Last weekend, my sister-in-law, Eva of Pastel Bakery (guest blogger “EA” below), and I enjoyed a day trip down to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre for the Toronto Gluten-Free Expo. We share our experiences below…
I’m So Excited (and I Just Can’t Hide It):
MM: Leading up to the event, I was super excited! I knew that it would be a great show as I had gone last year, but I have to say I’m glad that they extended it to two days as last year was pretty jam-packed. I was anxious to see what new products the ‘new-comers’ had to share as the GF industry has grown so much in the past few years.
EA: I can’t say there was one particular booth I was looking forward to visiting. I was just excited to see new products and the old ones I love, plus be able to sample, sample, sample in a safe environment. It felt strange to not have to ask the staff at the booths if their product contained any gluten. I will admit though I did ask this once, at the Piller’s booth, but only because they were making sandwiches. The girl I asked did look at me a bit funny, but what can I say…force of habit I suppose.
MM: It was totally weird not asking “is this gluten-free?” haha! But, yes, that Pillar’s sandwich seemed too good to be true so thanks for taking one for the team and asking for us!
Get in my Belly:
EA: Oh my! There were so many great products to sample like, the roast beef panini at the Piller’s Fine Foods booth and the chocolate fudge Super Squeezies Tubes at the Sunrise Soya Foods booth, just to name a few. My favourite though, was a toss up between two: 1) Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss in Salted Caramel & Chocolate flavour. It tastes like dairy ice cream. It looks like dairy ice cream. But boy, it ain’t dairy ice cream! One spoon of this and it’s pure bliss – which I’m guessing is why they added this word to their product name, because it’s so true! This was by far the best non-dairy ‘ice cream’ I have EVER had. 2) the frozen vegan pizza from Comensoli Foods. It was nice to finally see a dairy free frozen pizza on the market. It did not taste like cardboard and the ‘cheese’ they use is from Daiya Foods so it stretched just like regular cheese. In my house, every Friday night is pizza night. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t take that long for me to put together a pizza, given I use pre-made pizza crusts, but sometimes you just feel like taking a break and having someone else make it for you. Now there is a dairy free option I can enjoy. I cannot wait to find this product in my local store.
MM: I totally agree with both choices! The salted caramel & chocolate “ice cream” and dairy-free pizza were awesome and probably my fav samples of the day! I also loved the brownie at the Good Bye Gluten booth (regret not purchasing some ‘to-go’) and, of course, my all-time fav, Sweets from the Earth‘s peppermint nanaimo bar! Too bad we couldn’t get to sample one of the vegetarian dairy-free burritos at Glutenfreeda‘s booth… and I couldn’t find my dark chocolate-covered almonds this time (the craving continues).
In my ‘Goodie Bag’:
MM: Soooo many free samples, it was great! The Enjoy Life booth gave away some good ones; I can’t wait to try their new S’Mores Decadent Bar (that I’m saving… for now!). I was also happy to purchase some favourites at discounted expo prices, like Purest Extra Crispy Purebatter and SFTE peppermint nanaimo bars! I also bought some new products, like Sandwich Petals, the Ultimate Gluten-Free Flat Bread, and Tutti Gourmet cafe-flavoured fruit crackers, and picked up a free copy of “Gluten-free Living” magazine which I am looking forward to exploring.
EA: Again, lots and lots of free goodies such as Enjoy Life Plentils (addictive!) and Catelli Pasta (could not believe they gave away full size boxes!). I myself purchased some CheeCha Puffs and some Bana Krisp Fruit Crackers. And thanks Mel for the Sweets from Earth Caramel Pecan Bar (mmmm)! If I didn’t have to take an hour bus ride north to get home, I totally would have loaded up with more goodies like some flour from Cuisine Soleil. But, I was still happy to visit and explore the many brands/products both old and new. The CheeCha Puffs I got were 2 varieties: 1) Salt & Vinegar, 2) Fiesta Salsa. I sometimes find it hard to find these puffs in my local store so I stocked up and took advantage of the new flavour they had to offer (Fiesta Salsa). Not too spicy but with a little kick at the end. As for the Bana Krisp Fruit Crackers, these were so tasty and simple (just 4 ingredients!), I couldn’t resist. I picked up the Cafe flavour which had a nice subtle coffee taste. These make for a great healthy snack when you feel like something sweet but know you shouldn’t reach for that cupcake 🙂
If at First You Succeed… Buy Buy Again:
MM: I look forward to a trip to Nature’s Emporium soon so that I can buy some of the products we sampled! I will definitely look for that Comensoli pizza and, if all goes well with these Sandwich Petals, I will be down for some more as I love me a nice tortilla.
EA: The products which I will look for in store would be (in no particular order): 1) Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss in Salted Caramel & Chocolate, 2) Comensoli frozen vegan pizza, 3) Bana Krisp, and 4) Rudi’s Tortilla & Wraps. I did not get to sample the Rudi’s Tortilla as they were preparing them with regular dairy cheese, but the staff at the booth said they don’t break when you roll them. And from the flips she was giving the wrap while prepping, it looked to be true. It would be nice to find a gluten free tortilla which doesn’t break when you try to roll it, so I will be looking for Rudi’s in store to test them out.
MM: Oh my, how could I forget about the ice cream! I will be looking for that again FOR SURE!
MM: Overall, I had a more positive experience this year compared to last year, as there was plenty of space to comfortably move around and enough time to freely ask the vendors questions. I was also happy to “Give a Shiitake” and donate a gluten-free product to the Second Harvest booth (though no one was there to receive it so I left it on the chair with the other donations). I thought it was a great idea to have this booth as people in need may be gluten-free, too. On another note, I half-joked to Eva that it would be convenient if the booths were set up more in ‘themes’ (i.e. – apps, desserts, etc.) so that I didn’t have to go from brownie to hummus to cookie to roast beef sandwich to muffin, etc. (my tummy was not happy with the mixture). Bottom line: the GF Expo is a fantastic event that I look forward to attending for years to come. Hopefully I’ll be able to check out some presentations next time also.
EA: All in all this was a great event! So glad to see it was relocated to a larger venue vs. last year which was too crammed, plus now it was a 2 day event. Expos like these are great because you get to experience new things and meet many of the people behind the product. It also creates awareness, both regarding health and products. The more attention we can bring, the more people will understand celiac disease/gluten intolerance and the more companies will realize they need to provide for the gluten free peeps out there. For the cost of a $12 admission (if you buy ahead online), it’s a great way to spend the day exploring and sampling. It’s nice to go to an event where you don’t feel like the weird kid in the corner with the misunderstood food allergies. Here we are all GF’ers, and those who are not, are welcomed with open arms and shown what they are missing 🙂
MM: Well said, Eva.