Moving is a pretty hectic experience, but it was made easier by having some awesome family help. One of the helpful things an aunt did (amongst many other things she did), was turn up with a Marx bakery banana loaf. Yummy and very surprising. The local Bin Inn in Thames used to stock their bread until a small sign about 18 months ago which sadly announced the ceasing of supply. I’ve been watching for resupply much like our cat looks at his biscuit bowl during the day after he has scoffed them all at breakfast- no matter how forlornly we look, the bread (and biscuits) have not reappeared. Also, with more variety available in shops generally and life events trucking along at full speed it’s been off the radar. This banana loaf reminded me and they’re back on. Happily for me, Oliver’s bakery and deli in Totara (just south of Thames) is now a stockist. Oliver’s only opened recently and to be honest, I wasn’t terribly excited because going into a bakery just doesn’t really do anything for me and they rarely have anything for me. Bread and other bread products are delivered on Tuesday each week (I visited on a Thursday), but they were stocking biscuits and pies and yes, I got a pie. It was so good! I will definitely be visiting next Tuesday 🙂
I was thinking last night and this morning about the radio program on gluten free foods that was on yesterday, and naturally onwards to my own experiences. Although he didn’t cite a source, Simon Morton quoted that 1 in 10 New Zealanders (“us”, so I am presuming New Zealanders) avoid gluten in their diets. That is a huge number! Not 1/10th of the people I know avoid it, that is for sure. (Despite my best efforts some of the people I know are still not sure what it means or entails – the receptionist at my old work once thoughtfully bought a vegetarian lasagna for me to share with the vegetarians at a function catered by spit roast. I’m not too sure what she thought I couldn’t eat although this was a remarkable improvement on the idea that all starch was gluten).
Of all the people in the world who you think might have an idea of what gluten is, or at least an interest in making food taste good regardless of which proteins it has present, you might think that chefs would top the bill? I have had two very opposite reactions to gluten free food by chefs who are themselves gluten free recently which I would like to relate to you. The first was in Sandspit- there is only one cafe there so you’ll know the one I mean. Having walked across the spit from the camping ground (while pregnant, I might add), I had rather built up an appetite so I asked the guy behind the counter if their friands were gluten free. I thought this a reasonable question as friands are the constant of gluten free cabinent food at a lot of cafes I can name. Well no, and I got a chuckle with that reply, they are not gluten free because there just simply isn’t enough gluten free custom at the cafe. This was the first I had heard that the intolerance worked that way around! And as a small insult, the counter guy admitted he was mostly in charge there as the chef, and was sympathetic because he too was gluten free and it is hard to eat out, right? Yes, right.
The second experience as far and away more positive. We had a family wedding to go to in Wellington so we packed up the offspring and off we went. The reception was catered by Nosh catering. Knowing that at least 2 members of his immediate family were gluten free the groom, or possibly the bride-to-be, had mentioned this to the caterers. When I asked which dishes I could eat the answer was all of them. The chef (I am pretty sure) is also gluten free and so every dish except the bread rolls (and the cake which a friend of the couples’ had made) were safe. And all the dishes were really, really good. I went back for seconds and was contemplating thirds when I realised if I didn’t go there then I would legitimately have room for seconds of the desert. The baby sleeping through the party, and not having to miss out on something yummy looking- it was a great night out!
But seriously, why two such opposite reactions to the same experience and problem? And how do we get more food professionals to begin to think more like the Nosh crew? Big questions….
It was great to hear on the radio today a guide to gluten free on This Way Up. I love Radio New Zealand and at the moment am listening to rather a lot of it, not having mastered being able to do much else while breastfeeding. I have always loved this show anyway, and today I thought Simon Morton did a really good and fair introduction to what gluten free entails and a starting guide for anyone recently diagnosed with coeliac disease.
While enjoying our changed life, we haven’t been getting out much with our offspring, although we did manage to get out in Wellington to Cafe de Parc at Khandallah Park during a recent trip to see the family. While I was happy that there were things there I could eat, I now have a new criteria for what I am looking for in a cafe- Cafe de Parc had no change table! Child friendly…ish.
The Oxfam Fair Trade week is coming up soon, and seeing advertisements for it in the newspaper and my favourite magazine led me to ponder the lack of loose leaf fair trade tea options at our local “super”market. One thing led to another and we ended with the question: What better way to celebrating the upcoming end to both our disposable income and our free time than a trip to the only tea estate in New Zealand? So off we went to Zealong Tea Estate.
Their website says that bookings are essential, especially if you have special request and when we dutifully rung to book they specifically asked whether there were any special requests. So far, so good and even better on the actual menu which listed several GF options straight away including, but not limited to, the Beetroot soup, Chicken takitori, a chiffon tea sponge cake and the trio of macaroons. The latter two were included in our Signature High Tea and they were very tasty indeed- well, rather than a trio of macaroons, it was just 2. The three-tiered platter had 5 savoury items on the bottom, some fruit, the cake and the macaroons on the middle, and a tea flavoured moouse as the crowning glory. My beloved and I opted to share and I was happy with that as it meant that I could eat the salad cup (it’s normally a salad wrap), and the beetroot soup from the bottom while he dealt with the rare beef, and the fish cake. We split the roast chicken bite. I was rather relieved at the appearance of 2 macaroons though – almost too good to share 🙂
Of course, there was also the tea. They have 4 varieties there and I tried the Aromatic which is so good we took a small (expensive and for special treats only) packet home with us.
So overall, the verdict is that I was impressed. Like the take home tea packet it was an indulgence, which made me enjoy it all the more.
I love getting letters, and I get a certain amount of selfish pleasure in sending letters to far off places. I’ve always also really liked interesting stamps – why use boring Kiwi stamps when you could be sending a Hobbit instead?
My pen pal (and yes, such a thing exists in this digital age) has just started a new blog to celebrate a stamp a day, beginning with Halloween – that most American of holidays.
Lucy puts a lot of thought into stamps and this blog promises to be of interest – even if you’re not into stamps! It well worth a look 🙂
Edit: Stamp quote of the day:
To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart. Phyllis Theroux
Thanks to wordpress for providing.
And thus begins part 2.
Our time on the East Coast included a night with a friend in Washington DC. It was very hot there, and because it is essentially built on a swamp it was also really humid. Luckily the Ethiopian restaurant that we went to Adams Morgan (one of the northern suburbs) was air conditoned. I was a bit nervous about it all, but took a rather cavalier attitude- the meals are brought out on a communal teff flour pancake, and I wasn’t sure about it but I ate it anyway. A quick internet search later and I found out that teff doesn’t have the a-giadin protein fraction that reacts gluten has and so is good for celiacs. I am happy to report that it also doesn’t irritate people with gastritis and I suffered no ill effects.
Unlike most other places we went in the States, Adams Morgan seemed to be filled with smaller non-chain stores. I realise this is probably both a reflection of where we as tourists went as well as the dominance of chain store in America, but it was refreshing. I bought some cereal at a tiny health food shop for the next morning and to take around the country with me. It was Bakery on Main brand, and it was a real find! I tried the Cranberry Orange Cashew Granola because I figured that I love cashews and cranberries and that was good enough for me. It was so good that on our way out of town the net morning I went and bought another packet of a different flavour and ate it all the way through New England finishing it California. I tried a different flavour for packet number 2, Rainforest Granola. On reflection I should have stuck with Cranberry Orange for round 2 as well- I am not a huge fan of Brasil nuts and there were a lot in here. Also, I assumed that dried bananas were the same worldwide, but not so. The ones in the Rainforest Granola were soft and most bananary in taste, and very unlike what you would find in NZ muesli. It took a couple of breakfasts o get used to, but I think I liked them and if it as the only choiceI would definitely buy that one again.
New England was a treat, a genuine and real treat. Through work we have met a lot of people from New Hampshire and so it was great to go see it for ourselves. The first thing that struck me was how green it is. New Hampshireites do go on abut NZ being green but the state is full of trees. Also, it is a very old place – we stayed at the Three Chimneys Inn and the first building was in 1649. That building is older than my country. Wow! We had dinner at the ffrost Sawyer tavern downstairs at there were multiple gluten free options with no nachos in sight! Pad thai, potato encrusted haddock, poached salmon, steamed lobster, and even a crème brulee for dessert. I had the pad thai and the crème brulee and both were quite excellent. I can’t fault the service either, the wait staff were top notch. Our other night staying in Durham we went out to dinner at the flatbread place in Porstmouth. Yes, flatbread, a fancy pizza – not where you would necessarily assume gluten friendly food lay… but wrong! Not only did they have a gluten free base, but they also advised on which toppings had gluten. Yay for them. It was humming too, everyone wanted a slice 😉
Our next stop was up in the White Mountains where we had a date on the Appalachian trail at Carter Notch Hut. Knowing we needed some lunch on the way we stopped at a small supermarket in Conway- thumbs down! No gluten free bread, and 1 single packet of rice crackers – which were stale. We thought we were slightly closer to the wilderness than we actually were, so we made do although North Conway was bigger, and the cafe we chose at random had good coffee AND both savory and sweet gluten free muffins. I got one of each 🙂 Carters Notch is a catered hut, and far out the food is good. The only no-no for me was the fresh baked bread. In the morning fresh pancakes and yes, they make gluten free ones. The walk we did was a short one,only 3.6 miles from the closest carpark. It is straight up though, and the trail was a bit rougher than we had expected. New Hampshire is “The Granite State” and rather than remove the boulders there are parts where you have to climb over them. We took the scenic route over the high point at Carter Dome – and it was pretty hard work – worth it despite the clouds.
It’s been a while, and I have been thinking a lot about American food and my experiences as a gluten free eater. Our trip was a real adventure – we visited 7 States and had a taste of 2 more (well, if you count airports!). Not bad for only a month away. I almost knew what to expect but was constantly surprised anyway.
The biggest impression that I had of American food was sameness – it didn’t matter where we went, you could almost not look at the menu for knowing what you would get. This was slightly frustrating in some ways as it meant that the gluten free options were the same just about everywhere. The staples were some kind of salad, steak and usually some form of Mexican food. I was initially pretty darned excited about this as a lot of Mexican food in New Zealand is expensive. The first few times I had maybe 3 things to choose from (chilli con carne, nachos and usually burritos, or possibly enchiladas). Three is good. Unfortunately the same 3 items appeared on almost all the menus. I asked at a place Lake Tahoe whether they could put their tortilla wrapped salad in the corn tortillas they advertised elsewhere. No. Why not? It was made to order? Well, they were the wrong size. Is that a lack of imagination? Who knows. I think it has to do with the other thing we noticed – food is very cheap. It’s hard to separate the sameness and the cheapness – one is a product of the other.
Years ago my beloved discovered a law of dining out (not quite as important as say the laws of thermodynamics, but we’ll build up to it). It goes like it: Restaurants with good views don’t have good food. Well, fortunately (or unfortunately) the restaurant at Monument Valley is the exception. We were staying at a nearby bed and breakfast and they suggested that we dine before we arrive. We were at the visitors centre anyway so hung around until 5 so we could check out the menu – we expected expense but when in Rome, eh? We were pleasantly surprised to see that not only were prices reasonable, but the food was really good. They had a lot of the standard fare, but also a Navajo section to the menu. We ordered a Navajo tea each, one green chilli bean main and the mutton stew and it was less than US$40 including the tip. The chilli was hot, and the stew amazing. They were so good that we went back again the next night. I tried the taco and I suspect the blue corn tortilla was not gluten free 😦 but it was really good. There were at least 2 other things I could have ordered, mea culpa.
As an aside, we stayed at the Fire Tree Inn and I would never stay anywhere else in the area. We were initially attracted by the fact that you sleep in hogans when there. It was a bed and breakfast and I had bought some gluten free bagels in San Francisco to take with me just in case. That was just as well as the fresh home baked bread was gluten rich, but they did have some gluten free snacks for me to take with us on our back country walking tour. The jams and marmalade were good,the tea perfect and we were in real danger of not making it out the door on time for the good conversation. Wonderful and if you go, say a big hi from me!
Moving along in time we headed over to Pittsburgh where we were staying with friends. We had a lot of awesome home cooked meals there and our wonderful hostess had gone out specially to find me gluten free bread. I had some just before we went to a ball game – and it was just as well. Similar to Sleepinghorses experiences at Eden Park the ball game is not a gluten free friendly place to be. The food highlight from Pittsburgh for me was Klavons Ice Cream shop on the Strand. We had just been to Primanti’s for lunch – it’s a Pittsburgh institution but unfortunately they don’t deviate from their famous sandwiches much beyond giant pickles and chilli fries. I was hungry and so filled up on 2 scoops (almond fudge and moose tracks). Lucky I don’t see a nutrionalist, I am pretty sure that is not a balanced lunch.
There were a couple of typical New York foods which I am no less familiar with having spent a week there- like the New York Pizza and proper bagels. Still, once again our friends were sympathetic and we had some wonderful home cooked meals. The eating out highlight was when my cousin and her husband took us out to the Bridge Cafe. It is tucked under the Manhattan end of the Brooklyn Bridge- no view but they claim to be the oldest continually licenced drinking establishment in New York. They had gluten free menu items, a gluten free beer and were really good. The prices were closer to NZ than US (US$20 for a main), but everything seemed to be more expensive in New York.
Too many highlights and too little time. More later (and I promise not that much later!)