New Year, Bad Luck

I seem to be having bad luck with gluten free dining this year, starting on January 1st! A few of us went to the Canucks game on New Years Day and we stopped at St. Augustine’s pub at Broadway and Commercial beforehand.

I’ve enjoyed going to St. Augustine’s in the past because they often have gluten free beer on their ever-changing menu and they are generally well versed in all things gluten free.

This was not one of those times. There were no gluten free beers on their menu, so I had a Merridale traditional cider, which I’ve had before. I’ve enjoyed this cider in the past, but this time the cider was flat and slightly warm. Just generally not enjoyable.

As we were a little pressed for time my boyfriend wanted to get a food order in right away and he inquired as to if their wings were gluten free. They were, so he asked the server to choose two flavours for us. When the wings came it was clear that one kind was teriyaki, and the other was also similarly saucy. I asked the server if the sauces were safe, and it turned out that they were not. This was just the first event of this type of the evening. We were pretty surprised that after we had made it clear that I had a gluten allergy and she had even checked on the wings that this would have been overlooked. She did offer to get us another order with a gluten free seasoning, but we decided not to bother.

Turns out I didn’t actually miss out on anything though, as everyone at the table said the wings were terrible. They thought the sauces tasted watered down and were very underwhelming.

I ordered a salad in place of the wings, and when it was dropped off at the table I was informed that the chickpeas were removed from the salad “because of your gluten allergy”. Now, nowhere on the menu did it say the chickpeas were floured or even seasoned, so where did this sudden gluten come from with the chickpeas? When the server informed me of this everyone at the table immediately made a face and I was just dumbfounded. We were left wondering if the server thought chickpeas naturally contained gluten.

Now, I am very well aware that not everybody is knowledgeable about all things gluten free. It confuses people, they don’t understand or they just think it is something that it isn’t. I get that, and that’s totally fine. If the server communicated that she wasn’t entirely sure, but she would ask someone to clarify, or get another staff member to sort it out that would have been greatly appreciated. As it was, I missed those chickpeas!

This dinner wasn’t that terrible, just a bit of an annoyance. However, last nights dinner left me genuinely worried that I was going to be glutened.

Roo’s pub in Coquitlam has recently been renovated and changed their menu, so my brother, sister, their significant others and I decided to check it out. First off, the renovations are very minor; they’ve re-done their bar, but that seemed to be it. Their menu was nothing special, no real standouts, but nothing terrible either.

After skimming the menu I was pretty sure I could find something for dinner; they advertise a gluten free beer on their menu, and have a chocolate cake labeled GF on the dessert page. Although after looking further it became clear that this cake was the only thing on the whole menu labeled gluten free. But at least they seemed to know what they were doing. Right? No. Not at all.

I let our server know that I have Celiac Disease and needed a gluten free meal and her face froze. I asked about two different appetizers, and if she could find out if they were safe for me. She came back to the table a minute later and let me know that one dish was breaded, so that was definitely out. When I inquired about the sauce on the other dish she told me that “the kitchen doesn’t really know what gluten is, so I don’t know”. Huh? Your menu clearly states that you carry gluten free items, yet your chefs don’t know what gluten is? After she laughed this off, actually, I asked for a simple garden salad, with balsamic dressing on the side. To be fair she did say she would check the dressing, but asked if it would clearly state “gluten” in the ingredients, to which my brother responded, quite sharply, “wheat, look for wheat”.

Needless to say this wasn’t the best dining experience I’ve had in awhile, and we definitely won’t be returning to Roo’s.

These two instances left me wondering why restaurants take the time to label things as gluten free on their menus, bring in the gluten free beer, and somewhat take an interest in a part of their business that they would otherwise miss out on, if they won’t take the time to educate their staff. If it’s too hard or too time consuming to train the whole staff properly, why not have a manager, or one appointed staff member to be the liaison between the customer and kitchen? It would definitely make the customer more comfortable, and as a chef myself, I welcome being able to learn something new on the job. It would help these chefs grow, and I doubt they would turn down that opportunity.

Since we’ve had such bad luck this year we’ve decided we’re going to push it and see if it can turn around next time we eat out. Stay tuned!

Published in: on January 13, 2014 at 8:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

Musings of a Glutenfreegal

Glutenfreegal is back! After a crazy year and a half I’ve decided it’s time to get back on this thing and send some thoughts into the blogosphere.

I’ve been working for close to three years as a cook turned sous chef, now sharing the role with a co-worker, and between the two of us pretty much running our kitchen. My OCD has worked wonders for keeping things organized, and her amazing flavour combinations are keeping people coming back for more.

As a corporate chef I see the same customers daily, and have gotten used to people’s tastes, allergies and preferences. Things were pretty status quo for the first couple years; the same three people with Celiac and a few with intolerances, and as someone with allergies I tried to make them more comfortable about eating in our kitchen. But over the past six to twelve months the amount of people coming to us with gluten allergies or intolerances has increased exponentially.

My co-workers normally send them my way, and I let them know that as I have allergies, myself and co-workers are pretty in tune with what is gluten free that day and what is not. We’re always quite happy to help people and let them know what is safe for them to eat and what isn’t, but over the past little while it seems that people aren’t eating gluten free out of necessity but because of the fad that is the “amazing gluten free diet”.

Our kitchen started carrying Udi’s gluten free bread about a year ago, and lately the amount of people who are asking for that as their toast vs their regular whole wheat or multigrain is mind boggling. They think that because the bread is gluten free it is healthier. Comparing a slice of Udi’s gluten free whole grain bread to a slice of commercially prepared whole wheat bread, it is obvious that the whole wheat bread, if you can eat it, is the healthier choice. With comparable calories, the gluten free bread has 17.5 calories from fat vs eight in the whole wheat. The whole wheat bread also has almost double the amount of protein then that of the gluten free. Now I’m not slagging Udi’s in any way; I love their whole grain bread, it is one of the best I’ve come across, but when I see people eating this bread instead of the others simply because they think the gluten free diet is healthier, I find it more than a little annoying.

These customers will then return at lunch and not question anything that they are eating, walking away with plates of gluten full food, thinking they’ve done their “healthy” part of the day in the morning.

These are the people that are leading others in the food service industry to not take people with Celiac Disease or actual gluten intolerances seriously. It’s becoming common to go to restaurants and not have the servers take the gluten free requests seriously. For example, they’ve come across other people who’ve said the sauce with a trace of gluten is totally fine, whereas that sauce would make someone with Celiac quite ill.

It’s becoming more apparent that many people are simply eating gluten free because they think it will help them lose weight, or maybe just because it seems to currently be the “in” diet. Granted, if you follow a gluten free diet and don’t indulge in the gluten free substitutions for breads, cookies, cakes etc…it can be a diet to help with weight loss (and I don’t say this as any kind of dietary advice, simply as my own thoughts and experience). But when you are substituting the foods that are now off limits with their gluten free counter-parts, the “dieting” part is becoming counter intuitive.

I guess the point of my musings is simply that I think people should be doing their research before adopting any new diet. If you are starting a diet not based on need but because of what you have been led to believe is true, dig a little deeper; don’t do anything based on false information.

Glutenfreegal is back! Stay tuned for more thoughts, recipes and reviews; there’s more to come!

Published in: on March 17, 2013 at 6:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bakery On Main – coming up!

I just received six new bars from Bakery On Main. These True Bars have “nothing to hide”, are dairy and casein free, low in sodium, have no transfat or cholesterol and are a good source of Omega 3’s. I’m excited to try these six bars, especially the coconut cashew and apricot almond chai! Stay tuned for photos and my review!

 

Published in: on July 13, 2011 at 8:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

PCC – My New Love

Glutenfreegal is back! I know it’s been awhile since I’ve written, but I have good reasons! Work is busy, wedding planning is crazy and whatever time I have to write I’ve been using to post to the Vancouver Observer. Please check out my posts and recipes on there to keep updated on my latest cooking and baking experiments!

Now, onto this post.

I spent a weekend down in Seattle a couple weeks ago and spent most of my time checking out grocery stores. As usual. Joel and I go down to Seattle every so often to visit family and I’m always amazed at the variety of gluten free foods available in the States. Sure, the grocery stores here are getting better in their selection, but they are nothing compared to some of the stores in Seattle.

One chain store that I have fallen in love with is PCC. PCC Natural Markets is a chain based in western Washington, primarily in the Puget Sound area. They pride themselves on carrying high quality foods, supporting local sustainable agriculture and celebrating food, among other things. PCC is similar to Whole Foods, but almost without the pretentious feel you sometimes sense while in a Whole Foods. Now don’t get me wrong, I like Whole Foods, but I think a lot of what you’re paying when you shop there is because of the name.

PCC carries everything you could need, and their gluten free selection is simply part of the store, not a separate aisle or tucked away in a freezer. Gluten free items are easily identifiable by orange tags on the shelves and the stores all employ gluten free shopping specialists and train their staff in all things gluten free and Celiac.

All told, PCC carries around 2000 gluten free products. Compare this to your local Safeway or Save-On and this is incredible!

Another thing I love about this store is that they offer gluten free cooking and baking classes. I’m looking forward to attending a few of them!

We picked up a few things while we were there, of course, and so far there have been no disappointments. Well, at least not due to the products. I managed to find a bag of Bob’s Red Mill gluten free steel cut oats, and put them in a tupperware container when we got home, and Joel left the container on top of the fridge. He came home that afternoon to a kitchen floor covered in oats and one of our cats playing in them!

Other than that, everything has been fabulous! I came home with a box of Puffins honey rice cereal (really yummy), gluten free old fashioned oats, vegan gluten free burritos, Redbridge sorghum beer and Rudi’s multigrain bread.

The cereal disappeared within three days (Joel was eating it and I had no idea!), the oats are great for oatmeal, home made granola or baking, the burritos were a tasty after shopping snack and the bread and beer are good for anytime!

I would love for PCC to expand to Canada, but sadly I don’t think this will happen. I’ll just have to settle for visiting the PCC whenever I go to Seattle!

Check out PCC online at http://www.pccnaturalmarkets.com/

Published in: on May 16, 2011 at 8:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bakery On Main Review – Part 2

A little while ago I was contacted by Bakery on Main, a company in the States about reviewing some of their products. I was sent three granola bars, which I have previously written about, and three types of loose granola. It took me awhile to get through these granolas because I generally mix them with soy yogurt and I didn’t have any for awhile.

I recently finished them, and I was very impressed! One of the granolas was actually one I’ve posted about before; Apple Raisin Walnut Granola. The raisin and walnuts really come out in this granola, but the apple doesn’t at all. Just writing this I’m trying to remember the apple flavour in the granola and I can’t. If the flavour was stronger I definitely think it would go well with the granola.

The next kind I tried was the Extreme Fruit and Nut Granola. This one tasted quite similar to the Extreme Trail Mix granola bar I’ve previously tried from Bakery on Main. I really enjoyed this one. There were a lot of nuts in the mix and some dried fruits, and the flavours were really nice.

The last granola was the Nutty Cranberry Maple Granola. This one was my favourite. The mix of the nuts and cranberry with a hint of maple flavour was perfect.

I’ve found Bakery on Main’s granolas in the Save On Foods near me, but they’re quite expensive; $9 a bag. This is a bit steep for granola, but I might have to splurge for the Nutty Cranberry Maple Granola every once in awhile!

I was recently sent some chewy granola bars from Bakery on Main to review, so stay tuned for the post!

Published in: on December 31, 2010 at 10:45 am  Comments (1)