Saturday, August 29, 2009

Dining out - How cool it could be!

You know that flood of flyers, newsletters and useless paper that comes to your mailbox on an almost daily basis? Well, every once in a while there's a little gem that arrives. Last week, I was sifting through the realtor ads, the pizza place coupons and back-to-school flyers looking for envelopes containing actual relevant and sometimes important mail when this caught my eye.

Desi - Fine Indian Cuisine...hmmm.
Before I continue, I need to make a few statements about Desi: I have never eaten there, I don't own shares, and I don't know anyone that works there or has an interest in the place.

The place is up on the main street a few blocks from our house. The reason it catches my eye is, quite frankly, the logo. The eye-catching-ness of it is not attributable to its's actually because it looks very similar to the Paris-Dakar Rally logo. You follow the link and be the judge. you can see it in the top right corner of their web page.

So, now I'm flipping through the menu they've sent me, probably becuase I'm hungy and haven't had lunch yet. Congratulations to the marketing department, they've done their job.

My wife and I used to go out for Indian food occasionally, and there is a large concentration of immigrants from India in a nearby neighbourhood, so the local Indian restaurants are really quite good; they have to be. When the locals are experts at picking good Indian food from bad Indian food, you have to be good just to survive.

These folks have the usual selection of curries, flavoured rices, and as is usual, it's sorted by the meat: chicken is separate from vegetarian which is separate from lamb and goat and so on. What caught my eye here, is that each dish has a series of marks after it. There are circles, squares, triangles and stars. My first reaction was some sort of condition that applied to a coupon I hadn't found, or that some dishes were "heart smart" or low in fat. Actually, if you look at the bottom right, there's a legend for these symbols.

The star indicates the dish is vegan. You might notice that not all vegetarian dishes are vegan, and this information would be very useful to you if you were, well, vegan. I'm not, so I read on. The circle indicates the dish is "nut free", the square indiates "dairy free" and the triangle is "gluten free". WOW...did I just see an allergen list on a restaurant menu. What's more, it a footnote! They're not even bragging about it, they're just stating it for your convenience.

Now, as I said at the beginning, I've never eaten there, so I haven't "grilled" them on whether they have a "nut" side of the kitchen and a "non-nut" side to prevent cross-contamination, but why would you label something as "nut free" without taking some precautions. It's a bit like going out to a Kosher restaurant. If you've got meat, you can guarantee there's no dairy. However, we usually find around here that "Kosher" means vegetarian with dairy, and that doesn't help with our kids allergies.

So, it appears we may have some research to conduct with these folks to see if we can put "curry back on our menu". I wonder if Andrew and Geoff would eat's a strong flavour for a 6- and almost-4-year-old. And, as you all know, most young kids have only one spice/condiment and it's ketchup...sigh, but just imagine telling your child, "You can have anything with a circle AND a square and it will be safe!" How cool would that be?!