Through all the dining out I do, I admit I’ve never forayed into the world of gluten-free breads and baked goods.This is not so much because gluten-free substitutes are often stereotyped as being cardboard-like and less appealing, but more because I simply haven’t taken the initiative to.
I have however gathered a general knowledge about some of the innovative gluten-replacements used to bake these goods from working at Conscious Box where a large portion of our customer base pertain to a gluten-free diet. One of the girls I used to work with in fact was both gluten-free and a fantastic baker and would make all sorts of delightful concoctions from ingredients such as sorghum or coconut flour…stuff I admittedly have zero expertise with using.
So, when Lisa Hill (or Lisa Hill PR) and Erin of Bakery Bingo (a pretty kick-ass blog about…you guessed it, bakeries) invited me to a blogger event at Tula, I was rather excited about the prospect of tasting various celiac friendly samples- both savoury and sweet.
I’ve driven past Tula a million times as it sits on the corner of the constantly traffic-ridden NE MLK Blvd and Alberta Street intersection. It does seem like an odd location for a cute and kitschy bakery cafe, but guess what- it’s adjacent to a parking lot! And with how Portland winters seem to be going recently, parking lots are a HUGE factor in my persuasion to go somewhere and save myself a few blocks of potential frostbite.
Tula first started a couple of years back as a cafe to offer 100% gluten-free breads, pastries, cakes and savory items such as pizza, hot dishes and paninis. They source over 25 different types of gluten-free grains from nearby Bob’s Red Mill and are dedicated to using high quality and conscious ingredients purchased from local vendors.
One of the owners of Tula, Mieke served as our wonderful hostess for the night. Mieke herself is gluten-free, went to fashion school (and was wearing a fantastic pear of animal print jeans) and is clearly very passionate about her business and providing her customers with a welcoming and delectable experience.
For this intimate gathering of bloggers, Mieke put together a delightful tasting menu so that we could sample some of their savory dishes (followed by dessert, of course).
All dishes were served family style and with different variations of gluten-free bread. The focaccia, which is used on Tula’s paninis was perhaps my favourite, and yes- I would have never known that it was gluten-free considering it’s nearly identical resemblance to it’s conventionally made counterpart.
I love the abundance of vegetables used in Tula’s savory dish meals; and at around $8 apiece including the bread on the side, they are perfectly reasonable and healthy gluten-free hot entrees. I can’t exactly say I have a personal favourite as they all had their own unique twist. The Italian hot dish had a delightfully piquant fennel tomato sauce (and lots of cheese) while the Indian included a tangy and creamy green “pepita sauce” that I would easily buy the jar.
The paninis are another solid deal being two slabs of piping pesto-slathered hot focaccia stuffed with a melange of cheeses, balsamic roasted tomatoes, arugula and a protein of choice. A fantastic hot sandwich if you will.
The pizzas are another affordable and filling option, however after all the hot dishes I admit I was less excited about them (though I do appreciate the abundance of cheese used).
And, since Tula is a bakery after all…dessert was no other than some fresh baked goodies:
If you are a fan of Nutella, these chocolate hazelnut rolls are TO DIE for. Think delicious fluffy rolls stuffed generously with fresh chocolatey hazelnut paste. The tarts were also impeccable if you’re looking for something less sweet to nibble on beside a cappuccino or a cup of tea.
Mieke was also so generous to pack us all with gift bags containing some Ethiopian coffee, gluten free sugar cookie dough and their famous orange almond olive oil cake (which I have already inhaled so my apologies for the lack of photo).
I had a wonderful time at Tula dishing and dining with Mieke, Lisa, Erin and a few other Portland food bloggers and definitely recommend this cute NE Portland spot not only for those on a gluten-free diet, but for anyone. Another great part? Everything is affordable, fresh, and made with love.