I was contacted recently by the friendly folks at Happy Campers. They’ve been making gluten-free bread for the last few years, and I was more than happy to accept their free samples for reviewing. They left me with a loaf of Kiss Me Garlic-Rosemary bread, Party Hearty bread, and their new Happy Campers buns.
Now, before the review, a quick note that I’ve never been much of a bread guy. Even though my mom worked as a pastry chef and bread baker in her family’s restaurant, and even though I grew up on thoroughly fantastic homemade bread, it’s never been my go-to. Indeed, going gluten-free after my health diagnosis was easy, in the bread-respect.
So, that being said, I spent a week and did some toasting, some grilling, and sampled the Happy Campers loaves I was generously given. First off, it’s great to find local companies, not just to support a local business, but to be close enough to be in touch. Co-owner Jan himself dropped the bread off, and obviously took a lot of pride in his work. We’re lucky in Portland to have such food resources, and Happy Camper’s joins the ranks of other gluten-free bakers like New Cascadia in town.
I had a nice egg-in-the-hole breakfast using the Kiss Me Garlic-Rosemary bread. It toasted well, and was satisfying chewy. Good garlic flavor without being overpowering. It’s packed with high quality ingredients and interesting stuff like prune juice, beet pulp, flaxseed and rosemary.
The Party Hearty Loaf is made of buckwheat flour, pumpkin, flax, sunflower, and millet seeds and blackstrap molasses. It is dark and seed-spotted in appearance, and has quite a heft to it. This bread also toasted well, and feels like a healthy choice for a sandwich.
Happy Campers’ Wild Buns are definitely one of the best choices available for a gluten-free bbq. In years past, I’ve had pretty lousy experiences with GF buns that turn to fall-apart styrofoam when you try to actually eat them. Indeed, any burgers I’ve had recently have been without buns, and using a lettuce wrap, for this reason. Well, I can say that the buns from Happy Campers hold up well, and look just like a whole grain normal bun.
All in all, I’d say that as someone that doesn’t often have bread (even gluten free bread) in my day-to-day diet, I was pleasantly surprised by Happy Campers. No, it doesn’t compare to a loaf of gluteny sourdough or french bread. And yes, the loaves are heavy and dense, unlike their gluteny cousins. But using good quality ingredients and baking in small batches, Happy Campers is able to bake some love into their products, and it shows.
In addition, Happy Campers has a strong sustainability ethic, which is great. From their website:
- Happy Campers bread bags are 100 percent compostable, twist-ties included.
- Happy Campers sources local ingredients whenever possible.
- Happy Campers inserts product labels by hand to avoid using non-compostable adhesive.
- Happy Campers recycles almost everything – we barely have any trash! We estimate more than 75 percent of our waste is recycled.
- Happy Campers uses energy-efficient appliances.
- We reinforced our bakeryʼs insulation to save energy.
- Our first choice is alternative transportation. Founders Lacy and Jan encourage employees to bike or use public transportation for work and leadthe way themselves.
- Sustainability is integrated into day-to-day operations. For example, we use cloth instead of paper towels and work hard to save water.