Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Pie Night II: Attack of the 30th Birthday

3.14 festivities this year featured a balanced array of sweet and savoury homemade delicatessen. Happy Pi Day indeed.

Team Savoury

  • gluten free butternut squash and goats cheese upside down pie 
  • lamb and colcanon irish pie 
  • gluten free mini pork pies 

 Team Sweet

  • gluten free key lime pie 
  • banoffee pie 
  • raw gluten free vegan blueberry pie 
  • an unknown pie of Dutch origin from friends in transit

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

There Goes Tokyo, Gluten Free!

A week off, itchy feet, the world as my oyster. I didn't even have to spin the globe to know where I wanted my finger to land. Tokyo it was. It was big, it was sensory-overload, it was difficult as hell as a coeliac but did I ever love it.

I love sushi. So I essentially survived off nigiri and sashimi the bulk of the week, particularly when I had my friend, who lives locally, show me around and translate on my behalf. The presentation goes above and beyond anything I've ever experienced in what is essentially a casual dining atmosphere. Korean BBQ was also a pleasant surprise as meat and vegetables can be ordered unmarinated and unseasoned (or even just salted) to be grilled on your table's own grate. I've never before enjoyed such a broad selection of mushrooms and the array of meat was decadent. Vinegar used in sushi rice runs the risk of having barley in Japan, which depressingly raises a red flag over everything but I never had an issue with nigiri and sashimi. Just avoid the grilled eel (unagi).

Shōchū was my drink of choice, sweet potato shochu in particular if anyone is taking notes. A distilled beverage that works well on its own on the rocks or with moxers. Mixed with chilled green tea, I found an unexpectedly satisfying cocktail. Kirin make a hard cider (/cidre) that is readily available in most bars.

Staying in an Airbnb apartment granted me access to a kitchen, which was handy for eating in when I wanted. I had packed some gluten free bagels, seed bars, cereal, and pasta from home mostly because I was marathon training even on holiday (Yoyogi Park!) and I snack like a fiend and I dreaded deciphering ingredient labels in the grocery stores. That being said, grocery shopping itself was shockingly expensive in Tokyo anyway, dairy, fruits, and veg in particular.

But I survived. And I frakking loved it.

It certainly does not encapsulate a tick mark beside Japan on the bucket list without venturing outside the city "limits" but with only a week, and the instinct that I would want to come back for more (spoiler: I was right), Tokyo gave me more than enough to keep me busy for the week.

Oh, and bring a bottle of your own gluten-free soy sauce from home. And then return with a bottle of shōchū.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Homeland Holidays

Christmas Eve dinner saw one of my mother's classic recipes take a gluten free twist. A salmon and rice pastry bake. Enveloped in my shortcrust pastry, it was literally like coming home again - albeit with an admittedly dense pastry. A power outage midway through prep sent us all into a panicked frenzy as I also had a gluten-free vegetarian curry potpie in the works. The omnipotent Hydro Quebec engineers must have sensed the cumulative groans of despair from an entire suburban block's worth of residents fretting over Christmas Eve meals in limbo as the problem was resolved within an hour.

Coupled with Brasseurs Sans Gluten's Glutenberg millet based red ale, my Christmas game was strong this year. Probably my favourite of Glutenberg's range thus far, there are lots of subtle flavour notes in this one but the overall taste is full, well-rounded and satisfying with no hint of the initial interior monologue questioning whether or not I actually find this latest instalment in my gluten-free beer drinking escapade palatable. No hesitation. It's a keeper.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Guest Beer-House: Cerveteca Lisboa

Portugal, craft beer. Two things you would not think to be synonymous given the culture's penchant for wine, but there you have it. Cerveteca Lisboa gave us a solid few hours of craft beer from various countries before we hit the Bairro Alto one night in Lisbon. They had quite a few gluten-free beers on offer. I tried two from Danish brewery Mikkeller, who use traditional ingredients and processes to brew their beers but they de-glutenize it by way of enzyme additives. Charming. And common practice. The third was another Danish brewery, To Øl

Mikkeller's I Wish IPA, which they tout as the world's first gluten-free beer, was quite good with an almost pine-like aroma along with the usual hints of citrus.

Mikkeller's American Dream (Gluten-Free version) was a lager, and I've expressed how I feel about gluten-free lagers, but this one did break the mould ever so slightly; an abundance of fruity aftertastes without being cloaked in citrus and just a hint of carbonation. Very dry though. Mikkeller also make a regular version of their American Dream so it's imperative for a Coeliac to ensure they are getting the right bottle.

To Øl's Hop Love Pils was quite enjoyable and I discovered this one by fluke when a friend had ordered it and it was only upon reading the label and googling it that it proved to also be gluten-free. I did only have a small taste (not sure what controls are like for brewing as they reportedly use other breweries' equipment). One of the cloudiest pilseners I've ever seen, a very delicate fruity aroma, peach perhaps, with sharp grassy undertones. Rather lovely though and evidently indistinguishable from a regular pils.

Cerveteca Lisboa was a top visit and the owners were very pleasant, keeping our interest peaked until closing time. Saúde!

Cerveteca Lisboa
Praça das Flores 63
1200-192 Lisboa, Portugal

Guest Restaurant: Cervejaria Ramiro

You go to Lisbon thinking you’re rather partial to seafood. You go to Cervejaria Ramiro and you leave Lisbon realizing how a meal with 3 basic ingredients can turn your partiality into utter adulation.

Cervejaria Ramiro has been around since the 1950s. They don’t take bookings, and we were lucky enough to turn up early afternoon when there was little to no queue. You’re seated, served refreshingly cold drinks (bless Portugal and their 375mL single serving bottles of wine) and invited to choose from their crustacean menu. Our waiter was pleasantly helpful, reaffirming our instincts on what to order, but needed guidance on how much to order.

Garlic shrimp and steamed clams to start, then a 1kg crab, giant tiger prawns, and red shrimp. Crab came complete with a small board and mallet, which makes for a great hands-on experience, if also a slightly messy and noisy meal.

There are no vegetable or side dishes on offer really, just bread - no for me - but what made this lunch one of the most relaxed dining escapades as a Coeliac was the fact that it was obvious the crustaceans were just cooked with steam, garlic, butter, and love. I had no concerns about cross-contamination and I suppose unless you’re a vegetarian or lactose intolerant (the butter), this is one of the purest culinary experiences you can embark on, even just a few hours after a night out along the Bairro Alto and all that sangria.

Cervejaria Ramiro
Av. Almirante Reis, nº1 H
1150-007 Lisboa

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Ealing Beer Festival 2015

Even a tube strike wouldn't deter me from visiting the Ealing Beer Festival this year given that they had two gluten-free beers on offer and that I had just moved home and was in need of pint glasses. The GFPA from Allendale was sadly unavailable on day one so I put all my eggs in one basket and trekked over to the other end of the tent's alphabet to find Wold Top's Against the Grain. A couple of half pints of this smooth pale ale hit the mark, rocking in at 4.5% and offering a creamy, assertive taste. I'm still rather fond of the home-brew two friends helped concoct for me but Against the Grain passed the test, unveiling a shroud of that ever resonant adjective used for so few gluten-free beers: drinkable.

Wold Top's Against the Grain

Monday, 20 April 2015

Brighton Marathon 2015

Ran 26.2 miles for charity, raising funds for Coeliac UK. Ran those 26.2 miles as a personal challenge and resolution for 2015. Ran 26.2 miles in under 5 hours.

The Brighton Marathon was a brilliant experience. Stayed at The Neo, a boutique B&B in Brighton, suavely neo-Baroque, with an excellent DVD collection, and offering up both a comfy B and a scrumptious B, going the extra mile to get in some gluten free bread for me. Just around the corner from the Brighton Centre for the Marathon Exhibition, which featured a wealth of products and knowledge. Finally got around to trying the Beet It shots, havibg drank Beet It juice to start my day nearly every morning for the last year.

The run itself on the Sunday was very well organised, offering up an intoxicatingly fun atmosphere at the start and keeping me perfectly hydrated along the course, under crisp, sunny skies. Maybe a bit too sunny, but on behalf of the rest of Southern England, I wasn't complaining.

The course had a couple of segments that did double back on themselves, which was a bit tedious but always much easier when running the backtrack. After looping Preston Park and running through town, you're taken along a brilliant stretch out east along the shorefront towards Rottingdean and back. It helps that I am so naturally drawn to the sea so found the sights and sounds immensely soothing. We were rather lucky with the weather as Monday saw Brighton blanketed in a dense fog. I think I passed along the northern side of the Finish line as Duncan Maiyo won and there I was, half way through. We ran through some residential areas, always great to see the locals making thousands of strangers feel beyond welcome on their doorsteps. The last stage of the Marathon is looping through the industrial area out west along Basin Road, a somewhat grim place for people to hit their walls. But thanks to a second Lucozade Elite Running Gel, was able to soldier on without stopping (save to wave to a fellow Coeliac UK runner). The last 2 miles saw some amazing and much welcome support along the promenade and back up along King's Road to the Finish.

Ran 26.2 miles, loved it, and am already contemplating when I might do it again.