Dining out becomes a nightmare for the food sensitive. Luckily many restaurants are posting ingredients as a matter of course. We praise this trend lavishly, as it saves cross-examining the wait staff. Also, the mere mention of food allergies now brings prompt attention, as so many people have potentially fatal allergies to foods such as peanuts. Responsible restaurants prefer customers who are not rendered comatose by the food.
One way to smooth dining out with allergies is to check out various national cuisines. Oriental food, for example, is less apt to have many of James' known offenders. This involves some research and questioning about typical food preparation for Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, or Malaysian dishes. Fortunately restaurant staff are usually patient, polite, knowledgeable, and at worst, willing to find someone who can answer your questions. (Our rule of thumb for ethnic cuisine: the good restaurants have a high proportion of diners of a corresponding ethnicity. Bonus points if the menu is dual-language.)
So, for example, we learn that soba noodles have wheat, but rice noodles do not. Inventive dessert treats can be made with rice flour and bean paste. Sweet and sour sauce gets its zing from tomatoes and pineapple, so I wait 'til I'm dining with girlfriends and we order all the yummies our men eschew for their various reasons. Other strategies: Food that is cooked to order can often be made without the offending ingredients. Sauces can be put on the side. Yes, you do have to ask for special treatment, but this is the assertiveness 1A. Polite requests are rarely a problem, and when they are, you have the power to never darken their door again. (That's another post.)
Our latest oriental restaurant find is Banana Island Restaurant in Daly City, a crossroads of Thai-Malaysian-Singapore cuisine. Tucked away inside the Westlake Mall, Banana Island survived a prolonged isolation during the construction of a garage that blocked its only entrance. Business was apparently not harmed, as the place was always busy but not packed. The menu is vast and colorful. The Singapore tofu is ethereal; they make it there. In the center kitchen, you can watch chefs stretching and folding a rice flour bread that comes with a yummy curry dipping sauce. Coconut milk is used instead of cow dairy. Prices are moderate. Service is prompt and efficient, whether you are a large group or a twosome. I found no web page for Banana Island but two pages of restaurant reviews come up when you google it. Yum!