The Gluten-Free Garage
Toronto Pop-Up Marketplace Featuring Local Handmade Food
Tonic is proud and excited to sponsor Toronto’s first pop-up gluten-free marketplace at Artscape Wychwood Barns on November 11. We thought we’d give you a little taste of what’s in store by speaking with the event’s founder and driving force, RonniLyn Pustil.
When RonniLyn’s daughter Lily was diagnosed in 2009 with celiac disease at the age of three, she and her husband turned their house into a gluten-free zone and set out on a journey to help their family adapt to the GF lifestyle. They embarked on a search for tasty gluten-free food. They bought every packaged, processed gluten-free cookie out there, every cracker, every loaf of bread, but found that many were loaded with sugar and/or refined flours and many just didn’t taste good.
She recalls “You can walk into virtually any supermarket today and find a selection of packaged and frozen gluten-free foods. But it can be more difficult to find fresh, wholesome and delicious GF products that are locally handmade. So I started navigating the city, searching out bakers and chefs that cater to the gluten-free community. And in the past three years, I’ve come across some truly amazing gluten-free food that’s made right here in Toronto.”
RonniLyn decided to do the Gluten-Free Garage to share her favourite finds with other people who are GF so they can get a taste of what’s going on gluten-free in Toronto and connect with others in the GF community. “I want to create a space where people with celiac and gluten intolerance can indulge without worry and partake in one-stop shopping of gluten-free food that tastes good. And I want to bring Lily to an event where I don’t have to say no to her.” RonniLyn explains.
When she first thought about doing this event, about a year ago, Ronnilyn knew it had to be at the Artscape Wychwood Barns. The unique venue is the hub of the community she lives in, where her children went to nursery school and take art lessons and go to theatre camp. And every Saturday morning it is home to her favourite farmers’ market in the city: The Stop Community Centre’s farmers’ market! She says, “We love the way the market feels—it’s lively, friendly, local, urban, environmentally conscious, intimate, community-oriented...you get the picture. We’re hoping to create the same kind of vibe at the Gluten-Free Garage.”
The Gluten- Free Garage is designed for everyone on the gluten-free spectrum—whether they have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, whether they choose to go gluten-free for other health reasons or because it makes them feel better, whether they’re gluten-free chic or just plain curious. People will get to meet local retailers, bakers and restaurants that cater to their gluten-free needs and will be able to sample and purchase their offerings. There will be more than 40 vendors selling and sampling a wide array of gluten-free products—from baked goods to savoury items to skin care. Gluten-free food can be costly, so it’s important to me that people can taste or try products before buying them. Local chefs will be preparing food on-site. The Toronto chapter of the Canadian Celiac Association, along with a handful of local health professionals and experts, will be on-hand to provide information, resources and support. And all attendees will receive a free shopping bag for all their gluten-free goodies and coupons.
Says RonniLyn “For the most part, our exhibitors are local and were all handpicked. At first I went after people and businesses whose products and places we enjoy and frequent. Then I visited the farmers’ markets and tried out new products and restaurants, and one person and place led to another. I’m amazed at all the gluten-free goings-on in this city. It’s not only that there are more options, because they’re certainly increasing all the time, it’s that there are more tasty and wholesome options.”
As a mom of a child with celiac, it’s essential to RonniLyn that the kids have a good time. Kids under 12 get in for free. There will be some delicious baked goods from the city’s best gluten-free bakeries and lots of other goodies. And the Children’s Art Studio is doing a pop-up art event from 11 am to 4 pm, so parents can peruse while their kids make a cool art project.
Gluten-free has become big business, and RonniLyn and her team are bringing some local flavour to it. The Gluten-Free Garage will be like a farmers’ market with a gluten-free twist. Tickets are available at the door; it’s cash only and unfortunately there is no ATM on site, so bring some money and an appetite!
For more information, including a list of vendors and exhibitors, please visit www.glutenfreegarage.ca