April 23, 2012

Going Gluten-Free in Toronto (pronounced ‘torranna’)

In February I was getting pretty bored. I didn’t have many students (or an,y depending on the week) and I was running out of things to do. There’s only so much you can do when it’s cold outside and I didn’t really want to venture outside. Then an email arrived. Porter Airlines was having a sale. Hmmm. After some pricing I decided to take a trip to Mississauga to visit my sister. Flights have gotten ridiculously expensive, especially for that 45 min flight, but with the price of gas at the time, it balanced out.

Luckily she got some time off as well. In fact, the people in HR had been after her boss to allow her to take some time off to use up the appalling amount of vacation she had built up. I flew into City Centre Airport without a problem and met my little sister in the parking lot. We had planned very little for the week and decided to take it day by day.

We walked a lot, visited our other sister and her family and walked some more. My little sister loves walking their dog and finds it therapeutic. Angus is a big guy and we often wondered who was walking who since she was letting him choose our route. We also ate quite a bit and did some shopping. It seemed like a nice holiday that wasn’t.

Living really close to Square One, we ventured for a few shopping trips. Not normally exciting except she’s near a Whole Foods. There were so many delicious goodies.

GlutenFreeda’s instant oatmeal was on sale and I had to get a box. I was having trouble finding a good gf instant oatmeal (yes I know it’s almost sacrilege, but I’m realistic – I’m not going to make the real stuff). I really like it and it doesn’t get mushy like some others I’ve tried. It’s great for these chilly mornings when it’s hard to get going.

My Nature’s Path cereal was also on sale (big time) and I stocked up (literally). With my mom making another visit she was more than happy to bring them up so I wouldn't have to check them on the airplane. Another cereal caught my eye: Erewhorn. The freeze-dried strawberries were a nice bonus and the cereal tasted really good. The price was perfect too (on sale!) so it was worth at least a try. The flakes don’t go mushy like many gf flaked cereals do and with the strawberries, there was a nice taste to it. It’s also a nice change from my usual Nature’s Path.

At the bakery counter I asked about more gluten-free goodies hoping for something ‘fresh’, but was denied. Instead, the wonderful employee took us on a quick tour of the store showing us where the gf items were and some of the brands they carry. There was a lot. There was a small freezer section, the cereal and pasta, and in the bakery section some cookies and bread. We were told the Aidan’s buns were good sellers and I can understand why. They were a great substantial bun that tasted like a bun should.

And the Mackies were also popular although he didn’t know much about them. I had seen them before and always hesitated; the price always deterred me. I picked them up anyway throwing caution to the wind. The coconut chocolate cookies were amazing. Were they worth the steep price? I don’t know, but if you try any cookie, this is one.

Our mom was meeting us for an afternoon together and dinner afterwards. I had copied down a bunch of gluten-free shops from a few Toronto websites and after the second disappointment (they no longer existed) I talked my sister into taking us to The Big Carrot along the Danforth. She did reluctantly and the only reason she did was because the Honey and I were friends of friends (sort of) of a pair that got it up and running. Every time we met them I felt bad saying I still hadn’t gone (it was in Toronto after all so I felt I had a bit of an excuse).

It’s a great place that seems to have something for everyone. Their gluten-free section is a great size and has such a variety. The lemon vanilla biscuits by Messa Bites were so tasty.

A walnut brownie from Sweets from the Earth was so rich and after checking the ingredients I realized it contained tofu (I always forget the soy!!). My sister was more than happy to finish it off.

Some cinnamon raisin bagels smelled wonderful through the bag and I couldn’t wait to try one when I returned home. Organic Oven makes a bagel that tastes like a bagel.

The raspberry coconut muffin made by The Big Carrot was really nice too. It was moist and full of raspberries.

It was quite busy and the little sister was beginning to lose her patience with people who couldn’t stop bumping into her so it was obviously time for dinner. We had decided to try a fish and chip place that supposedly served gf fish and chips and wasn’t too far away.

Off the Hook is a small place located at 749 Broadview, just off the Danforth. I had my hopes set high, but I was also slightly skeptical. Then I saw two pink words on their chalkboard ‘gluten-free’. Jackpot! We quickly found a table and began scouring the chalkboard. One of the cooks brought us some menus and took our drink order. They had Nicklebrook gluten-free beer! Woohooo! With his help we decided on what fish (a few to choose from) and the accompanying sauce (so many). The three of us chose different sauces and they were all delicious. Apparently I couldn’t stop smiling. The cook told us that I wasn’t the first and they’ve seen so many like me. He told us of one woman who began crying as she ate because it had been 20 years since she’d had true fish and chips. I totally know how she felt.

Lemongrass is a Thai restaurant with locations throughout Toronto. I had also read that they had gluten-free options. After a morning of some shopping we went there for lunch. The little sister had been there many times since it was so close and always enjoyed her meal. We started with some veggie rolls that we expected to be cold fresh ones, but came fried. We were assured by two others staff members that they were gluten-free. I was hesitant because they looked like regular fried wheat wrappers. Our waitress came by and told us that they use a rice wrapper that can be deep fried. That seems really cool and gives people like me more options. We also had the spicy black bean chicken and Singapore vermicelli with veggies, both were excellent. Our only disappointment was they were tagged as spicy, but they didn’t pack much heat.

After some more afternoon shopping we drove to Oakville to Voila Gluten-FreeBakeree. John and Julie opened their GF bakery to supply the growing demand and they have some loyal clientele. One trip there and you can understand why. Everything looked delicious and it was easy dropping $30 on goodies. And trust me, they don’t disappoint. A big brownie and nanaimo bar were devoured in the car. John didn’t think my sister could devour the brownie on her own, but she did and was proud of it.

A raspberry scone was a perfect morning bite. And their English muffins and bagels are what they should taste like. There’s isn’t any overpowering flavour from the flours. What you remember them to taste like is what you get at Voila. Absolutely to die for!


After some more shopping time got away from us and we were too late to return to Off the Hook. My sister felt so badly. As a result, we picked up a friend of hers and we all went to the Green Eggplant in the Beaches. While it isn’t a gluten-free restaurant, every meal has been exceptional and the staff is understanding and patient. I usually get the salmon dish and it is wonderful with feta cheese and great vegetables. One of these days I’ll have to go when I can spend more time there and not leave right after eating.

My quasi-holiday seemed too short even though I had done a pile of shopping and scoping out of gluten-free venues. As I was checking my bags for my return flight the attendant noticed my bag of goodies. Thinking it was a snack or my dinner he was quite surprised when I told him it was full of gluten-free baked goods for my week ahead. It was well stocked and I was ready to be spoiled.


Post a Comment