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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Eating Gluten Free in PEI

Foodie central (Victoria Row, Richmond Street) in Charlottetown, PEI

Uhm, wow.  I just had the most amazing honeymoon in the Canadian Maritimes.  For those of you who don't know where or what that is, the Maritimes are the small maritime provinces off the far east coast of Canada.  See this map of Canada to locate them, along with some traditional Canadian foods!

I had originally intended for one blog post to cover all of my trip through Prince Edward Island (PEI) and Nova Scotia (NS).  However, I ate so much, and so well, that I've been having a hard time picking and choosing what to include and what to leave out.  Sooo, I'm going to break up my trip a bit and give you one province at a time. 

First, let me say that the Maritimes are a gluten intolerant's paradise.  Practically every single restaurant I went to in both PEI and NS had a gluten free menu, or GF options on their list.  Unbelievable.  I mean it was seriously awesome.  I was completely and utterly spoiled and returned, first home to Vancouver, then back to our Wisconsin home, wondering why on earth the rest of the world hasn't done this too?  Why do we have to search for a restaurant that understands what gluten is, nevermind how to cook without it, when there are whole provinces where all the restaurants advertise their gf menus on their websites??  *Sigh*

Anyhoo, the other thing I found seriously impressive was the amazing recycling system theMaritimes have set up.  Everywhere we looked, in PEI, NS and even the small corner of New Brunswick we drove through, there were 4 recycling/garbage bins.  Even in the fast food restaurants, like DQ.  There was a bin for regular garbage, one for paper recycling, one for plastics, etc and one for food waste/compost!!  Amazing. On street corners too!!  Also, wind turbines and solar panels that generate a ton of the provinces' electricity.  Alas, their desire to be eco-friendly is probably fueled by the fact that they are seriously in danger as water levels are rising and they are not particularly high above sea level.  Another *sigh* here.
GF Lobster Rolls at the Shipyard in Summerside, PEI

View from the Shipyard in Summerside, PEI

Ok, on to more happy thoughts!  Let's start with eating GF in PEI, since that's where we started our trip.  Our first day we stayed in Summerside, on the south-west side of PEI.  The town is very, very small ("downtown" is about a block long, we drove right past it by accident and ended up on the edge of town before we realized it!) but very picturesque.

We ate at the Lobster House and Oyster Bar at the Shipyard restaurant on the waterfront.  It is a great location (and you can expect the menu costs to reflect that), and they even had a few GF options on their menu.  I had Asian lobster rolls, which were really very yummy, along with a glass of local PEI white wine (also very good).  The service was ok.  We felt a bit like outsiders, maybe it was because the Summerside lobster festival had just ended and all the tourists had already left town and we looked out of place, maybe it was because as soon as we sat down the waitress asked us if we were just passing through town (does everyone in this town know each other??  Apparently so!)

We were a bit disappointed when we were told the restaurant only had 4 oysters left in stock - especially since it was still early in the evening, we were only about 30 minutes from Malpeque Bay, where the most famous PEI oysters come from, and that our main hope for the honeymoon was to eat a ton of east coast oysters... and the restaurant has oyster bar in the title... *Sigh*

Also, hubby ordered a burger with no mayo or cheese, but got both instead... we actually felt too uncomfortable to mention it to the waitress though, as we felt a bit out of place...

Breakfast was a gong show, with us having to eat at a doughnut joint with no gf options (or yogurt without aspartame or sugar, yuck).  I ate some of hubby's scrambled eggs and we moved on to Charlottetown, where we ate lunch at Boston Pizza and where you can always get a GF pizza crust.  Note: Boston Pizza does not have a dedicated gf oven or kitchen space, so if you worry about cross contamination be careful.  I've never had a problem, but that's just me.

Oh, and on the way to Charlottetown, we made a worthwhile detour up to the norther coast of PEI to check out the Kitchen Witch Tea Room & Country Crafts, which has GF bread and other things.  They also have a tea room, which serves GF breads, cakes and scones.  They informed me they actually have a designated GF kitchen separate from their regular kitchen.  I bought a gf potato bread, but your best bet is to call a day or two ahead if you want to buy something in particular.  Also, don't worry if you feel as if you've gotten lost driving down a country road in the middle of nowhere.  You have and you are.  But it's ok, follow the signs and forge ahead.  The island is small, and you will definitely find your way back!

And finally, Charlottetown.  Amazing.  I ate so well in Charlottetown I didn't want to leave in case NS couldn't compete (it did though ;)

GF raisin toast and frittata at the Aloha Tourist Home in Charlottetown

We stayed at the Aloha Tourist Home which is a cute, very well priced and located B&B run by a super sweet lady named Kelti, who completely gets gluten free breakfasts.  I called ahead to book, and ask her if she had any GF options, and she totally delivered on arrival!  One morning she made GF pancakes with fresh, local organic raspberries, and the next she served me gf raisin toast and veggie frittata.  Breakfast can be eaten in a funky little kitchen with a couple of tables, and usually a few other travelers.  We had a beautiful room with a private half-bath and a lock on our door.  I definitely recommend this place!!  I suggest you give her a call ahead of time and let her know about your gluten problem so she has time to prepare.

GF flatbread and flavoured butter at The Globe in Charlottetown
The Globe World Flavours restaurant quickly became my favorite place to eat, and I'm sad we weren't in Charlottetown long enough to eat there more (we were there 2 nights, we ate there 2x ;)  I saw their great GF menu options - flat breads etc - and when the waitress brought hubby some bread to start, I jokingly asked if it was gluten free.  She quickly replied, "no, but I can bring you some if you would like."  Would I?!!  Oh yeah, baby.  They brought me the most fantastic gf flatbread, for free.  Like how a regular person gets served bread at a restaurant while they wait for their meal.  And it really was fantastic.

I also ordered a beet and grilled halloumi spinach salad (with the sweetest baby beets) and then went back the next day for happy hour for more flatbread and happy hour halfprice mussels.  Oh, and they have the most wonderfully flavoured butter - the waitress told me they whip a bit of balsamic vinegar with the butter, but I suspect there is also a pinch of chili powder in there as well.

Beet and Grilled Halloumi spinach salad at The Glovbe in Charlottetown

Oh yeah, and thanks to the host who, during happy hour, gave me a leftover bottle of nail polish remover to help me deal with my peeling wedding manicure ;)  Apparently he'd had an incident with some nail polish while camping with some friends... anyway, excellent service and food at The Globe!

We did manage to finally find an abundance of oysters in PEI at the Olde Dublin Pub.  This place actually had the cheapest oysters that we were able to find in the whole Maritimes - 20 for $19.  They also have GF options on their menu.

One piece of GF Fish and Chips at Water Street Fish and Chips
Finally, I ate fish and chips for the first time in AGES!  Water Street Fish and Chips has GF batter, and their fish pieces are enormous!! We ordered a 2 piece, and we easily could have shared a one piece it was so huge.  We did both feel a bit sick later that evening, but I suspect it was because we ate so much, period, not because of the fish, which was awesome, and only lightly battered, unlike some places that are all batter and no fish.  They have another location uptown, further from the water, called Brits Fish and Chips too.

So there you have it, those are my adventures eating gluten free in Prince Edward Island.  I'd love to hear if any of you have experience eating GF in PEI, or the Maritimes!! Stay tuned for my post on Nova Scotia coming shortly :)


  1. We have just finished a 4 day holiday in PEI staying at The Home Place Inn and Restaurant in Kensington. The food was so good, we ate there every night. There were so many GF choices and my husband(Celiac) and son (Gluten intolerant) raved about the food, the GF pecan torte for dessert was a great hit too. We'd give it 5 stars.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Susan! We didn't make it to Kensington, but we definitely intend to go back again and spend more time in the Maritimes so I'll have to check it out.


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