French toast has never been so good- Santeez gluten free cafe, Kerikeri

We were asked to go up to Kerikeri recently for work and I was struck initially by two thoughts: what an awful car ride with the infant, and yay for the gluten free cafe. Santeez gluten and wheat free cafe is on the main road opposite the police station, set back a little from the road. It’s got a lovely shaded courtyard, a very interesting toilet (whose decor I would love to recreate at home) and, happily, is gluten free. Not just friendly to us with three or four choices, Everything (it turns out they do stock gluten bread, but that’s the exception). We stopped in for breakfast as I was especially excited about having an option that wasn’t just ordinary breakfast menu + $x for gluten free bread. I can do that at home without a surcharge. I went for the French toast as I had a pretty good feeling about it, despite my one and only homemade French toast experiment being a few standard deviations below average: my Vogels 6 seed was not the right bread 😦 the right bread, as I discovered, was whatever they used. I thought I could taste cinnamon? Perhaps using a slightly sweetened, spiced bread is their secret. I can only speculate because I did not ask, but what I can say is that it was an easy decision of where to go when we found ourselves needing lunch the next day, but a hard one not to choose the same thing two days in a row! In the end I went for the BLT because it is a favourite of my beloved, doesn’t work as well with two bits of gluten free bread instead of a nice bun and therefore has been the subject of some serious food envy in the past. It was a good choice, if I do say so myself.

Oh, and the infant was quite happy, i.e asleep, for our long (+/- 300km) car ride, so successes across the board πŸ™‚

Chocolate overload

I loved being pregnant. It was just an awesome experience. One positive outcome (apart from giving birth to someone who is probably the cutest baby on the planet) is that I appear to be able to eat chocolate again. The closest thing I had to a proper craving was to really really want peanut slab at about 16 weeks- I bought one knowing full well that heartburn was inevitable. Only it wasn’t. Yay for me! I have been enjoying small amounts ever since, obviously being careful not too over do it in case I break what is currently fixed. There was one such incident at La Red Berry, in Pukekohe. Their hot chocolate is warm milk with chocolate pieces melted in and I foolishly also went for one of their two gluten free slices, the chocolate brownie. Both great on their own but together a chocolate overload! I had to lie down. Perhaps you need to be made of stronger stuff than I am? Hmmm, not sure although I am happy to report that each item ordered independently has agreed with me much better πŸ™‚

Cafe Sola, Thames

My sincere apologies for not posting earlier but this post has been building up for a while. We’ve been doing our regular shopping in Thames and at the Thames Saturday Market for over a year now and almost every week without fail stop in here. This post has most recently been prompted by the travel section of the NZ Herald a few months back which ran a local travel feature about Thames and wrote off Cafe Sola as the cafe for if you’re feeling like vegetarian !!! That’s right, 3 !’s. True, it is a meat free establishment, but I know someone who hadn’t realised that until the Herald pointed it out. So, where to start? At the beginning of course!

The beginning for me and cafes is the cabinet food- if I have to stand in line to wait to ask whether they can safely feed me I quickly lose the will to spend my money and especially if you go on a weekend, you will have to wait in a (short line) at Sola. They always have at least one cake, and several delectable items available- friands, peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies (highly recommended), chocolate brownie, Turkish delight, and an Aztec biscuit (fruity and nutty) were this weekends offerings. All are helpfully marked with a colour coded sticker system which is explained on the wall behind the counter (it’s big, you can’t miss it). They also have savory and sweet gluten free muffins- they store them frozen so they aren’t on display except on a blackboard. I have never tried this, but I am certain in a blind test you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between the gluten and non-gluten varieties. They are light and fluffy and sometimes it is a real struggle between the sweet, savory or getting both.

And what about the main event?Β  Some of the items are handily displayed in another part of the cabinet but are also on the chalkboard menu. I think I have tried everything- risotto cakes, paninis, enchiladas, nachoes and have had several of their other items with gluten free toast in place of place of their regular toast choice. Most recently I found myself ordering the creamy mushrooms on toast- this was a surprise to me because I don’t like mushrooms. I suspect that there is malt vinegar is involved in the sauce so coeliacs check first, but I surprised myself by really liking them and have ordered them a couple of times since (fortunately my gluten intolerance only extends so far).

I’ve already confessed on this blog to not being a coffee drinker. I can happily report that the coffee drinkers and snobs amongst us are impressed with Sola, and that the other beverage options are many and varied.

So, at the risk of gushing about this place the atmosphere is always great and I love the staff. They are always fantastic and friendly. You really get the impression that these guys enjoy their jobs. It’s not just about appreciating the custom either- saying that would be taking away from what looks like a passion to do a job well.

The Benson Rd Deli, Remuera

It’s time to do all the things that I anticipate being less convenient with a small person in tow, and yesterday while in between errands I found myself at the Benson Road Deli, in Remuera. Of course, you can tell I am new to the place- the guy at the next table was describing his location on the phone as being as “B R D”. Who I am to argue?

I was impressed with the 3 lovely looking gluten free cake options – strawberry friands, orange syrup cake and a chocolate cheesecake slice. I went for the latter, and a Vitamin C boost smoothie – both of which were great. The tartness of the raspberries in the smoothie really helped combat the sweetness in the slice. The atmosphere was pleasant, and it was a sunny day to watch the people and traffic on Benson Rd, which despite being in deep suburbia was rather busy.

I decided to grab some lunch to take away while I was there, and sadly I was once again faced with a single choice at the deli counter – who invented frittata anyway? I wish that places, especially where the cake options are so good, would branch out a bit in the savory department 😦

Mamma Mia pizzeria, Mission Bay

One of my friends is very sad that I have, as yet, not had any strong pregnancy cravings – she seems disappointed that I haven’t eaten 10 kg of gerkhins and that my only claim to a craving thus far has been to eat a lot of ice in the first trimester. But I hope you’re reading this Tania, because on Saturday I craved pizza. It probably wasn’t more than your average “I feel like it tonight” craving as I would have settled for something else but as it happened, the first pizza place we visited in Mission Bay had gluten free bases. And, it really hit the spot.

Much like our experiences in Hokitika, Mamma Mia only had one size of base but unlike Fat Pipis that was clearly explained on the menu. I ordered a small “Mamma Mia” (ham, mushrooms, cheese and tomato) with olives instead of ham and my only critique would be that there wasn’t even one olive per slice of pizza. I expect that I wouldn’t have had the same experience if I’d gone for the pig, but a craving is a craving. The good thing was though, that the gluten free small was larger than the normal small, so I got six slices to my beloved’s four. The service was also prompt, we didn’t have to wait around long. So all up a thumbs up from me, despite being a long way to drive when I could make one at home πŸ˜€

Some eating highlights of a Wellington week

I love Wellington – despite having not lived there for 10 years I did grow up there and so it is home (although the comparatively tropical northern climes of both Sydney and Auckland have ruined me for its climate). A weekend in the city is never enough to do everything and see everyone so this time, we packed up for a week and headed south.

When going somewhere where you know lots of people there is inevidably a lot of eating at homes. My ex-boss once asked me where is good to eat out in Rotorua – no idea, we’re always at the in-laws. Back to Wellington, my Dad is also gluten free and even if he wasn’t Mum would never let anyone in her house starve πŸ™‚ We had some great meals at home including a very moist sponge cake with fresh fruit. We did, however, have a few meals out – one of which is not even note worthy it was so average, but a couple of others worth mentioning.

We met some friends and had dinner and desert out on the town. The dinner was OK, but it was desert that was truly awesome. Uninspired by the single desert option at the dinner resturant we moved down to the Library on Courtenay Place. I gather it is pretty new, and to be honest it looks a bit dodgy from the road end – you enter a mostly unmarked doorway next to the Burger King and go up 2 flights of dodgy looking stairs… but since you can’t judge a book by its cover, you definitely shouldn’t judge a cafe by its doorway- it was great! True to the name it is FULL of books and cute eating nooks. There are even boardgames on the bar for you to borrow. Depsite being a Tuesday it was humming – that would be the 2 for 1 Tuesday night desert special in action. In a sign of sheer class the desert page is the first of the menu and best of all, of the 12 things on the desert menu 5 (yes, five) were gluten free. I had the Earl Grey Creme Brulee as I am a bit of a fan of the stuff and it was really good. It was small and came with a teeny serve of vanilla ice cream but they nicely complemented each other and was a perfect amount. The savory menu was similarly resplendent with gluten free options (7 out of the 12), and the cheeseboard can be gluten free on request. Having only tried one desert I will need to go back next time I am in town to try the others.

The other eating out highlight was a place I never would have gone to otherwise – suburban dining at its finest in Miramar of all places! Growing up Miramar never seemed to be on the road to where I needed to be, but we have friends with small child who live there so it was very convenient. They were also incredibly kid friendly πŸ™‚ La Boca Loca is a tequeria, and are committed to local, sustainable and happily for us, gluten free. There was a section on their menu featuring the flour tortilla, but a bigger one featuring corn tortillas. In hind sight, I should probably have gone for the goat or the pulled pork (both looked great when everyone else’s arrived), but instead I went for the roasted squash and goats cheese enchillada. I had food envy – Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my meal but I ordered it thinking I had been missing uncooked soft cheeses owing to my temporary dietary retrictions in the soft cheese department so jumped when I was offered cooked goats cheese, but I wasn’t really. I was glad too that I ordered the optional side dish of fried potatoes (others atΒ  the table went for the more healthy rice and beans). The potatoes made the meal $20ish, but the 2 enchilladas would not have been enough for me. I can’t remember which of the desert options were gluten free as I was too transfixed by the Mexican Hot chocolate (fantastic!).

But the real food highlight looked like this:

Carrie’s gluten free carrot cake muffins and ginger slice

Carrie can be found selling all sorts of gluten free goodies at the Thorndon Market on Hill Street (in the carpark of the Anglican cathedral). I wandered over because it was the only stall which had cakey looking things and I thought I’d risk that she might have something gluten free-Β  she had everything gluten free. I was genuinely stumped for choice as to what to buy. In the end I went for ginger slice and a carrot muffin (to share with my beloved of course!). Both were excellent although I would have happily scoffed the whole ginger slice had I not already eaten half the carrot cake muffin. The base was so delicious – it wasn’t your average base. It had fine orange peel in it, it was moist, and very moreish. We chatted for a while and while she herself is not gluten free, she started baking bread and sweets as a wholesaler to sell to cafes. She recognised that there isn’t a lot of choice when you go out and most of the stuff you buy in from major wholesalers is not that nice. In my humble opinion not enough cafes are buying her slices (there was a noticable lack of choice where I seemed to go), so if you are a cafe owner or even if you are just going farmers marketing on a Wellington Saturday go and check her out. I wonder if she does mail order….?

Gluten free at Miko Cafe, Auckland Regional Botanic Gardens, Manurewa

Sometimes life, and life’s appointments, take you to places where you have never been before and you wonder “is there going to be something for me to eat there?”. Life unexpectedly took me to Manurewa twice in the last 2 weeks. I was hungry after the first appointment, but a quick glance at the main road of the town really worried me- nothing friendly looking there at all (although having said that I did have a nice chat buying some eggplants and fenugreek seeds at the Indian grocer, but alas nothing gluten free at the friend chicken shop). My beloved pointed out that we weren’t actually that far from the motorway and wasn’t there a cafe at the botanic gardens? Oh well, at the very least I could eat my muesli bar with a good view (it’s my emergency one at the bottom of my bag, at that stage it was looking a bit worse for wear, but I have since eaten it and it tasted pretty good). The cafe is easy to find in the main building of the gardens and yes,it does have pretty good views. As far as I can work out, you have to walk past it to get into the gardens themselves, so you can’t miss it. There was a “to be heated” and a “eat me now” cake cabinet, and nothing as labelled gluten free. I asked and the lady behind the counter didn’t know, but went and asked the chef who came out and spoke to me. There were 3 choices: kumara cakes, a baked potato, and a greek salad. Nothing really screamed morning tea (it was coming on 11), so I went for the kumara cake because at least it had a morning teaish sounding name. It was like a fancy kumara based hash brown and was quite good, if a little on the expensive side ($7.50 for 1 cake with a tiny salad).

As luck would have it, the following Tuesday I was back in Manurewa this time after lunch but without the same post-appointment problem – we headed straight for Miko Cafe. Now I would have guessed that the greater selection of food would have been available on a Friday, but no, in addition to the above 3 choices this time they also had a (labelled gluten free) rhubarb and apple cake, and an orange almond cake. Score!

Miko cafe, Auckland Regional Botanical Gardens

I would definitely recommend Miko Cafe as being gluten free friendly, and the gardens are worth a look too while you’re down there (but go mid-week for more choice).