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Special birthday dinner but on dairy free diet

One of my favorite times of the year is picking out a restaurant for my birthday dinner. This year I am on a dairy free diet, so I don't want to pick a restaurant just to find out that most of their dishes are loaded with cheese and butter. Can anyone recommend a special restaurant where some of the dishes are not dependent on cheese/butter/cream/milk? I enjoy ethnic and vegetarian dishes, although I am not strictly vegetarian.

My first choice is Craigie on Main (never been there). I also enjoy Oleana.

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Oleana
134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

Craigie on Main
853 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

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  1. My mother-in-law must avoid milk and we find it easiest to take her to Japanese restaurants. Oga in Natick is excellent and you can call ahead and get a private room. (It's often over-airconditioned, so bring a light sweater. Blue Ginger in Wellesley is great about accommodating food allergies and dietary restrictions. We've always had a good meal there, but I know others have not.

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    Blue Ginger
    583 Washington St., Wellesley, MA 02482

    6 Replies
    1. re: Isoldamay

      Good ideas! I have always wanted to try Blue Ginger because I have heard wonderful things, but then I look at the menu and I'm scared off. And I'm an adventurous eater! Maybe I should just go for it.

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      Blue Ginger
      583 Washington St., Wellesley, MA 02482

      1. re: Marisa23

        Finallly made a trek to Blue Ginger after all the hype we've heard here about how accommodating they were about food allergies. The sign of a place that knows food allergies to us, is one that makes you feel welcome, and treats you as normal as possible given the circumstances, and not like the red headed step child.

        We were a group comprised of celiac, gluten intolerant, and lactose intolerant who are very knowledgeable about what we can and can't eat, and who are unfortunately accustomed to knowing we can't really be too fussy or picky with the limited options we'll usually be able to order from. However at Blue Ginger, they made us feel so high maintenance.

        There were no special gluten free menus and most of the ingredients in the dishes were not listed, so hard to tell what was acceptable for the gluten free and dairy free. In order to figure out what you could eat, you had to keep pestering the wait staff, who were not very forthcoming, as to what was in each dish and can it be modified. What an ordeal! Then after all the effort, the food once it arrived was so disappointing regarding taste, and was ridiculously overpriced for what it was.

        Sorry Chowhounders, but you let us down on this one. Never going back.

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        Blue Ginger
        583 Washington St., Wellesley, MA 02482

        1. re: volleydolly

          Did you call ahead of time to let them know about your allergies? We've always done that when we bring our peanut-allergic son and other allergic people. I'm sorry you had a bad experience, but if you just show up with a complicated set of needs, it isn't reasonable to expect them to jump thru hoops.

          1. re: volleydolly

            You didn't get a Blue Ginger recommendation from me; I'm not such a fan.

            But I am surprised to hear this story, as they do have some renown for being accommodating to dietary restrictions. I would expect that with any fine-dining kitchen, it's important to call in advance.

            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

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            Blue Ginger
            583 Washington St., Wellesley, MA 02482

            1. re: MC Slim JB

              Isoldamay and mc slim,

              Sorry for the delayed response and thanks for the useful reminder about calling ahead. Admittedly this time we did not. Funny, because typically calling ahead is what I always recommend to others to see if a place can accommodate dietary restrictions.

              However in this case, we'd been hearing so much hype about Blue Ginger's reputation for accommodating food intolerances and gf. etc, that we didn't even think we would need to. Our fault we guess. But most places we have found with that rep, it seems it has never been necessary to call ahead, and/or they have special menus, and/or the servers are usually educated enough and well versed enough to give a few quick recommendations off the top of their head from the menu. Usually no big deal and pretty low maintenance.

              Unfortunately this was not how it went down at all, so perhaps just mismanaged expectations? However after the experience we had, I cant see any of us having a desire to return.

              We were there at a day and time where it wasn't busy too.

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              Blue Ginger
              583 Washington St., Wellesley, MA 02482

          2. re: Marisa23

            Their food is very accessible to western palates. If it's on the menu, order the three-vinegar shrimp, but ask for rice instead of the mashed potatoes they normally serve with it.

        2. Oleana would be a great choice.

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          Oleana
          134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

          1. I'm lactose-intolerant, but Bergamot was very good about removing cheese, warning me of dairy items, and even putting the cheese from my dishes onto a separate plate so my non-lactose intolerant bf could have it!

            However, all the desserts that day happened to contain dairy, and the portions are generally small, though very delectable.

            If there's a way to call ahead and ask about a dairy-free dessert, I'd do it--the food was really terrific.

            1. Erbaluce would be a good choice.

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              Erbaluce
              69 Church Street, Boston, MA 02116

              1. If you give them advance warning I'm sure Craigie would be able to accommodate you. Same with Ten Tables or T. W. Food, both of which I enjoy a lot.

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                Ten Tables
                5 Craigie Circle, Cambridge, MA 02138

                1. Last year on my birthday I was following a very strict "elimination" diet due to breastfeeding a a baby with early food intolerance. My husband called "Craigie on Main" a week in advance with a list of the avoided foods (I think I have blocked them all out...milk, soy, eggs, fish...) and I was treated to a wonderful 5 course meal in complete compliance with my diet. I had little choice on the courses, but it is similar if you do a chef's whim anyway. I was extremely thankful for their effort and they did mention how much they appreciated the fact I called ahead. If you haven't tried Criagie on Main, I would definitely do so!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: truro_ns

                    This is great to hear! The reason I am on a dairy free diet is because of my infant as well. I will be sure to call ahead of time.

                  2. Elephant Walk has a gluten free menu as well as vegetarian. Also, PF Changs has lots of gluten free/dairy free options.

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                    Elephant Walk
                    2067 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02140

                    1. Not sure these are always fancy enough for you, but if you stay in the Asian realm of things, you'll do fine. Most Asian's are are lactose-intolerant, so dairy - cow's milk - is rarely found in the food. Now soy, coconut, goat or even other varieties of milk may be used or seen in their cooking, if that is not a problem.

                      The one exception might be Indian. I don't know if paneer is typically made from cow's milk, but Indian food usually has plenty of non-dairy options as well.

                      1. What about sushi? Uni, Oiishi or Oya, then you wouldn't have to worry about altering much. Asian food in general is not known for their use of dairy, and wherever you go, I would recommend calling ahead also.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: suzysue2

                          i do not particularly like blue ginger and wonder whether it is a chow hound favorite?
                          that said, i found it ok.

                        2. I wanted to report back that I had one of my birthday dinners last night at Oleana. There were plenty of options for me that were dairy free. I enjoyed the fried mussels which had an almond milk topping. I chose the lamb chops entree. They were delicious. I was so happy to see that they had a dairy free dessert that was not sorbet! Usually I am unable to find any dairy free desserts at restaurants. Oleana had an almond cremolatta made out of amond milk. It was delicious and refreshing.

                          It was a great night. We did not have reservations, but did not have to wait to long to be seated on the outdoor patio. It was a perfect night!

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                          Oleana
                          134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139