Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fresh Choice -no longer my choice

Fresh Choice was an early favorite of mine when I first went gluten free although it's always been a love-hate relationship. In case you are not familiar this long time bay area chain, Fresh Choice is an all-you-can-eat salad, soup, potato, bread fruit, etc buffet - with most emphasis on the salad bar. Prior to having to eat gluten free I used to prefer Sweet Tomato's (same chain as Soup Plantation) due to their pizza and breads but after going gluten free I switched to Fresh Choice because Fresh Choice actually listed allergens for each dish - that and I could no longer eat the pizza or bread from Sweet Tomatoes. The labels were so helpful- but also frustrating because we started to get used to disappointment when something that was labeled gluten free had been contaminated by something sitting along it's perimeter. After filling out numerous surveys and even a chat with corporate we started to see some of the gluten free foods rearranged such that they were on the back row such that it would be difficult for neighboring dishes to contaminate it so we had high hopes that Fresh Choice would remain an option for us.

But last night I was glutened at the Sunnyvale Fresh Choice (the original store #1, no less) - fortunately I did not notice an actual reaction but I learned after just one bite of the chicken breast I had plucked from the gluten free chicken spot that the chicken was in the wrong spot -and it was teriyaki - with gluten in the soy sauce. Fortunately I had just nibbled on a very small piece I had broken up for  The Giggler but it was very traumatic - less for me and more because I had just given the Giggler some - and we wanted to wait until she was old enough such that blood screening tests could more accurately detect if gluten is an issue for her.

I know - as a member of the celiacbayarea group always says "eating out is risky" but what pushed me over the edge was the Fresh Choice manager's non-chelant reaction when we realized I had been glutened. What was her reaction? "Oh, you must have taken it from the wrong spot". Uh, NO.... people who have food sensitivities are very careful and in addition to reading the ingredients twice just to make sure, know I took the chicken from the gluten free spot. But both varieties looked nearly identical - including the parsley garnish, and they were not labeled. When the hubby and I suggested they make them look different and label them, the manager's response continued to be "you took it from the wrong spot".

So, farewell to Fresh Choice. I guess if I want a salad I'll stick to the BJ's Brewhouse Santa Fe salad, Spinach Salad from Amici's or make my own at home.