Eating out with an allergy can be hellish (part 1 of many)

My first Japanese meal with allergy card

Recently I have had a number of experiences while eating out which have caused me some real concern. I have an allergy to quite a few things as most of you know if you been following my blog for a while.

A colleague suggested I should blog about my experiences in different restaurants while a friend also pointed out that I should be reporting them.

I like both ideas I just need to find more time to do both.

So I thought I’d start by blogging about a few recently and maybe in the future create batches of blogs with the worst offenders reported to the environmental health agency.

Wagamamas Media City UK, Salford

I didn’t have a big problem with Wagamamas and not really had too much of a problem in the past. This time I wasn’t that pleased about the fuss while taking my order (chilli chicken) and finally when the food came out. Wagamamas draw numbers on your paper place-mats which is fine and helpful. This time I got a big A which later when asked meant allergy (I could have guessed that) but the one I was more confused about was the AA to the side of it. Later they explained that AA meant Against Advice to reflect how I had asked for the standard chicken not the super plain chicken with nothing on it! There was no way I was doing that!

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3 A’s. Allergy and against advice…

My meal took a long time to come out, compared to my colleagues.

It was fine and to be fair I took the mick a little when they came around and kept asking how I was doing.

In short less fuss would be nice, I felt a bit crap about the whole against allergy thing. Like it would be used against me if anything happened. Its not as bad as the Leaf sign a contract thing however so it was minor

Manchester Chinese Restaurant, Chinatown, Manchester

The next day after the whole Wagamamas thing, I went to lunch with a friend. Having Chinese at lunch quite different for me but I went with it. Been interested in the results of having a larger meal earlier in the day.

Now to be fair I didn’t actually disclose my allergies because of the fuss the day before and I ordered 3 meats (pork, chicken and duck) with egg fried rice. It was pretty straight forward and checked with the waitress if there was peas in the fried rice, which was a no.

It wasn’t long before I could feel my stomach feeling rough from the food. The back of my throat was feeling scratchy and I was consuming a lot of free tap water. Time to pop a single antihistamine see if it will get better. About 10mins later it was getting worst, I needed to take 2 more antihistamines and head home.

At home I was sick, luckily not violently sick but enough and soon after I was out for the count for about a 90mins.

It was my fault for not saying but I didn’t want the fuss of the day before.

Las Iguanus, Royal festival hall, London

I never really had a problem with Las Iguanus, like Wagaamams these chains are not too bad about having allergy menus. Because of Manchester Chinese Restaurant I decided to disclose when the waiter asked if anyone was veggie or gluten intolerant.

The results were a little usual.

Usually they switch so only the manager can take my order, everything has be explained to me about trace amounts in the kitchen… etc.

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#allergenaware?

This time I had to read a disclaimer on a tablet and click yes I understand. I looked for the whole we are not responsible and you wave your rights stuff but didn’t see anything like that. I was quite short but also small. I have good eye sight so could read it all clearly. Once I did that, I could look at the allergen menu on the same tablet screen. Lots of scrolling back and forth but what I ordered was so simple (Tacos with meat and veg) it was pretty much allergen-less.

Afterwards my food took a long time to come out but was good. It was clear they were busy and although I had to click the button it was reasonably quick and didn’t need the manager to check through things.

To a Tea, Farringdon , London

This place is what prompted me to write this blog today. I went in for lunch and choose something which was meat free. At each table there is a tablet with the menu and the ability to order from there. I looked at two things (mac & cheese or vegetable tart/frittata).

At the bottom of the screen was a message saying…

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Food Allergies and Intolerances Please speak to our staff about the ingredients in your meal, when making your order. Thank you.

So I did and it was an awful experience. I just don’t understand why the ingredients are not listed on the tablet. It could be perfect but no…

First there was no Mac & Cheese so that was out. Then I wanted to know what was in the frittata? They couldn’t tell me. I was low on time so I ordered and check if it had most of the things I expect might be a problem. No Nuts, Beans and Peas I was told. So I ordered (I should have left and gone elsewhere but I already had my flowering tea). When ordering I had a problem with the menu, as I had to add 2 salads to it too. In the end I choose Mushroom & Greens and then Tabbouleh. Checked again about the common stuff which might be added.

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No worries, when it finally came it looked like it had pesto on it. Checking before I touched it was basil. Started eating the salad and it was fine. However when I took a bite of the frittata, my spidery senses went wild.

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I asked they what is the ingredients in the frittata which seemed to be made on site or not far away. They couldn’t give me an answer except vegetables and pastry. Not at all helpful in anyway. I gave them my allergy card and the chef went back stage to check if it was ok. They returned with a box full of tabbouleh and a new frittata, muttering something about some cross contamination. I paid and left with my food box, later I had the tabbouleh no problem but one bite into the new frittata, instantly sent my allergies going.

It wasn’t all bad the tea was very good…

Expect more of these in the future.

Find interesting people? Set up a second-degree dinner…

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Out of the blue I got a message from the mysterious Sam. I have known Sam for a while and sometimes we have chats in coffee shops while I work on Fridays. We are quite different characters and that always makes the discussions we have interesting, sometimes too interesting as I’m slightly distracted from my work.

The message read

I was a bit busy when I got it, doing user testing on visual perceptive media (paper coming) but later in the day, I checked it out.

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Second degree dinners is a concept by Nat Eliason while getting to know interesting people in a new city.

Four months ago I moved to Austin knowing no one in the city but my 9 coworkers and a couple of acquaintances.

The problem I immediately needed to solve was:

“How do I find interesting new people?”

I tried Meetups, bars, events, all the typical places. But in almost every case, the return on investment in terms of “interesting people met” to “time spent” was terrible.

The best way to find people seemed to be to meet someone interesting, then try to meet as many of their close friends as possible.

But getting your friends (especially new ones) to throw parties or invite you out to things doesn’t scale and makes you feel needy, so how do you get looped into everyone’s friend network at once?

Ok the quantification of time vs effort in this case is a little awkward. But he does have a point. This is something I found when I moved from London to Manchester and in part when moving from Bristol to London.

I guess if you quantified the time, it would be pretty poor but I got to do crazy things like eat at every single Chinese restaurant in London’s China town over a period of a year. Good use of time, well I guess not but heck I enjoyed most of them. Quantification of enjoyment and experience is hard to do…

But back to the point!

What is a Second-Degree Dinner

A Second-Degree Dinner brings together 6 people who, mostly, don’t know each other.

There are two “hosts.” Both hosts invite someone who they enjoy spending time with and that they think is interesting.

Then, both of their invitees are expected to invite someone that they think is interesting and send them the invitation as well.

This way, the two hosts and the two initial invitees only know two other people at the dinner. They get to meet three new people.

The second-degree invitations will know only one person and get to meet four.

Best of all, you’re only meeting pre-vetted people. No weirdos, not some rando who’s trying to sell you on their social media consulting, only cool people.

Once the dinner starts, everyone goes around and says:

  • Who they are
  • Where they’re from
  • What they’re working on
  • Something they’re excited about. It could be a new book, app, relationship, anything that has them jazzed up.

The intros usually happen during ordering / getting drinks. It’s a good way to break the ice, make sure that everyone knows each others’ names, and give a bit of a background for the next portion.

Then the real fun begins. You go back around the circle, and each person talks about one thing that they’re struggling with or that’s a challenge in their life.

As soon as I read this, I thought of Me & Jodys dating idea where we have 8 strangers together for dinner with each other. It was similar an idea and we called it the starter, but romance was the core reason for them being put together. We did a test run with friends and it worked quite well, everybody seemed to have a good time and the feedback agreed with this. Yes its similar to Table8 but they are not the first to think of bring singles together in a group blind date type thing.

Unfortunately when we actually tried to run it at the Manchester flirty weekend, we failed to get enough men to sign up. We actually had 32 women! signed up and waiting and only one man (not including myself)! I’m actually suprised I haven’t wrote about this but I did spill the beans in a Lovegrumps podcast a while back. and my let down in mankind.

So I know this can work and I’ll actively be encouraging Sam to make it happen, even if I have to arrange most of it myself (ha!). Talking of which Nat has lot of tips on how to go about this. Lots are very much the social event stuff I’ve picked up running things like geekdinners, barcamps, etc.

I especially like…

Be Vulnerable First

As the host of the event, it’s your job to set the tone for how open everyone can be. You should share first during the workshop, and you should open yourself up through your challenge. Talk about an insecurity, weakness, fear, something that people wouldn’t expect a stranger to be comfortable talking about.

It’s scary, but people appreciate the openness and respond in kind. If you just talk about something very surface level, then no one else will open up either.

I’m not sure what Sam’s plans are but if he wants to make it a monthly thing, I wouldn’t say no. Thanks for highlighting this to me, I like it a lot and more I think about it, the more it makes me more excited and happy. I got a whole ton of people I could invite along but it all depends on the details.

Serendipity don’t you just love it?

Will you find more interesting people through this idea?

Most likely yes. Friends of friends is one of the best networks you have access to, this has been tested and proven to death. Add a level of serendipity and you are on to something. This why social networks are so popular and young people (use?) to find dates through friends of friends

Familar strangers from milgrams 1972 paper

Its important that the people are interesting in themselves (as in they are interesting, not in them-self). I have ideas about this which I wrote up in a follow up to Russell Davis’ original post. It was wonderful to talk about this at BarCampManchester6 and have katrina patel blog her thoughts afterwards.

Interesting people attract interesting people I’m sure… Its a attractor, like positive people tend to attract positive people?

The mistletoe drones are a lie?

https://twitter.com/cubicgarden/status/545687613475405824

So me and Claire were expecting buzzing flying drones in TGI fridays tonight. However we were told the flying mistletoe drone happens only once in a while when the guy who flies it is available.

This means the bet laid down to me by Tom Morris, looks like it won’t happen now. Don’t worry I enjoyed a nice dinner with Claire and heck I even paid… yes shock horror! I remember last time I did that as I was telling Claire.

Anyone can cook a steak after drinking

Got to love Manchester… Great people and some great festivals including the Manchester Food and Drink Festival. Its a great chance to try some great food and sample different drinks. Good food does cost but you can lower the prices by cooking for yourself. Actually I find the prices to be comparable to ordering a takeaway and how much hassle is it to cook a steak? Less time than calling a pizza delivery

A little while ago while walking home from somewhere late night in Manchester. The guys I walked with, wanted to stop at a load of late night fast food places. I said fine but I got a steak with a bag of salad to eat when I finally get home, so I won’t be interested in hanging around fast food joints…

Bit of background

I made the decision to start putting a steak at the bottom of my fridge (when going out and drinking) with a bag of green salad, so when walking back I don’t get tempted to buy some greasy mixed up kebab or some deep friend chicken. And it works because the temptation is literally gone and eating home cooked steak instead of deep friend whatever is obviously better for you. Specially when you add a bag of green salad.

Phil (the guy sitting on the sofa with the lady iris) challenged me that our friend Dan (his flatmate) could not cook a steak at 4am after a night of heavy drinking. I knew even Dan could with a tiny bit of direction from myself (he never cooked a steak before ever).

Of course I recorded it from the moment he put it in the pan. Watch out for the moment when I thought he was going to burn his fingers off though (so glad he didn’t do so).

I can tell you the steak was nice not like my own efforts.

If Dan can do it anyone can…

Dinner Tonight with Howard Rheingold

Howard Rheingold

If your in London today and would love to meet up for Dinner with Howard Rheingold of the SmartMobs and Virtual Community fame

This is very last minute and we are going to have a meal rather than the usual geekdinner. So expect to pay for a meal and drinks. The venue is undecided and will be decided on at some point during the evening. But I expect it will be near Victoria or Kensington.

Howard Rheingold is one of the world's foremost authorities on the social implications of technology. Over the past twenty years he has traveled around the world, observing and writing about emerging trends in computing, communications, and culture. One of the creators and former founding executive editor of HotWired, he has served as editor of The Whole Earth Review, editor-in-chief of The Millennium Whole Earth Catalog, and on-line host for The Well. The author of several books, including The Virtual Community, Virtual Reality, and Tools for Thought, he lives in Mill Valley, California.

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Stephen Colbert, the court jester in the know

If looks could kill

If you've not seen Stephen Colbert at The White House Correspondents’ Association event, stop and go and check it out. Sarah downloaded it on Sunday and it came down really quickly over the torrent network. But you can also check it out on YouTube, part 1, 2 and 3. We watched the whole event from start to finish including the stuff missing from youtube (says it all really, not good enough to get onto youtube maybe?). So generally the whole thing about the old place where the press correspondents currently report from really sucked and went on too long, I wanted to say give it up the joke is so dead now. Then Bush did his thinking Bush and just Bush routine. It was ok, but to be honest it got long in the tooth again really quickly and was it only me or was Bush's timing really bad. Don't get me wrong I know he's not a comedian but the other guy is and should have added more pace to the whole routine. Funny enough the mainstream press loved the whole thing. Well enough said really?

Then Colbert took the stage and like that best man who says all the wrong things at a wedding who makes everyone cringe so much. Colbert plunges into grounds which no one thought even he would do in front of Bush.

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