Restaurant: The Gluten Escape, Denver, Colorado
I have my friend, Pecos, to thank for turning me on to the newest gluten-free bakery near the Denver Tech Center in Denver, Colorado. I make a yearly sojourn out to Denver for Starfest, an annual sci-fi/fantasy convention, and am always looking for places that can safely feed me. A couple of months before I headed that way, Pecos mentioned this place on Facebook. Sure enough, it wasn’t far from my hotel at the convention at all. Insert a happy traveler right here!
As it turned out, we’d be hitting Denver at the right time to stop into said bakery for lunch. And I couldn’t be happier. Cathy and I budgeted some money (and then she added on after we settled in to eat and after purchasing a few things for later…but I’m getting ahead of myself) for this stop to be our official lunch and snack stop on Friday afternoon. It was perfect. And…after getting a little lost trying to find the place, we finally located it (under a storage awning, of all things).
The Gluten Escape. Their slogan…”Where gluten is a 4-letter word…gone!”
The bakery itself is quite small and cozy. You see the counter with all the baked goods in the case and on top of the case the moment you walk in. To the left is a fridge, a toaster, a microwave, and coffee/tea stuff. To the right, a small dining area for those who are dining in. The back and far walls had little shelves with some of the items they had for sale…as well as cakes. Cathy scoped those out while I was preparing lunch…but I’m getting ahead of myself again.
We were greeted by a very nice gentleman behind the counter when we entered the bakery. We told him that we were from the Louisville, Kentucky area and had been told about this bakery by a good friend of ours in the area…and we were starving travelers. I was eying the brownies and bars in the case at the front when Cathy tapped me on the shoulder and said…”Bagels!”
SOLD!! They were out of the Everything Bagel, which would have been my first choice. The other two options were Onion and Cinnamon Raisin. I jumped at Cinnamon Raisin, but Cathy said…”Really? You want that one?” Which means…she didn’t. So, I gave in for the Gluten-Free Onion Bagel ($3.00). And let me tell you…this bagel looked AWESOME!! Even better than Udi’s Gluten-Free Bagels. All of them. So, we got the Gluten-Free Onion Bagel with the Daiya Cream Cheese (yay for vegan cream cheese!) to split as we also purchased one of the Gluten-Free Cinnamon Rolls ($2.25) to split as well.
We also picked up other goodies…but I’ll get into that in a moment.
Let’s focus on lunch. We were handed the bagel, which he sliced for us and told that the toaster was right behind us. Awesome. I got to work toasting it while he grabbed the dairy-free cream cheese and then the cinnamon roll. He handed that to Cathy and told her she might want to give it a 20 second warm-up in the microwave. Which…she did. The toasting on the bagel was taking a bit of time and I was hoping I wasn’t going to burn it. Because…FRESH MADE GLUTEN-FREE BAGEL!! HELLO!! Do you realize how uncommon that is to find??!! Trust me…you don’t see it very often. I don’t see it at all, honestly. The bagel popped and I plated it and carried it to the table. Photos happened and then I spread the bagel with the cream cheese and we each took a bite.
Holy gluten-free bagel, Batman. This was fantastic. It was light, not heavy. The flavor was amazing. You really got the onion flavor without it being overpowering. It had that nice crust on the outside, but was still chewy and bread-y in the middle. It was heaven. I cried. Seriously. Tears of joy. Because, save for the Udi’s processed gluten-free bagels…I hadn’t had an actual bagel since I had to go gluten-free. This…was life changing for me. Life affirming even. I might survive after all. I set the bagel down so I could try the cinnamon roll.
This was not what I was expecting when I cut the cinnamon roll in half. Honestly. It looked more like a muffin than the traditional cinnamon roll. It was way different from the gluten-free cinnamon rolls that I purchase from Sinfully Gluten Free in Dayton, Ohio and Annie May’s Sweet Café in Louisville, Kentucky. Like I said…it looked more like a muffin. But…we all know that cinnamon rolls are one of my favorite indulgences…and I was looking forward to splitting this with Cathy. I sliced it in half…a pocket of cinnamon flavoring nestled right in the center. I lifted it and took a bite. It reminded me of…apple pie, oddly enough. I think it was the spices that went into the dough and the cinnamon center. I loved that it wasn’t coated in icing, but lightly drizzled. I am not a fan of icing or frosting…so the less the better in my book. And this definitely gave it a nice level of sweetness. It wasn’t my favorite gluten-free cinnamon roll, but it was delicious. And we ended up buying another one!
This brings me to our side purchases…
For breakfast the following morning, Cathy and I picked up two of the Mini Chocolate Donuts ($1.59), the Chocolate Chip Pretzel Bar, and the Lemon Raspberry Bar as well. I would have bought one of everything if I could have afforded it. So, after I went for a run that morning, I returned to the hotel room and got our breakfast prepped. I sliced the bars in half and delivered those to Cathy, along with her donut. As I was getting the rest of my breakfast ready for me to settle in and enjoy…I hear the happiest noise in the world.
“You HAVE TO try the donut RIGHT NOW!” I was told.
So, I took a bite.
OMG…best gluten-free donut I have had yet. From anywhere. And, trust me, I’ve eaten a lot of gluten-free donuts…in gluten-free bakeries and the store-bought kind. Seriously…reminded me of a Dunkin Doughnuts Chocolate Munchkin. I was once again in tears. It was a cake doughnut, but without the denseness and heaviness that I often find with gluten-free donuts. These were light and airy, and amazing. The chocolate chips inside were a very nice treat as well. I was starting off breakfast with a bang. YUMMY!!
The next thing I sampled was the Gluten-Free Lemon Raspberry Bar ($3.75). This had this delicious crust and was topped with a sweet and tart lemon filling and then capped with something akin to raspberry jam or compote. Whatever it was…the flavor combination was awesome. The crust gave it a little bit of texture as well as dulled the sweetness of the berries and the tartness of the lemon. I liked this bar a lot, but found myself wishing that it was just the lemon on there. I love raspberries and all…but LEMON…is the ultimate bar. Forever.
The Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Pretzel Bar ($3.75) snagged my attention away from the brownies that were in the case. Those were tempting too. But…pretzel! HELLO! This was a lot like a blondie…but with gluten-free pretzels baked into it and scattered across the top. I’m thinking…sweet with salty. I was right. This bar was fantastic. The pretzels were slightly on the stale side, but that’s because I had bought them the day before and they were sitting on top of one of the tables in the hotel room all night. It didn’t take away from the deliciousness though. I loved the play and sweet and salty, which is my favorite flavor combination These were amazing. For real.
Later on that day, Cathy and I decided to have a snack. We indulged in some fruit we had picked up at the grocery store. And with it, we split the Gluten-Free Snickerdoodle Cookie ($2.50) that we also purchased while there. This was my first time ever encountering a crispy snickerdoodle cookie. But…the flavors were spot on. The sweetness from the sugar, the heat from the cinnamon. Snickerdoodles, as we all know, are my absolute favorite cookie and these were different from what I’m used to, but I loved it all the same. So, it wasn’t the chewy cookie I associate snickerdoodles with. Didn’t matter. It tasted like a snickerdoodle. That’s what counts, yes? RIGHT!
I won’t lie…the buying didn’t stop there. Nope. Not at all. Before we left the bakery on Friday afternoon, Cathy pointed out the Gluten-Free Biscotti and the Gluten-Free Puppy Chow on one of the shelves. I also found a Pumpkin Spice Granola Bar that was definitely intriguing, since pumpkin flavored everything rules! I ended up buying the Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Granola Bar ($2.25), the Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Biscotti ($1.95), the Grain Free Mocha Almond Biscotti ($3.25), and a container of the Gluten-Free Puppy Chow ($3.99-ish?).
I tried the Puppy Chow on Monday morning on my way to the airport. Cathy and I needed to swing by Voodoo Donut to pick up some dounuts for a co-worker of ours. So, while there, Cathy ordered a donut for herself. As for me…it was Puppy Chow time. The Gluten Escape’s Puppy Chow is a mix of Chex cereal, puffed rice, pretzels, and corn flakes. They are dusted in powdered sugar. And it was really, really good. I loved the different textures and flavors with each bite. You got the salty from the pretzels, the sweet from the cereal, and each cereal was different, making it crunchy or softer or just snack-able by the handful. I loved it. I ate half of it before hitting the airport and brought the other half to the office with me the following day.
The Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Granola Bar was…lacking sweetness, in my opinion. It was good. And they definitely had the right pumpkin spice flavor down. It wasn’t overpowering. But…the bar just seemed flat. It was very crunchy, which is fine…granola bars can go either way. But I kept waiting on something that would sweeten the deal. Like chocolate chips or something. I just think it needed a touch of sugar (not too much…just something to elevate it). Regardless, it was good and I downed that entire thing at the office.
As for the two biscotti that I chose…WOW!! Just…WOW!! They complimented my morning coffee beautifully for one thing. The first one that Cathy and I tried (we split them) was the Grain Free Mocha Almond Biscotti. OH MY GOD!! So delicious. I enjoyed dunking it in my coffee and just having that flavor mingle and mix. Oh…it was divine. And totally made my morning, if you couldn’t tell. The Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Biscotti was the same way. I loved the crispness that would soften when dunked in the coffee and the chocolate chips were a nice lingering sweet touch. I was in total coffee heaven those mornings. Seriously. I will probably buy whatever biscotti they have next time I am in town. For real. That…was love at first bite for sure!
I know that Colorado is a hotbed for gluten-free companies and businesses…and I love visiting there for that reason. But, if you happen to be near the Denver Tech Center (DTC)…I strongly encourage you to take the trip up the road to The Gluten Escape and indulge in some of their daily specials and their baked goods. Everything looked fantastic. I really would have purchased one of everything had the budget and my belly allowed. But, that’s why there is always a next time. And there will be a next time.