Thin crust please.

Pizza is something special.  It’s bready, cheesy, tomoatoey, comfort foody…it’s basically all good.  Pizza is something I thought I would have to miss out on, but I was wrong.  Although I have not found great gf pizza in Montreal, I have been fortunate to find some fabulous ‘away from home’ pizza!

Hears a taste of Toronto:
Big Momma’s Boy - CLOSED
I’m sorry I didn’t write about this place sooner; it’s closed now and has been replaced by a restaurant that I have not tried, but the reviews aren’t good.  Big Momma’s offered a great, home-cooked menu with a gf option on everything but the spring rolls, this menu also included pizza.  I had to go to Big Momma’s three times before I got to try the pizza because of its popularity!  You might be wondering why I am writing about a restaurant you’ll  never be able to try (sorry), but it is important because their pizza taught me that thin crust is the key to a delicious gluten free crust.

Bar Mercurio.
The pizza here is delicious, although I’m still not sure I like the gf addendum on the menu explaining the food will take 20 minutes longer than the other menu items.  I would prefer the wait staff mention that the pizza may take a little longer, it feels a little more personal and less like an inconvenience.
The toppings are definitely the highlight of Mercurio pizza accented with a light, crispy crust.

Hears a taste of Boston:


Stone Hearth Pizza Co.
My sister-in-law and her ‘about to be hubby’ took Andrew and I here for the first and second time.  The pizza is amazing and the atmosphere is perfect for family time.  They offer a variety of toppings and can make any of their pizza’s gf; there are several pizzas that are designated strictly gf, but you can also have them make the other pies with toppings that are used on all the pizzas.  It’s a little risky, but I took it, and I was peachy.  When the kitchen is so aware, I trust that they take care as best they can.

Website:
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Hears a taste of Munich:
Nero.

This pizza was delicious and I got lucky.  There is a warning on the menu that says the gluten free pizza’s are cooked in the same oven as the regular pizza and they may not be suitable for celiacs.  That’s a big risk for contamination, but I’ve been tired of being gluten intolerant.  I joke about Andrew and I’s allergies all the time; it is funny that a celiac and nut allergy found each other, but what’s not funny is being so complicated to pick food for!  At home, it’s easy, we can cook safely, we can pick restaurants we know will be careful, but what do you do when you travel?  I took a chance and I was fine. (phew)

My friend Franzie found this place on someone else’s blog (I forgot to ask which one, I think it was in German) and we happened to be there on 7 Euro pizza night!  (plus 2 extra Euros for gf)  The pizza’s are offered in one size, and they look big, but with the delicate, thin cut toppings, crunchy crust, and fabulous company, we were all able to finish our delicious pizza pies.

Website:
click me! (auf Deutsch)

Diavola

Hopefully all this far away pizza will finally inspire me to put together my own thin crust, gf pizza!  Buon appetito!

Bar Call not Pub Crawl

I was recently back in Calgary for my smarty pants friend’s call to the BAR.  She is my very first lawyer friend and I’m so happy to have been a part of her big day.  I had never heard of a BAR call and I had no idea that it was such a big celebration!  Admittedly, when Natasha (my lawyer friend) sent me her tentative bar call date in April, I put “Send Flowers” in my calendar, but in August Sarah (our outstanding mutual friend) tells me there are invitations and receptions and ceremonies and that I need to catch the next seat sale to Calgary!

Fast forward to September 23rd, a fun filled day of celebrating Tasha’s accomplishment and food!
The schedule:
7am Breakfast
4pm Court House with reception to follow at Tasha’s law firm
7pm Dinner at Alloy

We started early, even though I don’t think any of us had anywhere to be.  It was still dark when Sarah picked me up, I tried to take pictures of the sun coming up, but they look more like blurry UFO images (don’t worry I sent them to a lab for analysis, just in case).  We met up with Natasha and Jason (refresher: you met them the last time I was in Calgary) and two of Tasha’s friends from University in Bridgeland.  I clearly have not lived in Calgary for a while as I did not know that this up and coming little area called Bridgeland existed.  The restaurant is called Blue Star Diner, Tasha and Jason live nearby and had noticed the gf items on the menu. ***I love that my friends and family are so aware and on the lookout for gf goods***

Hears a taste:

Blue Star Diner.

This little diner is a gem.  The fresh interior, the stainless steel lunch counter, the chalkboard wall and long benches are welcoming and charming.  The staff was attentive and the food was delicious.  There are several, clearly marked gf items on the menu and gf buns and toast are offered as well.  I never really considered Calgary an “out for breakfast place”, but this neighborhood diner has made me think Calgary might have this breakfast thing down. Please note: Calgary has always had the pancake breakfast thing down, no other city I know makes free pancakes on the back of a chuckwagon, but that is only offered 10 days a year.

What I ate:
Shitake Mushroom and Sweet Onion Eggs Benedict with GF bun
Side of Bacon
Delicious Tea (deserves to be mentioned because it was so yummy)

Website:
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Eggs Benedict with GF Buns

Breakfast buddies

The event at the courthouse had no food, but still deserves an honorable mention. ;) In Alberta each person who passes the BAR receives their own personal oath taking ceremony.  Tasha’s principals (her bosses) present her to the court and basically talk about what a great person she is and how hard she works and what a fantastic lawyer she will be, then Natasha takes the big oath, the judge waves his magical gavel and Tasha is a lawyer!

Next stop the Firm.  Natasha (love her) had ordered some food specifically for me.  They had a lovely cheese plate and glutino crackers, spring rolls with extremely salty peanut sauce and skewered chicken.  For dessert there were fruit plates and chocolate covered strawberries.  A good pre-dinner snack.

Just a quick aside:  I really like glutino crackers, they are tasty, they come in a few varieties and they definitely work with cheese.  The company needs to rethink their packaging because the boxes make the crackers look a bit like cardboard.  No one seemed to notice that they were gluten free!

Then to Alloy!

Hears a taste:

Alloy.

This restaurant opened in the weirdest location ever a few years ago; it can be found across from Safeway’s frozen food storage.  Alloy renovated and re-purposed an old building that I never noticed.  I went there once with my family, but I think it was B.C.  I remember enjoying my food and when I heard Tash picked this restaurant for dinner with her closest friends and family, I knew this was a big deal.  Natasha had selected a reduced menu for our very large group and I had a few options in each course, try not to drool!

What I ate:
Indian Butter Prawns with chili pepper, fenugreek and crispy papadam
Roasted Halibut with more grilled prawns, green curry risotto and lemongrass coconut cream
Cholado = fresh fruit, sweet coconut reduction, trio of sorbet

Website
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Indian Butter Prawns

Plate of delicious halibut

My trip to Calgary was great because of this day.  I’m so lucky to have been able to fly back to Cowtown and share the day with Tasha.  She has worked so hard and I’m so proud to know her.  Thanks for wanting me there and thanks for all the fabulous food!  Congratulations!

I’ll be at Lola’s

I’m in Montreal all summer, so be prepared for lots of Montreal posts!  I have some serious catching up to do on my favorite city in the world (thus far).

This particular post is all about Lola Rosa Café.  This little vegetarian bistro is one of my favorite places to eat and fortunately for me, they have started to cater to gf diets!

The Faculty of Music at McGill is right downtown, but somehow it is in kind of a strange ‘restaurant black hole’…it’s not quite on the McGill campus, so the cafeterias aren’t super convenient and the one in the building grossed me out.  When I started studying there, the only quick and inexpensive place to run for good food was a natural food market across the street.  Over the years a variety of restaurants and food options have appeared; there is now a Tim Hortons, which helped me notice the Basha tucked away below it,  a Java U (mmm…french fries), a Thai Express/Cultures and Starbucks all within a block.  Fast food is great for students on the go, but when you are at McGill all the time (working and studying), you want access to some real cooking too.  Lola Rosa’s is that place.

I still remember my first time:  My friend Andrea was acting a wee bit crazy, (she lived across the street from Lola’s) but she convinced me to come to her house after work where she blindfolded me, spun me in circles and walked me across the street for my half birthday lunch; I thought she was taking me to the Dépanneur (french for convenient store), so Lola’s was a very happy surprise.  We had Lola’s nachos and I was sold.  This is the place for me and it became my go to place for a real meal.  They even delivered to my little box office window!

When I was diagnosed with the celiacs, I was worried that my options there would become more limited, but they were kind enough to go through the change with me. ;)  Their menu is not 100% gluten free (like me), but GF options are indicated on the menu.  Couscous can easily be replaced with rice and I’m trying to convince them to make the change to corn tortilla (that taste so much better than flour).

Hears a taste:

Lola Rosa Café.

What I eat (pretty much every time I am there):
Lola’s nachos
Chickpea Curry with raita
or
Ratatouille Polenta

Website:
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I’ve been eating at Lola’s for several years and I enjoy myself and my food every time.  The staff is always happy and the owners are so passionate about their restaurant, it makes it hard to resist.  Although this restaurant is completely meat free, I (the born and bred meat eating Alberta girl) never think of this place as strictly “vegetarian” because I always leave with a full stomach and contented taste buds.  If you still have room for desert, they have a ginger-basil crème brûlée on the menu that is gf and big enough to share!

Zero Wheat / Huit

A couple years ago Andrew and I noticed a new restaurant near our house.  We had already eaten, but I wrote down the name to look up when I got home.  That same night we bought our first copy of “Allergic Living” and the first page we opened to had an ad for that same restaurant.  It’s called Zero8 and it boasts having none of the top 8 allergens in the restaurant; this place was made for people like Andrew and I.

A few weeks later we tried Zero8 for the first time.  It was a hot and humid Montreal day, so I was a little surprised to see something like ‘Shepherds Pie’ on the menu, but I shouldn’t be snooty about a non-seasonal menu, this place is 100% safe for Andrew and I.  We ate a delicious gluten free, peanut/nut/sesame seed free, milk/soy/egg free, seafood/shellfish free meal.  The atmosphere of the restaurant is relaxed with a clean and modern interior.  Andrew and I sat on the edge of their adorable patio and we enjoyed being regular and easy customers in a nice restaurant.

Montreal is full of amazing places to eat.  My first impression of Zero8 was good, but I admit that this is not the first place that comes to mind when asked for a restaurant recommendation in Montreal.  I should say that I do tell anyone I meet with allergies about it.  Andrew and I both love seafood and eggs and dairy; we are fortunate to only have gluten and peanuts to work around.  I hoped that Zero8’s menu would change a little with time to offer a seasonal menu and/or more signature dishes.

FFW to June 2011:
I was recently in the gf section of my IGA and I noticed frozen meals by Zero8.  They looked delicious, but before I buy, I thought it might be good to try out the restaurant again, so when Andrew’s Mom and distant Canadian cousin came to Montreal for the day we thought: What a perfect time to go back!

Hears a taste:

Zero8.

Andrew’s mother has a lot of experience cooking for Andrew’s allergy, so she can appreciate a restaurant that cooks specifically for allergic peoples.  Dion, the Canadian cousin, had a great attitude about trying this place out, he even noticed a great play on words in the title of the restaurant, in French we say: “zero huit” which sounds like “zero wheat” (I have to give credit where credit is due).
Obviously the menu is completely gf, even the alcohol is allergy aware.  The waitress asked if anyone at our table had allergies because they are happy to cook for allergens not included in the top 8.
Everyone enjoyed their meal and as I had hoped, then menu has changed around a little.  There are more dishes and a way better mix of light and rich dishes.  Andrew and I will definitely head back soon.

What I ate:
Carrot and Ginger soup -spicy and delicious
Zero8 fries with Duck (their play on poutine)
1/4 Judy’s sandwich

What Andrew ate:
Chicken BBQ sticks with home fries
1/4 Judy’s sandwich

What Judy ate:
Grilled chicken sandwich with fries

What Dion ate:
Roast beef sandwich with fries

Website:
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Thanks for a great lunch Judy!

Calgary, finally

I should be ashamed for not getting this up sooner; I used to be a Calgary girl, born and raised, but my home, my real home now is Montreal.  I do try to visit once in a while and since going gf I’ve been to a few places that I would like to share with you.

Most recently and still engraved in my meat memory is Bolero’s.  My friends Natasha (smarty pants who I met in Girl Guides and my first friend in public school), Jason (Natasha’s wonderful husband) and Sarah (same Sarah I met up with in Munich) have been living in different cities for the past ten years and we finally managed to organize ourselves to be in the same city for some food and visiting.  Our venue of choice was a meat haven called Bolero.

Hears a taste:

Bolero.

This restaurant calls itself an “Authentic Brazilian Steak House”, I’ve never been to Brazil, so I can not verify the authenticity of this statement, but this is unimportant.  We need to talk about the magic meat stick!  Each table has this adorable little cue with three colours on it — the two most significant colours on this stick are red and green and as usual, green means go!  Bring the meat!  The waiters walk around with a massive variety of meat filled skewers and as long as the green end is up they stop at your table and fill your dish with whatever they have.  There is also a buffet of sides and salads, which the waiter happily took me through pointing out the dishes I could eat.  This place was perfect for us!  The food was delicious and there was plenty of it, the style of service allowed us to take our time and visit with each other for several hours and I got to sit back and eat whatever came at me.

What we ate:
Everything (especially the meat wrapped in bacon and grilled pineapple) and coconut rice

At the bottom of the menu on-line:
“Please Note that all of our meats are Gluten Free, as are most of our fresco bar and salad bar items. Please do not hesitate to ask any questions in this regard.”
Woot!

Website:
click me!

I think most people with food allergies are on the hunt for new products and as a natural born shopper, I love the hunt.  I love finding new food options and companies and stores that cater to allergic living.  Calgary has a great health food store called Community Natural Foods.  My mother has been buying some of her baking ingredients there for years, but it wasn’t until my diagnoses that our gf goggles fell off and we discovered their fantastic array of gf products.  Click on the Community “Gluten Free Products” link and you’ll download 34 pages of products!  One product my Mom treated me to upon arrival was this adorable mini pumpkin and pecan loaf.  It was gooey and sweet and didn’t have a single hint of funny gf flour taste, now if only I could remember who it was by…help?  We’ll just have to wait for my next trip to Cowtown.

REWIND to Christmas 2009:

I usually make it back to Calgary around the holidays and whenever my whole family is together we go for a big family meal with our godparents and their girls.  Our food of choice used to be Chinese, unfortunately I haven’t found any gf Chinese in Calgary, so keeping it in the family style dinning genre we chose Thai.  This restaurant is one of my Calgary favorites and I was so happy to find out that they could cater to celiac Devon.  I don’t think Andrew and his peanut allergy would have had as much of a good time at this place, but Thai is never fun for the anti-peanut.

Hears a taste:

The King & I.

I don’t know enough adjectives to explain how delicious this food is.  I love the mix of salty and sweet, soft and crunchy and aromatic and spicy flavours in this cuisine.  You’ll have to forgive me, too much has time has passed and I can’t remember exactly what we ordered, but I can tell you that the kitchen knows their stuff.  With the arrival of each dish the waitress kindly reminded me which dishes I could and could not eat.  My wonderful family knows the table drill…no mixing spoons!

Things you should definitely order:
Poppy Shrimp (get 2 orders if there are more than 4 of you, you can thank me later)
Gaeng Keo Wan Pet – spicy green curry of boneless duck with fresh Thai eggplants (their green curry is amazing)
Coconut Rice, coconut rice, coconut rice

Website:
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Monkey Monkey Monkey

(As in “The Wooden”)

You read that right.  We went there three times in our four day trip to Halifax, but it was just SO good.  Clearly we enjoyed this restaurant, having a safe and delicious place to go made our decision easy.  Chris and I needed a bite to eat before his third and my second viewing of “West Side Story” and the Wooden Monkey is just across the construction site from the theatre…

Hears a taste:

The Wooden Monkey.
Round 2

What I ate:
Sesame Crusted Haddock (picture)

What Chris ate:
Lentil Burger

In an effort to keep my blog honest, I should also mention that we ordered a piece of Chocolate Tofu Pie to go and the three of us split it after the show.  I may or may not have shot back the extra raspberry coolis and licked the container of maple whipped cream.
The Wooden Monkey.
Round 3

This time we returned to the Wooden Monkey for its proximity to my hotel and the airport shuttle. ;)

What I ate:
Side order of Sweet Apple Salad
Meat Lovers Pizza with an excellent GF crust (picture)
Chocolate Tofu Pie (picture)

What Chris ate:
Trio of Dips
Tomato Pizza

What Jonathan ate:
Tangy Fish Cakes
Pork Tenderloin
Chocolate Tofu Pie (he ain’t no fool)

Pizza

Chocolate Tofu Pie

Look how happy this pie makes people!

Jono with pie

Me and pie

Adventures in the East

I understand what it is like to be away from the person you love for an extended period of time. When you meet up again, all you want to do is curl up in a bubble with that person and forget about the world and that horrible ‘to do’ list.  This is why I left Jonathan and Chris the morning of our second day in Halifax to be together.  I had some work to do, so I went down to my hotel lobby for free wireless and people watching.  It was a cloudy and rainy day and I felt a little chilled, so I made my way into the lounge for some tea.  The waitress asked if I would want to eat anything, I told her I had already looked at the menu in my room and it looked too difficult to navigate with my allergies.  She said: “oh, just let me get the chef, we cook for allergies all the time”, before I could stop her the chef was standing in front of me asking what I had my heart set on.  I was a bit stuffed up from my travels and gray days make me feel like eating soup, but the special was chicken noodle.  “Do you like seafood chowder?”: says the chef.  Um, YES!

Hears a taste:

Eve at the Westin Nova Scotian.

Their Seafood Chowder does usually contain a rue, but if I could wait 20 minutes or so, he would be happy to whip up a gf seafood chowder.  Luckily, I had 20 minutes to spare, so I patiently waited for my personalized soup.  Oh, life is difficult.  I almost cried when the dish was set in front of me, it was beautiful.  A medley of salmon, shrimp, scallop and mussels, they looked like they had been removed directly from the ocean and tenderly mixed in with cream and potatoes.  I have love for this soup.  I would like to eat this soup everyday.  I am one lucky girl.

What I ate:
GF Seafood Chowder (picture)

Website:
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Seafood Chowder

I met up with the boys in the afternoon.  We wondered and shopped around downtown Halifax until it was time to eat again.  Jonathan had to be at the theatre at 7.15, so we had planned to eat nice and early, take our sweet time visiting and eating.  Jonathan had pointed out a restaurant he had wanted to try the day before, so we went there.

Hears a taste:

Chives.

This restaurant does not have a separate gf menu either, but gf dishes are clearly marked on the menu!  These Nova Scotians really know how to make a girl feel welcome.  The waiter also said there are some dishes they can adjust to be gf, so if something catches my eye, but is not marked I should ask.  Something else we discovered was that the head chef at this restaurant, Craig Flinn, had subliminally been leading us to Chives the whole day — we had come across his cook books in a few stores, but had not made the connection. :)
After the first bite into his biscuit, Jonathan was sure he would be bringing his mother back in a week.  Every dish called to my fork and knife and my mouth was overwhelmed by all the scrumptious offerings.  I’ve included some of the descriptions specifically to make your mouth water.

What I ate:
GF Biscuit with butter and molasses (picture)
Chives’ Fishcakes – Potato crusted and featuring coldwater Atlantic shrimp, sea trout, haddock, spinach cream, mustard pickles, lemon fennel salad (picture)
Bacon-wrapped & double Smoked NS Pork Tenderloin – P.E.I. cloth aged cheddar potato cake, braised red cabbage, cranberry applesauce, rainbow carrots
Blackforest Cake – Flourless chocolate cake, chocolate ganache, white chocolate ice cream, kirsch glazed bing cherries

What Jonathan ate:
Seafood Chowder (how could he not be craving this, after I’d been going on and on about seafood all day)
Braised Lamb “Milanese” – Bill Wood’s lamb du jour with saffron and parmesan risotto, sautéed sweet peas, roasted tomato chutney, natural lamb jus
Warm Caramel Banana Éclair

What Chris ate:
Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Salad – Maple candied pecans, honeycrisp apple, local greenhouse greens, honey buttermilk dressing
Winter Vegetable Tandoor
Sugar Moon Maple Crème Brûlée

Website:
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Fisk Cake