Travelling while Celiac: Barcelona

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At the start of November I travelled to Barcelona for a Joanna Newsome concert, both the musician and the city were new two me and I really enjoyed both.
Barcelona is a beautiful city and was surprisingly and delightfully sunny for the 4th of November. The architecture is amazing, there is art everywhere you look and a walk along the marina is  a glimpse in to the world of the super -rich and their frankly ridiculous yachts.

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There are small stores full fresh bread and pastries or fresh fruit and vegetables everywhere and a load of small bars serving tapas. Here in lies the problem for a celiac who doesn’t speak Spanish. A lot of the tapas were pre made, served on bread and displayed on the pub bar and so were out of the question.
I had done some research before I left and found a few celiac friendly restaurants but they were a bit of a walk away from my hotel which was close to the concert venue and therefore not the best options for dinner.

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I did manage to have two really good meals while I was there but the next time I go I think I will stay in an apartment and make my own meals from all the amazing produce that is available in the city.

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On my first afternoon there my friend and I ate in in a tiny restaurant called Rebelot on the Carrer del Baluard. This gorgeous little place is relaxed and cosy and the food was simple and lovely. There was one guy manning the bar, taking orders and serving and one other guy working away in the open kitchen, between them they managed to keep the atmosphere relaxed and extremely chilled out. People were served as their food was ready and the customers were all happy to sit with their drinks and wait. We ordered two lethal gin and tonics, free pouring liquor is apparently the way they go in Barcelona and I began discussing the menu with the guy working the floor, he went through every item with me and shouted questions back to the kitchen so the chef could confirm what I could eat. As most of the menu was fresh fish and salad I was pretty well catered for.

While we were waiting a bowl of fresh bread was brought to the table for my friend and I was presented with a small bowl of olives, the waiter gestured to the bread and then gave me a brief hug in commiseration for my not being able to eat any of it, this was the nicest reaction I have ever had telling a waiter I was celiac, he wasn’t put out, he was happy to find me something to eat and he was sorry for all the good stuff I couldn’t have. My burrata salad and grilled prawns were all the more delicious for this welcome.

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www.rebelotbcn.com
The morning after the concert we woke late and I felt the need of a good feed before a day of sight- seeing so we walked forty minutes from the hotel to find Copasetic on the Carrer de la Diputacio. This restaurant is very celiac friendly although they do have the disclaimer that the kitchen isn’t a designated gluten free zone. It is a beautiful bright space with outdoor seating and as it was a beautiful balmy day we sat outside. I ordered a free range chicken burger on what has to be the best gluten free bread roll I have ever had, it had a crisp crust and was lovely and soft inside, the burger was served with a baked potato in lieu of chips and kept me going for the whole day.

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www.copaseticbarcelona.com

 

I would definitely recommend either of these restaurants if you are looking for a gluten free meal in Barcelona but I would also recommend that you do your research before you go and mark all the GF locations on a map so you can organise your sight- seeing around your meals!

Two Restaurant Reviews: Gluten Free Eating in Dublin 7

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It would appear that I have not cooked anything in five days. I have used my kitchen for defrosting and reheating only since last Saturday. This is an unusual occurrence as I am a person who likes to cook, I like to eat and I cook to relax so it is very unusual for me to step back from my oven for so long. Life has been busy and I have been either out in the evenings or so late home from work that the best I can manage is throwing a potato in the microwave to bake. I’m not complaining though, it is good to be busy but I am looking forward to getting back in to my kitchen this weekend.

 
Although I haven’t been cooking I have been eating and I have two reviews here for restaurants local to my area of Smithfield. One is an update on my review last year of Mulligans the Grocer and the other is of the BBQ place My Meat Wagon which has great food even if it has a name I find strangely off putting.
I love that there are so many restaurants in the Smithfield / Stonybatter area of Dublin 7 where as a celiac I can eat. Mulligans, Oscars, Wuff and My Eat Wagon all offer gluten free options or will adapt their dishes to be celiac friendly if requested and all are a short walk from my front door.

 
All of these restaurants are convenient to the Light House cinema if you are planning on doing the classic dinner and a movie evening.

 

L Mulligan Grocer

I wrote a review of Mulligans last year in which I was a little scathing of their lack of gluten free sides, one evening I went in and not even the mashed potato was gluten free however I do love the atmosphere in there and also the fact that they serve one of my favourite GF beers, Daas Blond Ale. The other night we wandered in for a pint and to see if there was anything on the menu I could eat and low and behold they presented me with a separate menu listing all the dishes suitable for different allergies / dietary restrictions. It is also mentioned on this menu that they now have a separate fryer for gluten free chips . Good stuff. For starters I ordered the potted crab which was served with a lovely pile of gluten free toast cut in to soldiers and to follow I had the pork belly and a healthy portion of chips which had been fried to crispy perfection in the gluten free fryer. I left happy and very very full.
I really love when restaurants evolve the way they prepare and cook in order to facilitate the needs of hungry diners so well done Mulligans.

 
L Mulligan Grocer

 

My Meat Wagon
My Meat Wagon has been open for over a year now but I have never been in as there was no indication on their menu, website or facebook page as to whether they catered for a celiac diet or not. The other night I took a chance and just went in and asked the waiter as I was seated and he kindly went through the entire menu with me indicating what I could or couldn’t eat. The waiter also mentioned that they usually have a seperate fryer for gluten free chips but that unfortunately it was out of commission that evening.

 

All of the meat is gluten free and many of the sides so I went for a board with pulled pork and belly pork and slaw and bacon studded mashed potatoes as sides. It was all delicious and there was so much food I asked for a take away box and had the remainder for lunch the following day.

 
They also serve gluten free beer but alas it was the Damn Daura which is frankly the Bud Light of GF beers so I stuck with wine.
I am not sure why My Meat Wagon don’t make a point about the fact that they can cater for a gluten free diet on their website or on the menu which is pinned up outside the restaurant but I am here to tell you that they do so enjoy!

 
My Meat Wagon

 

My Kitchen Essentials

 

I recently wrote a brief piece on the things to think about if you are planning on building or renovating a kitchen for the lovely people of  McMullin Design and this got me thinking about that things I actually use in my kitchen.

 

There are certain things I couldn’t do without and that I use so regularly they usually live on the counter top rather than in a cupboard, here is a list of a few of these things:

Cast Iron Skillet

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My skillet lives on the cooker, it never gets put away. I have had it for years and have seasoned it several times so it is still as good as new. It is my go to pan for crisply fried eggs, a well seared steak or duck breast. I love that this pan can go in to the oven, it is great for frittata and tarte tatin, however I have on a few occasions scalded my hand by forgetting that metal handles are very hot when they come out of the oven.

Microplane
I once dedicated a whole post to my microplane so great is my love for this simple item. I use it to grate chilled butter and lard for pastry, zesting citrus fruit, and grating everything from cheese to garlic.

Silcom Pastry Brush
All I will say about this is that you will appreciate never having to remove an errant bristle from the top of a beautifully egg washed pie every again.

Digital Scales

Credit: Victoria Owens

I was old school in my choice of scales before I was gifted my digital scales and I have to say I don’t think I would go back, I much prefer the precision of this to spending five minutes trying to figure out exactly where the dial is pointing on an old fashioned weighing scales.

 
Cup Measures

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I love the ease of using cup measures, there is something deeply satisfying about plunging a cup measure in to a bag of flour and then levelling the top with a knife, it makes me feel like a proper baker.

 
Measuring Spoons
I have excellent spoon measures and the best thing about them is that they are more pointed than rounded so the teaspoon actually fits in to even the narrowest of spice jars, this may seem like a small thing but not being able to easily get a teaspoon of cumin out of a Sharwood’s jar was a definite source of frustration for me.

 
A Wooden Spoon and a Balloon Whisk

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It is old fashioned, scorched and stained but I love my wooden spoon. Back in the days when I couldn’t afford an electric mixer I managed to make many elaborate deserts and cakes with just a balloon whisk and my wooden spoon although I did once lose a spoon and a plastic bowl to a particularly solid piece of butter, somehow in my attempt to soften the butter I put the spoon through the bottom of the bowl snapping the handle as it went. The balloon whisk I use for sauces, custards and on days when I feel in the need of a workout I still use it to whisk egg whites

 

Sugar thermometer

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I never knew I need this so much until my Mum bought it for me, my chips have never been crisper and I have used it for everything from donuts to rosehip jelly to orange curd to jam.

These are just a few of my kitchen essentials, what one thing can’t you cook without?

Food: Or Why I live in Dublin

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There are times, usually around the date my rent is paid that I wonder why I still live in the city. I have friends who seem to be fine living in the suburbs where the rents are cheaper, the nights quieter and the back gardens are larger than a postage stamp. Every time I try to convince myself that I could move I come back to the same thought, food. Living in the city means that I have access to food at all times. There is never a time day or night that I can’t pop to the local store for at least the basic necessities and there is always a 24 Tesco’s somewhere nearby for anything else.

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I also have access to a wide variety of restaurants which as a celiac makes finding somewhere to eat an much easier prospect as I have more options to choose from. I can  choose from Indian food, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Korean, Italian, French, Mexican, American Style BBQ and the best of home grown produce served in an ever increasing number of really good and interesting restaurants.

 

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Every now and then, when I have some spare shillings (or a voucher) I like to take a day and spend it wandering around Dublin, walking through markets, checking out new food stores or coffee places, stopping for good food and maybe a drink or two. If there was an equivalent of Cork’s English Market here life would be perfect but even without that, things are pretty good.

 

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One of the many benefits of immigration is the surge in restaurants featuring food from different cultures. If you are in Dublin take the time to walk down Parnell St or Capel St past all the Asian restaurants, you will see everything from Sushi to Korean BBQ. With these restaurants come the markets that supply them and this means ingredients that in the past were exotically unobtainable are easily sourced.

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Ireland has been enjoying a food revolution over the last few years. There has been a growth in interest in all things food related from great BBQ and burgers to Michelin starred cooking and everything in between. Food trucks are everywhere doing savage trade. The Slow Food Movement has allowed Irish people to re-engage with locally grown and sourced foods. We take ourselves and our food seriously and that has led to the emergence of some really interesting chefs and cooks.

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Tourists come to Dublin for many reasons, right now food should be the top of that list. Take a day, walk around, grab some cheese and artisan bread (or gluten free crackers) and head to St Stephen’s Green Park for a picnic, if money is no object try one of higher end places for a tasting menu, check out the outdoor Market in Temple Bar on Saturday, stop for some great Mexican food at 777, almost everything on the menu is gluten free. Head down to the Wine Cellar in Fallon & Byrne for charcuterie and gluten free bread. Have a cocktail in one of the many fine cocktail establishments springing up around the City, Sophie’s in the Dean Hotel, The Vintage Cocktail Club or Mint in the Westin Hotel. Go back to Capel St to the Black Sheep for a gluten free beer and some gluten free calamari.

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The food opportunities are ever increasing and definitely almost worth the price of rent!

Vote YES for Equality

 

Two very important things are going to happen on the 22nd May this year, one is a fairly big milestone birthday for me the second is that Irish people get to vote in a referendum on marriage equality. Both these events are highly important but the second will have a lasting impact on the lives of more people so I am going to admit that the vote is more important than the birthday.

 
Not so long ago I would have been considered to be living in sin, IN SIN. That seems hilarious now but I remember those words having real meaning to people’s lives in Ireland. This little country has a lovely history of ascribing stigma to things that could usher in social change. Free availability of contraception (1992), they’ll all be at it! Decriminalising homosexuality (1993), we’ll all be gay now! Divorce (1996), Jesus it’s all over now! Well the world didn’t end but society as we knew it did and that was a great thing, the society we had back then was cruel and restrictive. That was the society that allowed for Magdalene laundries, clerical and institutional child abuse, limited rights for women, no rights for children born outside of marriage, no rights for gay people. That change required people to act and if you want all people in this country to have the right to marry then you need to act, you need to make sure to vote because you can be certain that the people who are motivated by fear will go out and vote no.

 
I am not going to be tripping down the aisle anytime soon, it is not for me but I realise I am in an incredibly privileged position to be able to say that because I have a choice. I have been afforded the right to make that decision, it was mine to make, no government, no religion, no bigot was telling me that I couldn’t marry the person I have chosen to share my life with. Every person in this country should be able to make that decision themselves.

 
Not being married myself my naïve understanding of marriage is that it should be between two people for whom the act of standing before friends and family and declaring their love has a deep meaning. The ceremony has meaning, the vows have meaning, making those vows publicly, surrounded by love has meaning. Having that act of mutual devotion recognised by law has huge meaning. The fact that there are people fighting for this right tells me that marriage has meaning to them.

 
Everyone should have the right to nervously plan a proposal, to have that moment when someone says yes, to plan more than a wedding but a life together. Partner is a cold word, any woman should be able to look at the love of her life and call her wife, any man should be able to be able to introduce the man who shares his life as his husband. On a selfish note I really want to see my boyfriend one day walk his daughter down the aisle towards her future wife because I know how much that moment will mean to both of them. There is not a person alive who could come at me with an argument that could convince me that they should not have that moment. That seventeen year old girl is out campaigning for this right alongside the rest of the bright, brave, hopefully people who will usher in a better society not just for themselves but for everyone.

 
I love that this vote is happening on my birthday. I hope to cap off my natal celebrations by popping a bottle of bubbly to a Yes vote. I really want there to be a resounding Yes, a joyful Yes, a Yes that carries Ireland further away from its grey grim past in to the future. Please go out and vote and vote YES.

The Problem with being Celiac at a Wedding

I love a good wedding. My usual uniform is jeans, t-shirts and boots so I like an excuse to get properly dressed up. I love a room full of flowers, I love the shuffle as everyone stands and turns to watch the Bride walk down the aisle, I will pretty much always get a bit teary eyed at the ceremony, I like that everyone is happy and smiling and I love a bit of dancing. What I don’t look forward to are the deserts.

 

If you are celiac desert at a hotel wedding, even if that hotel usually caters beautifully for celiac, is often a massive disappointment. You watch everyone else being served something delightful and then three slices of cold hard melon and a single strawberry are plopped unceremoniously in front of you.

 

With all of the flourless deserts in the world I do not understand why I am always presented with a dodgy fruit salad. A good fruit salad, full of ripe, sweet, succulent fruit would be great, but I fear that what I usually get are the leftovers from the breakfast buffet. Occasionally I might get a meringue but it is usually served without cream for some reason. So there I am with a mouthful of sugar and egg dust and some frigid fruit.

 
Another option is ice cream and really I don’t want the same desert that is being served at the kids table when I am in my grown up finery and nursing a glass of red wine.
In the hopes that some hotel out there will do a bit of research and be brave with their deserts I am presenting a few ideas for easy Gluten Free deserts. Some of these you could easily make for the whole wedding party and just have the one option so the GF person feels warm and included.

 
• Cheese board and a pack of pre bought GF crackers. NO fuss involved, put some cheese on a plate, open the crackers and send it out. Job done.
• A really good pavlova filled with seasonal fruit.
• A flourless chocolate cake.
• Chocolate mousse, strawberry mousse, any kind of mousse really.
• A chocolate roulade, there are approximately one hundred recipes online for flourless roulade
• Fruit meringue roulade, flour free, light and delicious.
• Cheesecake made using Gluten Free digestive biscuits. Again half the work is done for you.
• Fruit crumble made with Gluten Free four or ground almonds and nuts. Easy and delicious for an Autumn wedding
• A ridiculously indulgent custardy bread pudding made with GF bread, perfect for a Winter wedding
• Crème Brulee
• Crème Caramel
• Eton Mess, really what could be easier or prettier.
• Lemon Posset, this seems to be on every other menu now days.

 
Now that I have covered desert I would like to mention the need for there to be some celiac option provided for the celiac guest when the tea, sandwiches and wedding cake are being handed out late in the evening. We have had as much booze, danced as hard and been up as long as all the other guests and to expect us to sit and watch everyone else sup on the evening’s refreshment while we are offered nothing is just bad hospitality.

 
One of my fondest wedding memories ifs of an assistant manager noticing that I was sitting morose and hungry and running out to the kitchen to arrange for some cheese and toast to be brought out to me, it was basic but tasty and filled the need and I was so grateful to that woman as she most likely saved me from a massive hangover.

 

 

I plead with hotels / caterers to really think about the needs of all their guests. The bride and groom are forking out just as much for my meal as for everyone else’s and she should get her money’s worth.

 

Be brave, be inventive, do your research and please make the effort.

Wardrobe Revamp – Swapsies Party

We all have those clothes. The pieces that you just don’t wear anymore but can’t quite bring yourself to give to the thrift shop. Maybe it was really expensive and only worn once or twice (or not at all…). Maybe you wore it SO often that it has immense sentimental value, but just doesn’t suit your life anymore.

What to do with them?

Answer is simple. Have a Swapsies Party!

My friend Janet (an amazing photographer – check out her Facebook page, Blackbird Boulevard Photography) hosted our first one a couple of years ago. We generally now do them 4-5 times a year and each one is better than the last. It’s so simple!

Get a group of your friends to round up their undesirable clothing/jewelery/gently used cosmetics/etc. (size of the group depends on size of the host space – we find it generally works best with about 6-7 people in a small-ish apartment).

Display the clothing around the room (pro-tip: get your hands on some clothing rails, if only for the afternoon). We generally put dresses on a rail, and then have a couch for tops and a couch for bottoms, a chair with jackets/coats, a table with jewellery/miscellany, a section on the floor for shoes and bags, and a “bargain bin”, which is just a large bag or basket that has basics and very-loved items in it. You’ll find that sometimes you’ll need another section – last time, for some reason, we had loads of scarves, so there was a rail just for them.

Photos by the Incredibly Talented Aoife O'Sullivan from Disassemble Dublin
Photos by the Incredibly Talented Aoife O’Sullivan from Disassemble Dublin

Everyone brings a “grab bag” – a big one is recommended. The IKEA ones are perfect. Last time, we opted to be more civilized and pulled names out of a hat and in that order everyone got to choose one item that they really loved. That way you were sure to get at least one thing you wanted because the next step is…

Chaos! One two three grab!

Everyone rushes around the room, grabbing at will. If you’re smart, you’ll make a plan with your buddy beforehand – one of you can take each side of the room and grab things for the other person. There’s a strict “no touching” rule before the grab in our group (apart from the intial display period) so garments are flying everywhere while people see what they want.

Then – the lull. This is the key part of swapsies. Everyone tries on everything they grabbed, then and there. If you’re a bit more modest, you can retire to a bedroom or bathroom. Anything you’re unsure about gets a group vote. And this is when the actual swapping comes in – maybe someone got that kimono you had your eye one – but you also managed to grab a pair of boots that she wanted. Perfect opportunity to orchestrate a trade.

Did I mention that while all of this is going on, there’s wine and snacks and music?

the spread
Photos by the Incredibly Talented Aoife O’Sullivan of Ruby Sky Photography, originally found on Disassemble Dublin

Swapsies can be intense, but it’s so much fun. And I’ve always come away with great items – including a beautiful TopShop playsuit, and some burgandy velvet leggings that have garnered me loads of compliments. It’s also fun seeing what items come back around. There was a pair of leather pants that took a few goes before finding their perfect home. And a great yellow and black checked dress that is now on it’s third person, just because the first two felt they’d gotten their use out of it.

Plus, at the end, anything not taken gets brought to the charity shop or Woman’s Aid. And there’s always a LOT left over.

Photos by the Incredibly Talented Aoife O'Sullivan from Disassemble Dublin
Photos by the Incredibly Talented Aoife O’Sullivan of Ruby Sky Photography, originally found on Disassemble Dublin

So if your wardrobe needs a revamp and you don’t feel like spending more than the cost of a bottle of wine – or if you just want to do a little spring cleaning – organize a swapsies party with your friends. Tell us about it if you do!

In case you missed it in the captions…many thanks to Aoife O’Sullivan of Ruby Sky Photography and Disassemble Dublin for chronicling our last Swapsies Party!