I have not been accidentally glutened in more than ten years but all of that suddenly changed a few days ago. Sadly, it happened at Blue Smoke (Flatiron), a restaurant that has been known for its attention to both food allergies and celiac disease. The last time I visited – about nine or ten years ago – I had a good experience with no issues and was looking forward to revising my review. My how things have changed.
I first want to stress that everyone from the hostess to our waiter seemed to really understand food allergies. When we checked-in at the reception desk after enjoying some cocktails at the bar, I asked for an allergy menu and while we were walked to our table the hostess made a point of asking what my allergies were and explained the allergy menu. Our waiter, upon arriving at the table, called-out that I had an allergy menu and again asked about my requirements which are shellfish- and gluten-free.
We ordered a sampling of appetizers and smoked meat main with sides and there were no issues. When it came time for dessert, I asked the waiter what, if anything, was or could be gluten-free. He went to the kitchen to check thinking the banana pudding could be. He came back and said indeed it could be made gluten-free without the cookie. Thinking the cookie was likely normally placed on top I had no reason to question what arrived at the table – having been assured it was gluten-free. So, I started to eat my way down one-side of the ramekin and when I got to the bottom and took a bite, I noticed something gritty in my mouth but it was too late – I swallowed. Looking down I saw that the base of the dessert was in fact graham cracker crumbs. Thinking okay, relax, they are likely gluten-free since I was assured it was a gluten-free dessert. I called over the waiter and saw a look of horror on his face and he confirmed my worst fears – it was the regular gluten-filled dessert.
The manager came over immediately after I asked to speak with her and was apologetic and embarrassed that this had happened. By this point I was pretty upset since we were heading off to a show that evening and the thought the inevitable happening during the show but a complete damper on the evening. The manager did credit our meal (invited us back) and I left a tip for the waiter since I do believe he did all he could when dealing with the kitchen.
The question, however remains, where was the actual disconnect that allowed a non-GF dessert to be served to a celiac in a restaurant that is know for handling food allergies? I was told they would definitely look into it to see where the disconnect was and hopefully will figure it out so it does not happen to another guest. To her credit, the manager also did leave me a phone message the next day to see how I was doing but by this point I am done with Blue Smoke and there is absolutely nothing they can do to rectify the subsequent days of pain and discomfort I had to endure as my immune system dealt with the ingestion.
People sometimes forget that the longer you are gluten-free the smaller the amount that can wreak havoc on your system. Now, I have been diagnosed for more than twenty years and like I said, the last time I had an incident was more than a decade ago – so this experience was particularly bad.
I am removing my previous review of Blue Smoke from my site because I can no longer recommend an establishment that clearly has unknown issues in accommodating guests with dietary restrictions and allergies. There is no way that I would ever consider going back since there is no longer any level of trust and this kind of mix-up should never have happened. Should I receive a response from Blue Smoke as to what actually did happen, I will update this post and share.