Friday, 24 July 2015

The Berry Barn

I went to the Berry Barn for the first time last night. It was a mistake to even go, but it was for a friend's birthday, so I didn't exactly get to choose the location, and I wanted to be there for my friend.

Let me just say right now, that they are not gluten-free-friendly. At all. They might pretend to be, and some people might think they are, but neither the restaurant, the cooks, nor the wait staff have any idea what gluten-free actually means.

So, I didn't have time to look up the menu ahead of time and find out if I could eat anything, like I usually do. When I sat down with the menu, I started scouring it for a salad, or a potato dish, or anything I would normally be able to eat. Then I spotted a small bubble on the menu labelled "Gluten-Free". Awesome!

That section had two items. The first was a gluten-free pasta with vegetarian sauce and gluten-free garlic toast. So I asked our server about the toast, and I learned that they toast gluten-free bread in a contaminated toaster. Well, that makes it not gluten-free.

The next, and last, item was a gluten-free waffle with one trip to the toppings bar. I forgot to ask how they cook the waffle, but I would bet that they use the exact same waffle maker as for all of their regular waffles. However, I'm not sure, so I'll leave that one alone. The toppings bar, however, is a whole 'nother issue. I could see the toppings bar from where I sat, and I knew that it was buffet-style.

Now, this is where it gets complicated for me. I have celiac disease. If I consume less than 1/64th of a teaspoon of gluten, I will get sick. If people are using spoons to dish out fruit sauce onto their waffles, and then putting the spoons back in the fruit sauce, I absolutely can not trust that fruit sauce. If there is a chance anyone has bumped their food before returning the serving utensils, I could get sick.

I realize that people who eat gluten-free because it's trendy will not care about the toppings bar being contaminated. They could quite happily eat anything on there and not notice.

However, that's not what gluten-free means. If you say a food is gluten-free, that means that food is free from gluten. Clearly, the Berry Barn does not understand this concept, because my server insisted the toppings were gluten-free. I was trying to ask if they have any uncontaminated toppings (pre-packaged jams, or maybe a small dish of something from the kitchen), but he absolutely insisted I could eat off the toppings bar.

I gave up, and decided to order a waffle, and just not eat any toppings that are open to other patrons. Then the server asked if I wanted bacon or sausage with my waffle. Most sausages contain gluten from the factory, so I asked for bacon, but I asked if they could prepare it seperate from any gluten. The server told me that the bacon will come into contact with gluten.

Here's a newsflash for the Berry Barn: If something will come into contact with gluten, it is not gluten-free.

I recognize that with a severe food intolerance, it is a risk for me to eat at a restaurant. I realize that every time I eat out, I am taking my health into my own hands. I understand that most commercial kitchens can not guarantee my food will not come into contact with gluten. Most restaurants either have a disclaimer on their menu, or the server will verbally warn me when I order. I understand, and I accept responsibility for that risk.

My problem with the Berry Barn is that they did not have a warning on the menu. The server did not warn me. The restaurant does not seem to recognize that gluten-free food is no longer gluten-free after it comes into contact with gluten. They also titled their section "Gluten-Free" as opposed to "gluten friendly" or "gluten wise" like most restaurants do. If I had not asked as many questions as I did, I would have blindly assumed the food was safe for me to eat, or at least a minimal risk like most of the time.

I ordered the waffle, and I ate it with only maple syrup on top (because the maple syrup was in a squeeze container, there is minimal risk of contamination), and one of those two foods made me sick. I realize that there is always a risk, but there still needs to be better education. Restaurants need to be educated as to what gluten-free actually means.

So all in all, the Berry Barn is absolutely not gluten-free-friendly. If you have to eat gluten-free, if gluten makes you sick, do not eat at the Berry Barn. Do not take such a high risk with your health. And if you know someone who eats gluten-free, do them a favour and don't invite them to the Berry Barn. Pick one of the dozens of Saskatoon gluten-free friendly restaurants that have educated themselves, and are concerned about the health of their patrons.

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