May 11, 2016 | Musings, Restaurants
I’m not exactly sure when Five Guys Burgers & Fries opened up in the States or when it became such a big thing. Honestly it just seems like it’s another restaurant that has gone by the KISS principle – Keep It Simple Stupid. They made the menu small and tried to hit the few menu items out of the park.
The chain reminds me vaguely of a college-town restaurant that was extremely popular in Athens, Georgia – Go Dawgs! They served chicken fingers and sandwiches made of said chicken with a special sauce. I went once and that was all I needed. Funny thing – most of the press clippings on the walls of Five Guys seem to be from either college newspapers or alternative newspapers, which mainly college students read.
The interesting thing about this location in Saskatoon was that there was a pretty good mix of clientele – from families with kids to 20-somethings to older couples. That said, if you have a high sensitivity to Gluten, you might want to skip chancing this one.
Five Guys Burgers & Fries
Rating – 3.5 out of 5 Peppers – Burgers, hot dogs and fries. Good toppings, good food, but you pay for it.
Location: Eighth Street, Saskatoon
Restaurant type: At your own discretion Gluten Friendly – There is no GF menu. What you see is what you get. If you don’t eat the buns, your burger or hot dog is technically GF as are most of the non-sauce fixin’s and fries. That said, I won’t use their sauce selection and/or would be very leery of cross-contamination as nothing is separated in the kitchen.
Food: The quality of the food was pretty good. It’s definitely better than a fast food burger and in some ways, they serve better burgers than say a chain such as Milestone’s (Canadian) or Applebees (American). One of the best things about this place is the bag of fries – about the only thing worth the exorbitant price of the burgers.
Selection: The only real selection you have here is with or without cheese or bacon on your small or large hot dog or burger. Oh and you can have your fries with Cajun spice that is not as good as my recipe. Beyond that the list of options to put on the burgers is impressive if not a rather standard group of choices – jalapenos and hot sauce being the only standouts for burger fair.
Price: Granted you get a double with each burger and a big ole bag o’ fries, but … It’s not worth it – I could spend just as much and feed five guys at my place with tastier options and better quality. The price is what will keep me away from this place.
Spicy Ending: It’s high quality, but simple burgers, It’s honestly not worth the price or the hype for me to go out of my way.
Oct 29, 2015 | Reviews
As you may have noticed from my blog and from numerous social media posts, I LOVE cookies. Home-made are always the best – made with love and those beautiful passed down recipes.
Unfortunately, life has a way of making things busy. You know – kids, kids’ activities, holidays, work, family, significant others, and the list goes on and on. Thankfully, there are ways to get a cookie fix other than homemade.
And thankfully, there are store-bought cookies that are better than others.
Now there is a caveat. Many of these store bought cookies go to extremes trying to suit everyone – so they are GF, Nut Free, Soy Free, Dairy Free … thankfully after all that they aren’t taste free! Rather than the typical restaurant review, I will be talking about different kinds of cookies that I have tried and potentially do some comparisons as well. After all this is all about store bought cookies and what I like. It’s my opinion and like the extreme Allergy Friendly (AF) cookies – if you like ’em, eat ’em!
Oreo Sandwich-Style Cookies
When I could eat any old cookie out of a bag, I would literally devour a row of Oreos without a second thought. Sure it’s not healthy, then again, have you seen my recipes?! I love food and I love cookies. So AD, I had to change my ways and I intentionally or unintentionally started hunting for Oreo-style cookies. And I’ve tried two types of these cookies – Kinnikinnick KinniToos Chocolate Vanilla Sandwich Creme Cookies and the Wal-Mart brand Good Value GF Chocolate Sandwich cookies.
Kinnikinnick KinniToos Chocolate Vanilla Sandwich Creme Cookies
Allergy Alert – GF, Nut Free, Dairy Free (though they are processed in the same factory as eggs), and Vegan
Texture – These are the closest cookie I have found to an original that was not homemade! I think anyone who loves Oreos would be hard pressed to tell the difference if they were blind-folded despite the fact that they are so AF. Typically an AF cookies like this would have a bit of a granular feel to it, but not these little morsels!
Taste – What can I say? While I can’t go back and try it myself, I really do think people wouldn’t be able to taste the difference between a real Oreo and the KinniToos!
Price/Availability – While in Canada, the chocolate variety is a little harder to find for some reason than the Vanilla cookie version. As for the price, they are not as cheap as the Wal-Mart brand, but you pay for what you get.
Good Value GF Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
Allergy Alert – Gluten Free
Texture – These cookies are almost as good as the KinniToos, but not quite. They’re a little harder, which might be closer to the OG Oreo.
Taste – However, that doesn’t mean that they taste as good as the OG. Like most imitations, this one is just found lacking.
Price/Availability – There are three Wal-Marts within a 20-mile radius, you do the math! And yes, they are more expensive than regular Oreos, but less than the KinniToos – for a reason.
There are a number of different styles of cookies, both on shelves and in cookbooks. Another favourite of mine is the other classic – Chocolate Chip. Unfortunately there has never been a store-bought version that can beat homemade – either GF or not. So we will talk about other types of drop cookies – such as chocolate cookies or these next delectable morsels.
Udi’s Salted Caramel Cashew Cookies
Allergy Alert – Gluten Free
Texture – They were soft, chewy, crunchy – delicious. Just how a drop cookie should be – not some rock hard discus that’s only good for skeet.
Taste – OMG! If I could figure out how to make these at home, I would! They are fantastic and should not be shared with anyone else – except me if I’m at your house for some reason! The combination of the cashews and caramel is really inspired and makes an amazing flavour, especially for someone like me whose go-to cookie has chocolate as the main ingredient.
Price/Availability – I have only been able to find these once – at Costco. And they were a little more expensive than your other average store bought cookies, but so, SO worth it.
Enjoy Life Double Chocolate Brownie Cookies
Allergy Alert – I don’t know what they make these things from … they’re GF, Peanut, Tree Nut, Soya, Potato, Wheat, Fish, Shellfish, Sesame, Sulfites, Dairy, Egg and Casein Free.
Texture – While they are soft and chewy, they do have a bit of that granular texture to them.
Taste – Despite the granular taste, they are tasty. There’s a rich chocolate flavour that you would expect in a brownie cookie and it’s a worthwhile alternative to chocolate chip cookies.
Price/Availability – I’ve found these in a few different supermarket chains. And they’re still GF, so they’re still more expensive than non-AF food.
Cookie It Up Gluten-free Chocolate Chip
Allergy Alert – While these cookies are GF and nut free, they do contain milk and soy.
Texture – Very grainy. If you look at the ingredients for these cookies, you will see that only one type of flour (rice) is used. So far in my two years eating GF, it seems like that is a recipe for granular baking – not using a mix that mimics regular wheat flour.
Taste – Even without feeling like I was eating sand, these cookies were not worth the price I paid for them.
Price/Availability – There was only one place I’ve seen these in Canada and that is at Indigo. Hopefully the non-GF cookies are better quality than these.
Jun 14, 2015 | Restaurants
Shortly BC, I didn’t know anything about Gluten Free food. I was pretty sure that gluten helped with elasticity in pizza and other types of dough. Other than that, I was clueless. Like most people I likely assumed that Gluten Free was taste free.
Well, since then I have discovered and proven to many family and friends that Gluten Free is Not Taste Free. And the Griffin Takeaway is one of those places that also proves that! People should try the Takeaway’s food whether they are on a GF diet or not. These guys are legit and Mom and Pop, and are worth the money. Let me tell you why …
The Griffin Takeaway
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Peppers – While this bakery/restaurant has loads of options, many of those options border on the culinary side of cooking rather than the Mom & Pop side that their facade suggests. There is nothing wrong with their food, it’s mostly delicious! There are just times when it might be cool to have something a little less French Bakery inspired and more Grandma inspired!
Location: Eighth Street E, Saskatoon
Restaurant type: Gluten Free with Vegan and Dairy and Nut Free options – While the Takeaway is primarily a GF bakery, they also do lunches for takeout.
Food: When I was diagnosed with Celiac, it was about a week before my 40th birthday. What a great shock that was! On the other hand, I found Griffin Takeaway with a week and my wife surprised me with a birthday cake from them. It was decadent, moist and definitely made me realize that Gluten Free does not mean taste free. The cake was a chocolate cake with an apple filling topped with a peanut butter frosting. Right up my alley, not too dense and just awesome.
Recently I went back in for lunch because I had time and I was close by, I was feeling adventurous so I went for the Flax Vegan bread Cheese-A-Tarian paired with a Fully Loaded baker and finished with a granola bar. The flax bread was light and moist, perfectly complementing the mixture of cheddars, cream cheese and feta along with tomatoes. The baked potato could have been a bit better – the chickpea chili needed more spice but was good overall and it needed to be warmed a bit more. And I’m sure people like the granola bars; it was uber-moist and chewy but seemed more like fruit cake than an actual granola bar to me.
Selection: For their lunch menu, there are surprisingly few options That said they do those options very well. On the flip side, they have a ton of different options for their bakery – they feature a ton of different cookies, breads, and other bakery options. In some ways, the simplicity of their store does little justice to the complexity of their food and the time and effort they lovingly put into it. That said, you can tell that they focus more on being a bakery and less on the variety of lunch menu since I don’t think it’s changed in a couple years. Eh, if it’s not broke, right?
Price: Most GF food is a little more expensive to start with. The lunch and the birthday cake I got were both a bit more expensive. However the prices were not high enough that I won’t go back to get takeout or get another cake.
Spicy Ending: There are a few GF restaurants in Toon Town. The Griffin Takeaway is one of the best!
May 22, 2015 | Restaurants
In the U.S.A., Chili’s is a fairly popular chain restaurant based on Southwest and Southern fusion with a penchant for hot and spicy food.. And as restaurants went in the States, it was one of my favourites and then we moved north of the border. Chili’s were few and much farther between.
The first one in Saskatoon opened about three to four years ago and the service and food was not stellar. This was due partially to the fact that it is not corporate. part of the American chain, but also partially because it was a franchise. In the years since, the service has improved drastically, as has the quality of the food.
But that was all Pre-CD. In the last two years since diagnosis, I was learning what I could eat and what I couldn’t without glutenizing myself. Then, my family went back again, I figured out they had a GF menu and this is where the review will start! 😉
Rating – 4.5 out of 5 Peppers – The service has become a highlight and the food has become much more consistent and better in quality to the point that it now one of our favourite restaurants. The only reason it’s not a 5 out of 5 is the simple reason it’s not a GF restaurant.
Location: Preston Crossing, Saskatoon
Restaurant type: Gluten friendly – they have a GF menu, but it is better to talk to the wait staff. Supposedly the menu has not been updated in quite awhile and there are other options that should be included.
Food: On my last visit, I tried one of their new steaks, a Pepper Jack Ribeye. Along with the perfectly cooked steak, I was able to get french fries cooked in a dedicated fryer with their spicy salt mix. The meal was phenomenal
The meal before that I went for a simpler fare with Cajun wings – and they were adequate. The flavour was there and they were cooked well, it’s just the size of the wings was a tad small. But for restaurant wings they were definitely not the worst, and only slightly above average. The steak was the much better option.
Selection: There is a decent amount of GF menu options. However as I mentioned before, it is better to ask the wait staff about all of the options. For instance, the Pepper Jack Ribeye was not on the GF menu since it was brand new. And the waiter/manager was able to walk me through all of the side options to ensure that I was getting GF!
Price: It’s a chain restaurant and is on par with most of the chain restaurants. About $25 for the steak and $10 for the higher end apps. I fed my family of four for roughly $75 without adult bevvies, tip included. So not necessarily a four night a week meal destination.
Spicy Ending: When this restaurant first opened, we were underwhelmed by everything. Now that they have had time to work out some of the kinks, it has become a place worth visiting again and again – even calling it one of my favourite restaurants again!
Apr 8, 2015 | Reviews
Bread, bagels, tortillas, cake, cookies, pizza … the list goes on and on of items that you supposedly cannot have as soon as you’re diagnosed with Celiac’s Disease. BCD, I didn’t worry about where I was getting bread or what kind. Of course that changed immediately ACD.
Fortunately we now live in an age where Gluten Free or Paleo has become a fad diet for most. Unfortunately, there are a lot of us out from whom it is a necessary evil that we have to live with every Girl Guide or pizza filled day. Alternatives are a priority and I searched for quite a while among different brands before I found some non-local bakery options that were cost effective and good! The best among those (and the reason I haven’t searched for different options) is the fantastic GF brand –
Ratings: 4.5 out of 5 Peppers – the only reason they didn’t rate a perfect score is a few personal preferences.
Product Offerings: Breads options such as Bagels, Rolls, Tortillas & Bread (of course)!; Dinner options such as Pizza Crusts, Frozen Meals & Burritos; Desserts such as Cookies, Brownies and Cinnamon Rolls
Taste: For this, I will divide it up as I did for the selections above. So to begin with, let’s talk about Breads.
Pre-rollin’ and lookin good!
I have not tried everything in their bread options simply because my local grocers have not had all the options. That said what I have tried is the Plain and Whole Grain Bagels and the Large Tortillas. And everything that I’ve tried has been outstanding. I will use both of these primarily for breakfasts such as the tortillas in a breakfast burrito. The taste and texture are superb, not waxy like certain other brands (lookin at you Good for Life). While GF tortillas and bread in general lack the pliability that Gluten provides wheat filled products, Udi’s tortillas come the closest to folding like a regular tortilla. And the trick with the bagels, microwave them for about 30 seconds and they are perfect – soft and not too dense.
As far as breads go, I found Glutino breads (a sister company of Udi’s with Boulder Brands). I got hooked by Glutino’s Cheese Bread and haven’t needed to look for anything else. The only complaint I have with most GF options is portion sizes – they are usually about half as big as their Glutenized counterparts.
I have tried a few of the no name grocery bread products – don’t do it! Go for Udi’s or Glutino – they might be a bit more expensive, but they are worth it.
I haven’t tried a lot of Udi’s Dinner options outside of their Pizza Crust. Unfortunately the only pizza crust option that I’ve found that I would 100 percent choose over any others is my Brazilian Pizza Crust recipe. Every other crust is thin and smaller than necessary. That said, Udi’s crust is still good in a pinch and better than most pizza joints simply because you can actually top your pizza rather than the sprinkling that those places do.
What comes after dinner? Dessert! I recently found Udi’s Salted Caramel Cashew soft-baked cookies – OMG! The only problem I had with them is that I ate them too quickly and there weren’t enough in the package for me to have more! If you weren’t told they were GF, you wouldn’t have a clue. So GOOD! The only other item I have tried so far in the dessert category has been the Cinnamon Rolls. As far as cinnamon rolls go, they would be better with cream cheese frosting rather than the sugary glaze included. And they can be a bit tough or dense if you over or under cook them.
All told, Udi’s Gluten Free is a brand I will recommend to any one who asks.
Mar 24, 2015 | Restaurants, Reviews
Across Canada, there is a breakfast cafe chain that thrives on fresh, wholesome food centred around fruit. On the whole, or in slices, Chez Cora is a fantastic idea – if you like that kind of good for you, fru-fru, I mean fruit-fruit, stuff!
Personally I believe that breakfast should be a hearty meal as it was always meant to be. Eggs, toast, lots of bacon, hash browns and the fruit should be optional on your pancakes if at all! Then I was diagnosed Celiac and I had to drop the toast and most of the pancakes. Eh, steak and eggs for breakfast it is then. Or better yet, a breakfast burrito (GF of course!)
Well folks if you’re like me when it comes to breakfast, then this is not the place for you. If you care about no sugar added to your fruit smoothie, then Chez Cora is for you. Getting to the core of this restaurant, if I wasn’t looking for heartier fare and was really interested in high-quality, super healthy food at premium prices, then this place would be fantastic!
Rating: 3 out of 5 Peppers – a long wait coupled with a lacklustre portion compared to the menu and excessive prices means I am not rushing back any time soon.
Location: Stonebridge area of Saskatoon, SK
Restaurant type: Gluten Sensitive (Their warning – Despite all the care that we take in the preparation of our sensitive gluten menu dishes, we cannot guarantee the absence of cross-contamination while handling and cooking food.) On the whole, you could be glutenized here if you are not careful. I didn’t have an issue with my breakfast choices.
The picture of the French Toast in the menu filled most of the plate, not half!
Food: On the whole, the food was flavourful and looked amazing. There was one Gluten Sensitive option that called out to me – Banana French Toast. According to the menu and picture, this decadent dish featured three banana cake slices, dipped in French toast batter, filled with bananas, chocolatey-hazelnut spread and cream cheese while topped with our decadent caramel sauce. And because I love eggs I got three wrecked with cheese.
And the wait began. This was not all that absurd considering I was with the wife and kids – so a four-top and they had a pretty full restaurant. But the wait was more than I would have expected for a breakfast cafe.
Once the food arrived I immediately noted that the portion size was not as large on my plate as what appeared on the menu. The French toast was nicely caramelized and the flavour was good, but the cream cheese was hardly noticeable and the caramel sauce almost over-powered any other flavours. As for my scrambled eggs with cheese, it was more like they softly scrambled them and then threw the cheese on top because they forgot.
Selection: Their specific Gluten Sensitive section consisted of about six menu items specifically designed to be GF. That said, for the most part, we all know most raw ingredients without seasoning, IE scrambled eggs or fruit plates, should be gluten free. It really is all of what you are comfortable with and how much you want to pester the staff for answers.
Service: Despite the wait for the food, our server was attentive and I had trouble telling them not to fill up my coffee every time they came by.
Price: This was one of those places that I left feeling like I could have made the same breakfast for about half the prize and been full!
Spicy Ending: This restaurant would be decent for someone who is cautious and willing to try the Gluten Sensitive options. And if your family doesn’t have to worry about that or about the over-priced menu, then this is a great place for the family and kids.