – the hand cut truffle fries sealed the deal!  The server we had was phenomenal; she was very well-versed in the gluten-free menu, even mentioning how they were investigating how their bleu cheese is processed to ensure that it is gluten-free.  I actually felt very much at ease when ordering, which would come back to bite me in the butt in the end.

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The steak was a NY strip that came on a bed of sauteed asparagus and mushrooms and was topped with an herb butter.  The steak was perfectly cooked to medium rare and each bite was bursting with flavor.  The hand cut truffle fries were out of this world….until I reached the bottom and came across a tentacle from fried calamari.  The fried calamari is not on the gluten-free menu because it is breaded.  I immediately freaked out.  Was I just glutened?  All of that amazing food that I had just eaten and thought was safe, but the fries had been contaminated.  Before I let myself get too worked up, I asked to speak with our server and then the manager.  Just as I thought – my suspicions were correct – there is NO dedicated fryer for the fries.  How did I overlook the first question I typically ask the server?   I wanted to rewind & start over, avoiding such a major faux pas. 

As I was waiting for the manager to come over to our table, another thought crossed my mind.  While I have Celiac Disease and gluten makes me sick (as in GI symptoms), I really got concerned when I thought about someone with a true wheat allergy.  That person could have a life threatening reaction if they had the experience that I did.  I calmly explained to the manager that fries cooked in a fryer with foods that contained gluten are NOT gluten-free.  I went on to explain that they needed to remove them from the gluten-free menu immediately before someone had a life threatening reaction or worse, died.  Of course she apologized and took care of our meal, which we appreciated, but I still felt the need & responsibility to the gluten-free community to share this. 

This brings up another major concern – if the staff thought that the fries would be gluten-free when cooked with gluten-containing foods, what other mistakes are being made with the gluten-free menu?  It is possible that everything else is 100% gluten-free and safe to eat.  Of course it is also possible that there are other underlying issues that need to be addressed.  Offering a gluten-free menu is wonderful to those that have to follow the diet, however, if mistakes such as these are being made, it is better to not offer the menu at all and the false sense of security that goes along with it. 

I would like to see the Cameron Mitchell Restaurant group hire an expert to come in and review all of their gluten-free menus & procedures at each of their restaurants that offer a gluten-free menu.  They seem to be serious about offering gluten-free choices; this step would seal the confidence of their gluten-free customers.

12 comments to Birthday Celebration Complete with Gluten

  • MB77

    I am new to the GFCF world. I have noticed a big difference in how I feel after just 2 months. I have not braved the world of restaurants yet because I feel that it has taken me SO much work to figure out the gluten free thing as well as being casein free although I don't think I'm a celiac, I did have IBS like symptoms, congestion, and fatigue before going GFCF. I just know that the common worker isn't trained to deal with these allergies but they should be. Today I tried a passion tea at Starbucks, but I realized everything there is cross contaminated. Even if the tea itself is good and safe, they don't thoroughly wash out their blenders. It just aggravates me so much. I don't have a deathly reaction, but what if I did? Restaurants should take more time to care about this stuff instead of thinking its just some fad way of eating. People have health issues. Would they serve seafood to someone with a seafood allergy? I mean, come on! It's pretty ridiculous and makes this diet so hard to be on. I feel the most safe at home. Even the packaging of certain GF foods bother me because I wish they would be super up front about what was in their ingredients instead of just saying "natural flavors" or something like that. Good for you for saying something though.

    • I can't imagine trying to avoid casein in addition to gluten. I don't trust anything other than black coffee at Starbuck's.

      I will pay more for food from a company that clearly labels everything and makes it easy for me to figure out if the food is safe or not.

      Kim

  • Kandee

    This is so strange because the Cameron Mitchell Group seemed to know this information. The last time we were at Cap City in gahanna we were told that they were able to add gluten free fish and gluten free chicken tenders to the menu because they had added a "second dedicated fryer."

    • Kandee,

      I know, it is so strange! I mean they really seemed like they got it, so I was shocked that they were using the same fryer. We almost went to Cap City last night, but we love CAB, so that is where we went.

      Kim

  • #1, Happy birthday!!!!
    #2, Wow. Glad you spoke up!

  • celiacinthecity

    Sadly, I have read several posts like this lately AND experienced it myself — am in the process of getting in touch with the restaurant manager. It just makes me bonkers. So frustrating. I'm so glad you didn't get sick… that feeling of finding out after you've eaten something just makes your stomach drop. Thanks for sharing with us.

    Happy (early) Birthday, Kim!

  • Wow I am really surprised at the Cameron Mitchell group of restaurants… in Columbus those were one of our first choices to go to when dining out because of the GF menu – will definitely proceed with caution next time and make sure to ask all of the usual questions… Thanks for speaking up and I hope they either take the item off the menu or make the requisite changes…

    • Jenn,

      I was really surprised too. Since I wrote this, I found that the CMR group has dedicated fryers at another restaurant (Cap City) and offers GF chicken fingers & fried fish. If they made sure to do the dedicated fryer there, one would think that it would be understood that it was necessary for any GF fried item. Hopefully it was just an oversight and is corrected immediately.

      Kim

  • Kris

    Sadly, this type of ignorance is exactly why I avoid eating out. :( Too many establishments can quickly jump on the gluten free band wagon with too little knowledge which can result in some serioulsy uncomfortable side effects for some of us –and you are right–some very grave side effects for others.

    I appreciate your speaking up –both at the restuarant and here on your blog. With more voices we can hopefully make some change. :)

    Kris

  • Brian Hinshaw

    Hello, Kim, and Members of the Gluten Free Community,
    Thank you for sharing your experience at Cameron's American Bistro.
    I have been in direct contact with our entire Cameron's American Bistro management team. We apologize and I can assure you that we are re-addressing our gluten free practices at all Cameron Mitchell Restaurants.
    We are committed to providing safe and delicious gluten free menu options at our restaurants and we do not take this promise lightly.
    Please feel free to contact me directly if you have any further concerns.
    Best Regards,
    Brian Hinshaw
    Executive Corporate Chef & Vice-President
    Cameron Mitchell Restaurants

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