Fear: traveling out of town for a funeral with Celiac Disease and Food Allergies.
In this blog post I share with you the story of my trip to Branford, CT for a funeral and the homework I did up front to find a safe place to eat so I could be with my family. Branford is a beautiful seaside New England town just north of New Haven off of Rt 95.
Usually, I would just not go out of town for a funeral for fear of getting sick when out of town. However, I really wanted to be there for my Aunt Teresa and say goodbye. Not only is she my mother’s sister, she is also my godmother and we were very close.
Last week, prior to leaving I did my homework and planned on packing a cooler with food and also trying out a restaurant I had been wanting to visit for a few years. I emailed ahead of time and they were very responsive, so I was hopeful about eating a meal while I was at my Aunt Teresa’s funeral. I packed the car and cooler and had five hours all to myself while driving up route 95.
I reflected on my Aunt Teresa’s life and what I have learned from her. I definitely shared her sense of humor and love of people and I also share her work ethic. They were great role models for me. Back in 1968 she and my late Uncle Len founded Lenny’s Indian Head Inn in the quaint seaside town of Branford, CT. How they did it with 3 kids; a 12 year old, a 6 year old and a 2 year old is beyond me! Teresa ran the kitchen with her incredible seafood recipes and Len ran the bar. They put everything they had into it and they struggled, they really struggled in the early years. My three cousins were working along side of them too. Long hours, six or seven days a week.
Soon they were winning awards in CT and in Boating and Yachting Magazine for their incredible food an casual atmosphere. I am so happy to have seen them enjoying their success in the later years. Whenever we came to visit, we went to the “Joint” as the family refers to Lenny’s. The whole family was always working and if we wanted to see them, we went to the Joint and chatted in between them waiting on customers. It became like a second home, we even got to know the employees.
The first call I would make when I was struggling with One Dish Cuisine was to my Aunt T. There was not a situation she had not been in before and she always said to me; “don’t give up if you have great food”. That was and still is great advice. I will miss talking and laughing with her on the phone.
However, I am very limited in what I can eat at the Joint because the place is full of gluten and there is no gluten or allergy free menu. That is where preparation comes in.
A few years ago I was coming through Branford to see my Aunt and cousins. I had heard about a new restaurant in the center of town called HOME Restaurant. However, they were closed for vacation and I could not stop in and check them out. This time, I emailed before my visit and they responded quickly. I felt very comfortable so the plan was to bring my cooler with my own food and stop in there for a meal or hopefully two meals.
I rolled into town at about 2:30 pm and I was greeted by Steve, the owner Jared’s father. I immediately felt comfortable chatting with him. The interior is very comfortable with a roaring fire going in the fireplace and it reminded me of someone’s home! Steve provided me with a gluten-free menu and we discussed how they keep items Gluten Free and how they will accommodate dairy free as well.
Steve told me that he has lived with a tree nut allergy all of his life, so it was no surprise that he gets it! They cut all of their own fries and have a dedicated fryer. The gluten free burger buns are also dairy free. I ordered their burger (minus the boursin cheese) with caramelized onions. He also discussed their procedures and how they prevent cross contact. However, there was still the disclaimer on the menu. Wow, is all I can say. What a great burger and the fries were fantastic too! I did not have a reaction or get sick.
Jared was busy working on the cooking line so I did not get to meet him. I told Steve that I would be back the next day, after the funeral, so I could pick up a meal to take back to Lenny’s for the reception. The next day I picked up fries and brussel sprouts and was able to head back to the Joint and sit with my family and have a meal. That was the best part, being with my family and actually eating with them too. What was even better is that I did not have to cook the food myself.
I learned a lot from this trip. There are people out there who take Celiac Disease and Food Allergies seriously. I realized that I miss way too much time with my family and that pre-planning goes a long way. Prepare by checking out AllergyEats, Allergy Free Passport, Gluten Free Passport, Gluten Free Travel Site and Find Me Gluten Free. Email the restaurant in advance and take a chance and go out and live! I am also in process of leaving a rating about Home on all of the apps too.
I got to spend time with my sisters and cousins, niece and nephews. We even took a bunch of group photos in front of the huge stone fireplace at Lenny’s. Everyone made it except for eight of the cousins. So in typical Irish fashion we got back at them for not being there by yelling out each of their names as photos were being taken of the rest of us. I am happy to report that “Maureen” was not one of the eight names being yelled out for being absent. Being with family and enjoying safe food; now that is what I call “living”.
Thanks to Aunt T and my cousins for being great role models when it comes to work ethic and persistence. Also a big thank you to Steve and Jared at Home Restaurant for taking care of me and making me feel right at home! I am ready to click my ruby red slippers together and be transported back to that burger and fries because there is no place like HOME Restaurant in Branford, CT!