Yorica! Exclusive Q & A with Director Monika Jagielo and my review of our visit.

Yorica! Soho

When word got out a couple of months ago about a new allergy-friendly ice cream, shake and Fro-yo parlour opening in London the allergy community on-line got rather excited, and not least us! Could it be true? Could there really be a safe destination that sold allergy-friendly iced treats? It was really rather unbelievable. Enquiries were promptly made – would it really be suitable and safe for us? And lo and behold, the wonderful reply of yes came back. Unbelievable. And so we duly made the pilgrimage.

freedom to be free-from sign

Now, we have once or twice eaten in the New Forest Ice Cream parlour in Lymington which makes some wonderful sorbets, but the choice is relatively limited and is accompanied by strict instructions over newly opened tubs, no scoop sharing etc etc. This was an entirely different matter – a shop where we could choose ANYTHING! Little S got a bit overexcited browsing the website and decided she’d have a Fro- yo and a shake – we knew she’d probably only get through about half one item as she’s not very used to rich foods, but it’s nice to dream about choice isn’t it?

free-from choice at Yorica!

I was intrigued though – what was the motivation? How did they make their lovely products and source the toppings – as we know it’s not easy to find allergen-free goodies. So I approached Yorica! and asked if they were interested in answering some of my questions. Here is what Monika Jagielo, Director at Yorica! had to say:

 

1) What was your motivation for setting up a free from ice cream parlour?

We wanted to set up a sweet treat cafe that those suffering from allergies could walk into and literally go wild! No worrying about what they can and can’t eat, we wanted them to be able to have choice: something that allergy sufferers often don’t have. All Yorica! treats are free from most of the 14 allergens including wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs and nuts – so it’s a free from haven for all!

2) Where do you source your ingredients, in particular all the yummy toppings!

We want all of our products to be deliciously healthy, natural and free from, so where we source our ingredients is really important. Everything we use is certified, sustainable and traced – from crop to cone! Our most popular topping is our delicious, chocolate biscuit topper which is sourced from Canada.

3) We loved the taste and texture of both the ice cream and Fro-yo – how did you develop the recipe and do you have any tips for others?

Thank you, we’re so pleased you like them :). The exact recipe is a bit of a Yorica! HQ secret but I can tell you that to make them free from and delicious we have used quite a few natural substitutes. We only use natural sugars, which stops our ice cream from going rock hard and helps keep them silky smooth. We’ve developed all of our recipes in house and are constantly experimenting to find new flavours – our latest is violet flavoured ice cream, which you can order with tasty edible flowers!
 
4) What are your plans for the future?
We’d love to see a whole raft of Yorica! cafes opening up nationwide, or even across the world. We think we have something really unique and special going on, so would love to share it with more people. Our customers have been so brilliant and can’t get enough of our free from goodness, so we couldn’t be happier. 

Yorica! Wardour St

And what about our visit? We had a lovely day out – a trip to the British museum for some Roman history which Little S is currently studying at school, a ‘light’ picnic ( well we had to have plenty of room for some ice cream!), a meet up with Uncle J and a trip to Yorica. Bliss.

And Yorica!? The shop is small, a little more space to sit and eat would be welcome but the design is lovely, fresh and inviting. Unfortunately there was a mechanical problem with the fro-yo machine when we visited so only vanilla and strawberry were on offer. Both girls opted for fro-yo having never eaten it before but were totally bamboozled by having toppings and a choice at that! So, they both panicked and just got one topping each, rather than a pile of goodies on top of their Fro-yos. The fro-yo was light and creamy but not rich in texture and taste and was very moreish. The vanilla had a slight coconut undertone, but that wasn’t apparent with the strawberry.

free-from vanilla fro-yo

D, Uncle J and I all opted for mixed ice cream with plentiful toppings. The flavours were delicious, particularly the blackcurrarnt and cookies and cream. We were one happy bunch. The ice cream is light enough to gobble down and the only difference with usual dairy ice cream is you don’t feel a bit queasy after such a rich, big bowlful.

blackcurrant and cookies and cream ice cream, dairy-free, egg-free

All in all, I couldn’t recommend Yorica! more highly as a safe treat destination. We’ll definitely return with regularity – fingers crossed they’re such a success that they expand all over the country.

 

I did not get paid for this review, I just wanted to spread the word to the allergy community about a fab new foodie destination (and I’m really looking forward to trying the violet flavour!).

plenty of safe sprinkles!

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Health Food Shops – Carmarthen, South Wales

Having just returned from a relaxing mini-break in Carmarthenshire, I thought I’d continue my series of reviews on health food/speciality food shops around the country.

Despite managing to miss the main shopping centre of Carmarthen we came across three well stocked health food shops within a five minute walk. Could Carmarthen be the best stocked town for health foods in the UK? Admittedly, one was a very small Holland and Barrett, but that still counts if you’re looking for essentials!

We first came across Aardvark Alternatives at 6 Lammas St. A veritable little warren of interconnected rooms, packed with interesting and well chosen products. The shop keeper was deep in discussion with a girl who had just had restrictions placed upon her diet and was offering lengthily and knowledgeable advice – always a great sign in a Health Food Shop.


Aardvark Alternatives had everything from fresh, local vegetables to a well stocked fridge and freezer, store cupboard essentials, as well as an upstairs filled with health and beauty supplements and on site treatments. It’s well worth a detour.


 Further up the road at 23 Lammas St, we came across Waverley Stores and Vegetarian restaurant.


This cavernous shop had a similar good range of products (maybe a slightly smaller variety) but also housed an impressive deli style counter and cute vegetarian restaurant at the back of the shop. It was closed when we visited at nearing 5pm, but the menu looked appealing and how wonderful to find a veggie restaurant in a small town. The shop owner was delightful and gave us some fantastic advice over the best local attractions for our short trip.


 Well done Carmarthen, I’m mightily impressed 🙂

Holidays: Center Parcs

center parcs crystal tree

It was only after we had children that people around us started talking about Center Parcs (although, I now know it’s a destination that appeals to all demographics!) and by the time Big S started school it seemed that everyone we came across either had or was going to a Center Parcs. I have to say that we were a bit snooty to begin with – somehow (although we’re happy to go to European campsites) Centre Parcs just didn’t seem like it would be our kind of thing. It had the sound of forced jollity in a fenced in camp, a hark back to Hi De Hi!

How wrong were we! A few years ago, looking for a last minute break before Christmas we took the plunge – surely all the glowing reports from our friends meant that it had to be quite good? Besides, it seemed a good option in the cold winter months and the fact that the lodges are self-catering is an absolute must for us – dealing with food allergies effectively rules out catered holidays, not only through lack of availability but also fear and stress on our part.

So we went and had the most fabulous time – those glowing reports made sense, it really is a fantastic family destination topped off by the most fun, exciting swimming pool one could hope for. Picture if you can, bobbing around in a deliciously warm outdoor pool, beautifully lit, under the icy cold night sky – it is blissful. It was so good we’ve now been three times with another already booked for next weekend – and i seriously cannot wait!! I think I’ll have to admit that we should eat our words over it not being for us!!

So why did we enjoy it so much? Well, the whole place is very cleverly designed – it’s apparently always full ( we went to the Longleat one) but somehow it doesn’t feel too busy. The lodges are orienteered in such a way that you don’t feel hemmed in, you really do have a sense of peace and tranquility in the middle of a forest -clever huh? There are obviously activities for everyone and every age to enjoy, all topped off with the stunning subtropical swimming paradise (and it really is!)

But for us one of the aspects that really makes it for us, as a family with food allergies, are provided for. The accommodation is of a great standard making self-catering easy. The ‘parc market’ on site supermarket amazingly sells dairy-free milks and yogurt; the sweet store even sells our beloved Kinnerton chocolate, which was a really welcome surprise.

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We have even found numerous safe eating out options. All the restaurants we’ve tried have gone out of their way to accommodate our fairly extensive requirements. Our needs have been taken seriously and with respect and as such the meals we’ve eaten out have been a bit less stressful than often is the case. The Grand Cafe in particular went out of their way to produce a safe meal for my daughters.

One big highlight was eating at the Pancake house – as you can imagine our eating out options are limited and being dairy and egg free, pancakes never feature in the options, but at Centre Parcs the pancake house serves light and fluffy American style vegan pancakes – how cool is that!

So if you’re like us with restricted diets, or just someone who fancies a really fun holiday, do do think about Center Parcs, I would thoroughly recommend it – in fact we may even see you there 😉

center parcs crystal owl

 

The Seed, Buckfastleigh, Devon

I’m always delighted to find an independent health food shop, especially one in such a tiny, cute town as Buckfastleigh. It was very unexpected in such a small place, and it was one minute’s walk from where we stayed. A most welcome find 🙂

Well stocked with plenty of dairy free cheeses and milks, gorgeous fresh fruit and veg and also great coffee on tap. The staff were super friendly and helpful, with bags of local knowledge and advice. What’s not to like? Well worth a browse if you’re passing….

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The Bran Tub, Petersfield

Health Shops, worth taking a detour for:

The Bran Tub, Petersfield, Hampshire, UK

This lovely, cavernous health food shop has been a regular pilgrimage for us – a true well stocked treasure trove which is always buzzing with customers. I’ve found some real hard to find gems here, from soya condensed milk to real dairy-free choc ices. Definitely well worth a visit!

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Holidays: Glorious South Devon

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This last half term we needed a break. We really needed a break. Some friends at work recommended Wowcher for great deals on family holidays, so I spent hours browsing, but even that led to my stress levels rising ( not the idea with a holiday!) – all the family friendly options were catered or all-inclusive. And as ever all inclusive holidays just wouldn’t be possible for our family with allergies to consider. Each meal time would be a supremely stressful occasion with us hoping our requests had been taken seriously ( or simply understood if given in a language we are not familiar with) and then examining the food for any anomalies, following by a lengthy period of watching like a hawk for any reactions. It’s hardly the relaxing time you want to have on holiday and I would have returned from any such holiday a frazzled wreck! Besides, as you may have noticed, I do quite like to cook!!

So self-catering it had to be, and in the absence of owning a lovely villa somewhere warm, we were looking at a 3 days getaway in the UK. And that’s how we came to be in South Devon. Doesn’t sound terribly exciting does it? Well it was absolutely beautiful and such a wonderful ‘get away from it all’ holiday, that even after just three nights we returned fully recharged and ready to face life again.

We stayed in the tiny little town of Buckfastleigh just on the southern edge of the stunning windswept Dartmoor. It was seriously tiny and picture-postcard pretty but also with more than you could possibly need. Oddly perhaps. I long for such a well stocked and friendly health food shop as The Seed just a few yards down the road. And what we would give for an outdoor lido, which this tiny place also boasted. There was even a vintage steam train that went directly to Totnes. In fact the steam train was so much fun that Big S, who is no train fan, claimed it was the best part of her holiday.

The Seed, Buckfastleigh

Totnes was indeed a great town to visit, one place where being a veggie is not unusual! There were plenty of lovely looking veggie places to eat, but sadly many not suitable for us due to an over abundance of nuts and seeds. That’s often our problem, places where you think we’d be able to eat aren’t suitable due to another item on the menu! Anyway we had a filling and tasty cafe style lunch at The Brioche, fitted in some shopping in the ethnic inspired and crystal shops, and got a big haul of interesting tasty ingredients from the massive health food shop.

While we had eaten safely at the Brioche, it wasn’t without its stresses and issues so the rest of the time we ate in our lovely little cottage or took picnics with us on days out. Slightly dull, yes, but also far far less stressful. As I mentioned at the start, self-catering seems to be our only real option, although I’d love advice of other possibilities.

The weather played ball and we also visited the lovely seaside port of Dartmouth, traipsed over the windswept moor and played with the beautiful shiny pebbles at Blackpool Sands. And we only managed to fit in a fraction of the things there are to do. If you haven’t been, I wholeheartedly recommend it – the rolling hills and wild flower-lined country lanes are England at its idyllic best, with beaches and interesting towns. There is so much to do and you’ll definitely feel like you’ve had a break.

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dartmoor