May 2, 2011

Planning a Food Allergy Friendly Picnic in Dublin (Dairy Free, Egg Free, Wheat Free +)

Today’s post is a tribute to our recent spell of blue skies and warm weather – may it last all summer long! When the sun shines in Ireland I feel like it's almost a sin to stay indoors. No amount of excuses should hold you back from getting outside and soaking up those beautiful rays of Vitamin D (holding down a job being the only exception!) and I say what better way to get out than to have a food allergy friendly picnic! Dublin can sometimes seem like it doesn’t have much green space but the fact is that there are actually 52 developed parks with a total of 949 acres between them! And if you want another temptation to get out under the sun: those parks range from gardens, wild wooded areas, river frontage and athletic games areas…Not to mention the many beaches (both pebbled and sandy) that are open to the public, so there really is something for everyone!

52 parks aside, we will limit ourselves to only a few Dublin City Centre locations for today’s sunny picnic plans. I want to tell you about some handy parks and also where to buy some spontaneous, but still allergy friendly picnic foods as well as where to get inspiration for some old-fashioned homemade style picnic foods!

A couple of One-Stop Shops for Spontaneous Food Allergy Free Picnics:
Blazing Salads
Sometimes I think that Blazing Salads was invented for the sole purpose of supplying food allergy friendly picnics! All the food in Blazing Salads is just perfect for a summer picnic. Everything is vegetarian and there are a range of salads, ready-made sandwiches and a bunch of baked sweets and savouries to fill every inch of your picnic blanket! And all this with the added bonus of listing the ingredients and/or their ‘free from’ attributes such as Dairy free, Wheat free, Egg free, Sugar free, Yeast free, Nut free & Vegan makes it the perfect one-stop-shop!

My spontaneous but delicious food allergy friendly picnic pictured above all came from Blazing salads and consists of:
- Buckwheat & Vegetable Burger w/ the Coriander Sauce instead of the salsa (dairy free, sugar free, yeast free, egg free, corn free, potato free, vegan – also listed as wheat free but best to ask re: the shoyu)
- Mixed Grain with Shoyu/Ginger Dressing (dairy free, egg free, vegan, sugar free, potato free, corn free)
- Roasted Squash with Bulgar & Aduki (dairy free, sugar free, yeast free, egg free, vegan, corn free, potato free)
- Fig, Pear & Cardamon Roll (dairy free, yeast free, sugar free, sugar free)

But that was just my selection, with a bit of reading you should be able to find something to suit your single or multiple food allergies.

Marks & Spencers
Marks & Spencers on Grafton St is a great stop-off for some picnic friendly treats like dairy free samosas; dairy free & gluten free sushi trays; potato & corn free crisps like their Hand Cooked Vegetable Crisps made with Parsnips, Sweet Potato & Beetroot ; dairy free, egg free, gluten free & vegetarian jelly pots like the amazingly tasty Peach Melba or the equally amazing Raspberry jelly, to name but a few…
For my most recent picnic I also picked up some dairy free, gluten free, egg free & vinegar free Stuffed Vine Leaves by Infinite Foods Organics and Japanese Rice crackers in Health Matters located at the top of Grafton St. Vine Leaves are also available in Marks & Spencers or in the various Eastern food shops around the city which can have many fun and different foods that might compliment your food allergy list

Also, don’t forget about temptingly yummy post picnic treats like dairy free Tofutti Cornettos available in Nourish on Wicklow St or Booja Booja mini ice cream pots also available in Blazing Salads

A Few Picnic Park Options:
The Iveagh Gardens
The Iveagh Gardens are my very favourite picnic location in Dublin’s city centre. Completely walled off from the surrounding city, The Iveagh Gardens are full of old world charm mixed with peaceful lazing summer attitudes. The gardens are divided roughly into three sections with a large green, a rose garden and an area which is divided by gravel paths and fountains. The Iveagh Gardens are located between Harcourt Street and The National Concert Hall.

Merrion Square
Merrion Square is a good location for a picnic due to its central location and calm thoroughfare. Located across the road from the National Gallery of Ireland and the Natural History Museum (both free admission & worth the look!) and around the corner from St. Stephen’s Church (a.k.a The Pepper Canister). Merrion Square is absolutely beautiful in early spring when all the tulips & daffodils are blooming all along the walkways but it is also nice later in the summer when you want to get away from the crowds of Stephen’s Green. Also worthy of note: Merrion Square has a children’s playground tucked away near the west entrance.

St Stephens Green
Stephen’s Green is probably the most popular park in Dublin and therefore gets a bit chaotic when the sun is in full force. My favourite time to visit Stephen’s Green is on drizzly rainy days when it is quiet, grey and thoroughly Irish (in my opinion!). However, for picnics it is a very popular location and quite a handy spot for office hour lunche breaks but get there early becasue when the sun shines the benches fill up FAST!

The Botanic Gardens
Although located quite a distance away from the city centre, are absolutely fabulous and 100% worth the journey but unfortunately picnics are not technically allowed…

Preparing A Picnic from Scratch:
Of course, if you have the time, the amenities and a reliable weather forecast you should definitely whip up some of your favourite ‘free from’ sweets, savouries and salads, pack a basket and head on out to picnic old school style! However, if you want to prepare your own but need some recipes or inspirations check out:

- My own recipe page, of course! Culinary Creations

- Pippa Kendrick’s trove of allergy friendly recipes (dairy free, gluten free, wheat free, soya free, egg free, yeast free recipes) at

- An index to the web, check out the ‘archive’ for vegan recipes at

- A fun site from Paris (dairy free, egg free, nut free & mustard free recipes, most of which are adaptable to gluten free and vegan diets)

Last minute picnic necessities like paper plates, napkins, plastic cups & utensils can be found in Marks & Spencers (Henry St & Grafton St), any “€2 Shop” such as the one located on South Great Georges St near Dame St or any large supermarket such as the Dunnes Stores located in Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre. I believe that Dunnes Stores Home Ware section also sell Picnic blankets if you’re both unprepared and unwilling to rough it a bit –but don’t quote me on that one!

Have a lovely sun-filled and picnic-rich summer and don’t forget to use sunscreen because there is no skin tone less attractive than ‘lobster’!!

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