After successfully treating her ulcerative colitis with a strict dietary regimen, Michelle Retik wanted to educate others on the benefits of such a diet. This desire led her to open the grainless bake shop and café Squirrel & The Bee in Short Hills, New Jersey. Also known as “the Queen Bee,” Retik lines the shelves of her grainless, gluten-free café with not just grain-free, gluten-free goodies but also refined-sugar-free and low-dairy or no-dairy products. The menu clearly indicates which dietary restriction each item meets, including gluten free, Paleo, dairy free, vegan and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.
Grainless, Local, Real Food
All baked goods at Squirrel & The Bee are made with a combination of nut flour, coconut flour, coconut or olive oil, fresh fruit and honey for natural sweetness. Baked goods containing nut flours add protein and healthy fats to your dietary intake. The staff makes everything from scratch, right down to roasting the nuts and making the jams. Aiming to bring a “farm to table” element to the baked goods, they use locally sourced honey, fruits and vegetables. In fact, the name Squirrel & The Bee is an homage to two such ingredients proudly featured on the menu: nuts and local honey.
The website for Squirrel & The Bee provides not only a culinary experience but an educational one as well. Ingredient lists also include health benefit information so diners can understand how certain foods affect their body and what shapes Retik’s dietary philosophy. Even those without any food restriction might want to take cues from the choices Retik has made in her own diet after learning how various ingredients have positively affected her body.
Stimulate Your Senses
While the website offers a feast for the eyes, a visit to the bakery awakens all your senses, from the sight of the glass case full of decadent pastries to the wafting aromas of freshly baked goodies. Good luck choosing! Diners rave over the peanut butter swirl brownie prepared with house-made almond butter and natural peanut butter, bagels made with almond flour, and Tom’s Treat Cookies, named after a loyal customer and available in three nut-and-fruit filled varieties that are as healthy as they are yummy. “Waffle Sundays” give guests the opportunity to devour grainless Belgian waffles with such toppings as berries, chocolate chips, pecans and bananas. Vegan guests and those
avoiding dairy can even enjoy shakes and smoothies
made with Don’t Have a Cow dairy-free frozen dessert.
In addition to the sundry scrumptious dessert and breakfast options, lunch offers the opportunity to try one of the more savory—but no less tasty—menu items. The roasted veggie sandwich with basil-aioli; pineapple, avocado and cucumber gazpacho; and carrot-zucchini, pumpkin-tomato or sweet potato soup provide hearty and rich midday repasts. Those in the mood for something lighter but just as filling can’t go wrong with the delightful apple and brie salad, blackberry-avocado salad or roasted butternut squash salad.
On Any Given Morning
Guests at Squirrel & The Bee will find busy yet sunny staff buzzing up smoothies and coffee drinks. Retik often joins them behind the counter or in the kitchen, overseeing everything in her customary workout clothes and positive attitude, happy to share the “lemonade” she’s made from a “lemon” of a health diagnosis. Out of hardship, she created a business that keeps giving to all her customers, many of whom have been “coming since the beginning.”
Photos by Angela Sackett