Vancouver - Gluten-Free Restaurants!

I always thought Toronto (my hometown) was the gluten-free capital of Canada.

That is, until my recent visit to Vancouver.  I checked out a few websites online that list gluten-free options and I enlisted the help of Robyn and Andrea from Gluten Free Vancouver to steer me toward some of their favourite places to eat and favourite bakeries as well.  I also put out a call on my Facebook Page for your suggestions of places I couldn't miss out on.

I was in Vancouver with my mom for 5 nights and got to visit with my brother who lives there.  In that time I got to check out a number of great restaurants!
White Spot
Multiple Locations

After a 5+ hour flight, we were hungry.  The pamphlet at the Vancouver Airport indicated White Spot as having gluten-free options. We headed on our way to grab some lunch.
To my surprise they had a separate menu listing gluten-free options!  Sadly, the only options that were vegetarian were some salads and two choices of pasta.

I went for the Caesar salad and Alfredo pasta.  Yum!  Very large portions meant that I couldn't finish both, despite being really hungry.
Flash forward to Saturday evening... after a failed attempt at checking out a different restaurant, I found myself back at White Spot (different location... this time Granville Street).  I ordered the pasta with Marinara Sauce.  Quite good, though not my favourite and not really anything too special.  Still nice to have the assurance of ordering from a separate gluten-free menu.

White Spot is a fairly cheap and casual chain restaurant in the Vancouver area.  While the food was pretty good and I was thankful to have this option around for those times where I was really hungry, I likely wouldn't go out of my way to visit again.

1212 Commercial Drive, Vancouver ("The Drive")

My brother had a gift certificate for this place so it was an easy decision to visit on my first evening in Vancouver.  Looking over the menu online and seeing the "mazina tortillas" (tortillas made of wheat and corn flour) I thought I was in for a dinner of plain ol' salad.  Boy, was I wrong!  They had an entire gluten-free menu!

Unfortunately this menu is not available online.  Most of the menu items involved meat in some fashion so I decided on the 7 layer dip, which was served with tostones (fried plantain, cut lengthwise).
I really enjoyed the layer dip and would likely order the same dish again if I returned.

This restaurant is also where I got my first taste of the beer that is available in Vancouver!  (I will have an upcoming blog post featuring all of the gluten-free beer I saw in Vancouver.)
First up in Vancouver was Estrella Damm Daura gluten-free beer.  Not bad!  My brother (not Celiac) also took a sip and said this beer tasted like regular beer, which, as many of you know, is quite the compliment!
The Naam
2724 West 4h Avenue, Vancouver (Kitsilano)

This vegetarian restaurant is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  It is located in Kitsilano, which is a great shopping area and also very close to the beach.  When I inquired about gluten-free options, the server informed me that the tortillas and tortilla chips were just made with corn, plus they have gluten-free bread so there were plenty of options I could choose from.  This was a real treat!  I am so used to skimming over a menu and immediately cutting out 50-80% of the options because they contain meat and here I was looking at a menu that was completely vegetarian, with many gluten-free options.

Amazing selection of food!  Huge portions!  I can't say enough about this restaurant.  We ordered the Chilaquiles Enchilada and Tuscan Nachos.
There was no way the two of us were going to finish all of the food.  It was actually fun to watch and see what other people were ordering at tables around us.  Everything looked amazing! I would have loved to come back to this restaurant but I didn't end up having time to visit Kitsilano again.
While service here was a little slow, the large portion sizes made up for the lack of service.

(Multiple Locations)

This chain restaurant is also in Ontario and they offer a gluten-free menu at all locations.  I have always enjoyed the gluten-free spaghettini from a Toronto location.  I was still full from my lunch earlier in the day so I decided on a light dinner and ordered the California Spring Salad.

Yup, I'm one of those strange people who enjoys eating salad ;) especially if there's strawberries in it!

1535 Johnston Street, Creekhouse #102, Granville Island, Vancouver

Located on Granville Island, I visited Sandbar on the Friday of my visit, a really wet and rainy day.  I think the only vegetarian and gluten-free option was this pizza.  Granted, I couldn't really ask for anything more since this WAS a fish restaurant.  Heck, they even had a whole fish menu indicating which fish was available that day!
Anyway, back to the pizza.  The toppings were very fresh and tasty but I felt like the crust was a little bit "old school" gluten-free.  It tasted very ricey to me and was not crispy enough.

They do offer gluten-free pasta as well but I didn't have a chance to try that out.

(Multiple locations)

I was quite disappointed with my visit to Nuba.  First of all, I showed up at the Yaletown location at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday and stood around for over 10 minutes waiting for the girl inside to open the door.  She finally came over and informed me (through the door) that they open at 12.  When I told her the website said they open at 11:30 she repeated that they open at 12 and walked away.  Whoa.  So... I walked around the block to see what else was around and returned to Nuba at 12. (They have since updated the website, thankfully.)

I knew before I arrived that I was ordering the falafel plate.  I have a soft spot for falafel and will take every opportunity to test out falafel in a restaurant if it is gluten-free.
Everything looked amazing!  The falafel balls were really good but that's about where my satisfaction ended.  The rice was very hard and needed 5-10 more minutes of cooking, the salad was DRIPPING with oil and I'm pretty sure they gave me the stalks of lettuce to dip in the hummus. Well, one bad meal in 5 days isn't so bad...

Moving on...

818 Howe Street, Vancouver

On my last full day in Vancouver, I remembered that I had seen a sign for Chipotle while walking around downtown.  I had previously been to Chipotle in Buffalo and loved the food.  I visited a location in Toronto (Yonge and Dundas) but didn't enjoy my meal there.  The quality of the food at this location in Vancouver has restored my faith in the chain!
Your order is made in an assembly line to speed the process and you can tell them exactly which ingredients you want.  The good thing about Chipotle is that ALL of the ingredients used are gluten-free, except the flour tortillas (used for burritos).  I ordered the vegetarian tacos, which includes 3 tacos for 8.95.
I'm sorry that the above picture does not capture how yummy the tacos actually are!  It's really difficult to photograph tacos like this.  Fantastic tacos!  I plan to give Chipotle in Toronto another shot and hopefully will be pleasantly surprised.

8808 Osler Avenue (behind the Coast Hotel), Vancouver

I had been in contact with Cravings over twitter before visiting Vancouver.  I knew this restaurant would be a gem so I added it to my "must visit" list.  I saved the best for last!  On my way to the airport, my mom and I met up with my brother one last time for lunch.

I felt like I needed something a little healthier this day after eating a lot of not-so-healthy meals earlier in my trip.  I settled on the Caesar salad and stir fry.  The manager/owner(?) came out from the back and asked if I eat eggs.  I said yes and she informed me she would be making croutons from their own gluten-free bread (which contains eggs).  Wow, what a treat!  Fresh croutons!  (Pre-Celiac, I enjoyed snacking on croutons on their own, that's how much I love them!)  Yummy!

I can't remember the last time I got to enjoy a Caesar salad with croutons.  The stir fry was also very fresh. This colourful and healthy kick was just what I needed to end my trip!

I really enjoyed flipping through an official menu listing the gluten-free options!  Plenty of yummy and healthy options to choose from :)

It seemed like everywhere I turned there were gluten-free options!  And if there weren't options, the wait staff and other employees at least understood what gluten-free meant.

Overall, I am extremely impressed with the gluten-free offerings in Vancouver.  Pair that with the mountains, fresh air, ocean views and friendly streets, Vancouver is a great place for anyone looking to explore other areas of Canada.

Gluten Free Garage - Raffle Prize List!

Here we go again!

Gluten Free Garage
Artscape Wychwood Barns
601 Christie Street, Toronto
Sunday, April 28 2013 - 10am - 4pm
$10 entry for adults (children 12 and under are free)

Last year at the Gluten Free Garage event I offered a number of prizes through a raffle at my table.  The raffle was such a huge hit that I've decided to offer prizes again!

Thank you to all of these companies for donating these prizes!

There will be a total of 7 winners.
PatsyPie - Two winners x $60 value
Delicious cookies, biscotti, brownies and more!  Just about anything your heart desires made in small batches so the flavours melt in your mouth!  You get to choose which products you want if you win this prize!

Allergic Solution - $75 value
Allergic Solution combines non-allergenic ingredients into convenient mixes so those of you with many allergies can indulge in treats once again.  Prize will include baking mixes and baking supplies.

VILLA Restaurant - $50 gift certificate
Italian restaurant in Bloor-West Village.  A personal favourite of mine!  With gluten-free options ranging from pasta to pizza, you can't go wrong at this establishment.
Natur-a - $50 Value
Natur-a offers yummy and enriched dairy alternatives, including soy, rice and almond beverages. Perfect for those with dairy allergies or lactose intolerance!

Italpasta - $45 value
You don't have to sacrifice great taste or quality when cooking up gluten-free pasta at home.  Italpasta blends rice and corn to make this delicious pasta, which will be a new favourite for anyone following a gluten-free diet.
Antipastos Kitchen - $25 Value
You won't believe your taste buds that these authentic Italian entrees are made with completely gluten-free ingredients!  Plenty to choose from, including lasagna, gnocchi, pizza crust and ravioli.

You can also pick up a free Gluten-Free Ontario pen and sticker for FREE!

Or purchase a Gluten-Free Ontario reusable bag for only $2!

You get access to dozens of products and can speak with knowledgeable people in the gluten-free world.

More details below.


Natur-a Review!

Those of you with dairy allergies, lactose intolerance or who are vegan take note!

You can still enjoy your favourite cereal and recipes that call for milk with dairy-free beverages from Natur-a.

Fun fact:  Did you know that the word "milk" is prohibited from being used on products not sourced from an animal?  This is why you see the words "almond beverage" and "soy beverage" on these packaged products and not "almond milk" or "soy milk."

Lately, I have been enjoying my Chex cereal with Natur-a Enriched Almond Beverage.  I am loving that it is an enriched with great essentials!  Check out the Nutrition Facts below - it's loaded with vitamins and minerals, including the same amount of calcium you'd find in a regular glass of milk!

Or for those of you watching your calories and sugar intake, the unsweetened original Almond Beverage might be a better fit for you.  Not to worry... it's still loaded with vitamins and minerals.

They also make GMO-free soy beverages which contain 6g of protein per serving! (Cappuccino is my favourite!)

The rice beverage is also completely gluten-free and works great in all of your favourite recipes, like pancakes.

Natur-a is a fantastic Canadian company with tons of great options for those of you who cannot tolerate dairy.  Available in health food stores across Canada.

Sign up to receive coupons!

Natur-a is also backed by Olympic Champion Clara Hughes!


Gluten Free Awareness Documentary (Starring ME!)

A few months ago I was invited to be included in a documentary about the increase in gluten-free products and overall awareness of Celiac Disease.

Of course I said yes!!

Anything to help spread awareness.

My Facebook Page is dedicated to helping make the lives of those living with Celiac Disease and gluten sensitivities just a little bit easier.

My cat makes a cameo appearance at the end of the clip, too ;)

Watch, learn and share!