Tag Archives: gluten free

Gluten free Venice

I’ll admit that after my celiac diagnosis, I was afraid to go to Italy again. It is the land of pasta and bread, all things gluten. So I was surprised how gluten free friendly Venice is!

On our first night there, Kay wanted to stop and get gelato before we went to bed. We stopped at place on the way to our flat and seeing the cone dishes, I asked if they had normal paper cups before Kay pointed out a vase full of cones labeled “Senza glutine”. HOLY HELL, this is the first time I’ve ever seen a gluten free cone in an ice cream or gelato shop anywhere!!The shop was called SUSO. I was so impressed we came back again even though we did see other gelaterias elsewhere. It was too late to do food shopping after our arrival on Friday night, so we headed to Ristobar San Polo because we knew it would be open from 8am onward.

Breakfast is still one of the most difficult meals to obtain gluten free and unfortunately they could only offer Kay a focaccia or bruschetta and the only gluten free things they could offer me were tiramisu and some kind of apple cake, so I took both with a cappuccino! The tiramisu was pretty good, moist, but the apple cake was even better because it was warm. Still, with only two pieces of cake and a coffee, I was not really satisfied. Kay just ordered the focaccia and coffee and together we paid €26. Venice is not cheap!We stopped for more coffee in another square later on to soak up the sun and I ended up snacking on some of my gluten free snacks I’d brought along.For dinner, we went to Osteria All’Ombra because it had good reviews on The Gluten Bigot, but it was a pretty mediocre restaurant. It actually had a different name on the menu or wall somewhere and was run by Asians, so at first we honestly thought we were in the wrong restaurant, possibly an Asian one by the name on the card, but it was still All’Ombra they assured us and we aren’t sure if they bought the restaurant from original owners or if it was always like that, but they were definitely not speaking Italian in the kitchen and we are always a little hesitant to eat local cuisine prepared by non-locals. You know, like the sign of a good Chinese place is when other Asians eat there and how it’s a risky sign if there are only non-Asians in the kitchen. We decided to risk it because it could still be good, but all the gluten free stuff was frozen or pre-prepared and Kay’s normal food was not great either.

For the starter we ordered prosciutto and mozzarella, which was pretty blah.My pizza was fine and I did not get sick eating it, but even the ingredients on top seemed pretty mediocre.I was most disappointed when I ordered tiramisu for dessert and it looked exactly like the tiramisu for breakfast. Obviously it’s the same frozen brand, but All’Ombra didn’t defrost it very well. I could even hear the microwave ding in the background, but there were still frozen chunks of ice in the cake.

With that and the pre-set frozen gluten free menu, I was wondering why we went there instead of the many other places that also offer gluten free items. (Hint, almost all the restaurants I am betting have the same GF menu, as we found out at another restaurant the next day.) They did get points for a nicer presentation than Ristobar though.For breakfast on Sunday, we went to a grocery (Thank God!) and bought some absolutely delicious meat and bufala mozzarella.That with espresso from the moka pot supplied by the landlord (yes!!) we had an amazing breakfast supplemented by some gluten free cake we found in the grocery.Ahhh cheese. So good!! So fresh!Kay and I were both impressed how many gluten free items there were in the grocery. Many brands that we don’t know here in Switzerland.We had the cake above for breakfast and the snack bars below as additional snacks around the city.Kay wanted to buy the oreos below, which are actually German, but we ended up bringing them home because we didn’t have time to eat them in Venice.After our visit to the Doge’s Palace on Sunday, I was so pooped and wanted a coffee, but then a glass of wine sounded great too. Why not?? Weekend trips always inspire indulgence.In the afternoon we stopped back at SUSO for another cone. This time I got pistachio and yogurt with berries. Mmmm!I was really in love with the GF cones!We went to Malibran for lunch because it had a big “GLUTEN FREE” sign out front, which was also OK, but nothing amazing. They actually didn’t even have a dedicated gluten free menu and just told me I could order pizza or pasta. I was not especially impressed. I ordered mussels for an appetizer and then chose from the same boring pre-made gluten free menu of pizza or pasta.I ended up with penne and ragout, which I can probably make better at home myself, but it was hot and comforting since it had started to drizzle outside.So there you have it. Food in Venice is similar to Rome. Expensive and crappy because they know they can charge that much for mediocre food and people will still come.

Rest assured that as a gluten free traveler, you will still have lots of options for different restaurants and you can even order gluten free beer (Daura), pizza, pasta, and gelato with a cone, all with minimal effort on your part.

Don’t be afraid of getting sick, just be afraid of the prices! And if you can, I still recommend eating local produce at home because breakfast at our stinky flat was the best food we had all weekend! 🙂

Gluten free Porto, Portugal

In general, I found very little about specific gluten free restaurants in Porto or restaurants with gluten free menus. For this trip, I focused on the restaurant card and explaining what I could not eat, which was fine with the Mediterranean influenced and heavy seafood diet in Portugal.

These weekend trips are getting a little expensive, so I tried to keep costs low by booking Jualis Guest House. Our supposed room was overbooked, so we ended up being placed in what seemed like a studio apartment from the owners that faced the street and was pretty noisy, but at 30€ a night, we were not complaining. The staff were all really helpful and nice as well.

Mainly though, I booked because I had read a review that they could give you gluten free bread at breakfast and that is the one meal that I do not want to worry about on a trip. After some confusion asking them to confirm this via email beforehand, they did say they could provide gluten free bread and sure enough, I received special gluten free rolls heated up just for me in the morning. They would even ask what time we would come for breakfast so that I didn’t have to wait. Kay was a little jealous because his bread was cold and it was hard to warm ourselves up eating on the patio in the cooler weather.Still wanting a nicer coffee, we stopped at Café Moustache, where I ordered gluten free cake along with my cappucino just because they had it.For lunch, I was adventurous and agreed to eat at a local diner at Largo São Domingos 23, which I couldn’t get a picture of the restaurant name, but we dropped down that dark scaffolding area in the photo below and went to the restaurant with the red door.It had a 100% Portuguese menu and we decided to order some wine with lunch before our port winery tour. Not the best place for wine though unfortunately…I was really enjoying starting to read and understand things in Portuguese. There is still a ton to learn, but I already feel like I can communicate a tiny, tiny bit better. While Kay ordered a typical Francesinha dish, I ordered fish, which they just battered in egg instead of flour as well.We had to scramble a bit to get to Ferreira cellars on time. The tour of the cellars was very brief and then it was time for the degustation. Most of the 50 person group were only trying the 2 ports included in the standard price.

Only our table with two other couples were trying 5 different kinds.It was a bit of a disappointing degustation because all the port was too quickly explained and then the guide took the bottles away with the labels and left, so we had no reference besides our quick retention skills to talk about what we were supposed to be tasting.It was a shame because they even had the glasses set up on sheets with space for writing, so they could have easily written down what we were drinking.

Lastly, there was no water or anything to snack on to clear your palette between sips. All in all, not the best degustation we’d ever been to, but we still enjoyed the port with our limited introduction. 🙂We did get to sample a 20 year old tawny (if I have that right) as well as another LBV. I of course liked the most expensive one the best. 🙂After the port, we were a little tipsy and tried to wake ourselves up with a coffee on the walk back to the bridge. Mine had a wonderful sweet cinnamon touch.After coffee we wandered around aimlessly wondering what to do. Museums were closed, but it was not yet time for dinner and without my usual gluten free selection guide, we were again lost as we normally were on city trips pre-celiac disease.

Finally we decided to stop at the seemingly super touristy Majestic Cafe, because we were tired and a little hungry and just did not care about the extra price. Like the Livraria Lello & Irmão bookstore, apparently Cafe Majestic is said to be where JK Rowling started one of her first drafts of Harry Potter.It ended up being a pretty nice restaurant. Sure, the prices were a little more expensive than other places, but Kay thought the melon above was to die for and the restaurant was knowledgeable enough about gluten to make a special gluten free port sauce for my duck.We also decided to sample another brand of port to help us with our decision of what to purchase at the end. Knowing we liked both the 20 year tawny and LBV from Ferreira, we tried the same from Graham’s and decided we liked both of them much more than the Ferreira stuff. The 20 year tawny was the better of the two and had a nice long and complex finish.The next day we got up for breakfast again before checking out and finding that the sun was starting to peek out. We stopped for a fresh juice and coffee before tackling our day.I had actually asked, albeit with very short notice, if there was room for dinner reservations for two at The Yeatman’s Michelin-starred restaurant for Saturday evening and unfortunately there were not, so I was excited when I asked about Sunday lunch and they confirmed my reservation.

Kay, on the other hand, almost wanted to cancel the lunch reservations because he didn’t feel like “dressing up” in his business shirt and getting all sweaty the next morning climbing the tower certainly didn’t help.

But shortly after sprucing ourselves up and being seated with a port aperitif and the view below from our table, Kay was sure that this was the absolute best decision of the weekend.And it was. This meal made up for all the missed anniversaries this year. We hadn’t gotten around to eating somewhere amazing and this place really spoiled us. They altered everything to be gluten free for me if necessary.Chef’s greetings with lobster and caviar on a macaroon base and avocado cream on what I think was a shrimp kind of cracker for me and a corn tortilla cracker for Kay.

Below, micro carrots.Next was a refreshing gazpacho and molecular mozzarella to the right, paired with a white wine. I was terrible and forgot to get any of the wine names.Below was a crispy salmon fillet sandwich with wasabi mayonnaise.Sea bass, crustaceans & coconut served in a halved coconut.Below then codfish swim bladder and bean stew, codfish fillet and codfish sauce. This one tasted nice and hearty, like preparing for winter.The main was grilled and glazed sirloin, chanterelle mushrooms and barbecue sauce & oxtail stew. I think below is the oxtail stew and the next photo is the sirloin with mushrooms.Ah, heaven!!They also served Kay seaweed bread and another kind, while I enjoyed a nice light and fluffy gluten free bread with soft butter and olive oil.The “pre dessert” was some kind of chocolate mousse over nuts. Kay’s probably had some gluten cookie underneath which they just replaced with nuts for me.Actual dessert was green tea cream with lime merengue, tonka bean ice cream and iced tea.Here was the iced tea. Funny serving. We were marveling at the interesting dishes for presenting food. Some of the plates were quite large and voluminous.After dinner we received a selection of macaroons and chocolates. I left the crackery bits to Kay.After dessert, we decided to try some more port again, so we splurged a bit and chose an LBV from 2010 and a 1976 vintage from Krohn.I am not sure we could decide which one of these we liked better, but we made sure to look for something similar in the duty free section at the airport. Of course everything is more mainstream in the airport, but we had carry-on only and didn’t want to invest in shipping something home.In the end we settled on Graham’s 20 year tawny, a white port from Graham’s, a 1998 Krohn vintage, and a Borges Porto 2010 LBV.Now that we know more about port from our tour, we also know that it’s also important to drink a bottle in a timely fashion. Kay and I were both under the impression that you can leave port open like liquor and it will taste fine, but after a quick test at home, Kay feels that our old standby tastes like vinegar compared to the ones above.

We were happy to get a nice little collection to enjoy and savour properly based on our tastings. Overall, we had a very enjoyable food and dining experience in Porto. I highly recommend The Yeatman’s restaurant if you are in town!

Cake Cake Cake (Gluten Free)

Back in July, I bought a new, taller cake tin in preparation of having to maybe transport a dessert to my FIL’s house for Swiss National Day August 1. We ended up doing the meal at our house, but I still wanted to test some cake to see how it stores in my new toy.

Having made a couple from my Blackbird Bakery book already, I wanted to try out the easier and simpler recipes from my Everything Gluten-Free Baking Cookbook. I decided to try a basic yellow cake, because everyone needs a reliable cake for future birthday parties and events!I did, however, decide to try out a coconut frosting from Blackbird Bakery, which while it was delicious… it was again not that easy to make and it was quite liquid even a few days later. It was not the most pretty icing. I am not sure I will make it again because it requires a lot of multi-tasking in three different containers and cooking liquids to the just perfect, not boiling temperature, before adding to the other ingredients. So much room for error!But look at that cake below! The yellow cake turned out fabulous. I made two cakes in my 8″ pans and then frosted. I was a little unsure how much frosting there really was, so I didn’t do as much as I could have and I ended up putting a thick layer on top to take care of it.

The cake itself was light and airy, which is uncommon for gluten free cakes. Normally they are extremely thick and dense, especially the store bought ones which are closer to rocks.For Swiss National Day, I decided to make a new attempt at chocolate cake with the Everything GF book because the recipe from Blackbird Bakery did not turn out so well for me.This was for a mocha chocolate cake, so I made a cup of coffee from our automated coffee machine (so quick and fast) which was the perfect amount for the recipe.I made the mistake of licking the spoon above because it LOOKS like chocolate syrup, but it was pure cocoa powder with coffee and it tasted disgusting! 🙂This time I just made a chocolate frosting from the Everything GF book instead of trying something difficult and it turned into a much nicer frosting. I could have put a bit more water in to make it smooth on better, but it was fine.I decorated the outside and top with almonds. I also left the top layer puffy and round. Both cakes puffed up more than the yellow cake, but I didn’t want to cut too much away, so I trimmed the flatter layer for the bottom and left the more round one on top. It was a pretty sumptuous cake. Again it was light and airy and you couldn’t tell at all that it was gluten free. I wanted to make a really nice gluten free cake while my BIL was in town to show him that just because something is GF, doesn’t mean it has to have a terrible texture or taste. We made a pack of store-bought pasta in the summer at my FIL’s house with minimal toppings and he really wasn’t impressed, so I hope I made up for it with this cake. 🙂

If you are interested, check out the books!

Gluten Free Burgers

After my order from i-can-eat.ch came in, it was time to open a beer and grill some burgers. Woohoo!My tomatoes were not ripe yet, but I was able to grab a few pieces of lettuce from the balcony instead of buying a whole head just for a couple burgers. I usually end up making the burgers for Kay because I always just wing the recipe with ground beef, a bit of onion, an egg, some GF panko, and whatever seasonings I feel like.

Kay put those bad boys on the grill and then finished by laying some cheese over the ones we would eat that night.It was a tasty burger! (Said in the tone of Samuel L. Jackson from Pulp Fiction.)To go with the burgers, Kay made a Cooksmarts slaw for our side. And since we had already tried some of the Brunehaut gluten free beer, we decided to make two flavors we’d already tested into Panache with lemonade since it was a very hot day.After a great meal, I enjoyed my new fairy lights from IKEA which are almost discontinued already as summer 2015 closes.

We’ve been doing a good job enjoying summer hardcore this year and I just hope the weather continues well into early autumn because Switzerland deserves some heat!

I-Can-Eat.ch Gluten Free Galore!

I can’t recall if a colleague recommend i-can-eat.ch to me or if I found it when I was searching for gluten free hamburger buns, but it was on my list of things to try out for a long time. I really wanted some pre-made hamburger buns!

In July, I finally made a big order for around 100CHF, which got me much, much more than I would from the local Reformhaus, where bio, gluten-free items cost much more for even the same things.A bag of muesli for instance can cost almost 8CHF in the store, but were under 5CHF online. Not only that, but they had tons of brands and foods not available in stores. I ordered multiple types of cereal, muesli, my hamburger buns, and several types of Belgian gluten-free beer that I had never tried.I had high hopes for the buns, but I only ordered two packs to test them out first. I mean, not only have I not tried to make hamburger buns myself yet, but sometimes you just want the convenience of making something spur-of-the-moment, or as on-the-fly as you can with a meticulous gluten free diet.

I can’t tell you how often I have hamburger cravings and know it’s impossible to order one. The gluten free hamburgers we found in Australia were incredible and I had a strong craving again this summer!We are also pretty set on cereal mixings for a long time. Normally if we don’t feel like going to Reformhaus to buy special cereal, we just buy the only available cereal at Coop or Migros, corn flakes (blah!) and add in dried fruit. Sometimes not even Coop carries GF corn flakes though, but now we can make our mixes with puffed oats or buckwheat, buckwheat flakes, assorted puffs and so on. I was also looking forward to testing out all the beer they had. I only ordered ones I haven’t had before and not everything was in stock, but I got five kinds of Brunehaut beer, which is made similar to Daura GF beer where they make the beer and then de-glutenize it later.

It’s worth noting that these beers would not be allowed to be labeled GF in the US because malt/barley is an ingredient, but I have never reacted on one of these de-glutenized beers yet, so I partake in them from time to time. (Don’t worry, my main love is still caipirinhas!) Overall I am happy with my purchase and plan to make another one in the future. The only downside is all the packaging that ordering online comes with, but lots of these products are French or foreign and I couldn’t  get them in a store in the Zurich area anyway.