Gluten Free Italy: Bella Vista Pizzeria, Lake Garda

My global quest to discover the world’s best gluten free pizza is well documented both on this blog and via my Instagram/Twitter feeds. So epic is this quest I sometimes wonder whether this blog should be called (with a large nod to Kelly) Around the World in 80 Gluten Free Pizzas. Except my tally of gluten free pizzas consumed around the world now far exceeds 80. Sorry? Not really, no.

So when I took a trip to Lake Garda on our recent weekend in Verona, I was particularly happy to discover that in the town we were visiting there was a highly rated pizzeria offering gluten free options.

Restaurant Bella Vista Pizzeria located in Peschiera del Garda a small town on the shores of beautiful Lake Garda.


As far as gluten free pizza perfection comes, Bella Vista’s pizza is very high on the list. Why?

Gluten Free Options on the Menu

Not just gluten free pizzas are on offer here, but a whole host of tempting gluten free treats such as gluten free calamari (so long since I had that) fritto misto and more.


Pizza Crust

I like it thin, crispy and cooked in a proper pizza oven. This ticks all boxes!


Toppings

For me the perfect pizza is as they are served in Italy – with just enough topping to taste but definitely not over loaded.

Location
What’s not to love about sitting out on a vine covered shady terrace, right next to the sparkling waters of Lake Garda in the May sunshine?


Finally, is there gluten free beer?

Yes there is! Although I stuck to water on this occasion.

Website: Bella Vista Pizzeria

Cost: Under EUR 50 for 2 adult pizzas (one gluten free), 2 children’s meals plus salad, grilled vegetables and drinks. Outstanding value.

Would I go back? You bet! I wish every Sunday lunch could be like this.

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Gluten Free Dorset: Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens

Maybe I’ve watched too many episodes of the TV programme Coast but I’ve wanted to come to Chesil Beach for what seems like forever. Located at the centre of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, this impressive 18 mile stretch of shingle beach is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Chesil Beach

After sitting on the blustery beach, thinking how much I miss living right by the sea, rolling the super soft pebbles through my hands while watching mini D1 learn how to skim stones (or rather just lob stones) into the sea, we were all ready to have lunch.

Chesil Beach Stones

Just up the lane from the beach car park (there are surprisingly few access points onto Chesil Beach) is the Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens. This turned out to be a double surprise. Not only were the gardens beautiful – subtropical gardens are not usually my kind of thing – but the Colonial Restaurant had a fantastic selection of gluten free items on the menu. Just look how many items here are noted as gluten free or dairy free!

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I wavered slightly between ordering a peri peri chicken or a jacket potato (I needed to warm up after sitting on a windy beach) but instead went for something which was adjusted to be gluten free to see how that was; grilled steak and onion baguette.

Gluten Free Steak Baguette

The steak was tender and I loved having the onions with it. I’m not sure who makes these gluten free rolls but they didn’t crumble. Perfect lunch.

I was too full to try one of the gluten free cakes on offer (there were several choices) but there’s always room for a fantastic locally produced ice cream!

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A few shots of the Subtropical Gardens.

I have never seen so many bluebells as I did during our trip to Dorset. Beautiful carpets of them everywhere, not just in these gardens.

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Loved this walkway – I could almost believe I was on the Italian Riviera.

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Reminding us of our recent trip to Japan:

Japanese garden

Website: Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens

Cost: Under £30 -for a meal for 2 adults and 2 children with drinks

Would I come back: Absolutely. I love being on a beach at any time of the year and visiting the gardens anf the Colonial Restaurant would be a bonus.

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Gluten Free Fish and Chips at The Old Harbour, Weymouth

When I recently attended the Free From Food Awards presentation. I was reminded again of the fantastic developments – both in terms of scale and quality – of the free from food sector. Since 2010 when I first started writing this blog the free from retail sector has almost doubled from £278 million to £531 million in 2016, according to Mintel.

Yet that great British meal of fish and chips seems to be one of the last bastions of food to escape the current expansion of gluten free food within the UK. I suppose in no small part this is due to the probable proponents of the current free from market explosion being ‘lifestylers’ – those who choose to eat gluten free as they see it as the healthier option. Consequently, deep fried and battered fish with chips is unlikely to win any converts from this group, even if those with medical reasons not to consume gluten would love to find it more regularly when eating out. When gluten free fish and chips can be found, it’s often limited to once a week (or less frequent) and usually after the fryers have been cleaned and replaced with fresh new oil. (I’ve written before about several notable exceptions to this herehere and here).

So on our recent trip to Dorset I was really happy to discover The Old Harbour, a fish and chip shop in Weymouth which offers gluten free fish and chips every day.

Gluten Free Fish and Chips

The Old Harbour is open 7 days a week and offers gluten free fish and chips on all of them. This fish and chips are cooked separately to avoid cross contamination. You can eat in its restaurant or take out. No need to phone ahead and pre book the gluten free batter either.

I ordered the gluten free haddock. I missed the bit on the menu that noted it was large.

gluten free fish and chips dorset

Large is an understatement. Ginormous, bigger than your head, enough to feed a small army, these would all have been better descriptions of this enormous piece of fish. And yes, it did defeat me.

gluten free fish and chips

The batter wrapped around the fish was crispy and certainly more like a regular, more dense fish batter than I’ve tasted elsewhere.

I could’ve ordered gluten free curry sauce to go with my fish and chips but on this occasion declined. If it’s the one I tasted recently at Olley’s in Herne Hill (and I suspect it would be), then it’s delicious.

They even had gluten free vinegar.

gluten free vinegar

However, Coeliac UK say barley malt vinegar is safe for Coeliacs to eat. But that’s up to you which you’d prefer, the good thing is there’s a choice.

Weymouth itself is very much a typical British seaside resort. Even down to the weather which was murky before we had lunch…..

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And then broke to beautiful sunshine.

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A great day for a cloud spotter like me.

Cost: £28.50 for 2 (enormous) adult portions and 2 children’s meals plus 2 drinks. Fantastic value.
Location: 16 St Edmunds Street, Weymouth, Dorset DT4 8AR
Website: www.theoldharbour.co.uk
Would I go back? I’d love to. But next time I’ll order a smaller portion of fish and will go for the curry sauce

Are you a fish and chip fan? Have you found any great (and safe) gluten free fish and chip restaurants which you’d recommend?

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2016 Free From Food Awards

I’ve been really honoured to participate for the last 4 or 5 years as a judge in the Free From Food Awards, the UK’s awards celebrating the best of free from products. You can read my write up from last year’s awards here.

Free From Food Awards 2016

Each year I discover new-to-me products. What I like about this are that these new products are not just from the large retailers, but also from the small producers who are passionate about supplying fantastic quality (free from) products to this rapidly expanding food sector. It also gives me the opportunity to catch up with a growing group of friends I’ve met over the years as part of the free from community. This night is always a real highlight of my year and something I look forward to enormously.

For a full list of winners and runner’s up in each category, please click here.

A couple of photos from the awards party buffet featuring the winner’s products (aka the free from buffet of dreams) with my top picks from the winners in 2016.

– Tesco garlic baguette – Hard to tell this was gluten free, the baguette was so crusty. Even harder to think of this without thinking of the Peter Kay sketch. (Gluten and Dairy free) Garlic? Bread? It’s the future.

(Gluten and dairy free) Garlic? Bread? It's the future

– Oast to Host Quongo (quiche on the go) utterly delicious quiche from this small Kent producer.

gluten free pie

– Hotch Potch pies – Loved this pie from another smaller producer based in Dorset. I’m off to Dorset very soon so will try and track one down.

Hotch Potch Gluten Free Pie

– White Rabbit Pizza – the one that keeps getting away. Not only had this pizza run out by the time I got to the winner’s buffet, each time I’m in Planet Organic (stockists of this pizza) there’s always some reason why I can’t buy it. Being the pizza fiend I am, I need to rectify this pronto.

Gluten Free Pizza

– Nutribix – this breakfast cereal which is the gluten free version of Weetabix was the big winner of the night. Nutribix is made from 96% sourghum, an ancient grain. I haven’t tried this but I will be soon. I’m not keen on eating cereal with milk (lucky, really, in the scheme of things!) so will be trying this with natural yoghurt. On the evening so many people raved about just how great this is, I really need to try.

gluten-free-breakfast-cereal

Image thanks to Nutribix website

– Borough 22 Doughnuts – Special mention to Ryan who managed to keep smiling despite his doughnuts being pipped to the top spot in not just one, but two categories. although highly commended is still a fantastic achievement in these awards.

And, finally, a selfie. This has become something of a tradition for this gang of free from bloggers. It’s blurry, yes, but look at those happy faces. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the great gluten free beers in the bar on the night….

gluten free selfie

Are there new to you products in this list? What do you think of the winners? Any surprises?

Tokyo Trip Planning

Gluten Free Tirp Planning to Tokyo

Finally, ten and a half months after booking the flights we’re on our way to Japan!

My preparation for this trip has been extensive. Not just on the gluten free front, but also the amount of preparation needed to take 2 year old twins on a 12 hour flight to a holiday in Tokyo. Fortunately, there’s nothing I like more than a challenge, particularly when it’s travel related!

This blog is gluten free focused, rather than about travel with kids. However the lines are becoming increasingly blurred since most of our dining and accommodation choices are now based around places suitable for both children and with gluten free options.

During our stay in Japan we’ve rented a house in Tokyo via Airbnb. This makes more sense for us than having two inter connecting hotel rooms since it a) gives everyone more space and b) cooking facilities for all of us. There is a limit to the number of times I can face eating the “safe” meal of steak and green salad ordered on room service. There aren’t many green spaces in Tokyo (compared with London) but we’ll be staying near Yoyogi Park / Shinjuku which will mean plenty of opportunity to view the cherry blossom.

Our plan for this trip is to base ourselves in Tokyo to really explore the city, taking take day trips out of Tokyo from there. The sakura is just starting to blossom (did you know in Japan a cherry blossom forecast is published?) and i’m looking forward to hanami. I’ve found a great looking railway museum (for the inner train geek in me, not just the kids), a very random noodle museum and there may be trip to Tokyo Disney. Not somewhere I’ve ever been before, or probably would go to the US/Eurodisney for but the Japanese Disney could be fun!

I’ve been to Japan before and, beautiful as Kyoto is, I don’t feel I need to return. I’d also like to explore some of the off the beaten track places in the Tokyo area which tourists don’t normally visit when they plan a trip to Japan. I’m looking forward to not racing around the country trying to tick off the major cities stopping for only a couple of days in Tokyo / Kyoto / Osaka / Hiroshima etc (….by the way, I was that person last trip).

If you want to follow my travels in and around Tokyo (and can handle a sakura overload…), I’ll be posting photos on my Instagram account. I’ll still be posting some on Twitter, but will try and keep those to the gluten free finds I will (hopefully!) find.

Things To Do With Kids in Stavanger (in Winter)

Perhaps I’m just an optimist when it comes to visiting new places, but I always believe we’ll find something fun or interesting to see and do wherever we go. Even when the trip is booked less than 36 hours before the flight departs and you’re taking 2 year old twins to Stavanger, Norway. In the middle of winter. Here are the things we enjoyed doing while dodging the biting mid winter wind in Stavanger.

Norwegian Petroleum Museum

Has possibly the coolest kids play zone I’ve ever seen. A mini oil rig complete with helicopter accessible via ladder to which your little ones can climb up and start the blades rotating. Once they’re done with that, there’s a slide and a host of Lego style bricks to hook up and move from a crane. Also provided on a separate table are crayons and paper. Frankly it was hard to coax them away from this and into the museum. But they were in for a treat when they did. A retired control tower awaited them with endless buttons to push and dials to look at. The whole museum is really set up well for kids and adults to enjoy. My son particularly enjoyed the large models of rigs and tankers. Once you’ve paid your entrance fee, you’re able to go back into the museum as much as you like during the rest of that day. Perfect for warming up cold bodies in winter.

Verdict: Easy to spend several hours here (they have a restaurant too) or pop back later in the day.

GeoPark

Located next to the Petroleum museum. This scaled model of the enormous Troll oil field contains all kinds of recycled and reclaimed oil rig equipment. This was originally intended to be a temporary installation but it’s hoped it will remain permanently. Wrap your kids up in snow suits and let them explore.

Verdict: Great for the kids to play in real stuff, just don’t look too closely at the graffiti (thankfully mine were too young to read some of the words)…

Norwegian Canning Factory

I’ve never been to a canning museum before (of any variety, let alone sardines) so this seemed like the perfect place to visit one. The exhibits cover the history of canning and the sardine industry. Long tables are set up on the ground floor where kids (of all ages!) can practice putting plastic sardines into their cans. A surprisingly satisfying activity. Mini D1 attempted to eat most of the plastic fish (niiice) but I couldn’t help wondering how many other museums in the world have put in an order for plastic sardines, sized to fit into sardine cans? Upstairs was a table with plenty of crayons and labels where you were encouraged to make your own sardine can label.

Warning: at the entrance to the museum a large wall of sardine cans (real ones) are stacked, Lego style. My duo couldn’t resist picking them up and moving the flavours around.

Verdict: We arrived 45 minutes before they closed so were time limited on our visit. However this is a fairly compact museum so I’d say it probably wouldn’t hold attention for longer than an hour

Bjergsted Park

We stumbled across this park which hosts many cultural events as well as having a great playground. Probably suited for kids a bit older than my duo (no toddler swings/slide was quite big for 2 year olds) but it’s set in a lovely park and they can run around away from traffic.

General kid related info for Stavanger

– the airport bus into town has (at least) two toddler booster seats

– larger taxis also carry booster seats (our hotel called to order this type of taxi for us)

– I found high chairs everywhere

– It was easy to find (Pampers) nappies, wipes and other baby kit, although a bit pricier than at home meaning you can buy when you arrive rather than lugging with you

– Check on portion sizes when ordering a kids meal, they seemed to be huge and enough to feed two children

– SAFETY whilst Stavanger felt incredibly safe, one thing to note if you have unpredictable walkers bolters like me, is that there is no barrier between the pavement and water in the harbour other than a low railway type sleeper. It was much safer (and more kind on my heart rate) to strap ours into the buggy when walking around near the harbour.

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