Carluccio’s: Bellissimo Gluten Free Pasta

Carluccio’s for lunch today. I’m a big fan of all things Italian (even getting married there!) but I’ve walked passed Carluccio’s Italian restaurants many times looking in wistfully at the fabulous pasta, foccacia and cakes on offer but never going in.

That is until I was trying to find somewhere suitable to have a weekday lunch with my Mum who fancied lunch and a shopping trip to Canary Wharf.

Since I went fully gluten free at the start of the year, I’ve taken to emailing restaurants in advance to find out what my food options are. I must say this has brought mixed results. Some have provided very detailed and clear responses (Wahaca) and some less so. One, the dim sum place Ping Pong, has yet to reply to my emails requesting details of their gluten free menu options, despite several chasers from me. I guess the absence of a response signals there are limited or no options available?!

Anyway, back to Carluccio’s. Their reply to my query submitted through their website was almost instantaneous. A friendly email back with gluten free menu attached. Yep, a whole menu of yummy safe food to eat!

When I arrived at the restaurant I explained to the waiter that I couldn’t eat gluten and asked to see the gluten free menu. Quick as a flash our friendly waiter returned with no less than a special laminated menu, all gluten free.

I went for the Puttanesca pasta which the menu described as gluten free corn flour pasta served with a “traditional spicy sauce of tomatoes, olives, capers and anchovies.”

When it arrived, it looked like this (after the waiter added Parmesan):

How did it taste? One word. Amazing. Although I didn’t go fully gluten free until a few months ago, I cut standard forms of gluten containing food from my diet many years ago. As I savoured each mouthful of my delicious lunch, I tried to remember the last time I had ordered pasta in a restaurant. In truth, I can’t remember a time in the last 10 years. Indeed, so good did the pasta taste that I had to double check with the kitchen they had given me the GF dish and not the regular pasta by mistake. That’s how good it tasted. The Puttanesca sauce was deliciously tomato-y with a little spicyness and the olives, capers and anchovies gave the sauce real depth in flavour. The other thing I really liked was that there was plenty of sauce. Not so much sauce the pasta drowned, but enough that each fork full of pasta could be happily coated in the tomato-tastic sauce.

When I contacted Carluccio’s Head Office before my visit, I was advised they’d introduced their gluten free menu following public demand 2 years ago. Wouldn’t it be fantastico if more restaurants listened to customers and provided a product not just to meet demand, but one which truly exceeds expectations?

Carluccio’s, ti amo, you have a new loyal customer in me. I can’t wait to go back soon and try more on their gluten free menu.

Surprising Items Labelled as Gluten Free: Branston Pickle

So today’s post was supposed to be about the Mexican restaurant Wahaca. I officially *heart* Wahaca and had been looking forward all morning (or in all honesty the whole 2 weeks since I made the plans) to lunch there with a friend. When we arrived eagerly anticipating a Mexican feast, we were shocked to discover a problem with the water in East London had forced closure of the restaurant. What a nightmare!! We’ll be meeting up again in a couple of weeks so my post about their fab food and very helpful mails on their Coeliac friendly food will have to wait.

Instead, today’s post is about items of of food which surprise me when I see their labelling as gluten free.

Branston Pickle.

I was rifling through the fridge earlier and noticed the back label on Branston Pickle stated “suitable for a gluten free diet”. Not sure why I find this surprising, and clearly it’s great, but it got me thinking. For items like GF bread, pasta or biscuits which are made as specific alternatives to food products, labelling them as gluten free is clearly a requirement. It’s the point of the product.

But who decides for products like Branston pickle which I wouldn’t necessarily associate with gluten? How and why do producers decide to change their labelling? Are food producers listening to the growing gluten free market and updating their labelling as a result?

Comments very welcome!

Gluten Free Mrs D

Gluten Free Mrs D goes to…the Isle of Wight

Isle of Wight this weekend. Bit of a flying visit to the in laws to see them and pick up our wetsuits for a surfing weekend we have coming up soon.

We set off early from London on Saturday, getting up even earlier than I would for work. No time for breakfast in the rush to leave so by the time we arrived quayside in Portsmouth, I was in need of sustenance.

Went into the ferry terminal’s shop with hopes not high. As usual, hot counters full of sausage rolls, burgers and bacon butties. Just as I resigned myself to having a black coffee only (they make a surprisingly good one in there) I spotted my new friend, Mrs Crimbles. Yay! Two varieties on offer, giant chocolate macaroon or a coconut jam ring. Settled for the macaroon.

How did it taste? Moist, dense, coconutty….and very sugary. Closer inspection of the contents label revealed the largest ingredient was sugar (no quantity given) and the second was coconut at 29% so the sugar percentage was at least equal to or greater than 29%. The label also advised the 70g Mrs Crimbles macaroon contained 314 calories and 15.4g fat. Phew. This seems like a lot for a macaroon?

Luckily for my (non-GF) husband, I couldn’t eat it all so he tried some and gave it a definite thumbs up.

When we got onboard the ferry, I noticed the ship’s food/drink outlet also had a basket of the 2 Mrs Crimbles alongside the more traditional offerings of buscuits and Scottish shortbread.

Despite the sugar overload I enjoyed my Mrs Crimbles Giant Chocolate Macaroon, I just wouldn’t/couldn’t eat a whole one.

One final point, I’d like to salute Wightlink for providing gluten free options in both the quayside ferry kiosk and onboard their ship. It may be sugary and the choice limited in comparison with the ‘normal’ options but it’s a start, and one which other similar companies should be introducing.

Gluten Free Mrs D

Gluten Free Bread Part 2: Mrs Crimbles

So how did Mrs Crimbles measure up in the GF bread challenge?

I bought the Mrs Crimbles loaf with ground flaxseed and linseed.

Certainly looks good:

I sliced it for toast and you can see the linseed & flaxseed in this shot.

I really loved this bread. The texture was excellent, not at all crumbly. The linseed / flaxseed in the bread added weight which the Genius didn’t have. What I also really liked was that the bread was quite dense so the butter and Marmite I put on top didn’t seep through to the plate.

For toast, this bread was perfect.

I found the 2 slices I had for breakfast managed to keep me going until lunchtime, in a way that only porridge used to in my pre-GF life.

Mrs Crimbles, GF breadtastic!

Gluten Free Mrs D