Mondays

Last month we went to Auckland for a night (husband to work, me to hang out with my cousin). As usual I did a whole heap of Facebook stalking and advice seeking about where to eat long before we left Hamilton. 

And that's how I found my way to Mondays. Based in New North Road, down a steep driveway, you'll find this amazing cafe serving whole foods, that are both delicious and food allergy friendly.

The whole kitchen is gluten-free, there's no processed food and no refined sugar. You'd think it would be all dust on a log type food, but actually no, it was delicious!

Here's what I had:

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That's home-made gluten-free bread, it's crunchy, nibbly and nutty tasting; poached eggs, avocado with some kind of sprinkled yum, and leafy greens. So freakin' tasty. On the side you can see lotus chips. Now those were an unexpected treat ... I'm not sure where you buy lotus root from but if you can get it near you, slice it up and fry it because #yum.

Great service, great food and a lovely spot to hang out in the sun. Go check them out!

Return to Cafe Inc.

I know I'm always raving about Cafe Inc. but it's with good reason - the food is amazing, especially for us food-allergy folk. It's been almost a year since Cafe Inc. opened in Rototuna, and things just keep getting better and better.

Yesterday I caught up with Matt Gatchell, owner and chef to talk about all things Cafe Inc ...

There have been some changes at Cafe Inc. over the last year, but Matt has kept true to his passion for real food in every possible way. The cabinets are still full to bursting with all manner of deliciousness, the blackboard menu is still brimming with opportunities to gorge on a range of noms, and the cafe still caters for everyone - including those of us with food allergies. 

So what has changed? For one thing, there's a smoothie bar set up in the corner, offering a range of fruit and vege packed delights with names such as kale ale, pina colada and berry backflip (there's also a chocolate themed smoothie for those with a sweet tooth). There's been some additions to the menu (my fav has to be the hot chips, because seriously how hard is it to buy genuinely gluten-free chips in this town???), and the best news to date is that Cafe Inc. is now open for dinner four nights a week.

After a year cooking up a storm and running a busy cafe I asked Matt what keeps him motivated, and it seems like multi-tasking is really his thing "I try to get involved with everything. I get in the kitchen and cook, I'm out front, I go and talk to customers ..."

In fact his focus on his customers flows through everything he does. He still aims to cater for everybody, and says that he's constantly experimenting with food ideas to see what people will like. He also hires staff who are good with the customers "My staff are happy, they've always got a smile. I hire people on their personalities, you can always learn the other skills ..." 

And speaking of learning, what has Matt learned this year? "I've learned EVERYTHING this year, as a chef and a business owner" says Matt, and it hasn't all been plain sailing either. Earlier in the year Matt was hospitalised after a hernia surgery went horribly wrong and was out of action for six weeks. Lucky for Matt, his partner Lisa is awesome at running the cafe, and was able to keep things running smoothly in his absence.

Earlier in the week a few of my friends tried out the new dinner menu at Cafe Inc (I was at home sick so had to eat vicariously through them). They raved about the yummy food and even took some photos for me (check them out below). The night menu offers a range of treats, again catering for everyone, including people with food allergies. I asked Matt what his favourite night-time nom was and it turns out he's pretty partial to both the beetroot ravioli and the sliders. Cafe Inc. at night is a chilled out place, tea lights are scattered on the table, wine is on offer, there's great food and there's a relaxed ambience, perfect for unwinding with friends.

The past 12 months have been hugely successful for Cafe Inc. I can't wait to see what they do next! Thanks Matt and Lisa for all the fantastic noms this year!

Want to go in the draw to win a $50 Cafe Inc. voucher?

Like the Glutey Girl and Cafe Inc. Facebook pages, and post on my Facebook page your favourite treat from Cafe Inc's day menu to go in the draw.

If you're keen, you can also sign up to my newsletter here (it's not a requirement of the competition).

This competition is open to New Zealand residents only. Voucher can't be exchanged for cash. Voucher can only be used at times specified on the voucher.

Competition closes 7 December 2015 to go in the draw.

 

Noms and Tea in Hamilton and the Waikato

Update January 2016: It's a new year, so time to update my recommendations for places to eat/drink in Hamilton and the Waikato. Some of last year's recommendations have been removed, and there are also some newbies. The list isn't huge, because I'm pretty fussy about what I consider to be a safe place to eat with food allergies. If you've got other recommendations for me to try please let me know - post in the coments!

Got food allergies?

Feeling hungry?

Have I got the noms for you ... 

Contrary to the scurrilous rumours created and spread by our jealous Auckland cousins, there are many fabulous (and allergy-friendly) places to eat in Hamilton. Let me take you on a brief tour of just some of the yummies ...

Mr Milton's Canteen

Right in the heart of the CBD is a fabulous cafe run by Mikey and Alice. This place has the most delicious looking 'cabinet of glory', and much of it is gluten and/or dairy-free.

I've been a local of Mr Milton's for nearly five years, and have never had a disappointing meal. Lots of sweet and savoury options, frothy coffee and flavoursome teas.

Nami Japanese Restaurant 

While not  labelled gluten-free, I've been buying chicken and avocado (with no sauce) sushi rolls from Nami for eons, with no gluteny reaction. This sushi is THE BOMB DIGGITY. Super tasty, freshly prepared in front of you and always with a smile. 

Columbus (London Street)

I have to admit, I'm not usually a fan of chain-cafes, but Columbus really is the exception. Lovely paleo, gluten-free and dairy-free options. Great service, and a relaxed atmosphere.

Two Birds Eatery

If you're a little obsessed with whole foods, ditching refined sugar from your diet, and eating well while still enjoying full flavour this is the place for you. 

The most decadent raw cakes imaginable, smoothies, good quality tea and coffee, hot food and everything good. Also, special mention of their gluten-free vat - I love you vat, please don't ever change.

Cafe Inc.

Based in Rototuna, this cafe caters for just about everyone - people with food allergies and people who can eat absolutely anything. Read more about Cafe Inc here.

Thai and Kai

Feel like some Friday night takeaways? Thai and Kai on Rimu street do gluten-free fish, chips and hotdogs. And they're delicious!

Zealong Tea House

Wow, amazing - read my blog post here to find out just how delicious their food is. Also, special mention for their nommy tea. They catered for my entire family of special foody needs with no dramas.

LK Coffee Hub, Hamilton East 

Raymond and Zoe are the nicest people ever. And they have got a great range of gluten-free items in the cabinet – yum! They also brew a wicked coffee.

Sugoi Sushi, Te Awamutu  

Some of the best sushi you’ll get anywhere. Delicious gluten and dairy-free options that are more than worth the drive.

The Shack, Raglan

Head to the beach! If not for the waves, then for the food at The Shack. Awesome food, awesome service and a great surfy vibe.

Tea!

It's no secret that I'm obsessed with green tea. If left unsupervised, I could drink 8 cups a day easily. Here are my favourite places to go for a good brew in the Waikato:

SL28

New on the scene, SL28 (Victoria Street) makes a fantastic brew of Zealong tea. The coffee is great too according to my coffee drinking buddies. Clean, modern layout, it's a great space for catching up with friends.

Urge

Urge is the place to go to drink good tea out of fine china tea cups. A wide range of tea and coffee options available. You'll leave feeling pampered and refreshed.

Zealong Tea House

It goes without saying, that if you want to try Zealong tea at its very best you drink it at the Zealong Tea House in Gordonton. Fantastic service, and endless cups of the very best tea.

Grey Gardens

Tucked away down an alleyway in Hamilton East, Grey Gardens offers delicious tea and fine coffee. A good escape from the bustle of Grey Street, Grey Gardens offers a restful space with a retro vibe.

 

Wherever you eat, remember to always ask questions to ensure your safety. These are my recommendations, but I can't guarantee the safety of any cafe, so please do your homework.

A very special wedding at Zealong

Imagine trying to cater for a family where just about everyone has food issues, and no two people have exactly the same combo of food needs.

Yup, that's my family.

Yesterday my sister Joanna got married, and because she's a huge tea fiend Zealong Tea Estate was an obvious choice for lunch.

Prior to the wedding I sent them an email to see if they could deal with a range of food allergies and special diets... and wow did they come to the party.

No food request was too difficult. The team were amazing - answering every email promptly and kindly even when it got to the point that they were probably ready to tear their hair out with the number of emails flooding through from me. They met with me in person too and talked about options, and were even able to make a gluten-free, dairy-free and refined sugar free wedding cake.

The wedding day was beautiful.

The sun was shining and the gardens at Zealong were looking their autumnal best for the wedding photos. Here's my sister and her new husband - lovely eh? Photo taken by Mike from Key Imagery Photography.

Our small wedding gathering were given a lovely spot on the deck of the tea house under the shade of umbrellas, and were immediately served the tea for which Zealong is renowned. Oh my goodness, the tea is divine! My favourite is the pure oolong tea.

Brenton our chef was on hand to talk through menu options for those of us with special foodie needs, And there was a range of options for everybody.

The food when it arrived was beautifully presented and tasted amazing. I had steak with gailan and kumara crisps. Mmm ...

So how did the cake turn out? Light, fluffy, chocolatey and delicious.

Thanks again Zealong, you guys are awesome. Friendly staff, great location and awesome food (even for us food allergy folk).