It was a Feast!

As I sit down to write this blog post, my stomach has started to rumble and I am salivating just thinking about what I’m about to share.

           

Almost after a year FEAST opened its doors, I finally made it down to load up on their delicious food.

FEAST is located at 881 Queen St. W and is heaven on earth for those with various food allergies/intolerances. Wendy and Neil opened their shop in summer 2014 after they were both challenged with having to adapt to food allergies and sensitivities. Wendy and Neil said “love at first bite was very hard to find, so we set out to change that for ourselves.” Thank goodness they did because after savouring their meet pies and donuts, I couldn’t believe I was eating something that was free from all common allergens, including gluten, nuts and dairy.

Photo credit: The Toronto Star, Michele Henry
FEAST ensures all of their ingredients and products have not been cross contaminated with the distributor or manufacturer, they also train their staff on BASICS Allergen Training for the Foodservice and Food Retail Industry program, which was developed by Anaphylaxis Canada and TrainCan INc. Staff have to sign an agreement stating they won’t bring any gluten or the top eight allergens into the store for consumption. All they do and practice is very reassuring for those will allergies – whether severe or mild.
I loved how every item on display was paired with an ingredient card and Wendy was able to verify if any other ingredients had been used or not. My mom came along with me to FEAST after we were at a wedding show downtown (yup, I’m getting married!) and she is very allergic to garlic. Fortunately there were a few items that were totally garlic free – it made my mom’s experience just as tasty as mine.
Since I had been waiting to try FEAST for months, I stocked up on a few items to try later. There was no way I could have picked between the three donuts! I’m glad I did, because each one was just as good as the next.
For lunch, my mom and I both had The Beefeater pocket pie pastry and the Tropical Caramel chocolate. I was so happy with what I was eating that I didn’t even want to socialize. I hadn’t had a pastry in years! The pocket pie was warm and savoury with the perfect crisp around the edges. The meat wasn’t an overpowering taste, as I was able to taste the parsnips and tarragon as well. Mmm, so delicious! I enjoyed the Jerk Chicken pocket pie pastry the next day and it was just as good. It wasn’t spicy and I could taste all of the various spices…so delicious. A few weeks later I went back and tried the Vegan Curried Black Bean. These are the best gluten-free creations…my stomach is rumbling thinking about them! My mom, who can eat gluten loved them just as much as I. She couldn’t tell it was gluten-free and she usually can taste the difference…now that says a lot!

For dessert I had a couple of the chocolates. The Tropical Caramel, which tasted exactly as it sounds and I ate the Cherry Bomb later on in the day. Both chocolates were decadent and satisfying. Not too sweet and the flavours within the chocolates were very easy to taste.
FEAST doesn’t just sell their in-house baked goods, they also carry a wide variety of allergen-friendly products. Most notably, my favourite granola bars (which are very difficult to find) – ‘No Nuttin’ by Libre Naturals. They remind me of Quaker Oat Chewy Bars.
 
Enjoying lunch on a beautiful day. The seating looks out onto Trinity Bellwoods Park. 

 

Look at all of FEAST’s acknowledgements and features. Zoomer, Toronto Star, Toronto Life – very exciting! 

 

Last, but certainly not least, the donut trio. Mmmm. The picture says enough doesn’t it? Can you believe these are gluten-free, dairy and nut free?
OK – top to bottom: 
On Top of Coconut Mountain Donut: Vanilla cake donut with chocolate glaze and toasted organic coconut chips. YUM. 
Cinnamon Sugar Sprinkle Donut: Vanilla cake donut with organic cane sugar and cinnamon. Although hard to choose…this was my favourite out of them all. 
Triple Chocolate Love Donut: Chocolate cake donut with salted chocolate glaze and raw organic cocoa nibs. I certainly fell in love. 
 
If you live in Toronto (or the GTA) and haven’t yet been to FEAST…go! It’s unbelievably good (you’ll have to taste it to understand) and also reasonably priced. Whether you have allergies or not, this is the place to check out in the Queen West area. I can’t wait to go back, if only FEAST was closer!

Gluten Free London & Paris

My family and I just came back from a wonderful two-week trip to London, England and Paris. We did so much walking and saw so many touristy attractions, it was great! When we first decided we were going, I was hesitant to whether there would be many gluten free options, or if I would just have to eat grilled chicken, veggies and salad for two weeks. However, once I started researching, I found so many restaurants that were either strictly gluten free, or that had gluten free alternatives. It relieved my stress that I had about finding gluten free friendly food.

I had read a lot of different gluten free travel sites to get ideas on where to eat here and there, however I found a lot of places on my own, and discovered new and helpful tips on how to travel abroad with a gluten allergy.

Gluten free on the plane: We flew with Air Canada, and when we purchased our tickets we were able to specify whether we had any allergies. Fortunately I was able to check off ‘Gluten-Free’! To be honest though, I do not get hungry the slightest bit when I fly, so I didn’t really have an appetite once my gluten free meal arrived. I was impressed though. It was chicken chimichurri with herb roasted potatoes, a cookie and bun from Patsy Pie and a little thing of coleslaw. I tucked the Patsy Pie cookie and bun for later as a snack, it was delicious. Once we got across the Atlantic Ocean, and it was now breakfast time in London, they came around and gave us all muffins, carrot for the non-gluten-free’ers and an Apple Cinnamon Patsy Pie muffin. It was actually very delicious and so moist! It didn’t even really taste gluten free. On our way back to Canada, the meal was pretty similar, but the bun was a no-name gluten free brand that tasted like saw dust…I wasn’t too impressed.

Gluten free on the go: Lots of walking and sightseeing definitely makes you hungry, and it wasn’t very easy to find an easy gluten free snack everywhere we went. So, I had packed Enerjive Skinny crackers in my suitcase to bring with me from Toronto. They are healthy quinoa crackers with a low glycemic index and filled with good seeds and grains (they are also free of refined sugars and low in sodium)!. I found that eating a couple (with a cup of tea) mid morning and mid afternoon helped me stay satiated until lunch or dinner came around. I would just stick a couple in a plastic baggy and tuck them away in my purse. They are flat, so they take up the least bit of room.

Enerjive by the London Eye!

Gluten free lunches: In both London and Paris, it was pretty easy to eat a gluten free lunch, as a protein packed salad is almost always gluten free and on most menus. In London I had a Cobb salad once, with olive oil as the dressing, and in Paris I had a lot of Parisian Salads, which consists of country ham (prociutto), emmetnal or swiss cheese, tomato, onion and the odd cucumber (with lettuce of course). In Paris there was one exclusively gluten free restaurant, called NoGlu. It was really cool to be able to pick anything off the menu without any hesitation. The restauarant has only been in operation for 7 months, and there were many delicious meals on the menu, including items such as a quinoa salad, salmon with a potato dish, and a Parisian club sandwich – which consisted of procuitto, swiss cheese and caramelized onions…it was declicious. They also had cookies, muffins, and other pastries on their menu – I was much too full to indulge though. I should also mention that the bread is homemade and they even bring a gluten free bread basket, it was so fun!

On days where I knew that gluten free options would be hard to come by (ie – museums/castles) I would pack a couple slices of gf bread or gf oatmeal to go. When we went to The Tower of London, I picked up a banana, yogurt and then hot water for my gf oatmeal. It wasn’t the most delicious lunch, but it kept me satisfied until afternoon tea or dinner came around. Same went for Hampton Court – there were no options that I could eat – luckily I had a couple slices of bread in my purse, so I bought some cheese and a banana, which accompanied my bread.

In London we ate at Pizza Express, which had gluten free crust! Although the gluten free pizza sounded delicious, the antipasto plate caught my eye, and it too was gluten free. At Pizza Express they list beside each item what is gluten free, vegetarian and what items contain nuts. In Covent Gardens there was a restaurant near the theatre district called PJs Grill, it also offered gluten free options, like bunless burgers, steaks and salads. I had a COBB Salad, it was delicious!

Gluten free snacks: In a lot of the art galleries and museums in London, there were a few gluten free options for treats. Such as the National Art Gallery which had a gluten free chocolate cake. You can also go for high tea at Fortnum & Masons, Browns Hotel, Claridges Hotel, and the British Museum. That was one thing I really wanted to do, but it costs around £50 for tea, tea sandwiches and cakes…which I found very pricey! The grocery stores, such as Waitrose, had a ‘free from’ section, which had gluten free breads, cereals and even tea cookies (like custard filled and digestive cookies)! I tried Genius bread when I was there and I honestly almost cried – it tasted exactly like “regular” gluten bread. The slices were huge and the consistency was soft and chewy…it was so amazing. Genius…come to Canada!!! Wimbledon was my favourite spot in London, I am a huge tennis fan and have wanted to go for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately the tournament isn’t until late June, but seeing Centre Court and the museum was just as awesome. We even had strawberries and cream there – and those are most definitely gluten free.

Gluten free dinners: In both London and Paris we rented flats, which were both equipped with kitchens. Some days we would pick up a roast chicken and salads so that we could just eat in. It was great after a long day of touring, and also a secure way of knowing that what I was eating was gluten free.

My favourite dinner in London would have to be the gluten free fish and chips! I was so excited to find a restaurant that had that gluten free option. It was my first fish and chips in a very long time, about 7 years! The restaruant is called The Grill on Leicester Square. It had a few gluten free options, but obviously the fish and chips grabbed my interest. It was absolutely delicious – crunchy, flaky, and oh so good! The mushy peas were good too! In Paris, steak and frites (fries) is always an option, except you really can’t eat it too many times, it’s so heavy. Just make sure that the fries are fried in a separate deep fryer, avoiding cross contamination. In London they also have the restaurant Wagamama, which is an international Japanese restaurant chain. They are able to make most items gluten free, and some of the menu items are naturally gluten free. It’s a tasty restaurant but extremely casual and more of a lunch place than dinner place.

Grocery stores: Lucky enough, Paris and London both had many gluten free options at grocery stores. We were able to find breads, cereal, crackers and cookies…Paris even had gluten free croissants at a small supermarket, but I had enough food to finish in our 5 days that we stayed. 
If you would like to learn about more gluten free options in London, I found this website to be very helpful: Adventures of a Gluten Free Globetrekker
For Paris, the website Gluten Free Mom helped me out a lot! 
My worry of not being able to find gluten free friendly meals while traveling was put to rest. Canada is definitely not the only country who has people who suffer from gluten allergies; it is all over the world and countries such as England and France have also jumped on the bandwagon and are popping up with alternatives all over the place. I didn’t find it hard at all! 

Gluten Free in Sudbury

This past weekend I visited my good friend in Sudbury, Ontario. It was so nice to have a girls weekend together; chatting, shopping and exploring her hometown that I had never visited before. She had told me that the weekend was going to include many food adventures, and I was happy for that! Of course the restaurants we ate at were either gluten free or had gluten free options.

The Laughing Buddha was the restaurant we went to on Friday evening. It is a casual, intimate spot, with wooden tables and chairs. The menu includes items such as sandwiches, pizza, salads and different dips and bites for appetizers. I loved the assortment of different pizzas, however it made it difficult to choose which one I wanted! The pizzas had a gluten free crust option for an additional $1.77, so of course I opted for that. I had the ‘Llama Rama’ pizza, which included: ham, pepperoni, bacon, red onion, green pepper, mushroom, mozzarella and cheddar. The crust was a thin crust, so it made it easier for me to eat the whole plate of pizza…I was so hungry! I really enjoyed my meal at The Laughing Buddha. The service was pretty good, and there wasn’t a long wait to get our food. The pizza was still piping hot once it came to the table and I loved the amount of meat they put on the pizza, there was a hefty amount of toppings. I also liked how fresh everything tasted on the pizza, the veggies seemed freshly sliced, and the bacon on the pizza tasted very fresh (not that packaged crumbly bacon). With my pizza I sipped on a margarita…which was delicious, and the price was amazing – $4. If you’re a beer connoisseur (and not allergic to gluten), this is the place to go, they have a very large beer menu, from beers all around the world. I did wish they had a gluten free beer option though!

I forgot to snap a photo before I dug in…

On Saturday night we went to The Hour Glass Restaurant & Lounge. As soon as I stepped into the restaurant I knew I would love it. I know you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but I did, and luckily my judgement was correct. I loved the decor and atmosphere of this little restaurant. There was a mix of new and old, with brick and funky artwork. What came next was even better…a complete dedicated gluten free menu. Every menu item had the alternative to be made gluten free, even the battered fish and chips. I ended up ordering the ‘P.L.T’, a spin off of the good ol’ B.L.T, made with prosciutto instead of bacon. It was really delicious and I believe it was made on O’Dough’s bread. I had a side caesar salad with my sandwich, and I’d have to say it was probably one of the best caesar salads I’ve had. The lettuce had the right amount of dressing, with a perfect balance of tangy and sweet. The cheese was freshly grated parmesan, on top of the salad was a single piece of crispy bacon, and within the salad were these enormous salty capers, it was just delicious. I really wish I had room for dessert, because all of the dessert items were made in house and were gluten free, such as cheesecake (*drool), tiramisu, and a pecan brownie sundae. Typing these desserts is stirring up a huge sweets craving! I really wish The Hour Glass was in Toronto, but I guess I’ll just have to visit Sudbury again and come with a bigger appetite.

On Sunday we were going to visit Crumbz Bakery, a dedicated gluten free bakery. However, it was unfortunately closed for the day. I think I would have been very indecisive if we had gone though, because the assortment of baked goods sounds crazy…coffee cake, butter tarts, stuffed cookies, cinnamon buns, pies…oh my…Check out there website, it sounds amazingly delicious – I can’t wait to visit the next time I’m in Sudbury.

So, if you were thinking of travelling to Sudbury and you have a gluten allergy, there are enough gluten free restaurants to visit!

Thank you Sudbury for providing a great gluten free adventure!

Out for a winter walk on the boardwalk along Ramsey Lake.

Gluten Free Boston

At the end of August my family took a little trip to Boston. It was a great time, we saw a lot by walking around but also taking the subway to different spots – such as Harvard Square and the New England Aquarium. I loved how green and beautiful Boston was, it was also very gluten free friendly! I did do my research before we went, to see what restaurants were gluten free and which ones had gluten free menus.  
The first day we arrived in Boston, we took the subway to Quincy Market and found the restaurant Wagamama, as I read online that it had gluten free items. The menu itself did not indicate what items were gluten free, but the waiter was knowledgable in telling us what was gluten free and what dishes could be substituted for rice noodles, etc. I ordered a dish called ‘yasai cha han’ – it was a brown rice bowl with egg (which I omitted), squash, peas, corn, tofu and mushrooms. It was so delicious. The ingredients were fresh and the tofu had an amazing taste to it. I definitely want to try to recreate this dish. I would recommend this restaurant to anybody with an allergy, they were very accommodating with my mom and sister’s garlic allergy, my gluten allergy and egg intolerance. 
The first night we went to a little Mexican restaurant called Zocalo, located at 35 Stanhope St. I thought that it would for sure be gluten free, as most authentic Mexican food has corn tortillas instead of flour. However, most of the menu items were not with corn tortillas and they were not able to substitute them in (I found that odd). I found that the staff were not very familiar with what a gluten allergy was, although they did have gluten free beer (New Grist) on their menu, but it was all sold out. I ordered the ‘Enchilada de Pollo’ – pulled chicken in three corn tortillas with ranchera sauce, mexican rice and black beans. The actual chicken in the tortilla was really delicious, but the ranchera sauce was extremely spicy! My mouth felt raw and burnt after I finished my meal, but the black beans seemed to help calm down the spice (so did the margarita!). I am sure any spice fanatic would have loved the meal, but I am just not a fan of exceptionally spicy food. All in all I thought Zocalo was a decent ‘hole-in-the-wall’ Mexican restaurant. I would recommend it those who are looking to go for appetizers and margaritas, as there are more gluten free appetizer options than entrees. 
The second day we found the restaurant Uno Chicago Grill, I had also heard about this restaurant online. They are known for their gluten free pizzas. I loved the fact that they had an extensive gluten free menu that not only listed what was gluten free on the “normal” menu, but also had specific gluten free items – like the gluten free thin crust pizzas. There was also gluten free beer and cider on the drink menu, but I decided to stay clear from any alcoholic beverages, as it was only noon and beer at lunch makes me sleepy. I of course ordered a pizza, the gluten free veggie thin crust pizza. It was delicious and huge! It tasted like the crust was made in house, and the veggies all seemed very fresh. I’m pretty sure I dusted off most of the pizza, there were only a few slices remaining once the bill came our way. Though the food was delicious, the service was terrible. It was so bad that it got my family laughing. Of course not all Uno’s will have the same service, so I would highly recommend this gluten free friendly restaurant. 

For dinner on the second day we ventured over to P.F Changs. It was our first time ever going, and we had heard so many wonderful things about it. P.F Changs was yummy…but it wasn’t as magnificent as it was built up to be. I did find it easy and comforting to have a full on gluten free menu, and it was neat to have gluten free soy sauce at a restaurant (that was a first), but the portions of the meals were a huge set back. I ordered the gluten free fried rice, it was delicious but it was a portion for 4, maybe 6 people. I could only eat so much. My parents and sister enjoyed their meals, but said it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary when it comes to Chinese Food. If you are a huge diehard Chinese food fan and you have a gluten allergy, then yes, by all means I would recommend heading to P.F Changs, but if you have other gluten free restaurants that you are yearning to try, go to those first. 

I have to say that my best gluten free food moment was our last night in Boston. We were lucky enough to visit Fenway Park for a Red Sox vs. Angels game. It was so fun and an experience I will never forget! I love going to ball games, but I hate not being able to order “ball game food”, such as hot dogs and beer. Fenway Park knows how to accomodate for both gluten eaters and non gluten eaters. Their menu indicates what is gluten free, and lucky enough, they have a gluten free hot dog option. I was able to order a gluten free hotdog with a side of fries and eat my hot dog with a huge smile across my face without my stomach hurting later! I haven’t had a hot dog in years, it was so worth the wait to be able to enjoy a gf hot dog while watching a baseball game. So, if you’re gluten free and looking for a gluten free baseball experience, Fenway Park is the place to go! 
This picture does not do it justice. The bun was chewy and moist!!

I was very impressed by the amount of gluten free restaurants and gluten free menus that Boston offered. There were so many other restaurants I wanted to try (I had a huge list) – so maybe one day I will go back and discover all that Boston has to offer gluten free! 
Have you been to Boston? Have you stumbled across some delicious gluten free restaurants? I would love to hear! 

Restaurant Review: Riz

 
Riz: a pan asian cuisine restaurant, located on 1677 Bayview Ave, Toronto. The decor is very lovely, white table cloths, funky wallpaper and a combination of booths and tables. The staff are very busy greeting the constant flow of customers, but are able to balance taking orders and serving tables. The menu is very extensive with a lot to offer, but what’s great is that they have a whole separate gluten free menu. The gluten free menu is not just a 1 page, 10 item list; it is as vast as the regular menu, with 4-5 pages of an assortment of options. The gluten free menu and “regular” menu are very similar, however there are certain dishes that have been revamped into a gluten free friendly alternative. 

 
For appetizers we started off with fried calamari and chicken noodle soup (gluten free of course). The calamari was probably battered in a rice flour, but according to my sister tasted just like wheat battered calamari. It was crunchy and had the perfect ratio of batter to calamari. The calamari wasn’t over cooked, and was the perfect consistency. 
 
I love how the plates indicate that it is gluten free. 

The chicken noodle soup had a very asian twist to it. The noodles were rice noodles, the chicken was poached and the vegetables consisted of bok choy and mushrooms. The broth was very tasty, with a hint of garlic, lemongrass, and cilantro. It was very warming and tasted much like a comfort food. The one downside to the dish was the size, it would have been much better if it came in a larger bowl.
 
The fresh salad mango rolls (rice paper rolls) were light and refreshing. They were the perfect size and the dipping sauce added a nice zing to the bite. However, the mangos were not ripe enough, and with the cucumber being the accompaniment, it did not add much flavour to the roll. 
 
For the main course I had sweet and sour chicken! I could not believe I was eating a gluten free meal. The chicken was again, probably battered in rice flour (like the calamari) and deep fried, then tossed in a sweet and sour sauce, which they call tamarind. The pieces of chicken were bite sized and had the perfect crunch. I could taste the sweetness in the sauce, but I also had a slight sour taste in my mouth. I just loved this course. The dish came with red and green bell peppers and onions. It would have been nice to have a side of rice, but I didn’t realize that a side of rice cost extra. This is definitely a dish to be shared, as there is a lot of chicken that comes on the plate. 
 
It was so much fun eating out at a certified gluten free restaurant where my family could also enjoy non-gluten free items. It felt very normal to have such a selection to order from and where I actually had to think hard to decide what I was going to order. Riz is the first Thai-Vietnamese-Asian restaurant in Toronto, and it also was featured in a Globe and Mail article regarding Celiac disease. The menu is very reasonably priced, with dishes averaging around $12-15 each. Some of the appetizers are around $3-8 and there are a few dishes, like the lobster dinner that are a little more pricier. There is also an “all you can taste (eat)” menu, for $35.99/adult, which seems a bit expensive, but I would say is totally worth it for the quality and quantity of food. I will definitely go back to Riz, it is way too delicious to pass up!
 
 Have you ever been to Riz? What did you think about it? Would you ever go back?

Organic Oven

I walked into a small, cozy bakery called Organic Oven, gluten free items stocked the shelves and a counter held gluten free cookies, muffins, cupcakes, scones and dessert bars. I was welcomed by smiling staff who took my order and brought my meal to where I was sitting. The menu is written on a chalkboard behind the counter: sandwiches, paninis, bagels, soup, chilli, and hot drinks…all gluten free! I ordered the organic turkey, avocado and lettuce on a cheese gluten free bagel with a chai tea latte. 
I bit into the gluten free bagel, closed my eyes and thought “yum”. The bagel tasted nothing like the stereotypical rock hard gluten free bagel, it was soft, chewy and full of cheesy flavour. The turkey was fresh and was far from being dry. The avocado was perfectly ripe and added a great texture to the whole sandwich. The tea was also delicious, it was the perfect balance of sweet and spicy with a great amount of latte foam on top. My friend had the grilled vegetable panini: eggplant, zucchini, peppers and goat cheese pressed between a poppyseed gf bagel. It looked fabulous and she raved about it for days after.
 Turkey, avocado and lettuce on cheese bagel
Grilled veggie panini on a poppyseed bagel

This experience made me feel like a “normal” person. I could eat everything on the menu! I wasn’t restricted to salads or a bread-less sandwiches. The prices were fair, I spent around $12 for the sandwich and tea, I’m sure the price I paid would be similar to buying a sandwich and latte at Starbucks. 
I am definitely going back, it was so much fun to order off the menu without fear of not knowing whether the meal would be gluten contaminated. I think the next time I will get the chilli with the gluten free baguette. I also really want to try the gluten free carrot cake…how great does that sound? I definitely reccommend this place, regardless of whether you are gluten free or not.