June 3, 2012

Eating Out with GERD: Tailoring Your Meals to Fit Your Guts

Brunch (and small portions!) at Superfine

I have been eating out more than usual, traveling, not rationing my caffeinated tea intake (it's been a tough month work-wise and life-wise).   Even so, my GERD symptoms are being managed -- the chronic "food in throat" feeling is minimal, and I have not experienced nausea, or regurgitation.   (I have noted a few cases of "stomach pain," however -- I'm not concerned about this yet.)   Overall, I feel better -- there are times when I have not been thinking about my GERD, and that's a great advance.


I keep praising the joys of small portions and eating mindfully as a way to a healthy, happy gut.     This strategy is especially useful when eating out, which can be a challenge for managing GERD.  A few weeks ago, J. and I went to Superfine, a Brooklyn "breakfast hot spot" known for its tasty, local-focused menu.  I was excited to try it, thinking it would be a gut-friendly experience because the restaurant stresses a "farm to table" approach -- nearly everything on the menu is "seasonal" and "local," which generally means 
1) food items similar to my home cooking, which is also seasonal/local, i.e. my gut is familiar with it;
2) ingredients that are whole/unprocessed; and
3) restaurants having an all-local/seasonal philosophy tend to be more mindful in their preparation/presentation than those using a "regular" mass market catalogue of ingredients.    
This often means smaller portion sizes: if ingredients are relatively more expensive, the restaurant is not going to pile on the costly heirloom vegetables.   But that's a plus!   Am I the only person who is happy when her plate arrives not packed with food?  Sometimes I literally lose my appetite when I receive an enormous portion in a restaurant -- the plate becomes a chore rather than a pleasure.   Local eating -- mindful preparation and presentation -- is what dining out should be -- a fun experience centered around food, even a little decadent (one of my friends tries to order "things I don't make at home" when she eats out).  In my experience, quality ingredients do make a difference -- you do get what you pay for!  (Though Superfine is, by NYC restaurants standards, "inexpensive.")

At Superfine, I ordered the "Eggs to Order" ($7.50) and J. and I split a side of polenta ($2.50).  For my eggs, I opted for two eggs over hard -- I've discovered I tolerate "plain" eggs better than scrambled or omelets, which can be filled with rich, hidden ingredients (milk, cream, butter, who knows?).  A boiled, poached or fried egg is closer to a "whole" unprocessed food.  My eggs came with a modest amount of home fries, a half cup of fruit, and a handful of seasonal lettuce, lightly dressed with a vinaigrette.   We also were served a small basket of bread -- a few slices of baguette each, and we each were provided a tiny half-slice of fennel-raisin bread.

Bread plate at Superfine

With small-batch, pastured "real" butter (that I did enjoy -- I will eat butter very occasionally), it was the perfect accompaniment.  Because the potato serving was not overwhelming, I was able to enjoy all of these sides without issues.   Remember to creatively split side dishes if you want to try something -- like our polenta, which would have been too much for one person, but splitting it provided us each with about 3-4 bites each.  Perfect!

Menu at Superfine

CAVEAT:  Just because it's "seasonal/local" does not mean it's automatically gut-friendly.  We once ate at a "seasonal" brunch place and ordered the scrambled eggs with sage.   The dish was a reasonable size but so rich with pastured eggs, small farmstead cheese, cream -- maybe my palate can't tolerate that much animal product at one sitting anymore? -- and by my last bite, I felt nauseous.  A few hours later, I became sick and spent the weekend throwing up.  Ugh.

BUT STILL:  While macrobiotic restaurants are perhaps the best choice for my cranky guts when eating out,  I frequently favor "locavore" or "farm to table" places over vegan/vegetarian places with their often much funky flavoring, fake meats, and overly processed dishes.  Granted, "farm to table" restaurants are often obsessed with "snout to tail" meat ingredients -- so that's a limiting factor -- but there are usually a few dishes on the menu that are vegetarian/vegan.   I guess I'm still waiting for my macrobiotic, vegan, farm to table restaurant to appear…!


Edible Brooklyn's article about Superfine

Local Harvest, an excellent online guide to organic and local food sources nationwide

Edible homepage for nationwide local-focused magazines about food/dining out

American Farm to Table Restaurant Guide

Blog by Amy Cotler, author of The Locavore Way

Ethicurean: Blog dedicated to food politics, and farm-to-table issues

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