The 23 year old took me on a “city sample” last night as her Christmas gift for me. It was somewhat like bar hopping or a pub crawl, but without the inebriation. We started at one end of the Redondo Beach Riviera and worked our way through five establishments, eating appetizers, sampling soups and browsing shops in between.
In all it was a wonderful evening and I told her she can feel free to give that gift to me for any future gift-giving occasion.
Since we both have to avoid gluten, part of the challenge of the evening was to find things on each menu that we could safely eat. It’s a normal part of eating out for us – having that conversation with the waiter about whether the corn chips are actually wheat-and-corn chips and whether the chicken, fish, shrimp or French fries have been dipped in batter and whether the omelettes have pancake batter in them. Responses generally fall somewhere between, “Gee, I don’t know, I’ll check” and “Hey, I’m gluten free too! Let me tell you exactly what you can eat on this menu and I’ll make sure the chef doesn’t cross-contaminate.”
At the third restaurant we visited tonight, we encountered a waitress who brought a whole new dimension to the gluten-free discussion. It went something like this:
“Are the Shepherd’s Fries gluten free?”
“Probably? Can you check?”
“Oh… Yeah… they have gluten in them. They’re definitely not gluten free.”
“Oh, so the fries have flour on them?”
“No, but they’re definitely not gluten free.”
“Okay then, what about the Pub Nachos? Are those pure corn chips or are the chips a corn/wheat mix?”
“Yeah, they probably aren’t gluten free.”
“Really? The chips have wheat in them?”
“Well, I mean, they have a lot of cheese and stuff.”
“Okay, but we’re not asking about dairy free. We’re asking about gluten.”
“Oh yah, they have gluten. (Widens eyes) I mean, I don’t really know what gluten is, but they just look like they have gluten ALL OVER them (nods sincerely).”
“Okay, could you go ask the chef about the Pub Nachos? And also the Irish Nachos? Those are just potatoes, right, no batter?”
“Ohhh, I wouldn’t know. They probably have gluten too.”
“Okay, can you check please?”
“I’m pretty sure they have gluten.”
“Okay, but can you ask the chef? We need to know for sure.”
(reluctantly) “Well, okay, I’ll ask the chef.” (Goes in the back. Comes back in a couple of minutes.)
“Yeah, he said that they both definitely don’t.”
“Oh good, they don’t have gluten?”
“No, wait” (looks confused). “I mean… neither of them are probably not gluten free.”
“Neither of them are not? Probably? So you’re saying there’s wheat in the corn chips and there’s flour on the potatoes?”
“Well, I don’t really know… but, like, he has a list, and it only has salads on it.”
At that point we simply thanked her and asked for the check for the one appetizer we had already ordered, paid it and walked to the restaurant next door to get some food that we knew was gluten free.
We also spent the rest of the evening trying to find ways to work double-negatives into our conversation…
“Are you working tomorrow?”
“I’m probably not not working tomorrow but I might not be staying home.”
“Do you want to get gelato next?”
“I either do or I don’t but I don’t not want to decide whether or not I don’t.”
The next restaurant we went to was a French restaurant, staffed entirely by French staff, which made the “Weekly Specials” sign a mystery to me.
It announces that Thursday night is a 3-course prix fixe meal. I’m sure any of the staff members know how to spell that in their native language, but apparently no one told the sign-painter.
One wonders if the suffixes are served on Fridays.
After we left that establishment, quite satisfied with the gluten-free seafood crepe we had split, the 23 year old suggested we go back to Restaurant #3 and order water, and then ask the waitress if it had ice in it.
Instead we chose to take advantage of the photo-op provided by the Christmas lights on a nearby shoe store.
And also posing with an angel that’s tucked away in an alcove between two shops, just begging for an Instagram moment.
And finally, after we talked ourselves into “just a morsel” of gelato, we stopped to pay homage to the strange blue fellow who was advertising the special “First Friday” event that appeared to be going on in the Riveria but that we never did figure out.
At least, one of us did.
Others of us didn’t not get in front of the camera, but also didn’t not opt to stay safely behind it at least most of the time.