The warmth is palpable. Walk into the steamy sweetness of the gluten free bakery at Whiskey Creek Farm and you are greeted not just with physical comfort, but with the cheer and goodwill of farmer/baker/jack-of-all-trades Lori Gillis and her staff. This tiny, quaint and utterly cute establishment radiates old-world charm and the spirit of neighbourliness so often missing in today’s commercial world; the happy, bustling atmosphere draws you in and instantly brightens even the most dismal of days.
We made our way out to Whiskey Creek Farm, nestled in the foothills of Mount Arrowsmith, at the suggestion of a friend. Neither my husband nor I are ‘gluten free’ aficionados. In fact, our only experiences with gluten free baking had been less than splendiferous, leaving us with the sad and lasting (until now) impression of foodstuffs with the taste and texture of cardboard. So, it was with some trepidation that we scanned the offerings in Lori’s display case. The apprehension disappeared quickly enough – Lori and her staff were out from behind the counter urging us to try samples of the various baked goods almost as soon as we got in the door. The variety of flavours and textures was a truly lovely surprise, and we soon found ourselves choosing several items from the display case to take home for later enjoyment. We would have purchased even more, but discovered after getting to the till that, keeping with traditional practises, cash was the only method of payment.
Aside from the delicious baked offerings, Lori has created a warm and welcoming environment in her tiny, purpose-built bakery that encourages patrons to linger a while over a cup of coffee or a bowl of soup. Each day that she is open she makes a big batch of healthy, home-made soup – it is the only offering on the ‘menu’, but the lack of choice is more than compensated for by the complex and flavourful daily ‘potage’.
Seating in the bakery is very limited – there is room for 10, to be precise, at three different tables. During the fine weather the small patio fronting the bakery offers additional seating, and Lori has plans to extend outdoor seating options in a treed area at one end of the bakery building. A beautiful hutch (obtained by bartering with roasting chickens) decorated with Lori’s collection of rolling pins, dominates the wall facing the kitchen. Rolling pins are, in fact, the primary decorative theme, along with a few antique cookbooks and other baking items. It all makes for a cozy, homey spot for a brief respite from today’s nutty world. Judging by the number of folks streaming in the door on a recent Saturday, there are a lot of people who agree with that assessment.
Lori’s background as a pastry chef (prior to taking up farming 23 years ago) has come in to play with her new enterprise, but she freely admits that even now, several months in to her new venture, she has failures (which, incidentally, never see the inside of the display case – the staff gets to take them home at the end of the day). Working without gluten has been a whole new challenge for Lori, but based on the beautiful breads, cookies and cinnamon buns that she is turning out she has risen to that challenge admirably. It’s no surprise, really – this gal is bursting with energy, ideas and enthusiasm. The fact that she runs an organic farm, a government-certified abattoir (aptly named The Cluck Stops Here), a variety of livestock including free-range chickens and the bakery is indicative of the amazing vigour she invests in everything she does.
Lori is looking forward (yet again) with plans for ‘farmhouse suppers’ once the good weather arrives. They will feature her free-range, organic, GMO-free chickens and fruits and vegetables grown right there on her property. Just as importantly, she hopes these gatherings will reawaken in people an appreciation of community and simple good times shared in good company. She envisions evenings filled with great food, maybe some music, maybe some dancing. We can’t wait!
For further information on Whiskey Creek Farm, the gluten-free bakery and everything else it has to offer, you can go to the website at
Please note that the bakery is open on a limited basis – best to check the website before making the trek out to the wilds (although, to be fair, it is only a 15-minute drive from Qualicum Beach)
The farm is located at 1229 Walz Road, Whiskey Creek, about half-way between Parksville and Port Alberni.
GPS co-ordinates are:
Lat. 49.295338114867896 Long. -124.5244288444519
N 49 17.720 W 124 31.466