Chipotle, I had to.

During the month of June, I was in New Mexico taking part in a fantastic singing program (still working out the post in my head), but upon my arrival in Albuquerque, I decided to eat at a Chipotle.  This is a Mexican food chain essentially owned by McDonald’s, but it has some heart.  I know what you must be thinking…this girl is surrounded by Mexican/New Mexican food in New Mexico, why would she choose to go to a fast food chain? My favorite New Mexican restaurant is in Santa Fe and it was already in the books for the next day and I was in a hurry.  If I had a buddy, I would have gone to a proper restaurant, but when you are by yourself, if you’re not in the mood to dine alone, fast food becomes more appealing.

Check out this link and see why I have some love for this chain:
click me!

Hears a taste:

Chipotle.

The website advises to ask for the server to change their gloves and follow you along the line to avoid contamination (as much as you can).  I’m making this sound so risky, but I have been to various Chipotle’s and (knock on wood) not had any problems.

I always order the Burrito Bowl;  it’s huge and can be shared or eaten solo, leftovers are good too.  Andrew and I were visiting his Mom in Albany and we split 2 between the three of us and still had leftovers for his sister.  All the meats are delicious and they are all gf.  My favorite is pork.  You pick your rice, your meat, and your toppings.  Always get the guacamole, it’s tasty.

Carnitas Burrito Bowl with cilantro rice, corn and guacamole, with a blackberry IZZE.

Does this look like fast food to you?  I think even if I could eat everything on the menu at any fast food joint, Chipotle would be my fast food of choice.  I am a sucker for Mexican cuisine, but this place is tasty.  Of course, the nearest location to Montreal is Burlington, Vermont, but I highly recommend keeping this place in mind if you’re in the US or Toronto, especially over a McDonald’s.

Website:
click me!

Addendum - this little story might not help sell my gf experience at Chipotle, but I have to tell it:  When I stepped up to the counter, I asked the server to change her gloves because I have an allergy to gluten.  With a flour tortilla in her hand, she says: “I haven’t touched gluten in these gloves”,  giving her the benefit of the doubt, I reply: “oh, is that a corn tortilla in your hand?”.  She says: “No, it’s just a tortilla”  Devon’s eyebrows furrow: “so that is a wheat flour tortilla, there is gluten in wheat”.  “No,” says my new ‘about to get educated’ friend, “it’s a tortilla tortilla”.  Oy, needless to say, I asked for the next girl over to help me.

Cabane à Sucre

This is one of my favorite things about living in Quebec.  Every year when the snow melts the maple sap starts to run and the blessed people of Quebec go out and collect all that yummy sap and turn it into even yummier syrup!  Then, these fabulous people host these incredible meals to celebrate this syrup that they have made.  Pea soup, creton, beans, potatoes, bacon, ham, eggs and ‘les oreilles de Christ’, MAPLE TOFFEE!  All drizzled in maple goodness.  Maple is a Quebec staple.

“What to eat first…the maple bacon or les oreilles d’Christ?”

My first experience with Cabane was in 2000, I went with Nadia, Lara and the Concordia Psychology department.  We went to a giant Sugar Shack with space for about 300, they had an arcade, dance floor and I think I remember some ski-ball.  It was quite the adventure and I figured it was something you had to do at least once.

Fast forward a few years and some of my new friends wanted to go somewhere for Cabane.  I ask one of my favorite Francophone’s where to go and she sends me to a place I will try to visit annually for the rest of my life.  Louise’s family has been going to the Cabane à sucre famille Éthier for years and I’m happy to continue the tradition with them and all the people I love.

Hears a taste:

Cabane à sucre famille Éthier.

There is no menu.  You arrive.  You eat.  The only thing I (the celiac) can’t eat is the omelet (there is a touch of flour to make it giant and puffy) and dessert, but la Famille Éthier is always happy to fry up a couple of eggs for me and this year, for dessert, they poached an egg in maple syrup!  Be jealous, it’s delicious.  The last part of the meal is my favorite, you roll a popsicle stick across a bed of snow covered in hot maple syrup, it’s called: La Tire d’Érable.

A meal with bacon, pork rinds (the French call them Christ’s Ears), eggs and maple syrup is really hard to mess up, but this place is special because of the people who run it and the music and the love of maple syrup.  Did I mention they refill the bowls?  Did I mention that it’s bring your own wine?  Wonderful.

This year, I went twice.

This does not look appetizing, I know, but it’s a bowl of hot maple syrup with an egg in it, you can’t deny that you want to try this. And you should, it’s amazing.

There are tons of Cabane in the Montreal area and throughout Quebec.  I highly recommend any of the ones that fit less than 100 people, it’s a way more realistic and pleasant experience!

Click me! for the Quebec Tourist website to find your own favorite Cabane!

Another one of my favorite things about living in Quebec is living in the same city as Dayle:
HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAYLE!!!

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:
click me!

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
click me!

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!

A Dark Dominion

That title alludes to a very heavy post, but I assure you, read on, this is a nice story…

This is a story about a restaurant that I like very much.  It has a charming, old world atmosphere, flavourful food, unique cocktails, passable pricing and so far, great memories.

Hears a taste:

Taverne Square Dominion.

Last November Jonathan (my partner in event coordinating crime) and I had our first experience at Taverne Square Dominion.  We had the good fortune of dining with someone who actually lived in the time that this former hotel bar had been a central part of Montreal’s gay village.  Jonathan and I both enjoyed a delicious steak and the three of us imbibed several bottles of red wine.

The next time I went back it was with Andrew and Jonathan.  We had tried to see a movie, but it was sold out, so we decided to dine.  Oddly enough we were seated at the same table as before.  Apparently it is our table.  We ordered fancy drinks (they have Pimms!) and set off on our second Taverne Square Dominion food adventure.  The waiter’s were very helpful and happy to go back and talk to the chef with any questions I had that they could not answer definitively.  I like that.

What I ate:
Rock Shrimp with toast (they replaced the toast with lettuce and I made little wraps) – I ate this the first time too and it was so yummy I had to have it again
Beef Striploin – same thing I had last time, but I hadn’t drunk as much red wine and still delicious

What Jonathan ate:
Fried Clams
Mussels cooked with bacon and cider

Andrew ate:
Salmon Gravalax
Mussels cooked with bacon and cider

The third time Jonathan and I made our way back it was to celebrate another summer visit with great friends (the theme of Jonathan and I’s summer).  Rachel, a marvelous friend from McGill, and Jason, her boyfriend (equally marvelous), came to town from Toronto for three fine days.  Now, if you thought finding food for me and Andrew (no nuts) was complex, try adding a vegetarian on a special diet and avoiding wheat, a fastidious pianist and an Atkins diet.  Jason was our easy eater.  We all took a peek at the menu and agreed this was the place for us.  The drink menu sealed the deal…homemade soda, tonique and an impressive list of gin was something we could all enjoy.

We arrived at the Taverne and were seated at the not our table in the back as the seating for large groups is limited (they won’t take groups larger than 8).  We ordered our cocktails and our meals and enjoyed each others company while we waited for our feast to arrive.  We all know, the minute someone gets up to go to the washroom the food arrives, so we sent Chris.  Only instead of our appetizers arriving there was a flash and we were in the dark.  A power outage!  Noooo!  Our food!

Half of the street was out, but no one was sure how long the dark would last.  Waiters rushed around adding candles in beer mugs and short glasses to each occupied table, then all of a sudden our appetizers arrive!  Apparently our timing had been perfect; when the power went out our order was up and cooking.  We were served our main courses as well.  After the power had been out for 40 minutes we noticed the waiters breaking the news to other clients that they had decided to call it a night, the power was still a mystery and the kitchen wouldn’t be able to make any more meals.  The waiters pulled out their calculators and started adding together the tabs manually, each bill was served up with a sassy round of shots.

It could have been strange eating in the dark, but when you’re with great friends and great food it turns into a rare experience we’ll never forget.

Website:
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Celiacaversary!

On August 13, 2008, I was diagnosed with Celiac disease.  I can still remember the sense of relief that I could be fixed.  The month prior to my revelation I had been in for an endoscope of my belly.  When I came out of my drug induced relaxation, my doctor told me he had some good news and some okay news.  The good news: I didn’t have an ulcer or any unusual bumps, the okay news: I probably have celiac disease.

My first question: “Is there gluten in rice?”
“No”, replies the doctor.
Me: “Okay, then I’ll be fine.”

While in surgery, he took a biopsy of my stomach and told me the results were going to take a few weeks, he also sent me for another blood test and told me to continue eating gluten until I had the results in case they needed to run anymore tests.

On my drive home I decided I had three and a half weeks to eat whatever I wanted.  My system was already used to being sick all the time, so I went full out.  I admit that I didn’t know a lot about celiac, so I bought one book (mostly to make sure I ate all the gluten I could) and I planned to deal with the celiac thing starting the day after my appointment.

What does one eat while saying goodbye to gluten?
– so much pizza (homemade and restaurant)
– Chinese food = most importantly dim sum, ginger beef (in Alberta), any vegetable in oyster sauce or hoisin, salt & pepper squid and many dumplings (I am proudly 1/4 Chinese and this was one of the hardest things for me to give up)
– Japanese food = most importantly shrimp and veggie tempura, any sushi roll with tempura in it
– Pasta! (homemade and restaurant)
– Chocolate cookies with white chocolate chips
– Crispy crunch cake with white chocolate icing
– Bread = croissant, pain au chocolat, baguette, biscuits, dinner rolls (homemade), cranberry orange bread and cinnamon toast
– Beer = Dieu du Ciel

The day of my results appointment I planned a last hoorah at my favorite Ethiopian restaurant and then beers at DdC.  If only I had read my book a wee bit more, I would have known that Ethiopian bread is traditionally made from teff and is perfectly safe for people avoiding gluten!

Hears a taste:

Nil bleu.

I love going to Nil Bleu.  Ethiopian is best enjoyed in groups and when you have a lot of time.  I would not recommend Ethiopian before a show, deadlines do not exist in this world.
You eat with your hands, teff bread is your utensil.  The mix of flavours and spices are unique and delicious.  From the spicy and tangy berber sauce to the sweet, stewed potatoes and carrots.  So good.

What I ate (and can still eat!):
Doro Watt – spiced chicken with onions and a boiled egg
Assa Watt – fish cooked in berber sauce
Gommen – spinach
Yatakelt Watt – potatoes, cabbage and carrot
Yebeg Tibbs – lamb with green peppers and ginger

Ordering Ethiopian:
In my many trips to Nil Bleu, I think I have mastered the perfect order.
Start with 1 vegetarian platter, then add 1 meat/per person.
Example – For a group of 4, I would order:
1 vegetarian platter
1 Doro Watt
1 Yebeg Tibbs
1 Assa Watt

More people = more meat and an extra spinach.

Website:
Click me!

Pushap

This restaurant does not call for a fancy post title.  I only need to say: Pushap.  If you have been to this place, you will know what I mean.  If you have not made your trip out to Namur Metro for a Thali at Pushap, then you have not lived the real Montreal experience.

This restaurant has so much character!  From the colorful display case of sweets to the year round Christmas lights, multi-colored walls and light up Taj Mahal to the family of staff and cooks with friendly faces and sneaky smiles.  The food is delicious.  Always.

Hears a taste:

Pushap.

The first time I ate at Pushap (B.C.) was with Krista (a great singer & great friend).  I have no idea how she found out about this little restaurant and sweet shop off the Decarie highway, but I’m so glad I followed her on this adventure!  This restaurant offers mouth-watering and authentic vegetarian Indian cuisine at a very low price.  We used to gather groups of friends, fill our cars and make our way out for dinner or lunch weekly.  The Thali is $5.75!  Who could resist?!

I have ordered food from Pushap to cater my birthday party and I have ordered meals to freeze and take to my friends across the border.  Pushap is the place I always take my visitors to and whenever Krista or Kelly or Megan or Aimee (my Pushap pack o’friends) come back to town, it is high on the list of food priorities!

Andrew eats here too!  He is allergic to nuts and peanuts and lots of legumes make his throat itch.  There are no peanuts in this restaurant, but the sweets do have nuts (pistachio, cashew and almond) and there are peas in several of the vegetable dishes.  Fortunately for Andrew, I have been going there long enough that I know what is in each dish and the servers are always happy to let us design our own Thali.  I should also mention that Andrew’s pretty safe around nuts, peanuts are his big problem)

What I eat:
Pakora – deep fried spiced chickpea flour with onions and potato and spinach
*B.C. I enjoyed the Samosa and Pakora combo.  For those of you who can eat gluten: try the samosa, thank me later.
Thali with lentils (or chickpeas) and NO bread – includes 2 daily selections of veggies (my favorite are Alu-Gobhi and Shahi-Paneer) and rice
Ladoo (picture) – chickpea flour sweets

What Andrew eats:
Samosa
Special Thali (nut and legume free version) – we order Alu-Gobhi (cauliflower and potatoes), Palak-Panneer (spinach and cheese) and if he is not in the mood for the slight itch caused by chickpeas, we will order a third veggie like Zucchini
Gulab Jamun – honey ball sweets

A fair warning:
I have never been sick from the food at Pushap, but if you are there in peak hours (12pm-1pm & 6pm-7ish), the possibility of contamination is higher.  The kitchen is very small and they move fast, someone might forget that you said no bread and throw a piece on top of your food BUT the one time this happened they understood that I needed a new plate with all new rice and veggies.  Be clear with your allergies and you will be fine!

Website:
Click me!

A little reminiscing: The sweets are delectable and even if it were no longer safe for me to eat here, I would still recommend it to everyone and I would still call it one of Montreal’s hidden treasures.  The owners are always asking about my friends and when they can expect to see us again and I love them.

 

I can still eat these!

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:
Click me!

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!