I think I was more excited than pretty much anybody in Calgary for the Calgary Gluten Free Expo 2018. Since I am so interested in learning everything I can about celiac disease I am part of a number of online groups. People are always posting pictures of various gluten free events and I have been hoping for something to come to Calgary. When I heard the Gluten Free Expo was coming here, I signed up as a volunteer and made plans to attend with my family. I volunteered for setup on Friday and for a shift on Sunday afternoon. My plan was to take my family to the Calgary Gluten Free Expo 2018 before my shift on Sunday, but I loved being there so much on Friday that we also made a special trip on Saturday too.
Overall, it was a really great experience. I had a lot of fun meeting the vendors and other volunteers. I am very thankful to have an event like this in Calgary. My kids loved being able to go and sample so many things. Having samples used to be the highlight of our Costco trips for them, but now we often can’t have samples anywhere. I feel like the event was a success overall. My understanding is that this was the first year back after a break because of the downturn in our economy. I saw lots of happy vendors and attendees so hopefully that means we can expect another Gluten Free Expo next year!
Top 3 New Finds at The Calgary Gluten Free Expo 2018
I want to start off by sharing my favourite new finds at the show. These products and brands wowed me and my family. I also heard lots of chatter about them as I wandered through the Expo. Here is the list of the new products that I was most excited about:
Wow! I was not the only one impressed with Promise Gluten Free. I think they were the buzz of the show. They are not available in stores in Alberta yet, so we have to wait. They will hopefully be in Sobeys and Safeway by the end of the year. Their products come from Ireland and they are currently available in Ontario. Trust me when I tell you that when they do come to a store near you that you need to try their products. The breads were not dense, but light and fluffy, and their muffins and lemon loaf were moist and flavourful.
On the first night of they Expo they generously sent me home with a few samples to try. I used one of their Seeded Whole Grain Sandwich Rolls to make a roast beef sandwich for myself and I couldn’t even believe I was eating a gluten free sandwich. Promise Gluten Free is definitely going to be a welcome addition to our gluten free lives!
2. Kinnikinnick Foods Muffins
Kinnikinnick Foods (who I already loved) now has muffins that are individually wrapped that are very yummy. My husband and I liked the lemon blueberry one and the kids liked the chocolate chip one best. Since they are individually wrapped I immediately had visions of them showing up at coffee shops or in food courts. Just imagine being able to buy a safe gluten free muffin from somewhere like Tim Hortons! They are currently available to order from the Kinnikinnick website (shipping is free over $50). These new muffins should be in stores by the end of the year. Kinnikinnick is also an Alberta company and I love when our province can produce such great gluten free products! Let’s cross our fingers that someday soon we will find individually wrapped Kinnikinnick muffins at our local cafes or food courts.
I had not tried any of the Neal Brothers products before. My absolute favourite was the pure pink salt and vinegar kettle chips! They also make amazing salsa. I was happy to be able to buy some of their products at the Expo. I took home some tortilla chips, salsa and kettle chips. My family devoured the kettle chips and now I will be out looking for more! Neal Brothers is a Canadian company base out of Ontario.
They already won me over with their amazing food, but when I explored their website to learn a bit more about them I saw that they are doing 30 acts of goodness to celebrate their 30th anniversary in business! This won me over even more because I love random acts of kindness. I always encourage people to do nice things for others, it is one of the reasons I started this blog. I turned my tears of sadness after being diagnosed with Celiac disease into happiness by doing acts of kindness for other people and challenging other people to do the same!
I know I said top three, but there were two other finds that were new to me that I thought deserved an honorable mention:
I enjoyed visiting the Torills Table Waffles stand. In addition to eating their delicious gluten free Norwegian waffles, I learned that there are different waffle shapes. These Norwegian waffles are a bit thinner than the waffles I was used to. The ladies working the booth were excited to share what makes their waffles unique. They served them the traditional way with sour cream and jam, delicious! The told me that the mix works great for crepes too. Crepes are a family favourite in our house so we can’t wait to try that.
Habibi’s was a popular vendor at the Expo. I got to try a few of their yummy dips. It was my first time having baba ganoush since I was diagnosed. I heard lots of chatter about how good their products were throughout the Expo so I thought they deserved a mention.
There were some products that were not new to me, but I was happy to see them there because I really like them.
Udi’s Delicious Soft White Sandwich Bread
Udi’s Delicious Soft White Bread is my go to bread when I need a treat. After my celiac diagnosis, it was the first bread that I enjoyed toasted, buttered and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. It really is soft and moist though and doesn’t need to be toasted to enjoy. I was also interested to learn about some of their other breads though like their Millet-Chia Bread and some of their whole grain options that have more fibre and protein than the Delicious Soft White Sandwich Read.
Glutino Fudge Covered Pretzels
Glutino Fudge Covered Pretzels are a decadent treat! I often serve them to guests at my house because they are so good even my non-gluten free guests like them. I was happy to see them being sampled at the Expo and I think a lot of other people were happy with them too! Some of the the other volunteers who were not necessarily gluten free thought they were amazing too.
Highlights for My Celiac Family
I loved taking my family to the Calgary Gluten Free Expo 2018 so that they could experience the joy of being able to walk around and try so many different gluten free foods in one place. Kids also love collecting samples and my daughter was going around saying trick or treat at the booths. Soon it will be our first Halloween since going gluten free so I am happy that she got to do a little trick or treating in a place where all the food she collected was safe for her to eat! Here are some of My Celiac Family’s favourite things from the Expo:
Schar Lady Fingers
My four year old daughter loved the Schar Lady Fingers! I was surprised that these were the cookies she talked about the most with all of the other options available. I enjoyed them too and will look for them in stores for a special treat once in awhile. If we hadn’t tried them at the Calgary Gluten Free Expo 2018 I don’t think I would have thought to purchase them for her.
My husband was pretty excited about this booth! When I sent him some pictures during the setup on Friday night he was excited to see that they had a couple of flavours that he hadn’t tried before. Apparently Glutenberg Beer did not disappoint, I am not a beer drinker so I have to trust my husband on that one. He was a happy boy.
I really like Made Good products because they have good stuff (vegetables) hidden in them! My kids enjoy them and since starting our gluten free diet one of the things I am always trying to do is make sure I am adding more nutrition to our diet wherever possible.
As you may have noticed, have a super soft spot for our local Calgary gluten free businesses, so I was happy to see some of them there. I recently wrote a post ‘Exploring Gluten Free Calgary‘ detailing all of the 100% gluten free businesses in Calgary and I realized at the Calgary Gluten Free Expo 2018 that I missed two of them. I will be updating that post to include my two new finds Oh! Naturals and Judy G.
My family loves Avatara, they have a local restaurant and food truck in town. They were sampling pizza and chicken fingers at the Expo and selling frozen food as well. It was great to see them there and even though we already knew they had great food we did have a sample to round out our experience at the Calgary Gluten Free Expo 2018. I also heard lots of people talking about their yummy chicken fingers.
Delissitude is another favourite of mine. My kids always beg me to stop there when we go to the Calgary Farmer’s market so they can buy a cupcake. They were thrilled to see Delissitude at the Expo and even happier when they each got a free cupcake to sample. Delissitude was also selling a number of products including my favourite gluten free perogies. I also heard the owner talking about potentially doing some gluten free cooking classes in the future. Sounds like fun!
Oh! Naturals is one of the companies that I didn’t realize was Calgary-based. I was talking to the family running the booth at the end of the show and I was excited to learn that they were a Calgary company. They are gluten free and peanut free flavoured banana chips and sweet potato fries. The banana chips are sweet and the sweet potato fries are savory. The bags that they were handing out at the Expo included a sample of the banana chips. My daughter loved them!
Judy G wasn’t a new name for me, but it was another company that I didn’t know was local to Calgary until the Expo. They were giving out samples of Judy G gluten free pizza and tapioca flour at the Community Natural Foods booth. Again I was excited to see that they were a Calgary based company. We sampled the ham and pineapple pizza and thought it was really good. We will definitely buy some to keep in the freezer for when we need a quick, yummy meal.
I am not sure if Epicure counts as a local vendor because they are not Calgary-based, but the people selling Epicure are running their own small businesses locally so I wanted to acknowledge them as well. And I really love Epicure. They are completely gluten free and they use wholesome ingredients and less salt and sugar than you would find in competitor products. My two favourite Epicure selection are the Mac & Cheese sauce and the Guacamole dip.
EDITED TO ADD: Nourish Kitchen and Bakery
I missed Nourish Kitchen and Bakery in my original post! Not because I don’t love them, I was just exhausted after spending three days at the Expo. I sampled their yummy sour dough bread and I purchased decadent raspberry Naniamo bars to bring home. Nourish is all about making good food that is good for you and they do a great job at that!
Things to Consider for Next Year
Although I thought the Calgary Gluten Free Expo 2018 was a huge success there is always room for improvement. Here are a few suggestions that I have for next year (in addition to growing and bringing even more vendors to Calgary).
They could maybe try to include some vendors that offer beverages other than coffee or alcohol to wash down the samples from the other vendors. Maybe they could consider reasonably priced souvenir Gluten Free Expo water bottles. They did start selling water on the second day because they received feedback from some attendees, but I felt that at $2.50, the water was a bit overpriced.
More Local Vendors
I hope that since this year was a success that next year we will see even more local businesses join as vendors. The nice thing about the Calgary Gluten Free Expo 2018 was that in addition to giving out samples, the vendors were often selling their products as well. It made for a nice shopping experience for attendees and hopefully a way for the smaller businesses to recoup some of their expenses.
Clear Labeling for Celiac Safety
As a person with celiac disease, I take gluten free food very seriously. Not everyone who eats gluten free needs to do so with as much care. What I would have liked to see is a sign or something to indicate whether the food is celiac safe or if it is gluten free food that was prepared in a shared kitchen with the potential for cross contamination. Honestly, I think most of the vendors were 100% gluten free products but I did find myself quizzing the ones that were unknown entities to me and I did choose not to sample at one vendor.
Thank you to the Gluten Free Expo for coming to Calgary! Thank you to all the wonderful vendors who shared their gluten free products with us. It is a good time to be celiac and gluten free. We have more and more choices everyday thanks to companies who work to provide us with safe gluten free alternatives. Hope to see you next year Calgary Gluten Free Expo!