Kosher Food in a Non-Kosher Restaurant
I have a dinner meeting in a non-kosher restaurant, but I read somewhere that Abigael's can prepare a meal on plastic and then you can bring it with you to the non-kosher restaurant. Anyone have any experience with doing this at Abigael's or with any other kosher restaurant? Thanks!
I've been in that situation many times, and although I never directly handled it, my work arranged to have food for me from levana. The food itself was good, although I have to admit that unwrapping all that plastic in the middle of a business dinner is not that fun.
Depending on the menu at the restaurant you are attending, one idea that eliminated the plastic wrap nightmare that has worked for me is ordering something that can be eaten cold. This eliminated the kashrut issue of plates and wrapping, and most restaurants will be willing to plate the food for you on their own china so that you can blend right in. I have had success doing this with sushi, and found this to be the most comfortable solution.
First, how does it work so that your food is actually hot when you eat it? I have to make the arrangments on my own, which could make this a little tricky. In terms of the sushi, did you just bring it yourself and then have them plate it for you? Only problem is that the place we're going is classic American food, so sushi could look kind of wierd.
re: Chulent Hound
A few months ago my parents were invited to a cousin's birthday party at a non-kosher restaurant. The restaurant manager was able to get meals from Le Marais-- on Le Marais' dishes and utensils double-wrapped and warmed in the non-kosher restaurant's oven. (Le Marais didn't want the plates back afterward, presumably because of kashrut issues)
re: Chulent Hound
When I managed the sushi situation, I had them deliver it to the restaurant, and just spoke to the manager on the phone. If the restaurant doesn't serve sushi,though, you probably want to stay away so you don't stick out like a sore thumb.
If you go with the hot food option, the kosher restaurant providing the food gives the food double wrapped with instructions for microwaving or heating in the oven, as appropriate. They will usually bring the food to your table with the wrappings on, so you can be assured that it was double wrapped while in the oven, and therefore, 100% kosher.
If you work through a place that has experience doing this before (ie, levana, abigael's) they know the ins and outs and can speak to the restaurant for you and manage all the details.
I had a double wrapped meal at a kosher restaurant one time. I called ahead and explained what I was doing, assuring the manager that I was excited to be at his restaurant but I just couldn't eat there.
When I came in I went into the kitchen (with the manager) and explained to the help what I wanted. Then I put the meal in the oven and asked them to bring it out to me with everyone else's food, on a piece of their china. I skipped the roll and it worked out pretty well. I tipped the kitchen manager nicely so they would know that I went out of their way for me.
All in all it was an okay experience. It was a little unconfortable, but not bad. You might also explain to your business people what is going on and why. I'm guessing they will do whatever possible to make you feel confortable.
Also, you could ask your Rav. Mine says it is okay to have a cold veggie salad (on their plates with their china, etc.) and soda/water when absolutely necessary (i.e. for business meetings like this one). You could bring a packet of salad dressing or just use olive oil.
I live in Cleveland and have had a lot of practice with this. There are no Kosher restaurants downtown. I work in a large accounting firm, and inside the company, we're always able to work things out. With clients/travel, it's all up to me!
The green salad with a squeeze of lemon on top is what I do in town for lunch. I usually eat something dairy (cheese stick, some broth) before I go, again, so I am not famished and deprived. There are a lot of impromptu team lunches out, and I don't want to miss career opportunities. If the lunch is catered,say for a meeting, we always can order in kosher.
Dinner outings: I make arrangements with the non-Kosher restaurant ahead of time- I speak to the catering manager or person who is arranging the meal. I have handy the menu of the place of choice and 2 options. I have an idea of the price of options for the meal that the non-Kosher restaurant will charge...and try to stay comparable. I provide them with the name of the person at the kosher restaurant, the name of the entree I want, and the price. I confirm that day (with the admin if it is she who is arranging dinner, or the restaurant if I am responsible).Here, the plate is covered, wrapped twice (ie. three total layers) and can be in a traif oven. Utensils are included, and the fanciest place in town gives you cheap but metal silverware. Be sure to also order dessert! Most places forget that you might also like to enjoy the same level of food as others.
In towns where there are no kosher restaurants (West Virginia, for example) I opt for the green salad and nothing else. People seem to be fascinated by my "diet willpower" in those cases. If I feel more comfortable,and it's not a first-time sales dinner or something, I might order an entree through noah's ark. They do a triple wrap process as well. This is important when it's more than an overnight trip - and eating cold food and vending hecksher is starting to feel like being on "Survivor"
The hardest part is not the logistics, it's having a nice way of sharing about yourself and then gently steering the conversation away from your kashrut observance to career/professional or "other personal" conversation!
Depending on the type of restaurant, they may have dealt with this before, so call ahead to see if they have arrangements with a specific caterer or restaurant.
When I've been in this situation, the restaurant or company/organization handling the dinner made the arrangements -- another caterer to try besides Abigael's, Levana and Le Marais is http://www.lougsiegel.com.
Echoing previous comments, the double-wrapped tape is virtually impossible to open -- I've had to improvise discreetly with the back of my earring -- not a fun situation to be in when you're in a professional setting!