My most rewarding gluten-free project to date was planning my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah this fall—a completely gluten-free affair for 140 guests. I was lucky to have Chef David Chung of Akasaka Japanese Restaurant working with me for this special occasion. There was an Asian-style hut set up in the foyer of Le Parc where people could help themselves to gluten-free sushi that was being prepared fresh by Chef David. The sushi was served with gluten-free soy sauce (tamari). When it was time for the guests to move into the dining room, Chef David got ready the Asian Station, one of the four stations for dinner. The Asian Station included pad Thai, fried rice and chicken yakatori. Not only was the food prepared gluten free, it was also made without nuts and shrimp. Chef David did an outstanding job of omitting the things that we couldn’t have in the food while maintaining the fantastic taste of all the dishes.
I love working with Chef David because he always figures out a way to make food safe while ensuring that it is delicious. He runs his restaurant like that as well, which is why Akasaka is one of my favourite restaurants in the Greater Toronto Area. Chef David and his staff are so accommodating and willing to make the changes that are necessary for people to feel safe while dining out. I helped Chef David make his restaurant gluten-free friendly over five years ago. Akasaka has a gluten-free menu that is plentiful and includes many great items to choose from and the staff is well trained on how to manage a gluten-free order. While dining at the Teppanyaki tables, you are served a miso soup that is gluten free and a salad with gluten-free dressing, and the chefs prepare the meal with gluten-free soy sauce (tamari) and teriyaki sauce. We always get a delicious meal when we go to Akasaka and I leave feeling like the gluten-free request was taken seriously and that they truly know what they are doing with respect to keeping the food safe.
Last month marked the one-year anniversary of the Toronto Underground Market. TUM is a social food market held at the Evergreen Brick Works that provides space for burgeoning home cooks/entrepreneurs to showcase their unique and delicious food creations.
On this crisp evening, I happened upon a wonderful chef named Jose Arato. He owns a Spanish and Mediterranean restaurant called Pimenton on Mt. Pleasant. I was lured to Pimenton’s stall by aromas of slow-cooking meat, seafood and rice and remained captivated by the spoon that was slowly churning the paella. This traditional Spanish dish—a Pimenton specialty—is made in a large paellera (traditional paella pan) and is rich and soulful. I devoured every last morsel of my steamy rice stew with fresh chicken, muscles, shrimp and squid. In addition to being tasty and hearty, paella is gluten free!
TUM might be over, but fortunately you (and three lucky friends!) can indulge in Jose’s paella at his gourmet food store or buy it by the pound on Saturdays to take home. Choose from Paella Marinara (fresh seafood), Paella Valenciana (chicken and fresh seafood) or Paella Vegetariana. Pimenton also offers paella cooking classes, where you will learn techniques to make paella like a pro. Better yet, why not host a paella party and have your own personal paella made right in your home?
Pimenton also makes delectable gluten-free baked goods—chocolate beetroot brownies, pumpkin chocolate loaf and ginger cake—and will be bringing them to the Gluten Free Garage!
Gluten-free bakery Defloured sells its savoury and sweet baked goods at various farmers’ markets and cafes in Toronto. Defloured duo Krista Tobias and Chris Brown aim to make food that tastes good while not restricting customers who have food allergies or limitations. Everything they bake is gluten and nut free, and some of their products are also dairy free (they substitute coconut milk for cow’s milk). Krista began her business making gluten-free potpies during the winter months—a hearty staple that will be available at the Gluten Free Garage! Defloured is 70% organic and most of the ingredients come from local vendors at farmers’ markets across the city. —Rebecca Feigelsohn
Come get Defloured at the Gluten Free Garage!