What a crazy, interesting and delicious weekend I had at the Sydney Gluten Free Expo!
On Saturday morning we packed up the car, and headed out of Canberra in a double envoy with the in-laws heading up the Barton Highway to the slightly warmer pastures of Sydney. On the way, we made a stop at Goulburn, home of the Big Merino and Oliver’s, for coffee and snacks.
Oliver’s is a chain of cafés up the Eastern coast, predominantly between Melbourne and Brisbane. Between Canberra and Sydney, there is one in Goulburn right behind the Big Merino. The Oliver’s website states the café is about ‘REAL food’ that is healthy and ‘healing’. Most importantly for me, they have a lot of gluten free options, which is why we stopped!
When we reached Oliver’s it was about 9am and we met the in-laws inside. Oliver’s is set up with a small seating area near the entrance, a few fridges along the wall and a long service counter. More seating is around the corner. We ordered a mix of items. Michael opted for a breakfast pocket (not GF) and I went for a small tub of cacao and cocoa sago pudding from the fridge. The in-laws went for a toasted ham sandwich (not GF), and the black rice pudding and a cookie. We had coffee’s all round.
Generally, the gluten free items were quite nice. The cacao and cocoa sago pudding was enjoyable, the texture was soft but without that ‘frogspawn’ feel and it was pleasantly chocolatey without being overpowering. I had a little bite of the cranberry and almond cookie too and this was good. It was not too sweet and quite dense, but not stodgy.
The non-gluten free items, the toasted ham sandwich and the breakfast pocket, were not as good as the gluten free items. They were made on the spot while the sago pudding, rice pudding and cookie were pre-packaged. Overall the food was quite pricey for what it was, totalling $52.60.
Gluten Free Expo
Feeling refreshed, we left Goulburn (after a quick pic at the Big Merino) and continued our drive up to Parramatta, arriving at Rosehill Gardens around midday. We parked up with relative ease and joined the crowds!
The layout was the same as last year with rows of stalls, a Genius stage at one end, a Coles stage at the other, and the children’s area, coffee and food vans outside. We headed up each aisle inside, snacking on samples, buying goodies and generally enjoying a lively environment.
We started at the Well and Good stall who were advertising their new range of gluten free breads before stopping at the Happy Snack Company to try a few of their salt and vinegar fava beans and the salted roasted chickpeas.
I headed to the Tender Gourmet Butcher stall to sample some of their spicy Italian gourmet sausage, and we later returned to pick up some truffle and provolone sausages for dinner!
We stopped at the Yoodles stand to get a box of the beef brown rice cup noodles (you can get these at Woolies) and grabbed some dinner rolls from the GF Precinct Artisan Bakery. GF Precinct had some lovely fresh breads that could’ve been ‘normal’ loaves as well as really great fruit loaf!
We picked up a Simply Wize crusty bread mix, and the in-laws bought some panettone and some very tasty sweet crispbreads. Michael and I had a quick stop at the Coles stage where Michael and Cortney from Masterchef were cooking up a storm
We continued through the aisles, sampling and buying as we went. We bought some of the Wellaby’s cheese crackers and hummus crackers (available at Coles), and I tried a shot of coco mojo, which was pretty gross!
I sampled pizzas at Julian’s Gluten Free and Old Time Bakery (I preferred the Julian’s) then went over to the Lewis and Sons stall for a sample the size of a meal – a skewer of five different meats plus sauerkraut and pickles! After a brief stop at the GF Pantry stall – an online gluten free store – we decided it was time for the baby to have a break and took her over to the kid’s play area.
There was a jumping castle set up outside next to the coffee and a food vans. After 20 minutes watching the baby and Nana go crazy, we headed for drinks and a more substantial lunch.
We’d got another beautiful warm day in Sydney and each went in different directions to get food – the in-laws had gnocchi from On Ya Gnocchi, Michael grabbed a pulled pork arepa from Arepa Oz for us to share, and I headed to the GF Dessert Co. for cinnamon donuts!
The gnocchi was a bit boring, though what we believed to be cheese turned out to crushed cashews (vegan parmesan)! The arepa was nice but very greasy despite all the cabbage. The donuts were great! Michael said he wouldn’t know the difference between them and gluten-y donuts. Like last year, the wait for the donuts was crazy – we waited 30 minutes for six!
After eating and sitting in the sun for a while, feeling over full and a bit bloated, we headed back inside to the Genius stage. This was really interesting. We came in halfway through Dr Jason Tye-Din presenting on coeliac disease. He discussed oats and current methods for detecting gluten in food.
After Dr Tye-Din, we picked up a Christmas pudding from Itha’s Puddings, and some wafer rolls at the Eskal stall. We then tried a sample of the new Kez’s kitchen ice cream – I wasn’t a fan, it was gritty and too sweet for my taste.
We picked up three sauces at Ding That Recipe!, and a range of sauces from the Ayam stall, including a gluten free ketchup manis which I’ve never seen before!
The last thing I did at the expo was head towards the coeliac endorsement stall and had a quick chat with the staff about the Coeliac Australia restaurant accreditation program. I was disappointed to hear that Coeliac Australia NSW and ACT had not had any interest from Canberra’s restaurateurs. I find this really disappointing, and was told that at present, the accreditation program is currently being advertised by word of mouth so I picked up some flyers to hand out to restaurants to encourage them.
By 3.30pm we were all feeling shattered and decided to head over to our accommodation. We had hired an apartment at APX Parramatta for two reasons. Firstly, it was close – it only took five mutes to walk from the apartment to the racecourse. Secondly, it had a small kitchen so that we didn’t have to worry about finding a restaurant for dinner.
APX Parramatta was pretty basic, but much cheaper than the Waldorf and Rydges nearby. It was halfway through a renovation and it needed it. The staff were super friendly though and there was plenty of space for the four adults and baby.
When I arrived at the apartment, I was still feeling bloated and a bit nauseous but I carried on and after having a little dinner (the truffle and provolone sausages), I went to bed. I had a restless night, still bloated, and around 4am I woke up sick!
I’ll cut through the gross bits but basically between 4am and 9am, I was pretty ill. I’m still not sure exactly why but I’m positive it wasn’t gluten. I think it was probably a side effect of having my gall bladder removed last year (digestive problems can occur if you eat lots of fatty foods, like donuts and sausages).
While I recovered in the apartment, the family walked over to the expo for a look around and to pick up goodie bags! They tried some of the ristorante pizza, which they reported was very good, and bought a couple more fruit loaves from the GF Precinct Artisan Bakery.
By check out at 12pm, I was feeling fragile but ok. We checked out and drove to the Sydney Airport for the second half of our trip!
Despite getting sick, the expo was great! Like last year, I had a really good time, learned a bit more about coeliac, ate a lot of delicious samples and bought some quality goods!
Shop 2, Coles Service Station 1-3 Sowerby Street, Goulburn, NSW 2580
02 4821 6961
8 Hope Street, Rosehill NSW 2142
02 9687 7711