Fairly often I get invited to a menu tasting or a soft opening of a restaurant.
Most of the time I politely decline these invitations. What’s a gluten-free vegetarian going to eat at these things?
But a recent invitation caught my eye. It was for the Autumn menu launch at Seasons 52, a restaurant where I dine pretty often. While there aren’t a huge variety of menu items available to me at Seasons 52, the staff has always been great to help me order something and on several occasions, they’ve come back after I’ve ordered with additional suggestions from the chef. Occasionally, my favorite fella and I have a cocktail at Seasons 52, accompanied by their edamame appetizer. Seasons 52 is on my short list of safe places to eat.
So when the invitation arrived, I thought I’d give it a try. I RSVP’d to the PR company, letting them know one guest would require no menu modification and the other (me) would need a gluten-free, vegetarian meal. I fully expected the invitation to be rescinded, especially at an event with a set menu. Instead, I got a lovely confirmation asking for the guest’s name who needed the gluten-free vegetarian meal so they could best accommodate and know who to serve. WOW!
Dinner didn’t go exactly as planned. Were it not for an extremely skilled server, I would have had no food. Apparently communication between the PR company and the restaurant got muddled. That said, I still had a very enjoyable evening and loved seeing all of the dishes served to the other guests and hearing about them from my dinner guest. The wines were fun to taste, although I’m not a wine aficionado.
I’ve decided to share with you five suggestions on how a guest with dietary restrictions could be included in a meal such as this, as well as five bits of gratitude from my evening.
1. Serving a salad with meat to guests? Eliminate the meat and serve the salad portion to the vegetarian. We’ll be tickled to have a dish that looks similar to the other guests. And you won’t have to prepare a completely separate option.
2. Serving a steak with a vegetable on the side? Serve the same vegetable to the vegetarian. (The asparagus served with the filet at this dinner looked divine. I would have enjoyed it.)
3. Starting dinner with hummus? Set aside a small sampling for the gluten-free guest and serve it to them with cucumber slices or carrot sticks instead of a gluten-full bread.
4. Have a vegetarian dish on your menu that isn’t included in your set menu sampling? Prepare it for the vegetarian guest and present it to the entire group, with a description. Odds are, your guests know a vegetarian or two and will tell them about your offerings even if the dish isn’t included in the tasting.
5. Ask questions of your guest. No one knows better than someone with dietary restrictions what they can and can’t eat and how they can best be fed. We know you want to feed us and having a little direction could help. Please don’t be afraid to ask, we’re hungry and want to eat your best dishes!
1. Matt, the amazing server, gets my deepest gratitude. After seeing the other guests have two courses while my plate remained empty, he jumped in and said he was going to see to it that I had something to eat. Obviously the ball had been dropped somewhere, even though we were asked upon arrival if one of us was gluten intolerant, and a meal for me wasn’t planned. As fun as it was to see the dishes everyone else was eating and to get a vivid description from my super taster friend Deanne, it was nice to have a little food to accompany the generous wine pours. It’s always a great dining experience when your server is a true pro.
2. I’m grateful to the PR company for extending the invitation and not tossing me to the curb when I pointed out my dietary restrictions. With an ever-growing percentage of Americans living with food intolerances and allergies, it speaks well of this PR company and Seasons 52 for trying to accomodate folks like me.
3. The wines, so grateful for the opportunity to taste them all. Seasons 52 offers an extensive wine selection, however I’m not very adventurous in ordering wine. In all of my visits to Seasons 52, I’ve ordered the same two wines over and over. I’m grateful for the chance to try five other wines and will order beyond my two standbys the next time we have dinner there!
4. My dinner guest Deanne makes me smile. While she jokes about me being difficult with my food restrictions, she is always a great sport to tell me all about the flavors in the dishes she is eating. I’m grateful I get to experience food through her palette.
5. Seasons 52 also receives much gratitude from me. Eating a healthy meal, created with seasonal inspiration and never containing more than 475 calories per item, makes me happy. Love that they are in my city and grateful to have been included in their Autumn menu launch.
While I don’t have many food photos to share from the tasting menu, I’ll give you a quick peek into what I had to eat.
A variation on Caprese:
Sliced tomatoes, micro basil, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
Roasted Squash Medley:
Market Fresh Fruit Mini Indulgence:
Share with me, friends with dietary restrictions, your tips for restaurants. What would you like them to know about best preparing meals for folks with a dietary lifestyle or a medically-necessitated restriction? I’d love your input on this!
Disclosure: This meal was complimentary for me and my guest. I received no additional compensation nor was I asked to write about the experience. The opinions expressed are mine.