The 2022 Gluten Free Expo in Sydney – Part One

On Saturday Michael and I packed up the car with an esky, a granny shopping cart and snacks, and headed down the Princes Highway to the 2022 Gluten Free Expo. It was 6:20am, the sky was still dark and it was piddling with rain. The last expo I attended was in 2018, I missed the 2019 expo because I was so pregnant I would’ve needed rolling through the venue, and then thanks to COVID the last few years’ expos had to be cancelled and rescheduled. So I was pretty excited to be heading back to a place where my fellow gluten free foodies and I could eat without having to ask about cross contamination!

We arrived at 9:30 and it had rained the entire drive up but we had high spirits. There were a lot of people already but we still managed to get goody bags at the door full of some cool stuff including Messy Monkey burger rings, Walter’s mint and honey nougat bars, and Kez’s lemon cream melting moments. We cracked open the Walter’s mint bar at the expo for a nibble and this was really tasty and just like a mint patty!

The expo was in the Kensington Room at the Royal Randwick Racecourse. This was a more convenient location but a lot smaller than the last expo held at Rosehill Gardens Racecourse in Parramatta. There were definitely less vendors than the 2018 expo but I don’t know whether this was because of the size of the venue, COVID, or something else. 

There was still plenty happening though including the samples, freebies, and discounts. Plus the yummy food vans parked outside if you still had room to fill after all the samples!

The first thing we did when we arrived was head outside to Iron Ramen. We figured we’d beat the massive queues that we knew would happen at lunchtime and grab some breakfast noodles – we’d been up since 5:30am so noodles at 9:30am were basically lunch. We ordered the signature ramen bowl to share. There are a lot of good things about the expo but one of the best is the people you meet there! We shared a table with two lovely women who were also taking advantage of Iron Ramen and sharing a plate of karaage chicken which they graciously shared with Michael and I. Stef and Tay were friendly, generous and fun, full of advice and stories – it was a pleasure to meet and eat with them! 

But back to the noodles! The signature ramen bowl contained noodles, marinated pork belly, half a boiled egg, bamboo shoots and some tiny sliced fish cake but the hit of the dish was the delicious broth! The karaage chicken was really nice too, scoldingly hot but too good to wait for it to cool down. It was crispy, crunchy, and flavoured with a squeeze of lemon. Well worth stalking the pop-up van on any trip to Sydney! 

After eating our noodles, Michael and I headed into the already packed stands to shop and sample. Like any good Australian, when we came to the Gluten free beer shop – we decided to have a taste – Michael really liked the Glutenberg Blanche, a witbier similar to Hoegaarden, and although it wasn’t really my sort of beer I could appreciate it as one of the nicer witbeirs.  

We stopped off at Positively Good Chicken, a vendor selling a nugget labelled as 50% chicken, 50% plant protein. This was not good. Just eat a chicken nugget instead. It’ll give you more pleasure. The half chook, half plant nugget had an unusual texture and an odd half meat, half plant flavour, plus it was really greasy despite being cooked in an air fryer.

We headed to the Glucoboost Jelly Bean stand where I won two bags of sweets for (badly) throwing Velcro darts at a target, and moseyed along looking at sweets, spices and breads.

I tried a little sip of the Bolero Australia ice tea peach flavoured sugar free drink. It’s not something I’d usually opt for but I figured I’d give it shot – not a fan though! It had that sickly-sweet flavour that comes from a mix of too many chemicals. Just drink cordial instead! 

In pride of place directly in front of the entrance was the Woolworths stand. This was the first year with Woolies at the expo so I had high expectations that there would be some cool stuff going on – previous expo’s with Coles had cooking classes, some of the Masterchef contestants, and lots of things for sale. So I was disappointed with the Woolies stand. It was small and there were two women giving out samples of chocolate covered scotch fingers (yummy) and some whole food balls (not so yummy) plus a long queue to enter a draw for a hamper of Woolies goodies. That was all. It was pretty lame. 

We moved onto the The Two Bays Brewing stand for some cheer! I sampled the Lager (yum yum) and Michael had the Almond Mix Porter which he liked but I didn’t – not because it was bad, but because I don’t like porters generally! It was almond-y and had a slight coffee flavour though for anyone who appreciates porters.

I know a lot of people like Senza products however, they are generally not a hit for me. The Senza stand was really big, really loud and really busy. They had a decent range of products to buy on special so I looked at the options and decided to try a sample of the gluten free garlic naan. Like other Senza products though, I found it too dense, too gluggy and a bit bland – I don’t know where the garlic was! 

We headed to the Eccellenza – Made in Italy stand to look at the pastas, they had a lot of options all imported from Italy and I talked with one of the staff there who told me they do delivery to Canberra but it was quite expensive and that they were discussing with the Tutto Deli in Mawson to stock the gluten free pastas they had.

I spent a while at The Happy Snack Company stand sampling their products too. The Happy Snack Company sell dried chickpeas and fava beans. They had samples of their new sweet chickpeas, coated in chocolate, salted caramel and dark choc and raspberry. I really wanted to like these, I thought they’d make a good snack for driving or to keep in my handbag for food emergencies but these did nothing for me. Whether the coating was chocolate or caramel, it wasn’t good and it tasted cheap. When I bit into the chickpeas they exploded into chickpea dust.

The Arnotts stand had all their yummy treats to sample and buy, and I scarfed down a scrummy mint slice. The Ayam stand didn’t have any samples but they did have a very good range of discounted products, including some new Asian soups and different soy sauce options (light, dark and kecap manis) that we bought. We then spent a small fortune at the Simply Wize stand on grissini, zoo biscuits, almond crispbreads, pastry, gyoza and samosas – to name a few of the bits we picked up! At the Schar stand they were selling their products at a decent discount and we picked up three bags of savoiardi for $10 for my mother in law to put in her trifles/tiramisu. We splurged on 10 packs of frozen dumplings from House of Goodness, and 5 packet meals from New Chinese Garden – both great options for coeliacs craving safe Chinese food! 

The Queue Trifecta – Where OMG Donuts, Iron Ramen and Wholegreen Bakery queues converge!

Around lunchtime we headed up to the Wholegreen bakery stand. They were selling a lovely looking range of breads, croissants, eclairs, and some danishes that looked amazingly good but the queue was super long by midday. In fact, the queues for OMG Donuts, Iron Ramen and Wholegreen’s were horrific by lunchtime, at least a 45 minute wait for service, so I left Michael in the Wholegreen’s queue and headed outside!

I decided to try the Halloumi Me pop-up van for something deep fried and delicious. The queue was surprisingly small and the wait was short. I was in and out while Michael had barely moved in the epic queue for Wholegreen bakery, which we eventually gave up on. I picked up my delicious plate of halloumi chips with sriracha mayo and lemon, and my god was it worth it! So simple and yet this was probably my favourite food. Perfectly crispy on the outside while gooey on the inside! The mayo and lemon were the perfect complement and they were truly delicious. 

Michael and I had a good time eating our way through the expo, but there were also heaps of interesting and educational stuff going on that wasn’t edible! Stay tuned for Part Two of my expo review!

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