Last night was my most difficult dining experience of my GF life. My high school son’s swim team had a “Restaurant Night” fundraiser at Stonefire Grill in Valencia. You know how that works – they get a bunch of people to go there flyer in hand, order, eat, and the team makes a percentage of the sales for that night. Great! Love to support the team, especially in this state of budget crisis and shortage of funds for school athletic programs. I took the little guys too, including my GF 11 year old son.
They have on their website information about their GF menu! We requested the gluten free menu. It was a printed on a plain slip of paper in a plastic sleeve that would normally go into a binder. Yeah, very attractive. The server, well I use that term loosely, as he really was just an order taker, had no idea what Gluten Free is all about, let alone knowledge of the items on the GF menu to assist us in ordering. Lots of salads but none that a kid would want or eat. The side items were extremely limited especially for a kid. Mashed potatoes with cheese and onion. Right. Cole slaw and beans, ditto. Grilled Vegetables – the order taker had no idea what that was. Broccoli maybe? No. Corn – ah ha! But no, corn is not in season. Now I’m a huge follower of seasonal produce, but really? No corn. As IF the tomatoes, red peppers, and other veggies in their salads are in-season produce. Please. So my GF guy ordered plain salmon. Nothing else.
The others at the table were enjoying the garlicky breadsticks, pizzas and BBQ chicken and ribs. Oh yes, the BBQ sauce is NOT made in house and does have gluten. How easy is it to make GF BBQ sauce?! I say that rhetorically – it’s a piece of cake. Just make it fresh. BBQ joint, right?! The salmon comes; he scarfs it down in seconds. Still hungry. So I gave him some more money and off to review the GF menu and order more he went. This time he ordered the Lemon Garlic Chicken. When it arrived at the table, it was covered with large chunks of garlic and TONS of parsley. Green stuff! He tried a bite but it just wasn’t going to work. I must say, I did try it and it wasn’t bad. I believe the green stuff scared him away. He’s a kid. To his credit, he does eat well and he did eat the salmon! Pack it up and take it home to dad, what else was I going to do.
My son lowered his head into his hand. I could see his little chin begin to quiver. In front of his big brother and all of his friends and teammates, my young son was fighting tears of frustration, anger, and self-pity. Oh years of that came flooding over me as I felt his pain and wanted so desperately to make it go away. I hugged him, and tried to soothe him without embarrassing him in front of so many people. I then had to walk away. I sat by a friend and hid my face as I myself fought off the tears. I’m thankful for her kindness and friendship. I pulled myself back together and went back to the table, boxed up the chicken and left.
Here’s what I have to say to Stonefire Grill and other restaurants. We GF people know that it’s a tough thing to understand GF food and cooking. We totally get it! But if you are going to put it out there that you have GF food and thereby are looking for our patronage, GET IT STRAIGHT! Make sure that you really do offer a respectable GF menu. Make sure that your staff is adequately trained and knowledgeable. Don’t attempt to placate us with half @#! attempts. It seems disrespectful. I for one don’t appreciate it.
As I write this and my eyes well with tears, my husband says, “Thank God we have the knowledge, the intelligence and the ability to make it better for him.” He’s right. I love him for that!