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No nuts allowed at Carrol’s Creek Cafe

| February 13, 2019, 06:16 PM

Rams Head

Eating out has long been a source of concern for diners with nut allergies. Even choosing nut-free menu offerings does not guarantee that ingredients haven’t come in contact with nuts during their journey from processing facilities to preparation to table.

Carrol’s Creek Cafe, an icon of the Annapolis restaurant scene for 35 years, has taken a monumental step in addressing that issue. After months of planning, research, training and testing, its kitchen and menu recently passed the rigorous inspection process required to achieve the coveted nut-free certification from Kitchens with Confidence by MenuTrinfo, a national leader in auditing food service and processing facilities for allergens.

For Jeff Jacobs, whose family has owned the waterfront restaurant along Spa Creek since its founding, the decision to become nut-free was deeply personal. As the parent of a child with a severe nut allergy, he is acutely aware of the challenges that must be addressed when dining out. “Those suffering from nut allergies understand a safe environment is critical to their health,” he said. With information and advice from others impacted by nut allergies, as well as insight gained from the medical community, the longtime restaurateur made the business decision to transform Carrol’s Creek into that safe, nut-free environment.

“We believe we are the first fine dining restaurant in the region that can claim this distinction,” said Jacobs. “We know some independent fast-casual restaurants and even some national chains have moved in this direction, but fine dining options to date have been very limited – typically offering nut-free choices alongside regular menu items. We wanted to do more than simply accommodate our guests’ needs, we wanted to go the extra mile.”

That “extra mile” actually encompassed hundreds, if not thousands, of miles to ensure no nuts were encountered in the food chain. Jacobs, along with general manager Richard McClure, carefully reviewed the credentials and operations all provisioners to ensure upstream processing facilities were nut-free. In some cases, new suppliers had to be identified if it was found that products such as flour, milk or bread were produced alongside other items containing nuts. Kitchens with Confidence by MenuTrinfo, located in Fort Collins, Colorado, served as the restaurant’s consultant.

One of the most challenging assignments was to locate a new source of handcrafted ice cream that met the restaurant’s high standards. After discovering A La Mode in New York City, Jacobs convinced his food distributor to carry the product. “Not only is it completely nut-free, but it’s made in small batches for that homemade flavor and taste,” he said. “We were delighted to find it and are proud to serve it to our guests.”

Inside Carrol’s Creek, preparations got underway in early 2018 to take the steps necessary to attain certification. Every member of the management team and all of the restaurant’s chefs were required to pass the AllerTrain by MenuTrinfo training program. In addition, all staff members received allergy specific training. Strict procedures prohibiting workers from bringing in items containing nuts into the restaurant were implemented. Guidelines on how to mitigate potential cross-contamination from food products brought in by guests were also established.

Every square foot of the waterfront restaurant’s space – from its loading dock and food storage units to the kitchen’s food prep and cooking areas to the dining rooms – underwent a thorough, top-to bottom inspection and sanitization to remove any potential nut residue. At the same time, the chefs and management carefully planned the new menu in keeping with its long-established “new American cuisine” offerings from land and sea.

According to Jacobs, the transformation to the new menu was seamless to many frequent guests. Diners now see a mix of new dishes to choose from as well as nut-free adaptions of many popular items from the past. Among the many selections offered are grilled swordfish, Southwest shrimp salad, pan-seared scallops and a quinoa bowl. He reports both longtime and first-time guests are raving about the new menu.

The time invested to make the Carrol’s Creek the destination for a nut-free dining experience has already been validated as a wise business decision. When word of the upcoming transformation began to circulate, Jacobs started receiving calls and emails from those who were excited to finally have a fine dining option that is committed to their needs. Even more gratifying for Jacobs is the fact his son can now pick anything on the Carrol’s Creek menu.

Carrol’s Creek is located at 410 Severn Ave. in the Eastport neighborhood of Annapolis. Reservations can be made by calling 410.263.8102 or visiting www.carrolscreek.com.

Rams Head

Category: Businesses, LIFE IN THE AREA, Local News, NEWS, Post To FB

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