Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category


Spanish Menu and Label Reader

July 27, 2010

A little bit of preparation really helps when you’re travelling and need to observe a gluten-free diet. I researched useful Spanish phrases and standard gluten-free words before we travelled to San Sebastian and Bilbao for our summer holiday this year. These were really useful when we were looking for gluten-free dishes at restaurants and deciphering the labels on supermarket items to add to our daily tapas picnic. We dined on steaks, prawns, fish, tortillas, salads, and some tapas and drank a lot of organic cider. We also knew when to avoid the paella and tapas – the regional tapas in Basque country are called pintxos and are usually served on a slice of bread so are a no-go area.

I’ve included both the Spanish and English translations because most phrase books and culinary dictionaries don’t translate both ways. Remember to check if menu items are covered with flour or breadcrumbs before you order.

Related posts: Tips for gluten-free travel in Spainand A week in Spain and no tummy aches


Tips for gluten-free travel in Spain

July 13, 2010

The culinary dictionary I bought was this one from Amazon.

Related posts: A week in Spain and no tummy aches


A week in Spain and no tummy aches

July 4, 2010

We’ve just spent a sunny week in the north of Spain finding it really easy to order coeliac-friendly food. A young waiter in a seafood restaurant even pointed at English Boy and asked us if he was “celiacos” when I explained that we were allergic to wheat and gluten and needed to avoid bread and flour. It was fantastically easy to find the food we could safely eat.

Admittedly, I had done a little homework. I took beginners Spanish lessons about 7 years ago and could remember a few phrases. I also bought a Spanish gastronomic dictionary and wrote all of the words I knew I would need regularly in the back. This was a fantastic move and I took it everywhere with me. In the supermarket it was vital to decipher ingredients lists for tortillas, chorizo, breakfast foods and desserts. In restaurants it broadened our choices greatly and once I had explained our food allergy issues to the waiters in my broken Spanish we received excellent service from waiters who knew about coeliac disease and were very willing to help.

We also experienced excellent service at our hotel after requesting a gluten-free breakfast every day. The kitchen staff provided gluten-free corn flakes, coco pops, sweet biscuits, unbreaded ham, and crispbreads. They also overheard us discussing soya milk and the next morning they had bought some for us!

If you are travelling and don’t know the language I strongly recommend getting a culinary dictionary. It simplified every eating decision and took away the doubt surrounding meals ordered in my very unsophisticated Spanish.

We stayed at Hotel Codina in San Sebastian and received wonderful service.

Keep an eye out for tips for gluten-free travelling in Spain and a menu and label reader in my next post.

Related posts: Tips for gluten-free travel in Spain


More to come soon…

June 24, 2010

Life takes over, doesn’t it? I have been so busy since I arrived back from Australia that I’ve had no time to keep you up to date with my latest gluten-free news. Plenty has happened and I have loads to update you with including:

  • Tips for gluten-free travel in Spain
  • My first attempt at gluten-free pork pibil tacos, chipotle adobe and pickled red onions
  • Gluten-free dining at Cafe Rouge
  • The 2010 Allergy & Gluten-Free Show
  • Gluten-free Mexican groceries

I feel hungry just thinking about it. I hope to catch up this weekend so keep your eyes peeled or sign-up for updates straight into your inbox at the bottom right of the page.



Singapore Airlines gluten-free meal

April 29, 2010

What a relief. I am finally home. All in all I was delayed in Sydney for 10 days. I was sad to leave but I’m glad to be home and now I’m looking forward to the English summer and plenty of picnics!

Singapore Airlines’ special meals blew Virgin Atlantic out of the water… erm sky. It was obvious they’d put more thought into it than Virgin. The meals were varied so I didn’t end up with three different interpretations of tomatoes and red peppers a la Virgin.

Dinner from Sydney to Singapore was lamb navarin with jasmine rice plus the requisite gin and tonic. It came with a side salad, fruit salad and a typically dry and tasteless gluten-free slice of bread. That didn’t matter because the main was filling so I didn’t need to eat the bread.

The snack before landing was two mini grilled chicken brochettes with red and green peppers and a little sweet chilli sauce.

I was very excited to find out that I was on the A380 from Singapore to London. It’s massive. It looks like the nuclear missile in Superman III from the 80s. Although to be honest it was really uncomfortable in Economy and I didn’t sleep much. Just once in my life I would love to fly in a suite or in First Class from London to Sydney but that would probably mean I can’t eat for a year.

Dinner on the second flight was braised beef with fried potato and onion, beans and carrots. It was tender and delicious. The side was a garden salad and dessert was a fruit salad. That seems to be the standard for special meals. It also had rice cakes instead of a bread roll.

Breakfast this morning was a nice surprise. It was a full meal instead of a greasy bacon roll. There was so much food on the tray I couldn’t eat it all. The hot meal was a frittata made with peppers, carrot, spinach and herbs with a side of baked beans and mushrooms and it was yummy. Breakfast came with a side of orange and ruby grapefruit, rice cakes, jam and yogurt.

The only down side to the meals from Singapore Airlines was when snacks and ice creams were brought around they didn’t have gluten-free options so I missed out. Their meals were much better than Virgin Atlantic and once I’ve used up my frequent flyer points from Virgin I’ll start shopping around for new airlines to fly with.


Things to do in Sydney while being held hostage by a volcano

April 23, 2010

I have been feeling pretty down for the last few days but things are looking up now that UK airspace is open again. Sydney has been gloriously sunny this week but I haven’t really ventured out. Today I dragged myself out of the house and went exploring.

Here are my top things to do in Sydney while being held hostage by a volcano.

1. Wake up and turn on TV. Watch news for 3 hours hoping for a breakthrough.

2. Call airline and push flights back by another day.

3. Call travel insurer and wait on hold for 35 minutes. Confirm that expenses are covered by insurance but there’s no help for maxed out credit cards.

4. Check credit card statement and savings account. Lie down for a bit.

5. Drag self off sofa at midday and have shower.

6. Drive to Balmain. Grab late “breakfast” at Adriano Zumbo or Fundamental in the sun.

7. Buy a newspaper.

8. Walk to The Little Marionette on Booth Street and order a soy latte. Grab a complimentary picnic blanket and sit across the road in Gladstone Park. The Little Marionette guys will bring your coffee to the park for you. Best business proposition ever.

9. Soak up the sun for a few hours and read about weather patterns and seismic activity. Become sudoku aficionado.

10. Repeat on following day.


Virgin Atlantic – Hong Kong to Sydney

April 19, 2010

It’s been a month since I arrived in Sydney with Virgin Atlantic. Since I’m stuck here for a while longer I can catch up on a few posts and in the process totally ruin the chronology of Food Dorks. Oh well.

Virgin Atlantic redeemed themselves on the second leg of my journey after serving me gluten in my gluten-free meal on the first flight.


My second dinner in 15 hours was steamed chicken with brown rice, roasted tomatoes and green peppers. It was OK but again the peppers were too bitter.

Call me boring but I’m a fan of boiled chicken and rice sometimes. It’s a nice cleansing meal and I think that’s better than rich food when you’re in a pressurised aircraft. If you think it’s too healthy then two gin and tonics makes it a more “balanced” meal, as demonstrated here.

Dinner came with a side salad, fruit salad, and a disc of very sweet bread. Does anyone know what it is? My fruit salad was one piece of dragonfruit, pineapple and watermelon. This was a pretty nice and healthy meal and I was happy with it.

Dinner also came with the bonus of an empty row in the middle of the plane all to myself. After the meal (and two double-gins) I lay down across three seats, put Florence + The Machine on and managed to get about 5 hours of sleep. Win!


Indiscernable sweet bread made a comeback for my second breakfast, which I described in my notes as “a sweet ham, tomato and cheese thing”. Upon reflection I can’t understand why I ate this thing. Must have been famished. Or greedy. My notes say “tasty, not bad, edible.” Was I being generous as well as greedy? Or was I delirious from lack of oxygen and an interrupted body clock? It looks repulsive. Tin foil surprise.

So, after 25 hours of travelling and four Virgin Atlantic gluten-free meals how would I rate their food service? On a Poor/Fair/Good/Excellent scale I would, at first, consider a Fair rating. I don’t think I could stretch to Good on this one. The dinners were passable but breakfasts were a sorry sight and they served me gluten in my first breakfast which actually means they failed to provide me with a safely gluten-free meal. On account of that I think the rating has to be Poor.  Virgin Atlantic has a lot of room for improvement with their special meals service.

My return flight is booked with Singapore Airlines and I have been looking forward to comparing them with Virgin Atlantic. Who knows how long it will be before I can get on that plane?  I’ll let you know when the wind changes.

Related posts: Virgin Atlantic: Gluten Free Failure and Still stuck in Sydney

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