Gluten Free Living - Cotto Italian

First of all I hope you all had a lovely Christmas everyone. I wanted to post on the day but in all honesty I was in such a turkey/quality street coma that the only thing I was up to doing was watching films and pigging out even more!

For anyone that's a regular reader of this blog, or has read even one post on here you will probably have realised that I like to start off a post with a bit of joke/ramble/failed attempt at being funny, but I'm actually going to spare you of that today, I'm cutting straight to the chase. I visited an Italian restaurant recently which is practically all gluten-free and I was - as disgustingly cheesy as it sounds -completely blown away. So much so that I've actually been twice in the space of a couple of weeks and have reserved a table for New Years eve. It's turned me into an absolute beast! (what a lie, I've always been one!)

The name of the restaurant is Cotto and is based in South East London on Westminster Bridge Road. A friend of mine had passed it and noticed that it advertised GF food. Being a coeliac and being a massive foodie (yep, don't be fooled by the small frame, if it wasn't for a fast metabolism I'd pretty much resemble a hippo) I had to try it.

One review in particular that I'd read said that when they entered the restaurant they mentioned that they were coeliac and moments later were bought over GF bread rolls and were introduced to the manager who is also a coeliac and has been for the last 23years. That's exactly what I did, and that's exactly what happened to me and I can honestly say, both were an absolute pleasure. Any coeliac out there will know that it is nigh on impossible to find decent GF bread that doesn't crumble, fall apart or taste like sawdust, this one however, arrrgghh there are just no words! Soft, chewy and served hot too...I can honestly say I didn't stop smiling throughout eating it (which looking back must have made me look like a complete and utter weirdo)
After demolishing the bread, and olives that were already put out when we were seated I then chose my main which was actually so hard considering there was so much option, definitely not something that happens very often! The first time round I went for the funghi pizza, this also happened to be in my 'too embarrassed to take pictures' stage which is of course a complete blog fail but I can assure you that it was delicious. Thin crust, soft but with a nice bite, just complete heaven for coeliacs who haven't been able to eat a decent pizza in a very long time!

The second time round I went for the Fusilli Con Salsicce, that's Fusilli pasta with home-made sausage and tomato sauce for us. What can I say? I just wish I could post sound effects in this blog - on second thoughts, clips of me groaning about how lovely something was probably isn't the best idea - I digress (always wanted to use that phrase) The pasta and sauce were amazing but the sausages were the real winner for me, by far the best GF sausages I've ever tasted. I think the real test of how good GF food is, is to get people who can eat gluten to taste it, which I did, and they couldn't taste the difference. Major tick!
As an example of just how much option there is at Cotto I've also included some pictures of what some of my family, who came to Cotto with me, had to eat too.

The first being the Pollo Crema E Funghi (chicken in a creamy garlic sauce) the portions are generally huge and this was no different. I loved the sauce, although it was quite strong so may not be to everyone's taste. The chicken was lovely and soft too though so overall it was a winner in my eyes (you know those people on ponce on everyone's food at every meal, yep...that would be me *insert ashamed face here*)
My brother who is completely one of those 'Mc Chicken sandwich without the salad' 'donna kebab - hold the lettuce' went for the sirloin steak, with no sauce of course! Both of the above meals come with veg and potatoes which were really nice, in typical fashion I polished off my brothers veg which he is practically allergic to, purely because it's rude to waste food isn't? (please agree or I'll feel even more of a tramp)
Last but not least was a huuuuge Calzone. Unfortunately for me - and fortunately for the owner of the meal - that wasn't GF so I couldn't try it, but I had reports that it tasted amazing. It certainly looked it!
Onto dessert, if you're still with me you're doing amazing, nearly finished I promise.

The online menu doesn't list desserts so I have no idea of the name for the first desert I tried. I'll call it the chocolate pot (I'm clearly infamous for my originality) Word of warning, this bad boy is rich! I personally love my chocolate so it was 'right up my street' (if I had a pound for every time I've squeezed that phrase into a post I could buy my own GF restaurant myself) It is actually really hard to explain quite what it is despite the obvious title, but in the least technical term possible I'd say it was a pot of smooth, loose chocolate, not quite a moose, not quite a fondant, almost yogurty. I'm struggling so much that I asked my brother how he'd describe it, his answer was 'like a rolo yogurt but more luxurious' so there you have it, being articulate obviously runs in our family.....
My Dad's Lemon Sorbet - light and fresh and to use my favourite word for the 1,000,000th time this post...lovely!
And finally my favourite dessert and possibly my most favourite dish of the lot...the tiramisu. Now not really being a fan of coffee or liqueur in desserts, this would have been the last thing I would naturally have gone for but I was convinced to try it by the lovely manager, Leno. My god I was not disappointed. For a start the portion was absolutely massive, to which the picture does absolutely no justice, but it was quite simply amazing! I could hardly taste the liqueur which was fine by me but you could definitely taste each layer of chocolate, mascarpone, coffee, biscuit....words do no justice so I just urge you to try it. Try all of it, go all out, I promise you you will not regret it!

                                                             ....10 seconds later
And I think that's finally it...for the food anyway. I can't finish this post without a nod to the manager of Cotto, Leno, who right from the very beginning when he came to find me and chat about being coeliac has been absolutely lovely. He actually came round to see how I was enjoying my food after every meal, and to quote the man himself "the smile on my face said it all" (pretty sure this was the polite way of saying I was smiling like an absolute knob whilst attacking every meal like a woman who hadn't eaten for years) But despite weird faces Leno said it made him so happy to see me so happy, and I think that's the difference between Cotto and so many other restaurants out there. They just understand how limited we are when eating out and but most importantly you just trust that everything is completely GF (they have two seperate areas in the kitchen for GF and non GF) and for me personally, that's the most important thing I can ask for.
There's so much more I could say but have no fear, I'll stop now. I'm well aware that I've waffled for far too long but I really am passionate about my food and finding best gluten-free available on the market and judging by the comments and feedback I've had, these posts seem to have been quite beneficial for a lot of other coeliacs too, which to me, makes all of this worthwhile.

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post!

OOTD: faux fur, afro's and the cure to 'hangover face'

I have been seriously slacking on the outfit post front lately, and bearing in mind the fashion side of things was one of - if not, the - main reason for starting this blog, that makes me a pretty crap blogger! (slagging off your own blogging skills, nice one Elle!) But...I am pretty much done with work for the rest of the year now so I have absolutely no excuse (pretty sure I'll find one from somewhere) to slack from now on.

I'm not the luckiest when it comes to birthdays, and this year in typical fashion, I spent my birthday in A&E. Long story short, I somehow managed to tear the ligaments in my knee (don't ask) and whilst I really couldn't care less about my birthday's, it wasn't exactly the first choice of places to spend my time in!

Before you wack the violins out, I wasn't telling you that for sympathy, it was my long winded way of leading into a post that should have gone up a while ago, what I wore to a casual birthday meal. Two weeks of complete rest (bar the odd shopping trip) ice, elevation and all that jazz later, I finally hobbled out for a belated/mum's 50th birthday meal!

I went to one of my favourite Gluten-free restaurants - Cotto, on Westminster Bridge Road - which deserves a whole bloody blog, let alone a mere post, to itself! A post will be on it's way soon...but for now, I'll leave you with what I was wearing. (Can't help but feel like a bit of a perve when you word it like that)....

Some may say I deliberately shot this in front of a scenic backdrop to distract from my dishevelled, windswept, 'dragged through a hedge backwards' appearance. They would be correct!
Ghost face anyone? The only picture I could find with the gilet done up, which looking back I actually much prefer. In other words, a massive OOTD fail!
 ^ ^ ^
Good news girls!! I've found the cure to disguising a washed out, haggard, bedraggled and let's be honest, hungover face. Shove your affro in front of it!

Top and Gilet: Primark
Faux leather trousers ( that word!): H&M
Boots: Ebay (bargain central!)
Bag: Mulberry
Frizzy hair, mulled wine and chocolate induced bloated face...and a new years resolution to try and take much better/even slightly acceptable OOTD pictures: All my own!

Hope you enjoyed this post, thank you so much for reading!
 P.S Merry Christmas Eve Eve!

Essie Winter 2012 Collection - The collection that was meant to be!

I feel like on here, a place where I can quite freely ramble about beauty, fashion etc. is the only place I can say this. Number 1 - because I assume that most of my readers feel exactly the same way about beauty products as I do, and number 2 -  because if I ever spoke about nail polish the way I'm about to to friends or family I'd probably get laughed at/told to 'get a life!' so what I really want to ask is this, have you ever bought something and thought it was just meant to be? Like it was fate?....Well, that's what happened when I bought Essie's Winter 2012 Collection.

You see, I am an absolute nail polish whore. To the point where I could never buy another one again and would still be able to wear a different colour each day for the rest of my life....slight exaggeration obviously, but you see where I'm coming from. (Hopefully!)

When I saw swatches of Essie's Winter 2012 collection online I made a mental note that I needed, yes needed Leading lady - Christmas in a bottle and Beyond Cozy - again, what says Christmas like a glittery champagne gold/silver. So when I was out shopping and just happened to stumble upon a Boots (100% planned to go there...shhh!) and saw that Essie were offering a special Winter 2012 Collection trio in Leading lady, Beyond cozy and Snap happy to be quite honest, it was in my basket quicker than you can say superficial!
So where does the whole 'meant to be' 'it was fate' rubbish come in? Well it comes in because after purchasing them and walking out the door, I received an email letting me know the one of my favourite bloggers ViviannaDoesMakeup had a new post (love it when that happens) so I opened up the link, as you do, and was a little bit freaked to see that her post was about a certain Essie collection. That's right, any guilt I may have had from buying even more nail polishes had immediately vanished because in my mind what Vivianna says, goes. She loves them, so I made a good choice *pats self on back*

I won't bore you/sound like a massive Vivianna stalker anymore, onto the swatches...

Beyond Cozy
Glitter, cahmpgne/goldy/silver tones and ever so slightly tacky...making this perfect for Christmas. We all love a bit of tacky glitter at Christmas don't we? No, OK just me then... This is two coats of Beyond Cosy, covers and applies well, opaque after just two coats and is actually quite a unique colour in my eyes. Considering these eyes have seen more nail polishes than Snooki's seen fake tan bottles...that's saying something!

Snap Happy
This is probably the time to apologise for the absolutely shite awful picture which clearly doesn't help you to see what colour the polish is whatsoever. I forgot to take pictures when I wore it. I'm a twat, I'm very sorry!! Anyway, Snap Happy is a lovely orange red creme. Opaque in two coats, and again covers really well. It's one of those colours I think everyone needs (but probably has) in their collection. If you have Essie's Fifth Avenue, you definitely don't need this. I would say they're almost identical...but I won't because it'll make me feel more guilty ha!

Leading Lady
In my opinion, I've saved the best until last. I absolutely LOVE Leading Lady (making full use of the capitals and bold letters there) A beautiful red maroon glitter that is not only perfect for Christmas, but just perfect for the autumn/winter time in general. It reminds me of a nice red or mulled wine (keeping with the Christmas theme there) which is quite possibly the main reason why it's my favourite ;) There's not much more to say other than that it covers brilliantly in two coats, looks amazing and lasts a long time without chipping too. It looks so nice that I can even look past the fact that it's a bit of a son of a bitch to remove!

So there's my long winded, terribly photographed, and as per usual, rather rambly review of part of Essie's 2012 Winter Collection. Have any of you caved and bought any of the new collection yet? I'd love to know what you all think!

Hope you enjoyed this post, thanks so much for reading!

Gluten Free Living - Pizza Express

Before I start I'll just put it out there again that I am by no means a food expert. The smile on my face after somebody bought me McDonald's chips and a crunchie the other day will vouch for that (don't judge me, it was one of those days.) But being coeliac, celiac if you're American, means that eating out and eating on the go can be - to put it in the best way I possibly can - an absolute pain in the arse! There's an articulate sentence if you've ever seen one....

 So, based on the fact that; I'm always on the lookout for helpful gluten-free blog posts, there isn't actually a lot of gluten-free information on Pizza Express and, most importantly, my last post on gluten-free food at popular pan asian restaurant Gilgamesh actually ended up - to my complete and utter surprise - being my most popular post, I've decided to write about my experiences with other restaurants.
On first thoughts and impressions you would think Pizza Express would be an absolute nightmare for coeliacs, and absolutely rightly so. Let's face it a place that predominantly sells pizza, pasta and all things doughy is never going to be the most inviting for people who can't go near gluten. In fact, if it wasn't for the fact that my dear old mum has been receiving money off vouchers for as long as I can remember (what is it with mums and vouchers? and sorry about the 'old' if you're reading mum) it wouldn't be a place that I would have chosen to go to.

As I have been to Pizza Express a fair few times before, I didn't have to do my usual ringing up the restaurant before hand to see if there was anything I could have (an absolute essential after rocking up to China Town and realising the only thing I'd be consuming all night was drinks!) So, cutting to the chase, what can you actually eat there if you're on a gluten-free diet?

First thing's first, I have to give credit to Pizza Express as they do have allergy information on their website. Praise the bloody lord!! Which I've linked to here - Allergy info

But for anyone who is having a bit of a lazy day (we all have them) and can't really be bothered to search through (my kind of people) I'll summarise it for you as quick and easily as I can.

Items not containing gluten:

Intro's: -
  • Nocellara Del Belica
  • Macarona Almonds
  • Olives Marinate
  • Roasted Tomatoes
Starters and sides: -
  • Mozarella and Tomato salad
  • Mixed Salad
  • Coleslaw
Mains: -
  • Melanzane Parmigiana ** UPDATE - Please note that in some restaurants this dish is now made with normal breadcrumbs meaning it is no longer gluten-free. Please double check the menu, and with staff at the restaurant you're visiting to make sure it's gluten free first**
  • Pizza Express do not sell gluten free pasta dishes or pizza's but I know that with the branches I've visited you can take your own GF pasta or pizza bases and they'll make a dish for you. Obviously cross contamination issues will be different in every restaurant so I'd speak to the manager of whichever one you plan to visit and make your own opinion.
  • Salads - All salads are listed as containing gluten as they come with dough sticks but each one, taking away dough sticks and dressings (and croutons if included) are gluten free.
Deserts: -
  • Raspberry sorbet
  • Caffe Reale
  • Tartuffo al Ciocolato
  • Semi Freddo Reale
  • Coppa gelato chocolate, gelato coffee, gelato strawberry, gelato vanilla and the Toffee fudge glory all without the wafer
So there's your options. As I said I've been many times and tried just about every option but it was only the last couple of times that I actually had the balls to take pictures of what I ate (new blogger inhibitions and all that..)

*UPDATE - this dish in some restaurants is now made with normal breadcrumbs, please double check with staff before ordering*
Here's the Melanzane Parmigiana. A mix of aubergines, bechamel sauce, mozarella and tomatoes, gluten-free bread crumbs and grana padano (whatever the hell that is)

This is a personal favourite of mine. The cheese isn't too overpowering but there's enough to make it tasty, the same with the tomatoes and tomato sauce. There's also a decent amount of aubergine and veg inside too, the only thing I'd change is maybe adding it a bit of chicken or meat in just, I don't know...bulk it up? Anyway, it's lovely to go to an Italian restaurant and actually be able to eat something other than lettuce. I enjoyed it, I enjoyed it a lot....

Onto desert. Toffee fudge sundae (without the wafer!)  

Ice creamy, chocolatey, fudge, toffee sauce goodness.

And as the old saying goes, a picture speaks a thousand words!

Just for reference, in case you're feeling quite full after your meal and only want a small desert, I can confirm that the Tartufo al Cioccolato is equally lovely and definitely won't leave you feeling as stuffed!

I'll do you all a favour and end this post now as I can quite easily ramble into 2013 when it comes to food. I hope this post is/was useful for any coeliacs out there or anyone on a gluten-free diet. And for those of you who aren't, hopefully this was a bit interesting/insightful anyway. Probably not, but there's always hope!

Thanks so much for reading!


*Hi all. I'm pretty sure, by the ugly red writing scrawled all over this post now, that you can tell there has now been some updates. I ate out at Pizza Express yesterday 29/01/13 and as usual went to order the Melanzane Parmigiana, it was only when I took a closer look at the menu that I realised it just listed 'breadcrumbs' and not 'gluten-free breadcrumbs' I asked the waitor if it was no longer GF, unsurprisingly he gave me a vacant look - gluten was clearly as alien to him to as Predator - and just shook his head. I decided to err on the side of caution and not order it and thankfully so, as another waitor then confirmed that some restaurants use 'normal' breadcrumbs now. I just wanted to point this out to everyone in case you ordered your 'usual' without looking (as I nearly did, easily done) and ended up being glutened. As lovely as the Melanzane Parmigiana, nothing is worth being glutened!*
© the Elle next door

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