No matter where you are in the world, it’s proof indeed that gluten-free dining is more than a passing fad when a Chef the calibre of Mark Ladner jumps ship from Mario Batali’s Del Posto restaurant in New York to open a gluten-free pasta bar.
Ladner introduced a gluten-free pasta tasting menu at Batali’s Chelsea restaurant, a place where tasting menus start at $126 per person, several years ago. At first, Ladner experimented with rice and potato flour, then bean flour, for three months’ worth of failed batches before he happened upon a gluten-free flour developed by Chefs at Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry. There the Chefs had developed a gluten-free flour using brown rice, flaxseed and rice bran, the taste, texture and performance of which helped them create an ideal gluten-free cornet of salmon tartare.
Late last year Ladner left Batali’s company to work on Pasta Flyer, a Greenwich Village restaurant destined to open on 6th Avenue later this year. Dishes on the gluten-free pasta whisperer’s menu, funded by a Kickstarter campaign, are rumoured to be under $10 each.
Meanwhile, The French Laundry flour eventually became so sought after that Cup4Cup is now a trademarked gluten-free range that can be used in cookies, biscuits, cakes, breads, pizza, pasta, pie crust, pancakes and waffles.
Elsewhere in the world, while famous for its steak, London restaurant group M’s newest venue, M Raw in Victoria Street is 100 per cent gluten free. On the menu are gluten-free options for tartare, bento boxes and hot earth bowls – a fresh take on the traditional warm salad.
In Singapore, Jonathan’s is the country’s first gluten-free bakery, using only rice and bean flours in all their muffins, cakes and cookies, specialties include lemon meringue cake, bread loaves and a breakfast menu.
Closer to home, forget pies at the football, if there is one identifiable dish that is typically Melbourne it is the crusty, properly pan-fried parma. At Mrs Parma’s in the CBD they not only offer a gluten-free parma but there is also a gluten-free beer on the menu.
In Sydney, head to the Goni’s Schnitzelria in Marrickville for schnitzels using gluten-free flour in flavours including the mega La Sureña which is a combination of tuna, baby rocket, Spanish onion, sliced tomato, boiled egg, and dressed with olive oil, oregano and homemade mayo.
If there was ever a more prime example of the gluten-free philosophy transcending trendy Bondi Beach cafe menus, then it would be a tour of Sydney pubs featuring gluten-free food and beer.
Pub tour operator Gary “Gaz” West recently hosted such a tour in The Rocks featuring gluten-free Lewis & Son produce on the menus, which includes a range of products from the only FODMAP-friendly, certified charcuterie and small goods purveyor in the country. Newcastle-based Wilde Beer, producer of the first and only FODMAP-friendly beer in Australia, paired their beverages with the food, including gluten-free pizza at The Australian Heritage Hotel, and GF dishes at The Hero of Waterloo and The Mercantile pubs.
“I do think (gluten-free) is very much par for the course these days,” says West. “Looking at a lot of the groups that we do, while meals are included in that, we always ask for any special dietary requirements and we find more and more often that we get more requests for these special dietary requirements.”
“Most pubs these days are also offering their own brands of dietary requirements anyway including gluten-free, so it’s just good business.”
In Toowoomba, the Tom Collins bar offers a point of difference in that it has a 100 per cent gluten-free menu as well as a gluten-free beer on tap rotation. "We don't want to portray ourselves as just healthy food. It's gluten free, but it's still the traditional pub fare like burgers," owner Brendan Hawkey told the local newspaper when the venue launched last year. The menu offers pizzas on a gluten-free flatbread base and parmas from the traditional to one dubbed the prawn star.
Rowie Dillon is one of a well-respected and ground-breaking baker who has become Australia's “Gluten-Free Queen” since launching Rowie's Cakes 16 years ago. She now supplies Qantas, among others, with her distinctive red and white packaged cakes, slices and biscuits as well as making gluten-free rocky road and a shortcrust pastry mix. Dillon uses flour made from ancient grains, such as quinoa and amaranth, as well as tapioca, potato and wheat-free corn flours, all stone-milled to her specifications, mixing it with oil as an egg replacement.
“It’s all very scientific,” she says. “You have to use the right combination of flour and oil or vinegar to get the right result for what you are creating.”
All it takes is some creativity in pumping out GF meals and who knows where it can take you?