Saturday, 12 December 2015

NYC Eats 2015

Let’s start with the flight. After the experience I had flying to Orlando with Virgin earlier in the year I wasn’t expecting much of a change but I was pleasantly surprised. Before my flight I again confirmed with the special assistance department that I would need a special meal. They could offer Dairy & Gluten free but not Egg free. I opted for this choice and hoped there would be no egg.

I was served a fresh salad, roll, fruit and a spicy chicken with beans and rice. My biggest excitement came when I picked up the roll, turning it over to my delight I saw the magical word “BFree”. I was so happy. I love Bfree as a brand and for once I could eat the roll as it was also egg free. The meal was tasty and, well, fruit was to be expected so it’s better than nothing. My mid afternoon snack was more fruit but I managed to eat the tyrells crisps out of the normal snack box too. I also liked that ingredients were printed on the labels too. Thumbs up!

We arrived in New York early evening so we checked into our hotel and headed straight out to Bryant Park Winter Market. I’d noticed on Instagram that a lot of the stalls at this market were Vegan and one in particular sold great looking Chocolate so I made sure I found it. The stall was called Kaleidoscope – it sold Vegan Chocolate by Lagusta’s Luscious. I picked out a peanut butter toffee crunch bar and a Mint Chocolate Christmas Tree.

Chocolate bar heaven!

Another place I knew I had to visit was Two Boots Pizza. They have a big range of Vegan / Dairy Free Pizzas and also Gluten Free Bases. The closest one to us was located in the Grand Central Station Dining Concourse. I ordered a simple Cheese and Tomato Pizza. They use Daiya Cheese which melts great and has a lovely taste. The tomato sauce was really tasty and im 99% sure that the base was Venice Bakery as it was very similar to what I have at home and love. All in all delicious and I had my first New York Pizza experience. 

Day Two we were up early to head down to Union Square. The bus dropped us off right near Hu Kitchen which was another place on my list to try and visit. The shop is all about healthy clean food with no added nasties. They are Gluten, Soy and Cane Sugar Free with lots of Dairy & Egg Free options too. I needed warming up so we sat and had a Peppermint Mint. While there I purchased a Quinoa Crunch Bar which was gorgeous. Like a raw chocolate brownie with a layer of chocolate on the top. Mmm. Also picked up a few bars of their Hazelnut Praline Chocolate and a bag of Graham Bites which looked interesting.

While at Union Square I couldn’t resist a visit to Whole Foods. It’s an epic store which I could have spent hours exploring. From here I picked up the Dark Chocolate Justins Peanut Butter Cups (To eat while my husband is munching through his Reeses), Some cute gingerbread men cookies, Some Chocolate Mint Marshmallows and a Mint Choc Chip Nugo Bar. I had to restrain myself from buying any more due to carrying it around all day. I would have loved to have tried the Rice Dream Nog. The USA has so many more flavoured milk alternatives to us. I also picked up some Tortillas and Guacamole to snack on.

While walking between Union Square and Chelsea Market we came across a great store called Garden of Eden and it was full to the brim with different foods and had a decent selection of free from products. I picked up a bag of Salted Caramel Pita Chips which sounded fab and like nothing I’d seen before.

We stopped during the day to eat at Chipotle which I love. Everything is Dairy Free except for the Cheese and Sour Cream and everything is Gluten Free except for the flour tortillas. I adore their burrito bowls. You can choose what you add to your bowl so I had white rice with, chicken, fajita vegetables, salsa and guacamole. Yum! (We went on two occasions)

Day 3 we headed downtown to Brooklyn Bridge, Empire State and the One World Trade Centre. For lunch we ate at Mighty Quinns BBQ which was located in a lovely food court on Liberty Street. I checked out their website before the trip and it had a great allergen section. I chose to have the brisket with fries. The brisket was melt in the mouth tender and flavoursome and the fries where great. The server confirmed too that both were dairy & gluten free. They have a few locations around Manhattan so worth a visit.

That Evening we headed out to do a bit of shopping on Lexington Ave. I didn’t fancy a full meal so we stopped off at Blooms Deli to buy some meat to snack on. When in NYC you have to have some deli meat especially Pastrami and Corned Beef (not like UK corned beef). This was not cheap meat but It was so so delicious and worth every penny. 

Day 4 We were around the Central Park area. There was another nice Winter Market at Columbus Circle. I found a stall by a company called Raaka who sell raw vegan chocolate. Of course I had to purchase a few bars, settling on the Maple & Nibs and Pink Sea Salt bars. I’ve now got lots of chocolate to get us through Christmas.

Later in the day I had to collect an order I’d placed with a company called Cookie Do which was located a few blocks from our hotel. I’d found them whilst trawling the internet and saw that they catered for different diets. I placed an order for a tub of their edible Snickerdoodle Cookie Do, and also a dozen baked Choc chip Cookies. My husband had the “normal” nuts for nuts Cookie Do tub which looked amazing full of M&M’s and Reeses. My Snickerdoodle was scrummy eaten from the tub with a spoon mmm. The cookies were yummy too with big chocolate chips throughout. We need this in the UK.

Our flight home started with a breakfast of fruit three ways (I had to giggle to myself). A Fresh Fruit pot, Dole fruit in juice pot and a packet of dried fried. Lol. It got better though, for lunch I was served a salad, Chicken with potatoes, gravy and sautéed fennel which was actually tasty for a plane meal, there was a Dairy, Gluten and Nut free Roll too but nothing to say it didn’t contain egg so I gave that a miss, and of course more fruit.

I also want to mention an app that I used and found really helpful. It is a Map app that doesn't use internet data, just gps signal so was free to use while out and about. I populated it at home with all the suitable restaurants, shops and other locations we wanted to visit and found it really handy to use while we were out and about to find the closest place to get safe food or directions. It's called Maps Me.

So, another trip I didn’t go hungry on and I managed to find lots of things I wanted to try. There were a lot more places I’d researched too but time just flew by and there was no way I could have visited them all unfortunately. The flights were a great success food wise compared to the last one. As always the USA is a fab place for special diets and I’d highly recommend a visit if you get a chance.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Good Food Show Winter 2015 - Free From Haul

I used to go to the Good Food Show every year back in the days when Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver appeared on stage and did book signings. I loved it, especially the winter one to start feeling festive, but over the last few years I felt it had got too samey and nothing felt new anymore. Back then the free from market wasn't as well known either so purchases for me were limited. 

After seeing a discount code for the tickets and seeing that a few free from brands were on the exhibitors list I decided to book. We arrived just after the show had opened at 9am knowing that as the day goes on it gets busier and busier. 

I'd got a few stalls that I knew I wanted to visit. The first one I came across was The Raw Chocolate Company. I've tried quiet a few of their products but my favourite at the moment are the lovely chewy mulberries. My husband wanted to try the golden berries which he sampled on the stall and enjoyed. Warning - Once the bag is open its hard to put them down without eating the lot!

I spied on the VBites stall Schlagfix dairyfree & vegan spray cream. As its hot chocolate season I picked up a couple as they were only £2 each. I've never seen it in shops (only online) so I was happy to find it. The stall also had plamil chocolate products and VBites own brand items. 

I then headed to the Delicious Alchemy stall to say hello. They were selling all their fabulous products and their new Christmas Cake mix. I stocked up on my favourites as I always like to have a supply for when we fancy a little treat. I love making their mixes egg free by using banana in the vanilla cake mix and recently tried the brownie mix with peanut butter instead of egg. I can't wait to try out the Christmas cake mix. Was lovely to chat to the ladies. 

My husband spotted the next purchase. These Gordon Rhodes packets are designed for use in slow cookers which is fab. We love slow cooked meats so I can't wait to try these very soon. They are clearly marked Gluten Free. 

I treated my self to a little bottle of gin. I have painful chest/throat problems (would love to know why) when drinking wine and fizzy alcohol so I tend to stick to spirits. I don't drink often at all but I do like a gin and tonic once in a while. I've never tried this brand so I'm looking forward to tasting it. 

I very nearly walked past the Bakedin stall until my husband pointed out the gluten free box stood between all the normal boxes. Much to my delight the Gluten Free box doesn't contain dairy and does not require egg so it's perfect. 
Each box makes 4 mug cakes. 

I tried the brownie and it worked great. I used Vitalite and Rice Milk in my mix and it came out fab. Perfect sized portion when you fancy a sweet treat. Yummy!

I love bubble tea so I picked up a few pots of bubbles. They are a great size (3 servings per pot) as I've brought big pots in the past and they have gone to waste. These can be added to any drinks so great for Christmas cocktails.

Another favourite which is always at the show is Punjaban curry sauces. They are great to have in the cupboard for when you don't fancy making a curry from scratch. I love that they contain no dairy or coconut. They are tasty too. 

Last but not least I managed to find the BlueBird Tea Co. Earlier in the year I visited their Brighton store and brought lots of their teas. I picked up the Gingerbread Chai at the show.

I tested it out at home and really enjoyed it with a drop of rice milk. It's a nice winter warming drink.

I really enjoyed the show. I'm glad I'd given it a break for a few years as it was nice to see some new stalls and also a lot more stalls catering for allergies/intolerance's. I didn't think it was as big as it had been in the past (some stalls were duplicated too) but it was just right, we did two laps in around two hours before it got too busy. I'm really pleased with my purchases and I'm looking forward to trying them all. 

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Chester Weekend 2015

Back in October we spent a weekend in Chester staying at the Abode Hotel which is conveniently located a short walk from the shops, cathedral and river.

We had a meal on the first evening in the hotel restaurant which is owned by Chef Michael Caines. The servers were very helpful in helping me choose what would be suitable and checked with the chef. We were served an amuse bouche. Mine was a lovely beetroot soup in a little cup. It was very tasty. 

For my main I decided on the pan roasted cod which came on Cauliflower florets with a nice sauce. The fish was seasoned and cooked to perfection.

Breakfast at the hotel was simple for me I always have bacon & grilled tomatoes with a side of melon. They were happy to just serve me the bacon & tomatoes instead of the full breakfast. 

While exploring Chester we came across the Roccoco Chocolate shop. The girl in the shop was very helpful and pointed out all the dairy free options which were also Vegan Society approved. I picked out some of the smaller taster bars in Violet, Rose, Moroccan Mint, Early Grey and Basil & Lime. We also picked a large Sea Salt bar and I treated myself to two cognac cherry chocolates. They were amazing and full of cognac.

Further down the street was the Holland & Barrett Extra store which I have heard a lot about on twitter. The store was very impressive but I was expecting to see a lot of new things and I didn’t. A lot of the items are readily available on the internet but not so much in shops so it was nice to see them on the shelves. I picked up a few of my favorites. I'm loving the Raw Chocolate Co. Mulberries at the moment. I also really enjoyed the Foods of Athenry Lemon & Blueberry cookie which i'd never seen before.

Later in the day we headed down to the river to eat at Hickory's. Again they were very helpful and knowledgeable with what I could and couldn’t have. We picked the sharing platter as the only item that wasn’t suitable was the hot links sausage which was substituted with one of the other meats of our choice. If you like smoked slow cooked meat this place is a must. It’s the best smokehouse house we’ve eaten at. The whole platter was delicious.

On our last day we drove into Wales to visit Conway Castle. Whilst exploring the streets in the town we came across a chocolate shop which sold handmade chocolates by Stilwells. I picked up a peanut brittle but then noticed by the counter a mound of dark chocolate coated Turkish delight. The lady pointed out that they were vegan. Of course I had to try some. I do miss Frys Turkish Delight. These were a great alternative. 

I had a great weekend with lots of safe food. Thumbs up to Chester!

Monday, 26 October 2015

Halloween Pumpkin Choc Chip Cake

Halloween is creeping up on us and I wanted to make something with my tin of Pumpkin Purée. I decided to use it as an egg replacer in the Delicious Alchemy Vanilla Cake Mix. I found out recently that the mix works amazingly with a small banana instead of egg so I thought I'd give pumpkin purée a try.
 (Mix does state not suitable for egg allergy sufferers).

Here's what I used for the cake: 

1 Packet of Delicious Alchemy Vanilla Cake Mix

180g Vitalite / Dairy Free Spread

20ml Water

170g Pumpkin Purée

80g Dairy Free Chocolate Chips

1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon 

Heat the oven as per the packet instructions. 

Start by blending the soft dairy free spread with the pumpkin purée then stir in the dry cake mix. Mix in the cinnamon and water. Lastly stir through the chocolate chips.

Divide the mix between two 8" round cake tins which have been greased all round and lined on the bottom.

Bake as per the packet instructions for 25 minutes. Leave to cool on a wire rack. 

You could use a filling of your choice but I made a chocolate truffle filling which set quite firm but melted in the mouth.

For this I melted 150g Chocolate Chips and stirred in 70g of Vitalite. I then blended in 60g of Icing Sugar. 

This made enough for a nice layer through the middle and a thin layer on top which I dusted with cacao powder.

I topped it off with a marshmallow pumpkin.

The cake didn't last the weekend and everyone commented on how nice it was. Needless to say I will be making it again very soon. 

Happy Halloween!

Delicious Alchemy have some great products. Check out their website and my last blog post here