Warburton’s: Another Fail…

Ever the optimist, I decided to give Warburton’s another go after trying their gluten free white rolls. You can read my review here.

My local Waitrose has taken to stocking the Warburton’s gluten free white and brown sliced loaves in place of their usual stock of Genius bread. So I decided to pick up a sliced brown loaf and try.

What a let down!

The bread had some kind of air pocket in the top of the loaf which meant that each slice was impossible to remove from the loaf. The top disintegrated and detached from the rest of the loaf.

These are the ONLY 2 slices from the whole loaf I managed to remove from the packet with some possibility of eating.

I have never written a complaint letter before. Normally I just chalk these things up to experience but this time I was so annoyed a company could sell a product in this state, I decided to write to Warburtons. I don’t work in the manufacturing industry but I would have thought it’d be usual to have a quality control function ensuring consistently high standards are met? I can only assume Warburtons are not doing this since I have seen so much traffic of gluten free blogs and Twitter about exactly the same problem as I experienced with the Warburton’s loaf.

I sent a message online about the poor quality of the gluten free bread via the Warburtons website contact form as I could not find an email address or telephone number on their website to contact them directly. After a couple of weeks they emailed me back and thanked me for bringing the matter to their attention and requesting my address so that they could send me some vouchers as compensation. In the letter I later received Warburton’s said, “This matter has been reported to your local bakery and will be thoroughly investigated.” Umm.. “YOUR local bakery”?? The Warburton’s website states they have a dedicated bakery specifically for baking their wheat and gluten free goods? So looks like they sent me a standard response! They did also send me 5 x £1 off vouchers but at the moment I am unlikely to be buying any more Warburton’s gluten free bread.

The frustrating thing is that the Warburtons loaf actually tasted really good. But what’s the point of having a good tasting bread if you can’t get it out from the packet because it disintegrates so completely? Luckily the vouchers until 2013 so perhaps Warburtons will have sorted their air pocket issues by then.

 

Pão de queijo: Naturally Gluten Free Brazillian Cheese Bread

Pão de queijo is a Brazillian cheese bread which is naturally gluten free. On the TAM flight out to Argentina, the Brazilian air stewardess who delivered my gluten free meal told me she suffered with a gluten intolerance and helpfully told me I should look out for the naturally gluten free Pão de queijo.  She said it would be available all over Brazil.

Pão de queijo is made from tapioca flour, milk, cheese, eggs, butter or oil. The dough is then baked in the over in small balls. It’s eaten as an appetiser or as a snack.

The little balls look a bit like cheesey profiteroles!

It’s different to other breads in that it doesn’t require leavening. Instead, small pockets of air form in the little balls as they are baked in the oven.

So how does it taste? Well, the ones I tried were seriously cheesey. Think very strong Parmesan and you’re in the right region. I liked the texture and taste very much, especially with a glass of red wine.

Although the Pão de queijo was available all over Brazil, I was quite cautious in trying it. I didn’t want to take any chances and used my Coeliac Travel cards to check if it was gluten free. Unfortunately using the cards and asking if the bread contains ‘flour’ was always met with a confirmation it did. It was only at the end of the holiday while at Rio airport did I find someone who spoke excellent English and he confirmed that yes it contained flour, but it was the gluten free tapioca flour. The Portuguese for tapioca flour is “polvilho”. If I go back to Brazil, I would be more specific and ask if it only contained this type of flour.

Brazil: A Gluten Free Trip Report

Having viewed Iguazu falls from the Argentine side (less crowded and better walkways) we moved on to Brazil. The falls from the Brazilian side were hugely impressive – and if you go to Iguazu you have to do both – but for me the Brazilian side did have a touch of the Disney about it. A couple of photos, although it really is impossible to capture in a photo the true scale of Iguazu, the deafening sound of the water or the seriously high humidity. My advice? Take a towel and some dry clothes to change into after viewing from the Brazilian side!

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Brazil. Land of football, tiny bikinis and….more meat. I mean the animal kind. Oh yes, after Argentina this was another carnivore’s dream.

Luckily I was still in the mood for steak so that meant dining in the ubiquitous Churrascaria, the Brazilian steakhouses. These were a great option to dine gluten free. They offered salad bars with many different options such as salad ingredients (lettuce, tomatoes, corn, olives etc), rice salads, shellfish……You can help yourself to whatever you like. There were also some prepared dishes (seemed to be curries etc) but I didn’t want to take any chances and anyway, the meat was enough for me! The churrascarias we visited offered an all in price for the meat and salad bar.

The meat is served by passadores who come to your table with great skewers of meat which have been cooked on the barbecue and slice off chunks onto your plate. I was told the meat was prepared with a rub of salt. We lost count of the different types of meat but beef, pork, chicken, lamb were offered. Sausages also did the rounds but I avoided them just in case they contained gluten.

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As well as the meat, a variety of chips, cassava and banana (!) accompanied the meal. I didn’t try the latter by the way.

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Now Brazil presented me with something of a conundrum. Every item of food and drink was labelled to state whether it did / did not contain gluten. CONTÉM GLÚTEN or NÃO CONTÉM GLÚTEN was written in nice big, clear writing on absolutely everything in Brazil. Such as on this bottle of mineral water….

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You would think this comprehensive labeling would ensure the population would have some understanding of coeliac disease, right?  Wrong. Almost no one knew what gluten was and why it was labelled on their food and drink! Even with my Coeliac Travel cards, I felt the wait staff didn’t understand at all what I was asking. On most occasions the cards were taken into the chef to see if he knew what it all meant. In one restaurant in Buzios, the waitress spoke perfect English but admitted she had no clue whatsoever what gluten was and when I showed her the note on the water bottle she said she’d never thought about what it meant. It was quite astonishing. Why bother going to such lengths of labeling food and drink if no one knows what it means?

Perhaps I had a series of bad experiences but I would recommend that if you travel to Brazil you take the Coeliac Travel cards and are cautious in what you eat. I wasn’t confident that any menu items would be accurately adjusted to be gluten free as they could be at home. I wasn’t ill while I was away but I stuck to naturally occurring gluten free food items such as grilled meat, fish and salads.

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Argentina: A Gluten Free Trip Report

For Christmas and New Year, Mr D and I decided to escape the snow and cold of London for sunny Argentina and Brazil. This wasn’t our first trip to Argentina. In 2007 we spent a couple of weeks on a trip flying into Santiago, flying down to Tierra del Fuego, going on to trek the ‘W’ in Patagonia before heading on to Buenos Aires. I don’t know if it’s the eclectic architectural styles of the city, the passionate buzz or just the sweet joy of Dulce de Leche but I love Buenos Aires. So I was pretty excited to be heading back to B.A.

For this trip, we left London on Christmas Eve, flying on TAM with a brief stop to change planes in Sao Paulo. We arrived in Buenos Aires on Christmas Day and were met with heat and blue skies. Just what we were looking for. Arriving on Christmas Day also meant something else. Christmas dinner would be melt in the mouth Bife de Lomo and a glass of Malbec. Christmas dinner doesn’t get much better than this!

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If you’re vegetarian, you might want to stop reading this now. Argentina really is a meat lovers paradise. I’ll be honest and say I was so into choosing my steak, I didn’t consider what vegetarian options were available. Very naughty since I was veggie for a long time. Of the cuts of beef I sampled, the tender Bife de Lomo gets my vote. The photo of my Christmas lunch is quite indicative of the way steak was served in most restaurants….with egg (or not if you’d prefer) and some fried potatoes. I used my trusty Coeliac Travel cards to check the potatoes were not coated in flour (they weren’t) and the meat was usually grilled on a parrilla or barbecue style grill.

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I found eating gluten free in Buenos Aires – and later Iguazu – easy although I focused mainly on steaks and adapting menu items to remove items containing gluten such as sauces from the meal, much like I would at home. The Coeliac Travel cards helped as always. I even managed to find an ice cream shop in Buenos Aires with a nutritional book which indicated which of their ice creams were gluten free! You can check out the Freddo ice cream shop website here. And yes, you can have gluten free Dulce de Leche ice cream!

There were plenty of gluten free snacks available. I loved these rice sandwich bars (various flavours, Dulce de Leche was my favourite) were easy to find.

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These high fibre, zero cholesterol quinoa and prune bars made by Nature Crops were really tasty and wholesome, standing up well to a day of sightseeing in the heat while inside my day sac.

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When you’re in Argentina look out for gluten free products labelled as ‘Sin T.A.C.C” or “Libre de Gluten”. The Spanish translation of T.A.C.C. means Trigo (wheat), Aveno (oats), Cebada (barley) and Centeno (Rye). They are also labelled with a crossed grain symbol (which you can see in both of the photos above) making the gluten free items easy to spot on a store shelf.

Highly recommended while in Buenos Aires is a trip to the Dietetica 100% Natural stores which can be found all over Buenos Aires. They have a huge selection of gluten free items. The store in Alto Palermo even stocks a gluten free version that very Argentinian snack, the empanada.

After leaving Buenos Aires we flew up to the mighty Iguazu Falls. I’ll end this blog post with a photo of the falls on the Argentine side of Iguazu. The force of nature pushing the water over the falls was something quite incredible and emotionally overwhelming.