Well, it appears there is one less safe place to eat in Portland. I sent Deschutes the followin comment in February. What follows is the email I received back, and my response. If you have comments about the changes they've made, please go to their website and comment.
2/27/2011 - I wrote this on their site:
Hi, I just wanted to write about my last two dining experiences at the Portland restaurant, and how disappointed I am. When I moved here 2 years ago I was thrilled to find you have gluten-free beer and a gluten free menu. At that time I was told that the gluten free foods were fried in a dedicated fryer, you had your own baker, and it seemed every precaution was being taken to provide safe food for those of us with no choice but to eat gluten-free. Now, sadly, I was glutened the last two times I visited, and won't be going back. On my last visit, the waiter pointed out that the food isn't called gluten free anymore, but gluten free 'friendly'. Sorry but what the heck does that mean when the foods are no longer cooked in a dedicated gf fryer? Is it not clear that cross contamination for us is just as devastating to our health as frying fries in peanut oil and giving them to someone with a peanut allergy? You might not have to dial 911 for us, but you are causing us weeks of symptoms, and potentially permanent damage to our digestive symptoms. My last visit will sadly be just that, as it has become clear to me that providing safe food for Celiacs is not the reason you have gluten-free beer or a 'gluten free friendly' menu, but to simply cater to people who are jumping on a bandwagon of low-gluten dieting, without it being a medical requirement. So very disappointing to see this happen to a place I loved and recomme nded to everyone I know.
I’m very sorry to hear that you had reactions on your last two visits to our Pub. I’m also sorry if we misled you about our gluten friendly program. In response to customer feedback when we opened, we created a menu featuring items that were not made with wheat or barley. Although, as a working brewpub with an on-site bakery, the air itself in our Pub contains wheat and barley dust. Knowing this, we never made a claim to be “gluten free” as it simply wasn’t possible given our environment. We educated our staff to explain this to our guests and printed the information on our gluten friendly menu. We have received a lot of positive response from people looking for a lower gluten diet, as well as Celiacs who apparently have a milder case than yours. Again, I am sorry if we inadvertently caused you discomfort. It was certainly not our intention and I will make sure we redouble our efforts to make sure our staff is communicating effectively with our guests that have food allergies going forward.
To which I have sent following reply:
Thanks for your reply. I'm disappointed with your response though.
I have never had a problem in your place when I just come to have a beverage, so the air itself isn't an issue for me. Nor has it ever been in any place that bakes or brews, like pizzarias or other breweries - where of course I can't dine, but where friends and family like to go, so I join them without eating. And I'm fine. Most celiacs are fine in places like that. It's a misconception that places that use flour aren't safe for us. If surfaces are cleaned before use, we're fine.
When I first tried your restaurant about 2 years ago, I was told the chicken wings and french fries were cooked in fryers that weren't shared with items containing wheat. Now there is a note on the menu, which was pointed out to me on our last visit. Why the change? There are plenty of naturally gluten free items on your fried menu that could all be done in one segregated fryer, which is what I was told used to be done, and isn't anymore. I ate there without trouble before, several times. It was only on the last two visits that I was sickened, and on the last that the waiter pointed out the new notation. It seems apparent that something has changed, and talking to the rest of the gluten free community online and in person, they also note that it is different than it was before.
I think it is also worth noting that while many people with Celiac may not be having immediate symptoms, serving them 'low gluten' food is essentially poisoning them. While I have immediate reactions, they may not but you are still damaging their bodies, and putting them at risk for cancer and potentially life threatening auto immune diseases. I'm saddened and disturbed that you find this acceptable.
Your response tells me that Deschutes isn't really trying to serve the gluten free community, but jumping on the gluten free bandwagon in a way that is misleading and potentially dangerous to your customers. How is your response to this issue any different than having a low-peanut menu for folks with peanut allergies, or a low-shrimp menu for the shellfish averse?
It's just not that hard to accommodate this diet, and your establishment did it before, so why can't they do it again? The air is not the problem. The fact that the kitchen isn't taking care to segregate gluten free items is the problem, and not an insurmountable one were it a priority.
There you have it. It would be great if you would pass the word along, and go over to their site and let them know that this isn't acceptable. Thanks!