Gluten Free Travel: Changes to In-Flight Catering on British Airways

The announcement was finally made this week that British Airways are due to scrap complimentary food and drinks on all short haul flights departing London Heathrow and Gatwick in Economy from 11 January 2017.

Normally I would pay little interest to this for several reasons (not least there’s usually nothing gluten free on offer in Economy) but when I heard they would be selling Marks & Spencer’s food on-board I was intrigued. M&S are delivering some really great gluten free products at the moment, from a wide range of sandwiches, wraps and salads through to sweet options.

I reached out to both M&S and British Airways via Twitter to see what might be on offer for the gluten free traveller next year on BA. I was particularly interested to see if they would offer a savoury option as well as – I imagine – the ubiquitous sweet treat which seems to be the default option for gluten free provision.


I also asked Marks and Spencer what would be on the in-flight menu:



Finally I checked the BA website which states:

“Launching on 11 January, a seasonally inspired ‘M&S on board’ menu will feature a variety of delicious fresh sandwiches, salads, savoury nibbles and sweet treats. There will be a number of healthy eating, gluten-free and vegetarian options to choose from, including many of the popular selections you know and love from this iconic, British high street favourite.”

So far so good, right? Maybe, maybe not.

Here is the list of food options which are published on the BA website as available to buy. And just look at what’s first in the list! The bane of every gluten free flyer, the FRUIT SALAD!

Fresh food

Classic Fruit Salad £3.10

Includes pineapple, melon, mango, apple, kiwi and blueberries.

Yogurt with Summer Berry Compote and Crunchy Granola – £1.95 

Reduced-fat Greek-style yogurt, blackberry and blackcurrant compote and granola with sunflower and pumpkin seeds.

Mature Cheddar Cheese Ploughman’s – £3.00 

Farmhouse cheddar cheese with vine-ripened tomatoes, pickle and lettuce on malted brown bread

Aberdeen Angus Beef and Red Onion Chutney Bloomer – £4.75

Soft onion bloomer with Aberdeen Angus beef, red onion chutney and tangy mustard.

Bacon Roll – £4.75

A soft white, buttered roll filled with succulent smoked British bacon. Served hot.

Mozzarella and Tomato Focaccia – £4.75

Buffalo mozzarella, juicy vine-ripened tomatoes and fragrant basil pesto dressing on pesto focaccia. Served hot.

Spiced Chicken with Quinoa and Rice – £4.95

Spiced chicken with quinoa, rice and a smoky tomato salsa.

Savoury snacks

Oriental Snack Mix – £2.00

Sesame-coated roasted cashew nuts, edamame soybeans, and roasted corn with puffed brown rice all with a soy and five-spice seasoning.

Hand Cooked Crisps – £1.00

Salt and Vinegar, or Lightly Sea Salted.

Nut Assortment – £1.60

A selection of almonds, brazil nuts, cashew nuts and hazelnuts.

Wasabi Peas – £1.60

Roasted green peas with a punchy wasabi flavoured coating.

Something sweet

Percy Pig – £1.85

Soft fruit-flavoured gums made with fruit juice…an M&S classic.

Salted Caramel Hazelnut Millionaire Biscuit – £1.45

Made without wheat and deliciously gluten free.

Chocolate Pretzels and Candy Popcorn – £2.45

Milk chocolate-covered toffee popcorn with popping candy pieces.

Super Nut Fruit and Seed Flapjack – £1.45

Soft, chewy all-butter flapjack.

From the list above of savoury options, perhaps the chicken and quinoa salad will be gluten free, but I’ve been unable to find nutritional information online for this salad so I don’t know. If you’ve seen it in store and know if it is/is not gluten free, please do leave a comment below and I’ll edit this post.

As someone with a nut allergy, I find it interesting they will be actively selling the Nut Assortment on the flights (I’m allergic to 2 of the 4 nuts listed in that pack), in addition to the Oriental Snack Mix which also contains cashew nuts. Is this really necessary to introduce more allergens to the plane when you have a choice not to? For me, this also means that the one listed Made Without Wheat item, Salted Caramel Hazelnut Millionaire Biscuit is off limits for me also (allergic to hazelnuts).

So, what does this mean for the gluten free flyer? Not much change in my view. Either eat at one of the good gluten free options at the airports (there are many options at both London airports e.g., Carluccio’s, Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food, Leon, The Grain Store….) Or take along your own picnic of things you actually like eating. And you’ll probably save some £ too. Which will come in handy since from January BA will be charging £6 for a gin and tonic.

Notes:

  • These changes apply to short haul flights with a flight time under 5 hours
  • Moscow (flight time 4 hours) is NOT included in the upcoming changes
  • The changes apply to flights departing London Heathrow and London Gatwick on British Airways. If you’re flying on BA from Stansted or London City, these changes do not apply
  • This also does not apply to flights in Club Europe where an enhanced in flight meal service is apparently planned (I won’t hold my breath on that one….)

Gluten Free Guide To Italy: Tips and Resources

I have a complete love of Italy. It was the first foreign country I was taken on holiday by my parents, aged 2. It was the country I chose to get married & honeymoon in and later it was the first overseas country we took the twins to on holiday. I’ve spent so much time there it feels so familiar. I never worry about what I’ll eat when I go to Italy because from experience that it will always be good.

In all the trips I’ve taken to parts all over Italy, I’ve learnt a few things which might help in planning a gluten free holiday in Italy:

1. It’s incredibly easy
You’d think with all that gluten-y pizza and pasta it’d be hard to eat safely in Italy but you would be wrong, it’s remarkably straightforward. Catering to coeliac and gluten intolerant diners is just so normal in Italy, it’s truly a breeze. In all the trips I’ve taken, my dietary restrictions have been treated kindly, seriously and most of all with respect. Something which can’t always be said of dining out in the UK.

2. Even if gluten free options aren’t listed on the menu, it’s likely there will be some
All over Italy I’ve discovered that just because it’s not written on the menu, it doesn’t mean they don’t have gluten free options. On the tiny Aeolian island of Salina, I asked and was given this gluten free pizza. It had been made on a shop-bought gluten free base. In Verona we had searched out a great looking gluten free restaurant I’d found online – only to arrive for us to arrive just as the kitchen was closing (for its lunch!). Instead, and with two hangry toddlers, we stumbled into a pleasant looking pizzeria opposite the Roman amphitheatre. With no mention of gluten free options on the menu I expected to order a simple salad for myself. Instead it transpired they did offer gluten free pizzas (even though they were not on the menu) and I thoroughly enjoyed this fabulous pizza, cooked in a foil tray to prevent cross contamination. Lesson of the day: If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

gluten free pizza Verona

3. You don’t need to bring food with you from home
There is absolutely no need to bring gluten free food with you from home for your trip, taking up valuable luggage space. Italian supermarkets will have everything you need. Even a small supermarket in central Turin had this enormous section of gluten free products.

Larger supermarkets and hypermarkets carry a dizzying array of products. I was once so overcome at finding frozen puff pastry in a Tuscan IberCoop I considered making a Millefoglie on my holiday (don’t worry – I snapped out of that one pretty fast!). This was the gluten free food selection found in just one store. Can you see why you don’t need to bring gluten free provisions with you to Italy?

4. Gluten free food can be bought in pharmacies
It’s not only supermarkets, but also pharmacies (farmacia) which carry gluten free food. In my experience the range found in pharmacies varies enormously. For example, on a trip to the Ligurian coast I found a pharmacy in Santa Margherita with a huge range, much larger than stocked in the supermarkets in the area. On the other hand, some pharmacies may only carry a few gluten free biscuits and crackers. Generally they often look like this one in Milan.

gluten free pharmacy italy

Or like this pharmacy in Genoa, they could be an entire shop of gluten free food!

5. Gluten free foods can be purchased on (some) trains
Of the many things I particularly love about Italy, the ease of train travel is high on the list. The train network is fast (or you could opt to take the slow line if you wish!), it takes you easily between city centre to city centre – meaning no need for a car to explore – and gluten free foods are even stocked on some trains. On Frecce (high speed) trains, the AIC has worked with Trenitalia to ensure that two savoury and two sweet gluten free products are stocked on trains. Am I alone in wishing the UK’s train operators would offer a similar service?

gluten Italy train travel

6. You can enjoy your gelato from a gluten free cone
Many (but admittedly not all) gelateria carry gluten free ice cream cones. However, eating from a coppa (cup) is totally normal. If you visit a Grom store which are found all over Italy, their ice creams are mostly all gluten free and they are now also carrying gluten free cones.

gluten free gelato italy

7. Prepare to be pleasantly surprised at every turn
For the twins’ first holiday we rented a villa in beautiful Umbria for two weeks. A pizza evening was included as part of the rental, with pizzas cooked in our villa’s wood fired pizza oven. I explained to the pizza chef about my dietary requirements. She said it would be fine and not to worry. Just in case (and because it’s impossible not to worry when you have food allergies/intolerance), I picked up some pre made gluten free pizza bases from the local supermarket as a back up. Yet what was provided was this….. The gluten free dough had been prepared in a clean kitchen and the pizzas cooked in metal trays to prevent cross contamination. Truly some of the best gluten free pizza I’ve ever eaten. And I’ve eaten a lot. (I wanted to bring Valentina back to London with us). 

8. Separate kitchen exist for the preparation of gluten free food
In some restaurants in Italy (especially pizzerias) a separate and dedicated kitchen may exist specifically for producing gluten free foods in an environment to minimise the risk of cross contamination as much as possible. I’m not aware of this type of separate kitchen set up occurring outside of Italy, except in rare cases. In addition, many of the gluten free pizzas I’ve had in Italy (including those show in this post) have been cooked in foil trays to prevent cross contamination in the pizza ovens.

9. The AIC (Italian Coeliac Association) website is open to use by non-members
Unlike other databases for Coeliacs (including Coeliac UK’s and the French Association Française Des Intolérants Au Gluten), the AIC generously provides open access to the restaurants listed within its database to non members. By clicking here you can search by town/region for restaurants trained and monitored (at least once a year) by the AIC. There are currently over 4,000 venues listed! . If you would like to use the AIC’s mobile app, full instructions on how to gain access – in English – are provided on this page.

And again exceeding expectations, this database even includes the name of the person at each venue who is responsible for gluten free food.

If there were one thing I wish about travelling in Italy, it’s that I wish my Italian language skills were better than the somewhat rudimentary level they currently are. But really I think the only way to solve this would be an extended stay spent living somewhere between Florence (and all its artistic gems) and the rolling hills of Tuscany or Umbria. I can almost taste the wine and freshest foods and I’d be eating….

Useful resources for gluten free travel to Italy
• You can find all of my gluten free posts on Italy here. I haven’t blogged about all the places I’ve visited so please do feel free to leave a comment below or email me if you have specific questions and I’ll help if I can.
• Essential phrases in Italian are:
o senza glutine = gluten free
o io sono coeliaco/a = I’m coeliac (m/f)
o sono intollerante al glutine = I’m intolerant to gluten
• It’s usually easy to find Schär gluten free products in Italy and they have a huge range of savoury and sweet options. But there are many brands offering gluten free products. Of these, some of my favourites are La Veneziane for authentic tasting gluten free pasta. Almost all supermarkets of any size I’ve visited in Italy carry the Galbusera Zero Grano range of savoury crackers and plain biscuits. Recently I’ve discovered the Barilla Mulino Bianco Rosemary crackers, perfect with some parma ham and Gorgonzola cheese. The COOP supermarket chain has its own gluten free range including gluten free cornettos.
• Gluten free beer can be found in most supermarkets, even smaller ones in town centres. It’s usually found in with the regular beers. The beers I’ve most often found are gluten free Daura and Peroni.
• As well as the AIC website, I like to use the Mangiare Senza Glutine website and app to find gluten free restaurants. I find this incredibly useful as it can search for suitable places near to your location on a map, plus it has reviews and users can add photos to the app of the foods eaten. You can even add your favourites to the app for future reference.
• Also useful is http://www.ristorantiperceliaci.net/ and http://www.pizzerieperceliaci.net/ (they also have an app)
• Just outside Rome is Relais Borgo Gentile. It’s owned by a registered dietitian and the whole menu is entirely gluten free, with other dietary restrictions accommodated also. I haven’t stayed here but Amy has and thought it was marvellous. I follow them on Facebook and the food and accommodation looks stunning (just take a look!).
• For a comprehensive guide to Italy, including a translation card and list of foods to eat and foods to avoid in Italy, Jodi’s Legal Nomad’s guide is very useful

Have you been to Italy? What surprised you about your trip? What was the best gluten free meal you ate there?

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Gluten Free Guide To Italy

A Summer Update

It’s been a busy year so far in the D household. Aside from the usual working parent challenges, I studied for and – thankfully – passed a professional qualification earlier this year. It was a huge overhead in terms of study for 6 months+. No sooner had I got through that, I became super busy at work for the last few months on a project. Consequently, not much time for blogging recently.

2016 – where have we been so far?
We didn’t plan for it to be the case but so far 2016 is really shaping up to be the year of travel. So far this year we’ve been to:

– weekend in Stavanger, Norway
– weekend in Bergen, Norway
– weekend in Innsbruck, Austria
– long bank holiday weekend in the Dorset countryside
– day trip to France (the never-used car needed a run and the wine cellar needed restocking)
– weekend on the Isle of Wight
– two weeks in Japan (based in Tokyo)
– weekend in Verona (with day trips to Venice and Lake Garda), Italy
– weekend in Turin, Italy

In a couple of weeks we’re going to the Dordogne, France. I’ll be looking forward to checking out the gluten free food options in France. Last year I found a seismic difference between what’s on offer in Paris for the gluten intolerant traveller and what’s available in the rest of France.

Finally, at the end of the year we’re going to Australia for 3 weeks and I can’t wait for a warm Christmas on the beach! If you have any recommendations for Brisbane, Sydney and Noosa, please do let me know in the comments below.

It almost feels like our travel schedule pre-kids…!

A blog makeover (again…)
Over Christmas I decided to spring clean my blog’s theme. Since I began writing this blog I’d been using a theme on Headway which had been super customisable and I’d been very happy with it. But around the time the twins were born, Headway changed to a new version, without providing an upgrade path which meant I was left either having to totally rebuild the site myself or leaving the blog on an unsupported platform.

Seeking a simple option to resolve, I chose and installed a free WP theme. Big mistake, huge! In one quick theme change I totally destroyed the SEO on this site. I’m still not entirely clear what I did but it all started with un-indexing it and just continued to get worse from there on. Lesson learned; don’t try this unless you know what you’re doing. And to make matters worse, since installing the new WP theme I had not even been happy with the way it looks.

Having been pondering changing the theme (again) I’ve noticed that the blogs I find most pleasing in terms of layout are all made by pipdig. When I discovered as part of the pipdig theme purchase, they also offer an installation service with email support, I was sold. It’s early days but so far I’m really pleased with how it looks and the customisation features under the hood are like the Headway theme that I liked so much. Much to my delight I’ve even got the header image back from the Headway theme! I’ve been really impressed with the customer service too, definitely recommend if you’re considering a blog theme change.

Gluten Free Update
So far this year I’ve discovered a few gluten free gems in London; Manna Dew (not far from me in Battersea), Andina (truly delicious Peruvian with unexpectedly excellent allergy menus) and gluten & nut free afternoon tea at the Lanesborough Hotel being the stand out highlights so far in 2016.

Another recent development has been Ocado finally stocking the Scandinavian gluten free brand, Fria. I’ve been buying their burger buns and seeded high fibre loaves, perfect as they’re kept in the freezer so less wastage.  The overseas trips have been mixed, to say the least. Italy always delivers on the gluten free eating front (I even found gluten free Peroni!) yet Japan was the polar opposite of Italy and was as challenging on both the gluten free as well as the nut free front.

gluten free Peroni beer

Meanwhile in twinland…
The mini Ds have just turned 3. They seem so grown up all of a sudden. While on the longest, darkest days of utter exhaustion I’ve often wondered just when exactly things would get easier, I’ll never forget how lucky I am to have two small people to go exploring (near and far) with.

Gluten Free Birthday Cake

What’s next on the blog
I have a few almost finished posts which have been sitting in my drafts folder for a while. These cover Japan, Bergen, Italy and some kid related posts. I’m aiming to finish them off and post one a week for the next month or so and then take it from there.

Gluten Free Pub: The Stag On The River, Surrey

Mr D’s parents live on the Isle of Wight and for quite some time we’d noticed that their journey up to visit us in London was suddenly taking an inordinately long time. What, we wondered, could possibly be the reason?

After some investigation, we discovered the reason was a lunch stop en route at a beautiful village pub just off the A3 nar Goldalming; The Stag on The River.

The Stag On The River, Eashing

After hearing such high praise about The Stag, we decided to meet them half way and have lunch together. I didn’t have any expectations in advance on the gluten free front so when I checked the menu online and discovered they had a whole gluten free menu, I was, er, staggered. Ahem.

We visited in March but you can see the currrent summer menu here – it’s quite similar.

Just look at the gluten free choicces! Plenty of choice in tasty pub food options.

The Stag On The River Menu

Gluten free garlic and parmesan toast. I have never seen this on a menu before and despite the fact I didn’t need it, I felt it was my duty to try it. Plus I was sure the mini Ds might give it a try.

garlic and parmesan gluten free toast

I went for the classic Stag burger on gluten free bun.

The Classic Stag burger and potatoes

You’ll notice this comes with roast new potatoes.

Classic Stag burger

On the one hand it’s a shame they can’t offer gluten free chips. But on the other, I’m glad they don’t take chances with cross contamination on the chips if they don’t have a separate dedicated fryer.

I didn’t have room for a pudding but if I did I suspect the Banoffee Pie would have my name on it.

The pub itself is located in a small village. It enjoys a lovely garden right next to the river. The only draw back for us was that there were no parking spaces either in the pub’s car park or on the village road side. Perhaps this was unusual – parking has not been a problem for my parents in law but just to highlight this as travel by car is the only way to reach the Stag.

Inside the pub the décor is country but with a modern feel. I could quite happily settle down with a glass of red and the Sunday papers in this window seat. Although not part of a chain, The Stag is part of a collection of pubs in the Surrey / Hampshire area. It’s worth looking at the list of other pubs here in case there’s one near to you. I understand they all have gluten free menus also.

The Stag On The Riiver

In all, the quality of the food, the fantastic gluten free menu and the super friendly service make this a great pub to visit if you’re in the Surrey area.

Website: The Stag On The River
Location: Lower Eashing Lane, Eashing, Surrey, GU7 2QG
Would I go back?: I’m looking forward to a return visit soon.

Gluten Free Italy: Ae Oche Pizza, Venice

There are many things that I love about life in Italy (it’s not all about pizzas and gelato! Oh, wait…) but train travel within Italy is so efficient that staying in one place and then exploring other places in the local-ish area by train is very easy.

And so it was that on our recent trip to Verona we decided to head to Venice. I’ve been to Venice a number of times before. Our most recent visit to this unique city was on honeymoon when we caught that train back to London from Venice’s Santa Lucia station. For the record, they provided amazing gluten free meals for me on board the Orient Express, including gluten free afternoon tea. So it was quite exciting to arrive back into the same station, but this time with the mini Ds.

gluten free Venice

Since we were travelling with the double buggy, Venice has 409 bridges and one of the mini Ds has Bear Grylls levels of adventurousness when freed from the buggy (no chance in Venice, young lady) we were somewhat limited in our explorations to the Cannareggio area. This suited the Mini Ds just fine as they couldn’t have been more excited to wave excitedly at the people travelling along the canals in boats, taxis and gondolas (giving me an excuse to wave away too!).

We’d arrived into the city at lunchtime and a random internet search on the train to Venice had uncovered a pizzeria near to Santa Lucia which offered gluten free pizza.

From the outside Pizzeria Ae Oche wasn’t somewhere I’d usually choose with its sports TV and lots of American memorabilia on the walls. But it seemed kid friendly, they had gluten free pizza and Venice was hot and heaving with tourists that Saturday. We headed in.

Ae Oche Pizzeria Venice

Sitting on the next table to us were a group of Venetian gondoliers enjoying their lunch, resplendent in their black and white striped t-shirts which somewhat offset the feeling I could be somewhere in the US from the décor inside.

The gluten free pizza selection was huge.

I chose Gorgonzola with ham, my usual pizza of choice.

Gluten free pizza Venice

Verdict? I thought the topping was just right. You’ll note the pizza didn’t have a great deal of tomato sauce. I think its absence resulted in the base being more crunchy, than thin and crispy albeit perfectly acceptable nonetheless. Whilst the pizza itself was okay, the service was incredibly slow, despite us arriving after the main lunchtime rush when they were less busy.

Because even in beautiful Venice the washing needs to get done...

Because even in beautiful Venice the washing needs to get done…

Location: Venezia S. Lucia, Cannareggio, 158/A, 30100 Venezia (VE) Italy
Cost: Under EUR 50 for 2 adult pizzas (one gluten free) and 2 childrens meals with (non-alcoholic) drinks
Would I go back: Maybe, if I were in the Santa Lucia station area. Ae Oche have several restaurants in the Venice area.

Have you been to Venice? Could you recommend a good place for gluten free pizza? If so, please do leave a comment below. I’d love to return to Venice soon.

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ae oche pizzeria

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.
Gluten Free Pizza Lake Garda Italy

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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bella vista pizza pinterest