Food alternatives for a dairy-free kid’s birthday party in Burlington

Pizza, cake and ice cream are traditional birthday party fare, but for dairy allergic kids, celebrating with friends can have more fright than fun.

Among kids, dairy allergies are becoming more common and more dangerous. Dairy is already the most common allergen among kids under five years old, and is beginning to eclipse peanuts for the most food-induced anaphylaxis incidents — a life-threatening response when a person’s air passages swell up and reduce airflow — according to WebMD.

For those who have a cow’s milk intolerance or eat a plant-based diet, the risk may not be serious, but they can feel left out eating their home-packed meals and not partaking in the same good-looking and -smelling foods as the other party-goers.

In my own life, I am always on the hunt for good, dairy-free foods. I used my experience and crowdsourced allergen-conscious parents on Facebook to help me come up with a list to help you throw a dairy-free kids’ birthday party in the Burlington area, inclusive of your kid’s friends’ dietary needs.

This is a list for places or products that are both tasty (good enough to tantalize the dairy enthusiasts, too) and safe (doesn’t end up in the worst birthday ever category with a trip to the emergency room). However, for a severe allergy, you should contact the restaurant or manufacturer to be sure the risk of cross-contamination is minimized and run any food past a food-allergic child’s parents/guardians.

Options: Eat in, pick up, make at home

The cake, pizza and ice cream categories are divided into places in the area you can eat in, order for pick up, buy in a store or make at home.

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Cake and cupcakes

Enjoy there: Sweet Alchemy, Essex Junction

Sweet Alchemy is a vegan restaurant and bakery that offers a variety of dairy free confections. The menu changes daily but offers plenty of choice between doughnuts, cookies, cupcakes, scones and whoopie pies. They are open Thursday through Sundays until 3 p.m. During COVID they are allowing customers to order ahead and pick up, or order at the door. There is outdoor seating on the porch and on the grounds. 

Order ahead/pick up: West Meadow Farm Bakery, Essex 

Technically a gluten-free bakery, West Meadow is also accommodating of other dietary needs, including dairy-free. Made-to-order cakes and cupcakes need at least a 48-hour lead time but the bakery sometimes is booking out a week in advance, according to the website. When ordering online, be sure to choose the dairy-free American buttercream made with shortening. The company offers seven cake flavors, four fillings, six frosting flavors and a variety of decorations. The business is currently open Wednesday through Friday until 3 p.m. and Tuesdays to pick up an order only.

Buy in store: Healthy Living, South Burlington and Williston

Healthy Living, a local grocery store chain touting its healthy food offerings, often has allergen-free confections in their prepared foods. Be sure to read the labels to be sure it doesn’t say “contains milk” under the full list of ingredients. Key words to look for in an ingredient list when avoiding dairy include lactose, casein and whey in addition to the more recognizable butter, cream and milk.

Make at home: My go-to cake recipe for any special occasion is a vegan raspberry blackout cake with ganache-y frosting. Rather than cow’s milk or eggs it uses almond milk (though a nut free milk could be used) and raspberry preserves as a binder in the batter. The preserves are also spread between the two layers of chocolate cake which provide a punch of raspberry right in the middle. You can also decorate with fresh raspberries on top. Everyone I have served it to has marveled at how good it is — not as a vegan cake but for any cake.

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Pizza

Enjoy there: Stone’s Throw Pizza, Richmond and Charlotte

Stone’s Throw Pizza offers two vegan pizzas on its menu — the “Off the Vine” which includes vegan white sauce with artichokes, sun dried tomatoes and vegan pesto and the “Pseudosau” featuring vegan sausage, broccolini and pickled serrano peppers with red sauce. Or, you can craft your own by combining vegan mozzarella with your choice of toppings and sauce. They also offer a gluten free crust upon request. The restaurant asks to please let them know of any allergies or intolerances when ordering.

One benefit to the Richmond location is a park next door that can allow excited kiddos to play around when they are finished eating.

Order ahead/pick up: Folino’s, Burlington and Shelburne

Folino’s has crafted their own vegan ingredients: a cashew-based “cheese” and vegan sausage which are both incorporated into the “Vegan Supreme” pie. Or, a customer could create their own pizza utilizing the array of ingredients and bases. The ordering system allows you to choose the special instructions “dairy allergy please wash everything,” vegan cheese or no cheese.

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Buy in store: Daiya Pizza, most grocery stores

Many grocery stores offer Daiya brand pizzas in their frozen food section. The dairy-free company has recently tweaked its recipe in a way that makes the product taste more like a traditional pizza. There are ten total flavors available, in either a gluten-free or vegetable crust. 

Make at home: Daiya Cheese, pre-made crust or homemade crust, your choice of toppings

You could also have some fun making pizza at home with toppings sure to delight party-goers. There are many pre-made crusts available in grocery stores that are non-dairy, but you could easily make your own. 

For cheese, Daiya shreds are often the easiest non-milk cheese to find in stores. The mozzarella and parmesan styles are typical pizza fare, however, you could throw in some cheddar or “Mexican four cheeze” for a specialty concoction. 

For traditional pizza eaters, though, it may be good to tell them to expect the flavors and cheese consistency to be a little different from what they are accustomed.

Ice cream

Enjoy there: Off-Beat Creemee, Winooski

With the catchphrase “smooth as silk, without a drop of milk” Off-Beat Creemee offers plant-based ice cream without dairy, eggs, soy or refined sugar. What it does have is a coconut and oat milk blend in four presentations: creemees, hard ice cream, floats or “mylkshakes” and add-ons which include five toppings and four sauces.

Off-Beat is next to the Myers Memorial Pool in Winooski and is open Thursday through Sunday afternoons until 6 or 8 p.m. through Halloween. 

Order ahead/pick up: Ben & Jerry’s, Burlington

Ben & Jerry’s offers a variety of non-dairy ice cream flavors which you can get in a pint, a milkshake or an ice cream cake by ordering from their Church Street location. 

Ice cream cakes need to be ordered 36 hours in advance, and the company suggests calling the store at 802-862-9620 for allergy and dietary needs, rather than ordering online.  

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Buy in store: Wildgood, Burlington-area grocery stores and online

Wildgood is a new plant-based Vermont ice cream company featuring a special ingredient — olive oil imported from a family farm in Greece. 

The creaminess, texture and flavor are reminiscent of gelato and make it easy to feed to dairy lovers, who might not be able to tell the difference. 

Currently the company has eight flavors available with plans to roll out more soon. Pints can be purchased at both City Market locations in Burlington and Healthy Living in South Burlington or online at wildgood.com. 

Make at home: A local mom and commenter on the Facebook post suggested making “Nice Cream” at home from blended frozen bananas, mango and cherries.

Contact reporter April Barton at [email protected] or 802-660-1854. Follow her on Twitter @aprildbarton.

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