There is a part of me that does not want to give into the whole American Girl doll thing. Let's be honest, this is a "hobby" that should come with a savings account (sort of like a college fund). There is no end to the amount of money that can be spent on the dolls, the accessories, the books, the clothes and on and on. We happen to live in Los Angeles where there is a giant American Girl store smack dab in the middle of one of the city's most popular gathering destinations, the Grove. For four years, I have walked past this store with my head down or turned in the opposite direction. Not wanting to acknowledge its presence. "Some day, maybe," I thought. I looked at the parade of little girls with their matching dolls and matching outfits and matching hair styles and matching smiles and imagined that I would have years before Ella would even inquire about what was going on. She is so little and THOSE girls seemed so old. Boy, was I wrong. It seemed like overnight, but before I knew it, she was hooked. For the past few months she has been begging us for a doll. (Um, the kid has never shown any interest in ANY doll and then all of a sudden she was asking for the creme de la creme of dolls. Ugggghhhh!)
And then my sister mentioned that she would be taking my niece to their cafe and wanted to know if Ella and I would like to tag along. My response was the same as it always is, "Um, maybe. Not sure what they will have for Ella to eat." So I went online and checked out their menu. It looked like there were a few things so I told my sister that we would give it a try. She called for a reservation and they asked, "Are there any food allergies?" So my sister mentioned the wheat and nuts. And they said, "No problem." That was a peculiar response and both she and I were uncertain about what it meant.
When the day arrived, Ella was buzzing around the house. She did not have a doll but we had been told that she could borrow a loaner doll at the restaurant to dine with her. When we arrived to the cafe, the girls were bouncing all over the place. The dining room was adorable. Everything was pink, white and black. It all felt like out of a fantastical dream. The waitress brought our menus and to my great surprise, Ella had been handed a gluten-free menu. And the options were like nothing I had ever seen at a restaurant. The three course meal started with blueberry muffins. WHEAT AND GLUTEN FREE BLUEBERRY MUFFINS!!!! Next came the main course, of Ella's choosing... hamburger stars with buns made from rice flour and a fruit kabob. The dessert was raspberry sorbet and a GF cookie from Nana's. In the time that we have known about Ella's allergies, I can honestly say that I have not seen her that happy. She was practically levitating. It was every little girls dream world and she was a part of it!
The next day, I returned to the cafe to see if I could get a copy of their menu. The hostess was so wonderful and helpful. She told me, "We want everyone to have the same experience at American Girl, regardless of their circumstances." All of their foods are peanut and tree nut free. They also offer egg and dairy free menus as well as an entire vegetarian menu. And all three courses are only $24, which is remarkable, considering what you get for the price. My heart is so full of love for this company. I am a former skeptic who is happily surprised to have found something so special. From what I was told, they have cafes in New York and Chicago which offer similar menu options. If you happen to be near one or know of someone who might be able to visit, I strongly suggest that you give them a try. They have earned a gold star in my book!
Oh, and about that doll... she received her first one (a Bitty Baby) on Friday for the first night of Hanukkah. That child almost lost her mind. And since we are a multi-cultured family, she will also be receiving one from my Mom at Christmas time. And with it, tons of clothes and accessories to go with them. What can I do? I am a soft target!
American Girl Cafe at the Grove