I suppose that I can be a bit of a paradox at time. I write and talk about great food and drink, but fitness is also not only a big part of my life, it's one of my jobs. Tricky, right? I spend much of my life working hard to keep myself healthy and in shape, but at the same time, I like a good meal. Actually, I like a great meal that feels a little bit bad (wink, wink) even more. Note that such a meal will ideally include a tasty grown-up beverage that pairs nicely with what I'm eating as well. I think a lot of people feel that way, but for some, it's a little trickier than just "Oh I'll just make sure to add a little exercise here and perhaps add a salad instead of a burger. Etc, etc." There's a whole bunch of people that have to think very seriously about keeping themselves healthy, because they have dietary restrictions that make things complicated. For example, for those that have intolerances to gluten, there can be a whole lot of sacrifice going on. Having a beer, or even a sandwich, or just a meal out with a wide array of delicious options is not so easy at all. Or any options at all, sometimes.
While I don't suffer from celiac disease or a serious gluten sensitivity myself, I kind of pick my moments with the stuff, because I feel that I function better without too much of it, or any grain for that matter. (Yeah, I do the paleo thing about 75-80% of the time, because my life works better that way). But again, sometimes I just want what I want. For people like me, or especially those with serious food intolerances, wouldn't it be amazing if we could indulge without compromise? Or, to actually be able to order something on the menu, instead of the hassle of asking for this without this or substituting that, and so on.
Enter two heroes in this situation: First, Daura Damm, the beer from the same wonderful folks behind Estrella Damm, except that it is crafted to remove gluten. Second, Toronto's favourite taquiera, purveyor of yummy cocktails, Dia de los Muertos-inspired art and all around rad place to be, La Carnita. You may think know La Carnita, but you may not have noticed that you can eat a large portion of their menu while staying as gluten free (and I suppose, care free) as you might like. So when these two forces of culinary awesomeness got together to organize a dinner, celebrating all sorts of #GF flavour and fun, it was a no brainer. I was in! My friends were in. Taco and beer Tuesday was ON.
Side Note: OK...I know what you may be thinking. How good can this whole "crafted to remove gluten" beer be? You have reason to be suspect. I've tried a few gluten-free beers before. Not so bueno. But if you know me, you know that I have a serious affection for all things Barcelona, and this includes Estrella Damm. In fact, I am planning my third trip there later this year. So, I would not kid around, believe me. Daura Damm is every bit as delicious, every bit as much of a kicking-it-on-the-beach-in-the-middle-of-August and every bit as much of a pairs-well-with-all-sorts-of-amazing-food kind of beer as Estrella Damm is. It is NOT a sad substitute. It is the real deal. Ok, we may proceed.
The evening kicked off with a little chat with the owner of La Carnita (and Sweet Jesus and Home of the Brave) about how what is now a staple in Toronto (with 3 locations!) started out as a pop-up inspired by the amazing eats of San Francisco's Mission District. My brother lives in the Bay Area, and I've visited five times so far, and Mission is always a destination for me because of this very reason. (I could tell you quite the story about some of my experiences there, but we'll save those for another day. ) It was also great to chat with Andrew about the other elements of the brand, because everything about La Carnita is so well-designed and highly recognizable. Quite a few of us in attendance were pretty geeks on the whole concept of personal branding, so it was fun to hear about that. As it was to find out how as crazy delicious as La Carnita is, the menu can definitely be a part of healthier living and alternative ways of eating, such as gluten free.
After that, it was my turn to chat about maintaining a healthy lifestyle while also finding ways to be social, indulge, and have fun. Of course, I didn't want to chat for too long on that, because as I was, really really tempting things from the menu prepared for us by Executive Chef Jon Hamilton began showing up on our table, along with ice cold bottles of Daura Damm.
From Snap-worthy apps to tacos and tostadas that were gone in seconds. Amazingly enough, all of these gluten-free goodies are available on La Carnita's regular menu. So if you're avoiding the stuff and looking for a regular dining destination, this is the place for you to be! Believe me, none of us felt deprived in any way. Guac and chips, wings, tacos, beer.....I could go on.....
Besides the amazing food, the other star of the show for the "I can't believe there's no gluten! " dinner was of course, the Daura Damm beer. Light and malty, it's a really refreshing Mediterranean lager that pairs so well with so many different kinds of food. Brewed in Spain, it is uses real barley, not sorghum, which is a good thing! It only has 3ppm (parts per million) gluten, which in most places means "gluten free", but here in Ontario, we say "crafted to remove gluten". Any way you say it, it's a DAMM good beer (see what I did there?) that can be enjoyed pretty much by everyone.
Did I mention dessert? Did I?!? There's no way that I was going to leave without sampling some of the too-cute-to-eat treats by La Carnita's little (twisted) sister brand, Sweet Jesus. Paletas, soft-serve ice cream done up to the nines, and more. Amazing. Don't miss out on these, ever.
Here's to having options. Delicious, delicious options.
Daura Damm is available at select LCBO stores across Ontario. Starting in April, Daura Damm will also be available at The Beer Store in selected locations.