Monday, August 11, 2008

When Eating Out Really Works

Here I am, back from my conference! As I said before I left, I had already done my research and made my plans so I anticipated having few problems finding foods I could easily eat while away from home. I have to tell you, it worked out even better than I had hoped. Let me pass along some well-earned praise and tell you what happened.

I was in Chicago this past week and the conference hotel was the Hilton Chicago. First of all, this is a beautiful location and, knowing that they pride themselves on service to their guests, I took advantage of this fact. I asked for substitutions in my meals as needed and they were extremely gracious. The conference had already made arrangements with the hotel catering staff to provide special plates for me for the opening dinner and keynote luncheon I was attending. By making a point of keeping my request quite simple, it was a simple thing for the caterers to accomodate. At the dinner, I had a simple grilled chicken breast and steamed spinach. It was done beautifully and the servers, knowing it was a special plate due to food allergies, could not do enough to be sure I had whatever I wanted. Seriously, lots of applause for the service staff at the Hilton Chicago. They are TOP NOTCH. At the keynote luncheon, they had planned a pasta bar but none of the sauces and toppings were going to work for me. Again, I opted to keep my request super simple and they brought me a plate of plain pasta tossed with extra virgin olive oil. Tucked in my tote bag, I had a can of dry-roasted, salted almonds. I added a handful of those to my pasta and had a lovely lunch. The waiter was only too happy to substitute a nice fresh apple for the salad I couldn't have and that even took the place of dessert. Perfect! At the hotel restaurant, I was able to order with only a few, minor alterations which they were quite happy to make for me.

I also took a side trip to The Plaza At the Park Grill in Millenium Park. What a lovely place! The Park Grill is open year round but The Plaza is a warm weather place. In winter, the area is a pretty ice rink but summer makes it a pleasant place for outdoor dining and people watching. It was casual and the menu was varied. This variety in the menu meant it was a simple thing for me to order a meal and ask for only a few, simple changes. In my case, I ordered a very nice Kobe beef burger and only had to ask that they leave off the gorgonzola and the bun. Again, it was simple and they were very happy to accomodate so we had a very nice meal.

I did have the hotel put a small refrigerator in my room so I was able to keep some snacks and small meals right there in my room for times when I didn't really want the bigger restaurant food.

So folks, there it is. Proof. A bit of preparation and a willingness to ask for minor changes makes it an easy thing to go out for dinner and to go on vacations without worrying about what and how you will eat.

So, get out there and let's go eat that!


Corinne said...

Would hotels/restaurants do low-salt? I know cruise ships do almost anything from low-fat to low-salt... We have to watch our salt intake (as the nixing-out of salt with potassium intake doesn't work for the picky D.H. lol)

Sandra Gordon said...

Corrine, I don't know why they wouldn't. There would be some natural exceptions, of course. If you chose a restaurant (or just one dish on their menu) that relied on a special rub for a meat dish, it would be impossible for them to accomodate a low-sodium request. Also, some sauces that need to be made in advance might be an issue. However, if you are ordering any other sort of dish, you should be able to request they leave out the salt. I have to ask them to leave out a variety of other seasonings and it works out well. It never hurts to make a quick call before going to the restaurant. If they are agreeable about honoring a special request, you're in business. If they sound reluctant or tell you they are unable, you'd save yourself a trip.