Top 5 Gluten Free Eateries in Belfast One Area

Top 5 Gluten Free Eateries in Belfast One Area

For a city as small as Belfast, the amount of great gluten-free-friendly restaurants is pleasantly surprising!  The food scene is always growing, with new restaurants opening on a weekly basis.  Last week, I took to the heart of the city (BT1) to explore a number of different places that are great for gluten free food.  Here are a few of my favourites:

City Picnic

Tucked in behind my fashion mothership (Zara), City Picnic is in an ideal location for anyone looking for some lunchtime shopping fuel.  Using only homegrown, local produce, this little gem prides itself as serving 'The Best Burgers in Belfast'.   With one of their owners being coeliac, City Picnic is a pretty unique diner because everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) on their menu can be made gluten free!  Think of everything that is normally off limits if you're gluten free - burgers, chicken wings, 'messed up fries', hot dogs, wraps, nachos and chicken strips - and then think how challenging it is not to order four lunches at one time.  Further to that, you can wash all of this down with a gluten free beer, prosecco or cocktail!  I have no doubt that City Picnic will become an absolute favourite for any of you popping into the city centre! 

 

 

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Looking for 'The One'

 I thought I would tell you the story of how I went about finding my wedding dress and share some of my favourite dresses that are still available to purchase from Blush - the gorgeous Belfast-based boutique where I bought my wedding dress.   This is perfect timing, because Blush are about to have a major refurb and are currently selling off about 80% of their bridal stock at huge discounts.  This includes dresses from their 2018 collection!  There are loads of dresses that are suitable for every season, so if you or a friend are looking for a wedding dress, now is the perfect time to shop the Blush collection! Go, go, go!

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I had no idea what style I wanted for my wedding dress, which made shopping for it all the more fun because I could try on everything until I found 'the one'.  

My approach to planning our wedding was simple.  I wanted to make the whole process as stress free, as laid back and as fun as possible.  I knew it was a once in a life time (fingers crossed) opportunity and I didn't want my experience to be tainted by any hint of bridezilla. 

Blush was the first boutique that I visited on my hunt.  On entering, I was greeted by huge smiles and welcoming faces.  I was so nervous and felt completely clueless about what I was looking for.  Being so used to wearing black, I thought that wedding dresses would be totally unflattering and unforgiving!  I took along my best friend, my two sisters and my mum.  The women in my family know what they like and they're not scared of giving their opinon (nor am I - you might have realised this by now), so I knew that my trying on process would be quick, it would be a Marmite reaction, love it or hate it. 

My bridal consultant, Fiona (great name), took us into the bridal room and immediately made me feel at ease.  When she asked what style I liked or who my favourite bridal designers were, I looked at her blankly - I had no idea.  All I knew was that I didn't want a traditional A-line wedding dress and wanted something that would suit our rustic Italian wedding.  Fiona took me over to the rails and we started to hunt through the beautiful fabrics, until I found a few (eight) dresses that I wanted to try on.  The thing that made it easy is that Fiona and I had exactly the same taste. 

The styles that Blush choose are stunning. They house some well known desginers. such as, David Fielden, La Sposa and Martina Liana.  Being a princess at heart, I was immediately drawn to this showstopper with a full tulle skirt.  La Sposa's "Penelope" dress is pretty exquisite.  It has a two-piece effect with a sheer lace body that can be played down with a detachable lining.  Personally, I much preferred it without the lining.  I didn't think it looked too bare at all andI felt completely comfortable in it.  If I were getting married in the winter, I would race to buy this dress.  I took a few (five) Boomerangs of me swooshing this skirt, so I can confirm that this is an Instagram-worthy dress!

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They also have a few U.K. based designers, such as, Alan Hannah and Kevan Jon.  It means that if you choose a U.K. based designer, almost every dress can be completely customised to your taste.  So if you like the shape and style of one dress, but prefer the fabric of another, they can customise it so that you have your dream dress!  In fact, one of my favourite dresses from this year is Alan Hannah's pink strapless ballgown called "Anna" and it is exclusive to Blush!  I love a wedding dress that has a wow factor and shows your best assets, and for me, this ticked all the boxes.  The dress is corseted and makes your waist look teeny tiny, which is a dream for someone like me because I have very little waist and would love an hourglass figure.  The colour is just an absolute dream - picture this with a cathedral length ivory veil.  It is just stunning.  

If you're like me and think a wedding day is a great opportunity to get a new pair of designer shoes, you'll want to show them off!  Jimmy Choo's slogan of 'Say I do in Choo' complete won me over and I decided that they were the only shoes I wanted. Alan Hannah's "Cherie" is an ivory silk organza dress that sweeps high to low - beautifully showing off any new shoes.  The dress is dramatic, but simple.  The gingham print on the organza is so unique and something I really didn't think I would like, but I was immediately drawn to it.  There's something about this design that reminded me of Carrie Bradshaw's wedding dress (Google it, you will see what I mean) - but of course, this dress will come with a lot more luck than hers did! 

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If you haven't noticed by now, I am a sucker for a backless dress.  This Martina Liana "Lexi" dress is made from seven different types of lace - talk about intricate detail! The low sweeping back leads to tiny little buttons, which are framed by the dramatic lines of the lace.  It is a pretty great shape around your bum, which is complimented by long flowing train.  The sweetheart necking is the sexy cherry on top.  This dress longs for an entrance.  I can just imagine someone walking up a long aisle with the piles of lace following behind.

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During my first visit to Blush, the second dress that I tried on was a David Fielden, ivory, hand-sewn lace dress.  It was simple, elegant, a little bit sexy and perfect for an Italian wedding.  Everything that I thought I wanted in a dress disappeared, this was my wedding dress.  My bridal party swooned and said it was 'The One'.  I totally agreed, but who finds their dress in the first boutique they visit?! 

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Like a typical stereotype, I felt the need to visit more boutiques in different cities and try on over 20 more dresses before racing back to Blush to get my dress.  What sealed the deal for me, is the moment I visited a very popular wedding boutique and dealt with a monster of an owner.  I was greeted with a plastic smile, shown dresses that she thought I would like (I didn't get to choose) and then made comments about my body while I tried on wedding dresses.  It wasn't the dreamy bridal experience I was looking for.  After the game-changing experience of shopping in Blush, and all of their wonderful words of encouragement, I knew I had to go back to get my dress.  I longed to be back in the gorgeous little boutique that made me feel like the only bride in Belfast and I was ready to commit. 

My dress fitted me perfectly, it didn't need taken in or altered - it only needed taken up because my legs refused to grow to super model length.  It was effortless to wear, I could walk with ease, eat loads, drink more and dance the night away - all while being completely comfortable. 

The best thing was seeing Andy's face when I walked down the aisle.   The church must have been dusty, because my non-emotional husband, let a single tear (almost) escape from his eye.  I knew by his face that I had picked the perfect dress.

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It was so amazing after months of keeping it secret, finally getting to show him my dress!  I couldn't wait to have some time alone together to hear what he thought about it.

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When I was trying on dresses, I would dance about the shop a bit, sit down, do a little wiggle, etc. because I wanted to make sure that whatever dress I chose, I would feel like I was wearing the dress, instead of the dress wearing me.  I felt totally at ease in my dress - I think it is key to feeling relaxed on your wedding day.  Never once did I feel it nip me at the waist, rub at my shoulders or be so tight that I couldn't eat.  I didn't think about it at all, and that's maybe why the smile didn't leave my face all day long!  

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I wanted to choose bridesmaid dresses that complimented the design of my wedding dress.  My friend is the owner of Jarlo, so I was delighted to choose bridesmaid dresses from her range.  I two different designs in soft grey.  Both backless and both incredible around the bum - my girls could have given Pippa Middelton a serious run for her money!

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One of my favourite elements of my dress were the tiny lace polka dots.  When the girls at Blush told me that the lace on my David Fielden dress was all made by hand, I could only imagine the hour of work going into each and every single little polka dot - it made me appreciate it that much more!

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I would recommend making an appointment as soon as possible to shop the Blush sale.  If you book a private appointment, you can even bring along a bottle of bubbles to make the experience even more special.  This isn't something that you can normally do in Northern Ireland and at least when you find your dress, you will have something to cheers over! 

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Make sure to let me know if you find your dress in Blush!  Happy dress hunting - enjoy every moment of it (and don't forget the bubbles!).  A huge thank you to Aileen, Fiona and all of the girls at Blush for making my experience so incredible!

Fx

Being Gluten Free in a Shared Kitchen

When you or someone you are close to is diagnosed with Coeliac disease or with a gluten intolerance, it can come as a shock.  A change in diet is not the only challenge; you will also most likely be living and sharing a kitchen with others who eat gluten.  This means that you potentially put yourself at risk every day of coming into contact with gluten containing products…and dare I say it…their dreaded crumbs!  It also means that you will have to keep a close eye on everything in the kitchen so you don’t mistakenly eat something containing gluten or use something that could be cross contaminated with gluten.

What people need to understand is that the amount of gluten that can make you sick is microscopic!  It also clings to different items in the kitchen, even after cleaning them, which is why you have to be so cautious.

It is possible to share a kitchen when you are gluten free, as long as you and the people you are sharing with follow some strict rules to keep you safe.  I share a kitchen with my gluten-eating husband and we follow strict rules to make sure that I don’t get glutened.  Here are some tips for keeping your shared kitchen gluten free friendly:

 

Replace Your Toaster

First and foremost, it’s time to say goodbye to your old toaster!  The last thing you want to do is risk years worth of gluten-build up in your toaster making its way onto your gluten free bread.  In our house, we bought a new 4 slice toaster and have a rule that the left hand side of the toaster is for gluten free bread and the right hand side of the toaster is for normal bread.  If someone in your house is a bit forgetful, you can add a label to the toaster – “GLUTEN FREE BREAD ONLY” – to remind them which side of the toaster is off limits.  I clean our toaster every couple of days with Dettol to make sure there are no unwanted crumbs clinging to the top of the toaster!

 I have a little "GF" written in chalk pen on my side of the toaster!

I have a little "GF" written in chalk pen on my side of the toaster!

Cutting and Chopping Boards

Used cutting boards and chopping boards (especially wooden boards) by nature tend to have lots and lots of tiny scratches in them.  These little scratches can harbour microscopic pieces of gluten and can make the boards a threat for cross contamination.

The best way to deal with this is to buy all new boards and keep them only for gluten free use.  You can even buy colour coded boards so that everyone knows which aren’t to be used.

 

Keep Gluten Items in One Corner of the Kitchen

In order to share a gluten free kitchen successfully, it needs to be thought of as just that – ‘a gluten free kitchen’.  This means that you are not segregating all of the gluten free products into ‘one shelf in the fridge’ or ‘the gluten free cupboard’, but instead you segregate all of the gluten-containing products and cooking tools.  To put it simply, in your shared kitchen picture all of the gluten-containing foods, utensils and cooking tools in one corner.  These items should only occupy that corner and stay in that corner.  That means the rest of your kitchen will remain as a crumb-free, gluten-free friendly environment.  You can then actively avoid that corner of the kitchen, or occasionally, go on a Dettol cleaning spree to get rid of any unwanted crumbs!

It is best to pick a corner for the gluten-containing foods that is away from most of the other counter-space and oven.  This will obviously be difficult if you have a small kitchen, but just choose an area that you can consider as off-limits.  It should obviously have cupboard space for gluten foods and utensils and a bit of a worktop area for food prep.

You then need to make sure that everyone in your house is made aware of the ‘gluten-containing’ corner and how they should stick to this space.  You should also request that they only use gluten-free flours, as normal gluten flours can be airborne and could result in cross contamination.

 Keep all gluten items well separated from gluten free areas

Keep all gluten items well separated from gluten free areas

Sharing a Fridge

Ok, so in an ideal world we would have two fridges – a gluten fridge and a gluten-free fridge, but in reality, we don’t live in MTV cribs and will have to cram all the food in one fridge together. 

To make this work, you should have the top shelf as gluten free.  On this shelf, you will have your own butter (never share butter – you don’t want to end up with gluten crumbs on your gluten free toast) and gluten-free condiments.  If there’s more than one other person in your house, you could label the condiments as gluten-free so that there’s no risk of them using it and cross-contaminating it with gluten.

 

Share your diet

The easiest way to share a gluten free kitchen?  Make sure everyone in it follows a gluten free diet!  This is what we do in our house.  The only gluten-containing products Andy keeps in our kitchen is occasionally bread (kept in the bottom drawer of the fridge away from all other products) and sometimes a Pot Noodle…I think he does this to ruin my reputation as a gluten free food blogger.  He can eat whatever food he wants when he is out of the house, but he understands the risks involved in bringing gluten into the kitchen.  All the food we buy and cook is gluten free – including pastas and grains.  All stock cubes, condiments and sauces are gluten free, which means that when I am going to cook, I don’t need to check ingredients labels before I cook!  No risk of cross contamination or glutening myself by eating the wrong product!

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I hope this helps if you are sharing a kitchen!

Fi x