Monday, 19 November 2012

The Terrible Twos

So my blog has made it to two years old! Even I'm impressed! It feels like only yesterday I was celebrating its first birthday (It's A Blog's Life http://glutenfreephotos.blogspot.ie/2011/11/its-blogs-life.html) It has been a pretty good year. I've had my blog posts picked up and published on various sites and my following has actually increased. I'm so very flattered and thankful. It still shocks me that anyone would bother reading and following my blog, so once again, I thank everyone of you who reads, supports, contributes and puts up with my ramblings here and on my Twitter and Facebook page too. It makes gluten free living easier and friendlier and quite frankly, a happier experience.

To celebrate its second birthday, I've decided to treat my blog to a mini-makeover. I've included a couple of new pages which you may like to have a look at.

The first page is 'Who Is The GFP?' http://glutenfreephotos.blogspot.ie/p/who-is-gfp.html which is essentially me introducing myself and explaining how I came about becoming gluten free. You're welcome to leave a comment on the page or not, or to not read it at all (no pressure!). I just felt that if I'm going to stick around in the blogosphere for a little while that I should at least have the courtesy to let people know who's behind The GFP. A virtual handshake, if you will.

The second page is 'Looking For A Little Help?' http://glutenfreephotos.blogspot.ie/p/clue-me-in.html This is basically a revamped, better version of my old 'Clue Me In' page. I've added some new links which I think are worth listing and have made it more of a resource page now, rather than a random links page. I've categorised the links, which should make it easier to navigate and to find what you're looking for.

The third page I've added is 'Gluten Free Blog Love' http://glutenfreephotos.blogspot.ie/p/gluten-free-blogs.html I think this might be the most useful page on my blog. It's a list of gluten free/coeliac blogs found from all over the blogosphere. It's a great way to connect with other gluten free folk and there is no better way to feel that you are not the only one struggling to manage a speciality diet. If you want to add to the page, please feel free to mention the blog you want to see listed in the comments section at the bottom of the page and I will update the blogroll as needed.

My 'Eat Out' and 'Off The Shelf' pages are really the only sections of my blog that need a proper update. I'm hoping to get around to this soon. There are a few more decent Irish artisanal gluten free producers out there that I definitely want to add and some eateries that need to be listed too. It might be a new year resolution for me at this point! Feel free to leave a comment on either/both pages if you know of or are an Irish GF producer/eatery/restaurant/etc., that should/would like to be added. The more listings the better. I'm also thinking of including a UK page too, just for simple cross-over reasons, but I need to see how much interest there would be for this.

The fabled beer blog that I've been mentioning over the past while, does indeed exist. I'm hoping to get it finished soon. I keep hoping! It's a bit time consuming and requires a panel of fellow beer drinkers to be in the same place at the same time, so I can get decent feedback for the blog. I'll get it sorted eventually.

So Happy Birthday to my blog. Another year older and another year (a bit) wiser.



 

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

HSE Restrictions For Coeliacs IMPORTANT INFORMATION

Okay, with yesterday's reveal that people suffering from coeliac disease will no longer be able get gluten-free products free of charge under State schemes as a result of an unannounced HSE cutback (http://www.irishhealth.com/article.html?id=21012). I have gone on a major hunt for information to see exactly what this will mean. 

TheJournal.ie were very quick on the uptake with an article published yesterday evening (http://www.thejournal.ie/gluten-free-products-cut-coeliacs-583367-Sep2012), which shed a little more light on the subject. 

So here's what I gathered in my quest for more information. 

Firstly, I got my hands on the official letter from the HSE outlining the cuts and what this will mean for many. You can click on this link here: 


...and that should lead you to scanned copy of the letter. If you cannot see the link, or have any trouble opening it, let me know. I will be happy to email you the version directly if you need it. 

Following on, here is another link to the list of gluten free food that will no longer be available for coeliacs, as outlined by the HSE, at this link here: 


Again, if you have any problems opening this link, please feel free to contact me directly and I will be happy to send you the list. 

UPDATE - Here is a full list of all the food/medical cuts made by the HSE, found at this link here:

http://www.sspcrs.ie/libr/html/monthlyproductupdate.pdf

For the dietary supplement allowance, follow this link here http://www.welfare.ie/EN/Schemes/SupplementaryWelfareAllowance/Pages/DietarySupplement.aspx to see if you can avail of this benefit.

I had a very informative conversation with an extremely kind pharmacist who was happy to answer my questions that people have asked me. 

The first question was, 'Will this affect medical card holders and those on the drug payment scheme?' Answer: Yes. You will no longer have access to any GF foods.

Next question, 'Are they removing gluten free products from prescription altogether?' Answer: Yes, there will now no longer be a prescription service for coeliacs who aquire any of the GF foods.

Next question, 'Can you still claim tax back on the med1?' Answer: Yes you can. As far as the pharmacist was aware, that would not be a problem. 
 
Next question, 'When do these cuts kick in?' Answer: As of last Friday, 31st August. It has already been implemented. 

So there you have it. If anyone wants to ask me anything further, or if there is confusion, please just comment below/email/tweet/facebook me and I will be happy to do my best to help clarify and find out what you need to know.

I'm trying to keep this post clear of how I feel about the whole thing, as it would just end up being a frustrated rant at the HSE and my emotions would get the better of me. My overall feeling on this issue is one of frustration, disappointment and sadness. 


Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Celebrate Your Local Irish Gluten Free & Gluten Free Friendly Business

To follow on from my earlier post this month 'Are You Gluten Free Friendly?' I put out a call to fellow gluten free folk to mention Irish businesses who go out of their way to look after the gluten intolerant and coeliac population. I was tweeted, emailed and facebook messaged and here is a list of noteworthy businesses out there who are doing their bit to making gluten free living a little easier. 


 - Cafe Royal Waterford recommended to me by Beatrice Payet. Everyday there is gluten free soup and gluten free bread available. There is also a choice of up to five gluten free desserts! More information about them can be found on their facebook page here: http://www.facebook.com/CafeRoyalWaterford/info

- Granny Maddocks Pantry, Gluten and Wheat Free Bakery were recommended to me by the Cafe Royal Waterford, as that is who supplies all their gluten free goodies to their cafe. I already have them listed on my 'Off The Shelf' page, but they are definitely worth another mention. Their facebook page can be found here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Granny-Maddocks-PantryGluten-and-Wheat-Free-Bakery Check them out! 'LOVE Irish Food' :) 

- Antoinette's Bakery is a dedicated gluten free bakery recommended to me by Sinéad Vaughan, who owns and runs this Dublin based bakery. In her own words, "Antoinette's Bakery is 100% gluten free 24/7 365 days no exceptions! Available at The Continental Food Fair at the Square, Tallaght, The Stillorgan Market and The SuperNatural Food Market. I also supply to Cinnamon in Ranelagh and The Lovely Food Co in Terenure! Anyone is free to get in touch to place an order. Birthday cakes, Wedding cakes, cupcakes, you name it I'll bake it!" Her website is here: http://www.antoinettesbakery.com/ and you can find her on facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/AntoinettesBakery/info 'LOVE Irish Food' :) 

- Gookies as everyone who follows my blog knows, is one of my favourite convenient gluten free foods and Muriel Coughlan who is the creator of this amazing product took the opportunity to promote her amazing fresh gluten free cookie dough, in her own words, "I have to give Gookies a mention, the Triple Choc Cookie Dough got 1 Gold star and the Natural Flavour Cookie Dough got a 2 Star at the Great Taste Awards 2012. All four flavours are now award winners at the Great Taste Awards 2011 & 2012." Wow! If that is not enough to tempt you to go and try Gookies, I don't know what can. I already have Gookies listed on my 'Off The Shelf' page. The Gookies website is here: http://www.gookies.ie/ and the facebook page is here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Gookies/110103285717377?sk=info 'LOVE Irish Food' :) 

- Ecodirect - The Gluten Free Shop threw in their two cents as a great gluten free resource and I could not agree more. Visit my 'Off The Shelf' page to see in better detail of how great I think they are. An incredible gluten free Irish business who are dedicated to helping and providing for the gluten free population. Their website is here: http://www.ecodirect.ie/catalog/ and you can follow them on facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/glutenfreeheaven/info 

- Ecodirect recommended Pregos Restuarant in Lucan. "They have proven over the years that they can meet the needs of the discerning coeliac. Taking on board customer feedback, they recently made a lot of improvements in almost all aspects of their business. They LOVE coeliacs, LOVE doing gluten free well, and are in it for the long haul." What more can you ask for? Excellent recommendation. You can find Pregos at Ballyowen Shopping Centre, Lucan, Co Dublin. 

- Emma recommended Yamamori Izkaya http://www.yamamoriizakaya.ie/ on George's Street, Dublin 2 and Pyg Resturant http://www.pyg.ie/ in Powerscourt, Dublin 2. "I'm very happy to say they offered plenty of gluten free options and were both delicious and I got a wee cake in Lolly and Cooks http://www.lollyandcooks.com/ in George's Arcade so I am a very happy camper :) I love when items are labelled on the menu as gf, it just gives that extra bit of confidence that they know what they're talking about." Excellent to hear of so many options to hand in Dublin when dining out. 

- Rebecca recommended The Twelve Hotel http://www.thetwelvehotel.ie/ in Barna, Co. Galway: "It is great for gluten free options, they've opened up a pizza parlour with gluten free pizzas too and they're delicious. Menlo Park Hotel http://www.menloparkhotel.com/ Galway City is excellent with over 80% of their menu gluten free. McSwiggans http://www.mcswiggans.com/ in Galway City is also great for gluten free options." Always delighted to hear of venues who are going out of their way to cater for the gluten free population. Great recommendations! 

- Sinéad recommended, Credo pizza on Montague Street (across from Whelans). "Takeaway only but have a completely separate kitchen and staff for gluten free." Their website is http://www.credo.ie. Their facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/pages/Credo-make-better-pizza/122000397815676?sk=info Amazing GF pizza, brilliant! 'LOVE Irish Food' :) 

- The Gluten Free Food Market, in their own words, "Welcome to the 'Gluten Free Food Market', the [online] gourmet food market that presents you with wonderful foods that have been selected purely for their taste, quality and texture and all of which happen to be gluten free! We hope you enjoy your visit and that we will see you soon again! Bon Appetit" Their website is http://www.glutenfreefoodmarket.ie - More gluten free food to be found online, sounds good to me! Another great GF resource! 

- Firehouse Pizza, in their own words, "Hi we're a pizza delivery service who cater for coeliacs, extensive menu to choose from! Ballymun, Dublin" Their website is here: http://www.firehousepizza.ie/ and they have a facebook page you can follow here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Firehouse-Pizza-Ireland' LOVE Irish Food' :)

Are you a gluten free business who is looking to be certified gluten free in your restaurant/bakery, etc.? You need to contact the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) http://www.fsai.ie/ in order to become 'certified gluten free'. This is an important thing to do as they are the ONLY agency who can grant certification for your business. You can contact them via this link here: http://www.fsai.ie/about_us/contact_us.html

Thank you to the fine people and businesses who sent in suggestions to me. It is  heartening to see that despite the difficulty of living on a gluten free diet, there seems to be some people out there who are genuinely going out of their way to provide for the coeliac and gluten free population in need. To all those businesses and people making the difference in the GF world, THANK YOU! You are all stars and deserved to be recognised. Please keep on keeping on. Without you my (and everyone's!) gluten free world would be less bright.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Hospitality or Hospital?

This has been a thorn in my side ever since I have had to be on a gluten free diet. I apologise in advance as this is going to be quite a wordy post, but I just want to get this off my chest. The hospitality sector, that is. That's right folks, hotels, B&B's, restaurants, you name it, it inevitably turns into a struggle to get those who are running their establishment to understand exactly what being a person who can not eat gluten actually entails in terms of safe food preparation. My own frustrations led to my own attempt at collating places that are suitable to dine at on my 'Eat Out' page. However, before I begin my rant, I would like to point out that there are indeed some exceptional exceptions (they're that exceptional!), to my above complaint who are utterly attentive when dealing with coeliacs and gluten free folk alike.

It seems to me that the overall majority of folk who operate in the hospitality sector are pretty well-up on food allergies, such as a nut allergy, dairy allergy or even, to a certain extent, a wheat allergy. However when it comes to having a gluten intolerance or coeliac disease the hospitality sector in Ireland, in the vast scheme of things, catastrophically fails the gluten free population of this country.

A fine example of this is when I was staying in a B&B recently and we had called in advance to let them know of my dietary requirements. Upon arrival, the owners double checked with what I could eat and I thought no more of it until the following morning when they served up my gluten free bread in the same basket as 'normal' bread. The interesting thing was that the majority of people who were staying that night and who were dining with us the following morning, coincidentally, either had coeliac disease or gluten intolerance, with the exception of my husband and two other folks at the table. All of us had to explain to the owner about cross-contamination and had to return our breakfasts. The weird thing is, that the owner said they had a close relative who has coeliac disease and that's why there was gluten free bread readily available!?! How can they have someone in their family with coeliac, work in the hospitality industry and not know about how important it is to keep the food preparation area free of cross-contaminating gluten containing foods,  let alone serve gluten free food lumped together on the same dish with it's gluten containing equivalent?

This is just one of many, many, many, many (ad infinitum) instances in the hospitality sector I have come across. It is so painful and I feel so cringeworthy and like such a nuisance that I have to explain exactly what I need, when I thought it was already clear. How fussy do I seem?? People who don't understand, don't realise the health implications of essentially poisoning the food I'm eating with gluten. A person with a nut allergy wouldn't be served a meal with a sprinkling of peanuts on their dish (at least I'd hope they wouldn't!), so why is it that there is such little understanding with those who have coeliac or gluten intolerance in this country??

Hotels are the worst culprits. There are some hotels who really know what they're doing when catering to gluten free diets, but in the majority they fall short. I have to always bring a 'back-up' meal to a hotel. People who have no choice to be on a restrictive diet should not have to bring their own food to established commercial hospitality venues. Especially when the venue has been called in advance and given information regarding dietary needs. In this day in age, you'd think it's a right of living to be able to consume food that has been safely prepared in a commercial hospitality venue. You'd think... 

Instead, in my experience, I'm faced with either ill-prepared food or no option at all. I appear to be a 'difficult' customer and sometimes I am met with outright hostility, incredulity or blank stares when I'm explaining my diet. I have to always ensure that I have my 'meds' when I go out, because if I am glutened, I am immediately nauseous and the after effects can last for weeks or months, depending on my gluten exposure. I'm a walking pharmacy!

I can only guess as to why the hospitality sector in Ireland is so poor regarding gluten free diets. I do know that the whole industry needs education on the subject. I can only give my voice and opinion regarding gluten free living as that is the world I live in. I suspect there are other allergies out there that are not being addressed properly as well. I have a friend who suffers from a garlic allergy and when she consumes garlic she is unbelievably sick. Yet, she has the same difficulty in the hospitality and catering sectors. Waiting staff and venues more often than not, do not grasp the seriousness of her allergy. Why is this such a problem? Ireland has one of the biggest coeliac populations per capita in the world and it has the weakest understanding of this in the commercial hospitality sector. Italy is also considered to have one of the biggest coeliac populations in the world too, but they are so clued in!! They have no problem providing tasty gluten free options to their customers. 

I know the hospitality industry is having a tough time in this economy. However, addressing this issue could surely open up new sources of revenue to an ever-increasingly enlightened consumer base that have no problem reporting good or bad experiences on online review sites. I can only pray that someone takes this issue by the reins and educates the Irish hospitality industry and gives it a proper overhaul so that there is understanding across the board to those businesses. I keep dreaming!



Note on Gluten Intolerance & Coeliac Disease:

- Coeliac Disease is NOT a food allergy. It is an autoimmune disease. Gluten triggers an immune reaction in people with coeliac disease.

- Gluten intolerance can cause intestinal damage and can also attack any other organ of the body, similar to coeliac disease.

- People with gluten intolerance can have the same symptoms as coeliac disease and there is the same long term risk associated with coeliac disease.

- There are those who believe that gluten intolerance and coeliac disease are both the same and would like to see the label 'gluten intolerance' no longer used
as it makes it seem less serious and is not. The need to be strictly gluten free for life is the same for both.



UPDATE: There is an edited version of this blog published on The Journal.ie site. You can view it here: http://www.thejournal.ie/readme/coeliac-disease-hotels-ireland-544568-Aug2012/


UPDATE 02/05/2013: Every business that is involved in catering in any way (hotels/B&Bs/restaurants/producers/etc.), needs to read this article & get it right for the those who have special dietary requirments. http://www.bighospitality.co.uk/Special-Features/Dietary-requirements/Dietary-requirements-Everything-you-need-to-know

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Blooming Brilliant

So I made my annual pilgrimage to Bloom http://bloominthepark.com/ held in Phoenix Park this past Friday, courtesy of one of the exhibitors who had kindly arranged tickets for my family and I to attend. It's one of those rare festivals that I feel truly encompasses what is so great about all things Irish. People, flowers, food, talent... it was organised beautifully this year. Thankfully the day I visited, the weather was kind and there was no rain. It was lovely to walk along the show gardens and take in all the sights, smells and colours of the event. 

There is always plenty to do and see at Bloom. I was really able to let my food loving side loose this year. With more and more artisan food exhibitors featuring gluten free food, I was able to enjoy a lot of what was on offer. Every year there is a greater range of gluten free food available. I was in food heaven!

Here are a number of photos I took. Kind of a summary of what I got up to while I was there. If you didn't make it this year, there's always next. It's a great day out, no matter the weather!

Blooms to behold at Bloom!














 









































After exploring the gardens, I then made my way to the food area. There was something for everyone. Artisan food, an incredible craft beer tent (unfortunately, no gluten free beer, but my husband says it was far better than the craft beer festival that took place over St. Patrick's weekend), cheeses, meat, fresh vegetables, chef demonstrations, etc. It was well worth attending! I picked up some amazing food from Pure Foods, The Foods of Athenry, Glenilen, Áine Hand Made Chocolate, Natasha's Living Food, Green Saffron Homemade Spices, Jane Russell's sausages, to name but a few of the food exhibitors I bought from on the day.








































































See you next year Bloom!






Monday, 30 April 2012

Gluten Free Gripe!

I'm so aware that I haven't blogged in quite awhile. Apologies for my absence. Reasons being that I have been plagued by the flu and colds various and to top it off, I had to contend with an unfortunate neck injury which stemmed from my back trauma from last year. Literally a pain in the neck. I seem to be back to my healthier self, but I won't speak too soon! However, during this window of calm, I thought I'd finally put up a new post. 

This past month saw the Free From Food Awards shortlist and winners revealed http://www.freefromfoodawards.co.uk/winners-12.html. Really showing what an incredible range of Gluten Free and other foods for intolerances there are available... 


in the UK. 



What about Ireland? I took part in a recent #GeniusChat http://twitter.com/GeniusFoods on twitter - they who produce that tasty gluten and wheat free bread we all know and love,  a little while back and they announced a new online shop with accompanying new products. I enquired as to whether they will be able to ship to Ireland or even have availability of their new products here. In a word, no. However, they do have plans to launch their expanding range here soon.

This seems to be the trend with UK free from food companies I have come across and is not the only time that I've encountered discrepencies between the UK and Ireland for availability and variety of gluten free food on the shelves in our supermarkets. I visit north of the border often and whether I'm in Derry or Belfast, or frankly anywhere up north, I always go to the supermarkets and pick up gluten free products I just can't get in the republic. Why is there such a HUGE difference, when literally we are just an invisible line away from getting our hands on what the residents of the UK can get for their gluten free diets?

There is a two edged sword to this, though. As Ireland has one of the biggest coeliac populations, there is a great need for access to gluten free food and a lot of talented artisan businesses spied a gaping hole in the market and have started to cater especially for those who need to live gluten free. So as a result we get some incredible food businesses producing amazingly delicious coeliac friendly handmade and homebaked foods. The Cake and Crumb, Gookies, The Foods of Athenry, The Gluten Free Foodie, Pure Foods, Big Red Kitchen, Bakery Union, Glór Gourmet Foods, Nutritious Nibbles, Natasha's Living Food, The Gluten Free Kitchen Company, to name just a few of the amazing people and businesses out there doing their bit to provide for us gluten intolerants and coeliacs.

However, the other side is that in the supermarkets, there is very little choice for the consumer when buying gluten free. The two big brands that seem to dominate the shelves are Kelkin and Livwell. Tesco, M&S and Aldi have their own 'free from' brands. 

SuperValu have a large free from section and stock gluten free food from local food makers and bakers around the area they are located. This I think is great and is really very supportive of the local Irish food scene. That gives them a big thumbs up from me. 

I bake and cook a lot from scratch. As a person who is gluten free, it's what I have to do. My point is, sometimes I'd like to just go out and be able to pick up the odd pre-prepared meal or dessert for the sake of convenience when I'm grocery shopping and have a variety to choose from. Just like anyone on a 'normal' diet can do.

So where is the convenient gluten free variety on our supermarket shelves? If it wasn't for Eco Direct the gluten free shop that's online, it would be even more difficult to access a large variety of gluten free foods. It's shocking that so many GF companies seem to be passing up the opportunity to provide for a population in need. Is it that the supermarkets/shops, such as Dunnes, Tesco, SuperValu, Superquinn, Centra, Spar, etc., have a cost hindering them from picking up new free from brands? Is it a tax thing? Is it a lack of education on the shops behalf about how in need the coeliac population is for accessible, tasty, GF food? Things do slowly seem to be coming on to the shelves. I can now pick up Bob's Red Mill Rolled Oats in both Dunnes and Tesco now, but that only took a few years for that to happen! The emphasis on the S L O W N E S S of getting a new GF product on the shelves, UK made or otherwise. Why can't the supermarkets, like SuperValu, all try and encourage locally made delicious GF products to be available in their shops? I'm tired of trapsing around from shop to shop, market to market, county to county (or country to country when I head up north!) for delicious GF food. Though, I do love going to farmers markets and gourmet food emporiums, I'm just talking simply in convenience terms here. Access to 'normal' food hasn't stopped the traffic of people with 'normal' diets to farmer's markets, artisan bakeries and small shops, yet they have the luxury of both worlds on such a bigger scale.

Perhaps, I'm the only one who feels this way, but I personally think that there shouldn't be restrictions on choice when a coeliac diet already has restrictions enough to deal with. 





Examples of Free From foods found on supermarket shelves. These are taken on my phone, so apologies for poor quality.





Thursday, 8 March 2012

Moo-ving On

I was sitting at my computer on Saturday evening, 18th February checking my emails, when I saw an email from Siobhan Woods - she who is the creator and maker of the delicious Missy Moo's ice cream. Once I opened the email and read it, I realised it was one of sad news. Missy Moo's café and ice cream parlour was closing its doors on Friday 24th February at 5:00pm. I was absolutely gutted. The first thought that went through my head was one of complete selfishness, 'Where am I going to go for ice cream now?', the next one was a little less selfish, 'How am I going to tell my 5 year old daughter that her favourite place in the world is closing down?' and finally, 'It's unfair that the miserable economy we are all suffering through has just made the world a little less bright for yet another Irish business to have to close its doors to the general public.'




On the bright side, the business is not completely closing down. Missy Moo's is restructuring, so that they can sell their ice cream wholesale to trade customers. You can thankfully still contact Siobhan at: missymooireland@gmail.com or phone 087 260 3247 to order ice cream cakes directly from her. There just won't be any chance of going for a scoop and a cuppa at the shop anymore.




I made a point of visiting Missy Moo's with my family as often as we could during the last week it was open. Everyday we went, it was extraordinarily busy. All the regulars, school kids (and their parents!) would literally be queuing up out the door to get their ice cream fix before it was too late. It was a great priviledge to be able to regularly visit and it was brilliant to see so many coming by to get their goodbyes in and express their support to the Missy Moo's team. Heartening really. 













What I take away from Missy Moo's closing its doors is that if you have something good on your doorstep, a business that provides a quality product/produce, that is local, Irish and something of true value, then get out there and support it. Shop local. Buy Irish. I am grateful that I can still pick up a tub of Missy Moo's ice cream in shops (such as Avoca), but I am saddened that I (and the public at large), have lost a wonderful niche ice cream parlour and café that had great atmosphere and good food. 








Thank you Missy Moo's for the milkshakes, ice cream sundaes, cups of tea, gluten free treats, birthday celebrations and fond memories that your shop has provided me and my family over the years. I wish you every success in your future and long may I see Missy Moo's ice cream on the frozen shelves in shops various.