Dear Toronto: Did You Really Gluten Me, Again??

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The last time I was in Toronto, I (naively and unintentionally) glutened myself. Ironically, it was the same weekend that I was there to attend the Gluten Free Expo. You can get that story in my Glutened, Days After Attending the Gluten Free Expo … and No. It was Unrelated post.

This time, I was super cautious about what I put into my mouth. “When in doubt, go without” was my motto for the weekend (as it is any other weekend that I don’t have a serious lapse in judgement). However, I did a spa day for my BFF’s birthday and although it was a fantastically relaxing and detoxifying day, about 20 minutes after we left, my stomach had swollen to the point that it appeared as though I was 5 months pregnant.

The spa that we went to was Body Blitz. We did an afternoon in the therapeutic waters while a few of us had spa treatments done before returning to my friend’s apartment for a party involving a slightly larger audience. The therapeutic waters were AMAZING!! I’ve never felt so relaxed and detoxed at the same time. It was fantastic! I’d highly recommend it if you live in, or will be visiting, the Toronto area.

Body Blitz Therapeutic Waters. Source: http://bodyblitzspa.com/index.php/blitz-gallery

Body Blitz Therapeutic Waters. Source: http://bodyblitzspa.com/index.php/blitz-gallery

Body Blitz Therapeutic Waters. Source: http://bodyblitzspa.com/index.php/blitz-gallery

Following the Therapeutic Waters, I had a session booked for a Winter Warming Mud Basic Body Bake. It was ultimate pampering! As good as the day at Body Blitz was, as we were travelling back to my friend’s apartment, I noticed that I could feel gas bubbling up in my colon (sorry if this is a little TMI). This is usually a sign of me having a reaction to something. As we drove back to the apartment, I could feel my belly swelling, and within 20 minutes my stomach was swollen to the point that I looked like I was 5 months pregnant. When we got inside to the Party Room which my friend had booked out for her party, I had mentioned, to the girls who came back to the condo building a little early, that it felt like I had reacted to the moisturizer that was applied at the end of the treatment. When they said “Really?” …. as it was obvious that I didn’t have any hives or obvious skin reactions. When I said “Huh uh. My belly is swollen”, they looked down to my belly, and I immediately seen all of their eyes widen, as their jaws dropped, and they simultaneously expelled a “Whhooooaaaaa …..” They said that, had they not seen me a few hours previously in a teeny bikini with an obviously flat belly, they would have seriously thought that I was 5 months pregnant. There was so much pressure in my belly that I was incapable of sitting upright and spent most of the night stretched out on the couch. It was the most bizarre feeling to walk around “stomach-first”. Getting up out of the chair was also a struggle as I couldn’t really bend properly at the waist. When I would get up, it was in the same manner as someone who is severely pregnant would move into a standing position. Throughout the night the girls were still flabbergasted at my swollen state. They even asked “Did gluten really do that to you?” and my only response was that I could only assume so.

I had assumed that the moisturizer would have absorbed into my skin and that’s what caused the reaction. However, in talking with my Celiac friends at our Celiac Association meeting last night, they said that you need to actually ingest gluten in order to have a reaction. Did I accidentally have moisturizer residue on my hands and accidentally put my hands in my mouth? Or was it something else in the moisturizer that absorbed through my skin and reacted to? I’m not quite sure. I had a similar experience a few years ago at a local spa but at the time assumed that it was perhaps related to residue on the jug of water or the glass that I had drank out of immediately following my massage. In that instance my stomach had also swollen within a span of 20 minutes.

So, Toronto. Did you really gluten me, again? Or have you allowed me to discover that I may have another intolerance or sensitivity?

To answer this question, I’ve contacted both spas to see what ingredients are in both moisturizers in hopes that I can find the common link. Stay tuned!!

They Love Me, They Really Love Me: How Friends & Family are Adapting to My Gluten Intolerance

I couldn’t resist misquoting “The Mask” who misquoted Sally Fields’ 1985 Oscar Acceptance speech. I thought it was fitting, because my family and friends obviously love me enough to put up with and cater to my gluten intolerance.

Here are a few examples:

  • If I’m dropping my Guy to work and as he’s about to give me a kiss as he exits the car, he’ll shout “Wait, I just ate a glutenous breakfast sandwich!!” as he turns to kiss me on the cheek instead.
  • They call me up to check on items before using it in dishes if I am heading to their house for a meal.
  • For those who now have a good handle on what naturally has gluten and what doesn’t, their attention has now shifted to ways in which cross-contamination can occur in prep.
  • They tell me about, send me links to, pick me up a sample of any new gluten free products that they see.
  • They forward me gluten-free recipes, or even surprise me with gluten free cookbooks.
  • They have started modifying their naturally containing gluten recipes so that I don’t feel left out!
  • They keep their cupboards stocked with gluten free snacks (in the event that I pop by and I’m hungry).
  • They offer to let me pick a place that they know that I can get good gluten-free options at when we dine out.

The biggest challenge has been for my family back home in my small rural hometown, Twillingate (which had a rough population of just over 2400 people as of 2006). Because it’s a small town, there’s not a lot of options when looking for food alternatives and often food has to be bought at the closest “large centre” (i.e. Gander, with a population of roughly 11,000 in 2011), which is roughly a hour and a half drive away. So, this year when I travelled home for Christmas, I came bearing my own bag of gluten-free goodies: canned soup, wraps, Nourish bread & bagels, toaster-bags, Cashew Lärabars, Kind Fruit & Nut bars, plus additional supplies to make gluten-free cookies during my visit.

The first night that I arrived I asked my mom what was for supper and she was so proud that she had made a separate Mac & Cheese without the Ritz Crackers. When I asked her where she picked up the gluten-free pasta she looked at me with the most mortified look and said “But, you can eat macaroni ….. !? ….. I’ve heard you say a dozen times that you’ve had pasta for supper” and I smiled as I looked to her and said “I can eat gluten-free macaroni”. Poor Mom was devastated that she had been so careful to make my meal safe for me to eat, only to discover that it was completely made of gluten. She said that she figured that it would probably take her all of Christmas to get over the fact that she didn’t have a safe meal for me when I got home that night. I told her that I had brought some gluten free groceries with me and that I could very quickly open and warm a can of soup. After supper she scored brownie-points when she broke out some Chocolate Mice (cookies) that she had made for me (not sure what they are? Check out this recipe on Rock Recipes). She had picked up some Gluten Free Rice Krispies, had checked the chocolate chips and other ingredients for sources of gluten, and even had went so far to buy a brand new jar of peanut butter so that she didn’t have to worry about glutenous crumb-contamination in the jar!) They were delicious and I probably ate 7 (no joke!) that first night!! Mom also had my Aunt G pick up a package of President’s Choice Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies when she was in Gander so I also gorged myself on those as well over the holiday when everyone else was eating homemade cookies.  The next day my mom made a delicious pot of homemade soup which fed me for several meals while I was home – Mom’s homemade soup is one of my favourites! I thought that I had left a pack of Glutino table crackers to go with the soup but I must have finished them off the last time I was out or brought them back to the city with me. I will have to remember for the next time I pack my GF grocery bag! 🙂

When I stopped by my mom-in-law’s the next day I discovered, that she had discovered, that one of the local grocery stories starting stocking Udi’s gluten-free products in its freezer section. She had picked up Udi’s GF white sandwich bread (which I actually hadn’t tried up until this point because we never really did buy much bread before I went gluten-free), Udi’s GF Cinnamon Rolls (which I also hadn’t tried up until this point), and also had picked up a pack of gluten-free flour when she was in Gander earlier that month.

One night my Aunt G had invited us up for supper. She made ham, baked and scalloped potatoes, as well as marinated carrots. My aunt remembered that the tomato soup in her recipe for marinated carrots contained gluten so she made me a version that she substituted with ketchup, brown sugar and vinegar. She also remembered to take out some scalloped potatoes before she added the cream of mushroom soup which contains gluten (she had no idea that you can get gluten-free cream of mushroom soup in St. John’s, so for the next time that I’m out and she makes it, I’ll be sending her out some GF Cream of Mushroom Soup so that she can make one casserole dish of gluten-free scalloped potatoes instead of fooling around to make different versions). And to top it all off, Aunt G had also picked up President’s Choice Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies for me as well!

I was so excited to see my family finding ways to accommodate my intolerance. Both my mom, aunt, and mom-in-law pride themselves on making our favourite meals when we come home and they finally felt like they could cook for me again 🙂

My mom-in-law (or “Mama Sheila” as I like to refer to her) used the gluten free flour to make Homemade Stew with “Baked Pudding”. For those of you who aren’t sure what I’m referring to when I say Baked Pudding, I stumbled upon this recipe (we call it baked pudding but she calls it a biscuit/pastry).

Mama Sheila didn’t use these exact recipes but I assume that they were very similar. I’m pretty sure that she substituted the gluten-free flour for the regular wheat flour in the baked pudding. Normally when you make something with gluten-free flour you add a binding agent (such as guar gum, among others), but the like-for-like substitution seemed to work out just as good. Generally we lay the baked pudding on a plate, and then pour the stew over the baked pudding and let the gravy soak into the pudding. Veggies, gravy, baked pudding …. what more could a girl ask for?

One of our Christmas traditions that we’ve established over the past 5+ years is that we (my Guy and I) will open Christmas presents at my house first thing on Christmas morning and then we drive on over (to the opposite side of the harbour) to open presents with his parents. A few years back (several before I went gluten free), Mama Sheila made a “Breakfast Strata” for the first time and it was absolutely delicious!! The Breakfast Strata has since become a part of our Christmas morning tradition, and so she was able to use the Udi’s GF bread and the GF Rice Krispies to make me my very one Gluten Free version. Basically it’s bread, eggs, ham, peppers, cheese, a few seasonings and topped with Rice Krispies. We’ve agreed to only have it on Christmas day so that it remains extra special!

Breakfast Strata

Can you say Om Nom Nom!?

Unfortunately Mama Doreen (i.e. my mom) had to work most of the time that I was home for the holiday. So, where I could, I stayed at her place to maximize my time with her before she headed to, or after she got home from, work. On the mornings that she had to get up early and head to work, I ended up having breakfast (or in some cases, brunch) at Mama Sheila’s. One morning my dad-in-law, or Papa Garry as I like to refer to him as, made me Gluten Free French Toast using the Udi’s bread. One morning I had a simple breakfast of fresh fruit, greek yogurt and Udi’s toast. The final brunch was a huge family effort. If there’s one thing that the Guy family are good at – it’s brunch! Gluten-Free pancakes, turkey bacon, hash brown patties, and Mama Sheila even discovered some gluten free maple sausages that were delicious!! 🙂

Xmas Breakfast

Christmas was a gluten free success but our trip was short. My Guy had to head back to work on the 27th so we were on the road again on Boxing Day to head back into town. I had a few days to get ready for the arrival of my BFF, Jenny, from Toronto who came baring gluten-free chocolates … which included two boxes of Coco Mira Crunch in Mocha Latte and Dark Chocolate flavours … That girl knows that way to my heart!!

My guy’s Aunt Marguerite has been making lovely gift baskets ever year and we she always gives us an awesome one every year for Christmas. Throughout the year she’ll collect things that are of interest to us (some examples: BBQing or meal prep gear for Rob, cake decorating or gluten-free items for me) and in the Fall she’ll arrange them all to make a fantastic basket! This year she had a box of President’s Choice Gluten-Free The Smart Cookie, a box of Chocolate Chip Quinoa cookies and Cinnamon Quinoa Crunchies from GoGo Quinoa. Other goodies included chocolate, homemade pickles, homemade jams, as well as some non-GF items for my guy and a pack of dog treats for our Lakeland Terrier, Jax.

Christmas Basket

Aunt Marguerite also invited us over for a meal during Christmas while her daughter Corinne and family were still visiting from Calgary. Not long after I went gluten free back in 2011, I found out that Aunt Marguerite’s other daughter, Renee had also went gluten-free. As a result, Aunt Marguerite has become very knowledgable in preparing gluten-free meals. When we went for supper I discovered that she had made a roast with gravy made from cornstarch in lieu of regular flour; had made baby carrots and peas which were naturally gluten-free; a creamy mashed potato dish in which she checked all the ingredients to ensure that they were gluten-free; a broccoli casserole in which she grated up Udi’s Gluten-Free Hamburger Buns to use as a crust; and to top it all off she made me a big batch of gluten-free chocolate cookies (which I am still enjoying as of today)! It was a fabulous meal 🙂

Dinner at Aunt Marguerites

Rob won a turkey at his curling club and decided to give it to our good friends Darren and Tracey to smoke on their Big Green Egg. Sadly, like many of the other meals that we had over the holidays, I forgot to get a photo of the smoked bird before Darren carved it. Rob made a gluten free dressing using Udi’s white bread and I had made asparagus and “turnip fries” to bring out as well. When we arrived to Darren & Tracey’s we found that Mitch and Felicia were also there and Felicia was busy peeling carrots and potatoes which we quickly boiled as Tracey made gravy using corn starch (as I had forgotten to bring out some gluten free flour with me). The meal turned out lovely and Darren & Tracey were awesome enough to smoke the turkey and have us out for supper, despite the fact that they were recovering from colds. Such troopers!! 🙂

New Years Dinner

This was only my second Gluten-Free Christmas, and I have to say that it was incredibly delicious and absolutely perfect thanks to my super-awesome family & friends! xoxo

Care to share any ways that your friends and family have successfully adapted to your gluten-free or food allergy-free lifestyle?

Home for a Rest: Twillingate, Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada

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For those of you reading this post, who are Newfoundlander and/or Canadian, chances are that you are already singing this tune in your head 😉

This past weekend was Remembrance Day long weekend and we were home to visit family in our hometown, Twillingate. I used the breaks in between visiting family to do some long overdue blog, CCA-NL and FAE Facebook Page work, and was happy to start working on a blog post about my trip to Twillingate back in July of this year.

Twillingate is one of the most beautiful places to visit during the summer. Depending on what time of the summer you visit, your encounters could include icebergs, whales, theatres, festivals, etc. etc. If you’d like to learn more about Twillingate and what it has to offer, check out these websites:

Town of Twillingate: http://www.townoftwillingate.ca

Twillingate Island Tourism Association (TITA): http://www.twillingatetourism.ca

One of the highlights of our summer visits, and the biggest event to take place, in Twillingate is the Fish, Fun & Folk Festival which has been an annual event for over 30 years (find out more about the FFFF here: http://www.fishfunfolkfestival.com). For (at least) the past five years, my guy and I have been trying to convince our city friends to travel home with us for the Festival. Finally, this past July our friends Karen, Chris and their Golden-Doodle Zoe, decided to take us up on our offer! 🙂

First on the agenda was some site-seeing. We took the dogs on a drive and stopped for a short walk and some photo ops at Long Point Lighthouse.

Photos by Karen Power

Then we dropped in to my parents house but on the way Karen wanted to get some photos and I told her that this was my bus stop as a kid. It’s a beautiful spot, and has become a bit of a tourist attraction. Our friends, Kayla & Allan who blog over at Treasure Island Caching, wrote an entire blog post on this location when they recently visited.

Photos by Karen Power

Next we were on to a beautiful part of Twillingate Island called Back Harbour, where my guy’s parents had their boat docked.

Photos by Karen Power

We took Karen and Chris out with the hopes of stumbling upon some whales. It wasn’t long before we found two Minke whales.

Photos by Karen Power

Photo by Sheila Guy

… Apparently Chris and I didn’t get the memo on coordinating outfits with drinks …. so we grabbed the nearest objects we could find to hold in our hands 😉 …

It used to be a tradition to watch the fireworks on the Friday night of the Festival from the middle of Twillingate Harbour in my pa-in-law’s boat …. but in recent years he’s downsized his boat and now we spend the afternoon and early evening on the water and return to watch the fireworks at their dock which is adjacent to the dock where the fireworks are launched. It makes for one FANTASTIC experience… not only are you directly underneath the fireworks but you can also smell the gunpowder, you are so close! I’ve attached a link below to a video of the fireworks that Chris took with his iPhone, but the video doesn’t do justice to watching in person. The fireworks display is the highlight for the festival and a lot of money is invested by the town’s people and businesses. Every year the display seems to get better and we’ve often said that the fireworks show is far better than what we see in our capital city, St. John’s! 🙂

Twillingate Fireworks 2012 Fish Fun & Folk Festival

The next day Rob’s dad took Rob and Chris out fishing while Karen and I decided to take Zoe on a very short hike to a Natural Arch located in another beautiful section of town called Little Harbour. We took a wrong turn at one point, enjoyed the view and eventually made our way back to the correct trail.

Photos by Karen Power

Once our hike was over, we decided to get some lunch. Because I wanted Karen to get to enjoy some of the local life, I decided that we should dine out. Normally I would have suggested that we head to R&J’s Restaurant which used to be a guilty pleasure of mine before going gluten-free and I was so disappointed by the fact that I can no longer indulge in the food that I loved so much as a kid. However, my Aunt works for the local hotel, The Anchor Inn and I knew that they had at least one gluten-free option. My Aunt was diagnosed with Collagenous Colitis earlier this year and in order to keep her symptoms under control, she had to do a complete overhaul on her diet. As a result, she had to cut out all foods containing gluten, dairy, and high in sugar (and perhaps likely more restrictions that I’m forgetting). So it wasn’t surprising to find that the restaurant contained within the hotel, Georgie’s at the Anchor, had decided to dedicate a fryer specifically for gluten-free fish & chips (which they note on their menu).  Not being a huge lover of fish and chips, I asked if they had any other options available that were considered gluten-free, and I decided on their Island Nachos.

Although it isn’t listed on the online menu, for those who are vegetarian and visiting Twillingate, Georgie’s offers a Veggie Burger and I was told by my manager when she visited Twillingate with her family, that her daughter thought that Georgie’s Veggie Burger was one of the best that she’s had to date.

We also went to a new coffee shop in town, called the Crow’s Nest Cafe, for some delicious Iced Cafe’s and I discovered that they sell Gluten-Free almond flour brownies (high-five, Crow’s Nest!!). I think this is the second summer that they’ve been open but it was my first time that I had stumbled upon them. I highly recommend this place. I unfortunately only took photos from the exterior, but you can check out what they have to offer (and what they look like on the inside) if you jump over to their blog: http://crowsnestcafe.blogspot.ca

That afternoon once the boys returned from fishing and cleaned up, We decided to take Karen & Chris on a tour of Auk Island Winery. The interesting thing about the winery is that it is the same building where I attended Kindergarten before it closed and we all transferred to the elementary school on the main part of the island. I have to admit, it felt a little weird walking in to the building and seeing it converted into a winery. …. and it was funny to discover that its hallways were only about a third of the length that I recalled in my memories. I enjoy the fact that evidence still remains of the lines on the gymnasium floor 🙂

While we are enjoying the wine tasting at the end of the tour, Rob received the following text from his dad: “Orcas”. Meanwhile, back on the Ma & Pa Guy’s boat …..

Photos by Sheila Guy

We couldn’t believe that we missed this! Almost every year for the past 5 years there has been a pod of Orca’s that have passed through during the weekend of the festival…. the first time we encountered them was the most fascinating of all, but encountering them never grows old! 🙂

That evening we had a BBQ over at Rob’s parents’ house along with my parents, my brother-in-law Dave and his girlfriend Sarah and their dog Waffles. Between Rob, Chris and my pa-in-law the BBQ was attended to, while my parents attended to the dogs and the rest of us took care of everything else in the kitchen. I had brought home the ingredients to make Go-Go Quinoa Salad and it once again was a hit. And to cap off a perfect weekend, we ended the night with a fire in the back yard.

Photos by Sheila Guy

I hope you enjoyed my account of a fabulous weekend in my hometown of Twillingate! It truly is a beautiful place to visit 🙂

Glutened, Days after attending Gluten Free Expo (… and no. it was unrelated)

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One of my favourite experiences from this year was travelling to Toronto to attend a Gluten-Free Expo (which I randomly became a last minute volunteer for)…. and I had a blast! You can read about it here.

My least favourite experience from this year? Getting “glutened” a few days later in the same city, during the same trip. Oh, the irony!

Luckily, getting glutened was totally independent of attending the Expo (…. Margaret & Ellen: if you are reading this, you can start breathing again 😉 ….. Margaret was the organizer and mastermind behind the expo and Ellen supported her remotely from BC. It was a pleasure to help them out during the event!).

Like I said, the Expo was amazing and I was very much looking forward to hanging around for a couple of extra days so that I could hang out with one of my BFF’s, Jenny, who had just returned from a trip to India.

Celiacs will go completely out of there way to go to a restaurant that has been identified as safe for Celiacs. I had consulted The Celiac Scene maps to look for a safe restaurant that had a brunch option for Jenny and I before we took on an afternoon of shopping. She had mentioned that there was a place called Mitzi’s that had gluten free options as far as she was aware. I remembered going there before I realized that gluten was making me sick and I remembered how delicious the food was so I agreed that we should definitely go there, even though Mitzi’s wasn’t showing up on The Celiac Scene. But I know that the “Scene” is only as good as those who actively contribute to it …. so if you’re in an area where there aren’t a lot of Celiacs using the Scene, then chances are you could miss out on a fantastic restaurant with safe options because there’s been no one to providing feedback to the Scene in order to get that restaurant on the list. Perhaps, I figured, this was why Mitzi’s wasn’t showing up on the list.

When we got there and I had a chance to peak at the menu, I was SOOOOOO excited to see Gluten Free Buckwheat Pancakes! Generally, I don’t get the luxury of having someone else make me gluten free pancakes, unless they are made by my guy in our kitchen at home. Better still, the pancake of the day was topped with an espresso cream, maple syrup, whipped cream, and pralines – HELLO DELICIOUSNESS!!

I was delighted! That is, until the waitress popped back to our table and said that the pancakes were actually made with oats. I asked if they were certified gluten-free and she said that she didn’t think so. I asked if I could see the package to have a look at the ingredient list. Turns out it was Quaker Rolled Oats and there was a “May Contain” statement for wheat.

I don’t know if I have Celiac Disease or not. It was suggested by my naturopath that I was sensitive to gluten and I immediately went on a gluten-free diet. It was amazing the difference after years of bloating and digestive discomfort. I later realized that you should be tested for Celiac Disease before going on a gluten-free diet because gluten needs to be present to cause the the inflammation in the small intestine in order to get a positive diagnosis. So, although I do not know if I have celiac disease, I have so many of the symptoms that I’m almost certain that I do. I eat as strictly as a Celiac does …. with the exception of this instant. I totally let me guard down. In hindsight, I was being absolutely naive.

When I saw the “may contain” statement, I thought “Oh, it’s probably just a liability disclaimer. It’s likely that it’s made in a totally separate area, but because they process wheat in the same building they have to list a May Contain statement” ….. I normally DO NOT eat anything with a “May Contain” statement but the idea of eating those buckwheat pancakes with the espresso cream and other delicious toppings made me let my guard down. I kept telling myself, “I’m sure it’ll be fine …. maybe just some light swelling of my belly”.

I ate the pancakes and they were DELICIOUS!! When I left, I noticed that my stomach was swollen and I felt very nauseated….. but my stomach didn’t feel like it was ripping apart like it normally does when I accidentally ingest gluten. So I thought perhaps there was very little trace of the wheat in the oats. Boy, was I wrong. At about 3:30 that afternoon all hell broken loose on my digestive system and I was back and fourth to the washroom off and on for hours afterwards. My stomach was still not 100% back to normal when I went to bed that night. I think this is a very likely sign that I do in fact have Celiac Disease.

So, it turns out that the Gluten-Free buckwheat pancakes were not actually not gluten-free at all. This is not the first time that I’ve been exposed to glutenous buckwheat breakfast items. I learned the hard way that the buckwheat crepes at Cora’s also contain wheat. In fact, first when I went gluten-free and was learning about all the things that I need to keep an eye out for it took me a while to clue in to the fact that the sausages that I was ordering contained gluten …. then I discovered that the breakfast potatoes were coated in a flour mixture. And after the third time going and coming home feeling nauseated and sick to my stomach, I decided to do a little googling. And sure enough, I found a Celiac Disease forum that stated that Cora’s buckwheat crepes actually contained wheat (despite wheat being in the name, buckwheat does not contain gluten). Every gluteneous mishap is another opportunity to learn from it. I learned a lot in the first few months of going gluten-free.

Because the food was so delicious, I wanted to provide suggestions to Mitzi’s so that they could improve their awareness of the dietary restrictions that surround Celiac Disease so that they could be a safe place for Celiacs and that we could get them added to the Scene. Here’s the suggestions (and pleas) that I emailed to them the next day:

  • PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not offer them to anyone who is Celiac or gluten intolerant/sensitive until you can take measures to ensure they are gluten-free (if you have to, Tell them that you ran out off your ingredients).
  • Purchase certified gluten-free oats.
  • Confirm if your buckwheat is gluten-free, if not, purchase one that is certified as gluten-free.
  • Ensure that any other toppings for the pancakes are gluten-free (for example, the pralines shouldn’t have a may contain statement).
  • Use a separate pan and separate spatula.
  • There’s a guide for food allergies available on the CRFA:http://www.crfa.ca/foodhealthyliving/#foodallergies . If you follow this link, it will take you to the guide on Restaurant Central (http://www.restaurantcentral.ca/FoodAllergiesGuide.aspx).
  • If you offer Gluten-free toast, don’t use the same toaster that you use for regular bread. Even if you use a convection heater, there’s still risk of cross-contamination. I found this statement on the restaurant guide for food allergies: 

Did you know: It is commonly believed that extreme heat during cooking will change the make-up of the food being prepared and remove the protein that can cause a reaction. This is not true. Cooking the food using extreme heat will not make the food safe for allergic individuals.

  • To help with toaster cross-contamination, you can get Toaster Bags, such as these: http://www.amazon.com/Set-NoStick-Toast-Toaster-Bags/dp/B0012XGM92 .
  • Be mindful of is crumbs in the butter and other condiment (such as mayo) containers. It’s best to use a separate container that’s designated as gluten-free and use a clean knife for cutting and spreading and a separate cutting board when slicing the bread (if it doesn’t already come sliced). I also recommend washing your hands and applying disposable gloves prior to handling the gluten-free bread.

I sent off my recommendations and feedback to the cook and the general email for the restaurant but I never did hear back from anyone. When I get a chance, I’ll call them up and see if they did implement any of my suggestions. I hope, for their sake and for mine that they do, so that I can enjoy another delicious meal when in Toronto and that we can recommend them to be added to the Scene.

I know there’s a bit of a learning curve when it come’s to gluten-free knowledge so I’m willing to give a second chance if I know that an establishment has taken the necessary measures to make positive changes. There is only one place that I have boy-cotted and that’s because I became sick for the third time after ordering a supposedly gluten-free item. Hence my adopted rule of thumb:

Gluten-me once: Shame on You. Gluten-me twice: Shame on Me. Gluten-me a third time and it’s automatic blacklist, buddy.

One thing that I’ve learned over the past year and a bit is that you can never be too safe when it comes to dining out gluten-free (or with any restriction for that matter). There’s no such thing as too many questions when it comes to your health and wellbeing. And such experiences reinforce the need (and my desire) to start Etcetera …. a safe-haven restaurant for people with food allergies and other dietary restrictions! 🙂

Cheers,
Krista 🙂

The 2012 Toronto Gluten Free Expo

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Holy Crap is right! 😉

One of the most exciting things that I’ve done this year (to date) was attend the Gluten Free Expo in Toronto a few weeks ago, on September 30th.

As stated on the Expo’s Facebook Page:

“The Gluten Free Expo is Canada’s first, and largest gluten free event. Whether you’re looking for great tasting products, or Gluten Free education, the Expo is your source!”

…. and I can attest that whoever made that statement, was not kidding! 🙂

The Toronto 2012 Expo was the first for Canada. Details are available on the Expo’s website for the upcoming Vancouver Expo on January 13th 2013 as well as the Calgary Expo which is happening on March 24th 2013.

When I first heard of the Gluten Free Expo and realized that there would be over 100 exhibitors present, I thought to myself:

“If I get excited about 2 to 3 gluten free vendors at our local market … and tickled pink by 5 to 10 gluten free vendors when I visited the Halifax Farmer’s market, then I should be in Heaven with 100+ gluten free vendors at the Gluten Free Expo!”

And I was! The only problem was that I had limited room in my luggage to bring back items!

The Expo was held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel on 655 Dixon Road and I decided that I should fly to Toronto the day before just in case I might encounter some flight delays. Of course, the cheapest flight that day was scheduled to depart St. John’s at just before 6AM … so I was up at 4 in the morning to get ready. During the month previous to flying to Toronto, I had been emailing back and fourth with Ellen of The Celiac Scene and knew that she was involved in the organization of the Expo. At that point in time I didn’t know if I would be attending the Expo but I was later able to confirm that I could take a few vacation days. I knew that Ellen was busy with getting everything ready for the Expo so I didn’t bother to email her back to let her know that I was heading up for the Expo. When I arrived at the hotel, I emailed her to let her know that I was there and gave her my cell number and room number in case she wanted to reach me and we could finally meet. She replied and said that she must not have updated me to let me know that she didn’t come for the Expo, and that she was staying in BC to man the phones and emails. She felt so bad that I was expecting to meet her while I was there that she decided to connect me with Margaret, the Expo Event Manager. I went downstairs to meet Margaret and discovered what a lovely girl she was! She ended up being short a volunteer so I spent the day from around 3ish to 10pm volunteering with registering the exhibitors as they came in. It was a very long but interesting day. By 10pm only about 50% of the exhibitors had arrived to set up, which means that the next day was going to be super busy from the start! I texted Ellen a couple of photos throughout the evening and was able to chat back and forth with her through email on my iPhone which was nice. When I got back to my room that night Ellen called me and we had a nice chat about how things were going and the excitement of it all! 🙂

The next morning was the day of the Expo and I was supposed to meet up with a friend (Laura) at 11am so that we could go to the Expo together. I was ready to go at 10 AM (when the Expo actually opened), so I decided to go down and help out until Laura showed up. Margaret gladly accepted my offer to help out again 🙂

Who knew that so many people would show up first thing in the morning! The first photo in the above collage is of the line-ups at 10am, and the second photo is around an hour later. Bright green reusable shopping bags were available for the first 2000 people and just after 11 AM we realized that we had run out of bags!! In just over an hour 2000 people had come through. It was crazy (of the good variety)! At one point, we were told that we had to hold people up at the registration because they had reached capacity in the exhibitors area and couldn’t let anyone else in until some had left. People were getting disgruntled because they didn’t get a free shopping bag, and had to wait before they could get in. There were several pretty grumpy people in the lines, but once they got inside and started getting some samples, they seemed to have come around. We were hearing a lot of great comments from people. With 5600 people coming through that day, Margaret said that she is going to plan an even bigger event for next year. I’m hoping to get involved with future expo events because I find these types of events to be really fun to get involved in. Large events like this can be madness, but being involved with successfully putting it off can be really satisfying!

I didn’t actually get to see any of the speakers because I spent most of my time down around the registration area, which was bad planning on my part, and I hope to plan my breaks better the next time I’m involved so that I can take in a few of the speakers 🙂

It was so nice to get to finally connect with Ellen (though phone rather than just email) and we chatted several times that weekend …. not just about the Expo, but also about how I started down this path and all the events that led me here. And it was so nice to meet Margaret! That girl does not buckle under pressure and is such a lovely person! My favourite part was when exhibitors would come up and ask to speak with Margaret and I would point to her just a few feet away from me engaged in conversation with other exhibitors or hotel staff and the response was always a surprised “Noooo waaaaayyyy ….!” Many had only spoken with her on the phone and I can only assume had envisioned her to be an older person with more life experience, lol. I got such a kick out of their responses! Once they met her, she definitely lived up to their expectations! 🙂

The Expo didn’t actually go as I expected, but it was a fantastic experience. I was actually chatting with the owner of a restaurant in Uxbridge, Ontario called Frankie’s Ristorante that’s completely gluten-free, as well as nut-free and soy free. I think I’ll consult with them when planning my allergy friendly restaurant as that chapter in my life unfolds 🙂

And now to share with you some of the goodies that I brought back with me. I tended to stay away from products that I was familiar with and knew that I could purchase back in Newfoundland.

I thought this kettle corn was delicious! I met Teresa & Tony of TnT Enterprises who started a side business for something fun to do. They are actually both forklift drivers and they said that they had no idea how much fun that they were going to have getting into the kettlecorn business. They actually do a lot of sales as part of fundraising programs for schools which I thought was neat. They love going to events like the Expo and are full of life. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with them during the set up, at their booth during the Expo and even while checking out of the hotel the next day (that’s when they handed me a second sample of their popcorn for the flight)! They love to tell everyone that the product is just four simple ingredients: corn, oil, raw sugar and a little bit of salt. I forgot to ask them what they use to dye some of the popcorn with for their Harvest package as well as any other times that coloured pieces are required (such as school colours for fundraising campaigns).

I was excited to see a product that resembled two-bite brownies!! I sampled one (and then another) while chatting with Edward, the president of the company. He was explaining how Nutri-Health’s products were originally designed by a dietician for patients in hospitals and seniors homes and that they started to notice a demand for their products. You can check them out at www.nutri-health.ca

The bottom cookie was made by a company called Sweets from the Earth. Their products are all natural, 100% vegan, refined sugars free, GMO free, etc. etc. and there are two options: 1) peanut & nut free; or 2) gluten & wheat free (depending on one of the two dedicated facilities that the item is prepared in). You can check them out at www.sweetsfromtheearth.com

The Scrumdelicious Cookies mix is from 1-2-3 Gluten Free (one of the Expo’s sponsors). Kim, the founder of 1-2-3 Gluten Free products had used this cookie mix to make pumpkin cookies. She had me at the word pumpkin before I even sampled it! I can’t wait to try out this mix later this month to make Halloween cookies (Post-blog post update: check out the blog post on the cookies here)! This was just one of many products from this company which are made in a dedicated gluten/dairy/peanut & tree nut/egg/soy – free facility. All products with the exception of 2 (biscuits and corn bread) are also corn-free. The products are GMO free, large-yield, and all natural. 3 of the mixes are sugar free (in which you add your sweetener of choice). You can check out the other products at www.123glutenfree.com

I discovered CocoMira products at Winners Homesense. The only thing is that the products are never consistently stocked …. either that, or when someone finds this product on the shelves, they buy all of it for themselves and leave none for anyone else (as I do when I find it). So I was super excited to find their booth at the Expo! I grabbed my favourite, Mocha Latte Crunch, but also picked up the Dark Chocolate Crunch as well. I would have picked up more but I knew that there was limited space in my luggage! CocoMira products contain no artificial flavors or colors, no preservatives, no high-fructose corn syrup, no gluten and no egg. I just discovered by checking out their website that they are carried in some Chapters/Indigo stores as well as some Second Cup locations (the only two locations local to St. John’s)!! I shall have a look the next time I am at Chapters and Second Cup!! 🙂 You can check out the other CocoMira products on their website, www.cocomira.com

Last, but not least, I discovered this fantastic Nutty Pumpkin Harvest granola! This stuff is fantastic! I was so sad that I only picked up one package! Turns out that you can buy a package of 12 for $40 (+ 25.20 in shipping and taxes). The granola is also dairy, soy and corn free in addition to gluten free. I also picked up a jar of Organic Cinnamon Vanilla Almond Butter by the same brand/company and it was taken from me at security because the security officer considered it more liquid like than paste like. The almond butter goes for $120 (+ 35.60 in shipping and tax) for 12 (minimum order). To check out other similar products go to www.totalwellbeing.ca

Because some of the ingredients in the granola is organic (not all are stated to be organic) I contacted Real Food Market to see if they might be able to bring in this product. I’ll keep you posted on the results once I hear back! 🙂

In addition to food products to be sampled and purchased, there were also several other informational type booths. I think that one of my favourites was the t-shirts at this booth! It was a company that I had never heard of before called Olli Lolli. I love these shirts …. especially the one for the “Everything Kid” …. you know, the kid that has developed allergies to nearly everything. At least these t-shirts can help spread awareness of their allergies and I discovered that this company also sells clothing (for example, cargo pants, hoodies, and jackets) to help carry their allergy medication so that they have it with them at all times. Check out their products at www.ollilolli.com

Another booth that was present was Allerbling, which is a wristband that is a unique medical ID bracelet, and is customizable by you, at any time, based on your child’s changing food allergic conditions. It displays the iconic symbols of the food products that are risky to the children, so their teachers and caregivers can be constantly reminded at a glance. Check them out at www.allerbling.com

Other booths that were of interest to me (and that I managed to get time to stop by and see) were as follows:

Mila: Loaded with Omega—3s, Fiber, anti-oxidants and many other vital nutrients, Mila® offers a variety of opportunities to improve your overall health and well being. It can also be deliciously combined with many foods as it has no taste or smell and its biological properties are not diminished by heat in the baking process making it easy to incorporate into your favorite recipes. They didn’t have any thing to sample the seeds with so I opted not to pick any up as I had limited room in my luggage but its definitely something that I want to look into more. Check out the product at http://home.lifemax.net/mila/the-miracle-seed

Lotus Fine Foods: Offers two forms granola that is organic, vegan, dairy free, gluten free and free of artificial flavours, colours, trans fat, preservatives and refined sugar; 1) Coconut & Cherry Quinoa, and 2) Cranberry & Cinnamon Quinoa. Check out their products at http://lotusfinefoods.com/

Bubbie’s Biscotti: If you follow the link to their site, you might realize that the gluten free biscotti varieties are carried at Second Cups around St. John’s. The two Gluten-free flavours are Chocolate Chip and Belgian Chocolate Marble. Don’t forget that they are also peanut and nut free! Check them out at http://bubbiesbiscotti.ca

Frankie’s Ristorante: As I mentioned above, located in Uxbridge, Ontario. Patrons will find both Celiac-friendly food and a peanut- and nut-free environment, as well as vegetarian, vegan and some sugar-free pastries for diabetic patrons every day. They also have a gluten free bakery which supplies the restaurant. Check them out if you ever find yourself in the Uxbridge area, as well as their website: http://www.glutenfreefrankies.com. This is definitely one place on my restaurants-to-visit list!! 🙂

Crepe-alicious: A European Restaurant which serves European favourites, Savoury Crepes, Breakfast Crepes, Vegetarian Crepes, Sweet Crepes and Paninis. All crepes can be made gluten free for an additional cost and there are several items that can also be requested to be gluten free. Their menu looks great but unfortunately they do not have a website (from what I can tell). The best that I could find was the listing on Urbanspoon: http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/242/1683405/restaurant/Ontario/Crepe-alicious-Hamilton

Goodbye Gluten Fine Foods: Canada’s first 100% Gluten-free food store offering:
Fresh baked goods from its gluten-free, nut free, and dairy free bakery; Fresh prepared foods made on premises in its gluten free and nut free kitchen, and features a wide assortment of appetizers, salads, sides and main courses in Grab n’ Go format (fresh or frozen) or from the display counter; Grocery items including Nut-free, Dairy-free, Egg Free, Soy Free, Sugar Free, Salt Free and Vegan products; Catering.
Sounds like a fantastic place! Check them out at http://www.goodbyegluten.com

And last, but not least, Alyce Feindel (who was a delight to chat with and is from the Maritimes … Chester, Nova Scotia to be exact) was there selling copies of her cook book “Living and Eating Gluten Free”. Alyce also did one of the talks that I unfortunately missed but I enjoyed chatting with her during the set-up period on Saturday night as well as the day of the Expo.You can check out Alyce on her website www.glutenfreeforlife.com

This is just a small sample of the exhibitors who were present on the day of the Expo. For a complete list of the exhibitors who were there, check out http://glutenfreeexpo.ca/toronto-exhibitors-sponsors/.

I loved everything about the Expo! Engaging with Ellen via phone/email, meeting and helping out Margaret, visiting with my friend, Laura, while we perused the various exhibitors, sampling and buying delicious products, and realizing that I could stop myself when entering gluten-intolerant “robot” mode where I automatically ask the person serving me “and you’re certain that this is gluten-free right??” …. EVERYTHING was gluten-free. And it was absolutely awesome!!

Trading One Island Dining Experience for Another

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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 🙂

Halifax Seaport Farmers 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.

Selwood Greens Kale ScrambleWe 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.

Coffee Crisp Hot ChocolateWe considered having a fire in the backyard on Saturday night and we went to the grocery store to pick up some ingredients for S’mores. That’s when I came across this multi-pack of Hot Chocolate.

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,

Krista

p.s. Did anyone else automatically start singing the “Schoolhouse Rock!” theme song when you read the words Schoolhouse Gluten-Free Gourmet??