"http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Review Rendezvous: A Beef with Dairy

Review Rendezvous

_________________________________________________________ Where the chic come to critique.

24 April 2007

A Beef with Dairy

Over a plate of hot buttered chicken and macaroni and cheese I lost my love for dining out. My temperature rises as I sit at the table, my half-eaten dinner in front of me. There is sweat beading at my temples and I press my wrists against a glass of ice water to relieve the heat. My stomach joins the dinner conversation with rumbles and gurgles.

I want to die, but only explode in an array of gastrointestinal pyrotechnics that would rival a New Year’s fireworks show in intensity. I am lactose intolerant.

Lactose intolerance is the inability to process the major sugar found in milk because of a lactase enzyme deficiency. Without the enzyme, lactose goes to the small intestines, where bacteria break it down, causing a build up of gas that leads to every embarrassing sound a human can generate.

Every person produces lactose until they are 5 to 7 years old, when levels start declining. Many people can drink milk with no problems; others experience discomfort and use lactase supplements to break down the sugar.

Then there are people like me, who get sick with even the slightest amount of dairy. It is terrifying going out to eat, not knowing if there is anything without milk or if I will eat it if it does not. Even after seemingly innocuous food there is uncomfortable shifting in my chair, waiting for a feeling that may or may not come.

Lactose intolerance demands that careful attention be paid to the ingredients of food, sometimes sacrificing taste for safety. Though it is difficult to have several delicious courses in one place, a progressive dinner can translate legwork into the perfect meal.

I want to die, but only explode in an array of gastrointestinal pyrotechnics that would rival a New Year’s fireworks show in intensity. I am lactose intolerant.

Mama’s Boy boasts “southern fun dining,” which to me generally means deep-fried and slathered with butter. The interior is painted aqua blue, pulling a color from the wallpapered accent wall. Large windows with airy, white curtains brighten the room.

I watch my friends devour the square, flaky biscuits brought to our table with poppy seed butter on the side, lusting with every bite. In many southern restaurants I am restricted to uncooked, unappealing side vegetables, but Mama’s Boy makes an effort to accommodate food allergies.

My Mama’s Boy Salad comes with slices of pear fanned across the top. The fruit is infused with balsamic vinaigrette wherever it touches the mixed greens below. The plate is punctuated with bursts of magenta from tangy dried cranberries. They counter the crispness of the lettuce with chewy. Pumpkin seeds add a nutty flavor to the mix.

The salad uses the contradicting flavors to form a rich taste not found in side salads with no cheese, no croutons and oil and vinegar dressing. Blackened tofu can be added to the salad, its smoky spring further deepening the taste.

Breading and milk are often utilized to create batter for fried dishes. At the East West Bistro, a fusion of Asian and Italian cuisine results in dishes with unique preparations. Asian food is convenient for the lactose intolerant because dairy is not used often.

The Fish Tempura and Chips lightly batters the catch of the day and fries it to perfection. My trout has a crispy outside crunching into a soft, hot center. The bed of baby spinach becomes soggy from the heat, but is soaked in the lemon and malt vinegar that I put on the fish. Onion rings cooked in the same batter as the trout serve as garnish.

Without butter and sour cream baked potatoes are dry. Most mashed potatoes are made with dairy or from a mix that contains whey. The East West Bistro French fries are russet colored and lightly seasoned, using the natural taste of the potato.

Conventional restaurant dessert lists feature cheesecake, ice cream and mousse, all food that would incapacitate any lactose intolerant. Hot Corner Coffee, located on the corner of Washington and Hull streets, has creamy coffees and sweet desserts to tempt even the most lactase-deficient.

Frozen coffee drinks made from a mix contain milk. But, by replacing regular milk with soymilk, many coffee drinks can be enjoyed hot or on ice. The soy vanilla latte uses steamed soymilk to counter espresso. A shot of vanilla syrup covers the nutty flavor from the soy and adds sweetness.

The best lactose-free product at Hot Corner is delivered from Big City Bread daily: vegan oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.

Hard crust gives way to oats surrounded by soft, grainy dough. Brown sugar and cinnamon spice the cookies. The chocolate chips are slightly melted even when at room temperature. The cookie is perfect.

Lactose intolerance is difficult, but manageable. While some meals are disappointing, watching friends eating buttery pasta dishes, there are options available at many restaurants.

Mama’s Boy is located at 940 Oak Street, Athens, Ga. (706) 548-6249
East West Bistro is located at 51 E. Broad St., Athens, Georgia (706) 546-4240
Hot Corner Coffee is located at 269 N Hull St. (706) 955-0622

-Sarah Sapinski


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