Went – Ate – Loved: May 2017

Went
To Madrid. The weekend trip we’d previously postponed finally happened and we flew on the new BA 767 service there and back. Thanks to an air miles redemption, we flew in a great deal of comfort in the long haul flat beds for little cost. The meal served on the return flight was quite possibly the prettiest I’ve ever seen for a gluten free meal with its edible flowers! I do, however, suspect I was served only part of the meal.

gluten free meal british airways club europe

Sadly our trusty (I’m calling it that now) red double buggy took a direct hit from something large or heavy on the flight to Madrid and one of the metal arms was completely snapped.

The boneshaker of a contraption has been all over the world (Mr D’s teeth are still chattering from pushing it over the cobblestones in Gothenburg) but it was finally broken by Madrid.

All credit to the Iberia ground staff at Madrid airport who started the damage claim and BA’s UK agent who arranged for a replacement to be delivered to our house 3 days later. However, it did mean we were without a buggy in Madrid and the kids had been up since 3.30am to get to the airport (I had been expecting them to have a siesta in the buggy while we found a bar to pass an hour in)….luckily our hotel had a spare single buggy to lend us. But we cracked the next day as we passed an El Corte Ingles and bought another spare single for the princely sum of €59! Bargain. With both kids now in single buggies we were able to do an extra hour of walking at a speedy pace – Mr D & I like to walk.

While we were in Madrid we went to the Zoo. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about zoos. The Zoo in Madrid has every type of animal you could ever want to see (I saw pandas for the first time!) and for my animal mad children, it was heaven. But the cramped conditions of some of the enclosures made me feel a bit uncomfortable. I managed to push this out of my head until, just as we were leaving, we came to the kangaroos. My son, wise beyond his 3 years, asked me “Why are the kangaroos in a cage mummy? They live in Australia”. Well, quite.

May also saw the first trip to the ballet with the twingos to see the Northern Ballet’s production of Goldilocks and the Three Bears at Sadler’s Wells. They (both) do ballet classes at their nursery and love it. I can remember as a child how spine-tingly excited I’d get when I was taken to the Royal Opera House to watch the ballet, usually at Christmas, and I am really looking forward to be able to take them – but they need to be 5 to go to ROH.

Ate

A real highlight for me on the Madrid trip was that I managed to visit not just one, but two gluten free bakeries in Madrid.

Sana Locura gluten free bakery Madrid

You can read my review here of the Sana Locura 100% gluten free bakery.

We also stumbled across Celicioso, another 100% gluten free bakery in Madrid.

Since I was in Madrid for a weekend I wouldn’t claim to write the ultimate guide to gluten free Madrid or some such (how is that possible after only a few days in a place?) so I’ve added a couple of links in the post to people who know far more than me about gluten free Madrid.

Loved

I’ve loved exploring a bit more of London this month. On the first May Bank Holiday we did one of my favourite trips for tourists; Tube from where we live in SW London to Greenwich, the Emirates Air Line cable car across the Thames, DLR to Canary Wharf (front seat of the train, naturally!) and then picked up a Thames Clipper to Waterloo from where we took the overland train home. If you’re planning a trip to London, all these parts of the journey were taken on public transport, using an Oyster card. You don’t need to pay to go on expensive sightseeing tours when you come to London!

A super day out exploring the city we live in was topped by a lunch at Wagamama where I was taken care of extremely well and the kids loved their meals. I’ve not been to Wagamama for a number of years as I’d been ill several times after eating there. They’ve recently changed their processes and the manager is now in charge of taking orders from diners with allergies.

The gluten free menu at Wagamama. Note there are as many desserts on this menu as starters and mains combined…

On this, and a subsequent visit to Wagamama on a day out up to Hampstead Heath / Regent’s Park (where once again the new processes were in place), we all ate happily at Wagamama and there were no after effects for me. Hurrah!

Blog posts I’ve loved reading this month 

I think May has been a bumper month for interesting and well written blog posts. It’s been a real struggle not to list all the posts I’ve bookmarked this month. However, if I were to pick the best of the best, it would be this post by Kelly on practical travel tips for Moscow. You can read a further post on the Novodovichy monastery here. Both posts also contain some great photographs of one of my favourite cities.

I also loved this post by Amy on gluten free dining options in Maui. I didn’t visit Maui on our trip to Hawaii but having read this, I would now love to.

I’ve been pondering a return to Vienna for a while (but perhaps in summer next time!) and this post by The Sightseeing Coeliac has some great options for gluten free meals in Vienna.

Finally this post on the tricks and fakery of Instagram. Whilst I do really enjoy Instagram and get a lot of tips and info from it, I definitely see plenty of accounts – sometimes I’m surprised at who – who are clearly buying followers or comments. I just think it’s a bit sad.

Went – Ate – Loved: April 2017

Went
….in to hospital to have all 4 of my wisdom teeth taken out under general anaesthetic. The recovery has been long, slow, painful and complicated. On the upside the medications I was put on to control the pain knocked me out and I spent several days sleeping, something I haven’t done for quite some time!

Gluten free hospital meal

In fact this wasn’t the only hospital trip of the month. Early in April my daughter had a severe allergic reaction to substance unknown. She has no known allergies and this has never happened to her before. We’d initially thought it was a nettle sting as she’d been playing over on the Common that afternoon and initially the rash was small so I’d picked up some anti histamine on the way home. However, by the time I got home from work it appeared the reaction was getting worse; her whole body was covered in hives and her lips and tongue were swelling. I called 111 for advice on whether to give the anti histamine immediately or seek further medical assistance. but it was decided an ambulance would be sent for her. The paramedics gave the anti histamine which worked a treat and after a few hours in A&E we were discharged with instructions to take her to the hospital allergy clinic.

We were very lucky to get an appointment the following week with an excellent paediatric allergy consultant for further investigation. It was such a mystery as she hadn’t eaten anything new or different that day.

The consultant had told us before performing her skin prick tests that he suspected it was not food / pollen / dust etc related. He was right – they all came back negative. What a relief!

So what caused it? The consultant explained that sometimes the body can have an immune response to a virus. She’d had the norovirus the previous week so it would seem that was the cause.

I had no idea before this episode that this could even happen or result in such a severe allergic reaction. Every medical professional who saw her that night had thought it was food allergy related.

Another reminder to always take qualified medical advice if you suspect your child or you have an allergy. And don’t remove anything from their/your diet unless a medical professional advises you to do this and supervises the progress.

By the end of the month my itchy feet had contracted a bad case of cabin fever. This led to one of the most random travel days I’ve had in a while when I had to cancel not one, but two flights, within the space of an hour. The first flight had been for 3 nights in Madrid which I’d booked the previous week using air miles. Having checked the weather forecast for the Bank Holiday weekend, it turned out that the rain in Spain falls mainly in Madrid. Not fancying the prospect of finding 3 days of activities in Madrid which would see the twingos spend most of it either inside or in a buggy, under a rain cover, we were able to cancel the flights for minimal cost. The hotel and Heathrow parking costs were also fully refundable – it pays sometimes to take the refundable option.

This left us with no plans for the Bank holiday. Another Avios redemption search found flights to Hamburg, a city I’ve never visited but have always been interested to explore. Mr D was in charge of booking the flights. When I saw they were booked and in my BA app I noticed he’d accidentally booked the return for the same day as the outward flight. Cue phone call number two to BA! Unfortunately there was no availability on the return date we wanted from Hamburg so these flights were also cancelled and Hamburg will have to wait…

Ate
A lot of soup and frozen yoghurt. And more than a few choc ices.

Loved
I don’t know if this is true for all parents but one of the first things parents of very young twins ask each when they first meet is when exactly will things get easier? When you’re exhausted to a level you never knew could possibly exist, it’s important to know there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Sometime? Maybe? Please?

Well, April 2017 when the twins were 3 years and 9 months old seems to be a breakthrough. Mr D managed to read his subscription of the Economist sitting in the garden in the sunshine during the week it was mailed to him. I replied to emails (good), did a lot of internet shopping (less good) and searched for weekend break destinations (exciting) all in daylight hours! The way things are going, I may actually buy myself a magazine and read it while the kids play. I’d better not push my luck by attempting to read a whole book just yet…

When having twins pays off - and girl power

              When having twins pays off

April was also primary school decision day. This has been a major stress in our lives since we bought our house and discovered that, thanks to the tiny school catchment areas where we live, we had been outside of catchment for any of the local state schools in that year. So we were thrilled when the kids received offers to our first choice school.  Even if I think at 4 years & 5 weeks old when they start in Reception that it’s too young, at least they’re going to a school we like.

Since my recovery took a while from the anaesthetic, I managed to keep up with blog posts. I enjoyed these posts in April in particular:

I am always more than a little bit in awe of both Carly’s photography skills and her baking ability. I loved this post in which she’s shared her best free from baking recipes:

My go-to free from recipes for cakes & biscuits

I love this post on eating gluten free in Paris by Lisa who lives in Paris and shares her gluten free recipes as well as her sans gluten finds in France.

We’re off to Milan in June and this trip will be with Mr D’s parents. I’ve been to Milan a number of times before but this post is a good reminder on what to see and more specifically eat and drink in Milan!

And finally, a post which really made me think. Rachel has been documenting her very recent emigration to Australia. Having lived abroad myself (in Russia) I found this post on expat stories shared by Rachel’s friends fascinating and I agreed with so many of the points raised, especially the reverse culture shock I experienced when I came back to live in London.

Went – Ate – Loved: March 2017

Went

March was a quiet month for international travel. Having already taken 9 flights in the first 2 months of the year, I can’t say I was too unhappy about having a more relaxed month.

If I had to describe March in one word it would be: Sickness. And on top of this I had to struggle through the sickness whilst still working on an intense project.  I spent half the month suffering with a throat infection and then just I recovered from that, the whole house went down like dominoes with the Norovirus. The sickness of March will not be missed. But in the end I was glad we didn’t have any trips planned as no one was completely well at any point in the month.

Ate

March, however, did treat me to a number of gluten free eating highlights!

At the start of March I attended a supper club hosted by the herb and spice producers, Schwartz, at a private members club in Soho. The event celebrated the launch of Schwartz’s new gluten free herb and spice mix. I was lucky to be invited to an exclusive meet before the main event in which we were introduced to  representatives of Schwartz who’ve been working for 2 years to develop the mixes.

I always find these types of events utterly fascinating. Schwartz have put some real effort into producing these mixes. This includes changing supplier for cumin and setting up a dedicated production line at the factory to ensure the herbs and spices are gluten free. We were treated to a supper of huge platters of food which had been made with the various mixes.

Gluten free Schwartz mixes

The standouts for me were the blow your head off peppercorn sauce and the very versatile gluten free cheese sauce, both of which I’ll be buying.

Did you know Schwartz have been producing herbs and spices since 1887? Nope, me neither!

After attending another lecture as part of the Royal Academy’s Russian Revolution series, we went to Burger & Lobster for dinner. Not sure how I’ve not been here before!

Gluten free at Burger & Lobster

No lobster will ever top the taste of the soft shell lobster I enjoyed sitting on a rickety wooden deck in Maine on a foggy night, but this meal was tasty nonetheless.

March also saw a lovely afternoon tea date at Brown’s hotel with Carly & Kelly.

Gluten free afternoon tea Brown's Hotel

I’ve posted previously on gluten free afternoon tea at Brown’s hotel but since the menu has changed, it’s time to refresh that one so it’ll be on the blog soon.

Loved

At the end of March I attended the presentation to the winners in the annual Free From Food Awards. You can read about my favourite finds and who won in this post.

Blog posts I’ve loved this month have been:

Matthew has been sharing his highlights from a road trip around California. I’ve really enjoyed reading these posts as I’ve done a similar road trip and it’s one I’d like to take the twins on, but perhaps not right now.

This blog post to the best finds in Milan (of which there are many!) is well timed for me as we’ll be heading back there in June and I’m very much looking forward to it. The post is in Italian but you can use Google Translate. I’ve enjoyed some of my favourite gluten free pizzas in Milan and I hope to go back to Be Bop where they paired wine with my pizza last time!

I really enjoy reading how visitors from other parts of the world enjoy their time in the UK and I absolutely loved Adina’s post on her trip to Scotland and the Lake District. There are some beautiful photos in this post so I highly recommend you settle down with a cup of tea and have a read! I only wish she’d managed to visit Snowdonia on this trip – I think she’d love it!

Finally, this post on gluten free dining on The Big Island of Hawaii. Another place I’ve visited previously but I would love to go back. And perhaps even persuade my sister who lives in Tokyo to meet us there…..I’m guessing that might not be too much of a hard sell…!

Went – Ate – Loved: February 2017

Went
Even for the shortest month of the year, February seems to have whizzed by in a blur of intensity and stress at starting a new project at work. I end the month suffering from the horrid lurgy (10 days so far and counting) everyone seems to have succumbed to recently. Not ideal when so much of my job involves talking.

Luckily, preceding the sickness was a long weekend trip to Valencia. This Spanish city has been on my travel wish list for so long and I was excited to finally visit. And it was certainly worth the wait!

Central market Valencia

In truth, with the exception of the central market, I wasn’t bowled over by Valencia’s historical centre.

Central market Valencia

What I really loved was the area close to where we stayed which was home to the City Of Arts and Sciences. I’ll post separately in the coming weeks on the things we enjoyed in Valencia and also where we stayed. I think I’ve only posted on one previous occasion about a hotel I’ve stayed in (and that was also in Spain) but for the gluten free and/or family traveller we found a great hotel.

City of Arts and Science Valencia

And what we all absolutely loved was walking through the park in Valencia which winds its way along the course of the diverted river. The trees were laden with oranges – impossible to resist!

Valencia oranges

Walking was super safe for kids with no cars, there seemed to be a playground every 5 minutes and plenty of cafes too.

Roll over Barcelona, Valencia is where it’s at!

Ate
Following my birthday in January, Mr D gets to celebrate his in February. We went to Chez Bruce for dinner as we have done many times in the last 14 (eeek!) years together. Yes, it’s Michelin starred but more than that it’s exactly the kind of restaurant you’d want on your doorstep to celebrate a special day in…or just because you can. High end cooking in unpretentious surroundings using great ingredients and one of the best cheese boards in London, I’ve never failed to have a great meal here. On this occasion, the highlight for me was this white chocolate and rhubarb Vienetta.

So good – for the only time of visiting Chez Bruce – it tempted me away from the delights of the cheeseboard.

Loved
February saw the opening of the Hockney retrospective at Tate Britain. I’m relatively recent fan of Hockney following his show at the Royal Academy in 2012 and after visiting family Saltaire. Saltaire is home to an exhibition of Hockney’s work along with Salt’s Mill which features in a number of his paintings.

We were lucky as Tate members to visit a private view of the exhibition (on Valentine’s Day no less!) and thoroughly enjoyed dinner with friends in the Rex Whistler restaurant at Tate Britain.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Hockney inspired menu and was impressed that despite not giving prior warning of my dietary restrictions they catered for me expertly. I’d eaten here previously and was confident they would adapt the menu to be gluten and nut free.

Take this starter. The regular version contained wheat (not corn) containing nachos. The kitchen adapted it with no prior notice to have Parmesan crisps in place of the wheaty nachos.

Gluten free Tate Britain

Gluten free bread was also available.

If you’re in London and would like to visit an exhibition which you’ll leave smiling, Hockney at the Tate is the one for you!

This month I’ve not had much time to catch up on blogs but these posts have caught my eye:

This guide from Erin of the gluten free fast food options in New York. I think it’s important when travelling with both dietary restrictions and young children to have a back up list of safe options to eat at quick meal at.

I’ve recently started following Forever Amber blog and this post on fake Instagram comments and followers was interesting. Naively I thought people were just buying followers, I didn’t realise there were people paying for bots to leave comments and thus drive up engagement with their accounts. Like I say, naive.

And finally, whilst not specifically about gluten free places, I loved Bronwyn’s post which showcases some real gems in South London.

Went – Ate – Loved: January 2017

Went
January 2017 quite literally started with a bang. Or in fact successions of bangs as I enjoyed a spectacular panoramic view of the New Year fireworks from our hotel in Sydney.

Sydney New Year fireworks

Wow, doesn’t even come close to the incredible panoramic view we had. Mr D met each other in Sydney, and later got engaged on the steps of the Sydney Opera House (the location of our first date) and it was really fantastic to spend time back in Sydney.

Sydney

The journey back to London from Australia to London was a bit of slog and we’ve concluded that a 14.5 hour flight (as ours was from Singapore back to London) is too long for all of us, not just the twins. In all we had a fantastic trip to Australia, despite the flight home; it was worth all the effort and jet lag to enjoy some sunshine and catch up with friends and family in Australia.

On the last weekend in January we went to Gothenburg, Sweden, a city which has been on my travel wish list for a long time. I really enjoy visiting Sweden and this trip did not disappoint. I’ll post separately on this in the next few weeks.

Ate
Meal of the month award has to go to my birthday dinner at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. This was my first time – knowingly – eating Michelin 3 star food. (Knowingly because we once ate at the El Bulli hotel restaurant outpost in Seville without knowing what it was. Ahem).

The food at Gordon Ramsay was, as you’d imagine just incredible. The different flavours and the pure skill involved in the cooking were sensational. Take this egg presented as a canapé. Still intrigued at how the top of this hen’s egg was sliced off so cleanly without breaking the egg shell.

But it wasn’t just the food which blew me away, the service was amazing. As a diner with dietary restrictions, nothing makes me happier than every single person who came to our table re confirming which items I can’t eat (gluten & nuts), explaining why and how my canapés were different to Mr D’s, important as these weren’t items I’d selected from the menu.

Special mention to the waiter who told me he’d be disappointed if I didn’t take more of the gluten free bread to mop up my meat juices. I loved this – who says 3 Michelin star restos have to be stuffy?! And the sommelier who we’d instructed to bring us wines of his choice by the glass to match our dishes. I really enjoy doing this when eating out in good restaurants as it’s a great way to balance food and wine but also we’ve been introduced to lots of different grape varieties in this way. “Any wines you don’t like?” He’d asked. We like trying new wine suggestions, but I asked for no German wines please. So you’ve guessed it…..he brought me a German wine. This wine was, of course, perfect.

I won’t be writing a review for my meal there (I was too busy enjoying my meal to take notes and subtle lighting in the restaurant equals rubbish iPhone photos), but I will add it to my gluten free guide to London.

Also this month I was invited to judge in the 2017 Free From Food Awards. This year I was judging in the Innovation and Veggie Ready Meals categories. This is a real highlight of the year for me; it’s fascinating to see the development of the UK’s Free From (not just gluten free) food sector.

In Australia I loved these gluten free and nut free Anzac biscuits.

gluten free Anzac biscuits

I’m still a bit miffed that Mr D scoffed the last packet before I had a chance to bring them home. Not least since they would’ve lifted the boredom of endless gluten free meals of boiled fish on our flights to and from Australia.

Loved
On the long flight back from Australia I concluded that I’d like to give this blog some regular love by posting more regularly in 2017. So far this month I’ve managed to post weekly, on Fridays. However, I work on 5 days of the week and have two small children so time is always short for things I enjoy doing for myself so we’ll see. I plan to write a monthly round up at the end of the month (starting with this one!) and if that’s all I manage at points in the year, that would be just fine.

I’d like to say that I loved having the gluten free afternoon tea with Kelly and Rachel this month but unfortunately I didn’t make it. I have never met either Kelly or Rachel before but I thoroughly enjoy reading both of their blogs. If you haven’t checked out Kelly’s blog posts on visiting all the English counties you should for great photography, as well as gluten free recommendations. Rachel is due to move to Sydney in a few months, a city where she had also got engaged. I’m looking forward to reading her blog posts as she makes the move.

However, the night before our afternoon tea, I was eating gluten free pizza (hmmm) and a mishap occurred with one of my molar teeth. Cue a trip to the emergency dentist to have it seen to instead talking about travel plans over some delicious gluten free cakes. Initially I was told I’d need a crown fitted but now my sentence has been commuted to wisdom teeth removal – which for me means a hospital job. So looking forward to that! My dentist – who’s Italian – assures me it was the wisdom teeth which caused it, not the pizza! So this is definitely a not loved of the month but hopefully we’ll get to meet another time.

I managed to keep up with my blog feed this month and I loved reading these blog posts in particular:

  • Gluten Free Las Vegas: I’ve been to Vegas a couple of times and although it’s the absolute antithesis of how I’d describe my perfect holiday, I really love it there. I very much enjoyed this post by Gluten Free Philly on the dining options in Las Vegas.
  • 5 gluten free and vegan restaurants in Porto: Bookmarking this for future reference as it doesn’t seem as though gluten free options in Porto are plentiful
  • What to do on long airport layovers: I don’t agree at all with the advice given in this post for London layovers but the rest of the article is interesting and there are heaps of airports listed.
  • 5 ways to beat the heat in Brisbane: The post I wish I’d read before we went to Brisbane and wilted in the heat!

And finally, some of the moments I love most about having kids are the most unintentionally funny. Earlier this week I had to manage a 3 year old in an utter meltdown first thing on Monday morning before I left for work, and just as we were rushing to get them ready for nursery. Why the tantrum? Because we didn’t have any avocado. And this meant that Mini D1 wasn’t going to have her current breakfast of choice, smashed avo on crackers. The absolute absurdity of me having to placate an inconsolable child who couldn’t have smashed avo for breakfast by promising to go out on my lunch hour to find her some avocado has kept me chuckling for days.