There are simple pleasures you forget you are missing out on when you have a special diet.
- The basic act of sharing food, arms flying all over the table as you chat and make new friends
- The ability to relax over a meal and not even have to ask what you can or can’t eat
- Being able to eat something thoroughly normal, at the same time as other people
- Connecting with people and bonding over shared experience
Until you are in an environment where all of that is given back to you, you forget what you are missing out on! And that is the real joy in Kim McGowan’s new venture, Gluten Free Gatherings. Not so much the thoughtful touches to her carefully curated events (crafty name tags, a clever mini competition to prompt conversation where you had to pick common gluten free dilemmas from a bag to win prizes); but the simple fact of sharing a great meal with like-minded, yet incredibly diverse, set of people.
Kim’s enthusiasm for seeking out independent champions of great gluten free food is infectious; and our venue, Bird, in much-smartened Shoreditch epitomised what GF Gatherings is all about – connecting gluten free people, hungry for conversation as well as great food with little-known venues and producers.
Bird is (in their words) “doing for fried chicken what Byron did for hamburgers”, the fact that their crispy, nectar-drenched, more-ish bites of free range naughtiness are gluten free (battered in rice and corn flour) was more by accident than design, in fact they don’t even advertise their gluten free credentials, but they are rapidly gaining a cult coeliac following through word of mouth, and have added gluten free beer to their menu as well as desserts.
I’ll be straight – it’s just fried chicken, but to an audience of people half of whom had never had fried chicken (me!), or who had not had it for 5 years or more, it was a sticky, crispy, indulgent revelation. Don’t bother with the fries, just have some more chicken.
The new discoveries didn’t end there, I came away with a list of recommendations for restaurants to try and products to track down, and as I excitedly tore through my goody bag at the end of the evening, I discovered a divine and grownup salted peanut butter cup from startup Eat Chic, and a stunning cupcake from the quirky Monkey Poodle Cake Company. Just the right touch to end a North American style feast! I strongly encourage you to check them both out.
I will definitely be booking my ticket for the next Gluten Free Gathering in April (venue tbc) – and I really hope to see you there!