Review of Free From Festival London

The Free From Festival London is the UK’s first gluten free, dairy free and refined sugar free food festival. It is a successful food festival which incorporates free from food and live music and makes for an enjoyable day out. The latest Free From Festival was based at Old Spitalfields Market London. It had a large array of dairy free, gluten free, paleo and vegan foods to try, with the odd tea company thrown in for luck. I have been very lucky to attend the previous festivals in my official capacity as a food and tea blogger. So when I was asked if I would like to have press tickets I of course graciously accepted. It was an amazing day out and I had the opportunity to try a range of fantastic foods and tea. So here is a snap shot of my day at the food festival.

What immediately struck me as I arrived was the size of the festival and how it had grown. I had to wait in a queue to get in. In fact the festival had proved to be that successful that it was old out and people were being turned away. I showed my press pass got my goody bag and tried to plan my day. At this stage I to confess to still being a state of surprise as too much it had expanded. So I took it all in did a bit of people watching and listened to the fab entertainment that was on offer. Here’s a snapshot of what I saw during the day.

My first stop was Eat Safe app to see Matt and his girlfriend. She is soya intolerant and has found this to be highly restrictive when eating out. So Matt helped devise the Eat Safe app as part of his masters degree. It is in its beta testing stages and will hopefully be available for all to try later this year. I’m sure that this app will prove to be very successful. Here’s a link to their website Continue reading

Review of Naughty By Nature London’s First Healthy Pop Up Bar

I was lucky enough to receive a press invite to the launch of Naughty By Nature London’s first pop up free from bar to embrace healthy living. It comes from the founders of the Free From Festival which I have been lucky enough to attend. All of the food is free from dairy, gluten and refined sugar with most also being suitable for a vegan diet. The bar features cocktails which were free from artificial additives, colours , flavours, high fructose, corn syrup and unnecessary sugar. Its located within a few minutes walk from Vauxhall station. Be careful though its hidden by what I would call a secret door that I missed first time round. On entering the sunlight courtyard I was greeted by a nice prosecco. It was then time to explore this intimate venue. A quaint hidden courtyard glazed in the evening sun.

I was immediately drawn to the Cake and Cucumber stall. All of the sweet treats on offer were dairy, gluten and refined sugar free and suitable for a vegan diet. I sampled all of Phoebe’s treats. The first I tried was the chocolate brownie it was very rich and had a slight bitter undertone to it. I would struggle to eat a whole one. The chocolate banana cake bite was very moist in texture and had subtle undertones of banana noted. It was very moorish indeed and would go perfectly with a nice cup of tea. My favourite was her last minute concoction which was a charcoal and coconut cake. It was very light in texture and very coconutty. The sweetness from the coconut worked perfectly with the slight bitterness from the charcoal. I may had a few extra samples of this, naughty me.

Next was Pomodoro E Basilco a vegan Italian pop up stall. They have previously attended the Free From Festival but I somehow managed to miss them. They had a variety of sweet and savoury treats to sample. I confess to sampling most of them. My highlight was their mozzarella. It was made from soya milk and came in a little sample with tomato and pesto. I loved everything about this cheese from its flavour through to its texture oh and the pesto was just delicious. Onto the sweet treats they had two versions of their twix to try their original and macha. They are made from dates and almond butter. My favourite was the macha this just worked perfectly with the sweetness from the dates.

Everyone at the launch received a complimentary cocktail. The bar staff were fantastic and my personal highlight was the iced cucumber water. I had a few glasses it was highly refreshing and just perfect on a warm evening. I had a lovely evening enjoying the evening sun in a delightful location sampling some fantastic foods. So if you are in the area I recommend that you pop in to try a cocktail and sample the food. You won’t regret it.

Disclaimer: I received a free invitation to this event all the opinions in this post are honest and my own.

Dairy free breakfast in New York

On our first full day in New York my body clock was all out of synch I was starving at 5am. I checked on Google and nowhere local was open. I was surprised we were staying on Wall Street, maybe this was why. There was a local bagel shop that did vegan options but it wasn’t open for another 2 hours. So it was breakfast buffet in the hotel for $30! I explained that I had a milk allergy and asked what I could have. The staff were very helpful and knowledgable. It was a no go for all pastries, toast, scrambled eggs and certain cereals. They offered me freshly cooked eggs which I accepted. I asked if I could have fried eggs, which was no problem. I was unable to have the bread and asked instead if I could get my own bread which they were happy for me to do. Thank goodness for my Tesco’s free from bread. They also offered me almond milk as well as the regular soya milk to have in my tea. Of course I politely said no thank you. I ended up with melon and bacon to start. Bread and egg followed by corn flakes and locally made honey. This was of course accompanied by the obligatory earl grey tea. This was a typical holiday breakfast for me that filled me up nicely for the morning. I was just glad that I took my emergency Tesco’s free from bread.

Dairy free dinner at the Bellagio

I consider myself very lucky in the fact that I have been able to visit Las Vegas on several occasions. This year we decided that it would be the perfect end to our mini adventure across America. We have stayed in a couple of different hotels in Las Vegas and choose this year to stay at the Bellagio. Each time we have visited Las Vegas we always make sure that we treat ourselves to a nice meal at a special restaurant. We have enjoyed some wonderful meals and my milk allergy has never been a problem. This year we decided to dinner at the Todd English’s Olives in the Bellagio. It was always busy whenever we walked past and decided it would be the perfect way to complete our holiday. We were exceedingly lucky as we were able to have a table outside. This is special because you are right by the famous fountain displays.
We sat down and I explained to the waiter that I had a milk allergy. I had learned to not to say dairy / lactose free as this also seemed to mean egg free. I didn’t get any advice on what dishes were suitable a tad disappointing. I had already seen the menu in advance so opted for what I thought would be possible to adapt.
For starters I had the watermelon salad. Mine came minus the cheese. It was a simple green lettuce salad with speciality tomatoes, watermelon and a sprinkling of balsamic vinegar dressing. Simple is often best for me. The sweeteners from the melon worked really well with the balsamic vinegar. As for the tomatoes these lacked any flavour and were slightly mushy. Oh and the green salad was as expected, but fresh. Overall, a disappointing starter for me. Our party hadn’t even finished our starters when our main courses arrived. In fact one of us was still savouring his starter when our mains were placed on the table.
Onto the main I opted for the Colorado lamb. The chef was indeed able to adapt this to make it dairy free. On its arrival I had hoped that the waiter would explain what I had got but this not the case. Disappointing to say the least. What I got was sautéed new potatoes halved and sautéed onions topped with 4 lamb cutlets in a jus. The sautéed potatoes didn’t seem to be freshly cooked and were only luke warm. The same could be said about the onions which were also a bit to oily or greasy for my liking. What about the lamb cutlets. The jus covering them was ok it tasted a bit like a rich gravy, but I was unable to really distinguish its flavours. My lamb cutlets well these were more well done rather than the medium to well done that I had hoped for. They were crunchy on the outside and slightly more tender towards the centre. They were ok but nothing special and I have eaten much nicer lamb cutlets. So overall a disappointing main meal. The best part for me was the nice cup of earl grey tea at the end.
So would I recommend this restaurant if you have a food allergy or intolerance? Sorry it’s a no from me. The waiters seemed to lack knowledge with regards to food allergies. On top of that it felt like we were being rushed. I’ve never been anywhere where they start serving the mains before the staters have been finished. It just spoilt the dining experience a little. I know that tables with a special view like we had must be at a premium, but surely you should be able to enjoy each course. Ironically, we weren’t rushed after this.

Review of dairy free breakfast at Silvermere Golf Club Surrey

I had been struggling to catch up with an old friend with many obstacles getting in our way. So we decided to catch up On a Saturday morning before carrying with the rest of our weekend plans. We needed somewhere central with easy communitibilty for both of us. We opted for Silvermere Golf Club due to its close proximity to the delightful M25. We sat in their lounge are which overlooks a lake. We had lots to catch up on with so little time. We opted for a cup of tea. I had my usual earl grey, they served Twinings earl grey which came in a nice red tea cup and saucer. The tea went down a treat and time soon flew by.
Whilst gossiping I was getting distracted by both the aroma and sight of breakfasts that others were enjoying. So I made an executive decision that I was going to have a full English breakfast for brunch. I grabbed the menu and it advised the staff if you had a food allergy / intolerance. I hoped that I coud have all of the breakfast but often this is not the case. The server was extremely knowledgable and went through all of the items from the breakfast and explained that I could have them all. He then apologised as they had run out of the dairy free spread for the toast. I explained that I don’t have this on my toast so it was fine. Oh it got better the breakfast came with a buffet style tea or coffee. There was a section were you grab a mug a help yourself to as much tea you wanted. Happy days. The breakfast arrived and it looked a smelled delicious. It was of a good portion without being to big. I started with the sausage which was hot freshly cooked and nice and meaty. The bacon was a good quality again freshly cooked. The hash brown was crunchy to the outside and had soft potato to the centre and wasn’t hard or greasy. The mushrooms and tomato were spot on. I opted for fried eggs these were cooked just as I like them medium runny. I dipped my granary toast into them, perfect. There was one disappointment the baked beans. These were mushy and slightly dry as if they had previously been reheated. A shame as I love my baked beans.
So would I recommend that you visit Silvermere Golf Club for breakfast? Yes definitely the staff are very knowledgeable about food allergies /intolerances. On top this they were very friendly, polite and professional. It was like going back in time as we felt that we were receiving good old fashioned customer service. Oh and as for the breakfast it was of a good quality and delicious. I’m sure that we will be returning soon.

Review of Leon fast food restaurant London

I have wanted to visit a Leon fast food restaurant for a long time. So when my mum and I recently decided to spend a lazy day at Spitalfields this was going to be part of our day. We had already done a lot of exploring with a little eating and drinking of cups of tea before we popped into Leon. I was a tad excited to say the least and I pre planned what I was going to have. On entering the restaurant we were greeted by polite and friendly staff. I asked if I could take a few photos for my blog which wasn’t a problem. The first thing that struck before the cakes was the clear labelling of all of the food. It was food heaven for both me and my mum. I choose a vegan billionaire and a banana muffin with the plan being that as they were both dairy free and gluten free we could share. This was accompanied by two nice mugs of tea. They use Clipper organic tea I love this tea so again I was suitably impressed. I opted for earl grey and my mum english breakfast. After the obligatory photos my mum dived into the vegan billionaire. I choose to enjoy a little of my tea first but oh no I soon had to stop. My mum was quickly working her way through the billionaire. She loved it from the flavours through to the textures. I had to request a piece so I soon tucked in. I could see why my mum loved it. I’m not sure what was best the combinations of textures or the flavours. It was slightly sweet and I could taste the dates which gave a slightly sticky element to the crumbliness from the polenta. This was intermingled with the crunch from the cashews. To be honest although the this was delightful it was no where as nice as the sweet caramel topping. Oh boy it was sweet silky and rich and just divine. My mum described this as a healthy delicious sweet treat and I have to agree. Onto that banana muffin. I had to fight to share this as well. I enjoyed the texture of this muffin it was crunchy from the pumpkin seeds and moist and sweet from the banana and dates. A delightful little muffin. The perfect sweet treats.
I then persuaded my mum to have another cup of tea and something else to try. This time it was to be savoury. To be honest I didn’t have much room in my tummy but I was going to squeeze a little extra in somehow. I really fancied a finish finger wrap but was told it was quiet large and was recommended the chicken pot. So I opted for this with their fries. Both dishes were again dairy and gluten free. This was accompanied by the obligatory tea. I should point out you can have dairy free milk if you wish but mum and I both enjoy our teas milk free. My mum was more interested in the fries as it’s often difficult to have gluten free ones. So we tucked into these first. These were nice and crunchy and slightly fluffy inside. They were lightly seasoned and just delicious. My mum said they reminded her of the special fries she had in America and had more than me. I tucked into the chicken this was a simple light and delicious .
In summary we loved Leon and wished we had gone there for lunch. The food that we tried was delicious. The staff were very polite and helpful. The menu is allergy friendly and they serve nice mugs of tea. We can’t wait to return. It was well worth the wait so thank you Leon for an enjoyable and safe experience when eating out.

Flying Business class with British Airways and being dairy free

I was very lucky to fly business class with British Airways to start our American adventure. Now, I am lucky in that I have flown long haul on several occasions previously. Each time I dread the meal times as more often than not I can’t eat the food. It is not uncommon for me to be given gluten free instead of dairy free or contains milk. As a result I always assume that I can’t eat the food and take a large supply of goodies with me to eat on the plane. I checked the menu for a flight and none of the choices available were suitable as they all contained milk. I was a tad disappointed as I had secretly hoped that I wouldn’t have to order a special meal. So I pre ordered my meal not knowing what I would get. I made sure that I made the most if the business lounge having a large breakfast so that I wouldn’t be hungry on the flight. It didn’t take long for the meals to be served. Normally mine always comes before everyone else’s, not on this flight. It came at the same time. I didn’t expect much. I asked what it was and checked that it was indeed dairy free. It was and to my disappointment the crew didn’t know. The first course came which I assumed was my main meal, but no there was more to come. I greeted by chicken on a green purée with a side salad. It turned out to be a cold chicken breast on avocado. The texture from the chicken breast went well with the smoothness from the avocado. The salad was fresh and crispy, the oil dressing added the little extra. I was struggling and this was only the starter.
Onto the main course. I think this was cod, although I could have been wrong. This was accompanied by picked vegetables which I think we’re carrots and fennel, a tomato and a green mash. I have no idea what the mash was. I really enjoyed the pickled vegetables as this mad a nice change. The fish was ok. It’s flavour was pretty non descript and it was slightly dry in textures as if it had been overdone. I’m afraid I didn’t like the green mash, what ever it was. It was smooth with intermittent lumps and I don’t think we’re meant to be there. I much preferred my starter and I’m afraid it just didn’t seem to compare to everyone else’s main meal.
Onto to dessert I had high hopes for this. Please don’t let it be fruit. I always get fruit and this is not a pudding. I got a jelly with a few berries scattered in it. I had hoped for more but hey ho. The jelly was light and refreshing but l just couldn’t work out its flavour sadly. We then got our post meal tea or coffee. This was a bog standard stewed black tea for me. Where was the Twinings tea that I had read about? A real disappointment.
The time soon arrived for afternoon tea. Everyone had finger sandwiches and scones with jam and cream. What would mine be? A pre packed tuna and mayonnaise roll with fruit kebabs. I know it’s not easy catering for food allergies / intolerances but it just didn’t compare. It’s not hard to source free from cakes instead of fruit. My roll was ok, it was dry with a reasonable filling and crumbled as I ate it. My fruit kebabs were nice but not the same a proper cake / scone. As for the tea I politely declined the bog standard tea and asked for mint which is what I got.
In summary it is the best food that I have been offered on a plane. What I would suggest is that crew should know what the food is, so that you can enjoy the experience like everyone else. I personally like to know what I am going to eat. I would also like a proper dessert to enjoy not fruit or jelly. The Twinings tea on request is great for a tea addict like me. It should be openly offered like the alcoholic beverages you shouldn’t have to ask for it.