Monday, April 16, 2007

The Picky Diner

After dining with my newly pregnant friend, I realized how difficult a simple meal at a restaurant can be. This is why Kate Markgraf is garnering so much attention. While dining at the Langham Hotel’s Café Fleuri, Margraf suggested creating a menu that catered to pregnant women. She introduced her idea to Chef Mark Sapienza and he was so taken with the idea that a pregnancy menu was developed. The menu is divided into sweet and salty dishes to target specific cravings of pregnant women. The dishes are all specifically developed to satisfy pregnancy nutrition requirements.

With the varying differences in people’s dietary requirements, more and more restaurants are catering their menus to reflect these needs. Legal Seafood offers a wheat-and-gluten-free menu for diners suffering from celiac disease, an intestinal disorder that causes the body to reject wheat, rye, and barley, among other grains. Standard fare is given major alterations to create a satisfying dining experience for diners with special needs. Salads come with gluten-free croutons, and calamari sautéed in gluten-free oil arrives with a cornmeal breading.

Many smaller boutique restaurants are making dietary adjustments, as well. The Elephant Walk in Cambridge, Brookline, and Waltham has gluten-free and vegan menus for lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch. Blue Ginger’s Ming Tsai is an outspoken advocate for allergy-sensitive diners. They will accommodate these patrons as long as they notify the kitchen in advance. With the help of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, Tsai continues to push for legislation requiring restaurants to train servers and cooks about high-risk ingredients and common substitutions.

Is this a legitimate trend that will continue to grow or is it too specialized? Is it something that people will support? Do more restaurants need specialty menus? How many allergy-sensitive diners are there in the world? What are their thoughts on the current dining situation in our country?

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