Monday, November 1, 2010

Gluten-Free Guide to Paris

I was worried that I wouldn't be able to enjoy Parisan food.  The last time I was in Paris was in 2002 and I was certainly munching away on the crusty baguettes and buttery croissants every moment we walked past a patasserie.  But now, having converted to the gluten-free lifestyle, I was definitely concerned.

Aside from breakfast which I found to be the most challenging meal of the day, I was alright for the bigger meals of lunch and dinner.  There are a lot of gluten-free options available. We LOVED the French food and it's difficult to find really bad food, but here are a list of GF-Friendly places for you to check out!  I also wanted to provide recommendations for three restaurants that weren't necessarily GF but totally amazing and worth finding.

Des Si et Des Mets
It's the first FULLY gluten-free restaurant that I've ever found! I was so excited to find it online and HAD to try it. We even planned some of our sight-seeing events around getting to this restaurant since it's a bit out of the way.

We went for lunch on Saturday and were the first to arrive at the restaurant. Shortly after, several other couples trickled in for lunch. We sat next to a nice couple from DC that the wife was gluten-free and had also found this restaurant online.

Let's just say, it's exhiliarating to be in a restaurant and NOT have to explain that you can't eat 90% of the menu.  The bread slices they brought to the table was GF bread. Leave it to the French to figure out delicious breads! Sure, it wasn't spongy or crustly like the baguettes, but it didn't have the sharp aftertaste of most GF breads and it wasn't super crumbly either.

The portions were enormous. I couldn't even finish.  In fact, Ernie and I could have split one plate and we would still be stuffed.  Plus, we got desserts!

The owner served us and speaks English though prefers French. She even thought I was fluent in French and handed me a menu I couldn't read.  She was quiet and mild-mannered but very polite.  We even got parting gifts of GF yellow cakes individually wrapped. I saved mine for the flight home!

63 Rue Lepic
Metro: Lamarck-Caulaincourt
Near: Montmartre

Briezah Cafe
Go for the amazing buckwheat crepes, or known locally as 'galettes'. Normally, galettes are the savory version of crepes and served with eggs & meat or some variation. Traditional flour crepes are the dessert versions because they are a bit sweeter and softer in texture. At Briezah, they had no problems subbing the buckwheat crepe in for the regular. I got a buckwheat crepe filled with apple sauce and drizzled with a caramel sauce. It was topped with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.  A delicious treat!
Buckwheat crepes are good substitutes of the originals. They have a deeper flavor, a stiffer texture and a darker color but overall, it's totally worth it. You might miss the light, fluffyness of the original crepe but honestly, this will make you pretty happy as well.  (The GF crepe is the bottom one in the picture)

Briezah is also known for their varities of hard cider.  They have several pages of different flavors. Try a jug while you're at it!

49 Rue Vieille du Temple
Metro: Saint-Sebastien-Froissart
Near: Picasso Museum (which is closed until 2012)
3rd Arr.
Note that the website says they open at 9am but they really open at noon.

Other crepe places that serve Galettes:
Lepic Assiette
35 Rue Lepic
Metro: Abbesses Blanch
Near: Monmartre

Creperie de Josselin
67 Rue du Montparnasse

I also hear that along Rue d'Odessa and Rue du Montparnasse are countless Creperies.

Naturala Grocery Stores
This is a chain of grocery stores that are speckled throughout Paris.  We happened to walk by one near our first hotel and another one near our second hotel.  (We stayed in two different parts of town to experience as much of Paris as we could!)  Try the Quinoa bread loafs. They're made fresh everyday. 

Don't expect something that tastes similar to your regular white Wonder Bread loaf.  It's definitely more dense, crumbly and has a darker flavor than the white breads.  Think of it closer to the flavor of a multi-grain or even a dark rye bread.  I was more-or-less happy about the flavor and the moist and consistent texture. I yearned for a little more, maybe something a bit sweeter rather than savory.  The bread wasn't amazing but when you're walking around scouring for breakfast options that are GF, you'll be happy you packed a few slices of Quinoa bread in your purse or bag.

The staff was friendly and helpful to find the gluten-free bread loaves and they're even marked in English by the bread baskets.  Let them select and pack it up for you to take on your way!  Loaves run about 4-5 Euros each.

Biogeneration Grocery Store
I read that there were gluten free croissants (heaven!!!) and chocolate chip mini cakes, etc. But after trekking all the way out to this store, I was dissappointed to only find that they have dry packaged GF goods. If you do decide to make this a destination during your trip to Paris, head down stairs to find a full GF section filled with pastas, cookies, biscuits, crackers, etc. I bought some lasagne noodles since I've never seen them in the US. I'll let you know how those are once I make my first gluten-free lasagne!  It cost me 10 Euros for 2 packages of pasta. Packages are smaller than those sold in the US.

70 Rue de Cherch Midi

It's a chain (like our Panera Bread) so they're all over town.
Get the Macarones that are made of almond flour and are gluten free!  They are very sweet cookies with filling in the middle.  Paul's has large sized ones. You can find smaller sized ones all over town at the Patisseries (bakeries).  I liked the Raspberry flavor best. Vanilla was delicious but the Pistaschio was not very good.  It just depends what flavors you like.

Other noteable places for Macarones:
Laduree (also a chain)
75 ave de Champs Elysees (flagship store)

Here are some restaurants that are not necessarily Gluten Free, but have great GF options and servers willing to help:

Willi's Wine Bar
It may say "Bar" in the name, but this was way more up-scale than I imagined.  As one of our most expensive meals in Paris, this is totally worth it for the quality of the food and the friendliness of the staff. This waas a recommendation by Ernie's Uncles Lee & Bill who swear it's their favorite place in Paris.

Our server was actually from Singapore though she could have fooled us with her French accent and pale caucasian skin.  Nevertheless, she was amazingly helpful and totally willing to find GF options for me.  We also went by her recommendations for starters, main plates and desserts. 

The Wine selection (as you may infer by the restaurant name) was vast. We had a light white wine from the Loire Valley on the south-western area of France. It was a perfect pick since we spent the day visiting the Loire Valley Castles that are better described as Chateauxs.

13 Rue des Petits Champs
Metro: Pyramides
Near Jardin du Palais Royale
1st Arr

Le Chalet des Iles
This restaurant is not easy to get to. You have to take the metro to the closest stop and either walk 15-20 min or cab it.  I'll tell you that the walk would have been really difficult due to the topography of the area and just plain getting lost in the round-about.  One cab driver refused our business and it took another 15 min to get another cab driver to take us. We ended up being 30 min late for our reservation. I felt really bad because we were meeting up with a friend from Kellogg and Kraft and he was waiting around without any way of us contacting him.

Once we got there, it was much smoother. You take this little ferry across the pond to an adorable pond-side restaurant kind of like Tavern on the Green in NYC's Central Park.  The food was unbelievable.  I'd recommend the heirloom and tomato mozzarella salad for starters. I had the shrimp cocktail with greek yogurt and a tomato jelly paste. It was good, but the tomato salad was so much more delicious.

My main dish was the walleye fish with a salty/crusty exterior and a moist and flaky white fish interior. It was served with Quinoa on the side.  Ernie had steak served with potato croquettes. The potato was the highlight of his meal. The outer shell was fried crispy and the inside was soft, mashed potato puree.  Olivier, my friend, had the lobster. I don't think you could pick something that wasn't satisfying.

Dessert options are limited to ice cream for GF people.  Otherwise, there's a caramel cake option that you MUST get.  It's like a molten chocolate cake but it's caramel vanilla cake with soft warm caramel inside rather  than the chocolate.  I did have a bite and it was heaven.

Port de La Muette

Print this card before you go. It tells servers/chefs that you have a gluten intolerance and it's written in French!

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