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Find your cake and eat it too! at the Gluten Free Utopia

By Natasha Mooney on April 3, 2014

In recent years we’ve heard gluten free go from a foreign concept, to a term and lifestyle adopted by so many. You’d be hard pressed these days to meet someone who isn’t eating gluten free or know someone who is. Enter Samantha Maloney. Owner of local business Bez Gluten Free Baking, she saw the opportunity to create an event centered around gluten free eating and living – a first of its kind here in the nation’s capital. Gluten Free Utopia will bring together local businesses that specialize in gluten free products and goodies.

I had a chance to chat with Samantha about the importance of having such an initiative in Ottawa, and more importantly, where to find delicious gluten free bread!

Apt613: What inspired you to want to organize this kind of event?

Samantha: gluten free events never come to Ottawa, yet there are so many great businesses here that cater to the gluten-free community. I had heard about an event in Toronto called Gluten Free Garage that was based on promoting local businesses and had a relaxed community feel. That seemed like something that would work in Ottawa and tied in my love of supporting and promoting local businesses.

What do you hope Gluten Free Utopia will accomplish? How important is it to support local businesses in this case?

There are many things that I want to come out of GFU. 1) I would like businesses to become better known amongst the GF community – have people know they are there and what services they offer; 2) I want visitors to learn about what is out there for them. Gluten free is no longer the sad state it used to be. Yes, we want to rely on whole foods, but at the same time, when I have a treat, I want it to taste delicious. There are services out there that can help those who are GF, whether they are new to a GF diet or a veteran, like vitamins or help with other health problems related to Celiac Disease.

Can you name some of your favorite go-to gluten free dishes?

I make an awesome Pad Thai; swapping out regular soy sauce for a GF version. My sister’s Roasted Vegetable Chili; it’s delicious. In the summer it’s seasonal fruit and veggies – grilled, sautéed, in a salad, or eaten straight from the farmer’s basket (I love fresh summer fruit & veggies!). Salmon is also a favourite and it’s so versatile – baked with maple syrup, pesto, curry paste, or a great seasoning blend on top. With veggies or a salad, it’s perfect.

I know the biggest complaint I hear from gluten free friends is that they can’t seem to find decent bread! Any suggestions on where to find GF bread in the city that doesn’t taste “sand like”? – their words, not mine.

Bread is one of the hardest things to make, and ironically one of the first things people try to make when they go gluten free. Two of our vendors make fabulous and healthy bread (Kulture Foods & Finally Gluten Free Foods). I’ve heard a rumour that Strawberry Blonde is coming out with one that is supposed to be really good (and they’ll also be at GFU). Grocery store-wise, I’ve discovered Silver Hills who make a great GF bread that is packed full of healthy stuff & doesn’t need to be toasted. Funnily though, people always have their preference and what one person likes, another may not. (It’s like that with GF beer too.)

Any tips to pass along to those who have newly discovered their intolerance or sensitivity to gluten?

First, it gets easier, trust me. Secondly, think of the foods you can eat; they are more numerous and better for you in the long run. Lastly, if you don’t know how to cook, learn. It will make your life a lot easier and also healthier.

Whether you’re gluten free, know someone who is Celiac, or just wanting to expand your pallet, come and check out the utopia this Saturday where your only risk is to not miss gluten one bit.

Gluten Free Utopia takes place Saturday April 5 from 10am – 4pm at Library and Archives (395 Wellington St.) Admission is $8, children under 12 are free. For more info, check out the Facebook page.