Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Relish Bar & Grill, 2152 Danforth Avenue (1 block east of Woodbine), Toronto; 416-425-4664

While I was in Toronto over Christmas, I went to a restaurant called Relish Bar & Grill twice. My first visit was with a friend who'd sussed out the spot before my visit. Relish is a small restaurant with a long, skinny bar, and it’s away from the downtown core but easily accessible by subway (it's a block east of Woodbine station). The menu is Mediterranean tapas — small plates meant for sharing — and the list of both gluten-free and vegetarian choices was impressive. My friend doesn’t have celiac disease, but she ordered off the gluten-free menu so that we’d be able to share dishes in the true spirit of tapas. It was a fantastic spread: warm olives with fresh rosemary and red peppers, a salad of heirloom tomatoes and feta atop pickled red onions, a wild mushroom risotto drizzled with black truffle oil, and a blue corn tortilla stuffed with chicken.

There were a couple of service issues on my second visit, but the food was still excellent (the full story is on my blog, the Gluten-Free Guidebook, if you'd like to read more). Nonetheless, Relish is well worth a visit.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Four, 187 Bay St. (lower level), Toronto; 416-368-1444

I've had great gluten-free dining experiences at Far Niente, but it's an expensive choice. But a moderately priced restaurant now resides in Far Niente’s basement, where there used to be a bar. The restaurant, Four, advertises itself as having a “balanced approach to guilt-free dining.” Every dish on the menu is less than 650 calories. That’s not such a feat with a starter salad like the beet-and-pear with goat cheese, but it’s pretty impressive with gluten-free main courses like the delicious ocean trout with beluga lentils and sherry-mustard-dressed greens.

Four isn’t such a health-crazed spot that they neglect the cocktail list (the pernod-chambord-raspberry cocktail is lovely). At lunchtime, Four offers sandwiches on gluten-free bread. There's a longer review on my blog, the Gluten-Free Guidebook, if you'd like to read more.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

On my last visit to Toronto, I was excited to hear that Pizza Nova had started to offer a gluten-free crust. However, when I went to order, I found cause for concern. Pizza Nova provides a PDF document on its website to alert customers to allergens in their pizza toppings and other food products; it’s a pretty comprehensive list, covering peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, milk products, eggs, fish, seafood, soy, sulphites, wheat, and gluten (wheat and gluten are listed as separate categories on the chart). Each ingredient is rated from zero to 3; zero means that the allergen is not present, 1 means that the allergen was present in the factory, 2 means that the allergen was used on the same production line, and 3 means that the allergen is present in the product.

What I noticed on the chart is that there are discrepancies in the ratings for the wheat and gluten categories. Pepperoni is rated 1 for wheat content but zero for gluten, as is the sautéed spinach and the ketchup. The chicken wings and the Hellman’s blue cheese dip get a 2 for wheat, and zero for gluten. The veal cutlets get a 3 for wheat — meaning that they absolutely do contain wheat — and a zero for gluten. By definition, if a product contains wheat, it contains gluten (though the reverse is not true, since a product could contain gluten — say, in the form of barley malt — and yet contain no wheat).

In the end, I was worried about the information that didn’t add up, and I decided to order from Pizza Pizza instead. Has anyone ordered a gluten-free pizza from Pizza Nova? I've just blogged about this on the Gluten-Free Guidebook, if you'd like to read more.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Frankie's Ristorante, 1 Main St. South Uxbridge, Ontario, 905-852-1011 (45 minutes NE of Toronto)

Frankie's is a completely gluten-free & nut free restaurant specializing in traditional Mediterranean cuisine, including vegetarian options.

I haven't been to this restaurant, but I received a nice email message from the owners who explained: "Our food is 100% gluten-free (mostly started due to the severity of my Celiac sons.) but also for a healthy lifestyle which we find is becoming more popular. I would love to feed the Celiacs everywhere because I know first hand how difficult it is to eat gluten-free especially in a restaurant setting. However, I would like to think we have been very successful in providing delicious meals that not only Celiacs can enjoy but their 'regular' eating partners also and with no risk of cross contamination.

"Come over to Frankie's and enjoy our fare. We are at 1 Main Street North in Uxbridge Ontario. Approx. 45 minutes NE of Toronto. Call us at 905.852.1011 (we recommend making a reservations)."

Have a look at the menu.