This allergy-friendly restaurant was reviewed by guest blogger, Stephanie Lore. Stephanie lives in Ottawa and is the mother of two boys, one who has severe food allergies. A part-time physiotherapist by trade and a food allergy advocate by fate, Stephanie is the leader of the Ottawa Anaphylaxis Support Group. All opinions are her own.
When my son was diagnosed with food allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, egg and gluten, the prospect of ever entering a bakery again felt hopeless. Then one day, out of nowhere, a Groupon for a vegan, gluten-free, nut-free bakery appeared in my inbox. So off I went for a visit to Wellington West to check out Strawberry Blonde Bakery.
And the rest is history…
While Strawberry Blonde is tucked away on a residential street, its bright teal colour (fitting for an allergy-friendly establishment) makes it easy to spot. Inside is a glass display with an overwhelming variety of desserts and a freezer filled with take-home goodies.
The bakery is takeout only, but in the summer months, they do have a little patio out front with 4 or 5 tables where you can sit and enjoy your treats.
The menu is surprisingly extensive, so I’ll tell you about a few of our family favourites.
The nanaimo bars come in a variety of flavours, from regular, to cookies and cream, to even faux peanut butter. Our family’s favourite are the plain Nanaimo bars—the centre is delectably creamy and rich, and the base has such a lovely contrast with the coconut.
The cupcakes are very moist, and the dairy-free icing is tastier than any in town. They always have a good selection available in store, with flavours like red velvet, vanilla bean, chocolate, and coconut, to name a few. I am not a big fan of donuts, but their donut holes are amazing—soft, chewy, and coated in sugar and cinnamon. (They are somewhat reminiscent of old-school Tim Bits.) I bet you can’t just eat one!
If you don’t believe me when I say their gluten-free cookies are better than the gluten-filled alternatives, I put my gluten-loving friend, Sheri, to the test. And she wholeheartedly agrees. Their selection of cookies includes flavours like chocolate chip, double chocolate mint, oatmeal raisin, coconut, shortbread, sugar cookies, gingerbread men, and my son’s favourite: the cookie sandwich. What kid doesn’t love two cookies with a thick layer of icing between them?
Their cakes are very reasonably priced (a $55 cake serves 12). Maybe that’s why I order at least three a year. You can add sprinkles, sparkles, a customized message, and even printed edible images. They also make custom cakes for weddings and celebrations of all kinds—even ‘It’s Monday and I need cake’ day. A family favourite is the chocolate cake with “buttercream” vanilla icing, mostly because the icing is truly rich and creamy, just like you would expect of a butter-filled icing!
Over the Christmas holidays, they go all out making “fauxblerone” bars and… turtles that are actually nut-free! The secret ingredient for an awesomely fake nutty crunch? Pumpkin seeds! I still can’t figure out what the nougat is in the fauxblerone bars, but whatever it is, it’s tasty.
Photo Credit: Strawberry Blonde Bakery
At Easter, they make deliciously dairy-free ”cream” eggs, bunny-shaped chocolates, and mini chocolate eggs all wrapped in colourful foil.
Their magical freezer is filled with an assortment of tasty take-home goodies, like apple pie, vegan pot pies, jerk patties, pie shells and frozen baked goods. If you happen to be there and they have a batch of their drool-worthy cinnamon buns, make sure to stock up. These delicious things go fast!
While Strawberry Blonde clearly markets themselves as a bakery that is free of many top allergens, as a food allergy mom, I’m still always concerned about an establishment’s food allergy policies. Lucky for me, I had the opportunity to speak with the owner, Jacqui O, and ask her a few questions about what they do behind the scenes to ensure their goodies are safe.
Q: What common allergens is your bakery free from?
A: Dairy, gluten, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts. When it comes to other allergens (e.g, soy), we unfortunately can’t guarantee there hasn’t been cross contamination as it is used in many of our products. However, if someone is specifically looking for soy free and it is custom ordered, we will do our best to wash the dishes being used thoroughly and use them first before making our recipes with soy. For example, if we make soy-free donuts, we make those first so the ones with soy haven’t contaminated the frying oil. We also think being transparent with our customers is important. If they’re looking for something without coconut, for example, we make sure to tell them there is coconut on the premises.
Q: How do you ensure there is no cross contamination in your ingredients? And what policies do you have in place?
A: Absolutely no food/beverages containing gluten/dairy/eggs/nuts/peanuts can ever come into our kitchen, including for staff lunches. It’s something we take very seriously. When it comes to ordering ingredients from suppliers, it’s taken a lot of education to communicate with them why we need our ingredients to be free from these allergens. When we started a number of years ago, many suppliers didn’t understand or take us seriously so we had to really work with them to make sure they understood why it is so important. We require spec sheets for everything we order that states it has no risk of cross contamination. Often, to achieve this, we have to order large bags of things (e.g., dried fruit, seeds, etc.). The risk of cross contamination comes when the fruit/seeds are repacked into smaller packages. So in order for us to ensure there’s no risk of cross contamination, we have to order big bags/boxes which can be very costly. It was especially hard when we started as we weren’t producing at a high volume yet.
Strawberry Blonde has definitely upheld their promise of “ensuring that no person should have to compromise delicious food regardless of dietary choices or allergies.” I never in my wildest dreams imagined an eating spot where my son could enter and eat anything on the menu. It certainly has been a life changer for my family. We love you, Strawberry Blonde. xoxo
Friendly. Supportive. Encouraging.
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Restaurants that appear on AllergyBites may have updated their menu or changed management since a review was posted. Please confirm that they are still allergy-friendly & that menu items don’t contain your allergen(s) before visiting or placing your order.