Travelling while Celiac: Barcelona
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Gluten Free Dublin: 777 Review
not the best images but my phone is not the greatest camera!
I had been craving a Margharita for weeks when I finally snapped last payday and decided to go for dinner in 777 on Georges St. They do amazing margharitas and it was either that or fork out for a bottle of tequila and spend the evening juicing limes.
777 don’t take bookings but you can put your name down on a waiting list and they will call you as soon as a table is available. If you are a party of two you will most likely be seated at the counter, but the stools are comfortable and the counter a generous width so sitting there is really grand. We put our names down and headed across the road for a gluten free beer to while away the time.
I have eaten in 777 before and they are really clear on what on the menu is suitable for a gluten free diet. As soon as I mentioned celiac this time I was talked through each item on the menu and anything that would have contained gluten was pointed out to me and outside of the deserts I was only warned away from one dish that had a crispy onion topping (containing wheat) and two other dishes that were marinated in soy sauce, everything else was fine.
There is a dish on the menu I would heartily recommend and it is the half pigs head carnitas, this is €36 but feeds two people, you are basically getting half a pigs head that has been cooked t perfect golden crispiness served with pickles, soft corn tortillas, grilled corn and papas fritas. As they bring the whole cooked head to the table for us to view it in all its glory they did check first to make sure this wouldn’t bother us, we assured them we were fine but it is nice that they asked as I do know people who would not be up for this at all. The head is then taken back to the kitchen where the crackling is broken in to delicious shards and the meat is shredded before the whole lot is put on a platter with a selection of pickles.
The meat was meltingly perfect and very tasty and the crackling delicious, the grilled corn with a grating of queso cheese was unbelievable good and the papas, fried potatoes with garlic and manchego, were lovely but we were so focussed on the meat that we barely made a dint in them.
I rolled out the door replete and very happy, full of tequila and carnitas.
I would very much recommend 777 to anyone looking for a gluten free restaurant, the staff are well versed in the ingredients of each dish and are reassuringly clear on what you can and can’t eat. The food is great and the drinks amazing and while it is a bit pricey they do food and drinks deals throughout the week.
GF Review: Goodness Grains Bagels
Goodness Grains used to make my favourite GF bread, it was an Olive and Sundried Tomato Loaf, it was glorious smeared with a good thick layer of butter and the perfect bread to serve with antipasti. I don’t see it on their website anymore and it definitely hasn’t been in stores for a while but my fingers are crossed it will make a come- back. Of all the gluten free breads out there I think that Goodness Grains make the best. The texture and flavour are good, it is usually really soft and fresh and great for making sandwiches. I am also a big fan of their Apple Danish which has made for a great emergency breakfast if I am heading to the airport or train station early in the morning. All around their product range is solid and although you can’t get everything in their range in stores they do have a very user friendly website and I am definitely going to order one of their GF croissants sometime.
This weekend I had my brother and his girlfriend were staying over but leaving my house early for an all -day session at IKEA and I wanted to set them up with a quick but substantial breakfast so bagels and a selection of toppings it was. I filled the table with cream cheese, smoked salmon, bacon, toasted bagels, butter and strawberry jam and a big pot of coffee and let everyone help themselves
I am lucky in that my local supermarket has a fairly good gluten free range so I was able to pick up a bag of the Goodness Grains bagels for myself and they were only fine I am sad to say. As a bread bun they were great , soft and light and nicely flavoured with sesames seeds and I definitely think I would use them for sandwiches or as burger buns in the future but a good bread bun does not a bagel make and they were lacking in the dense chewy texture that makes a good bagel. If I were to compare them with the Be Free Bagels, which gets much closer to my admittedly ten year old memory of what I real bagel feels like to eat, I would have to say they don’t really compare and they are more expensive.
However although they lacked the proper bagel texture they are still a tasty bread roll and I did have another bagel, toasted and topped with creamy scrambled eggs embellished with chives, smoked salmon and a good grating of parmesan cheese the following morning.
Just putting a hole in the middle of a bap does not make a bagel, a bagel is in the texture and taste not in the shape and if I could but a pack of rolls made to this recipe but without the hole I think I would be more inclined to make a second purchase.
That said I would recommend you try the Goodness Grain range and I do sincerely hope they start making that Olive and Sundried Tomato loaf again!
How to make your kitchen gluten free
If you have just been diagnosed celiac one of the first things you will have to do is sort out your kitchen. It can be cathartic, making a clean sweep and creating a space where you can cook food that is going to be safe for you to eat. I like to think of it as a decontamination process, it sounds more dramatic than just having a Spring Clean.
It can be intimidating, trying to figure out where to start and even more so if you share this kitchen with other people who aren’t celiac. Whether you share with a spouse, partner, room-mate or children you will need to explain to them what celiac is and how integral eating gluten free and being able to prepare food in a gluten free environment is to your health. If they are reasonable human beings they will want you to be well and will therefore work with you. If not you should raise a haughty eyebrow and throw some science in their direction, tell them this isn’t a fad you are indulging it is a medical necessity.
The ideal scenario is that everyone would eat gluten free but this is not a reasonable expectation in most households.
If you are sharing a space ask for a cupboard of your own or ask if one cupboard can be assigned to gluten containing food with everywhere else being gluten free. The next step is to start dividing food stuffs into two piles, GF and non GF, the non GF stuff goes in its assigned space (or the bin) and the GF stuff is put to one side while you clean. Go by the food lists given to you by your gastroenterologist or dietician. Read the labels carefully and if there are ingredients you aren’t sure of check the internet or call your dietician. The Celiac Society of Ireland is a great resource and regularly updates it’s GF food list.
While everyday housekeeping is not something I get excited about there is something deeply satisfying about a good proper clear out. Put on some music (much to my boyfriend’s disdain I find Muse to be excellent cleaning music), find some clothes that you don’t mind getting wrecked and throw on the rubber gloves.
First thing, get all your tea towels and dish cloths and put them in the wash. Throw out your dish sponge, brush or whatever it is you use to wash the dishes; if there was gluten on the plate it washed there is most likely gluten on the sponge.
If you have a dishwasher load a wash of all your plates, cups, cutlery and whatever dishwasher friendly pots and baking utensils you have. If you don’t then fill the sink with hot water and get scrubbing. If you have baking tins that you can’t get pristinely clean then either assign them to non GF baking only, give them away or bin them.
Clean out your cupboards, if you can get a hoover in there than use the nozzle and get in to the corners, be as thorough as you can. Then wash them out, I am a fan of using baking (bread) soda and distilled white vinegar to clean, it is not toxic, child and pet friendly, effective and cheap. Sprinkle the surface with baking soda and spray on the distilled vinegar, there will be a chemical reaction and the mix will froth a bit, this is great for breaking down grease. The baking soda will act as an exfoliant while you are scrubbing and will get the surface really clean. Rinse out your cloth and wipe down the shelves, do this a few times until you are happy that every last crumb is gone and then use some kitchen paper to dry the cupboard. If you have very expensive, high end work tops and cupboards you should use cleaning products suitable for those surfaces.
Repeat this process in your fridge, microwave and on your work tops and cooker. Scrub your hob, grill and oven shelves. As you are on a roll you should clean the interior of your oven using the oven cleaner of your choice.
If you have a toaster then bid it a fond farewell, you will never get all the crumbs out. Do not think it is ok to keep on using the toaster for GF and non GF bread, even if you have a four slice toaster where you have designated one half GF and the other non GF, crumbs will travel. You could use toaster bags, I find them fiddly and prefer to use the grill but I do know people who swear by them, particularly if they are making toast in an office kitchen that does not have a dedicated GF toaster.
Invest in two pasta colanders, it will make your life easier . If you bake then invest in a new sieve and baking tins. I haven’t baked with non GF flour since I was diagnosed as flour makes dust which can be inhaled so everything I bake with is GF.
Invest in storage jars and containers. I have a fine collection of large glass pickle and sauerkraut jars that I have cleaned out and use to store flour, sugar, open bags of dried pasta, rice, herbs, gelatin etc. If you have a shared space this is a good way of avoiding cross contamination. Don’t share butter or dairy spreads, if you use a spread buy a separate tub for your use only. If you listen your better angels and use lovely, salty butter then invest in two butter dishes, one for you and one for non GF use. This rule applies to pretty much anything you would use a knife or spoon to get at, jam, mustard, relish, peanut butter etc. Squeeze bottles of mayonnaise and tomato sauce are excellent for shared use.
Wipe down work surfaces before you prepare food just in case. If you are sharing the grill and don’t feel like washing it between cooking non GF and GF sausages or meting cheese on GF and non GF toast then tin foil is your friend, I go through a lot of tinfoil.
Use common sense and be vigilant, this vigilance will become second nature before you know it and being careful won’t seem like an effort.