Last week we vacationed in Prince Edward Island (PEI) via Nova Scotia. It was a great break! We flew into Halifax on Friday morning and my guy, Rob, met up with his buddies to drive to Moncton for a Curling Bonspiel while our friends Sheena & Chris picked me up to stay with them for the weekend at their home in Upper Tantallon.
Not being sure of the ease of dining out gluten-free in PEI or the Upper Tantallon area while in Nova Scotia, I made sure to bring my own gluten-free snacks and relied on internet searches for ideas of where to eat out. One of the sites that I heavily relied on was The Celiac Scene.
My usual Saturday morning routine when home in Newfoundland is to go to the St. John’s Farmers Market early in the morning to ensure that I get some good gluten-free goodies before they are all sold out. Sheena had asked if I wanted to go to the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market on Saturday morning and I just assumed that she was just being polite on account of her knowing that I enjoy heading to my local market on Saturday mornings. Turns out that she also likes to spend a couple of hours at the Market! I was super excited to enjoy some girl time together in addition to enjoying the market 🙂
I had no idea how big the Market would be. There were two levels and possibly close to a hundred vendors. I was tickled pink! Here I am enjoying gluten-free gelato. Not sure if you can see but there are 3 aisles of vendors plus another level of vendors on the top.
We spent a good two hours roaming through and had breakfast at a green/organic vendor called Selwood Green. I had a Kale Scramble with local bacon, and a local greens salad which was delicious. They even had gluten-free bread, however they do use it in the same toaster as regular bread. I decided to try it out to see if I would react. The potato-millet bread tasted delicious and it came from Schoolhouse Gluten-Free Gourmet which is a vendor at the Market. I didn’t grow a gluten-baby from the cross-contamination, but my stomach did feel a bit upset. I wasn’t entirely sure if this was due to trying Kale for the first time or if it was due to gulten crumbs from the toaster. I decided to pick up a loaf to bring to PEI with us, and ended up using the same toaster at the cabin. My stomach was upset most of the week so I now suspect that I even have to avoid using a toaster that has been used to toast glutenous bread. First when I went gluten-free, I was able to tolerate this, however over the past year my stomach has become even more sensitive and I am now going to have to start using Toast It Bags. For those of you living in the St. John’s, NL area – You can purchase these at the Nourish Gluten-Free Bakery in Paradise.
I haven’t had Coffee Crisp since going Gluten-free and after a quick perusal of the ingredients (and a later consultation with Nestle), I discovered that the mix was actually gluten-free! I had some that night and it was FANTASTIC!! It tasted just like eating a Coffee Crisp!! 🙂
Sheena had arranged for us to rent a cottage in Rocky Point, PEI. We drove to Moncton on Sunday afternoon to pick up Rob and then crossed Confederation Bridge into PEI. It was the first time that I had been back to PEI since I was little. We got to the cabin around 7:00 that night I loved how the owners had decorated it – lots of bright colours, bold and funky patterns and a mixture of retro and rugged furniture/appliances.
Once we were done exploring the cabin, we headed into Charlottetown to find something to eat. We landed at a place called Gahan House Brewery which had gluten-free items identified on their menu. Most of the options were seafood, which I’m not a huge lover of but I do like Salmon and settled on that. I was pleasantly surprised to find that they had a cheesecake that was on the menu that was considered gluten-free. I let Rob have a couple of bites of it before I curled my arm around the perimeter of the plate and pulled it in close to my body to shield it from Rob’s reach. Rob let out a high pitched “Raaarrrrn” (think: squealing cat noise) and I asked if he could blame me, considering that I haven’t been able to eat cheesecake at a restaurant in a very long time. He nodded and said that I had a good point, but he continued to eye my plate.
Monday morning I got up super early before everyone else and decided to read my book out on the veranda. It was soooo relaxing, especially when the hummingbirds would come by and drink from the feeder :). The book I’m reading? It’s called The Procrastination Equation ….. I bought it in May and only started to read it on the plane … a sure sign that I need to be reading the book, 😛
Once everyone else got up, Rob made breakfast for us (complete with Mimosas!). Then we went to a few outlet shops and did a little bit of shopping in downtown Charlottetown. We stumbled upon the menu for Redwater Rustic Grille and I discovered that they offered Gluten-Free PASTA!! I was ecstatic!! I’ve only ever been able to enjoy gluten-free pasta at home, made by myself. This surely would be my new favourite place! 🙂 I also had a delicious Gluten-Free flatbread as an appetizer!
The next day we went looking for a place that we had seen on The Celiac Scene for lunch, only to discover that I didn’t really fancy the options, instead we stumbled across a place called Globe World Flavours which had better gluten-free options identified on its menu. I discovered that they also served gluten-free pasta as well but I opted for Pad Tai instead, and it was delicious! That night we picked up food for a BBQ and had a few drinks on the deck. All the good food (and the golf for the boys) knocked us out early that night.
The next morning the boys went golfing again and Sheena and I decided to try out a nearby beach. It was a very tidal beach so there were a couple of sandbars and there were many people there digging for clams. The wave action had also left a ripple effect in the sand. We put down some towels and started to read our books but the sand was still somewhat wet and started to seep up and make us wet. It was also windy and I’m super-prone to ear aches so we had to call it a morning. We then decided to head to Pizza Delight for dinner (as I can order gluten-free pizza there) and brought some pizzas back for the boys to enjoy once they were finished golfing. That night we decided to relax at the cabin again. I had a headache (from sleeping in various beds, as well as a flight and a long drive) so I slept most of the evening only to wake at 10:00 and discover that everyone else was ready for bed :S
Thursday we were supposed to drive back to Halifax but due to the lack of getting in the ocean or a pool we decided to book a cabin in Cavendish and hang out there for the day. On the way we popped into the PEI Preserve Company because Sheena had read that they had a café with gluten free options. While checking the place out, I discovered that they had Gluten-Free ice cream cones. I hadn’t bought an ice cream cone since going gluten-free and I had one with maple espresso ice cream. It was delicious and I was so excited that I requested a photo to be taken. We got to the cabin, dropped off our gear and decided to take a drive through the main stretch of Cavendish so I could revisit the places that we frequented on our family vacations when I was a kid. …. Everything seemed so much grander in my memories. We roamed through the Boardwalk, drove past Ripley’s Believe It or Not and the Wax Museum, drove past where Rainbow Valley used to be, popped into Cavendish beach for an hour, and grabbed a quick lunch all within the span of a couple of hours. And I thought, how did we spend a week to two here when I was a kid? Again, the place seemed much larger in my memories. I was glad that we had spent the majority of our week in Rocky Point because it appears that Cavendish is really a family vacation spot. … or a golfer’s spot. Rob counted 4 golf courses in the span of a kilometer — while wiping the drool from his chin 😉
We then spent the remainder of our afternoon in the pool and hot tub before getting cleaned up and heading back to the PEI Preserve Company for supper. It’s always a good sign when they decide to put the dessert on the front page of their menu. I decided to try their potato and bacon pie which was in a garlic cream sauce. It was delicious! And I actually had options for dessert! I was hoping that I could have the Bailey’s Irish Cream Cheesecake for dessert but they didn’t have any available apparently. Then she said that there was Strawberry Shortcake which was gluten-free so I decided to have that because I didn’t know when I would be able to enjoy such a dessert while dining out again.
The next morning we went back to the PEI Preserve Company for breakfast. And it was good. They offered Gluten-free bread but when I asked she said that it is toasted in the same rotisserie that they use for regular bread. I figured that this was fine but when it came out, I could see a lot of crumbs on the surface on it so rather than risking a swollen and uncomfortable “gluten baby belly” and being sick for the whole ride back to Halifax, I decided to skip the bread. Which worked out because it turned out that they had made more Bailey’s Irish Cream Cheesecake and I had room in my belly to eat it …. despite it being before 11:00 in the morning.
After breakfast we headed back to Halifax and got to Sheena & Chris’ around mid afternoon. We cleaned up and went downtown for supper and ate at a place called The Carlton Music Bar and Grill. There I enjoyed several glasses of delicious Sangria and another pasta dish! This time it was an amazing chicken fusilli in a cream pesto sauce and the others all agreed that it tasted so good that it didn’t taste like it was gluten-free. For dessert, there were two gluten-free options and Sheena just happened to order the other one (some sort of chocolate almond or possibly hazelnut torte) and I had a mousse that was chocolately/mocha/hazelnut (although apparently it wasn’t quite memorable enough for me to remember exactly what it was).
At one point while eating dessert, the following conversation occurred:
Sheena: “This kinda reminds me of those chocolately balls you eat at Christmas”
Me: “Ferrero Rocher?”
Sheena: “Yeah, that’s it”.
Krista: <Inserts fork into Sheena’s dessert (very stealthily), pulls plate across table, quickly samples without permission> “I haven’t been able to eat one of those things since going gluten-free!!!!!!!”
<This is the point where they all stared at me as if I was a starving seagull…>
And I can confirm that Sheena’s dessert was a tasty one 🙂
The next morning we went to the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market for Round Two. We went back to Selwood Greens for breakfast and roamed around the vendors. I enjoyed some gluten-free Biscotti flavoured gelato from Foxhill Cheese, among some other goodies. Then we headed back to Sheena & Chris’ so we could get ready for our friend’s wedding that afternoon. It was the wedding of Rob’s best friend from high school, Michelle. We hadn’t seen her in a long time to it was nice to see her get married and to be able to chat with her off and on throughout the evening 🙂
Rob has always said that he wants to do a cross Canada trip for a vacation some year and I’ve always said that I would love to make that trip into a “restaurant tour” where we pick different restaurants along the way and plan our route around it. This trip felt very much like a snapshot of what that trip would be like. In order to dine out, we had to do research beforehand (which usually involved consulting The Celiac Scene scene, and in some cases, Urban Spoon for ideas), locate the restaurant of choice and finally enjoy a good gluten-free experience.
Did I honestly expect to have such a fantastic gluten-free dining out experience considering that we would be visiting an island that is roughly just under 1/4th of the population of (and over 70 times smaller than) Newfoundland? Well …. no, not in my wildest dreams. Gluten-free dining out is relatively new to the St. John’s area and has only popped up in the last couple of years. Considering that PEI’s capital city, Charlottetown, is about 1/3rd of the population of Newfoundland’s capital, St. John’s – I didn’t have high hopes for a lot of variety and suspected it was likely that I could end up being sick from cross-contamination at least once if not more. To my surprise, the Charlottetown dining scene was far more evolved when it came to gluten-free menu development. At first I wondered if it was because PEI was a small population and that many people were choosing to remain in PEI rather than relocating after post-secondary, and therefore a prevalence of a Celiac Disease in the province. But then Sheena had mentioned that PEI has a highly acclaimed culinary institute, and it’s likely that many new chefs are incorporating dietary restrictions into their menus after just learning about it. There were also many occasions where other dietary restrictions were identified on the menu such as dairy-free and vegetarian, which I always love to see 🙂
All in all, it was a fantastic vacation. I find that being in nature resets/rejuvenates me, and it was great to hang out with our friends, see other friends get married and enjoy some fantastic food! For the first time since going gluten free I felt like I had a real “Foodie” experience again. It was awesome. And therefore it is only fitting that I share with you this video that I stumbled upon during the trip:
Have you ever had poor expectations for an adequate dining experience during vacationing, only to discover the most amazing meals and/or restaurants?
Until next time,
p.s. Did anyone else automatically start singing the “Schoolhouse Rock!” theme song when you read the words Schoolhouse Gluten-Free Gourmet??