Celebrating 10 Years of the Annual Free From Food Awards

Last week saw the presentation of awards in the annual Free From Food Awards. Now celebrating its 10th year, these awards celebrate the very best of the UK’s free from sector with entrants ranging from tiny independents to our high street supermarkets.

I’ve written here before about how thrilled I am to be part of these awards as a judge for a number of years, including this year.

This year my usual gluten free cocktail crew was a little depleted with the absence of a several of its key members due to parental responsibilities and judging at the Irish Free From Food Awards. But even so, I was delighted to catch up with many old (and new!) friends in the free from sector. I hadn’t managed to get further than visiting the cloakroom before I’d bumped into the lovely Grace Cheetham. (On a side note it seems inconceivable that a whole year has passed since I last saw Grace at these awards – time goes so fast these days).

The awards were presented by chef Anthony Worrall Thompson who has been handing out the awards since their inception 10 years ago. In their first year, the awards ceremony was held in Anthony’s Notting Hill restaurant. Ten years later and the venue is the impressive  Royal College of Physicians.

This year the awards were announced and winners presented swiftly. I liked this, but even I (and I have previous form on fast tweeting the winners) had trouble keeping up with tweeting the events live.

The full list of gold, silver and bronze winners for 2017 can be found on the Food Matters Free From Food Awards page.

These are my highlights of the winning products.

Winner of the FAIR trophy for the best Free From Food in 2016 were these BFree sweet potato wraps. I had been a judge in the category in which these were entered and I really agree that these are an innovative product. They’re free from ALL of the top 14 allergens, contain only 95 calories each, are high in fibre and they are delicious.

bFree Sweet Potato wrapsUnfortunately Ocado (where I do my food shopping) do not stock these wraps, although they do have the multigrain wraps. I hope they start stocking them soon. Interestingly, I found them everywhere in Australia on my trip over Christmas and New Year. They really do hold together well and the taste definitely adds to the filling.

Bellfield Bewery – Bohemian Pilsner
This Edinburgh based brewery was a new one to me. Also, I love the packaging of these beers. Great design.

gluten free beer

I was impressed with the flavour of the Bohemian Pilsner. Deeper in flavour than the usual Celia or Daura I normally buy, I’ve just taken delivery of an order for this pilsner and it’s got a thumbs up from the gluten eaters (of legal drinking age!) in my house too. As of posting this blog, it’s currently on special offer via the online store.

West Cornwall Gluten and Dairy Free Cornish Pasty
I have only tried a small slice of this from the Winners’ buffet so of course the only thing for it is to track down a full size one. The piece I tried was more filling than pastry – exactly as I like a Cornish pastry.

gluten free Cornish pasty

I like the efforts this company has put into producing this pasty. Not only are the pasties produced in a dedicated gluten free factory, but the company also performs random sample lab testing to confirm they are gluten free and that they contain less than 20ppm. But that’s not all! Once they’ve left the factory, they’re transported, baked and served in the bag to prevent cross contamination. You can check here for a list of stockists. London’s Waterloo station it is!

Yau’s Thai Style Satay Sauce

Although peanuts are not one of the nuts I’m allergic to, I generally avoid all nuts. Consequently, eating satay sauce isn’t something I’ve done for some time. I thoroughly enjoyed this nut free satay sauce I’ll be tracking down a jar.

The Free From Bakehouse – Banana and Chocolate Chip Loaf

This gluten free, wheat free, nut free as well as soya, egg and dairy free loaf also does not contain refined sugar. Despite being free from so many ingredients, it tastes fantastic. It’s Caroline’s best selling loaf at Borough Market and it’s easy to see why, it’s so good!

I was standing with Caroline for the presentation of the awards. We’ve met many times over the years and I know how committed she is to producing great tasting allergy free food. As the bronze and silver winners were being announced Caroline was (far too modestly) saying she wouldn’t be winning against such great competition in the Tea Time category. When her loaf was announced as a winner of the gold award, she genuinely couldn’t believe it.

Caroline Free From Bakehouse

To celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the Free From Food Awards, a special Super Hero Award was awarded to Clare Marriage of Doves Farm Foods for the huge contribution Dove’s flours and foods have made to the Free From industry over the last 10 years.

Finally a few more photos:

Only one packet of these remained on the winners’ buffet when I passed along the line. I was bold enough to open them and – in an instant – hands swooped from nowhere and they were gone. No wonder, they were a real treat!

Gluten free tea cakes

I recalled as I sat on my Tube commute writing this blog post that I’d popped one of these in the side pocket of my handbag and hadn’t eaten it. They’re small chocolate covered biscuits that reminded me a little of a Club or Breakaway biscuit (do they even still make those?!). Perfect for lunch boxes. Or side pockets of handbags.

gluten free biscuit

Each year I’ve attended the awards we’ve taken a group photo, here’s the 2017 vintage!

Gluten free crew

A huge thank you to Michelle, Cressida and the whole team for another fantastic year of the Free From Food Awards. I think everyone who’s been involved as a judge or entrant to the Free From Food Awards would agree that Michelle and her team are all Free From Super Heroes!

 

Gluten Free Hotel Stay: Barcelo Valencia, Spain

Writing hotel reviews on this blog is not something that I normally do. Why? Well, in many cases one very good hotel is very much like another very good hotel. Yes there’s usually a USP that sets it apart from its peers. However, in many cases I don’t feel I learn something from bloggers writing reviews of hotels that – for the most part – I couldn’t learn from looking at the hotel’s website.

So that’s exactly why I am writing a review on the Barcelo Valencia.

Because I just didn’t know from the website how suitable this hotel would be for my needs as a traveller with dietary restrictions who is also travelling with small kids.

Location
The Barcelo Valencia is located directly opposite the Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences. You can read all about the scientific and cultural space which is housed within the modernist City of Arts and Sciences here. There’s one busy road to cross but then you’re within the park.

City of Arts and Science Valencia

Following a catastrophic flood in 1957, Valencia’s river Turia was diverted and the old riverbed turned into a park which winds its way through Valencia. We thoroughly enjoyed walking through this park and the kids loved being out of the buggy in a safe, car free green space. They also loved that there seemed to be a playground spaced approximately every 5 minutes….!

Just over the road from the Barcelo Valencia hotel is also a great little playground for kids.

Food
Our usual pattern for food when travelling with the twins has been to have a main meal all together at lunchtime in whichever city / location we’re in. We find it easier to find something suitable for all of us this way. In the evenings, if everyone is tired after a day sightseeing then we get a picnic type tea for the kids to eat in the room. Mr D and I will often order something from room service after the kids have gone to bed. Consequently, I often enquire at hotels for a copy of the room service menu before making the room reservation to check there are gluten free options for me.

On this occasion I contacted Barcelo Valencia before booking. A room service menu was sent to me. Nothing was explicitly noted as gluten free on the menu but since there were fish / meat / veggie options it looked good.

What I did not know until we got there was that they had plenty of gluten free options.

They even had Daura gluten free beer in the restaurant and bar and consequently I could have ordered this on room service. We ate a couple of times in the hotel restaurant. I particularly enjoyed this burger, served with gluten free baguette (!).

I’m not a big hotel breakfast eater and we often choose to stay in an apartment instead of a hotel for this reason alone. However, the breakfast here was really something special.

I’m struggling to remember a time recently where I have stayed in a hotel offering such fresh and excellent quality ingredients. Beautiful fresh fruit, good quality hams and cheeses.

The pungent blue cheese was cut in huge chunks and truly excellent; the chunk in the photo was the smallest piece offered! On the hot plates were bacon, sausages (I didn’t eat them so not sure if they were gluten free), eggs, roasted Mediterranean vegetables, tortilla….the list goes on. Each item was topped up regularly so they never ran out.

For gluten free diners I was given a huge selection of breads, biscuits and muffins when I asked if they had any gluten free items. There were also biscuits on this plate but they had been swiped by the time I took the photo.

Room
We booked a two bedroom suite – there are 2 suites in this hotel. The suite was huge because in addition to the 2 separate bedrooms – each with en-suite bathroom with massive baths – was a (small-sish) lounge and a further, third, guest toilet. All the doors were the sliding variety so the space could be opened up. The only downside was that the windows were quite high up so you couldn’t see out of them unless you stood up. Shame when there was a great view out of the window!

What else to know?
Joining the hotel’s loyalty programme (Barcelo has hotels throughout Spain) provides various incentives including room discounts and/or late checkout. As members of this loyalty scheme, we were received a discount on the room cost, free bottles of water and sweets (which I managed to swiftly swipe) in our room along with a credit towards items bought in the hotel.

There is free wifi throughout the hotel.

There’s also a great looking spa – complete with outdoor pool for the summer months – up on the top floor of the hotel. Finally, there’s also a rooftop bar overlooking the City of Arts and Sciences which would be perfect place to enjoy a sun-downer. Sadly I didn’t get a chance to use these on this trip but I’ll have to come back!

This is NOT a sponsored or affiliated post in any shape or form. I stayed here, I really liked the hotel and wanted to share this information in case you are planning to visit Valencia and are looking for a good hotel with gluten free and family friendly options.

Address: Hotel Barcelo Valencia, Av. de França, 11, 46023 València, Spain

Click here for the hotel’s website.

PIN FOR LATER

Gluten free hotel stay Valencia Spain

 

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.

Gluten Free London: Beyond Bread

Beyond Bread is a dedicated gluten free bakery with (currently) 2 branches in London. To date, I’ve only visited the Charlotte’s Place location.

On the first occasion I had a gluten free chocolate muffin to takeaway which was perfectly nice although a little dense inside. On the second occasion, I wanted to eat in and so had lunch at Charlotte’s Place.

Beyond Bread London gluten free quiche

This time I chose the quiche with a spinach and mushroom salad along with a cinnamon bun. Since it was a cold day, I took a tea as well.

Beyond Bread London gluten free quiche

The cost was £14.85 for the above.

The pastry on the quiche was firm and not at all crumbly. The cinnamon bun was good and I enjoyed this.

Beyond Bread London gluten free cinnamon bun

At the end of my lunch I asked whereabouts the toilets were. I was somewhat astonished to discover there is no toilet available to use at Charlotte’s Place.

Repeat: There is no customer toilet here. This is a cafe with – I guess – around 15 seats and there’s no bathroom for customers to use. Instead I was directed to use the facilities of other local businesses, something I declined to do.

Perhaps this seems like a negative thing to include in a blog post. Maybe it seems unnecessary to point out the lack of toilet facilities? But in all the blog posts I’ve read about this Beyond Bread location, I’ve never seen this highlighted before. Perhaps even this is a new thing? I don’t know. But I’m pointing this out as I wish I’d known in advance of visiting.

Locations: 2 Charlotte Place, London W1T 1SB and 267 Upper Street, London N1 2UQ
Website: www.beyondbread.co.uk
Cost: £ 14.85 for the meal above
Would I come back: Honestly? I think the food on offer here is good quality and I value the opportunity to eat at a dedicated gluten free bakery. However, I’m not sure I would go out of my way to visit again. I thought what I ordered was tasty but a little overpriced (I fully appreciate the cost of the Fitzrovia location is factored in to the prices here). However, the situation with no customer bathrooms will likely put me off from revisiting. I work in a different part of London so would ordinarily be looking to eat in at Beyond Bread when I’m in the West End, rather than takeaway. For me, it’s not a particularly appealing lunch knowing that I’ll need to find a public convenience to use after my lunch as the restaurant does not provide one.

PIN FOR LATER

Beyond Bread London gluten free Restaurant

Gluten Free Travel Tips: Gothenburg, Sweden

First of all, this post is not a gluten free guide to Gothenburg (after 3 days in the city, I couldn’t claim to write a proper guide). Rather, it’s a collection of tips, resources and places I ate which might help another gluten free visitor to Gothenburg.

Resources & Tips – The Local Guides
Before I visited Gothenburg I contacted two locals for assistance. Virginia runs the Kusten ar Klar blog. She was incredibly helpful to me both prior to my trip and whilst I was there. I highly recommend you check out her map for listings of gluten free dining options in the city. On Virginia’s blog you can find maps not just for Gothenburg, but also other Swedish cities with list of gluten free restaurants, cafes and bakeries.

I also contacted the Swedish Coeliac Society who had been incredibly helpful on my previous trips to Sweden. They provided me with a list of restaurants in Gothenburg.

Resources & Tips – Where We Ate
At the excellent Universeum museum, gluten and lactose free pancakes were on the menu and the staff cook them up fresh upon request & separately. The meatballs and mash here are also gluten free.

Gluten free Gothenburg Universeum

As in other countries in Scandinavia and continental Europe, MacDonald’s offers gluten free buns in Sweden. Two adult meals and two kids meals here cost under £20 in total. By far the cheapest meal we had in Gothenburg.

Gluten free Gothenburg MacDonalds

At our hotel (see below) I enjoyed this venison dish in the hotel restaurant. This was delicious and made a change from that great gluten free fall back meal option of steak and chips, which I ate the following night.

Gluten free Gothenburg Radisson hotel

O’Leary’s (a chain of sports bars found all over Sweden) offer gluten free options including gluten free buns. Our flight back to London was delayed and we ate at the branch at the Landvetter airport. Their website has a nutritional guide and I found the waitress to be knowledgeable.

Gluten free Gothenburg Airport

Resources & Tips – Where We Stayed
We stayed at the Radisson Blu Scandinavia, opposite the central Station. I’ve stayed in other Radisson properties in Norway and Sweden and have always found good gluten free options on offer in this hotel chain. Top 14 allergens were listed on the room service menu which I’ve seen listed in other countries through continental Europe and I wish we had the same simple system in the UK. At breakfast there was an “Allergy Corner” complete with wrapped Fria crumpet like bread.

Gluten free Radisson hotel

There was even a dedicated gluten free toaster (note the sign!) right next to it.

Gluten free Radisson hotel

Resources & Tips – Where we Shopped
I found gluten free products in the Gothenburg supermarkets I visited but the range really varied by size of supermarket. The smaller supermarkets seemed to have a limited (or no) supply but in one of the bigger supermarkets, was this fantastic selection!

Gluten free Gothenburg supermarket

I was particurlarly happy to find some delicious Semper gluten free gingerbread biscuits which my kids (who are not gluten free) loved.

In the freezer section were loads of different products and you would be well catered for if you were staying in an apartment in Gothenburg rather than a hotel.

Gluten free Gothenburg supermarket

Resources & Tips – How We Got There
We flew to Gothenburg with Norwegian. I’ve flown with this low cost airline a few times before and I really rate their high quality customer service, fleet of new planes, free in-flight wifi and a gluten free AND nut free options on board.

Gluten free Gothenburg Norwegian

Final Gluten Free Tips for Gothenburg:
• Many gluten free products in Scandinavia contain codex wheat starch. Please keep this in mind when eating out or shopping if you are sensitive to codex wheat starch
• The restaurants and cafes we visited were very clued up on gluten free options, all had nutitional booklets (same as in the UK) to double check if an item contained gluten and other allergens
• You can check out what we enjoyed doing in Gothenburg