A pop-up marketplace showcased a range of Toronto-made gluten-free products.
Just a couple of years ago, an event like Gluten Free Garage, even in a large city like Toronto, would have been very unlikely.
In 2013, however, it’s not just those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance avoiding foods with wheat, barley, and other gluten-containing grains; an increasing number of people are avoiding gluten simply because they feel that they’re healthier without it. (A survey by NPD Group recently found that nearly 30 per cent of adults are interested in eliminating or reducing gluten in their diets.) That kind of interest has led to both an increase in the number of gluten-free products available and an increase in the number of places selling them. It has also led to Gluten Free Garage, a local one-day pop-up marketplace that highlights gluten-free products and retailers. It was held for the second time on Sunday at the Artscape Wychwood Barns.
This edition of Gluten Free Garage—which had been timed to kick off Celiac Awareness Month—featured more than 50 vendors, including local shops, large-scale food manufacturers, local producers, and nutritionists. Gluten-free food truck Gourmet B1tches was on hand, and speakers discussed topics like maintaining good nutrition on a gluten-free diet and raising kids who don’t eat gluten.
The food available at the event showcased the full range of what’s available for those who don’t eat gluten. Some of it was clearly meant to appeal to the health-food crowd, like energy bars from Nud, or juice cleanses from benourished. Other offerings, like pasta and soups, were meant to replace typical grocery items that are often off limits for gluten-free eaters. (Even soups without noodles often contain gluten, because flour is commonly used as a thickener.) And baked goods were well represented, with Bunner’s, Tori’s Bakeshop, and LPK Culinary Groove (which recently closed its Leslieville storefront) all on hand. Large-scale manufacturers, like O’Doughs and Udi’s Gluten Free, showcased items like breads and muffins that are available at both health-food stores and major grocery retailers around Toronto.
As much as some of the items on hand were indicators of how far gluten-free food has come (highlights included the cupcakes from Bunner’s, SoL Cuisine veggie burgers, Sunflower Kitchen soups, and Udi’s baked goods) others were reminders of the fact that, in some foods, gluten is really hard to replace. Glutino‘s pretzel sticks had the taste right, but just didn’t have the right snap. Mary’s Gone Crackers were not particularly satisfying. And, though Magic Oven makes one of the better gluten-free pizza crusts in the city, it’s just not the same. Other vendors appeared to be trying to associate themselves with gluten-free products for marketing purposes. It’s not often that kombucha (Tonica), milk (Harmony Organic), or coconut water (O.N.E.) would ever contain the much-maligned protein.
The Gluten Free Garage marketplace was already busy an hour after opening on Sunday morning. It wouldn’t be surprising if a third edition were to pop up sometime soon.