This week I was lucky enough to attend the invitation only FreeFrom Food Awards 2011, now in its fourth year, which was extremely well attended by free from food companies, health journalists, bloggers and health industry experts who were treated to flowing prosecco on tap, tasty gluten free beer and a selection of delicious free from canapés.
The venue, Kew Bridge Steam Museum was a really quirky choice but definitely a hit with guests. Despite the odd hiss of steam, which punctuated the proceedings, it was an impressive building with hulking steel pillars and shiny taps, levers and pipes. We were even treated to a live demonstration of the pumping engine in action for half an hour whilst we sipped our prosecco and mingled before the awards proper began.
My favourite free from delicacy was the asparagus which I would normally think of as an accompaniment to a meal. Despite presenting some small challenge of exactly how to eat a drooping stalk of asparagus whilst speaking to someone you have barely met, they were so completely delicious I was practically following the waitress who was serving those around the room. Followed closely by the figs wrapped in parma ham – so simple but so very very yummy. Oh and I can’t not mention the polenta toast with mushroom topping – I had quite a few of those too… It really was a treat to be able to eat nearly every canapé going rather than watching others enjoy whilst I abstain.
I felt very privileged to have been invited along, it was a real pleasure to put faces to the names of people I’d been emailing and speaking to but never quite met. Most notably I finally met Michelle Berridale Johnson, the driving force the whole event for the first time; Jane Milton of Not Just Food and Alex Gazzola, Italian freelance writer, author and journalist extraordinaire.
Throughout the evening I found lots of new bloggers and journalists who I hadn’t been aware of before like Sian Drew or Gluten Free Mrs D, as she is know on her blog, who is an expert on travelling with allergies. I learnt from here that Argentina and Uganda are streets ahead in gluten free catering world so don’t be afraid to brave a holiday to somewhere far flung and different. Visit her blog for inspiration at www.glutenfreemrsd.com. It was both motivating and mind blowing to meet the brains behind so many of our innovative and ground breaking free from foods. I am still buzzing from the event and it’s sparked off ideas for lots of future blogs so visit again soon!
I met the man behind Mrs Crimble’s who introduced himself as, “I am Mrs Crimble’s!” (our larder is rarely without a loaf of Mrs Crimble’s stem ginger cake) and representatives from Rice Dream, Tofutti, Doves Farm, Tesco, Kallo and loads more, too many to mention them all. One to watch out for is Hill Country Mesquite who are shortly launching an innovative new range of naturally gluten free flour made from the hardy little mesquite tree best known in arid, dry countries.
Throughout the awards ceremony I was hearing about amazing new products I had not been aware of before and I class myself as fairly adventurous and am always searching for new exciting free from foods. I had missed quite a lot, including Mama Cucina gluten free, dairy free, egg free quiche! Impossible I hear you cry? Well I’ve tried their cheesecake and can’t wait to sample the quiche.
Ably hosted by Foods Matters’ very own Michelle Berridale Johnson and Cressida the awards were presented by Free From fan and celebrity chef Antony Worral Thompson. He was lucky enough to get his picture taken with me! Nice tie Antony by the way.
I know you want to know who the winner was so I’ll get the point. All the judges were very pleased with the eventual choice that first place should be awarded to Doves Farm self raising flour. Anyone who has tried to cook without normal flour will know what a challenge this is, so a very well done to Doves Farm.
There was also an Innovation Award, prizes for the best animal milk, free from milk, pizza base, biscuits, cakes, flours, beer, scones, I could go on. You’ll have to visit the FreeFrom Foods Awards website to peruse all the winners and those who were also mentioned as highly commended.
It was a really great night, I met so many amazing people, the allergy world is really thriving and seems to be enjoying a massive increase in interest, despite the testing times we are living and working in right now. Congratulations to Foods Matter for organising such a successful and brilliant event, to the judges for managing to pick winners from such stiff competition and to everyone who came along for making it such a fun and worthwhile evening. Special thanks for the coach which Foods Matter laid on to transport some of us back to our relevant stations, after the challenging journey we had to actually get there it was very very well appreciated.
Find out what Alex Gazzola thought of the event – read his official review on the Foods Matter website in Foods Matter Free-From Food Awards 2011 – the party…
So now the challenge is on to all you free from food companies out there. Who will win next year? Will it be you? And as Antony Worral Thompson discussed when he addressed the audience, will the restaurant and fast food industry take heed and catch up with this free from food trend and start catering for allergies better?