Gluten-Free In Los Angeles: In ‘N Out Burger

We were in L.A. for the birth of this little cutie….InNOut 2

I’m going to call her Mara Jade. If you know the Star Wars Expanded Universe, you know her. She was first introduced in Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy. She was the Emperor’s Hand; his personal executor of justice. She vows to kill Luke to avenge Palpatine. Luke does what he does best, brings her back to the Light side of the Force.

Mara entered the world on July 27th in the wee hours of the morning. We took Obi-Wan to the hospital at the start of visiting hours to meet his little sister and I wish I could have captured the smile on his face. It was big and bright. Like Tatooine’s suns.

On the way back home, I asked him what he wanted for lunch thinking I was going to get PB&J for an answer. What I got was something like this:

Obi-Wan: Weeeeell, if you’re going to go through a drive-through…

Me: *snickering before I look back* Does that mean you want us to go through a drive-through?

Obi-Wan: Weeeeell, we could go somewhere.

He’s seven and smart as a whip. He knows how to phrase things to lead you to what he wants without really saying it. Unless it’s what I heard every night after dinner that night and every night after until we left, “I need my after dinner treat.” Translation: Give me ice cream, Auntie! These are the moments that almost make me forget he has Autism.

Mom said she could go for a sandwich and she would treat. The sandwich places I knew of off the top of my head in the area are not gluten-free friendly. But In ‘N Out is! Bonus: there is one a few minutes away from the house. Not so much bonus: it seems to be packed ALL THE TIME now. The last time we were there we could order and eat there without worry about finding a table. Each time we went this time we had to go in to order it to-go or go through the drive-through.

Him: Why are we outside? Me: Because it's crowded inside. Do you want to wait in there with all those people bumping into you? Him: No.  Me: Me neither.

Him: Why are we outside?
Me: Because it’s crowded inside. Do you want to wait in there with all those people bumping into you?
Him: No.
Me: Me neither.

My favorite: cheeseburger animal and protein style with fries. The trick when you are with people who eat gluten, ask for yours to be bagged separate. We didn’t do it the first time and Mom wound up holding mine for me. I had gluten on my hands from wiping doughnut crumbs and holding Obi-Wan’s hand after he ate said doughnut in the hospital room (Mommy wanted a doughnut when we visited and Obi-Wan wanted to have a doughnut with Mommy).

Other than a great burger, In ‘N Out is one of the places where I can have the fries, too. And we all know fries are more fun with a burger than any other side.

He got ice cream after dinner for doing so well at swim lessons. And Hot Wheels. Spoiled him that day to take his mind off Mommy & Daddy being at the hospital with Mara Jade.

He got ice cream after dinner for doing so well at swim lessons. And Hot Wheels. Spoiled him that day to take his mind off Mommy & Daddy being at the hospital with Mara Jade.

Gluten-Free In Los Angeles: Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse

Believe it or not, this was the only food picture I took at Ruth's Chris.

Believe it or not, this was the only food picture I took at Ruth’s Chris.

Our second night in Los Angeles we were able to go out for a nice dinner sans Little Obi-Wan (I really should call him Obi-Wan because he’s not so little anymore). Chaz and I hadn’t been to a Ruth’s Chris in probably a decade. We used to go to the one in Louisville in Kaden Tower until the dress code got lax. Going to an upscale restaurant where you can easily spend over hundred dollars on dinner for two isn’t appealing when there are other diners in shorts and/or denim. It’s an aesthetic thing. I get it in tourist places when people are coming in from off the beach or the golf course, etc. But Louisville isn’t a tourist city, even during Derby. It’s more of a party city during Derby.

Ruth’s Chris has a separate gluten-free menu, but I ordered from the prix fixe menu (labeled as Ruth’s Classic Menu on the website) because they were able to tailor it to my needs. And it was cheaper. I was able to choose from a salad, a steak, a side, and a dessert that fit my dietary needs.

I gave my list of food allergies to our server who then gave it to the manager. He came to see me to let me know he was going over it with the chef to ensure nothing on my list touched my plate. This is where fine dining excels for people with food allergies. They get that if our needs aren’t met to our satisfaction, we’ll never return and we’ll tell others not to go. You know, like how those of us who are gluten-free tend to be more brand loyal than other consumers. It’s like that with restaurants.

I ate well that night. A Caesar salad with no croutons. Ribeye medium well, instead of the medium how I ordered it. Steamed spinach. Crème Brulee. It was my first Caesar salad and Crème Brulee in years. It’s amazing how delicious everything tastes when you haven’t had it in a long time.

It was an excellent meal out with Dawn, her Old Man, and Mom. I did learn that I need a new rule when dining with others consuming gluten. I’ve gotten used to eating with Chaz so if he has bread, he keeps it next to him. Mom passed the bread over me and instead of Chaz taking the basket, he tried to tear off a piece as she held it. Over my water. In a split second I imagined crumbs falling into my water. I made some noises like “GAH! AH! AH!” while covering my water and pulling it to me. Never again. New rule is gluten passes behind me or goes around the other way.

Gluten-Free In A Gluten-Full Kitchen

Dawn's Kitchen 2Some of you are aware that I spent a week and a half in L.A. at Dawn’s for the birth of her baby, whom I’ll refer to as Mara Jade. Yes, another Star Wars nickname. It was only proper that she get one because Little Obi-Wan has one. If you’ve followed me for a while, you might remember the last visit Dawn bought new stainless steel pots and pans to limit cross-contact in the kitchen for me.

This time, the special was a tub of butter with “GF” in marker on the lid and my name written on the side. So we could cook with butter and not worry about cross-contact with butter everyone else uses.

Dawn's KitchenThe biggest thing I did for myself in the kitchen was take charge of the kitchen, especially once Dawn and her Old Man went to the hospital. I chased everyone out more than once. I made a habit of cleaning the counters before preparing any food, even if it was a PB&J for Little Obi-Wan. I would clean the counters again after I was done. I did have to call Chaz in the first night Little Obi-Wan wanted “pasta” (his word for spaghetti) because I forgot was regular pasta felt like while stirring it when it was done. The second time I did better. While cooking for him, there was a lot of hand washing.

There was also a lot of scrubbing food residue off before loading the dishwasher. Not something people normally think about where cross-contact can happen. Gluten not washing completely off dishes or being washed off and re-adhering before draining and drying to another dish, glass, or utensil.

Dawn's Kitchen 3I did goof once. Thankfully, it wasn’t with gluten. Little Obi-Wan wanted ice cream while we were at the grocery store picking up some things including Hot Wheels for him. Chaz and I were talking about ice cream sundaes and Little Obi-Wan insisted on the Hershey’s chocolate syrup in the can then asked us why we kept calling it “ice cream sundae”. After that, it was Ice Cream Monday. Because it was Monday. I wanted a topping for my ice cream, but everything had soy and/or high fructose corn syrup. So i just had plain vanilla ice cream. That night while making Little Obi-Wan’s ice cream, I wiped my finger around the rim of the syrup can then licked my finger. Oh, hi there corn! It was just a little bit but I did not make that mistake the rest of the time we were there. I immediately washed my hand after. This is what happens when you spend 99% of your time in your own allergy-free kitchen.

All that said, would I do this in everyone’s kitchen? No. I’ve blogged before that when I stay with friends I offer to cook or do the majority of the cooking to make sure meals are safe for me and help minimize any anxiety for my host. Being at your best friend’s is a completely different story, especially when she is at the hospital for four days.