Sunday, February 28, 2010

The customer is always right

Except at Celia's, apparently.

Recently I was upset with a couple of my favorite dining establishments. First I wrote this email:

I have enjoyed eating at Fresh Choice for a long time. Recently I
found out that I have a number of food sensitivities, so I have come
to appreicate the allergen info posted by almost all of the food
items. However, it's disappointing that every single soup has soy. I
am wondering if you could have one or two soups at a time for those of
us who are sensitive to soy?

To which I got this reply:

Thank you for your visit to our Fresh Choice Restaurants and for taking the time (yadda yadda yadda) ...

To address your concern regarding soy content. I've posed the question to the company that manufactures our soup bases and challenged them develop bases w/out soy. It's been amazing the response we have received in providing the nutritional and allergen information on our signs. This information has truly been well received from our guest and allows you to make an educated choice as to what to put in your body. It has also allowed us to make necessary changes such as what you are suggesting.

Thank you for dining with us!!!

Ingrid Walatka
Fresh Choice LLC.

Not too bad for a national chain! At least they're listening and thinking about trying to fulfill my request.

Then, I wrote this letter, which I had to actually mail with stamp and everything because there's no contact email on their web site:

Dear Celia's Manager:

Last night, Friday, Feb 5, my family and I had a very disappointing experience at your restaurant. We were seated in the back room, and after about 10 minutes, the mariachi band started playing to the table right next to us. They stayed there for the rest of our meal. It was very loud; we had to shout to speak to the other people at our table and our ears were ringing within about 20 minutes. I asked the hostess if the band could move or if we could move, and she told me that neither option was a possibility. We ate and left. As we were walking to our car, we saw that the band was moving to a different part of the restaurant.

It was very frustrating to have our experience ruined in this way. Two or three songs would have been nice, but at the decibel level they were playing at, it was unexpected and very unpleasant. I hope you and your staff and the band can be more considerate of diners in the future.

No response.

The moral? Eat at Fresh Choice, but not Celia's.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"Which of these preschools will get my kid into Stanford?"

Saturday I attended the local parents' club's preschool fair. It's a tradeshow for preschools where they all come and set out brochures and pics of the kids doing cute, fun stuff and even drawings and projects by the kids. Both our kids are in lovely preschools now, but we need to figure out what to do with the older one if he doesn't go to kindergarten in the fall (that's a whole other story). Unfortunately, the one that appealed to me the most is the German school, but it seems counterproductive to put Arthur in an immersion program for one year in a language that almost no one around him speaks fluently.

The other schools fall into one or more of the following categories: not academic enough, poor location, inconvenient schedule, and priced for the Steve Jobs set. We're talking $15-20k for preschool. As I was looking at one booth, I overheard the administrator at the next one say, "We don't look at applications in the order they come in, we evaluate the child and interview the parent and base enrollment decisions on those two factors." Can you imagine your kid's school options being based on how someone else judges you? No thanks. Then there's the fancy-pants "alternative" (read: hippy) school that charges "only" $12k or so, but is already done taking applications for fall 2010. I guess I missed the memo that in this fancy region of the Peninsula you need to register your kid for preschool before they start walking.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Turn that noise down!

I know the decade's been over for a whole six weeks now and everyone's forgotten all about it, but I have just gotten around to listening to most of Rhapsody's "Top 100 Songs of the Decade." As I started listening to it, I thought to myself, "this is at least 50 percent crap!" As I listened to more, that number went up. I now believe that it's about 75% crap, 15% listenable, and 10% actual good stuff ("Music" by Madonna, "The Middle" by Jimmy Eat World, "Beautiful Day," "Don't Let Me Get Me").

Granted, this is a comprehensive list encompassing all genres, including stuff like the hip-hop-rap-crap I would never in a million years listen to, plus country (though the boot-in-your-ass song definitely belongs on the list) and teeny bopper pop. So maybe I should check out the rock best-of list before passing judgment on the musical value of entire decade. That said, one of the "rock" songs on the top 100 is "Photograph" by Nickelback, an utterly worthless bit of sentimental drivel that was one of the final nails in the coffin for me with contemporary music. It came out in 2005, right about the time I stopped listening to non-public radio entirely. Obviously I'm not alone as a hatah of this song. But am I on to something with my belief that the music these kids are listening to today is no good, or am I just getting old?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mommy hungry!

So it's Week One of the zero-allergen diet. So far so... ok. This weekend I went off the wagon a bit with a cheeseburger (protein style), some red wine on V-Day and blue cheese on a salad. (And maybe a serving or two of you-know-what.) Replacing coffee with tea has caused some more headaches. I have the sniffles, too, but that's probably related to weather changes and blooming. Excedrin has been my friend.

Now I need to start a spread sheet where I record every single processed food and possible allergen I consume and then record my mood/physical symptoms and see if there's a connection. Unfortunately, my nutritionist says reactions from reactive foods can take three days to appear.

As I've mentioned before, my main goals are to increase energy and improve digestion. Eight-10 years ago I needed only 7-7.5 hours of sleep a night to feel right. Now it's more like 8.5-9. That just doesn't seem right.

Thursday, February 04, 2010


It seems like in the last few years there has been an increase in the success of Mexican food chains that are "fast" food, but a step or three above Taco Hell. Una Mas, Baja Fresh, Chipotle, and more. This is excellent news for me, since Mexican food is awesome, and it's my three big allergens (soy, gluten, egg) are easily avoided in such establishments. I wonder what it is about Mexican food vs, say, Thai or Italian, that lends itself to this kind of franchise?

In the category of progress-yet-to-be-made, I have a prediction/suggestion for a future car gadget: a sensor built into, perhaps, your dashboard or your GPS that senses when the cars in front of you are moving so that you don't have to look up every few second or be startled by the unpleasant honking of the car behind you while writing emails or Facebook updates on your Android phone. (would probably work for Blackberry users, too)

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

out, allergens!

Well, I'm pretty sure I've been gluten-, egg- and soy-free for at least a month. I'm still eating out, but avoiding Asian restaurants because soy is likely to be pervasive. I made muffins from a mix made by a company called "1-2-3 Gluten Free," and they were mediocre. Candy-making with the soy-free baking chips was very successful. Tastes just like the kind made with Nestle or Ghiradeli.

But I feel like I could feel better. So my next step is to cut out all possible allergens. That means no nuts, beans, dairy, coffee, alcohol...just fruit, veggies, super-organic meat and tea. I know there are lots of people that do it. Remains to be seen if I can. Even for a couple weeks...