Your Last Mouthful

Cardiff based food blog

Tag Archives: gluten free

A vegetarian meal at Laguna Kitchen and Bar

Review by Mr V

Last week along with a couple of other foodies, I was very kindly invited to sample a 3 course vegetarian meal at one of my favourite restaurants, the Laguna Kitchen and Bar in the Park Plaza Hotel. The reason being was because last week was vegetarian week. Being an enthusiastic carniverous being I thought it would be interesting to dine without the delicious cooked flesh of a dead animal upon my plate – although before I left my house I did slip a cold chicken leg into my pocket… just as a comfort thing…

So first up, we had a selection of very nicely presented chefs canapes. There were small crispy potato cones, half with potato mousse, chilli and mint and the other half with chickpea puree and tomato and garnished with a small herby leaf. Being a hot summery day they seemed very apt. We also had a chilled gazpacho and a small salad comprising of samphire, Wye Valley asparagus, fresh peas and lemon served in a chicory leaf. All were very fresh and appetizing.

For the first course we had Heirloom tomato, buffalo mozzarella and avocado salad with greek basil and Elanthy extra virgin olive oil. Lovely soft and ripe green, yellow and red tomatoes were served just below room temperature which is how they should be and together with all the other elements the dish tasted very healthy and fresh.

The main course was excellent. Pea, shallot and ricotta tortelloni with baby spinach, broad beans and a pea puree. As well as being an enthusiastic meat eater, I am also an enthusiastic pea eater! The main taste of the dish was the fresh pea taste which simply made me smile. The pasta was well cooked, veg was nice and crunchy and everything worked very well together. The bright green colours also made the dish very visually appealing. Although a touch on the heavy side, overall I very much enjoyed the dish in terms of its taste, textures and appearance and didn’t feel in any way it could’ve done with a bit of chicken on the side.

For dessert we were served a flourless orange and almond cake with rosewater fruits and jersey cream. A gluten free dessert which tasted lovely.  Often gluten free products can be a little dry or dense but this was no different to any other well made cake. It was very moist and light, lots of orange running through it,  a generous helping of good quality thick Jesery cream and with the fruits along side it, it made a fresh and great way to end a meal.

Overall I was very impressed with the vegetarian meal, I wasn’t actually expecting to be so full afterwards, but full I was and all courses were very fresh and tasty proving that the vegetarian option on the menu is just as good a choice as all the others.

That evening, my wife found a chicken leg in my pocket. She thought it was strange I hadn’t eaten it…

We have a website with another review for Laguna Kitchen and Bar, click here to read it at www.yourlastmouthful.com

The Chocolate Brownie company- A huge variety of flavours!

I’m not sure whether Brownies are becoming increasingly popular or whether it is just me seeking them out as I have been eating a lot of brownies lately and I have become quite attached to their chocolately gooiness! Obviously then, I was very pleased to be hand delivered a box from The Chocolate Brownie Company containing a selection of their flavoured Brownies.

The Chocolate Brownie company was founded by Vicky Critcher. Vicky started baking from home in April 2010 after being complimented on her brownies. In July 2010 she entered a national competition and made the final 10 out of over 600 applicants with a prize to win the opportunity to start supplying her brownies  to her local Asda stores. Vicky went on to win this competition and started supplying her Brownies to Asda in February 2011.

So back to our delivery…

Delivered in a big box with the company name we dived in to find 5 yummy brownies packaged nicely in a thin plastic film with the flavour and date stuck onto each one. They were a good size, big enough to sink your teeth into with a nice big bite! I was impressed by the variety. As much as I love an original chocolate brownie, it was nice to try some different flavours too.

Each flavour was very obvious. There was no need to check the label to see what we were eating and the mint and strawberry brownies had a nice aroma when we opened the packets.  The brownies were all chocolate flavour but it was the pieces in each one that gave the different flavours. There was even a gluten free brownie which was very nice.

I can’t decide whether my favourite was mint of caramel. Both were very tasty. The mint chocolate brownie had pieces of crispy mint running through it, the type of mint you would get in a crunchy after dinner mint. Mint flavour things are always a winner with me but I also really enjoyed the caramel one which was along the same lines but with caramel pieces which made it slightly moister than the others.

The strawberry and orange brownies had orange and strawberry sweet chunks running through them. They tasted very much like the filling in an orange and strawberry cream sweet but of a harder consistency. While they were nice, for me, the flavours were quite sweet-like, like the flavours you would get from a strawberry ice-cream or milkshake which meant they weren’t quite to my taste. I personally preferred the ones with lumps of chocolate and caramel rather than sweets.

I would place these brownies somewhere between cakes and confectionary and I think they would fit right in down the sweet aisle in a supermarket as well as on a counter in a coffee shop. The Chocolate Brownie Company have a huge stocklist including Jaspers Tea Rooms, The Vulcan Lounge, Bant a la Cart and many more.

The brownies were all very nice. There are two types of brownie lovers in the world, those who like them gooey and sticky and those who like them to be more cake-like. I personally am of the gooey persuasion. If you are into your cakey brownies, these will be for you.

At £1.98 for a 12 bitesize pack in Asda, I think these are a good price and would be a good addition to any lunch box. They are also launching in Tesco in April so Vicky is certainly doing very well for herself! With so many flavours to choose from, you are bound to find somethign you like.

My last mouthful was: The chocolate caramel brownie

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Emma Jane’s Cupcake Kitchen- Cupcake heaven!

I’d heard a few rumours about some good things happening in Emma Jane’s Cupcake Kitchen so when she opened up her premises on Crwys Road last October, I observed with interest and I was very pleased to be invited down to try what was on offer.

I’ve driven past Emma Jane’s Cupcake Kitchen on many occasions and the first thing I noticed other than the eye catching shop banner was the window display. Just in time for valentines day, Emma has some examples of where her talent lies. Beautiful cupcake bouquets and heart shaped displays.

I’d chosen a quiet day to visit but when I entered both Emma and her husband Lee appeared at the counter and happily chatted about the cakes on offer, talking me through the flavours available and telling me that they changed daily. Emma designs her cakes and makes up the recipes herself and she has quite a collection! I chose a coconut and raspberry cake and a gingerbread latte and headed to the window seat at the front of the shop.

I am quite excited about this place because it’s right up my street! It’s beautifully decorated with clean white walls and laminate flooring which is a great backdrop to all the quirky cake related decorations, canvasses on the walls and cute cushions. The tables are white and vintage chairs are painted baby blue and baby pink. The fuschia wall behind the counter adds some colour and creates a nice contrast to the white.

For me, atmosphere and decoration are very important and Emma Jane’s Cupcake Kitchen is simply lovely. If I had my way, it’s probably how my kitchen would look. I think that it could be easy to get the decor of a cupcake shop very wrong but they have got it spot on in my opinion.  Music was playing at a nice level and they have free wi-fi. It’s the kind of place I could happily sit for hours with my lap top writing up my reviews, except I would probably get very distracted because Emma and Lee were just so lovely to talk to. Emma wasn’t going to add the addition of a seating area, just a shop for orders originally but I’m glad she changed her mind.

So what did the cakes taste like?

There are lots of cupcake makers around and they really do vary in quality but I’m happy to say that these cakes were very good indeed! At £2 per cake, they are a good size. There is always a ‘cupcake of the day’ which is priced at £1.50 and you can get a box of 6 for £10! I tried 5 of the cakes on offer (not all at once…I took some home with me!) and here is my verdict.

Coconut and Raspberry

This one was my favourite. I love coconut and the combination of coconut and raspberry was a good one. The coconut flakes ran through the sponge and through the icing which was also rippled with raspberry. The raspberry was a subtle flavour but it wasn’t overpowered by the coconut at all like I thought it might be. The sponge was moist and the icing was deliciously soft and fluffy but still kept its shape.

Lemon and Blueberry

I thought this was quiet an unusual flavour for a cupcake so I thought I’d give it a try. Like all the cakes, the sponge was moist and the icing was soft and creamy. It was decorated with a real blueberry and a lemon slice sweet. It was very nice but for me, I would have liked to have tasted a bit more blueberry as it was a very subtle flavour against the lemon.

Cherry bakewell

Wow! This tasted exactly like a cherry bakewell. The moist almond sponge had jam running through it and was topped with an almond flavour icing and decorated with almond flakes and a cherry. Ingenious!

Chocolate and Gluten free chocolate

Emma has a chocolate cupcake on offer every day and has a gluten free offering on a Wednesday and a Saturday. I was keen to try the gluten free cake and Lee suggested I try a non gluten free one too to see if I could tell the difference. Although I’ve had some very nice gluten free cakes, they often have a powdery texture that is common in a lot of baked gluten free products but I have to say, it was very difficult to tell these two apart. When we tried each cake without the icing, there was a difference but it was so minimal that with a bite including the icing, it was very difficult to tell and had I not been told that one was gluten free, I would never have known.

Emma is clearly very creative with both her designs and her flavours. She takes orders for weddings, birthdays and events and makes some lovely pieces included cupcake bouquets which were only £20 for a small one containing 9 cakes. I think these will be a great seller at valentines day especially.

Emma Jane’s Cupcake Kitchen has really appealed to me and I will definitely go back. With so many cupcake lovers and a good location, I think this place will do well. With a good selection of drinks and other sweet treats on offer alongside the cupcakes, I think it will appeal to a wider audience than if it was purely cupcakes. I am a fan!

My last mouthful was: The coconut and raspberry cupcake

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Guest Blogger- Little Suzi’s Kitchen- Did you say it was Gluten Free?

 

CUPCAKE WEEK: TUESDAY

You might have already read about Little Suzi’s Kitchen in a previous post. Suzanne Carter (aka Little Suzi) was recently shortlisted for this Year’s National Cupcake Awards with her lovely White Chocolate and Raspberry Cupcake. Although Little Suzi didn’t win, being shortlisted is certainly an accolade!

I was lucky enough to taste this special cake and I can confirm that it is in fact delicious!  Raspberry and white chocolate are a great flavour combination and the fresh raspberries running through the sponge keep the cake very moist and soft. The icing was lovely. It was clearly made from chocolate rather than just a flavouring.

Now I’m new to this gluten free business and I haven’t tasted that many products yet but an underlining whinge of mine, going by those I have sampled, is that there always seems to be a powdery texture that is only there in gluten free products. However, I was very excited to find, that with this cake I would have no idea that it was gluten free if Suzi hadn’t told me. In fact, I would go as far as to say it is the nicest gluten free product I have had! If you are gluten intolerant, I suggest you give this a try.

Suzi also supplied me with a Banoffee cake and a Sticky Toffee cake which were also nice. Her cakes are simple with no overly fussy decoration and as a result look extremely appetising. I’ve seen some of Suzi’s birthday cake creations so although her cupcakes are simple in design, she is more than capable of making anything you ask for I’m sure. You can sample Suzi’s cakes by ordering online or you can buy them at Waterloo Garden Teahouse.

Now, over to Suzi for her story…

Gone are the days when ‘free from’ foods tasted like cardboard. Bakers are now finally able to convince customers that ‘free from’ products can taste just as delicious as well as accommodating their diet needs. The winner of this year’s National Cupcake Awards was not only gluten free (…and beat me!) but beat the full fat, dairy, wheat and gluten cupcakes to not just for one award but  3!

Step back to 2 years ago, when I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance, I was devastated. Chocolate cake I could live without but my favourite treats used to be Danish Pastries, Custard Slices and even the humble Carrot Cake. I was surprised to find out what products had hidden gluten in.  A few years ago there were very few ‘free from’ cakes on the market. I had to give up sandwiches for lunch and look for ‘gluten free’ alternatives – which in Cardiff proved really difficult.

I was fed up of being the fussy friend who couldn’t go out for lunch or ask about the ingredients in the cake without being made feel like an awkward customer at the local coffee shop. I also had food envy. I wanted to enjoy sweet treats too.  So Little Suzi’s Kitchen was born…

There were some gluten free cakes on the market but these tended to be the usual alternatives such as flourless hazelnut cake and the free from cakes in the supermarket that tasted like chipboard. I started experimenting using different wheat free flours such as rice and chickpea flour. I also wanted to lose weight and I soon discovered I was decreasing the calorie content by playing around with different recipes.

Now fast forward 2 years and making gluten free cupcakes, cakes and treats is much easier with more good quality gluten free ingredients available and more and more bakers are now making more choice for customers.

It was a real breath of fresh air to see at the National Cupcake Awards in August the amount of entries for the ‘free from’ category and innovative flavours and designs coming through. The overall winner was GF Lime and Coconut Cupcake from Absolute Treats. She won best Free From, Best Taste and Best Cupcake and her recipe contained most store cupboard items. Gluten free doesn’t have to be boring, hard to find expensive ingredients that still lacks flavour. As proved by this year’s winner, who thoroughly deserved to win.

Even though I lost out to a well deserved champion cupcake maker (the free cakes and buffet at the event made up for it!), the remaining 48 independent and national bakers (including chains like Asda and Greggs) were not disheartened either. In fact, the atmosphere was one of real excitement to meet like minded cake bakers from different parts of the country and to see their hard efforts on display. Everyone was really passionate about all the cupcakes entered and openly discussed how they started baking. Interestingly most people in the awards were like me, who had decided to start up their own cake baking business as a hobby while working full time.

If you are interested in setting up your own baking business my advice is to openly ask other bakers. Most won’t be shy in telling you the truth, its hard work but if you’re passionate the rewards are worth it. David and David from Outsider Tart spoke at the awards while the 10 judges casted their votes on the cupcakes. Their words were so inspirational. They didn’t lie about how much they invested, how many hours a day they worked and the pressures and problems they have encountered. It was great to heat such openness in what is now a very competitive market. If you’re passionate about baking give it a go. Or alternatively if you’d rather be the taster rather than the baker, the shortlisted candidate for this year’s National Cupcake Awards (me!) is right on your doorstep and delivers homemade, fresh cakes and bakes for all your catering needs. I even host afternoon tea parties. Visit www.littlesuziskitchen.co.uk to see my selection of cakes and hopefully you can taste why I was shortlisted.

If you are interested in writing a guest blog post for Your Last Mouthful, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Embassy cafe- The humble little cafe that serves great vegetarian food!

For a long time I watched Embassy Cafe’s daily menu pop up on Twitter and retweeted it but for ages that was as close as I got to tasting it. Everything always looks so delicious and unusual and I love the way the menu changes every day.

A few months back, Ben and I decided it was about time we tried it and met there for lunch. Embassy Cafe is a very humble little place, based in Cathays Community Centre. It is a vegetarian cafe and uses local and fairtrade produce and produce they grow themselves on the premises. They also make great vegan and wheat free cakes.

You can get  yourself the usual sandwich or salad and everyday the soup of the day and main meal option changes. I quite like the way they only have one main on offer, it’s like a food lottery!  Being such a meat lover, I don’t usually opt for vegetarian. Even if the veggie option looks good, I still usually go for a meat dish but at Embassy Cafe, the menu is always so appealing and very different from your usual ‘vegetarian lasagne’ or risotto that meat doesn’t even feature in my thoughts.

The day that we visited, the main meal was beetroot curry with chicpea side and pickled red cabbage with rice so we decided to give it a try.

I have to admit, after reading the menu day after day, I wasn’t sure that we had picked the best day but it was very nice. The beetroot curry was very unusual and was essentially beetroot with some curry spices but I enjoyed it. I particularly liked the chicpea side. Since my first visit, I have been back several times. It’s close to where I work so I often head down for lunch with colleagues. In the last few weeks, we have had chic pea and date tagine with a cous cous salad and flat bread and a lovely dish of cheese and broccoli paties with homemade chips and apple and tomato chutney. The main meals are £5 which I think is good value.

The cafe itself is very basic as you might expect for a cafe in a community centre. It’s very small inside with mismatch furniture and chequered red and white table clothes. A chalk board announces the specials   pay for your food at the counter, take a seat and it is bought for you. There is plenty of outside space too amongst the vegetables patches on old plastic patio furniture. It’s always popular and populated by a real eclectic mix of people.

It’s by no means fancy and it’s not exactly aesthetically pleasing but I think that’s the beauty of it. It’s not pretending to be anything special, it is what it is and the food speaks for itself. It offers some of the best vegetarian food I have had in a long time.

My Last Mouthful was: Cheese and broccoli paties with apple and tomato chutney

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The Pot Cafe- A modern version of Grandma’s!

The Pot Cafe on Crwys Road is somewhere that I have been meaning to go for a long time now but I just haven’t got around to it. I see the specials flash up on Twitter every now and again and they always look so good so on a recent day off, Ben and I thought lunch was in order!

The Pot is a quirky little cafe with mismatch furniture, spotty table clothes and vintage tea cups. The exposed brick walls are decorated with chalk boards displaying specials, retro signs and album covers. Appealing to a wide range of people, The Pot Cafe is somewhere between cosy and cool. It’s like Grandma’s kitchen made modern and I love it!

We were promptly met by the friendly young owner who took our orders and stopped to chat. Once we had given our orders we could see the food and drinks being made in the open kitchen which was a really nice touch. It’s not one of those sterile stainless steel kitchens that you often see when they are visible, it is a proper kitchen like you would find in a house with shelves housing jars and pans hanging above the worktop. It gave the feeling of eating at someone’s home which added to the relaxed, welcoming feel you get from the place.

The menu was great. There was a large selection of drinks including flavoured lattes, various teas, milkshakes and smoothies. I had a ‘Fruit Crumble’ smoothie which was red berries, pear, banana, cinnamon and ginger which was lovely. I noticed that they also do cocktails served in a teapot. How cute!

There was a large selection of breakfasts which I will come back for another time all at very reasonable prices. Not just your usual fry-ups either. I quite fancy the San Fransisco Breakfast (black eye bean cake, chilli scrambled egg, tortillas, sour cream and avocado salsa). In the end after almost choosing one of the lovely salads, we both went for a special. Ben had a beef, port and blue cheese pie and I had a squash, red pepper and ricotta pie. Both came with red pepper and baby spinach. The pies were seriously good, especially mine. In fact, I want the recipe! All at a really good price too, just £5 each!

The pot also does a good range of gluten-free and vegan options which is great. The menu even said that if you aren’t happy with their vegan menu choices they will do their best to make something you like. You can’t ask for more than that.

I will definitely we back to The Pot Cafe. It’s perfect for a relaxed, casual lunch. It’s just a shame it isn’t more local to me because parking is a bit of a pain.

My last mouthful was: Red pepper, squash and ricotta pie

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Cupcakes and Afternoon Tea with the National Cupcake Award Nominee- Little Suzi’s Kitchen!

Celebrate Cupcakes and Afternoon Tea with the National Cupcake Award Nominee

Little Suzi’s Cupcake Night – Thursday 15 September 7pm – 8.30pm

Little Suzi’s Secret Tea Party – Saturday 24 September 1pm – 3pm

Cardiff Baker, Little Suzi’s Kitchen, who was short listed at this year’s National Cupcake Awards, will be launching two events this September to celebrate all things cake related.

Little Suzi’s Kitchen who makes homemade, fresh cakes and treats, was short listed for one of her most popular selling cakes at this year’s awards for her gluten free white chocolate and raspberry cupcake.

Now those wanting to try her award nominated cakes and treats can do so from the comfort of Little Suzi’s home. Little Suzi’s Kitchen will be hosting two events this September from her little kitchen and home in Cathays, Cardiff where customers can experience a home from home tea and cake.

As part of National Cupcake Week, Little Suzi’s Kitchen will be hosting a themed Cupcake Night on Thursday 15 August 7pm – 8.30pm, where cake fans can sample a range of the traditional British Cupcake and some new different flavours as well, including Little Suzi’s short listed cupcake.

If you are unable to make the Cupcake Night, then Little Suzi will also be hosting Secret Tea Parties from her home. The next one will be held on Saturday 24 September 1pm – 3pm.

Little Suzi said, “I absolute love Afternoon Tea and I’ve had so many requests for people wanting me to organise more Afternoon Tea type parties. Many people who come to my home, say they love the smell when they walk through the door of my fresh cakes as it reminds them of their home or popping over to a Nan’s or Aunt’s as a child. So I want to recreate that experience.”

Although Afternoon Tea is proving more popular now, there are still a limited number of cafes in Cardiff that provide this service and very few can provide gluten free. Little Suzi’s Kitchen already provides gluten free cakes to Waterloo Gardens Teahouse who has built a reputation as one of the best Teahouses in the UK for Afternoon Tea.

Little Suzi’s Secret Tea Parties will be a typical ‘British Afternoon Tea.’ Afternoon Tea guests will be presented with a three tier vintage cake stand with sandwiches, cakes and not forgetting scones with jam and cream, all served with different variety of teas.

“Guests can expect a real afternoon treat in an intimate, relaxed setting, with a real personal service. If you are unable to make this event, I’m hoping to make this a monthly event so please check out my website for future events as well as my cake nights. I also do Afternoon Tea events at home and for other occasions too like adult and children’s birthday parties and hen parties.”

Little Suzi’s Cupcake Night will be held on Thursday 15 September at 7pm and Little Suzi’s Secret Tea Party will be held on Saturday 24 September at 1pm. Tickets for each event are £10. There is limited capacity for these events and tickets must be purchased in advance. For further information and tickets, please contact Little Suzi’s Kitchen on 07885977044 / email littlesuziskitchen@hotmail.co.uk or visit www.littlesuziskitchen.co.uk

If you’re wondering what Little Suzi’s cakes taste like, look out for my review during cupcake week (12th-18th September).

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