Local restaurants offer gluten-free: steps forward
Exclusive to MapleLine Magazine
by Marnie O'Neil
Equal rights to yumminess are here in Sooke for gluten-free and vegan diners. For individuals and families in search for healthier lifestyles, a new species of diner has emerged. A few food establishments in town -- including Nut Pop Thai, The Stick Coffee Shop and The Little Vienna Bakery -- are offering flavourful mainstream vegan and gluten free options for that clientele.
is a diet and lifestyle that seeks to exclude the use of animals for
food or clothing with a commitment to not use or consume animal
products of any kind. Individuals living with gluten intolerance endure a variety of painful symptoms including abdominal
bloating, constipation or diarrhea induced by the ingestion of food
products that contain gluten. This includes favourites such as bread,
pastries, pretzels and beer. Gluten can also be among the
ingredients of packaged salad dressings, soup bases and soy sauces. A
thorough dissection of all product labels is necessary to detect which are safe
for those who require a gluten-free diet to maintain their health.
Dining out or grabbing a bite on the go, is a challenge when your cravings and your well being are not in sync with the many ingredients used in commercial kitchens. It takes a leap of faith to trust your intestinal fortitude and your lunch to a virtual vegan virgin. Not so in Sooke. Vegan desserts, breakfast options and outstanding gluten free fresh bread are everyday options in this town. A number of village businesses including a bakery, a restaurant and a coffee shop are providing convenient, delicious, flavourful food for vegans and the gluten intolerant.
"Having a vegan chef on our team allows us a personal understanding of the vegan palette and our customers a sense of kinship with the kitchen," says Marnie O'Neil of Nut Pop Thai. The chef Cassandra Gillis prepares dishes such as vegan crème brule and rich warm curries. "Our tempura batter is gluten free which provides a crunchy indulgence. Customers make a point of letting us know how much they appreciate it and we are happy to accommodate them," says O'Neil.
The Stick offers some trail bars (Bars del Camino -- dried fruit, rice
cakes for crunch and seeds) and energy balls (Fabulous Big Balls
including peanut butter, tahini, dried fruits, oats); these items are
by baker Elena but that do contain oats (tolerated by some followers of a gluten-free
Vienna Bakery provides bread and some pastries (such as a poppy seed
cake) that are promoted
as gluten-free under the direction of co-owner Michele Ruttkiewicz.
Like any good relationship, trust is the foundation of the dining experience for anyone with food allergies or specific dietary requirements. Some diners will go so far as to request assurance from management that their dishes will be prepared with an understanding of their needs. Anyone who has ever suffered the side effects of "eating something that didn't agree with them" understands the drive to avoid consuming that food item again. MM
Marnie O'Neil is the owner of the Nut Pop Thai restaurant, 6676 Sooke Rd., Sooke, BC
This article has been first published as a linked story in the bi-weekly MapleLine Magazine (January 4, 2010 issue).