July 21, 2011

Gluten-free dining: Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company, Canmore


We escaped to the mountains last weekend.


It was glorious. 

I think growing up in the mountains must be similar to growing up near the ocean. You take it for granted until you leave, and then you miss it like crazy.

Canmore is a beautiful town. The mountains are a constant backdrop, rising up all around you. I had to fight the urge to photograph every scene, even the peaks behind the Starbucks. As it was, I took lots of photos. Especially on our walk to Quarry Lake.


Quarry Lake is a spring-fed lake that used to be a mining area and is over 100 metres deep in some areas. It's a popular place to swim, with a little "beach" (keep in mind I'm from PEI) carved out of the gravel at the edge of the lake. We lay in the grass and watched the sun move in and out of the amazing clouds above the mountains.

I was hoping to go swimming, but the water was some of the coldest I've ever been in. I jumped in and lasted about four seconds before I crawled, shivering, back up onto the shore. The lake, however, is apparently one of the warmest places to swim in Canmore this time of year.


That night we went out for pizza. Thanks to the Celiac Husband, I knew that the Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company made gluten-free pizza.


Our 30-minute wait for a table was worth it. Everyone at our table of six loved their pizzas, remarking on the fresh, interesting flavours. The menu is packed with original combinations, such as the Mexicali, with chocolate-chili sauce, corn and jicama root.


The glutenous flatbread crust got good reviews, and it looked delicious. My GF crust was very good as well, ranking above Boston Pizza's version, which I've eaten several times. The menu says it's made with brown rice, buckwheat, and chickpea flour. When J had a taste he found the bean flavour overwhelming, but it didn't bother me.


I chose the Apple Chicken Harvest: free-range spiced chicken, Granny Smith apples, red onions, cherry tomatoes, pesto and cheddar cheese on a tomato sauce base. I'm glad I chose something a bit different, because the sweetness of the apples and juiciness of the chicken with the pesto was fantastic.


J and I also shared a fig and goat's cheese salad which we really enjoyed. It was fresh and tasty, and we especially liked the pea shoots on top. There was plenty of goat cheese, but I couldn't really taste much fig from the dressing.

Our server was excellent, giving us the right amount of attention throughout the evening. She also knew all about the GF options. For dessert, unfortunately, they were all out of the GF creme brulee and cheesecake, so I had to content myself with a scoop of vanilla ice cream while others devoured the brownie with cookies and cream ice cream. It got raves.


I was impressed with the restaurant’s emphasis on the environment and using local products. They buy green electricity from Bullfrog Power and source all of their meats and many of their vegetables from within Alberta. All of their fish and seafood is certified by Ocean Wise, a sustainable fisheries program. Their claim is that every meal is carbon-neutral, due to environmental initiatives in their restaurants, and their use of carbon assets. You can learn more on their website. 

We wandered back to our hotel, full of pizza and ice cream and content to gaze on the beautiful scenery and the setting sun. Though I'm heading for the beautiful shores of PEI in a few days, I also can't wait to go back to the mountains. For an Eastern girl like me, they're something special.

Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company
#1 838 10th Street, Canmore
(There are also locations in Vancouver)

July 9, 2011

Gluten-free Winnipeg


In a way, visiting a new place is even more fun now that I have celiac disease. You might think it would be the opposite, but discovering gluten-free food on menus and at markets is so exciting!

It could also be that the places I’ve traveled to since finding out I have celiac (all within Europe and North America) are very gluten-free-friendly. There have been no gluten-free wastelands. Instead, it’s been just the opposite.


When I went to Winnipeg for the weekend in June, I came prepared anyway (a key thing to do when you have celiac). I brought a package of nuts and a few gluten-free fruit and nut bars with me. It turns out I barely needed them. Winnipeg is full of gluten-free gems.


I went to Winnipeg to visit my friend Matt, who was born and raised in the city, and moved back about a year ago. We met in journalism school in Halifax more than three years ago (hard to believe it’s been that long). We were both living on the same floor in residence, a 12-room community called the Roost, designed for older students going to J-school. Living there was one of the best decisions I ever made – I forged really close friendships because of it.


Matt and I bonded over a shared love of music – we both play the piano – and I always loved his wacky sense of humour and his sincere, outgoing personality. The emails he writes me still make me laugh out loud every time. We both fell in love with radio at school and are both now working in the field. He’s a lover of sports, especially baseball, and is a reporter at a sports radio station in Winnipeg.

Having Matt as a tour guide around the city made Winnipeg seem like a crown jewel. I’d never been there before and several people had told me it wasn’t particularly nice. I couldn’t disagree more! It felt like a prairie city, but since it’s smaller than Edmonton, it was homier, and I loved the distinct neighbourhoods and huge, old trees. The level of green was also astounding – as we drove through the streets, it was sprouting up everywhere! I think I also saw Winnipeg in its best light, on a gorgeous June weekend that was sunny and warm.


Matt and his girlfriend Heather live in Osborne Village, the most densely populated neighbourhood in the city, full of young people, cute cafes and trendy shops. It’s quite close to the centre of town, where the Red and Assiniboine Rivers meet. The city has created a meeting place there called The Forks, where we went on Saturday morning. There’s a market and a building of shops, some restaurants and a beautiful place to sit and watch the river flow by.

Matt told me he usually takes all his visitors to the same restaurants – his favourites. But I threw a wrench into the works with and forced him to be more creative. Heather helped out too, though she wasn’t in town, by recommending a few spots. There were no disappointments. Here are some of my favourite eats from the weekend:

Prairie Ink Cafe


We came here straight from the airport to have lunch. The cafe is inside a large, independent, local bookstore, McNally Robinson. The store looked beautiful and I probably could have spent hours browsing there, but our focus was on food. The cafe is also beautiful, and we sat on the patio, with cute blue furniture and plenty of umbrellas for shade.

The cafe serves three meals a day and the menu is extensive, including lots of baked goods and desserts. They have gluten-free bread from Kinnikinnick, so I was immediately drawn to the sandwich section. I went for the roasted chicken club, which was delicious. Besides the tender, flavourful chicken, there was bacon, tomato, cheese and buttermilk-ranch dressing.  The bread was toasted and crisp, and the coleslaw and pickle on the side freshened things up. Matt enjoyed his burger too. Our server was friendly and knowledgeable about gluten, pointing out that the BBQ sauce on several sandwiches was made with worcestershire sauce which was not gluten-free.

The Forks




If you visit Winnipeg you should not miss The Forks (see second and third photos in this post too). It’s a great place to wander around, especially in nice weather. I even came across a cello performance outside. I also saw a sign for a farmers’ market there on Sunday mornings.

The Forks market has food stalls on the bottom floor, mostly prepared foods, with fresh produce down the centre. The top level is shops. Grass Roots Prairie Kitchen, on the bottom floor, carries gluten-free bread and baked goods from Gentle Grains Gluten-Free Bakery in the city. I tried their cinnamon buns, which tasted good but were quite dense. If I had been staying longer I definitely would have tried the bread as well.

I got a great cappuccino at a cafe called Human Bean, whose baked goods (not GF) also looked really good. Later on I had a gluten-free crepe for lunch at Caramel Crepe. They make the GF crepes on the same surface as the gluten crepes, but they clean them first. The crepe was delicious – full of smoked chicken, ricotta cheese and spinach.

The Bridge Drive-In



Known simply as BDI to locals, this is one of those old-timey places. The feel reminded me a bit of Frosty Treat in Kensington, PEI, except they focus solely on dessert. In particular, ice cream. In fact, there are so many different options/combinations of hard and soft ice cream, sundaes, milkshakes etc. that I found the menu a bit confusing and overwhelming (click on the photo with the menu further up to enlarge and see some of the options). I eventually settled on a chocolate/strawberry upside-down milkshake (i think?) which was a bit like a DQ blizzard made with chocolate and strawberry ice cream. When I saw it, I thought, there’s no way I’m finishing that. Um, well, I did. Quite handily. Matt went for a BDI favourite, called The Goog. It’s a blueberry shake with a hot-fudge sundae and bananas, topped with whipped cream. Intense.

The great thing about BDI is it’s right next to a pedestrian bridge across the Red River. The bridge leads to a beautiful neighbourhood on a little peninsula. The tradition is to buy your ice cream and  then stroll across the bridge enjoying it. That’s exactly what we did, along with all the other couples and families doing the same thing.

Stella’s Cafe and Bakery 



Stella’s seems like a Winnipeg institution. There are five locations across the city, with another opening soon at the airport (which is being rebuilt). And I can see why. We went to the one on Osborne Street close to Matt’s apartment. It’s homestyle food done well, with delicious desserts and baked goods. I think most people go there for breakfast, but they also serve lunch and supper.

The supper menu has several GF options, and I chose the chickpea curry. I was intrigued by the fact that it’s served with bananas, raisins and coconut. I often serve Indian food with raisins, and the bananas seemed like a great extension of that. The Curry itself was great, warming and spicy, and the sweet sides (it also came with peach chutney) complemented it perfectly.

Though we were really full, we decided to go for dessert too, since the server offered up a GF chocolate cake. Matt chose a raspberry-zucchini cake with cream-cheese frosting. Though my cake was the go-to flourless chocolate cake served at so many restaurants, this was a great version. It was Dense and fudgy but not too sweet. The raspberry sauce draped on top was a great touch. It was still too rich for me, though, and we both left half on our plates.

The service at Stella’s was a little slow, and though our server knew about GF options, she wasn’t the friendliest person. But that wouldn’t keep me from going back.

The Falafel Place



Matt definitely saved the best for last. We visited the Falafel Place for brunch on Sunday morning right before I left. It’s renowned for its all-day breakfast. The restaurant was packed, with a line almost out the door, though Matt said it’s often much busier.

We didn’t have to wait long for a table, and when I found out they have gluten-free falafel, I knew it was going to be good. I ordered a breakfast that came with 8 falafel, potato hash with banana peppers and onions, two fried eggs and hummus and tahini. I barely got through it. I noticed the GF falafel are smaller than the regular kind, but the flavour was amazing. They were moist and nicely spiced. I also loved the addition of the peppers and onions to the perfectly cooked potatoes, and the hummus and tahini. It was a really unique, delicious breakfast.

Matt knows the extremely affable owner, Ami, who kindly posed for a picture with us. When we first walked in he was standing near the front of the restaurant, taking care of seating people and chatting with all the patrons. When he found out I had celiac disease, he told me his daughter does too, which is why they have so many GF options. I found out they have GF bread too, after I ordered, though I didn’t miss the toast on my plate.

This breakfast was probably the best meal of the whole weekend, especially because the restaurant itself is so friendly and a bit raucous. It’s a casual room with booth, tables, and a bar, and you can see into the kitchen where all the good things are getting fried up. If you’re looking for GF breakfast in Winnipeg, this is the place to go.

I’m already excited about my next trip to Winnipeg. Not only to visit such a great friend, but to go back to these places and discover even more. Gluten-free food is becoming so common in North America that traveling is really not a problem. I’m looking forward to my trip home to the East Coast this summer, and I can’t wait wait to tell you about my GF finds there too.

Prairie Ink Cafe1120 Grant Avenue
The Forks Market
Stella’s Cafe and Bakery several locations 
Falafel Place 1101 Corydon Avenue