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Allergy-friendly… and just plain friendly!
The first time I spoke with the owner and head baker at The Bread Essentials, I liked Josée immediately. She’s the kind of person that makes you feel like family when you’ve met only once or twice.
Her warmth of character and kindness comes across in her smiling eyes and in the way she speaks to you. And for food allergies parents who aren’t used to many establishments welcoming them with open arms, this is huge. Not only that, but she will go to great lengths to customize most, if not all, of her recipes to make them safe for your child’s (or your) unique allergies.
The Bread Essentials is 100% nut-free, with a regular selection of vegan and gluten-free options too. We can satisfy our cupcake cravings a little too easily with her always available vegan Red Velvet cupcakes. (With our combination of allergies, this sort of spontaneity is quite rare.) And let’s just say you would never guess there was anything “missing” from these delicious little things.
When soy was still one of our allergens, The Bread Essentials was the only place where we could find safe English muffins. (Now we can buy Dempster’s, but they don’t have that same ‘just baked today’ smell or feel!). That said, The Bread Essentials is still our go-to for essentials like baguettes, hamburger buns and hot dog buns, the latter two which she makes special order for us sans egg.
Her tourtiere (one of my all-time favourite French Canadian foods) is divine. And while the filling has that signature hint of cinnamon and nutmeg I love, the first time I tried it, I couldn’t stop talking about how mouth-wateringly amazing her crusts are. I’m a ‘take it or leave it’ type person when it comes to pie crusts, but this crust was nothing short of perfection. Not too crunchy, not too soft… just melt-on-my-tongue buttery deliciousness. And lucky for us, it’s egg-free so it’s safe for our son (who gobbled it up) too!
For those with dairy allergies, she makes a vegan “chicken” pot pie and a number of vegan fruit pies too. I’ve never tried them, so I can’t confirm or deny if the dairy-free crust has that same buttery texture. (But I’m sure they’re fantastic!)
For those with gluten or wheat allergies, Josée actually devotes 2 days of the week to baking gluten-free only: Tuesdays and Wednesdays. This allows her to sanitize her kitchen and baking utensils, and minimize the risk of cross contamination.
“We clean everything Saturday, then again Monday morning,” explains Josée. (Sunday is closed.) “We use different mixers, bowls, utensils, so we have two of everything. All gluten-free items are stored in different fridges, and all gluten-free ingredients come from a gluten-free mill.”
Unsurprisingly to me, Josée has quite a following. Patrons drive from across town to get their customized bits of deliciousness. Some of her regulars are from as far as Markham or Burlington. (Believe me, it’s well worth the travel time.)
The good news is that if after a long trek, you’d like to relax with a coffee and a treat, that’s an option too. There’s a small area where you can sit at the window and people-watch while you scarf back a still-warm bagel with cream cheese & homemade pear & ginger jam (see below) like you’re starving. Not because you’re actually starving. You may not have not even been that hungry. But it’s THAT good.
Last but not least, if you’re looking to stock up on healthy, homemade, organic, and/or allergy-friendly items, they have a really amazing selection of hard-to-resist items in their pantry and an entire freezer of baked goods you can store for later.
Did you know that The Bread Essentials is participating in the AllergyBites discount card program? Cardholders get 10% off their orders (and when you buy in bulk like I do, that ends up being some pretty good savings). More details/buy your card here.
This post was written by AllergyBites founder, Kathleen O’Hagan. Kathleen is a writer, a foodie, and the mom of a toddler with multiple food allergies. She loves seeking out accommodating eating spots and sharing them with the food allergy community. Want to help make a difference? Contact Kathleen about volunteering for a food allergy fundraiser she is organizing.
Friendly. Supportive. Encouraging.
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