Tastemakers: Craving Something Different
The hardest part about Kate Markgraf’s pregnancy wasn’t labor. Or back pain. Or choosing a name.
It was lunch.
The hardest part about Kate Markgraf’s pregnancy wasn’t labor. Or back pain. Or choosing a name. It was lunch. “I couldn’t eat deli meat!” says the Beacon Hill resident, who, like most pregnant women, spent nine months avoiding nitrates, unprocessed cheeses, and fish with high mercury levels, such as mackerel and swordfish. A soccer star who’s played for the U.S. women’s team in two Olympics and two World Cups, Markgraf had to stay healthy for her baby and herself: The team expected her back in training a month after giving birth.
Six months into her term, while dining at the Langham Hotel’s Café Fleuri, Markgraf took a stand. “I decided pregnant women should be able to look at a menu and pick anything on it,” she says. She brought up her idea with chef Mark Sapienza, and Fleuri’s pregnancy menu was (forgive us) born.
Considering the dietary restrictions and pesky cravings she dealt with—chips and pizza in her first two trimesters, M&Ms in her last—Markgraf suggested dividing the menu into sweet and salty dishes, all of which would satisfy pregnancy nutrition requirements. The menu, available at lunch and dinner, debuts this month.
On the salty side, there’s a mustard-glazed salmon served with baked beans, which provides folic acid, omega-3 fats, and low-fat proteins. The aptly named Preggy Pizza, layered with tomato, mozzarella, asparagus, and grilled chicken, is packed with calcium—and flavor. For sweets there’s a granola and yogurt parfait and a chocolate sundae with vanilla bean yogurt “sorbet.” Soft cheeses such as Brie and Camembert, raw fish, smoked salmon, and radishes are banned. Oh, and the kitchen will add pickles to any dish at no charge.
“We can’t guess what every woman will want at any given time,” says Markgraf, now the proud mother of four-month-old son Keegan. Still, as she has proved, a little diner activism goes a long way toward satisfying the craving for a healthy meal.
Café Fleuri’s pregnancy menu may be one-of-a-kind, but many restaurants around the city cater to specialty diets, with chains such as Legal Sea Foods (legalseafoods.com) leading the charge. Legal offers a wheat-and-gluten-free menu for diners suffering from celiac disease, an intestinal disorder that causes the body to reject wheat, rye, and barley, among other grains. The menu offers variations on standard items: Salads come with gluten-free croutons, and calamari sautéed in gluten-free oil arrives with a cornmeal breading.
Boutique restaurants make adjustments, too. French-Cambodian eatery the Elephant Walk (elephantwalk.com) has gluten-free and vegan menus for lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch at its Cambridge, Brookline, and Waltham locations. And Blue Ginger’s Ming Tsai (ming.com) is an outspoken advocate for allergy-sensitive diners, accommodating these patrons as long as they notify the kitchen in advance. With the help of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, Tsai continues to push for legislation requiring restaurants to train servers and cooks about high-risk ingredients and common substitutions. —E.B.M.