Thursday, 10 November 2011

Eating Out with a Food Allergy at El Pirata

To celebrate our friend Evie’s birthday last night, we headed for El Pirata in London’s Mayfair a Spanish tapas restaurant bar.
A big group of us gathered tto wish her many happy returns. As someone with a gluten free or dairy free allergy, it’s always problematic when you dine out with a crowd at an unknown restaurant. Will there be something I can eat is the big question and you don’t want to make a fuss!
El Pirata did not disappoint; they couldn’t have been more helpful. There was a set party menu, but one of the waiters and I went through it and worked out that I (the gluten free one) could eat Jamon Serrano (cured serrana ham), Pimientos del Piquillo Rellenos Ensaladilla (Piquillo Peppers Stuffed with Russian Salad) as started and for the main course Tortilla (Spanish omelette with potatoes and onions) and Patatas Bravas (Deep Fried potatoes in chilli and garlic sauce). I could have ordered additional dishes from the main menu, but I’m glad I didn’t as the food was filling and I enjoyed large portions of tortilla.
Ray, with his dairy free allergy, had Jamon Serrano (cured serrana ham) to start with followed by Grilled steak and rocket, without cheese accompanied by Patatas bravas. Food was about £18 a head.
A fun filled evening was had by all!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Torrox Spain Eating Out With a Food Allergy

Torrox Spain Eating Out With a Food Allergy

We were in Torrox, Spain and needed to know the keywords for "wheat" and "dairy" so we could communicate our intolerances when eating out. We knew the following words - "leche" is milk, "mantequille" is butter and "queso" is cheese and "sin" is "without", but we had to ask people for the following - wheat is "trigo" while "gluten" is the same word in Spanish." Armed with these words, we could point at items on the menu and say "sin trigo" or "sin leche" as needed.
One woman told us there was no Spanish word meaning "dairy". The nearest equivalent was "lactosa" meaning "lactose".
Torrox is a stunning white traditional Spanish village, built by the Moors, 40 minutes' drive from Malaga. We haven't been here for eight years, so have already noticed several changes, mainly the closure of many small shops in favour of a supermarket in the high street. Sound familiar?
We are here staying in our friends' beautiful house with sensational views of typical Spanish terrain peppered with white buildings, giant cacti, green trees and steep roads.
One morning we heard the clomping of horses' hooves so we looked down from the terrace and to our astonishment saw a horse and rider emerge, managing to manoeuvre up the steep, curving narrow roads. Incredible.
Our charges are four cats - Michael the ginger cat who smiles a a lot; Minnie, a tortoiseshell with a curly tail, Heidi another tortoiseshell (you'd think they were sisters only they dislike each other!). The fourth cat Thomas is black and beautiful. We're reliably informed he has no claws, but dare not check this. He always arrives late for food and you can almost hear a fanfare as he runs in. It's obvious none of the others like him, so he waits his turn to feed. Occasionally he follows us home late at night for a snack. We feed them fish from the freezer, defrosted in the microwave - mind you in these blistering temperatures of 30 degrees and more, I expect it would thaw very quickly. When feeding the cats, you have to be careful not to leave any food on the floor, as tiny ants are on it in seconds.
It was trial and error finding a cat food they liked - the one that won is Brekkies from Eroski supermarket at the shopping mall at Velez Malaga, 15 minutes drive from Torrox. Michael the ginger cat likes to eat the cardboard box in the kitchen. At first I thought he must be hungry but even after feeding him he returned to gnawing the box. Must be a form of recreation.
Our first quest was to buy soya milk, so we thought if we drove to Nerja there was more chance of finding it as it is an enclave for Brits in Spain.
On the road to Nerja we found Lidyl, not much good for "free from" foods, but we did buy our favourite apple juice, herbal tea bags and chocolate covered rice cakes (which we never see in the UK).
Lunch was in our favourite cafe, amazingly still there after eight years, Anahi, Puerta del Mar 6, 29780 Nerja, tel: 95 252 1457 with fabulous views of the beach and ocean if you dine outside and it has a bilingual menu. There's a mouthwatering selection of salads so I opted for number 20 on the menu, Ensalada Especial (6 euros) - special salad, an enormous plateful of lettuce, eggs, grated carrot, peppers and tomatoes which melted in the mouth (compared to UK tomatoes). Always ask about salad dressings as this comes with a cocktail sauce which I declined, choosing olive oil instead.
When Ray asked whether the tuna sandwich contained "leche", "mantequille" or "queso", she reassured him it didn't have these ingredients. He ordered it with no tomato (as sadly he is intolerant to them), 2.80 euros, with chips and salad on the side, 1 euro. Excellent helpful service. You can tell Nerja is a magnet for Brits as there is even a shop called "WH Smiffs" selling books and cards.
At the supermarket Supersol on the outskirts of Nerja, we easily found Alpro soya milk (1.40 euros). There doesn't seem to be "free from" section in Spanish supermarkets. The nearest thing to it is the health food section where we could only find different varieties of rice cakes. We did chance upon some savoury crackers Crispie de Arroz which were labelled "sin gluten". These are thin crunchy crackers, ideal for cheese.
Despite being intolerant to dairy, Ray can eat goats' cheese but disappointingly we could only find one variety Queso De Cabr - cabr meaning goat. Perhaps goats' cheese isn't as popular in Spain as it is in France.
I'd brought Doves Farm gluten free cornflakes with me but we managed to rustle up ham and eggs and bacon and eggs for breakfast on a couple of mornings.
That evening, we walked into the centre of Torrox via very steep and winding narrow streets. You can see why there are hand rails for some of the streets. Mind you it keeps you fit - no need for the gym here.
We are so unfit that we stopped off for a drink at Cafeteria Central where the proprietor was not pleased to see us, in fact they were downright unfriendly, thinking we thought it was a restaurant. Our command of the Spanish language is not too good! After the misunderstanding they served us a water and Coke for 2 euros - a bargain price when you think we were sitting in a bar outside in the middle of town.
Our friends had recommended El Figon restaurant. It did look impressive, but after one woman handed us the menu to look at, her colleague announced, "We're full". It was comical as only two tables were occupied.
We walked into the picturesque town square of Torrox with its selection of eateries, and after deliberation, we chose Café Bar Paco, Plaza de la Constitution, 605-874-643, a tapas bar. Sitting in the town square is a treat as this is where the locals parade up and down every evening in their best clothes, only the ritual has changed somewhat. It now includes riding round the square by car waving to your friends. All sorts of cars here including 4x4s, a strange choice given the narrowness of the streets, but ideal I would imagine in the mountainous terrain. There's also the occasional serious biker in black leather and crash helmet, even in hot temperatures of 30 degrees plus.
After explaining our allergies to our waiter, he told us that many dishes such as aubergine and sardines were fried in batter and the batter had wheat flour and milk in it, so we selected the following: anchovies with oil and garlic (6 euros), pork fillet with chips (5 euros), mixed salad (4 euros) and Spanish omelette (4 euros).
After a trip to Torre del Mar, we arrived back late and decided to find somewhere to eat in Torrox. On our way down all the winding streets (our calf muscles are slowly firming up) we found Meson la Terrazza, Calle Baja 80, Torrox, 691894805/651068403 run by an English couple, Rick and Helen Bolt (open everyday except Wednesdays; kitchen closed 4.30pm to 7.30pm), situated on the side of a steep valley. Although it was 10pm and a Saturday night, we were welcomed inside (without a reservation!). As they are English, there was no problem describing our intolerances and we were informed any sauces on the menu were made with cream. Ray ordered a gammon steak with pineapple, chips and peas (he can't eat courgettes) while I opted for the salmon steak (without sauce) and salad. We sat on the terrace watching the headlamps of cars driving up the blackened hill in the distance and the flicker of a far away TV set. Even though it was so late, it was still hot and sticky.
And so we returned to Nerja the next evening when the heat had died down a little to browse in the shops and walk on the beach. We found a sweetshop run by an English woman. This was where Ray made his big discovery that contrary to his belief that all chocolate bars are covered in milk chocolate and therefore out of bounds, by chance he read the label on a Frys chocolate cream bar and was astonished to see there was no dairy product in it. Nirvana! Ray will now be consuming them in great quantities. This has sparked an enthusiasm for reading the ingredients of chocolate bars.
We returned to Anahi café where we managed to get a table outside with the fabulous view of the beach and ocean. Even at 8pm it was sweltering and clammy - will it ever get colder we wondered? We showed the waitress our magic words and then asked for pork steak, eggs and French fries (7.20 euros) which she confirmed had no dairy ingredients. I chose the grilled sole and salad (11 euros) which was enormous - far bigger than served in England.
You don't have to catsit to come to Torrox. Amazingly the village boasts two hotels - La Casa and Alandalus hotel

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

N-Ice the world's first frozen food restaurant

Something a little different this week. I was invited to N-Ice, the world’s first frozen food gourmet restaurant at Westminster Kingsway College and what a treat it was. We were greeted with an ice sculpture with tiny white forks embedded in the ice. As you enter the ‘pop up’ restaurant, it’s reminiscent of Christmas with fairy lights and snow flake symbols hanging from the ceiling. The entire menu was created using mainly frozen ingredients including herbs and spices. Three celebrity chefs – Atul Kochhar, Simon Rimmer and Galton Blackiston devised signature dishes while the rest of the menu has been created by chef lecturers from Westminster Kingsway College, while the college’s students waited at tables.
The aim of N-Ice is to change the perception of frozen food, says Brian Young, director general of the British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF), which opened N-Ice, “and get the general public to think about frozen food in a different way.” The ‘pop up’ restaurant, only open for a week, is totally sold out throughout the week with 600 covers booked. Questionnaires were handed out at the restaurant asking for opinions about frozen food and the dining experience at N-Ice.
The BFFF will collate the findings in liaison with Sheffield Hallam University and launch the survey results in a few weeks’ time. Frozen food has been supplied by 20 members of the BFFF including Brakes, 3663, Movenpick and Pidy.
The service at the restaurant is impeccable and prompt. To start with, I chose Atul Kochhar’s crisp fried spicy John Dory with grokha (cucumber and chilli jam) chutney. The fish was flaky and tender and the chutney gave a zingy flavour. For the main course, I enjoyed Atul Kochhar’s fragrant Kashmiri Lamb Curry. The chunks of lamb were tender in a thick curry sauce, but not too hot and spicy that you needed to grab a glass of water.
I couldn’t tell that the dishes had been created from frozen ingredients. They looked good, tasted fresh and flavoursome – so perhaps that’s the point! The perfect conclusion to the meal was petit pois ice cream from Gaston Blackiston with a strong pea and mint flavour, which melted in the mouth. Very refreshing after a curry.
The food was well presented in white bone china, offsetting the colours of the food. For example, the mango soufflé was served in an espresso cup.
The students demonstrated knowledge about the menu when I asked about certain ingredients as well as a friendly, fast and courteous service – better than at some restaurants I’ve visited!
The survey wanted to find out whether I would avoid eating at a pub or restaurant serving frozen food and after my experience at N-Ice, the answer would be no!
What a pity N-Ice is only open for a week. Perhaps there is scope for a permanent restaurant using mainly frozen food ingredients.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

The Cotswolds Eating Out With a Food Allergy

As usual, when travelling, we always take a supply of food in case we can’t find anything suitable – bottles of soya milk, as you’d be surprised how many cafes don’t serve it; Eat Natural bars; bananas and apples. I also packed some Genius gluten free bread as the owner of Holly House in Bourton on the Water where we were staying, said they didn’t have any.
Motorway services are always a hit and miss affair, so imagine our surprise when we chanced upon The Kings Hotel in Stokenchurch, off junction 5, on the M40 Here, we sat on the terrace in the sunshine where we enjoyed chips with garlic mayonnaise and vegetable spring rolls with chilli sauce, with cups of tea, using our own soya milk. We were impressed by the quick service and the ambience of the venue.
Once we’d picked up our friends Shane and Evie, we stopped off at Chipping Norton for lunch. Bravely, we walked into The Fox, Market Place, Chipping Norton OX7 5DD 01608 642658 and was greeted by the landlord. I explained I was gluten free and my husband was dairy free, so he made some suggestions from the menu – mine was a jacket potato with tuna mayonnaise (£5) while Ray opted for Gammon steak, pineapple, chips and peas with no egg (£7.50). He checked with them that no butter was used in cooking or on the vegetables. Feeling tired and footsore after exploring Chipping Norton, we felt like tea and cake, but usually go without cake as it’s generally made with wheat and dairy. We were delightfully surprised to find wheat and dairy free cakes at the independent Jaffe & Neale book shop on the main square What’s more, they even serve soya milk. My choice was chocolate torte caprese (delicious and chocolatey) while Ray savoured a generous slice of Nigella Clementine cake, both £2.95 each.
For dinner, we chose the scenic Old Manse hotel in Bourton on the Water The restaurant was completely full, so we took our chances with the bar menu. When we ordered our food at the bar, we explained our allergies and the member of staff kept checking with the kitchen and was willing to help, despite people waiting to order drinks.
To start with Ray chose the hand-made shredded duck and hoisin spring rolls (£4.59) while I had grilled field mushrooms with goat’s cheese and rocket (£3.39). For Ray, the main course was slow cooking New Zealand lamb shank (£10.99). Instead of mashed potatoes which had butter in them, he was offered chips instead. They checked that the gravy didn’t have dairy and the petit pois didn’t have butter on the top. My main course was sweet potato apricot chickpea and red pepper kebabs (£7.59) which tasted more like vegetarian sausages. Curiously, the tea tasted metallic, so they made us a fresh pot – we wonder is it something to do with the water? Shane’s Mocha was also dubious.
We stayed at Holly House, Station Road, Bourton on the Water This is under new management and we were given a friendly welcome. I had contacted them before to inform them about our allergies and it was a delightful surprise to discover they had kindly purchased soya milk and gluten free bread. Breakfast was easy as we could pick the elements from the Full English Breakfast that we wanted. For Ray it was an egg well done, a rasher of bacon and baked beans. I had two rashers, a fried egg and grilled tomato with toasted gluten free bread. A real treat!
The next morning we explored Kelmscott Manor, William Morris’ country retreat. Apparently when he saw the farmhouse in an estate agent’s, he immediately fell in love with it, describing it as “a heaven on earth”. I wouldn’t disagree with that; it is an idyllic residence beautifully presented with well informed volunteer guides, who will fill you in on every detail. There’s even Morris’ top coat on display and examples of Morris’ famous designs on fabrics. Pictures of his wife, Jane, are on display including the famous “The Blue Silk Dress” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
For lunch, Ray discovered that the mouth-watering pasties and quiches on display contained butter (and wheat so no good for me either) so they suggested bread, ham and pickle for him. I chose a salad bowl. With two cups of tea (using our own soya milk), this came to £7.20. We wondered what the tea would taste like, but it was fine.
For our last meal in The Cotswolds, we were looking forward to a traditional English meal, but wandering round Bourton-on-the-Water this was difficult. Evie is vegetarian, so we were looking for good veggie choices, as well as dishes which Ray and I could eat. This seemed enormously difficult as most of the menus were elaborate with sauces covering the meat and poultry. From our experience, sauces usually contain wheat, gluten and dairy.
We were getting rather desperate so at one point, we went into the Chinese restaurant. It seemed ironic to be eating Chinese in the British Cotswolds, so we persevered and Shane alerted us to the Croft restaurant, part of the Chester House hotel As it was Saturday night, they were totally full, but offered us a table outside which we took with alacrity, zipping up our fleeces and jackets so we would remain warm. Evie suggested we ordered quickly so we didn’t freeze, as the temperature was falling. The service was impeccable and friendly, our waitress even offering to find a table inside if one became available. I asked whether the home-made tomato and basil soup (£4.50) had wheat in it. She checked and it didn’t – I have to say it was delicious and helped to keep me warm. My main course was Free Range Kelmscott Gammon Steak with fried egg, pineapple and chips (£8.75). The waitress had checked with the chef that there was no dairy in the dishes Ray ordered – to start with Goats Cheese and Sweet Cured Bacon served en croute with red onion marmalade, mixed leaves and balsamic reduction (£4.95) followed by Cotswolds 28 day aged sirloin steak served with chunky chips and salad (£13.50). He was assured that the vegetables would be served with no butter on them. We were too full for dessert and anyway it was getting colder by this time. This was one of the best meals we enjoyed in The Cotswolds and we would return here.
On the Sunday, we stopped off at Oxford on the way back and mooched around the crowded streets, admiring the buildings and looking inside the colleges where possible, although most of them were closed.
Again, eating lunch was problematic finding the magic combination of veggie choices and plain type dishes. We thought Ask would be possible, so I asked them whether they put dairy in the pizza dough and unfortunately they do – although they do serve gluten free pasta, which is good to know. Shane and Evie told us about this cool pizzeria chain Fire and Stone and we discovered one in Oxford. I couldn’t eat the pizzas because of the wheat in the pizza base and unfortunately, pizzerias in Britain don’t offer gluten free pizzas as yet (unlike pasta – thank you Carluccios and Ask for serving gluten free pasta!) but I adore salads and Fire and Stone offer a wide selection. Before we sat down, we asked the crucial question “Does your pizza dough contain dairy?” and to our relief, it didn’t! The menu is arranged under different countries, so you can choose a pizza according to the country, whether it’s Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia or The Americas or create your own. For example, under “Australia”, the pizzas are named after cities, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and so on.
After all that, Ray decided to order something completely different – Charcuterie board (£11.25) with parma ham, Napoli salami, garlic and fennel, smoked ham, hummus, kalamata olives, comichens (like gherkins) taramasalata and grilled pitta bread. I opted for the classic Nicoise salad, one of my favourites (£9.25).
So it was back to sunny Surrey after a restful weekend in The Cotswolds. Where to next I wonder?

Monday, 4 July 2011

Isle of Wight eating out with a food allergy

Travelling to the Isle of Wight, the best we could do was to stop off at McDonald’s outside Portsmouth for a bag of chips. Waiting to board the ferry at Portsmouth, I was able to nip out of the car and buy two teas with soya milk from Costa Coffee, but food-wise there was nothing wheat, gluten or dairy free.
Luckily as we were going to self catering accommodation, we had a supply of Eat Natural bars and rice cakes to keep us going.
We are staying at the West Bay Club, Yarmouth , an idyllic complex of self catering cottages with a Country Club, equipped with a swimming pool, beauty salon, restaurant, gym and exercise studios. For the more energetic, there are tennis courts and even somewhere to play football! Starving hungry on a Friday night, we checked out the restaurant to find the only items on the menu were rump steak and Bearnaise sauce and beef stroganoff. So not fancying a plain steak, we ventured forth to Newport where we tried Olivo, but they were fully booked, so we ended up in Pizza Express, Providence Corner, Pyle Street, Newport Ray checked there was no milk in the pizza dough and was assured there wasn’t. As he says, Pizza Express, is pretty consistent and we can both eat there. For gluten and wheat free customers, there is a good selection of salads such as Nicoise Salad (£9.15). Ray’s dairy free pizza was a Veneziana, but instead of mozzarella, he asked for prosciutto and had red onions, capers, sultanas and pine kernels on the top. What’s more, 25p goes to the Veneziana Fund. Ray asked for a small amount of passata. For him, passata is less likely to cause a reaction as fresh tomatoes, probably because there are no pips in it. We discovered the PizzaXpress iPhone app being advertised which you can use to find a restaurant, book your table and pay your bill with Paypal. Sounds a great scheme.
Ray asked for some olive oil: “A sprinkle of olive oil on the pizza makes all the difference because it replaces the fat you would’ve had from mozzarella,” he said.
I enjoyed my Nicoise salad; sadly Pizza Express don’t offer gluten free pizzas as yet. Why not, I wonder when Carluccio’s can serve gluten free pasta and sell it in their shop?
At Yarmouth, we stopped off at The Gossip’s Café at the end of the square – the only waterside café. Nothing dairy or gluten free here, but enjoyed a cup of tea (with our own soya milk) admiring the views of the Solent and watching the Yarmouth/Lymington ferry boats. It has an unusual wooden pier you can stroll down for more sea views.
Monday was the wrong day to visit Ventnor as many of the shops were shut. We had been recommended to visit as it’s an old fashioned place, like stepping back in time to the 1950s, with its independent, quirky shops dominating the high street. We found The Ventnorian, 5 Spring Hill, Ventnor, PO33 1PE, a traditional toy shop selling gluten free and dairy free products at the back of the shop – not many, but good to know about. Some highly individualistic teddies on sale as well.
Our visit to Osborne House, East Cowes wouldn’t have been complete without a cup of tea. Fortunately we’d brought our own soya milk, but I was able to enjoy a gluten free macaroon – delicious. As there was a cream filling, Ray was unable to eat any, so nothing available for dairy free folk. This grand residence was once the seaside retreat of Queen Victoria. Well worth a visit to see how they used to live back then. Very opulent and well maintained. Queen Victoria’s bedroom has been kept exactly as it was following her death. Take a stroll in the beautiful walled garden.
Wandering through Cowes, we chanced upon the British Legion Club, which welcomes visitors. Despite the 1950s décor, it boasts fabulous views of the Solent and boats. We had a cup of tea (90p each) using our own soya milk. The food looked good value – gammon, ham, eggs, chips and peas £5.25 or a jacket potato with tuna mayonnaise £4.95.
Cowes’ best kept secret is The Octopus Garden, which is a shrine to The Beatles. All the walls are decorated with Beatles posters, photographs and LP covers. There’s a cabinet with incredible lookalike puppets of The Beatles dressed as Sgt Pepper and of course, Beatles’ music plays all the time. The café has a 1960s feel about it to be sure. Most importantly we could both eat there and chose Chris’ breakfast (named after the owner) with a couple of adjustments, at £4.25 each. Ray ordered Isle of Wight sausage, bacon, egg, slices of toast, but no tomato. He asked whether the sausage had milk in it and the owner said he couldn’t be 100% certain, so Ray took a chance. I had the same but with no sausage or toast.
Fortunately they told us that the toast was spread with “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” so he asked for strawberry jam instead.
The menu gives details under the heading “our guarantee” of where ingredients come from. For example, the sausages, gammon ham and bacon comes from Hamilton’s Butchers, Cowes, while Hovis or Kingsmill bread is used for toast. It said Heinz Baked Beans were served, important for Ray to know as they don’t contain milk (like some other makes).
We had deliberately chosen self catering accommodation, so mostly we prepared our own meals, which was a relief because we knew what the contents were. Staples we’d brought with us included soya milk, rice cakes, Eat Natural bars and Marigold’s bouillon, which can be used in so many ways. We discovered the large Sainsbury’s superstore near Newport which has an extensive “free from” section so was able to buy Genius gluten free bread, as well as gluten free pasta (heaven). One tip I’ve been told is to cook gluten free pasta for at least 20 minutes rather than the ten minutes suggested on some packs – it works! There’s also Morrisons in Newport, but it has a tiny ‘free from’ section.
Walking into Yarmouth for lunch, we chose Jireh House Yarmouth, where the owner Jan was very welcoming and accommodating. Sitting in the back garden, after having explained his allergies, Ray asked for a smoked salmon sandwich (£3.90) without butter (crucially), lemon, tomatoes or cucumber. When he asked her about milk in the bread, she brought the Hovis packaging for him to look at, so we were able to verify there was no milk in it. I opted for a smoked salmon salad (£10.95). We noticed there was a sign warning people about “Falling Apples” from the impressively large apple tree.
She asked me to send her recipes, as she likes to serve gluten free cakes, so I will do so.
At the Deli in Yarmouth (just along the road from Jireh House), we saw several gluten free products on sale such as Hale & Hearty gluten free porridge and Mrs Crimbles’ gluten free cakes, but they don’t sell soya milk. We found that in nearby Cost Cutters.
For a treat on our last night, we visited Olivo Bar & Caffeteria in Newport, 15 St Thomas Square, PO30 1SL, tel: 01983 530001. This restaurant is always busy, so it’s important to book. Even on a Thursday night, two large parties arrived and they had to turn away a party of 14. When I made the reservation, I mentioned the food allergies Ray and I had and was impressed that they had made a note of this.
To start with, we ordered Pincho (£4.50) – hummus, chorizo, olives and flat bread. They checked to see if there was no milk in the flatbread, but couldn’t be 100% certain, so Ray took a chance. Being gluten free, I didn’t have any bread. At their own volition, they checked the chorizo sausage ingredients, discovered there was milk powder and came and told us. This is the first time that any restaurant has gone to such trouble to check the ingredients of a sausage. They put the chorizo sausage in a separate bowl and gave it to me, so Ray wouldn’t be tempted.
For the main course, Ray asked if he could have Spalla di Maiale (£14.50) – pan fried pork spare rib steak with shallots and chestnut mushrooms and new potatoes. The staff checked with the kitchen and they said they would give him a different garnish, with no butter. I enjoyed sea bass with sauté potatoes and tsikali. (£14.95). Both were delicious and well presented. Top marks Olivo!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Brighton eating out with food allergies

Following a tweet alert “can you recommend any vegan restaurants in Brighton”, Vegan in Brighton tweeted back that she was running a vegan cake sell to raise money for Sea Shepherd and the East Sussex Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service, so that was a must on our recent visit to Brighton.
First off, we dropped in on The Manor, Gardner Street, for some breakfast and was delightfully surprised that they served soya milk, but no gluten free bread. Otherwise it was an enjoyable experience, chatting to the staff. Ray asked for bacon and a well cooked egg and it was perfect, while I opted for bacon and egg.
Jojo’s vegan cake sale was a great success with a mouth-watering array of cakes and pastries. When Ray asked whether they were dairy free, she proudly announced they all were – so he was delighted!
So what did we end up buying? It was a difficult choice, so we bought gluten free and dairy free banana bread (which we’ve frozen), a dairy free cupcake and a delicious slice of gluten free and dairy free coffee cake with a creamy filling. The most unusual option was a courgette muffin, chewy and moist with a real courgette taste!
JoJo runs Operation Icing, Brighton’s not for profit vegan bakery
The biggest discovery was the Wai Kika Moo Kaw café 11a Kensington Gardens, Brighton, BN1 4AL - Tel: 0871 2071890, which Jojo recommended. We had walked past this restaurant on countless occasions, not realising it was vegan.
Its menu usefully has symbols – v for vegan, vo – vegetarian option and gf – gluten free. We met owner Faruk Bulut who explained how the restaurant started as a primarily vegetarian venue, but his wife Aga who is vegan, introduced vegan dishes. Special mention has to be given to the unusual but delectable drinks. Ray ordered the Breakfast Smoothie, consisting of banana, honey, wheat germ and soya milk at £3.75, while I opted for the Chai Shake, a mango and passion fruit smoothie (£3.75).
For the main course, Ray chose the Kicking Kau Burger, a sweet potato and soyabean burger topped with homemade hummus and beetroot and horseradish salsa at £8.25.
I had the gluten free, vegetarian Steaming Veggie Bean Chilli, served with aromatic rice, nachos topped with homemade salsa guacamole (£7.75).
The menu boasts highly creative dishes such as Kicking Kau Curry with roast buttermilk, squash, courgettes, coconut and tomato or there’s the vegan and gluten free Risotto Rosso – risotto with roast beetroot, sundried tomatoes, rocket and pesto (£6.95).
If you’re gluten free, check with the waiting staff that the dish is gluten free. Just because it’s vegan, it isn’t necessarily gluten free.
We were too full for dessert, but there’s the Vegan Cake of the Say at £3.70.
Ray had lunch at Thai Ming restaurant, 1-5 Windmill Row, Kennington, London SE11 5DW where he enjoyed Kaeng Kiew Wahn, a traditional green curry with fresh herbs and Thai Aubergines with chicken (£6.90) – crucially there was no dairy.
A friend suggested going to The Dittons, 64 Ditton Hill Road, Long Ditton,
This must be one of the best kept secrets in Surbiton, Surrey. The menu advises you to speak to a member of staff if you are allergic or avoiding certain foods, so I immediately informed them that I was gluten free. I ordered the pork loin with bubble and squeak (£9.95), but was told that the sauce had wheat in it so I was offered two alternatives – red wine sauce or rhubarb and stem ginger. I’ve always liked rhubarb so chose the second option, which complemented the pork beautifully. For dessert, I was reliably informed I could have Banana Pavlova (although there was cream in it, so no good for dairy free) or Fizzy Fruit Salad – Cava over classic fruits which I enjoyed. Still water with lime cordial is a refreshing alternative to wine. Thank you Amanda for the suggestion.
Read in the paper about all these alternative milks on the market – wonder what camel milk tastes like?

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Caffe Culture and the Great Taste Awards

It can be embarrassing when you’re at a celebration for someone’s birthday when you have to refuse a slice of cake because you have a wheat or dairy intolerance. That happened to me twice this week. Luckily I met Sarah Jones who runs Especially Delicious a gluten free bakery and was able to make me a wheat and dairy free cake for my last birthday. Sarah asks you what special interests you have and incorporates them on the cake. Thus I had a fountain pen made of icing (to depict the writing), ‘la, la la’ to represent the choir I sing with and a silhouette of a woman doing Pilates exercises! All very clever – but what was wonderful is that Ray and I could eat the cake! And we’ve frozen what was left, which we serve to friends as and when. Visited Caffe Culture this week and it was good to see Pourtoi Artisan Chocolatier, winner of the Sweet Biscuits Category of this year’s Free From Awards for its Raisin Double Choc Chip Cookie, which is gluten free, dairy free, wheat free and lactose free. What’s more, the company received three Gold Awards from the Guild of Fine Food’s Great Taste Awards last year for two other varieties of cookie. I tasted their new gluten and dairy free muffins – banana double choc chunk and orange double choc chunk, all beautifully moist with a strong chocolate flavour. Claire Rose started up a chocolate company with her husband Ian. A family member was a coeliac and so they decided to explore gluten free options. “The market has grown,” says Claire. “The focus of our company is to create products which are treated as a mainstream product, suitable for everyone.” Miraculously, at the show, I found a wheat-free sandwich at the Crussh Juice Bar at London’s Olympia exhibition centre. Normally at these events I go hungry or take my own, but not this time! It was made from wheat free bread, avocado, spinach, crunchy peppers, beansprouts, hummus, sun-dried tomatoes. Delicious! On Thursday I met Sally-Jayne and Corinne for lunch at Lola Rojo Spanish restaurant and deli, 78 Northcote Road, Clapham Junction We had the lunch special – three tapas $8.50. There was plenty of choice for wheat free options – my favourite was crispy aubergine with blossom honey. Other choices included Serrano ham, cod gratin and Spanish omelette. Don’t know how Ray would have fared here.Meanwhile, Ray had lunch at Pizza Express in Kennington (316 Kennington Road, SE11 4LD) “They were very helpful,” he said. “They assured me there was no milk in the dough. I ordered a Venezia pizza with very little tomato, no mozzarella and extra anchovies.” On the web site if you click on “allergies” there is a chart giving details on each menu item as to whether it contains gluten, dairy, nuts and so on and whether it would be suitable for a coeliac or vegan. If only more restaurants did this you could go to the restaurant knowing which dishes you can order. And so to Friday and the judging of the Great Taste Awards – what fun! The Great Taste Awards, organised by the Guild of Fine Food This year there were 7,432 products entered with a panel of 300 judges. Our job is to advise how the product could be improved, to be positive at the outset and be encouraging. It was an illuminating morning. We blindtasted everything from salami, lamb, dark chocolate, jams, marinades and ice cream. You’ll have to wait until the results are announced in July to see who won.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Ipswich eating out with food allergies

In stark contrast to New York, we found ourselves in Ipswich in East Anglia. We arrived by train at lunchtime and explored the town for somewhere to eat. Everywhere seemed to be full of paninis, sandwiches or pizzas or else, rich food covered in creamy sauces - no good for gluten free or dairy free. When I asked a couple of locals for some ideas, they agreed that there were few lunchtime places in Ipswich that didn't just serve sandwiches and bread-based fare!

We spent an hour trailing the streets until the only outlet we could find was Just Spuds in the Buttermarket shopping complex. I had tuna mayonnaise baked potato and Ray had plain tuna - after we reiterated we didn't want any butter on the potatoes.

Are there any restaurants serving gluten free and dairy free dishes at lunchtime, we wonder?

After lunch, we wandered round the market where there was a huge stall selling bread and cakes. Ray asked whether the apple strudel had any dairy in it and the man showed him the cardboard box listing all the ingredients and amazingly there was no dairy! When I asked whether there were any gluten free products, he said no and added "It doesn't taste nice". So Ray lucked out and enjoyed his apple strudel while I had a banana.

That evening we attended a friend's special party at the Christchurch Mansion, Christchurch Park, a spectacular venue for a party with lots of dancing! Fortunately we had no problems with the food as there was plenty of sushi and salads. We had to pass on the birthday cake.

We were staying at The Salthouse Harbour Hotel a swish modern boutique hotel with fab views of the harbour. The harbour was so picturesque, it felt we were somewhere like Nice, France, rather than Ipswich. Everything was idyllic except at 2am when someone had set off the fire alarm. So we ran down six flights of stairs (me in my nightie and raincoat) and stood about for 20 minutes while a member of staff tried to turn it off - he eventually managed this with the aid of a screwdriver!

At breakfast, I asked whether they had any soya milk and was told no, but that if I had contacted them in advance, they would have arranged this.

Ray wanted the Suffolk Grill, but asked whether the mushrooms were sauteed in butter and whether there was any dairy in the sausage which she checked and fortunately there wasn't any. The Suffolk Grill comprises Denham Estate rare breed sausage and bacon, fried bread, grilled tomato, mushroom and fried egg.

I had local cooked ham with poached egg and sauteed potatoes, as well as fruit salad.

Ray asked them to check whether the bread had milk in it and was told they couldn't guarantee it as it comes from a baker who supplies it cling wrapped but they didn't think so. Ray decided to risk it - but all was ok.

On the rail journey back, all we had was a packet of crisps and an Eat Natural bar (which we'd brought with us) as everything in the National Express buffet bar was bread-based. C'est la vie!

Friday, 6 May 2011

The Allergy and Gluten Free Show May 11

As a gluten free person, when was the last time you bought a sandwich to go for lunch? For me it was years ago so what a delightful surprise to be able to buy one today at the Allergy and Gluten Free Show at London's Olympia. The gluten, wheat and dairy free "hoomoongooes crunch" comprised coriander, houmous, red pepper, celery and cucumber in gluten free bread, courtesy of - more please!

Being at the show was like "nirvana" because, as a wheat, gluten and dairy free person, there was so much I could sample and eat!

Hurrah! I've found the UK equivalent to Babycakesnyc in New York - it's Sweetcheeks with its tantalising display of gluten, wheat and dairy free cupcakes at the show with funky and glittery icing - one cupcake even had a giant red button on it (see picture)! Business owner Catherine Rose says she wants to diversify from cupcakes and had already sold 36 doughnuts when I caught up with her. "Cupcakes are beautiful and they sell but I want to offer hearty British food like banana bread, pies and crumbles and carrot and onion muffins. I'm currently looking for premises so I can open a tea room." All I can say is Catherine - bring it on! She describes herself as 'a self diagnosed coeliac' and found it a shock switching to a gluten free diet. "I missed sweets so when I visited Babycakesnyc I was inspired by their creations and thought I could introduce something like that here." After developing her recipes, she set up on her own in September 2009. "Some companies make gluten free cakes by just substituting wheat four with gluten free flour, but we don't do that. Our cakes mostly use on saturated fats and use agave nectar."

Catherine sells her wares at Brick Lane on Sundays and Marylebone High Street on Saturdays. She will also be at the forthcoming Hampton Court Foodies Fair

Another great find was the Golden Bread Mix from WAGfree Bakery in Brixton Village Market, London. This comprises brown rice, tapioca, almond flour and flaxseed. Just add live yogurt, egg, sunflower oil and water to make gluten free bread. Dairy free alternatives to yoghurt are given -for example soya yogurt. WAGfree Bakery was started by David Scrace who was diagnosed as a coeliac four years ago. "I looked around at what was available and it was unpalatable," he said. He joined forces with Edward Barrow, a chef and developed a range of products and opened the cafe in November 2010. "Anyone can make gluten free cakes," he said," but pastry is very difficult and that's what we excel at. We also make fresh filled pasta and pies. I'd like to see a WAGfree on every street corner." You can buy the mix from the web site - or better still, visit the Bakery at 26 Brixton Village, London SW9 8PR.

Dairy chocolate is usually very difficult to find, but at the Show there were several options. Celtic Chocolates was showcasing its range of dairy free chocolate including the delicious Caramel flavoured chocolates under the 'Choices' brand - truly scrumptious. No wonder they were highly commended in the Free From Awards The Awards had its own stand where I caught up with Michelle and Cressida, took part in a survey and sampled a Clearspring tamari and black sesame rice cake - yummy!

First time exhibitor Moo Free sampled its chocolate, made with rice milk, which was very creamy. Started up by Andrea and Mike Jessup, they have introduced a range of child-friendly chocolates including a forthcoming advent calendar and chocolate Santa for Christmas.

On the Genius Foods stand it was great to hear that the new Genius range of gluten and dairy free seeded rolls and teacakes will be in Tesco as from 16 May. A new range comprising gluten free sausage rolls, shortcrust pastry, peppered steak slices, Cornish slices and steak and ale pies is on the horizon. These are all gluten free, but not dairy free. Newcomer Fria was making an impact with its delicious gluten free cinnamon buns, mini baguettes and dark loaf with linseeds. Fria is the biggest Swedish gluten free company and wants to establish itself in the UK. Monika Agorelius, who is a coeliac, said "It's common in other countries to sell gluten free bread frozen, but not here, but it makes sense to buy it frozen as you can use it as you go along and not waste any of it." Fria products can be purchased from and from Scandinavian Kitchen as well as John Lewis food halls in Oxford Street and Bluewater.

It was good to see Sainsbury's giving 'free from' demonstrations of recipes such as Asian Fishcakes and chewy flapjacks. To my astonishment, Marks & Spencer had a stand - I found the bread dry, a bit like blotting paper and the cake unfortunately has dairy in it, so no good for my husband. It's good to see they are trying to participate in the 'free from' arena.

The Allergy and Gluten Free Show is on over the weekend - a visit is well recommended!

Monday, 2 May 2011

New York eating out with food allergies

Travelling when you have a food allergy or intolerance, whether you are gluten free, wheat free or dairy free, is always a lottery situation.
Ray and I always travel with two 100ml plastic bottles of soya milk (bottles obtainable from Muji ), Eat Natural bars, rice cakes and Hob Nob biscuits (plain not milk chocolate) – just in case there are problems finding food we can eat.
We lucked out on the flight to Virgin Atlantic as we had pre-booked our meals. My gluten free option comprised vegetables in a tomato sauce, white and wild rice and roasted vegetables. There was even a gluten free bread from, as well as salad and fresh fruit. It tasted scrumptious. The only down side was that there was no soya milk available on the plane for our tea.
On arrival at a new destination, there is always the challenge of finding a supermarket or grocery store that sells soya milk. I had been told that it’s generally easy to eat out in New York if you’re gluten free or dairy free, but we didn’t find it so.
Our first meal in New York was a total disaster. We were badly jet lagged and the waiter looked at us as if we were from another planet when we said that Ray was allergic to dairy. In the end we ordered mediocre salads………..
At my cousin’s apartment, we enjoyed a Chinese take out so no problems there and Ray found soya milk (called soy milk in New York) at her local supermarket in the Upper East Side – small 50ml sizes which are easy to carry around. Alpro, please take note!
Breakfast was definitely a problem. Our hotel the Flatotel only served cakes, croissants and bread – or fruit. I felt like something more substantial than just fruit, so called into the local Lindy’s on 7th Avenue. When we began explaining our problems to the waitress, she didn’t want to listen; she simply asked us what we wanted. I ended up with a dried up egg and some bacon. Is it the New York way to serve bacon so brittle and crispy so it has no flavour? Ray fared better with the bagel. What always amuses me in these situations is that after explaining that we are dairy free, they serve a jug of milk with the tea! It cost us U$18 (around £10) in all.
Later in the day, at Starbucks we enjoyed a cup of tea with soya milk. I asked whether they sold the gluten free sandwich, which is available in the UK, but apparently there is so little demand, it wouldn’t be cost-effective, they said.
For lunch, we met my cousin and her family at the New York Athletic Club, an impressive building with gold ceilings. She had kindly alerted them in advance about our allergies, so they were prepared. We both enjoyed Smoked Atlantic Salmon to start with, followed by Half Cornish Game Hen with spring vegetables and for Ray, Rack of Lamb. Delicious and a wonderful way of celebrating Easter Sunday – with a live violinist who went round the tables serenading everyone!
That evening, my cousin cooked a mouth-watering lamb stew. I was at hand in the kitchen to read all the ingredients on the packets and jars of stock, spices and so on to check they were gluten and dairy free. As Ray is intolerant to many vegetables including courgettes, peppers and tomatoes, it was quite a challenge, although we got there in the end. She served us Tofutti milk free ice cream which was delicious and again, from the local supermarket. Thank you Janine.
After our Lindy’s experience, we chose to have breakfast in our hotel. I opted for the fruit, while Ray checked with staff whether the bread and pastries had dairy in them. Lo and behold, they all did so Chef Ismail at the Flatotel rustled up some bacon and fried potatoes for us – the bacon, though crispy, tasted much better than the previous day. Thank you Chef Ismail – he also said to ask for him the next day and he would prepare something different.
We took the Metro to 14th Street – Union Square – and discovered a farmers market
– not only that, there was a stand selling gluten free and dairy free cakes! Counter is an organic vegetarian bistro 105 First Avenue (6th and 7th St) with a gluten free and vegan menu. We didn’t have time to visit but their cakes were wonderful.
If you’re looking for free from foods in New York, Wholefoods is the place to go. This is the only store we found which had a separate ‘gluten free’ section which was extensive including raisin and pecan bagels, fudge brownies and non dairy chocolate cakes. In most stores, we found you had to hunt for any ‘free from’ items. What’s more, Wholefoods has published a “Guide to Gluten Free Shopping” to help shoppers identify items with hidden gluten.
At the wonderful Strand Book Shop,
which is similar to what was Borders in the UK, I chanced upon the “Babycakes Covers The Classics” recipe book, created by Erin McKenna, founder of Babycakes NYC, which sells dairy, gluten, egg, soy and refined sugar free cakes and desserts. The very same bakery that Glutenfree Mrs D had told me about.

After buying the book, we decided then and there that the bakery was worth a visit. Anyway I needed to get the book signed.

Playing it safe for lunch, we opted for Pret A Manger at Union Square where Ray chose a tuna mayonnaise sandwich with lettuce, but crucially no butter, while I enjoyed a chicken, avocado salad with dried cranberries and tomatoes. All up this cost U$16.40. What we like about Pret is that they list all the ingredients so you can see at a glance whether you can eat a particular item.
We got chatting to a New Yorker (as you do) who explained how to travel to Babycakes
on the Lower East Side by bus and this was a fabulous adventure taking us through parts of New York you don’t normally see. Visiting Babycakes was like heaven as when you step inside, you know you can eat everything on the menu! Not only are they dairy, gluten, egg and soy free, but also refined sugar free. Most desserts are sweetened with agave nectar, a low-glycemic syrup. So it’s very difficult to make a choice. We opted for the chocolate mint cupcake and the banana cupcake, both of which were delicious. Normally I don’t like icing, but this icing, which they call frosting, tasted divine. Interestingly, they said that many people, who don’t have any food intolerances, eat their cakes because they love the taste. We also bought a gluten free doughnut and a slice of banana cake to go – needless to say they were delicious too. I asked for Erin as I wanted the book signed, but she wasn’t there – probably in LA where they have two branches. It has to be said this was one of the highlights of our trip. I will enjoy experimenting with the recipes in the cookbook.
Meanwhile I had purchased The Vegan Guide to New York by Ryan Berry and Chris Abreu-Suzuki
and we chose to visit Lilli and Loos, Lexington Avenue, at 61 and 62 Streets,, an Asian restaurant, which offers a special gluten free menu. To start with, we had satay chicken (US$8.95) and oriental pork dumplings (US$8.50) (a treat as I normally can’t eat the dumplings). For the main course, I enjoyed Pad Thai noodles (US$12.95) while Ray had Singapore chicken noodles (US$12.95). Excellent service and delicious food.

Chef Ismail wasn’t there, but the Flatotel served us sausages split down the middle, fried potatoes and peppers – is this breakfast? Still you’ve got to feel grateful that they have offered us an alternative. I just ate the potatoes. We then accessed the Internet at the hotel’s business centre downstairs, but can’t book our airline seats as yet. This is the best kept secret in the hotel – free Internet access and you can even print off material!
We ask where the nearest supermarket is and are told it’s Ernst and Stein, 7th Avenue between 55 and 56 streets. By this time, the temperature had soared and although it’s only April, the heat is unbearable and it’s only 10.30am. The forecast says 27 degrees and yet we were told 18 degrees with rain! We buy water and bananas; they is no ambient soya milk. As it is so hot, we decide taxi is the only way to travel and go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and view a guitar exhibition with iPod multimedia accompaniment accessing us to commentary and music played by various guitarists. Paul Simon’s guitar was even on display!
For lunch, we go to the cafeteria, a real “free for all” reminiscent of a school meals approach. You have to get your tray, cutlery and napkins before you select the food. We opted for the safe choice – the salad bar although labelling was minimal so it was a case of recognising what the food was, but at least there were items we could eat. We couldn’t see any signs or anything geared up for people with food allergies. They weigh the salad and then tell you the cost. Our bill was US$23.83, plus US$3 for chips.
As we left the museum, the hot sun pulsated down as if it was a desert so we hailed a cab and took refuge in Barnes & Noble which has moved to 82nd and Broadway. It is air conditioned!
At Le Pain de Quotidien at Broadway and 91st Street, we met Penny Hammond, who runs the site all about food issues.
I’d always dismissed the UK branches of this eatery thinking they only served breads and pastries, but was delightfully surprised when I was told they served gluten free and dairy free coconut macaroons and almond meringue, so we ordered one of each – the meringue was enormous so we took half away in a goodie bag. The menu has symbols indicating vegan choices. For example, Quinoa and Orugula with chick peas, artichoke and basil pesto. Soy milk was available for our tea.
Our friend Robin had gone to great trouble that evening to serve a meal we could eat – it was delicious - baked cod with mushrooms and artichokes. We discovered how to cook and eat artichokes. Thank you Robin.
Chef Ismail at the Flatotel excelled himself today and gave us ham, fried potatoes, courgettes (or zucchinis as they called in America) and green beans in olive oil – delicious – thank you again, Chef.
We headed back to Soho and Greenwich Village, our favourite neighbourhoods for more browsing and shopping. Down Bleecker Street, there were plenty of bakeries but none serving gluten or dairy free items. In fact when I asked Amy’s Bakery whether they served gluten or dairy free, the shop assistant looked aghast as if I’d spoken a foreign language. We passed the famous Magnolia Bakery, but it was so crowded, moved on quickly.
We chanced upon Hummus Place, which is listed in The Vegan Guide to New York, on 7th Avenue south between Barrow and Bleecker Streets This restaurant, as you’ve probably guessed, is devoted to hummus, which is one of our favourite foods – as it’s both gluten and dairy free.You can order two difference styles of hummus – one made from fava beans and chickpeas and one from whole chickpeas. We opted for the Lunch Special at US$7.95 which included a dish of hummus and one appetizer. So for appetizers, we ordered falafel and tahini and for the mains, hummus masabacha with whole chickpeas, olive oil and spices and Ray had hummus with mushrooms. I explained I was gluten free, so instead of pitta bread (which doesn’t have milk in it so Ray was ok), I was given crudités of carrot and cucumber. The hummus is served on a medium-sized plate with the mushrooms or chick peas inside a circle of hummus. We found it filling so were unable to sample the vegan desserts such as vegan almond raspberry chocolate brownies.

If you’re homesick for Old Blighty, there’s Myers of Keswick on the corner of Horatio Street and Hudson Street selling British items like PG tips, Hob Nob biscuits and Crunchy Nut cornflakes. They’d sold out of Wills and Kate Royal Wedding postcards!

That evening, my cousin had booked a table at Candle 79 154 East 79th Street at Lexington Avenue
A well known vegan eatery, again listed in The Vegan Guide to New York. The guide says that Seitan Piccata (US$23) with steamed spinach, savory potato cake and lemon caper sauce is Sir Paul McCartney’s favourite dish. So what is seitan? It’s gluten which has been boiled in a gingertamari broth. Being gluten free, I gave this one a miss, but my cousin and husband ordered it and said it tasted great. It has to be said our waiter, John, was extremely helpful and patient, taking time to explain the various dishes.
They have a special gluten free menu. For starters, I chose vegetable quinoa nori rolls – pickled ginger, avocado wasabi, chipotle aioli and tamari ginger sauce (US$14) which was similar in presentation to sushi, although tasted more spicy. Ray ordered smoked hummus (US$13) – he can’t eat enough! For mains, we both enjoyed Herb Baked Tofu with roasted fingerling potatoes, garlic sugar snap peas, mint fava bean sauce and pickled carrot salad (US$22). Normally I find tofu bland tasting like blotting paper, but this was flavoursome and tasty. Dessert was a treat – dairy free ice cream for Ray and I chose the Key Lime Parfait (US$13) a nut granula lime cashew cream cococnut ice cream. Bliss – it’s so rare that we can have dessert in a restaurant!

And so our trip came to an end. We were so pleased to have discovered so many ‘free from’ establishments in New York, but they aren’t easy to find. Wake up New York supermarkets – we need you to introduce ‘free from’ sections as in UK supermarkets.

Starbucks – serve soya milk, but nothing to eat here
Wholefoods – sell ‘free from’ foods
Pret A Manger at Union Square – list ingredients so you can see at a glance what you can eat
Babycakes – nirvana - dairy, gluten, egg and soy free, but also refined sugar free cakes, cupcakes, desserts, doughnuts. Get the recipe book.
Lilli and Loos, Lexington Avenue, at 61 and 62 Streets, – special gluten free menu
Hummus Place – several restaurants devoted to hummus and vegan desserts
Candle 79 154 East 79th Street at Lexington Avenue vegan restaurant with gluten free menu