Allergy-Friendly Restaurant Review: The Retreat Café (Ottawa)

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Allergy-Friendly Meals Made from Scratch

By Chantal Secours

Are you looking for the perfect way to spend a few hours, a whole day, or even an overnight stay? Strathmere will surely impress you with their unique but familiar style. A 40-minute scenic drive from downtown Ottawa, or less than 15 minutes from outlying areas like Barrhaven or Manotick, Strathmere is a definite must-stop if you’re visiting our nation’s capital.

Whether you’re heading to Strathmere to relax at the spa, go for a walk in nature, attend an event, or try a yoga session, don’t miss your chance to eat at The Retreat Café.

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PERFECT PLACE TO UNWIND

The serene restaurant and retreat is for adults only, making it the perfect place to unwind and get away from all the busyness in your life. And, it’s ultimately the best way to enjoy good food and drinks in an allergy-friendly environment!

For Executive Chef Angelo Camposarcone, being aware of top allergens and special dietary requirements is extremely important. To be successful and competitive in today’s culinary world, he believes they must stay up-to-date in order to cater to the growing number of people with allergies, food sensitivities, and preferred food choices.

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ALLERGIES OR SPECIAL DIETS

The Café is smaller, so preparing meals for people with allergies or special diets is not a problem. If they are busy, and you are part of a larger table, they will do their best to serve the allergy meal first or last — to give the plate the attention that it needs.

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On this visit, I got to enjoy the Superfood Salad which was free of gluten, eggs, and dairy, and my friend (who has no dietary restrictions) tried the Organic Beef Burger. While the restaurant caters to an 18+ crowd, Strathmere also hosts events that are family friendly. (In which case, if I were to bring my peanut/nut-allergic son, I trust that they could easily prepare him a safe meal — even though there are nuts onsite.)

The Café also displays an assortment of treats on one of their counters. Some are vegan (free of egg and dairy) and some are gluten-free — but they are not labelled with specific allergens. The staff is knowledgeable about each, but if you have severe allergies to certain ingredients like nuts or peanuts, I would recommend skipping the desserts to be on the safer side.

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If you’ve got allergies, calling ahead is always recommended, and being sure to tell your server is a must. It is always up to you to inform restaurant staff of the allergen(s) or food(s) you or your loved ones avoid. If you’re not sure about a dish or a drink, ask questions.

FIELD TO PLATE

Strathmere practices a seasonal field-to-plate approach. They try to grow as much as they can on their land and are very familiar with the source of their remaining ingredients. They are very passionate about knowing where the food they serve comes from.

How many restaurants can proudly say they pick their own flowers, vegetables, and fruits from their gardens for their guests? The fact that Strathmere tries to incorporate fresh elements onto each of their plates is a great reason why you should take the time to visit this gem of a restaurant.

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SCRATCH KITCHEN

Making everything from scratch means it’s much simpler to prepare allergy-friendly dishes. When working with many single-ingredient elements and fresh produce such as farm-grown tomatoes, garlic, pears, or lettuce, it’s easier to modify a recipe for a person that avoids a specific ingredient.

The kitchen at the Café always takes necessary precautions when preparing and serving a meal for someone with allergies. Just remember to be clear with your own allergies or dietary preferences before ordering.

UPCOMING EVENTS AT STRATHMERE

Strathmere offers a variety of activities and packages throughout the year. A popular event is the Harvest Supper in September. If you’re interested, book your tickets soon as they do sell out fast! They were happy to accommodate my gluten-free, vegan request in 2018.

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WEDDINGS AND SPECIAL EVENTS

Did you know that Strathmere also has three additional venues? They are an award-winning destination to book weddings and special events in the Ottawa area. Between The Farmhouse, The Lodge or The Garden House, you will surely find one to make your occasion memorable.

Wondering how Strathmere caters to larger crowds? Chef Angelo reassures me that they offer the same quality of food service for bigger groups. Because a lot of the planning is done ahead of time for special occasions, the menu can easily be customized if the bride, groom, or guests have dietary requirements. Again, it is up to each person to inform organizers of their unique needs.

–> For larger parties, Chef Angelo noted that they do have EpiPens on hand for emergencies — in case nut eating uncle Joe kisses little Timmy with a nut allergy!

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Special thanks to Executive Chef Angelo Camposarcone for taking time out of his busy day to meet with me!

Read Chantal’s full review on her blog, Fresh Is Real. Photos by Kristy Chapman Photography

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