16 November 2008


So there's this place not far from David's called Dinner Zen, which is one of those "we'll create a menu and do all the prep, you assemble it and cook it at home" franchises which managed to come up with a promotional gimmick that I swear was created with me in mind.

They now sell cupcakes (or did yesterday anyway) including a very yummy gluten-free chocolate one with chocolate frosting that tastes nearly exactly like the kind of Betty Crocker-style cupcakes that I love and they were willing to throw a little money to the Reston Community Players or the Elden Street Players or one of the local schools with theater programs.

Eat cupcake, give money to local community theater group. Win/win, right?

This is what my British friends would call an "information capture scheme" in that in order to throw a few pence to the local community theater, I had to give Dinner Zen my e-mail address. But if this results in my being able to get really good, rather than fine, chocolate GF cupcakes, I'd let them call me every half hour, so I happily gave them the info they wanted.

I bought two yummy cupcakes (one for me and one for Michael, who has baked loverly cookies for prett' near every DC-area community theater production over the last few years and deserves a treat. Then I nosed around the store for a bit, especially noticing the To-Go freezer near the door and thinking that could come in handy some night. I also was very busy hoping that the cupcakes were here to stay, not some fly-by-night, make me want them then take them away thing. Because that? Would be cruel.

I also moused around a bit on their website and was both encouraged and puzzled by the following from their FAQ:

We have food allergies in our family, can I still come in?

One of the great things about Dinner Zen is that you can customize meals the way you like them. Most people with allergies will have no problem in our store. Please tell us about your allergy concerns and we will help guide you to the best menu choices for your family. If somebody you will be serving food to is allergic to an ingredient, please choose another dish from the menu since we cannot be held responsible for allergic reactions.

I think this translates to "yes, but don't try to eat anything."

But did I mention that the cupcakes are very yummy?


Jolie @ Dinner Zen said...

Hi Leta-

Thanks for your nice post about the cupcakes! This is Jolie, the owner of Dinner Zen. I hope it is okay I post in response... if not, I won't be offended if you take it down.

The good news? The cupcakes are here to stay as long as people come looking for them. We're just getting started on this little journey and hope it is successful. Reston was "wanting" for a great gourmet cupcake shop.

Note: We don't currently plan to always offer gluten free cupcakes in the store, but wanted to show the breadth of what there is to order. If there is enough demand for the gluten free cakes, then we'll obviously make it a regular offering. Just between you, me and well anyone else who reads this, most folks didn't even notice that particular flavor was gluten free...and some came back for seconds.

As for the emails, those were actually collected by our friends at MallowDrama. At Dinner Zen we don't share our list with others,and they don't plan to share theirs. Not that we don't like or trust each other, but out of respect for our customers wishes. We have our own email distribution list and you are welcome to sign up for it on our homepage. It will include all things Dinner Zen- desserts to entrees, not just yummy cupcake news.

As to the question you had about the FAQ on food allergies- what it means is that we generally have dishes that are inherently free of ingredients that might be an issue for someone, and some that are pretty obviously out of the realm of possibility. E.G. If a dish has a thai peanut sauce, common sense would dictate that a person with a peanut allergy might want to steer clear of this b/c peanuts/peanut butter will most likely be at that recipe station. For folks who are highly sensitive, it's best to steer clear of the entire station instead of just opting to leave an ingredient out. For a lot of folks though, we can simply work with them to figure out alternative ingredients.

Sometimes it is best to state the obvious so that people don't pick dishes that can't be modified for their needs. Maybe that FAQ was too obvious or not too clear.

Thanks again...look forward to seeing you again.

Leta said...

Jolie ~

I'm delighted to get the comment and will definitely leave it up to provide info for anyone else.