I Drank Hot Buttered Cider

Update: The president of Big Bowl, Dan McGowen, just called me to apologize. I have to say, I’m impressed that he cares that much. Ironically, Dan told me that the chain doesn’t actually use butter in recipes, but for this one drink during the holidays, they bought some. He said that they realized after printing the special menu cards that “buttered” was left out of the title and are in the process of reprinting them. Servers and staff were made aware, and while he was happy that our server did know about the butter, he’s horrified that we didn’t discuss it until after I already drank some of the cider.

On the website’s FAQs. Dan said that he had always been told by family members and friends who were “vegetarians” that vegetarians just don’t eat meat, and that vegans don’t eat fish. I told him that I had heard that too, but that it is incorrect. A vegetarian does not eat meat of any kind whether that meat once came from a crawling, slithering, or swimming animal. He said he would look into this issue on the website.

In the end, I feel very good knowing that this company does respect eating preferences, and I feel comfortable eating there once again. They even use specially colored plates for patrons with dietary restrictions so that the chefs know to use different spoons so as not to co-mingle foods.

Big Bowl — Nice work. Tom and I will be back.


Original Post:

Yesterday Tom and I went to our favorite formerly favorite restaurant for lunch. Big Bowl is located about forty minutes away from us in a town called Reston. We don’t mind the drive because we love their fresh, local produce and homemade ginger ale.

Because we were cold from the rain we decided to try their seasonal Hot Spiced Rum and Cider (minus the rum and the whipped cream). I was mortified when after drinking about a third of the mug I figured out that there was butter in the cider. Butter!

Rather than explain further, I thought I’d share with you the letter I sent to the national chain’s email contact.

Good afternoon,

Big Bowl in Reston, VA has been my husband’s and my favorite restaurant since we discovered it last year. We live forty minutes away, and yet, as often as possible we drive out to Reston to eat there. Today we had an extremely disturbing experience.

As I mentioned to the server, we are both vegans — we do not eat any animal products including eggs and dairy (milk and butter). We do so for two reasons: 1) out of love and respect for other lives, and 2) for health reasons. You see, I have cancer — a rare and incurable form of cancer that should have had me spending my days doing chemotherapy or radiation therapy. But in the four years since my diagnosis and surgery to remove the primary tumor from my pancreas I have been healthier than ever. My doctors are certain that my fully plant-based diet is a large reason.

Today Tom and I ordered your Hot Spiced Rum and Cider but asked for virgin, without the rum, and without the whipped cream. All the other ingredients listed on the menu seemed safe for me to consume. When I began drinking the cider I noticed that there was an odd flavor and a shimmery substance on the top but at first didn’t think anything of it. Then I noticed that my lips and tongue felt greasy and I remembered the term “hot buttered rum.” I asked the waitress if the cider was made with butter and she said yes, they actually put some butter on the top of each mug.

Beyond the fact that I cannot fathom the need to put butter on top of an already flavorful drink, my husband and I are concerned about what other ingredients are not listed on your menu. The waitress took the cost of the cider off our bill, which I appreciated and thought appropriate, but we are not sure we can trust the food at Big Bowl anymore. I looked at the FAQs on your website and am concerned about your understanding of the word vegetarian. You state that you have a variety of seafood options for your vegetarian guests. Vegetarians do not eat fish. There are lacto-ovo-vegetarians who eat dairy and eggs, but no vegetarians eat fish. Following is a link to WebMD with an explanation of the vegetarian diet for your reference: http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/tc/vegetarian-diets-what-is-a-vegetarian

You can’t change the past, but I would hope that in the future you would include all ingredients, especially odd ones like butter on top of the mug of cider so that patrons like us do not leave as disappointed as we did today. I’m not sure we’ll feel confident enough about the ingredients in your food to return in the future. What a shame. We loved your restaurant.


Tracy Krulik

Moral to the story: Be careful when you eat out. You never know what insidious ingredient might be lurking in your food.

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One comment

  1. elissa stone says:

    so sorry that happened to you. our son has a peanut allergy and eating out is scary because people just don’t get it. glad they apologized!

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