Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Subbing for Peanut Butter

I miss peanut butter. So does my husband. While I know some people with PA kids manage to keep it safely in their homes, hidden away and brought out only for the occasional careful indulgence, I tossed the lethal (yet tasty) spread out; neither of us have eaten it since DJ's diagnosis. Last week, I picked up a jar of SunButter, sunflower seed spread that is completely peanut and nut free at Whole Foods. While it's runnier than peanut butter, it's a tasty alternative and better than dry toast!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Kingsway Fish and Chips

A call to Kingsway Fish and Chips on Bloor West reassures me that there are no peanuts or nut products used in any of the menu items. Still, I ask again when we arrive. While the vibe may leave a bit to be desired (it's a decidedly older crowd when we arrive at 6:00) our fish arrives hot and fresh, and the fries are crispy and there are no problems with DJ's peanut allergy.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Whole Foods Yorkville Redux

A trip to Whole Foods Yorkville location has me impressed with their fresh bakery nut-free product offerings. Even though there is no information available on the website, there are several options to choose from in-store. Tickle Your Tummy, based in Toronto, offers delectable looking cupcakes, cookies and cakes. Main Street Organics Bakery also offers a sweet selection of cookies. At $9 a container, I'm too frugal to indulge, but they certainly look yummy. If the Whole Foods is too far too travel, both bakeries sell their wares at several locations around the GTA, including most Longo's and Pusateri locations.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Research Offers Hope for a Peanut Allergy Treatment

Researchers at the University of Glasgow have found a link between the interleukin-33 molecule and anaphylaxis. According to their findings published in the Proceedings of the National Association of Sciences, the molecule's presence increases inflammation and results in a more severe allergic reaction. Using a mouse model, researchers showed that blocking the molecule could reduce the severity of an attack; it couldn't however, stop the allergic reaction itself. Further studies on food, venom and drug-related anaphylaxis are planned.

Read the whole article here. And keep up your hope for a cure.

Whole Foods Yorkville

Every couple of months, I like to treat myself to a shopping spree at the Whole Foods in Hazelton Lanes in tony Yorkville. I usually like to hit up the bakery and the prepared food sections for take-away treats to be consumed later at home. A look at their website's special diets section reveals several allergen-free product categories (like dairy free for example) but nothing for peanuts or nuts. Since Whole Foods often stock products from local producers and artisans, I'm hoping there will be some designated nut-free products available. I'll check into it further when I'm there and blog more later.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fresh Wood Grill

The Fresh Wood Grill in Long Branch is the newest location in this small local chain. While we've eaten at the Roncesvalles location before, it was before DJ's peanut allergy was diagnosed. The menu looks peanut and nut free and a conversation with the chef confirms that they can accommodate our allergy concerns. While there are nuts available on some of the desserts in a glass-fronted cabinet, the chef assures me that he will take every precaution to ensure no cross contamination, including using clean pans and utensils and thoroughly wiping down the counter and washing his hands before any food is handled. With a selection of fresh local produce and organic meats turned into tasty treats like The Cuban, a slow-roasted pork sandwich with chipotle mayo, this is one place we'll be sure to try next time we brave lunch out.

Always do your own research.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Dempster's Frozen Garlic Bread

I really miss making my own garlic bread with a fresh baguette from our local bakery, but with those now off limits thanks to cross-contamination concerns, I've been searching for a nut-free alternative. While none of the frozen garlic breads I've looked at before contain actual nuts as an ingredient, most still carry the 'may contain' warning. Dempster's however, does not. Still, for some reason I'm not convinced. While their website does not contain any allergy information, a call to the parent company, Canada Bread, clears it up. There are no nuts, or traces of nuts in the garlic bread.

Always do your own research.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cottage Anxiety

An invite to a friend's cottage has sparked some anxiety over how to handle DJ's peanut allergy safely. It's a cottage we've been to many times; our friends, from out of country, come back yearly and make the trek north to their beloved family compound. While I'm sure they'll understand our situation and take the necessary precautions around ingredients and food handling, I'm still nervous. In previous years, there have snacks galore heaped on a buffet table in the main room and its always brimming with nutty treats. As well, with young kids of their own, I'm sure peanut butter will be on the menu. Can I really ask them to put these types of items away while visiting their own home? For my own son's safety, I'm going to have to, but I'm sure I'll feel awkward about it.

Any insights into how to approach these types of issues would be greatly appreciated! Feel free to comment.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

St. Urbain Bagel

Bagels from St. Urbain Bagel at St. Lawrence market are peanut and nut free according to a worker behind the counter. While it does seem like lots of packaged bagels are also nut free, it's nice to have a such a tasty and fresh option, warm from the oven, especially when so many other bakery options are off-limits.

Always do you own research.

Mildred's Temple Kitchen Redux

While it was refreshing to get out sans tot, dining on the summerliscious menu at Mildred's Temple Kitchen is lack-lustre, to say the least. I'm disappointed in the mains offered by the reincarnation of Mildred Pierce, a local restaurant that had been a go-to for special occasions for several years for my husband and myself.

Still, I'm more interested in whether the Liberty Village resto can accommodate those affected by peanut/tree nut allergies for brunch, a time we're much more likely to eat out with our (only slightly) rambunctious toddler.

Their brunch menu appears to be free of any nutty allergens, and the waitress assures me, after checking with the kitchen, that we could indeed order the blueberry buttermilk pancakes for our highly allergic child without incidence. We may give it a go.

Always do your own research.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mildred's Temple Kitchen

Am off to Mildred's Temple Kitchen for dinner. It's Summerlicious and I've been itching to try out the reincarnation of Mildred Pierce for months. I may ask about their allergy policy; I may not. Really, I'm feeling very discouraged by the number of places unwilling to accomodate those afflicted by serious food allergies. And tonight, on the loose with a friend with DJ safely at home with his doting dad, I may put aside my concerns about peanut allergy and just enjoy myself.

Maybe someone else out there has a positive experience dining here with an allergy. I'd love to hear from you.

Petite Thuet

After stepping into the small bakery/cafe at the corner of Yonge and King I don't why I even bother asking about the safety of the foods available; obviously they're not. There are nuts crusted on many of the delectable looking pastries and listed as ingredients in several of the take-away salads. Still, I go through my spiel. Kindly, the man behind the counter explains the open-kitchen concept and why that makes even dishes without nuts as an ingredient unsuitable for any nut allergy sufferer.

I still decide to treat myself to one of the take-away sandwiches, and in short order am downing a soft, fresh roll packed with succulent chunks of lobster. Yum.

Ace Bakery

I love Ace Bakery breads, especially the olive oil and sea salt crisps. Sadly, a look at the allergy information on their website reveals that cross-contamination with peanuts and nuts is a possibility with all of their products.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Island Foods info request

I love the boneless chicken roti from Island Foods on King Street West. I've been craving one for a few weeks now. But is it still safe take-out, given DJ's peanut/tree nut allergy? I've emailed the company to ask for details. Will blog more later if and when I get a response.


According to the allergy information on the Harveys.ca website, it looks like their offerings are safe for peanut/tree nut allergy sufferers, although a blurb at the bottom on the page does warn about the risks of cross-contamination. I'll keep this is mind next time we're at the Toronto Zoo.

Check it out for youself if you're planning to eat there and remember to always do your own research.

Toronto Zoo

A trip to the the Toronto Zoo yesterday left us stumped for food options after I forget our picnic lunch, packed carefully earlier that morning, in our fridge at home. After being unable to find any allergy information on the food services available there, I determined taking our own food would be the safest, least stressful option. Once there, I realized my mistake, but with the long lines snaking outside both the Peacock cafe and Harveys, we decided to forgo eating at all. I didn't want to ask about potential peanuts or nuts and make a snap decision while the counter workers were so busy and eager to move customers through the lines.

I'll check the Harveys site later, and Beavertails too, two chain options available at the Zoo and blog more later.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Allergy Alert

Some snack foods imported from Korea have been flagged by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for undeclared allergens. Check out the full warning.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Mike's Fish Market

Mike's Fish Market at St. Lawrence Market has a mouthwatering selection of fish and seafood on display. While it seems unlikely there are any peanuts or nut products present in any of the products available there, I still ask about the seasoning used on the salmon/black cod kebabs. The counterperson is friendly and obliging and promptly produces the spice mix so I can read the ingredients. No allergens are present and its grilled fish for dinner tonight!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Churrasco at St. Lawrence Market

A quick visit to the Churrasco at St. Lawrence Market confirms that the popular Portuguese-style rotisserie chicken contains no peanuts or nut products. After speaking with the owner, who makes the basting sauce himself, I feel safe in getting a chicken to go. He assures me that there are no allergens present in either the chicken itself or any of the other tasty treats available. I get a chicken for dinner - and fries for lunch! DJ wolfs down his toddler-sized portion with a side of rice with no problems.

While the stand certainly isn't as convenient as stopping at any one of the many grocery chains that carry rotisserie chickens, it's nice to know there is a safe option for us.

Always do your own research.

Grocery Store Rotisserie Chicken

One short cut for cooking dinner that I frequently take advantage of is the grocery store rotisserie chicken. On days when roasting my own bird isn't an option time wise, I like the convenience, and often strip the chicken to make everything from individual pot pies to quesadillas. Too bad a quick trip to Loblaws last night puts a damper on my plans. A warning that the store cannot guarantee the chicken has not come into contact with peanuts or other allergens has me searching for another quick fix for dinner.

Today, I'm going to check out the Churrasco stand at St. Lawrence market to see if the traditional Portuguese-style grilled chicken is safe. I'll blog more when I find out the answer.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

.Com vs. .Ca - A Lesson Learned

Make sure to check the correct country of origin website when looking up allergen information for a restaurant you may want to visit. I naturally default to .com when accessing most websites.

In the case of Pizza Hut, my mistake could have been a serious one. Before calling up the Pembroke location I blogged about yesterday, I accessed http://www.pizzahut.com/. The allergen table indicated no peanuts or tree nuts in most of the products but warned that peanuts or nuts may be present in common manufacturing facilities. It didn't specify which menu items could be contaminated, so I called to ask the manager on duty. I didn't feel satisfied the pizza was safe, so we declined to order.

However, a look at the comments on http://www.peanutallergykid.blogspot.com/ alerted me to the difference between the Canadian and US operations. A visit to the Canadian site reveals that nearly all of of the crusts are indeed manufactured on a line that also produces products that contain peanuts and/or nuts.

To me, this just reinforces how cautious one has to be when dealing with peanut allergy and how important it is to do your own research and ask questions when in doubt.

Always do your own research.

Maple Dale Cheese

Maple Dale Cheese, about 10 minutes north of the 401 on higway 37, has always been one of our favourite stops on the way to the lake. A quick grilled cheese sandwich, made with aged cheddar, on whole wheat seemed like a good alternative to the fast food fare along the highway, and with few towns between here and our final destination, we considered it a great place for a pit stop. With DJ's peanut/nut allergy I am not so sure anymore. After explaining our situation to one of the workers there, I am told that the Maple Dale factory, where all of their cheese is produced, has been operating as a nut-free facility for over a year. However, with nut-laden ice-creams also served in the store, I am concerned about cross contamination. The solution? The worker offers to thoroughly wipe down the counter with hot soapy water before she prepares our sandwiches. I am also offered the bread bag to check the ingredients. We decide it's a go, and within ten minutes are sitting down to a deliciously hot and gooey grilled cheese sandwich. I am still a little nervous because we will be heading away from the nearest hostpital, which is at least a 20 minutes drive in the direction we came from, so we linger after, checking out the cheeses for sale and letting DJ stretch his legs on the grass outside. We end up leaving with a block of nine year old cheddar.

Always do you own research.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Pizza Hut

We're hotel-bound on the outskirts of Pembroke after our camping trip is waylaid by bad weather and a shattered rear window. Delivery choices are limited, and pizza seems like a relatively safe bet. Still after a call to Pizza Hut I am still unsure as to what their allergen policy is, even after speaking with the on-duty manager. Even though the pizza dough, sauce and toppings contain no peanuts or nuts, I am told that the ingredients may have come from a facility where peanuts or nuts are processed. We decline to order based on the notion that there may be trace amounts of allergens in the food as a result of the manufacutring process. Given that other pizza makers can guarantee no nuts, I'm disappointed that a chain as big as Pizza Hut can't. We try 2-4-1 instead, with more success.