If you love food, Baltimore is a great place to live.
I was born and raised here, and only in the past few years have I come to appreciate all that this city has to offer.
This weekend’s EmporiYUM event downtown was a great showcase of dozens of local vendors and companies who put love and passion into their food.
I volunteered at the event with a company that my husband and I have used for the past year and a half or so – Hometown Harvest.
They’re a doorstep delivery service of local fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, poultry and other foods from local vendors, including fresh pressed juices, granola, hummus, nut butters, and salsa.
It was fun telling the dozens of people who came through the booth about how much I love their service and how convenient it is for us to wake up on Friday morning with a bag full of produce and cage-free eggs for the coming week.
After hanging out at the Hometown Harvest booth for a couple of hours, I ventured out to visit the rest of the vendors to see what dairy-free, gluten-free goods I could find. (If you’re new to this blog, I eat dairy-free and gluten-free because of what I’ve learned helps my body feel best!)
I also look for foods that are completely in sync with how I prepare my own food and don’t use ingredients like refined oils or sugars.
Here are my favorites from yesterday!
Some are familiar faces that I’ve mentioned before on this blog, but others were newbies and are worth checking out.
Daniela Troia, the owner of Plantbar, is one of my favorite food people in Baltimore and I’ve been a fan of her restaurant in Towson (Zia’s Café) for years.
Now that she’s set up shop with her juice, smoothie and raw/vegan/gluten-free and aptly named Plantbar at Belvedere Market (my favorite place in Baltimore), I’m even more of a fan.
Plantbar had a bright and colorful booth with samples of their coconut bacon and three kinds of fresh, cold-pressed organic juices. Thai The Knot was especially refreshing on a hot day.
Wandering down a little farther, I stumbled upon a long line for Little Baby’s Ice Cream, which I soon came to find out is an ice cream vendor based out of Philadelphia that will be making its way to the Baltimore market (Whole Foods and MOMs) by the summer.
I was elated to find out that they had a dairy-free, gluten-free option that I could sample called Coconut Tea.
OH MY GOSH IT WAS SO GOOD.
They use coconut milk instead of cow’s milk, and the texture was JUST like regular ice cream.
The only hitch is that they use agave as one of the sweeteners, so I met the owner and suggested it might be worth considering making a version with coconut nectar instead because of the controversy around agave. He was open to it, which was really cool.
Making my way across the floor, I saw an eye-catching display for tahini-based dips (made from ground up sesame seeds) from a company called Soom.
I’m a big fan of tahini and use it in my Super Food Kale Salad Recipe as well as this Snickerdoodle Smoothie, so I knew I would be on board with their products.
I sampled a few of their dips and became an instant fan. With flavors like Classic Sesame and Spicy Sriracha to Thai Red Curry and Zesty Mediterranean, these dips were delicious! I asked about the ingredients and found out that they don’t use oils I avoid like canola oil, so that was a bonus! 🙂
They’re not in Baltimore yet but hope to make their way here. You can buy their plain tahini on Amazon though and check out this link for a list of where they sell in the Philly/NYC/DC/Rockville area.
I ventured up the steps to one of the upper levels and met a company I’ve been hearing about from Hometown Harvest for the past year or so – Kate Bakes.
After dealing with years of frustrating health issues herself, Kate was determined to make delicious treats that she could enjoy without gluten, dairy or any animal products. The bars are handmade in small batches using organic ingredients.
She does use agave as the sweetener along with a soy protein powder in the bars, so I emailed her to get more information about that and to see if she has plans for using alternative ingredients in future creations, since I generally avoid those two ingredients. She was prompt, thorough, and honest in her response (all things I really appreciate and respect!):
Currently we’re comfortable using agave for how it behaves in our recipes (texture and flavor profile) as well as it’s low glycemic index. Each bar actually has less than one serving (less than one tablespoon) of agave and the rest of our sugar content comes from the fruit we use in the recipes – bananas, raisins, dates, or cherries. We use soy for the same reason. When I was creating the recipes, I actually tried several different protein powders including rice and hemp. The bars that came out the best (by far) were the ones using soy. Since I personally don’t have trouble with soy (and the list of things I do have trouble with is quite long!) I wanted to use it since I could eat it and felt it created the best tasting product. I know these ingredients may not be for everyone and I really appreciate you asking these questions to learn more. As someone with a lot of restrictions, I completely understand there are many reasons why people may choose not to consume certain foods.
Click here to buy Kate’s bars online and to read more about her story.
The next booth on my stop was Blind Spot Nut Butters, who I first found out about through Hometown Harvest. They sell them on their website, but I had never met the owner or tried more than one variety of their nut butters, so I was excited they had a booth at the event.
My favorite flavor is their Birds & Bees Almond Cashew Nut Butter, which is a great add-in to smoothies. Check out the ingredient list: Raw Almonds, Raw Cashews, Sunflower Seeds, Honey, Ground Flax, Millet, Chia Seeds. All real, whole foods. Just the way I like it!
Here’s where you can buy their nut butters in the MD/DC/VA/PA area and online on their website.
Tucked away in a back corner (but always with a line) was my favorite Baltimore chocolate maker – Pure Chocolate by Jinji.
I wrote extensively about how amazing her dairy-free, gluten-free chocolates are here and here. She sets up shop at Belvedere Market along with Plantbar and one more vendor I mention at the close of this post – Hex Ferments.
If you like chocolate, you HAVE to know about Jinji. Everything she makes is divine.
My second to last stop for the day was Cava Mezze, which makes Mediterranean dips like hummus, tzatziki, harissa, and tapenades. They had a veggie platter and a variety of their dips available for sampling.
I tried the roasted red pepper, spicy and traditional hummus varieties and they were all savory, creamy and reminded me of my semester abroad in Southern Spain. I love that Cava doesn’t use refined oils like canola oil in their products, unlike some other brands of hummus.
Check out all of their flavors on their website here or find them at MOMs Organic Market or Whole Foods.
The last stop on my gluten-free, dairy-free, journey brought me to Hex Ferments – a company I’ve known about for just over a year (mainly because they are parked right next to Jinji’s Chocolates at Belvedere Market).
As I’ve been in the process of healing my body and digestive health from years of antibiotics and acid reducers, I’ve incorporated more healing, nourishing foods into my diet, including some things I – as a picky eater – SWORE I would never eat.
Like sauerkraut and kimchi.
Both are fermented foods that support, protect and shield our immune system, digestion and overall well-being.
Hex was sampling their Sea Kraut and Miso Kimchi – both of which were packed with flavor.
Check out their shop at Belvedere Market and remember to “go with your gut!”
And, that’s a wrap 🙂
I do what I can to support local businesses by voting with my dollars and how I spend my money.
As the daughter of two entrepreneurs, I feel particularly compelled to buy local and support small businesses.
I know they appreciate the love and confidence from their customers and that it encourages them to keep doing great work dedicated to helping us be well while at the same time enjoying amazing eats!
Did you go to The EmporiYUM? What were some of YOUR favorite stops? I’d love to hear from you!