if you have food intolerances, what is off-limits? do you deny yourself meals out to make life easier? do you handpick the restaurant every time, even if you're going with a group of people? do you study the menu ahead of time on the restaurant's website? it all depends on the severity of your intolerances, really. if you're like me, and it's not a life-or-death-or-at-least-the-emergency-room situation, then you can deal with substitutions and different foods touching your plate. it's no big deal to pick off a few pieces of parmesan from your salad - you'll live.
but i like to go out to eat - i enjoy trying different menu items, feeling inspired by a chef, sharing a night out with family and friends. there is always always always SOMETHING on the menu for me to try (unless it is one of those places with like 4 things on the menu, and you'll seriously piss off the chef if you try and change anything).
being soy-free is the most challenging when dining out. it pretty much eliminates any asian cuisine (but i've mentioned before that sushi and thai are always safe choices). this is a real shame, as most asian dishes are naturally dairy-free.
but one particular cuisine always eludes me, and that is pizza. it's true, pizza in its most basic form contains cheese. yet i've never had a problem at a pizza place. 9 times out of 10, they are happy to leave the cheese off. even better, they will offer goat's cheese instead.
last night, phil and i went out to dinner with my aunt and uncle at cambridge 1, a great little pizza place with only 13 pizzas to choose from. i decided i would only order a pizza if it didn't involve changing things around too much, as this seemed to be a place that uses really fresh, high-quality ingredients - it would be a shame to change something so carefully hand-picked as one of their beautiful pizzas.
luckily, the number 12 was perfect - spinach, artichoke hearts, chevre (goat's cheese), and slow roasted tomatoes. they prepare it on a beautiful rustic flatbread crust - and their full size pizzas are so huge that they are perfect for sharing. my uncle and i split the number 12 and it was just enough. of course, i made sure to ask the waiter if it came with any other cheese - he mentioned that it comes with parmesan and said it was no problem to leave that off - so i couldn't order "as is" after all! but still, a much easier experience than normal.
checking out a menu beforehand is helpful, but who has the time? i say, just go and enjoy your night out. if it means spending a few extra minutes reading the menu and asking your server some questions, oh well. your friends will understand. but never be put off by what type of restaurant it is. don't let that affect your whole evening.