There are few things that seem more unfair than being a foodie who suffers from a gluten sensitivity. In a city blessed with so many culinary festivals, like Summerlicious and Winterlicious, living with celiac must oftentimes feel incredibly isolating. Worry no longer, though, our gluten-free gourmands, as your prayers have been answered. Running May 25th to the 31st, Toronto’s Gluten Freedom Week will be taking place for the first time in many of the city’s most popular restaurants.
Ranging across the spectrum of price and cuisine, some of Toronto’s trendiest hotspots will be cooking up delicious 3-course prix fixe menus, all made with gluten-free fare. For somebody with related dietary restrictions, this means being able to eat a meal confidently, safely, and without having to feel self-conscious about asking a server “too many questions.” In doing this, Toronto’s Gluten Freedom Week aims to raise awareness among the general public and restaurateurs about gluten sensitivities, and also inform those who live with celiac disease of locations where they can eat safely. For the long term, TGFW also hopes to increase the number of establishments offering regular gluten-free options and also educate those that do on how to avoid cross-contamination when preparing gluten-free fare.
As with many great ideas, founder Rachael Hunt came up with the idea for Toronto’s Gluten Freedom Week over a few drinks with friends. “I think one of the fun facts about the conception of the event is that it came about one night with a couple girlfriends over dinner, incidentally at one of the participating restaurants (Mildred’s Temple),” Hunt explains. “A couple glasses of wine were involved, and I was explaining to them this grand vision I had. As soon as the words left my mouth I began seriously considering the idea and started slowly working towards making it happen. I think it’s pretty cool that it’s grown to where it is now, from such a small humble beginning.”
For the full list of participants in Toronto’s Gluten Freedom Week, click here. Don’t know where to start? Here are seven of our favourites…
A College Street favourite among foodies, Habits Gastropub is committed to getting their ingredients from fresh, local, and seasonal sources. In keeping with this, their elevated comfort food menu retains certain staples (like their mac ‘n cheese, burger, and nachos) while their specials menu rotates weekly to match seasonal availability. Also, be sure to sample from their crazy good selection of craft beer, VQA wines, house-infused alcohols, and whiskey (they have Toronto’s third-largest selection).
One of the new stars of the Middle’terranean trend (that’s Middle Eastern meets Mediterranean, FYI) sweeping Toronto, District Oven is located in the heart of the increasingly trendy College and Ossington area. Inspired by the communal ovens of the Middle East, their menu regularly includes varieties of hummus, and grilled and baked fare.
Anything but your conventional stuffy seafood spot, Fishbar on Ossington runs a youthful vibe and menu that is as fun as it is refined. Serving tapas sized portions, their ingredients are always sourced seasonally and locally wherever possible. Adding to the upbeat, vibrant atmosphere is their Happy Hour (3:30pm to 5pm Friday through Sunday), and #WhateverWednesdays where you can bring your own wine and either pay a small corkage fee or donate to Ocean Wise.
King West’s newest authentic Mexican hotspot, El Caballito has one of the best drink deals in town, #TequilaTacoTuesday, with live Mexican bands, naturally. Even better than that, El Caballito’s mouth-wateringly good Toronto’s Gluten Freedom Week menu features antojitos (Mexican street food), steak flank tacos, tamarind ceviche, and desserts including mango Napolitano and flourless chocolate cake with mango mousse.
Mildred’s Temple Kitchen
A favourite among the hip crowd in Liberty Village, Mildred’s Temple Kitchen is committed to locally sourced, seasonal ingredients that are simply and sumptuously prepared. Their Gluten Freedom Week menu reflects this philosophy with dishes including pan seared white fish, red wine braised veal cheeks, and five spice grilled mushrooms with butternut squash puree.
How amazing is it that an Italian restaurant is doing Toronto’s Gluten Freedom Week? While most people associate the “boot of Europe” with carbs, carbs, and more carbs, Little Anthony’s has managed to pull off a menu totally gluten-free. Choose from a variety of plates including turkey meatballs, penne di funghi, and citrus panna cotta.
Estiatorio Volos (or just “Volos” to those of us who already know and love it) is downtown Toronto’s premiere authentic Greek destination. Famous for their delicious grilled whole fish (one of the few places in the city to do this well, FYI), Volos will have a three-course prix fixe for Toronto’s Gluten Freedom Week including dishes like dolmades, black sesame crusted wild Pacific salmon, and mint and orange compote.
What restaurants are you most excited to check out during Toronto’s Gluten Freedom Week? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @ViewTheVibe.