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A blog about all things allergen-free and delicious


Restaurant: The Green Well -- Treats Foodies with Allergies Right


Off the Menu: Curried Quinoa Hash with Chicken

One of the Few Where Tenders Can Relax & Enjoy

There are only a few places in Grand Rapids where I . . . (a Tender Foodie with food allergies) can relax and simply enjoy my food.  

One of those is The Green Well Gastro Pub in Grand Rapids, MI.

I don't have to be embarrassed.  I don't have to do alot of explaining, checking, double-checking or excusing.  And my dining companions don't have to be embarrassed for me or have their patience sorely tested as I command our server's undivided attention.  I can simply tell my server that I have an allergy to gluten and to dairy.  I have a few other intolerances, too.  But I know that if I speak up, any server and any chef in the kitchen will know what to do. 

When I say I enjoy my food at the Green Well, I mean that.  Each visit has been consistently delicious.  Other restaurants, and there have been many, just remove those "offending ingredients" from the dish.  Or . . . they don't know how to do the simplest things like use oil instead of butter.  Or . . . they don't know that their spices or tenderizers contain gluten or dairy byproducts. You get the picture.

The Green Well chefs, however, really understand their ingredients.  You see, real chefs do.  They know where each ingredient comes from.  They also understand how to replace commonly used ingredients with "something else".  For instance, something that browns well, that adds the same depth of flavor, or that pops just the right amount of that somethin' somethin'. They don't simply follow the formula, they create your dish.


My Delish Dish(es)

So last Friday evenning, even though my friends "oohed" and "ahhed" over their Butternut Squash Ravioli with Candied Walnut Brown Butter, I could revel in my beautiful piece of Trout in a spicey sauce with olives and a vegetable ragout -- sans broccoli (because I hate broccoli and broccoli doesn't like me).   I was surprised that the sauce was as spicey as it was when paired with the trout, but the spice did not over power the fish in any way.  The fish was fresh.  The trout and spices played nicely together on my plate and with my palette.  In fact, I was so excited to dig in, I forgot to take a picture of this beautiful piece of fish for this post.  To my delight, however, the server asked the chef to take a quick shot of a similar plate before it made it to its lucky destination.  He did it.  The trout pictured below is how it was served normally that night.  My dish was made without the goat cheese croquettes and with a sauce that suited my particular allergies. 

 The Trout Special (as it normally appears). My order was prepared without the croquettes and with a sauce that suits my particular allergies.

I had also eaten lunch at the Green Well twice within the last couple of weeks.  You know, "just to be sure".  I asked if I could eat off the menu.  My server on both days said, "Absolutely" and made a suggestion.  So on each occasion I had different versions of a quinoa hash with braised pork.  The first version was nestled in a curry sauce.  It was the ultimate, alternative comfort food with lots of depth as well as protein.  (Who needs mac and cheese?)  The second version was in a milder, but equally delicious concoction with asparagus and snow peas (pictured top). It was lighter, but equally satisfying. 

The two things that have impressed me the most about The Green Well, is their consistency and their ability to work with me.   Prior to the onset of these fabulous food allergies, I was someone who would try pretty much anything.  Food allergies haven't just changed what's on my plate, they have changed my personality.  After becoming a Tender Foodie in 2003, any thoughts of venturing, "off the menu" had become a no-no of life saving proportions.   But now I can say,  "have the chef whip up something tasty" and this freedom makes me feel a little more like "me".  I have a sneaking suspicion that other Tender Foodies understand.

How to Work with the Green Well if you have Food Allergies

Part of my protocol for reviewing any restaurant is to dine there at least twice prior to forming an opinion.  As Member #20 of the restaurant's first customer group, The Green Well Cartel, I have been their guest on several occasions.  But I've watched, I've tested and have observed:  they don't reserve their Tender Hospitality just for "me". 

I spoke with Rob Tamburello, Green Well's General Manager about their standards and practices for Tender Foodies.  I also asked him how people with food allergies can help their kitchen serve these guests well.  He said:

We pride ourselves on being able to provide for any food allergy.  We also have many vegan diners, and will accomodate you even if you simply don't liking something, or have temporary restrictions.  For instance, we've pureed food someone who had a broken jaw.  We've made beef broth for the wife of a diner who was on a 3 month diet.   For special or restricted diets, it's actually easier for the chef to go off the menu and create something new.  You can feel confident that when you come in that we know what we are doing.

Here is a quicklist that summarizes our conversation.

 Green Well FAQ

  • Do they have standards for allergen-free cooking?  Yes.  The Green Well has created their own standard to accommodate different levels of allergies and to ensure that there is no mistake.  They do regular reviews with their staff; and each chef must sign off on their food allergy standards.
  • Do they have a gluten-free deep fryer?  No.  but the Green Well will pan fry or bake certain items that might normally be deep fried.
  • Do they serve gluten-free bread?  Not currently, but they are continually searching for new sources that meet their quality and allergy standards.
  • Is there a separate gluten- or dairy-free menu?  Nearly 90% of the menu can be made gluten- or dairy-free upon request.  Therefore, no separate menu is required.
  • What about nut allergies?  Make sure to call ahead to let the Green Well know you are coming and to discuss your options.  Nuts are a little tougher because so many products are produced with nuts at their processing facilities.

When is it necessary to call ahead?

  • If you are visiting for the first time, it is always a good idea to call a day or two ahead to speak to the manager.  To respect the manager's time and to make sure you can have a good converstaion, try to call when it isn't lunch or dinner hour.
  • If you have a life-threatening, high sensitivity allergy or several food allergies (such as a nut allergy).  The restaurant may need to make special preparations.
  • If you have several food alergies or severe diet restrctions.
  • If you would like something special that might not be on the menu, just to be sure the proper ingredients are in-house. 


The Green Well makes it clear that if you are on a special diet of any kind, that they will work with you to get it right and make it delicious.  They not only can handle it, they want to.  This makes them one of the few.  We like that.





New Restaurant! "Grove". Creative, Conscious, Cuisine.

New Restaurant Opening in Grand Rapids, MI


Very excited to tell you that, today, Grove has announced their August opening!  I'm hearing through the grapevine that their "creative, conscientious, cuisine"  will not only focus on "earth-to-table" but also serve Tender Foodies well.    It will be located in the old Corez restaurant at 919 Cherry St. SE in East Hills, opposite the The Green Well Gastro Pub and is owned by Essence Restaurant Group.  Essence has developed other Tender Foodie-worthy locations, including The Green Well and Bistro Bella Vita.  They attend to gluten-free, dairy-free and other food allergies.

I spoke with Rob McCarty, the "Jack of All" at the Image Shoppe, Essence's marketing engine.  He gave us a little more insight:

"People are asking me how Grove will be different than the Green Well.  Where the Green Well is alive and high octane, Grove will be more relaxed and focused.  I can confidently say that there won't be anything like it in the region.  It will be unique and awesome."

Congratulations Essence!

Read the full Grand Rapids Press Announcement 





Food Allergies? Easter Bunnies That Kick the "Big 8" in the Tail.

Easter is April 24. 


In my search for candy makers with allergen-free Easter bunnies, gummies and jelly beans, I haven't found any that do it better than Indie Candy.  I gave their chocolate and yummy gummies a try before Valentine's Day, and I "heart" them (read the review).  Indie Candy balances their customers' food allergy needs with great candy making and taste.  And after speaking to the owner, I have a feeling that their passion and knowledge for allergen-free sweets will bring them to new taste heights as their company grows.

The chocolate is high qualit and free of all 8 big allergens (peanuts, treenuts, dairy, wheat/gluten, soy, seafood, shellfish, and eggs).  They even have treats that adhere to the Feingold diet - developed for those with ADHD.

Find them at


Our Tender Readers Recommend

We've started a list from our readers.  Keep them coming!!

Premium Chocolates

To get guaranteed delivery by Easter, orders needed to be in by April 7.  But the chocolate looks great!  Thanks to Audrey for this suggestion.

Located in Lakeside, NJ, Online ordering available.


Yummy Earth Organic Candies

They sell wholesale allergen-free and organic hard candies with names like "Roadside Rootbeer Barrells" and Pomegranate Pucker".  None specifically for Easter it seems, but they are in retail stores like Whole Foods, Baby's R Us and many Marriotts around the country. Thanks to for this suggestion.

In Grand Rapids, MI:  Harvest Health


Gimbal's Gourmet Candies

The gourmet jelly beans look great, and they make those and their other flavors without the Big 8 allergens.  We haven't tasted them yet, but we like their ingredients and their philosophy.  Their Honey Lover's flavors support a project that keeps the ever important honey-bee healthy, alive and pollinating.  Gimbal’s donates 5% of Honey Lovers proceeds to the University of California Davis Honey Bee Research.

Sold online through Candy Direct.

Fancy Pants Bakery (Nut-free only)

Though the cookies are NOT gluten or dairy free, they ARE nut free.  They also have adorable easter bunny shapes for a great alternative to candy. 

Sold online directly through


Jules Gluten-Free Easter Basket Cupcakes

Found this recipe through flour guru and gluten-free labeling activist, Jules Shepherd.  It contains several fun gluten-free candies as well.  The recipe looks fun and definitely worth a try!

Find the recipe here.


Who's Your Favorite Allergen-Free Candy Maker?

If you have a favorite candy maker with Easter treats - Give an E-jingle and let me know who they are!  I'm always looking for the folks who do it well.  The only rule:  they must produce their products in an allergen-free facility and test for at least one allergen (and must test for all allergens they are claiming to be free of).   Remember, "Vegan" does not mean "Dairy-free".  "Non-Dairy" also does not mean "Dairy-free".  And "traces of..." can be quite harmful for those who have food allergies.


This post does not constitute medical advice of any kind.  Please speak to your doctor and understand your own body and its food allergies.  Please read each product label carefully to be sure that it is safe for your or your child's unique situation.




TAXES: Did you get your allergen-free deductions?


The Scoop

Tax day is 10 days away, and I'm hearing that many allergen-free folks are not aware that there is a tax deduction available for gluten-free and other allergen-free foods.  But of course, the IRS has some rules.  Speak to your accountant and find out if you can add these deductions to your itemized medical expenses for 2010.  And start keeping track of your food in 2011, it could pay off, especially if your medical expenses are already on the high side.  For more specific information, ask your accountatnt and go to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness web site.  Its a great resourse. 


The Short List

  1. A Doctor's Note that confirms that you have either celiac disease, or a food allergy that will be with you for life.  Attach the letter from your doctor to your tax return.

  2. This is a medical deduction, so use Schedule 1040A.  Find out from your accountant if you qualify and if this receipt gathering exercise is worth the work.  You may need to meet a minimum prior to being able to claim the deduction. 

  3. Claim only the extra cost for the allergen-free food that you purchase as a replacement food.  This means that you can deduct the difference between, for instance a normal loaf of bread costs and a gluten-free loaf. You will have to do some comparison shopping and calculating.  Be sure to include all of the flours, milks, and stuff marked "gluten-, dairy-, nut- . . . free", etc.
  4. Claim full cost of things like Xanthum Gum, an item that is only used in allergen-free cooking.
  5. Mileage, postage and shipping costs can also be deducted if it is a special trip to the health food store, so keep track!

If you need to refer to IRS documentation for your accountant or agent, here is the appropriate citation:


Get Organized

Keep copies of every note, document and receipt.  The best way to keep track is to scan your receipts so the ink doesn't wear off.  There are some really cool receipt scanners out there right now. has a Neat Receipt and Neat Document scanner one of which will be on my "to-purchase" list next month.


RECIPE: Spring Flu? Try Ginger Lime Tea.


The Recipe

Got a spring cold or flu?  I can empathize as I just got over a doozy.  I am also watching gads of my Facebook friends drop to their knees from spring ailments.  If you are one of those poor bloaks, try this soothing 5-step tea. Its one of my favorites and I don't just drink it when under the weather.

1.  Grate 1/4c. of fresh, well-washed ginger (you don't need to peel it since you aren't eating it directly).  Use a box grater for 1/4 c.  You can also use a zester, and in this case you would need only about 2 TBS and you will want to peel the ginger.*

2.  Throw it into a tea pot and pour 4 c. of boiling water over it.

3.  Steep for 4-5 minutes & strain into a mug.

4.  Add a good squeeze of fresh lime or lemon.  I like lime, but lemon has wonderful anti-microbial properties.

5.  Add a little honey or agave to taste.

When my herb garden is in bloom, I like to add a little fresh mint or fresh tarragon for a little extra somethin' somethin'.

 Chef's Tip:  If you use ginger in recipes where you actually eat the ginger, peel it.  The young root with a thin skin is what you find in most grocery stores.  Use a knife to cut the tough little knobs, but use a spoon to peel the skin.  A knife cuts to deeply into the flesh and wastes the ginger, whiile a spoon gently and easily scrapes off just the skin.


Ginger's Health Benefits

Ginger contains the following nutrients:

  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Copper
  • Manganese
  • Vitamin B6

Ginger is a root with anti-inflammatory properties.  It soothes your throat and is also very healing to your digestive tract.    Though especially nice served as a tea while recovering from the flu, the health benefits of ginger are as long as Michael Jordan's arm (you know, like a really tall basketball player).  Ginger has been used in Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine for centuries as a cure for and prevention of a variety of ailments.  Since 2006, the University of Michigan has been studying ginger for its ability to help cure and prevent ovarian cancer.  The University of Minnesota has been studying the effects of ginger on colon cancer cells and its ability to decrease tumor size. 

Other health benefits are:

  • Decreases nausea
  • Helps reduce the symptoms of motion sickness and morning sickness
  • Decreases gastro-intestinal distress (gas/bloating)
  • Reduces pain and swelling from arthritis (being studied)
  • Helps you sweat - sweating detoxifies your bod, but German scientists are also finding that sweat itself has a potent germ-fighting agent that helps reduce infections. 

And for those with food allergies, the soothing, anti-inflammatory properties of ginger is very helpful to your digestive tract.  75 % of your immune system is there, so its good to take care of it.

Note:  if you are on medications, especially blood thinning medications, please discuss the use of ginger or any herb with your doctor.  This post is for informational purposes only and does not intend to be or replace proper medical advice.


Storing Ginger

Store your fresh ginger root with the peel on.  Break off what you need, and store the rest in an open glass container.  Do not store in plastic or plastic wrap and do not cover it.   Be forewarned, if you cover it and it ages, you will have a smell you will never forget.  Keeping it uncovered and well aired.  If it attracts mold, throw it out.  Keeping it well aired and dry will help the ginger last longer, and it will simply dry up (rather than give off a 5 alarm smell) when it ages.