I had a sudden change of plans for the bank holiday Monday. I received a message via twitter from Free From Events that as a blogger I had now got tickets to the Free From Festival in London. I was a tad excited to say the least, it was the first event that I had attended as an official blogger. So I made a quick call to my mum to ask if she could join me and of course the answer was yes and we made our arrangements to meet up the following morning. I have to confess to getting little sleep that night in the anticipation of the next morning. I packed my bag with my usual dairy free essentials just in case, its always better to be prepared. With my rain coat, umbrella and boots on I was ready to get on the train. I looked up some details about the festival during my journey to plan our day out. There appeared to be lot’s of stalls with food that were either dairy and lactose free for me or gluten free for my mum. The festival was held in a hall not to far from Aldegate East tube station, so it was a quick walk in the rain and we were there. I handed the ticket information to the men on the door, this was essential as the festival had sold out.
On entering the hall we were greeted by a packed hall full of wet people and brilliant live music. I wasn’t sure where to start and what to do, so my mum and I had a general wander around deciding on a plan of action for the day. We were greeted with was a variety of stalls selling both sweet and savoury treats, with a tea and beauty company along the way. What did hit me was the wonderful aromas coming from the variety of food vendors. It all looked very healthy and tempting and I was spoilt for choice and for once there was more dairy and lactose free options than gluten free. Now, that never happens. So here’s a snapshot of our day.
Our first stall that we visited was Emily Fruit Crisps, they were named after the director’s girlfriend. He was highly passionate about his brand and explained that they were made as a way of encouraging individual’s to eat fruit. They are basically a bag of dried fruit with only oil added. They are suitable for a dairy free, gluten free and a vegan diet, whilst being kosher and halal certified. We tried both the banana and apple chips. They tasted just like the fruit and had a nice soft texture with a subtle crunch noted. My mum and I both enjoyed the samples that we tried and would definitely buy these in the future. They make a great alternative snack to crisps and are a great way to get children to try fruit. They can be found at:
Another stop, influenced by me as I had a sweet tooth on the day was to Buttercream Dreams. It is a small company that was set up by Lauren out of her passion to have enjoyable sweet treats as part of her vegan lifestyle. She worked as a mental health nurse but gave this up to set up her new business. Lauren can be found at: Buttercream Dreams on Facebook. At the festival it was a real family affair with her mum helping out. The stall had a variety of both pretty delicate and larger cakes to purchase. All of which were vegan, and can be gluten free, soya free and sugar free. I opted for the salted caramel cake, Lauren kindly gave me a large complimentary slice to try. As I had tried various samples of food, I was pretty full so wrapped it up to take home. All I can say is that it was well worth the wait. The cake was perfect, the sponge was soft, light and moist with a neutral taste. This worked well with the rich indulgent topping of a caramel cream which was interlaced with chunks of salted caramel. It was one of the nicest cakes I have had in a long time, so thank you.
My mum stopped by Les Deux Amies who specialise in French sweet and savoury pancakes. They had two hot plates one for gluten free and one for dairy free pancakes. My mum opted for a classic of Nutella and banana. It was massive, and she struggled to finish it. My mum loved the fact that she could have a gluten free pancake. She found the batter light and airy. She loved it’s simplicity and the variety of options to have in their pancakes. The stall was that popular that many of their ingredients had sold out. I received a sample of their caramel sauce to try at home as part of my bloggers free goodie bag. Sadly, it wasn’t dairy free. So mum took it home to share with my nephew who loves his pancakes. Les Deux Amies can be found at:
Due to my sweet tooth I stopped by Sticks and Cones they are a new business set up by Mark and his girlfriend. They follow a paleo diet and on a recent trip to Eastbourne were unable to find an ice cream to enjoy. So they started researching at home and experimenting with ice cream. The ice cream is based upon on the paleo lifestyle is dairy free, gluten free and suitable for vegans. It is made from coconut milk. Both my mum and I tried the caramel flavour. Now ice cream is never an issue for my mum being gluten free, but I often struggle with my dairy free diet. The ice cream was slightly rich and indulgent, it was lovely and creamy in both flavour and texture. I could definitely taste the ingredients and the combination of texture was spot on. I have to say it was one of the nicest ice creams that I have tried. So well done Sticks and Cones. Sorry, there’s no link available yet for this one.
Next we discovered a vegan stall called Vegan Sweet Tooth London. It was run by Giancarlo which sold both sweet and savoury treats. He explained that as a chef he used to work in a vegan restaurant which closed. As a result he then set up his own business and has a stall at a variety of events. What struck me was the sheer variety of goods on offer. Having a sweet tooth I was spoilt for choice. In the end I opted for the gluten free chamomile zucchini and the peach and hibiscus cakes. You had a choice of a small or large portion, trust me the small was very substantial. I took them in a bag to take home, the zucchini could last up to 5 days. I really enjoyed both of these cakes. The zucchini had a moist sponge which interlaced with pieces of zucchini. There was a nice subtle but not overpowering flavour of chamomile. I have to say my favourite part of this cake was the cashew icing cream on the top. It was light, delicate and creamy and combined all the flavours of the cake perfectly. As for the peach and hibiscus, well the sponge was soft and moist and gooey in texture. This was topped by pieces of peach coated in a syrup. I could definitely taste the key ingredients in this cake. I personally found it a little heavy going so had in two sittings. If I saw this stall again would I buy cakes, yes definitely. What I must not forget to do is buy some savoury ones as well. Here’s the link:
Our final stop of the day was to Raw Halo. This is a handmade organic artisan raw chocolate company. It was set up by Meg in May this year. Meg gave up refined sugar as a lifestyle choice but didn’t want to miss out on her life’s little luxuries including chocolate. The dark chocolate is free from refined sugar, gluten, wheat, egg and lactose. Meg explained that all of the chocolate bars are dairy free except the caramel due to its flavouring. With the exception of this bar all are accredited by the vegan society. We tried a sample of the plain chocolate. On biting into the chocolate I noted two textures, it was initially slightly dry this was followed by a nice creamier texture. Oh my goodness it was certainly rich in flavour and very indulgent definitely a chocolate for the grown ups. You could certainly taste the cacao element and would only need a little to get your chocolate fix. I would definitely buy some of Meg’s chocolate to try the other flavours as a treat to myself. Raw Halo can be found at: http://rawhalo.com/
I recently wrote a blog post about the rapid expansion of the free from market and asked for opinions and personal experiences on this. I questioned whether people’s lifestyle choices is impacting on this market. All of those that responded to this post either had a food allergy or an intolerance or a medical condition and therefore do not purchase the products for lifestyle reasons. What I learned from this festival was that many of the individuals had set up their business because a lifestyle choice. They were all highly passionate about their personal experiences and why they had set up their business. For me personally this was a new experience because many of the brands I have tried have been developed as a result of a food allergy / intolerance or a medical condition. For me these individual lifestyles choices have benefited me and will no doubt may others. I was able to try a variety of treats that several years ago I would never have dreamed off. So for me personally, it made me rethink the lifestyle aspect of the free from market. I have tried some amazing foods from the festival, and if more safe foods are available to eat surely this can only be a positive thing.