Review of an Allergy-Friendly Bakery: Kitten and the Bear

I think it’s fair to say that I’m pretty much always on the lookout for allergy-friendly restaurants in the city. So it’s not often that I go out to eat without having done a bit of research in advance. But the day I headed to Parkdale’s Kitten and the Bear I had done no such thing.

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Closed: Mondays & Tuesdays

I guess it was because I knew I’d be going minus my food-allergic kiddo and, not having much time to go out sans child these days, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever get there again. A quick glance at the website might lead you to believe it’s the type of place you’d only frequent for special occasions.

 

On this particular occasion, I was catching up with an old co-worker, and this quaint little spot happened to be the perfect halfway point. Not only that, but I’d already heard that it was a must-visit. So I put away my frugal side, and said “I’m in!”

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Located on the corner of Queen & Sorauren, this tiny spot is easy to miss!

I headed over without any thoughts or expectations regarding food allergy accommodation. But when I got there, breathed in the scent of fresh scones, and took in how ridiculously cute the spot is, I knew I’d want to go back before even ordering. That’s when the food allergy mama in me kicked in.

 

I decided to ask the friendly young woman behind the counter what their scones were made of, explaining that my little one had 6+ food allergies.

The moment she heard the term “food allergies,” she offered to go and get the head baker so that he could provide me with accurate answers to my questions. This simple little act demonstrated to me that Kitten and the Bear takes food allergies seriously. No empty promises or I don’t think sos here. No frustrated sighs. I was already impressed.

Even so, I didn’t expect to hear good news. My son’s combination of allergies (peanuts, tree nuts, egg, sesame, soy, sunflower) makes it virtually impossible for him to eat most bought baked goods. If it isn’t the fact that a bakery produces sesame bagels, or that the flour comes with a “may contain soy” warning, it’s the sunflower oil that most healthy/organic bakeries insist on using these days. It’s always something.

Having gone in with zero expectations, I was shocked when the baker told me his shop was free of all but one of my son’s allergens: egg. So while I couldn’t order him a freshly made scone (due to an egg glaze they spread on top), he assured me I could safely buy a batch of their frozen scones.

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Whaaaat?!

Because the glaze is added directly before placing the scones in the oven, I simply have to leave that step out, making them safe for my son to eat. And they even provided me with an alternative to the egg: Simply swipe the top of the scone with water, followed by a sprinkle of sugar, and you’re good to go.

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I’ve since bought the package of frozen scones twice (great for serving overnight guests something special, or for family events when you want to bring something yummy and safe), and they’ve been a huge hit with everyone so far. (Being a cinnamon lover, I tried using cinnamon sugar for the second batch, and let’s just say my little guy adored the hint of “ci-ma-nim” on top. So did I!)

 

That said, true to my first impression, I still think Kitten and the Bear is a great option for special occasions or special gifts. In fact, I bought my grandmother a package of their beautiful jams for her 98th birthday. Not surprisingly, she loved them. (And she’s not easy to please these days, so that’s saying a lot!)

 

Just a note that the venue is pretty cozy, which means they only have space to accommodate two tables. Make sure that you head over with back-up plans in case they can’t seat you. In the case of my ‘co-worker catch-up,’ we grabbed ourselves a freshly baked scone each, some sinfully delicious clotted cream, and some of the best tea I’ve ever had… and happily caught up at a nearby park.


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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.

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Profile of a Food-Allergic Kid: Samara Carroll

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Food Allergy Therapist Samara Carroll has lived with life-threatening food allergies since she was a toddler. Now that she’s all grown up, Samara helps children with food allergies navigate the ups and downs of life as a food-allergic kid.

AllergyBites: What foods are you allergic to?

Samara Carroll: I have had anaphylactic food allergies to peanuts since I was 2 years old. I was also diagnosed with a tree nut allergy at that time. When I was 18, I grew out of the tree nut allergy, but I’ve since developed a shellfish allergy.

AB: Can you describe the first time you truly understood you had food allergies because they impacted your life in a meaningful way?

SC: When I was 8 years old, I wanted to go to a friend’s sleepover birthday party. The friend lived on our street. My mom explained to me that she didn’t want me to sleep over because of my food allergies. She told me I could go in my PJs and watch a movie but she didn’t feel comfortable with me sleeping there. I could tell it was hard for her not to let me stay over—she had tears in her eyes and she kept saying she was sorry. I saw that my mom felt bad about not allowing me to do this and I was upset I couldn’t sleep over, but I also understood.

531774_10151853575041754_1214471361_nAB: How were your parents when it came to letting you participate in everyday activities?

SC: They let me participate in everything eventually, but it was a process. I went to sleepover summer camp when I was 9—just one year after the sleepover incident I mentioned above! I was a camper there until I turned 16 and then I became a counsellor, and ultimately the Director. I spent a total of 17 years at the camp—it was a very special experience. I’ve also lived abroad for university and work. But while they let me take part in normal life as much as possible, I was also raised to be very cautious and to always be aware of my allergies.

AB: In retrospect, is there anything you wish your parents had done differently?

SC: No, I think they did a great job of maintaining the balance between vigilance and giving me the independence and tools to navigate the food allergy world on my own. Part of what I do as a Food Allergy Therapist is work with parents to establish this balance with their children (depending on the stage of development of their children).

AB: Tell us about The Girl Who Cannot Eat Peanut Butter. How and why did this special little book come to be?

SC: This is one of the ways in which my parents supported my food allergy process and made me feel special. My mom, who is a writer based in Winnipeg, wrote this book in order to teach people that food allergies can be a strength, and are just one way that a kid can be different. For example, the main character, Sam (that’s me) can’t eat peanut butter, but there are other kids in her class with other quirks and differences, so it helped me not to feel alone. I remember as a young girl, reading the book (before there were even pictures in it) and feeling so happy about it. I felt proud that I was the girl featured in the book, and I loved the light-hearted tone (the whole book rhymes). I remember sharing it with my friends and everyone being really excited that I was the girl named Sam.



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Buy The Girl Who Cannot Eat Peanut Butter on Kindle.


AB: Have you ever thought about what your parents’ grieving process looked like? Do you think they ever reached the “acceptance” phase?

IMG_5999SC: My parents still worry about my allergies to this day, but I think it gets easier. As life goes on and I reach different milestones (I’m married and live in Toronto now), they trust that I know how to navigate life with allergies. That said, it’s always on their mind. I’m lucky that my husband has also become a wonderful allergy advocate. I knew he was a keeper when I visited his family in England for the first time, and saw he had put “peanut free” signs on their fridges and cupboards to let his entire family know about the seriousness of my allergy. He was a huge peanut butter fan before we met, and now he eats WOWBUTTER and SunButter regularly instead.

AB: As someone who grew up with food allergies, what’s the #1 tip you’d like to share with other parents trying to keep their little ones safe?

SC: Always advocate for your child, but work with your child so they learn how to advocate for themselves! As someone who has grown up with food allergies and who now works with children and young adults with food allergies, there are different approaches based on the stage of life your child is in. Food allergies are a journey, and many of the strategies are age dependent. However, I do recommend that when children are still quite young (age 2-3) that parents begin to teach them how to recognize their allergens, how to talk about their allergies,and begin to practice advocating for themselves.

AB: Any tips for young adults?

SC: When it comes to dating apps, listing your food allergies as a part of who you are can be a fun, cute and efficient way of getting the message across. Then you know that, even before your first date, your food allergies are on the table.

AB: What were your biggest challenges as a ‘food-allergic kid’? Now that you’re all grown up, have those challenges evolved?

3043_71628253561_2844866_nSC: I had some anxiety around food allergies, related to worrying about whether or not I was having an allergic reaction. The psychological symptoms of an anxiety attack can overlap with food allergy symptoms so being clear about these symptoms and ensuring you are always vigilant is really important. At the same time, working through the anxiety to discern what it feels like to have an allergic reaction versus how it feels to be anxious is important. As time goes on, I would say it gets easier. The more you have new experiences—your first sleepover, first time at camp, first time ordering a meal at a restaurant on your own, moving away for college/university, going on a date, travelling with friends, getting your first job—all of these things help build up your resiliency because you have to keep facing things related to your food allergy. When you’ve had a positive experience, then you will be more likely to try new things again and to develop a newfound confidence.11954644_1607912586127673_6224456005247997509_n

AB: What are your thoughts on eating out?

SC: I think for young adults it is important to work on figuring out how to socialize in such a food-focused world. For example, I know which restaurants I feel comfortable eating at, so when my friends want to go out for dinner, I make sure to suggest the restaurant. I still always call ahead of time to discuss my allergies, and then double and triple check when I order the food and again before I eat the food. While I have a list of “go-to” eating spots, I also think it’s great for young adults with food allergies to learn to cook so that they can host dinner parties and feel safe eating the food that they make. If food allergy vigilance becomes part of social life, it can make things easier and can also raise awareness among social groups.

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AB: Where are your go-to SAFE eating spots in Toronto?

SC: Pizzeria Libretto, Fat Pasha, Three Speed, Banjara

AB: Can you tell me why Pizzeria Libretto makes you feel safe?

SC: Pizzeria Libretto has wonderful communication. The servers know all of the ingredients on the menu, and they will introduce you to the manager if you want to follow up on questions. They also do not have peanuts (my allergen) at the restaurant, and minimal seafood which is prepared separately from other appetizers. They have many locations, so I tend to go to the ones where you can make reservations as I always note my allergy then and again when I get there. I also think a good tip is to not go to restaurants during busy times (Sunday Brunch, Saturday night dinner) but instead when it’s more low key and the communication and service will be better.

AB: You have a really cool job. Tell us what inspired you to become a Food Allergy Therapist.

SC: I felt there was a need for this service for kids and parents who are dealing with food allergy anxiety in Toronto, so I founded Carroll Counselling. I love food and socializing and family and friends and life, but I know that many of the kids I see in my practice are struggling to lead “normal” lives. I want to help kids do all the things they want to do, while also making sure they take their allergy seriously. I know what it’s like first hand, and can provide support to children and the family as a whole.

AB: And… final question: You’re generously providing AllergyBites discount cardholders with 1 FREE 90-minute therapy session. (Buy 2, get the 3rd free). What did you see in the AllergyBites program that made you want to team up with us?

SC: AllergyBites is an amazing resource; one that we need in Toronto. It’s the one-stop shop for families with food allergies, and I foresee it providing them with so many supports, fun things to do, and ways to enjoy life in an allergy safe world.


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Allergy-Friendly Restaurant Review: Jack Astor’s Bar and Grill

This allergy-friendly restaurant was reviewed by guest blogger, Pauline Osena. Pauline is a writer, food allergy advocate, self-proclaimed allergy-friendly foodie, mother of 3 young children, and manager of a household that avoids 7 of the top 8 food allergens. She is also the founder of HypeFoodie and editor of Best Allergy Sites, online resources for allergy-friendly living.


Eating out with my entire family can be challenging. My eldest son is allergic to dairy, eggs, wheat, peanuts and tree nuts, and my youngest is allergic to eggs and fish, so it’s almost impossible to find a full-service restaurant that is completely free from all of their allergens. Instead, I look for allergy-aware eating spots that have policies in place to accommodate customers with food allergies and kitchen procedures to avoid cross-contamination.

The Jack Astor’s chain is one of a handful of restaurants that I trust to prepare food for my children. It’s a family restaurant with a wide selection of food on their menu—from pub fare to Asian inspired dishes. They also have a great kids menu, with a good variety of whole food options. Our kids love the fun, playful atmosphere and enjoy doodling on tables covered with brown craft paper. As an allergy-mom, I also appreciate the paper table coverings, because it helps ensure the surfaces are clean and free from allergen traces, and my kids are busy drawing or playing tic-tac-toe while I speak to the staff about our food allergies. And the many TV screens around the restaurant are usually set to sports, funny video reels and sports bloopers so there’s entertainment for the entire family.

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We’ve eaten at the Jack Astor’s restaurants on John Street in downtown Toronto, and in St. Catherine’s Ontario multiple times, and have consistently had delicious, safe and allergen-free meals served to my children. When calling to make a reservation, the restaurant staff immediately show that they are allergy-aware by asking if there’s anyone in our party with food allergies. Both my sons’ allergies were noted on the reservation, and upon arrival, the hostess immediately offered to have a manager visit our table to discuss the allergies further.

Because my eldest son has multiple food allergies, I always carry a chef card listing all of his allergens so that there is no chance of error between the server’s notes and the instructions that the kitchen receives. I still like to speak with the kitchen manager or person responsible for cooking the meal to make sure that they understand that the food cannot contain his allergens as ingredients AND that the equipment the food is cooked on needs to be clean and free from allergens as well.

In our case, we usually order steak fries from the kids menu for our son. I always ensure that the deep fryer is a dedicated fryer for french fries only to reduce cross-contamination risks. Their steak is fresh and unmarinated, and to be extra safe, we request that no spices be added to the steak (we add salt and pepper ourselves at the table). The majority of their steaks are cooked on a grill with some items containing butter or cheese, so the kitchen accommodates for my son’s allergies by cooking his steak on a skillet with vegetable oil. The chef is sometimes apologetic that the steak doesn’t have grill marks, but that’s a small trade-off for a safe meal.

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The amazing thing about Jack Astor’s is that they are open to modifications and replacements. On one occasion my son wanted to have rice instead of fries with his steak. The kitchen verified that the rice did not contain any dairy, wheat, eggs or nuts, and to be extra safe, they also shared the fact that the rice may contain tapioca. Even though tapioca was not one of our allergens, I appreciated their transparency and took it as a sign that they take food allergies very seriously.

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Another bonus is that Jack Astor’s kids meals come with dessert my kids can actually eat. We are used to skipping dessert, because there usually isn’t anything suitable for my eldest, but to our surprise, they have two very delicious and satisfying options. The first dessert we tried was fresh fruit. After verifying with the server that the fruit was cut in an area that was free from dairy, eggs, wheat and nuts, my son happily consumed the entire bowl. The second option we’ve tried is the Chapman’s orange sorbet, which my son constantly raves about. The sorbet is sealed in individual portions and is gluten-free, peanut-free, nut-free, and does not contain any of the top allergens as ingredients. This is such an amazing option to have, especially for a child that almost never gets to eat “ice cream” outside of our house.

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Jack Astor’s is now one of our go-to restaurants for large family gatherings. With advance planning, we’ve never had a problem getting a reservation for a large party. My family has varied preferences and it’s not easy to please us all—we have people with food allergies and intolerances, we’ve got hearty eaters that love pub fare and health conscious eaters that prefer lighter options, and still others who go for traditional Asian food. And, of course, no family is complete without a handful of picky eaters. The Jack Astor’s menu has so many delicious options that everyone is able to find something to satisfy their cravings. For us, it’s a safe place that brings our family together, a place where I don’t need to do the cooking (or the dishes) and we all enjoy an evening out.


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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.

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Miss Allergic Reactor: Wild Zora Bars Are a Favourite for Travel

This article, Wild Zora Bars are a Favorite Food Allergy Friendly Travel Option, was originally featured on Miss Allergic Reactor. Republished with the author’s permission.

Wild-Zora-BergenThe first time that I tried Wild Zora bars, I was at the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference in Denver. There were many booths set up around a large conference room. When I saw the Wild Zora booth, I was intrigued by the distinct flavors of their bars. I was given a sample and tried it later that evening. I enjoyed the taste so much that I went back the next day to share my enthusiasm with co-founder, Joshua Tabin.

The unique flavors and texture is what I think makes these bar stand out. They are soft instead of a hard, chewy texture that I often find in meat bars. The Wild Zora bars also have really distinct flavors that taste fresh and more wholesome than any other bars I’ve had. I also appreciate that they don’t have that strong meat taste, but instead have original flavors and ingredients.

Wild-Zora-Vico-beach-biteThe first one I ever tried was the Mediterranean Lamb. I loved tasting not just the lamb, but the spinach, rosemary, and turmeric as well. For us allergic reactors, it can be challenging to find foods that are safe and flavorful. I grew up eating some very bland foods whenever we would go out to eat, which is why I was so happily shocked by these bars. All of the flavors pop out in a very tasteful way.

This summer when I was traveling in Europe, Wild Zora supplied me with some samples of their new flavors to try. Since they are my favorite meat and veggie bars, I was thrilled to bring them along! I ate them in front of a palace in Oslo, fishing boats in Bergen, Norway and as a beach snack in Italy. I tried flavors like Apple Pork with rosemary, parsley, sage, and thyme and Parmesan Beef with tomato, basil, and kale. There wasn’t one flavor that I didn’t enjoy. I love good food and to be able to find something good that I can take on the go is amazing!

Wild-Zora-OsloAs someone who was also fortunate enough to be raised on organic foods, I appreciate that they are:

  • Free from artificial ingredients, MSG, chemical additives, and added sugar or sweeteners
  • Made of certified-organic veggies
  • Allergen friendly with no grains, gluten, soy, peanuts, and tree nuts (and some are milk free)
  • Made with free-range turkey, 100% natural lamb and grass-fed beef

Since then, I have found them locally at Cambridge Naturals in Cambridge, MA. A surprising discovery that has become a favorite special treat when I need some protein on the go.

You can also order them online at www.wildzora.com. I highly recommend checking them out!

Wild-Zora-with-me-1About the Author

Allie Bahn has always lived with life-threatening allergies to numerous foods (including peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, potato and more) as well as having environmental allergies and asthma. In 2008, there were still very few blogs and social media was just on the cusp of becoming popular. When Allie created the blog Miss Allergic Reactor, she saw a need and wanted to help others understand from the allergic child point-of-view. Allie’s love of travel has taken her all over the world on irreplaceable adventures. With her Tuesday Travel Tips on Instagram and her many posts about her adventures across the globe, she continues to pave the path for travellers in the allergy community.

 


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Review of an Allergy-Friendly Bakery: de Floured

This allergy-friendly restaurant was reviewed by guest blogger, Liz Frederiksen. Liz is a proud Torontonian and a lifelong food allergy thriver. A copywriter and social media coach by trade, Liz is happiest when hula hooping, hiking, or sharing good food with her family. All opinions are her own.


Editor’s Note: While select items contain other allergens, like sesame and soy (to name a couple!), the baker is careful to keep these ingredients away from the rest. For example, sesame is an ingredient in her quinoa cookies, but she keeps these cookies in a separate container behind the counter. She uses organic soy flour to “fatten up” her chocolate chip cookies, but all of her other baked goods are soy free. If you aren’t sure about a particular allergen, or if you aren’t comfortable with the possibility of cross contamination, ask lots of questions before you order.


As October begins, Toronto’s local farmers’ markets are at their peak, exploding with a riot of locally grown vegetables, fruits, and, believe it or not, allergy-friendly baked goods! When I started frequenting the Dufferin Grove Farmers’ Market four years ago, I assumed all the lovely baked things were off limits, until I discovered de Floured.

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From their cozy bakery in Bloordale, owner Krista Tobias and partner Chris Brown, pump out a delectable assortment of gluten-free, peanut/tree nut-free, and corn-free sweet and savoury goods to satisfy any cravings. They also have a regular selection of vegan goods, which are obviously meat, egg, and dairy free.

On a recent visit, Chris explained that they have a separate counter and separate equipment for creating their vegan treats, but they are baked in the same ovens as the rest. If you are concerned about cross contamination, it is best to call them in advance.

20171004_112710Krista, who grew up in a foodie family, and whose father owned a bakery, has a gluten intolerance and several food allergies herself. She told blogTO that she started de Floured “so [she] could eat!” In conversation with me, she added “I get sick a lot, [due to my gluten intolerance] and I read a lot and I’m very aware.” It is both a comfort and a joy to find a baker who deals with food limitations, and therefore, understands. Customers also benefit from the relationships Tobias and Brown have developed with their fellow market vendors. Approximately 70% of their ingredients are organic, and locally sourced. They also change up their menu to reflect seasonal availability.

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My most recent visit was the day before our family’s Rosh Hashanah dinner, and I confess I couldn’t bring myself to order a lot, knowing how much I’d be eating the next day! I picked up a couple of their personal-sized pumpkin pies for my partner and myself.

Chris also gave me a mini chocolate chip banana loaf to try. I love banana bread, however, I’m not usually a fan of chocolate. But this loaf certainly won me over! The banana and chocolate flavours compliment each other well, and the loaf is moist and delicious. And the pumpkin pie? It was light and fluffy, with a hint of spice, just the way I like it. Krista told me that October is one of their busiest times of year because of their pumpkin pie sales—and I’m not surprised!

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Over the past four years, I’ve sampled many of their treats, and I can say without a doubt that their seasonal* maple butter tarts are among the best in the city. I think by the time my baby was born, she was 90% butter tarts! Their savoury galettes, a mainstay of their business, are also fantastic. Our family is particularly fond of their Swiss chard one, and the mushroom galette is also delicious. Their quiches are also worth a try, especially the smoked salmon. I realize it’s an acquired taste, but it works for me, and it isn’t something I would’ve thought to try at home.

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Much of de Floured’s business is through word of mouth. They don’t have a website, and, aside from their Instagram page, they aren’t terribly active on social media. I like to think of them as one of Toronto’s best kept secrets – one I’m happy to share!

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West-enders, look for them at the Sorauren Park market on Mondays or the Dufferin Grove Farmers’ Market on Thursdays. East-enders can find them at the Brickworks on Saturdays. Or you can always stop by their bakery, and even call in custom orders. Bakery hours are Wednesday to Saturday, 9:30am to 5pm and Sunday from 11am to 5pm.

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*If, after reading Liz’s review, you find yourself craving a butter tart, make sure to call in advance. This editor hastily headed over with visions of deliciously ooey gooey butter tarts in her head, and learned that they are, in fact, seasonal. Sadly, there were none to satisfy my cravings. The good news is, they’ll be available very, very soon. So I guess their season is coming. And I guess that means I’ll be back! 😉


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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.

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Profile of an Allergy Parent: Andrea Waserman

_DSC3309Andrea is mom to “two beautiful daughters”—Danielle (2 years) and Talia (5 months). Her eldest is allergic to peanuts, whitefish and trout. Her youngest has no confirmed allergies to date.

KO: Can you describe the first time you realized (or suspected) Danielle had a food allergy?

IMG_5271AW: It was really shocking as I had been giving her peanut butter from a very young age, but at some point she stopped liking it so I stopped giving it to her. When she was about 18 months old, I gave her a taste of Bamba (similar to Cheesies, but with peanuts) and she didn’t like it—which was really surprising to me. About 20 minutes later, she started breaking out in hives. After they resolved, I actually had a couple of minutes to sit down, breathe, and properly process what had happened. I was in complete disbelief.

KO: Has your child ever experienced an anaphylactic reaction?

AW: Thankfully she hasn’t, but we don’t go anywhere without multiple EpiPens just in case.

KO: After the diagnosis, what did your grieving process look like? Do you feel that you’re in the “acceptance” phase now?

fullsizeoutput_2973AW: My grieving process involved A LOT of guilt. I kept thinking that if I had continued to give her peanut butter, she wouldn’t have developed an allergy—even though I know this to not be true. To some extent, I’ve come to terms with her allergies but I don’t really think I’ll ever be in the “acceptance” phase per se. I remain hopeful she’ll outgrow at least some of her food allergies, namely peanut. I also look forward to continued breakthroughs in food allergy research.

KO: What are your biggest challenges as the mom of a food-allergic kid?

AW: My biggest challenge is making sure she is safe, without feeling like I am limiting her. Straddling that balance can be difficult as it often entails dealing with the unknown. The possibility of an anaphylactic reaction is terrifying.

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KO: How has your child dealt with her food allergies?

AW: Considering her favourite song is Rafi’s “Peanut Butter Sandwich,” I don’t think she fully understands her allergy. That being said, one of her first words was “EpiPen” and she can readily identify one. We’re also starting to read a lot more educational children’s books, like “Allie the Allergic Elephant” and “The Peanut-Free Cake” so it will be interesting to see how her understanding evolves.

KO: Tell me about CAAIF.

AW: The Canadian Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Foundation (CAAIF) is an incredible foundation whose sole mission is to fund Canadian researchers in the fields of allergy, asthma and immunology. Thus far, they have given out over a million dollars in educational and research grants in the areas of food allergy and anaphylaxis. It’s really refreshing to be part of an organization where you know exactly where the money is going. I got involved because my mother-in-law (Dr. Susan Waserman) is the president, and she had asked for my help with their gala. After Danielle was diagnosed with her allergy, I really felt helpless. But getting involved and supporting CAAIF has been an incredibly empowering experience. I feel like I am able to make a small difference in an important area that’s become that much more relevant to me since Danielle’s diagnosis.

_DSC3449KO: What’s it like having a Dr. Susan Waserman as your mother-in-law?

AW: I feel incredibly fortunate to have someone as wonderful, caring and brilliant as Susan as my mother-in-law. Since working with her on the CAAIF Gala, I’ve been able to see what an important role research plays in both how we understand allergies and the ever-changing way in which it is treated. It’s truly inspiring to see how committed she is to her patients, research and philanthropy.

 

KO: CAAIF doesn’t get as much attention as some of the bigger charities. But based on what you’ve told us, it really should. For those interested in donating to CAAIF, what are their options?

CAAIFgala-2017AW: That’s a great question 🙂 You can always make a donation directly from the CAAIF website. We also have an upcoming gala and auction on Thursday, October 12 that everyone in the community is welcome to attend.

The keynote speaker is Bruce Croxon (former Dragon on CBC’s Dragon’s Den) who will be giving an interesting perspective both as a venture capitalist and an allergy parent. We also have some great live auction items, such as WestJet roundtrip airfare for two (to any destination), Leafs tickets, Raptors tickets, hotels, restaurants, and jewellery from Mark Lash.

We would also love for more people to get involved and help us reach out to the greater community. We’re hoping to have some sort of community fundraiser next year and would love your input. You can always get my information through AllergyBites or by contacting the office via email.

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Review of an Allergy-Friendly Bakery: The Cupcake Shoppe

Review of an Allergy-Friendly Bakery: The Cupcake Shoppe

This allergy-friendly restaurant was reviewed by guest blogger, Liz Frederiksen. Liz is a proud Torontonian and a lifelong food allergy thriver. A copywriter and social media coach by trade, Liz is happiest when hula hooping, hiking, or sharing good food with her family. All opinions are her own.


Editor’s Note: While the Cupcake Shoppe is not a designated sesame-free facility, no sesame oil or sesame seeds are used in the baking of their goods. If you have any questions about whether a particular item contains sesame (or any allergen), please ask to speak to the owner or head baker before ordering. Not all staff are trained to know the answer to specific allergen-related questions.


Nestled in an alcove off Yonge Street, just north of Eglinton, is Toronto’s first—and in my opinion, best—cupcake shop, aptly named The Cupcake Shoppe. (Full disclosure, I’ve been a happy customer for at least eight years. They did our wedding cupcakes and, much more recently, my daughter’s full-sized birthday cake. Maybe that makes me biased, but I don’t care!)

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The Cupcake Shoppe has been free of peanuts and tree nuts for their entire 13 years in operation, and they bake cupcakes fresh daily using only natural ingredients. The result is moist, delicate flavours that taste like they’re homemade. As a life-long nut allergy thriver, it is both a joy and a relief to go into a bakery, buy whatever I want, and never be worried about my safety or disappointed about the flavour.

P1050144Chatting with the store’s owner, Suzanne Cooper, I learned that in addition to being nut-free, they can also accommodate some gluten-free requests. (Although the gluten-free cake option is limited to vanilla at this time, there are many icing choices to liven it up.) They make gluten-free orders on separate equipment at a different time of day to avoid cross contamination. However, all cakes are baked in the same ovens, so there is a small possibility of airborne exposure. Since the rest of the cupcake production is halted during the making of gluten-free orders, they need 72 hours notice to adjust their baking schedule.

Allergies to fruit, such as strawberries or bananas, can be accommodated as well. Be sure to discuss any cross-contamination concerns when placing your order. Given the basic recipes they use to build their cupcakes, they cannot accommodate egg or dairy allergies.

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The Cupcake Shoppe’s bright pink storefront has a small order counter only, and no seating. Mostly, I opt to take 4-6 cupcakes home for the family, but buying one cupcake as a treat to enjoy on a city bench is a guilty pleasure of mine. They rotate their offerings for walk-ins, so if there’s a specific flavour you have in mind, it’s best to order the day before. I will admit there have been times I’ve gone in hoping for something specific and have been disappointed. However, there are always other yummy flavours available to make up for it. On this particular visit, I went all out and ordered 6 cupcakes + 1 white chocolate dipped vanilla cake pop + 1 Cinnamon Toast Crunch marshmallow square (a new offering – their take on Rice Krispy squares).

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From top left: Cookie D’Oh! (chocolate chip vanilla cake with cookie dough buttercream icing), S’more S’Mores (a seasonal cupcake consisting of chocolate frosting on a marshmallow filled vanilla cupcake, topped with mini marshmallows and a small graham cracker), Pretty n Pink (raspberry cake with raspberry buttercream icing) x 2, Red Velvet (cream cheese frosting on red velvet cake), and Cocoa Chanel (chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream icing).


This was a bigger order than I usually make, but it was for research, right? Right?! As expected, the cupcakes were moist and delicious. My daughter tried red velvet for the first time and demolished it—laughing and squealing the whole time!

P1050142Most of their flavours hit the right balance of sweet, so I was a bit surprised to find the marshmallow square was completely over the top! It was still tasty, but in the future I will share my square with at least one other person. Next up: the cake pop! I had never tried one before, so that was a fun new experience. Despite it being delicious, I am not sure I will order another, because two bites of cake are altogether too few for me!

What I appreciate the most about the Cupcake Shoppe is their reliability. Any flavour that tickles your fancy will be fresh and tasty. Special orders are done on time and can even be delivered. I have always been impressed with their cake decorating skills. After all, they even gave me a different kind of “butterflies in my stomach” (see photos below) on my wedding day!

Wedding Photos

by Jo-Anne McArthur

 

 

 

 


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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.

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Review of an Allergy-Friendly Bakery: Cakes by Robert

This allergy-friendly restaurant was reviewed by guest blogger, Wendy Churton. Wendy is a stay-at-home mom who occasionally works as a freelancer in theatre and opera. These days, she’s navigating life with her son’s food allergies and her own postpartum anxiety. She is also a writer for a parenting blog called This Bumpy Adventure. All opinions are her own.

Cakes by Robert is a bakery located in the heart of The Beaches. With its bright purple and white signage along the storefront, it was easy to find along a strip of other shops. I stopped in with a friend to pick up some sweet treats for our toddlers on the way to a play date.

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The interior is bright and welcoming, and they have several long coolers of delicious treats, plus an additional counter at the back for custom cake orders. And while there was no seating, we didn’t mind since we were off to enjoy a picnic in the park.

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Our server was friendly and willing to answer any allergy-related questions we had. She let us know that all of their cakes are made in house, in their peanut-free and tree nut-free kitchen. They also have a selection of products that are available egg-free and gluten-free (provided directly from Goodbye Gluten—as the pastry chefs at Cakes by Robert want to avoid any cross contamination from their own kitchen).

In addition to cakes and cupcakes, they also offer several other treats, including a variety of tarts, muffins, and cookies. They also offer a selection of finishing touches for your dessert, including cake toppers and birthday candles.

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But the best feature of the bakery by far is their Cupcake Bar. Here, you get to choose your cupcake size (mini or regular), cupcake flavour (chocolate or vanilla cake), icing flavours (chocolate, mocha, banana, lemon or strawberry) and any additional toppings you may like (sprinkles? yes please!). The kids loved being able to pick their own options. And each item was individually packaged to go.

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Here’s what we ordered…

Jackie’s choice: Vanilla cupcake with mocha icing

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Grace’s choice: Chocolate cupcake with chocolate icing and vanilla sprinkles

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William’s choice: Egg-free cupcake with vanilla icing and blue sprinkles

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Wendy’s choice: Vanilla cupcake with strawberry icing

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Overall, the cupcakes were incredibly tasty. The cake was moist and a bit crumbly. And while the adults found the icing to be a bit too sweet, the kids certainly didn’t complain!

We also picked up a couple of extras to sample later, including both the creme brulée and butter tarts. We give these treats a thumbs up too. The creme brulée tarts reminded me of traditional Portuguese custard tarts (one of my favourite desserts), but were very sweet and crunchy on top—much more dessert-like!—and I was surprised to find the texture and taste very different than what I would have expected. The butter tarts had a soft crust that was chewy (rather than flaky) and the filling was sweet and light.

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All in all, we recommend visiting Cakes by Robert if you need a special dessert for an event and are on the lookout for a bakery you can trust to be allergy-friendly. It’s also great to take the kids for a (safe) treat that they can customize.

For me, having the freedom to walk into a bakery and let my son pick his own dessert was such a joy, and I felt confident knowing he was safe with any of his choices.

This bakery is toddler and food allergy mama approved!

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*ADVERTISEMENT* In the mood for a picnic? Need a waterproof, family-sized picnic blanket? Grab one in blue plaid for less than $30 on Amazon.ca.


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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.

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AllergyBites is honoured to support Walk for Andrea

Honoured to support this year’s Walk for Andrea

When allergy mama and co-founder of Walk for Andrea reached out to ask if AllergyBites would provide a small donation (to include in participant goodie bags), I was honoured—to say the least.

AllergyBites as official sponsor of a cause that is near and dear to my heart? Yes, yes, YES! We may not have a lot to give, but we were more than happy to help in any way we possibly could.

AllergyBites is honoured to support Walk for Andrea

Walk the walk

When it comes to the things I’m passionate about, I try my best to put my money where my mouth is. So I make a habit of making a personal donation to a charity that truly means something to me each year. (Surprise, surprise. This year, I chose Walk for Andrea.)

If, like me, you’re passionate about finding a cure for food allergies but aren’t sure what you (as an individual) can do to help bring about change, why not go the extra mile—pun intended—throw on a pair of comfy shoes on and start walking on Sunday, September 24th? You can register for Walk for Andrea – Curing Food Allergies Together 2017 here.

Already participating in this year’s walk? Maybe I’ll see you there! (I won’t be walking, but I’ll be (wo)manning a booth before the walk begins. Pop by to say hello!) And make sure to look out for these little ‘thank you’ cards from AllergyBites in your loot bag. It isn’t much, but we wanted to do our (small) part to support this very important community fundraiser.

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Every loonie counts

Did you know that, for every discount card sold, I’ve pledged to make a personal donation of $1 to the Walk? So if we sell 20 cards, that’s $20. But if we sell 500 cards, that’s $500!! Just one more reason to pre-order your card today.

Or, if you’re feeling extra generous, make a direct donation* to Sick Kids/Walk for Andrea today, and know you’re doing your small part to help find a cure for food allergies. *Donations of $20 or are entitled to a tax receipt.

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Allergy-Friendly Restaurant Review: St-Hubert

This article, St-Hubert: Allergy-Friendly Comfort Food, was originally featured on HypeFoodie. Republished with the author’s permission.

Our family just got back from another trip to Quebec to visit family. It’s a long 10 hour drive (or more depending on the kids) and we make this trek a few times a year, so I feel like we’ve become pros at road trips.

This trip we actually made it to our destination in time for dinner. Upon arrival, my in-laws had a hot meal waiting for us that they had ordered from St-Hubert Rotisserie, an iconic restaurant chain found in Quebec and Eastern Canada.

I had made many assumptions about St-Hubert in the past, but after a little bit of research, it turns out that many of my assumptions were misguided. We avoid peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, eggs, wheat and fish in our household, and there are actually many menu items that my family can safely consume.  A full allergen menu is posted online and provides a breakdown of all menu items and allergens that they contain. Fun fact: St-Hubert has not used nuts or peanuts in any of their dishes since 2004!

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We were able to enjoy a delicious, moist and juicy rotisserie chicken with fries and traditional coleslaw, completely free from top allergens. Unfortunately the BBQ dipping sauce contains wheat, so we just skipped it and used ketchup instead. It’s also important to note that the meal comes with a bun, so if you have a wheat allergy or gluten sensitivity, make sure to let them know, otherwise the bun will be included in the box and touching/contaminating the gluten-free fries and chicken.

Ever since we stopped eating at McDonald’s because of their new allergy policy a few months ago, we’ve been empowered to look for other more allergy-friendly restaurant options. St-Hubert is such a great allergy-friendly find and has opened up more options for us! There are many St-Hubert Express restaurants and drive-thrus located near highways and rest stops once you cross the Quebec border. There are also St-Hub Pubs that serve the same delicious food in a pub-like atmosphere.

Happy Dining!

About the Author
Pauline Osena is a writer, food allergy advocate, self-proclaimed allergy-friendly foodie and the mother of 3 kids under age 5. Pauline is the founder of HypeFoodie.com and editor at BestAllergySites.com, online resources for allergy-friendly living. This former dairy junkie became an expert in allergy-friendly cuisine while figuring out how to avoid 7 of the top 8 food allergens in order to feed her two children with multiple food allergies.

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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.

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