Monday, June 01, 2009
Eating Las Vegas for the FAQ
Just got back from a quick road trip to Las Vegas for my cousin's wedding. Short, but sweet. Boy is it tough to get a food-allergy friendly meal in a smoky casino/hotel! The trick for survival on the road is to plan ahead as much as possible.
Some food allergy travel tips:
1. Plan ahead and pack a variety of food allergy-friendly portable snacks so that you don't get too bored if you use it as a fallback all the time.
2. Map out your dining plans ahead of time where possible so you don't eat something bad because you're stuck somewhere, starving
3. When possible, talk to the staff about getting a special meal. Call ahead if you can so that you don't catch them by surprise during a heavy rush hour when they can't make the time to do something special.
4. In Vegas especially, if you are not sensitive to cross-contamination, go for buffets where you can pick your way around the menu
I packed car-friendly and travel-friendly FAQ snacks: dried fruit, dried nuts, juices, water, chocolate of course. We had In and Out burgers on the road (sorry, I think we only have these in California. Their burgers are 100% beef without fillers, unlike some of the other chains)...I usually order a double meat "protein style" burger (no bun, just wrapped in lettuce, some other restaurants do this now) with grilled onions and extra sauce. There's a little bit of tomato in there, but not enough to really get me so I seem to do okay with that. (The sauce is like Thousand Island, so if you have any issues with tomato, relish or mayo ingredients, skip it and get mustard.) I peel off the lettuce, rewrap the naked burger in the paper and go at it. It's not pretty, but it's doable.
We stayed at Bally's on the Central Strip. It's a huge huge huge hotel (we stayed on the 25th floor) that is being beaten down by the economy like the rest of Vegas. Not enough staff to take care of the guests who WERE there (it took 30 minutes to check in because there were only 2 desk clerks for 50+ people at MIDNIGHT for Pete's sake). Since Bally's is attached to the Paris Las Vegas hotel, we spent most of our free time there....breakfast was at La Creperie, and I ate only the insides out of the seafood crepe I ordered, without cheese. Pretty miserable. So I grabbed some coffee and went back to our room for nuts and fruit. Which was fine.
The wedding reception was at Maggiano's Little Italy, which is a chain restaurant. Luckily I knew this ahead of time, so made sure I ate something before we left -- in this case, the hotel shop had packaged raw almonds and Lay's Classic potato chips (as of this writing, they're one of the few large potato chip brands not fried in soy oil).
The reception menu unfortunately was completely off-limits for me: fried mozzarella sticks in tomato sauce, bruschetta, caesar salad, chopped salad with blue cheese, chicken parmigiana, chicken piccata, spaghetti and meatballs, cheesecake and creme brulee. Oy! My mom suggested getting an antipasto platter, but the lady server informed me that they didn't have olives or salami (hm!), but offered to send out the chef to come talk to me. Out came Chef Aaron, who basically asked what I COULD eat, and made a very plain, simple plate of grilled salmon, steamed spinach and roasted potatoes for me, without charge since we were having a full reception. I had to sit through all the appetizers with an empty plate before I was served, but luckily since I was already full of almonds and potato chips (!) I was not starving by the time it arrived. Big big thanks to Maggiano's for treating me with courtesy and respect to create a meal for me. I thanked them in person, and also wrote a note to their corporate office -- please be sure to thank people who go out of their way to accommodate you...we need to encourage those companies and staff as much as possible! Good karma should be spread around. :)
Dinner was practically inedible, we discovered that the Cafe Ile St. Louis restaurant we chose got its food from the hotel commissary to avoid the cost of a separate cooking staff. Ugh.
However, our breakfast buffet at Le Village Buffet was the highlight meal of the trip. Apparently it has been voted best buffet, for a good reason. Only $14.99 for breakfast before 11 a.m., it offered a TON of choices. The theme was the different regions of France (Normandy, Breton, Alsace, etc.), so there was a huge selection of fresh and cooked fruit, eggs every which way (scrambled, omelettes, benedict, frittata), sausages, crepes, yogurt, cheese and pates so that everyone could get what they wanted and no one had to feel put out in order to accommodate my food allergy needs. No waste, everyone was happy. And it was VERY well executed, the meal was delicious. Mom went back for seconds. With lots and lots of hot coffee, it made us happy and we felt fortified for the drive home.
And right before we blew out of town, I won $100 off a $2.50 bet at rapid roulette. So Vegas wasn't too much of a gamble after all. Ha.