Today we spent an hour at this year’s gluten free expo.
This is only the second time we’ve visited the expo and the last time was so long ago that I’d completely forgotten about all the bargains. Not bringing cash was probably a good thing – I could easily had spent a few hundred dollars at a few stalls. So I had to calm myself and instead take photos and talk to people. Things that help me to get over my shyness.
I didn’t get to visit everyone or taste everything, which was a shame. I focused on saying hi to the brands that I already know and love, as well as having a sticky beak at anyone making stuff for baking. Here’s a quick rundown on what we saw.
The first stall we visited was Symply Wyze. They make my favourite gluten free pizza bases. They also make puff pastry and pastry items like croissants, things that I thought that you really had to forget about on a gluten free diet. I think the lady said that they were fairly new and would be in shops soon.
I bought a ‘showbag’ from the Basco stand. Partly because it was a bargain, and partly because I really wanted to win the Kitchen Aid stand mixer that they had on the bench. One of the girls was a fashion blogger – having a quick chat with her made me feel a lot more comfortable about talking about my blog with the stallholders.
I had time to grab a sweet potato chip from the Vege Chip Co stand. I think they are a new product from an old favourite. I love vege chips because they come from where I grew up (north coast NSW/south east QLD) and remind of sunny barefoot weekends at markets, generally being a teenager and growing up. The dude was flat out refilling the tasting trays so I didn’t get a chance to say g’day but the kid was off and running so I couldn’t stop for too long. Their sweet potato chips taste miles better than the Kettle Chip ones. I had a bag of Kettle Chip vege chips last week and sent them a very polite email letting them know that I think something must have gone wrong in production because they had an unpleasantness about them that was puzzling. The Vege Chip Co sweet potato chips taste a bit like the Absolute Organics brand of veg chips – which is great because they are an old favourite but the packs are too small.
Next to them were Mamee, very popular with the school age kids for their noodle snacks. I tried their Rice Chips at the kidsbusiness Bloggers Bunch last month and they were really tasty. They are like Pringles but with much less crap in them. Yes, they are still a processed food, as were most things at the expo, but unless you avoid parties with the general population, you need to have a few snack foods up your sleeve. Plus, you know, that whole 20% thing. Mamee also have a new range of gluten free toddler snacks called Little Monster Snacks. Indigo wouldn’t try them as I think she is not used to food like that, but I tried them and they are like little puffs with a light seasoning. No MSG and a much shorter list of ingredients than most similar products. Again, this isn’t every day food but something for parties and celebrations, especially when other kids are shovelling all kinds of junk food into themselves and you want to be able to give your kids something other than carrot sticks and home made hommous.
I by-passed a lot of the bread as I have tried a fair bit of it before and wasn’t in a bread mood. I’m thinking that I might have to make my own gluten free bread and stop wasting my time on those little plastic packs of nastiness. I did pass a stand that looked like very fresh bread from a real bakery but they had very deep lines around them and I had a wriggly toddler. So I checked in at Food for Health.
Food for Health make these awesome bars that are fruit-free and gluten-free and are sweetened with rice bran syrup. They also make a range of mueslis in either gluten free or fructose-friendly varieties. But today I was checking out their new products – chocolate covered bars with berries and other antioxidant-rich goodies. They were yum and that’s a big call from someone who really doesn’t like berries much at all. There were a few kiddy snacks too – little balls and little bars. The products are developed by Narelle, a naturopath, and she was there running the stall.
One of the most beautifully presented stalls was Melinda’s Gluten-Free Goodies. I got to meet Melinda and her hilarious Dad. I love getting to meet small-business people who are making things that they love. Most people I spoke to today were very close to their products and it really shows. I tried a few of their samples and they really didn’t taste like packet mix cakes at all. I used to hate packet mix cakes but I think that in gluten free baking, you get a better result with a blend of alternative flours, and working out the blend that you prefer can take time. Packet mixes can help you to keep on baking confidently until you get everything sorted. Plus, they are very helpful when you are not gluten free yourself but need to cater to a guest who has dietary issues that you don’t know how to handle. 10 years of being gluten free, I still have people serving me food made on semolina because they were told it wasn’t wheat so it ‘should be safe’.
Naturally Good make my favourite snack for hippies – carob coated buckwheat crispbread. The day a pack of those fell out of the shopping bag was the day my partner realised that I was beyond teasing. The first thing I tried at their stall was a mint chocolate biscuit. Really nice, not like gluten free at all. While I was chatting to the bloke, I spotted the carob buckwheat crispbread and started to realise that they actually made a range of products. No idea why but I had always assumed it was just the buckwheat. And I had actually seen a few of their products before. Just call me blondie… They have a new line called Muesli Munchies, which are less sweet and made on buckwheat, quinoa and seeds. They are smaller cookies and are wrapped in mini-packs of two which is good if you are like me and opening a pack of biscuits signals the start of an all-day biscuit binge. Portion control is a good thing.
I just read on their site that they do low amine/salicylate products too. That’s awesome: I remember crying when I started the diet for chemical sensitivity testing as literally anything with flavour is off limits. Even Jasmine rice.
Old favourites Syndian have changed their packaging from plastic to boxes. I used to eat their brown rice vege burgers back in my vegetarian days but they are still delicious. I think the mini-ball version might be a better option for me these days. Their falafels are yum – not too mushy or too herby. They have new ready meals too, complete with the brown rice. I’d love to try the pumpkin and cashew curry but they had the Aloo Mattar out for samples and that was pretty nifty. They had their dips all spread out along the stall. They are so vibrant it was like a real food rainbow.
The chocolate mudcake from Yes You Can was pretty amazing. Even indiedaddy liked it, though he must have been getting hungry from seeing all the food and not trying any of it. I think he would have like a lot more of the brands this year compared to last time. Gluten free foods are not inferior to regular foods. for the most part, anyway. (We will conveniently leave bread out of the conversation.)
I saw the San Diego Tortilla Factory‘s stand. I found them the first time I visited the expo and was so excited as I had found some thing that I could eat that was ‘normal’ and nobody had to know that I was eating gluten free food. I haven’t been able to find their tortillas in the supermarket for a while. Not sure what that’s about. I really don’t like the supermarkets narrowing their range and knocking off everyone’s products through their home brands. Anyway, I could see a whole bunch of new stuff from them up on the wall behind their stand. I was getting pretty tired, though, and wasn’t up to checking it out and not being able to buy anything to bring home. Indiedaddy must have known that I had no cash and he kept wandering off with the kid. Sneaky. ( I just checked the website and they are only listing independents and IGA as stockists now. Looks like I am going to have to take my shopping list to IGA.)
The major brand in gluten free, Orgran, had a huge stall up near the front. They were flat out and giving away their cook books with purchases. I’ve looked through their recipes on their website and they have a very dedicated woman developing gluten free recipes for them. I didn’t know that they are an Australian company. For some reason, I always thought that they were Italian. I love their Buckwheat pancake mix and you can find my review of their Chocolate Brownie mix here.
Well and Good were opposite with another huge stall. Looking pretty popular. I tried their chocolate mud cake at the start of this month for indiedaddy’s birthday cake and it was great. I just wish I had patience for letting ganache cool before attempting to use it to frost with… One day, I will give their bread mix a go.
I made a quick stop at Bob’s Red Mill where they were showcasing their gluten free mixes. They have a huge range of organic grains and cereals too, and have a nice company philosophy. Their bread mix was quite nice.
Another quick stop, this one at Sweet William after I was lured in with a sample of strawberry white chocolate. What’s with the berry-eating today? That’s indiedaddy’s thing, not mine! They do dairy-free chocolate plus lots of products for various allergies so no kid has to miss out on chocolate. Even a few sugar-free products sweetened with stevia. They gave Indigo a little Scooby treat (Scooby snack?) that she was only allowed to eat half of in the car. We don’t give her treats very often because she has no enamel on her 4 front teeth and they are crumbling already. She will be let off the chain when her big kid teeth come in. That will be a momentous day. Amanda at Sweet William gave me some chips to try cooking with so look out for a recipe post soon.
And with still so many more stalls I wanted to see, I made one final stop at Coles to try some of their new gluten free products. They had an oat-free Anzac biscuit and a gingernut quite unlike the usual ones. Not bad. They had used the chocolate cake mix for brownies that were fudgy but somehow not quite right. They have gluten free pastas too but by this time I was being dragged out behind the pram, passing by Tasty Bite with so much as a nibble.
That’s hopefully it. Did I forget anyone? I hope not! I peeked in on so many more stands but just didn’t have the time to really check everyone out. Maybe next year. And I will bring both cash and a shopping trolley bag to carry home all the bargains like everyone else was. But just like with blogging, my favourite part was finding out about new products, trying them out, and hearing the stories straight from the makers. It’s awesome and actually really inspiring. To everyone who has taken a risk and started a business serving the gluten free community, thank you and well done!