February 22, 2012

The 2012 Free From Food Awards Shortlist is Released!

Yesterday the Free From Food Awards Shortlist came out. What does that mean? That means that there is a wonderful list of almost 170 quality Food Allergy Friendly foods and products just waiting to be tried, be it Gluten Free, Nut Free, Dairy Free, Sugar Free, Soya Free, Egg Free, etc, etc. I find that one of the biggest problems with the food allergy market is that some of the products can be a bit pricey which makes taste testing a gamble because nobody wants to fork out big bucks for something that might not taste worthy...but now, with the Free From Food Awards, our woes are behind us because the Shortlist is almost like a key to the food allergy friendly world! As one of the judges I can assure you that the tasting is rigorous and that although there can be split camps from time to time, all the products which get shortlisted are definitely worth a try...and of course the winners (which will be announced in April) are like gold dust - the stuff food allergy free dreams are made of, and therefore DEFINITELY worth a try!

The thing about judging is that there are at least 9 other judges all with different taste buds and different agendas, be it health, versatility, etc, so even if I absolutely loved something, that didn’t mean that it was going to win because the whole group had to agree... Therefore the below product comments are my opinion only and not a clue to any of the winning products - for that you will just have to wait until April 17th!!

The three categories I judged were:
Category 3: Plant Milk, Spread, ‘Yoghurt’, ‘Cheese’ & ‘Ice Cream’
Category 6: Pasta & Pizza Bases
Category 15: Chocolates, Snack Bars & Petite Fours

The most exciting of these categories, for me, was Category 3. There was an amazing Coconut-based Yoghurt from CoYo which blew my socks off! So, I definitely recommend trying that one!! (queue praying to the heavens that CoYo gets wide release in Ireland!) The wonderful thing is that it’s completely Soya Free but doesn’t taste like coconut (happy days!) making it a plain, reliable and versatile yoghurt with the perfect hint of tangy yoghurt sour making it ideal for cooking into savoury recipes or for flavouring to your own sweet desires. For me, this was the best thing in the yoghurt market since the pea protein yoghurt I tried once, but without the sugar!!

The category also made me re-think my stance on plant milks, previously I was not an oat milk lover but after having to taste them all side by side I actually had to praise Oat Milk for it’s top class taste... and of course I still think that Kara Coconut milk is an amazing substitute, despite my life-long love of sweet, light, refreshing Rice Dream rice milk! ;)

And then there were the cheeses.... Vegusto Melty Cheese was the first Dairy Free cheese that I have come by which actually melted nicely! It still didn’t loose it’s shape like traditional cheese but it didn’t shrivel into a dry lump, there was no overbearing taste of vinegar and the consistency was really nice and managed to keep it’s ‘softness’! It’s only downfall was that it tasted like average soya-based Dairy Free cheese when it wasn’t melted)... And then there was the nut based Soya Free Vegusto cheese made from Cashews and Rice Milk - YUUUUUUUM!!! I LOVED it, if you hadn’t already guessed... Unfortunately, it didn’t melt well at all, but who cares! It tasted REALLY nice. In fact I would even recommend dairy cheese eaters to eat it! It would be right at home sitting on a cheese board among the stilton, chevre and aged cheddar. Yum Yum Yum Yum... Savoury and hearty with an ‘I can’t stop eating it’ lure. Note: Vegusto’s packaging was a bit of a let down but don’t let that ward you off because by all signs they seem to be an awesome company with a tasty Dairy-Free cheese sauce too!

Category 6 was a joint category with Gluten Free pastas and pizza bases. The pastas disappointed me a bit because they were almost all corn based, which is not my cup of tea. I can’t understand why manufacturers keep making the same thing!? In my opinion, a mix of flours, is WAY better and corn based pastas tend towards being a bit rubbery and ever so slightly tangy in taste, not to mention the amount of people who actually have a corn allergy/intolerance!... but then again, I guess that that’s just my opinion. However, there was a cool little product from Farabella which were Gluten Free Pasta Grains intended for use in soups such as minestrone, but also a really neat product to use in place of bulgar. Cook it up, cool it down and make into a salad for a satisfying, healthy lunch! If I see it on the shelf I will definitely pick up a pack...despite it’s corn base ;)

On the topic of pizza bases I was more impressed. I like a thick base (my Canadian roots I suspect) and I quite liked the ciabatta-like thick oily pizza base made by Amisa, reminiscent of take-away pizza (which sadly didn’t make it to the shortlist). It was a bit crumbly but reminded me of the thick ciabatta squares of cheese-less pizza slices available from the bakery in Marks & Spencers. I have always felt that a lot of sauce and a thick base is essential for a cheese-free pizza...but I was alone on that one...
There were some other good products too, but what struck me most is how much the bases changed when tomato sauce was added! One of my favourites was the pizza base dough mix from Bob’s Red Mill which made a fresh Gluten Free Wholegrain pizza base of top quality...but then again, this probably isn’t surprising as Bob’s Red Mill products are the bees knees!

The last category, 15, chocolates, snack bars and petite fours was a sugar and caffeine attack! But The Booja Booja’s Rum Sozzled Sultana Chocolate Truffles and Tickety Boo Cakes’ Roo’s Crunch were sooooo delicious that I think I’m in love!...sorry F.

Previously I wasn’t familiar with Tickety Boo’s Roo’s Crunch (tongue twister alert!) brand but hopefully it’s shortlisted status will encourage Irish stockists to branch out! In fact, a lot of the chocolates were good but I’m not sure how many dark chocolate bars are necessary in the world. As a dairy free lifer I would like to see more milk chocolate alternatives, like the white chocolate alternatives, or flavoured bars substituting for ‘Double Deckers’ and ‘Twix’ etc... mmmm, I’m salivating at the thought!... Maybe next year!

Anyway, the list is extensive which goes to show how far the FreeFrom market is coming along! It’s so exciting to see really good quality foods available in mainstream shops for we Food Allergy Free shoppers. It can only serve to help people stay away from their poisons and show the world that alternatives sell so please keep making them!!...maybe one day the food allergy world will take over!? whahahha...

After reading the shortlist for the rest of the categories I was surprised by some products, such as Dee’s Omega 3 Vegetarian burgers which I haven’t had success with...perhaps F. is right, and I’m just not cooking them properly.... and boy, do I wish that I had a chance to try out Foodswild Gluten Free Cornish Stinger Nettle Beer!!..Bizarre - and curious! And what about the Mango & Passionfruit Non-Dairy Cheesecake bu Mamma Cucina - hello! that its definitely something that I want to be part of my life! ...and happily the other day I passed by a van marked ‘The Cake Crusader’ in Rathmines only to notice on the Shortlist that the very same Cake Crusader makes a Gluten Free, Wheat Free and Dairy Free Carrot Cake - I will have to put on my scouting suit to uncover this Cake Crusaders stockists in our wee little Dublin!

You can view the full Short-list below and try to remember it or you can keep an eye out for the Free From Shortlist or Free From Winner logos on the various products... And if you want to go to the source of the Shortlist see here which lists all the products with links to the shortlisted companies! www.freefromfoodawards.co.uk/shortlist_12.html

2012 FreeFrom Food Awards shortlist
(listed alphabetically)

1. The Innovation Award
Bessant & Drury Fine Ice Cream Co. – Lemon
Bessant & Drury Fine Ice Cream Co. – Chocolate
Bessant & Drury Fine Ice Cream Co. – Vanilla
BoojaBooja – Banoffee Toffee Truffles
Conscious Chocolates – Wild at Heart
CoYo – Coconut Milk Yoghurt – Natural
CoYo – Coconut Milk Yoghurt – Mixed Berry
Foodswild – Cornish Stinger Nettle Beer
Knead Bakery – Carrot Cake
Provamel Botanicals – Alternative to Yoghurt Apple & Green Tea
The Foodamentalists – Brown Bread Mix
Triano Brands – Tofutti Ricotta Soya Cheese Alternative

2. Dairy and/or Lactose-Free Animal Milk, Butter, Yogurtsponsored by Swedish Glace
Delamere Dairy – Natural Goats Yoghurt
Delamere Dairy – Semi-Skimmed Goats Milk           
Delamere Dairy – Goats Butter          
Woodlands Dairy – Gooseberry & Elderflower with Natural Sheep Milk Yoghurt
Woodlands Dairy – Rhubarb & Ginger with Natural Sheep Milk Yoghurt
3. Plant 'Milk', Spread & Cheesesponsored by Pure Dairy Free
Bessant & Drury Fine Ice Cream Co. – Chocolate
Bessant & Drury Fine Ice Cream Co. – Lemon
CoYo – Coconut Yoghurt Natural
CoYo – Coconut Yoghurt Mixed Berry
Delamere Dairy – Sweetened Soya Milk
Essence of Eden – Virgin Coconut Oil
Higher Nature – Omega Excellence Organic Virgin Coconut Butter
Its Only Natural – Fruit Freezies Orange and Mango
Kara Dairy Free – Alternative to Milk Original + Calcium
Vegusto – Melty Dairy-Free Cheese
Vegusto – Mild Aromatic Dairy-Free Cheese
Vegusto – Dairy-free cheese sauce

4. FreeFrom Breakfast Cerealssponsored by Fria Gluten Free
Bob’s Red Mill – Pure Traditional Oats
Groovy Food Company – Corn Flakes
Groovy Food Company – Choco Crispies
Juvela – Fibre Flakes
Morrisons – FreeFrom Gluten Free Oats
Nature’s Path – Maple Sunrise
Sainsbury’s – FreeFrom Oaty Granola
Tesco – FreeFrom Special Flakes

5. Gluten-Free Breads & Bread Mixessponsored by Genius Gluten Free
Butterfly Snacks – Gluten Free Rottis (Naan/Bread Wrap)
Crazy Bakers Bundies Brothers – Brown Bread Rolls
Finax – Oat Bread Mix
Fria – Grova Dark Seeded Sliced Loaf
Fria – Grov Minibaguette Dark Seeded Roll
Glutafin – Gluten Free Wheat Free 4 Fibre Rolls
Juvela – Gluten-Free All Purpose White Mix
Sainsbury’s – FreeFrom Soft White Seeded Rolls

6. Gluten-Free Pasta & Pizza Bases/Mixessponsored by Tesco
Bob’s Red Mill – GF Wholegrain Pizza Crust Mix
Co-operative Foods – FreeFrom Fusilli
Doves Farm Foods – Organic Tricolore Pasta           
Eskal Foods – Corn Pasta
Farabella – Acini di Pepe/Pasta Grains
Molino di Ferro – La Veneziane Penne

7. Freefrom Foods Manufactured for Food Servicesponsored by Livwell
Costa  – Gluten Free Fruit Cake
Doves Farm Foods – Gluten Free Plain White Flour Blend without Buckwheat
Doves Farm Foods – Organic Brown Rice Penne
Foodamentalists – Golden Batter Mix
Red House Foods – Gluten Free Chicken Bites
Sauces of Choice – Sauces for Kids Tikka Sauce
Triano Brands – Tofutti Grated Mozzarella Soya Cheese Alternative

8. Freefrom Ingredientssponsored by Juvela
Anila’s Sauces – Goan Green Sauce
Black Farmer – Spicy Muscovado sauce
Bob’s Red Mill – Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour
Clearspring – Kuzu Gluten Free Starch Thickener
Finax – Psyllium
Go Free Foods – Pancake Mix
Mesquite Company – Pure Mesquite Pod Flour
Pepper & Stew – Jollof  Sauce
Sauces of Choice – Balsamic & Garlic Sauce

9. Raw Foods & Superfoodssponsored by Asda
Elements for Life – Raw Chocolate Making Kit
Elements for Life – Spiced Hot Chocolate
Higher Nature – Omega Excellence Raw Organic Walnut Butter
inSpiral – Raw Blackout Tart
inSpiral – Raw Dehydrated Kale Chips: Cheesie Purple Corn
James White Drinks – Beet It Organic Stamina Shot
Mesquite Company – Pure Mesquite Pod Flour
Pulsin' – Beond Organic Acai Berry Bar
Raw Health – Organic Chia & Flax Dippers
The Living Food Kitchen – Raw Hummus

10. Gluten-Free Savoury Pies, Flans, Sausages & Ready Mealssponsored by Delamere Dairy
Meat-Based Meal Centres:
Black Farmer – Pork Meatballs
Black Farmer – Pork, Onion & Chive Sausages
Cloughbane Farm – Gluten Free Beef Sausages
Cloughbane Farm – Gluten Free Steak Burgers
Co-operative Foods – Truly Irresistible Pork Sausages
Co-operative Foods – Truly Irresistible Minted Lamb Burgers         

Pies, Flans, Pizzas, One Pot Meals:
Amy’s Kitchen – Gluten Free Vegetable Lasagne
Amy’s Kitchen – Gluten Free Bean and Rice Burrito
Butterfly Snacks – Gluten Free Chicken Spring Rolls
Dee's – Organic Omega Burger 
Dr Schar – Gluten Free Tortellini
Dr Schar – Gluten Free Bonta d’Italia Margherita Pizza
Easy Bean – New Mexican Chilli Fairtrade Red Bean with Sweet Pepper One Pot Meal
Foodamentalists – Pork, Black Pudding & Caramelised Red Onion Pie
Genius – Mozzarella Cheese & Tomato Pizza
Gluten Free Kitchen – Ovencrust Steak Pie
Gluten Free Kitchen – Ovencrust Chicken & Bacon Pie
stewed! – Chickpea, Sweet Potato & Feta One Pot Meal
The Food Resource – Fusilli al Funghi
Worthenshaws – Chicken Tikka with Brown Basmati Rice
Worthenshaws – Thai Green Vegetable Curry with Brown Basmati Rice

11. Gluten-Free Savoury Biscuits & Snackssponsored by Genon Laboratories
Amisa – Multiseed Crisp Bread
Conscious Foods – Millet Crackers with Rosemary
Crazy Bakers – Half Pipes Swedish Crispbreads
Darling Spuds – Fire Roasted Jalapeno Crisps
Darling Spuds – Sour Cream with a hint of Mexican Chilli
Darling Spuds – Tomato, Olive & Oregano
Juvela – Crostini Bites

12. Gluten-Free Scones, Sweet Tarts, Bakewells, Cake Bars, Muffins, etc.sponsored by Tesco
Asda – FreeFrom All Butter Lemon Sicilian Shortbread
Conscious Foods – Ginger Thins
Co-operative Foods – FreeFrom Triple Chocolate Cookies
Co-operative Foods – FreeFrom Fruited Teacakes 4 Pack
Crazy Bakers – Oaties
Heavenly Cakes – Gluten & Wheat Free Millionaires
Molino di Ferro – La Veneziane Coconut Biscotti
Morrisons – FreeFrom 6 Assorted Jam Tarts
Sugargrain – Almond, Apricot and Tahini Flapjack
Sweetcheeks – Almondies
Tesco – FreeFrom Chocolate Chip Cookies
Tesco – FreeFrom Ginger Cookies

13. Gluten-Free Cakes & Mixessponsored by Mrs Crimbles
The Brilliant Bakers – Cupcake Gift Cake
Cake Angels – Traditional Cherry & Almond Cake
The Cake Crusader – Gluten, Wheat and Dairy Free Carrot Cake
The Cake Crusader– Rich Fruit Cake
Cakes Divine – Dairy & Gluten Free Carrot Cupcakes
Cariad Cakes – Gluten Free Orchard Plum & Ginger Cake
Fria – Kladdkaka Chocolate Brownie Cake
Incognito Cakes – Choc Fudge Cake
Incognito Cakes – White Choc Raspberry Muffins
Lewis & Cooper – Gluten-free Fruit Cake
Ms Cupcake – Cupcakes
Sainsbury’s – FreeFrom Chocolate Chip Muffins     
Steph’s Free From Cakes – Lemon Drizzle Cake
Sugargrain – Banana & Chocolate Chip Loaf
Sweetcheeks – Maple & Pecan Cupcakes

14. Gluten-Free Puddings, Desserts & Cheesecakessponsored by Hale & Hearty
Food Heaven – Summer Fruits Cheesecake
Food Heaven – Sicilian Lemon Cheesecake
Tideford Organics – Butterscotch Rice Pudding        
Mamma Cucina – Mango & Passionfruit Non-Dairy Cheesecake     

15. Dairy/Gluten-Free Chocolate & Snack Barssponsored by Tesco
Biona – Organic Sour Snakes
Booja Booja – Rum Sozzled Sultana Chocolate Truffles
Celtic Chocolates – Choices FreeFrom White Choc Easter Egg & Buttons   
Conscious Chocolates – Essential Orange
Eskal Foods – Chocolate Coated Pretzels
Eskal Foods – Yoghurt Coated Pretzels
Gourmelli – Secret Passion Organic Strawberry Dark Chocolate Bar 74%
Kinnerton – Dairy, Egg, Gluten and Nut Free Bar
Nut Free Chocolatier – Pomegranate & Elderflower Truffles
Pulsin’ – Raw Choc Brownie
Tickety Boo Cakes – Roo’s Crunch

16. Dairy/Gluten-Free Christmas Foodssponsored by Produced in Italy
Cariad Cakes – Christmas Cake 
Conscious Chocolate – Cherry Christmas  
Christine’s Puddings – Rum and Ale Pudding 
Foodamentalists – Frangipane Mince Pies
Friendly Food and Drink – Xmas chutney
Genius – Gluten-free mince pies  
Lewis and Cooper – Plum Pudding
Livwell – Christmas cake    
Morrison's – FreeFrom Christmas pudding
OK Foods – FreeFrom Mince Pies     
Pyman Pates – Chickenliver with port, brandy and cranberries 
The Heavenly Cake Company – Christmas cake

17. Gluten-Free Beersponsored by Asda
Daas – Ambre Beer
Daas – Blond Beer
Foodswild – Cornish Stinger Nettle Beer 
Gluten-Free Shop – Ambar
Green’s – Bottle Refermented Blonde Ale
Green’s – Premium Golden Ale
Wold Top – Against the Grain

And thank you again to Michelle Berriedale-Johnson of Foods Matter, for making the Free From Foods Awards exist!!

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