Monday, July 4, 2011

A Tale of Two Cafés (Or where to take your gluten and dairy free two year old)

This long weekend, we visited two separate dessert cafés with our guests from Montreal.  On Friday, we stopped by La Paloma Gelateria and Café, and on Saturday we had dessert at Demetre's.  At both locations, I was able to order something gluten and dairy free for my son.  That being said, one location definitely won out over the other for variety.

Caffé Demetre is an Ontario franchise specializing in dessert and coffee.  I've been to several locations over the years, and they are all really well decorated, with comfortable seating and a huge menu.  It's a popular dessert place that's open late and is both date and family friendly.  We arrived before the rush on Saturday evening, and were seated quickly. 

While the menu is extensive, I was disappointed to find that there were almost no items suitable for my gluten and dairy free child. 

The exception?  The Granitas, fancy slushies made with crushed ice and fruit puree.  They are available in about 5 or 6 flavours, but we went with the strawberry.  It came in a tall glass with a straw, and kept him busy for the rest of our visit.  Although we were happy to find something that he could enjoy, I was disappointed to find no other options on the menu except for a fruit cup.  Since he's only two, the specialty coffees were not suitable.

Verdict: If you are just gluten free, the huge assortment of home made ice cream and pastry-free desserts is worth checking out.  If you are like my son, and must avoid both gluten and dairy, with the exception of a few beverages, the granitas and a fruit cup, you're out of luck.  My husband and I will be keeping this café as a date-night treat from now on.

On Friday, we visited La Paloma Gelateria & Café.  Similar to Caffe Demetre, La Paloma is an Ontario based chain serving mainly Italian Gelato but also sandwiches, pizza, specialty coffees and juices.  The atmosphere is a little more casual, with cafeteria type seating and TVs showing soccer most of the time.  Although La Paloma has a smaller menu, I was surprised to learn that about 1/3 of their "ice cream" flavours are actually dairy free fruit-based purées. 

Of the three freezers displaying different flavours, an entire freezer was dedicated to dairy free options.  There were over a dozen flavours to choose from.  In addition, they offer 4 soy based flavours: plain soy, soy with nuts, chocolate and vanilla.  Although my son couldn't have his ice cream in a cone, he enjoyed two scoops of mango and peach using the little spoons that he thought were hilarious. 

I tried a little scoop and found both flavours delicious; definitely not a downgrade or an option to "settle" for when nothing else is available.

Verdict: For our family outings, La Paloma is the winner.  With so many flavours to choose from, my son can have something different every time.  He can also choose from the soy-based ice cream if he isn't in the mood for fruit.  For someone who is both dairy and gluten free, it's simpler to find something suitable at La Paloma, without feeling like you're compromising or relegated to a very narrow number of options. 

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