Friday, October 16, 2009

Gluten-free Rambling in Portland, Maine

I made a special trip to the big city yesterday, hoping to find a wide selection of gluten-free products at Whole Foods. If my local natural foods store has an aisle of gluten-free goods, I assumed Whole Foods would have a giant aisle. Instead, there was a measly endcap, with a few GF items sprinkled throughout the rest of the store. With the exception of cheap store-brand cashew butter, Whole Foods doesn't carry anything I can't find in Bangor. (Maybe there just aren't many GF products to be found? I'll repeat: being vegan is so much easier than being gluten-free.) My haul included breakfast cereal, corn flour, pretzels, graham crackers, fried corn kernels (like fritos, but not ground up yet—they'll become fritos in my belly), and some naturally gluten-free mangos.

After shopping, I headed to GRO Cafe, Maine's first raw vegan restaurant. I recharged with a cup of tea, and took some raw chocolates to go. I'm partial to the coconut, but blueberry is nice, too. I find raw chocolate a little grainier and more rich than traditional chocolate. All of GRO cafe's ingredients are gluten-free and vegan, with the exception of the locally-produced honey used to sweeten drinks and desserts.

I ended the day, once again, at Green Elephant. I know there are other vegetarian restaurants in Portland, but I can't break away. I hadn't visited since going gluten-free, and was disappointed to find my choices limited to one appetizer, one soup, and one entree. While I appreciate that Green Elephant's gluten-free options are labelled on the menu, I expected more from a health and diet-saavy restaurant specializing in a cuisine not known for bread. (It's silly and frustrating that tamari is the only ingredient preventing me from safely eating the peanut sauce, since gluten-free tamari is widely available.) These raw collard wraps, with carrot, cabbage, mango, cilantro, and a tamarind dipping sauce were crunchy and delicious, but I missed my fresh rolls.

Next I ate Tofu Tikka Masala, with spinach, edamame, and chick peas served on rice. The tofu, Camden's own Heiwa, was the firmest, heartiest 'fu I've ever eaten.

I've got lots of cooking, house painting, and an all-day sock class planned for this weekend. We're already halfway through Vegan MoFo, can you believe it?

10 comments:

  1. I'm sorry to hear there wasn't more at WF, but I'm not surprised. I guess you are used to limited menu options at a lot of places, but it's too bad Green Elephant doesn't have more for you on your new diet.

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  2. I am surprised by your Whole Foods experience. My Whole Foods has an entire aisle dedicated to gluten free products, including a freezer case, cold case and dry goods. The aisle in my store is oddly located in the seafood department and I would never have discovered it had I not asked someone in the bakery about gluten free cookies.

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  3. The collard wraps look so fresh and healthy! Too bad there wasn't much else gluten free though...

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  4. I love GRO and Green Elephant I want to make a trip so bad

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  5. Hey, have you ever tried Silly's in Portland? I was there the other day and noted they have a lot of vegan and GF options (granted, one of the GF items they were promoting as such was gravy!!).

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  6. I second Silly's - the menu is always expanding and Colleen has now created a gluten free AND vegan 'pizza' crust. I am trying it this Saturday myself but I have heard it is really amazing.

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  7. The Portland Whole Foods does have a lot of GF items, but they are placed throughout the store, and the one thing I hate is spending all my time reading labels over and over to make sure it is GF. They do have a frozen section, but their selections are not as big as other stores. Hannaford (Back Bay in Portland) has expanded significantly in the last year. They have an entire isle designated to GF and frozen products as well. It is a little more shopper friendly for those GF shoppers. Its located in the organic section. I do not shop at Whole Foods only because I spend more time searching for the GF products.

    Oh and I want to include Silly's is very good with vegan and GF.

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  8. Looking for Vegan and GF restaurants in Maine. Can anyone help? I live in Auburn and my friend lives in New Gloucester. Looking for a restaurant near both of us. I am vegan and she is GF...

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