(Delayed post – written July 2014)
As I mentioned in my last post, I was getting pretty nervous about my first big (long) travel experience since my celiac diagnosis. I wasn’t sure where I’d be able to eat, and how to manage cooking and eating in other people’s kitchens.
Well, I’m happy to report the trip was a GREAT success! And it has really boosted my confidence.
Our first stop on the trip was in Newfoundland. We were flying out at 11 pm at night and we had a 2.5 hour drive to the airport prior to that, so my food prepping and packing started there. I did a bunch of research on what I could/couldn’t take on the plane with me as well. I bought an insulated lunch kit and some mini ice packs that would pass the security regulations and packed up some fruit, gluten-free muffins and cookies, bananas, and veggies for on the plane and a big salad to eat before entering the airport. My carry on was also jam-packed with gf jerky and pepperoni sticks that didn’t require refrigeration, crackers and mini cans of tuna, and of course tons of granola bars. I was set… for a while! I had no trouble getting all of this through security – even when I got the random check in another airport along the way he simply asked, “What’s in here?” And I responded, “Food. I have celiac disease so I can’t eat anything but my own food.” He just nodded and zipped it back up.
When we arrived in Newfoundland my absolutely wonderful best friend Nicole was so prepared for me I could’ve cried. She had even gone so far as to label a peanut butter jar “Gluten Free. Do not double dip!”; she supported my OCD need to rewash stuff before using; she even cleaned off a section of her kitchen counter and move all the gluten stuff (bread, toaster etc.) to another area so I would have a safe workspace. It was amazing! We ate mostly at home and enjoyed some great meals: steak, potatoes and corn on the cob; bacon wrapped scallops and salsa chicken; burgers & coleslaw and more…
But, we also got to eat out – and I never once got sick! Of course I had done some research ahead of time, and of course Nicole did too, and the one place I wasn’t sure about I called ahead and they confidently said, “Absolutely we can accommodate that. It’s pretty common these days!”
For anyone traveling to Newfoundland here is where we ate:
The Works in St Johns on George St. – a gourmet burger joint with gluten free buns. They even ensured me there was a dedicated toaster just for the gf buns. 🙂 The burger was huge, juicy and amazing. I wish I wasn’t lactose intolerant though as there were so many delicious options, but I had the “First Date” gourmet burger with a beef burger (you get to choose between beef, chicken, turkey and elk) with mushrooms, tomato, garlic and in place of the brie cheese I asked for avocado just for that creamy texture.
The Celtic Hearth/Birdie Molloys – a traditional Newfoundland Pub in St. John’s. My friends had been there a few times and wanted to share that experience with us. After calling ahead I agreed to go but was a bit hesitant as pubs in general make me nervous. Luckily on their menu they had identified the items that could be made gluten-free so I had the pan fried cod with rice flour and a side salad. I was a bit nervous when the waitress offered me malt vinegar for the oil & vinegar dressing I requested, but it turned out delicious and stomach ache free.
And last but not least, on what was supposed to be our last night in Newfoundland we ordered take-out from a little place just down the street from our friends place, Savvy To Go. It was actually one of the places recommended to me from someone on the Canadian Celiac Association Facebook page, which is where I got a lot of great suggestions from. When I looked at the online menu I wasn’t sure what I could eat, so I asked Nicole if we could go order in person instead of calling ahead. When I told the lady at the counter that I have celiac disease she happily responded, “We can do that!” and proceeded to proudly tell me that they can do THE ENTIRE MENU GLUTEN FREE!!! What?!?! Why weren’t we eating there every night? Skeptically I responded, “Well, I’m sure you don’t have a separate fryer, so the fries and stuff must be off limits” – WRONG – they don’t put anything in their fryers that contain gluten. Why don’t they advertise this? In HUGE BOLD PRINT? Well…. I guess not everyone is looking for gluten free the way I am. It was my first fish & chip-like experience as I had the potato crusted cod and fries. I say fish & chip-like because, although delicious, it wasn’t that same battered deep fried fish that I was still looking for. But the fries hit the spot. Because I can never get them anymore they have become such a novelty item for me and I crave them like crazy.
We were supposed to fly to Halifax the next day, but Hurricane Arthur had different plans so our flight was delayed until the next afternoon. That bought us an extra day in Newfoundland with our besties, but it did cut into the time we had in Nova Scotia with another of my greatest girlfriends of all time – Tera. When we arrived we went to meet one of Tera’s friends in Dartmouth with the plans to take the ferry over to explore the Halifax harbor front. While waiting for her friend to arrive we walked into the terminal/market area and walked straight into Evan’s Seafood – another recommendation from the CCA Facebook page which I was hoping to make it to, because THEY HAD GLUTEN FREE FISH & CHIPS!!!!! Really, most of their menu was gluten free, unless you wanted something on a bun. Everything in their deep fryer was gluten free, and I wanted to eat it all. It was AMAZING. I ate a two-piece fish & chips and seriously would’ve considered eating more if Tera’s friend didn’t show up. 😉
Unfortunately, Tera was not as well prepared for my visit as Nicole was, but that’s mostly because she lives with a roommate who also has a 6-year-old boy. We didn’t eat there a whole lot anyways so it wasn’t a big deal – I mostly avoided the kitchen except for a few drinks in the fridge and some fruit. Tera isn’t a big breakfast eater like my husband and I are, so we either went out or had fruit and granola bars for breakfast before adventuring out and grabbed beach snacks to nibble on throughout the day. We really only had 3 days in Nova Scotia so we crammed in as much as we could: hiking and beaching at Blomidon; beaching at another beautiful fresh water lake that I don’t know the name of; and one of the highlights of the trip – BBQing scallop stuffed lobsters at Tera’s parents beautiful home.
What an experience. We bought the lobster fresh and alive, and Tera (who was a fish farmer in her previous career) showed us how to cut them in half while still alive! Yikes! This was a bit out of my comfort zone so I became the photographer and let her and Chris take care of the dirty work. 😉 We then stuffed those lobsters with scallops, garlic, lemon and… well, butter and bread-crumbs in theirs, olive oil and rice cracker crumbs in mine. It was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. At first I said I’d only eat half… then I ate the whole thing…
We also ate out a few times. Once at a diner that I can’t remember the name of which we went to for breakfast. Tera’s roommate’s mom and aunt both have celiac disease so this was her recommendation. They had gluten free bread for toast, but the place was also really busy and the server wasn’t 100% convincing that the meal would be safe. Chris is still convinced there is no way there wasn’t cross-contamination, but I didn’t get sick afterwards. I was happy that when the gluten-free toast came out it came with little butter packages on the side, so it helped my confidence that they didn’t butter it with the same knife and butter that the other toast was buttered with… but would a place that small and that little really have a safe kitchen and grill? Who knows? All I know is I didn’t spend the rest of the day in the bathroom – so either I’m getting stronger or Chris was wrong. 😉
One of the restaurants we ate dinner at was Tera’s favorites – Paddy’s Pub. And conveniently another one of the recommendations from the CCA Facebook page. They had an extensive gluten free menu and an informed staff. We all shared a huge bowl of muscles to start, and then I had the Bangers and Mash. Real Irish pub food. Of course I missed out on the brewed-on-site beers they had, but Chris and Tera tried a few on my behalf. 😉
On our last day in Nova Scotia we were back in Halifax for the day and visited another of Tera’s favorites – a pub called Your Father’s Moustache. Earlier in the day we had gone out to Peggy’s Cove for some site seeing and I googled a few places on our way into Halifax and saw this one had a few gluten free items. When we got there I was super excited to see gluten free fish cakes. And the server was great – I said I had celiac disease and his response was, “That’s awful. I feel so bad for you!” I could’ve taken offense, but I laughed and said thanks. He said, “No seriously. That must be really hard.” And then made sure to communicate to the kitchen clearly. When he served my food even the salad dressing and tartar sauce came in separate packages that I could double check myself.
Our last meal was in the airport hotel restaurant, which luckily also had “gf” markings on some of the menu items… randomly enough though, the menu that was in our hotel room had the gluten-free markings, and the menus in the restaurant didn’t… good thing I like to plan ahead and had already looked it up before we left the room. The server was less than pleasant so she made me nervous, but I devoured my last huge piece of fish before leaving the east coast and slept well that night.
Overall, the trip was amazing. Besides food and restaurants we saw a lot of great sites. Newfoundland and Nova Scotia are BEAUTIFUL! I’m from British Columbia, which I thought must be the most beautiful place in Canada, but these two provinces sure make that a tough call now. We saw whales, rolling caplin, icebergs, lighthouses, fishing villages – and our best friends! It was an amazing trip that I only hope we can re-live again sooner than later.