Recently in France category
Since I originally wrote this post, I’ve updated it several times (most recently in 2012) since Paris has become more gluten-free friendly. For those who need to avoid gluten, France may present more of a challenge than other countries. But recently gluten-free eating has gained a bit more visibility. That’s not to say you can easily eat anywhere, but even supermarkets are carrying gluten-free products and natural food shops offer fresh gluten-free pastries and breads, and have aisles of gluten-free products.
You may get a few perplexed looks when you ask if something is without gluten, but it is possible. So here are a few helpful hints that will help you navigate French restaurants and dining, how to deal with waiters, and where you can find gluten-free products and foods in Paris, including a few gluten-free restaurants and a wonderful French pastry shop that’s 100% gluten-free.
-Familiarize yourself with some of the natural foods shops in France.
Well-known ones include Naturalia, La Vie Claire and Biocoop. Many carry gluten-free products and grains. Natural food stores here are some of my favorite places to shop anyways since they carry many regional, organic, and unusual products which are hard-to-find elsewhere in France. Biocoop is perhaps the most varied, although Naturalia has more shops.
Some of the supermarkets like Casino are also now carrying gluten-free products, too.
-Check out some of the gluten-free restaurants in Paris.
Café Pinson in the Marais has gluten-free options.
Tugalik offers gluten-free choices, which are specifically noted on the menu.
Thank You, My Deer (112, rue Saint Maur) is a gluten-free cafe.
Fée Nature (69, rue d’Argout, 2nd) is a vegetarian restaurant that reports to be gluten-free.
-Check gluten-free “friendly’ restaurants.
Soya (20, rue Pierre Levée, Tél: 01 48 06 33 02) is a hip vegetarian restaurant which has clearly marked gluten-free dishes on the menu. The restaurant isn’t strictly gluten-free, though, so that might be a consideration.
A reader alerted me to Le Potager du Marais, and organic vegetarian restaurant which she noted had clearly marked gluten-free dishes and desserts on offer as well.
-Learn the terms for various grains and other French products.
Check an online dictionary here, although I recommend a good French Menu Translator. Although there’s plenty of people who speak English, many of the grains and other terms – and their names in English, may be unfamiliar to them.
-Check out a gluten-free French bakery.
Helmut Newcake (36, rue Bichat, 10th, Tél: 09 82 59 00 39) is a gluten-free bakery, everything sans gluten! There is also a take-out as well.
Papy Bio gluten-free macaron bakery is scheduled to open at 51, rue Richelieu in the 1st.
Chambelland Boulangerie (14, rue Terneux, 11th) Gluten-free bread bakery and café.
-Explore ethnic restaurants.
When people think of Paris, they think of old bistros and bustling brasseries. But Paris has some great ethnic restaurants, including Ethiopian restaurants which bake with teff instead of wheat (although you should confirm to be sure), as well as a slew of great Asian restaurants clustered in the 13th arrondissement.
Chinese restaurants abound in the city, although they do use soy sauce, there’s lots of Vietnamese and Laotian places with big salads and rice noodle dishes. Le Bambou is a favorite.
There’s also a new appreciation for les sushis in Paris. Aside from the mediocre spots springing up all over town, there’s some very good options on or near the rue St. Anne, by the Place de l’Opéra. You may wish to buy wheat-free tamari at one of the natural food stores listed above and bring it along.
-Bring some supplies and snacks from home.
Take with you some gluten-free energy bars and what-not to carry around and hold you over in case you get hungry and all that’s open are bakeries. They may seem icky to you, but when you’re starving in an airport or train station, where the pickings may be slim, you’ll be thankful.
-Rent an apartment so you can prepare meals yourself.
Sure it’s nice to go out to eat. But it’s equally fun to shop in a Parisian supermarket or outdoor market. It’s also a great way to sample lots of the cheeses, make big salads, sample the fruits, and enjoy other specialties that you can’t always get in restaurants.
Look for signs for traiteurs, gloriously-stocked take-out shops. And keep an eye for things that are de maison, or a similar term containing the word ‘maison‘, that means they’re made on-premises and should know exactly what’s in them and how they’re prepared. And don’t be afraid to ask questions—French people love to talk about food!
-Print out a small card that’s easy-to-read, in French, which very briefly explains your condition.
Servers in France are much busier than their American counterparts since they don’t have busboys, runners, etc…and dining rooms are short-staffed. So make their job easier since they may not have time to play charades with you, and blow you off. Don’t take it personally; just realize they’re busy. Keep it brief so they’re more likely to read it. You can find cards to print out in French here.
-Go to the same restaurants over and over and over.
Although it’s tempting to try lots of place, most Parisians themselves go to the same restaurants over and over (they call their favorite their cantine.) Make a nearby restaurant to where you’re staying your cantine where the staff knows you. Even if you’re in town for just a week, by your second visit, you’ll be recognized and they’ll look more kindly on you and they’ll be much nicer.
Also dining during slower times, the waiters and cooks will be under less stress and able to look after you better. If dining in a fine restaurant, tell them your needs when you make the reservation so they have time to prepare and it’s not such a big surprise.
Find gluten-free bread in Paris.
Although there are no dedicated gluten-free bakeries that I know of in Paris, Biocoop sells fresh gluten-free bread (although it’s stored on the same shelves, next to the regular bread) as do Naturalia store. Biocoop also has some freshly made gluten-free cakes as well. As mentioned above, both shops have gluten-free sections in their stores that sell a variety of snacks and other foods.
L’Autre Boulange has gluten-free breads, although they are made in a bakery that produces regular bread as well.
-Apologize for being a bother.
This is the hardest thing for Americans, who are used to the ‘Customer Is King’ concept. In France, you may find people less-accommodating that you’re used to. There’s not much you can do to change it (and believe me, don’t try to either.)
Instead, work with it. Don’t demand that they serve you gluten-free food, but instead, apologize for being a bother – then make your request nicely. They’re likely to take better care of you if they are on your site. And when your health is concerned, you want to be! French people can be quite helpful: You just need to make them want to be. As in many places in America, people don’t understand how careful you must be.
If for some reason they’re not taking you seriously, or you’re concerned that you may be getting something with gluten in it, it’s okay to leave before ordering. Apologize for leaving, thank them, and leave. If you make a scene, you’ll regret it. Don’t let it ruin your vacation. Just move on.
If you’ve already ordered or been served, nicely ask the waiter if you have any concerns without being accusatory. If you’re unsure, just drink the wine and ask for a plate of cheese or a salad with oil and vinegar à parte, on the side, since bottled dressings (which are used frequently) often have wheat starch. Or ask for some fruit.
In France, it’s very rare to return food or to change food once it’s brought to the table (or even after it’s been ordered) so you’re likely to be charged for the meal even if you don’t eat it or it’s not to your liking. Or has gluten in it.
Once again, don’t let something minor ruin your vacation. Imagine if a non-English speaking person came to America with a strict dietary need that was not well-known. Imagine how they’d be treated.
And if you’re frustrated, take another sip of wine and let out an exasperated *sigh*…you’ll fit right in amongst the Parisians!
Ten Insanely-Good Things You Shouldn’t Miss in Paris: Plenty of great suggestions that are gluten-free.
Gluten Free Paris: A gluten-free Bed & Breakfast in Paris
l’Association Francaise Des Intolérants Au Gluten: French Association of Gluten Intolerants (In French)
Gluten-Free Passport Travel Guide for France & Italy
Schär Gluten-Free Products: Available in Europe—site has search engine for stores which stock their products in France.
The American Hospital of Paris has English-speaking doctors in case you need medical care. You will likely have to pay out-of-pocket then apply for reimbursement when you get home, if you’re American.
French Gluten-Free Food Blogs
Located a few blocks north of the historic place des Vosges, steps away from the hubbub of tourists clogging the sidewalks, is Café des Musées, a terrific restaurant in Paris.
Chef François Chenel makes his own pâtés and smokes his own organic salmon, which arrives with a spoonful of crème fraîche, chives, and toasted levain bread. Both are also available to take home, including pre-cooked lobes of foie gras, even if you’re not dining here.
We split an order of grouse. One of the great things about France is that in the winter, restaurants will feature game like partridge, wild pigeon, and other specialties that are hard to find elsewhere. The grouse was dark and meaty-red, just as ordered. Alongside were triangles of braised celery root, a pile of dressed watercress and quetsches, Italian prune plums, cooked until jam-like. Although not as unctuous and sweet as I would have liked, a shot of port in the deglazing would’ve sealed the deal.
Other menu options are a pretty well-crusted entrecôte steak, served with real French fries, which are unfortunately rare nowadays in Paris. Cochon noir de Bigorre is always great here, a neatly-classic steak tartare, and for those looking for a vegetarian option, a cocotte of seasonal vegetables comes in a casserole, bathed in olive oil. (A friend from California who ordered this pronounced it “boring”, so perhaps that’s not the best choice.)
For dessert, we shared a raspberry Dacquoise; a slightly-crisp almond meringue which had a nice cake-like chew. It was served with excellent, dark cherry-red raspberries which were so sweet they were syrupy.
For those on a budget, at both lunch and dinner, on offer is a prix-fixe option. One recent fixed-price menu was vichyssoise and foie de veau, veal liver, with dessert for just 19€. Another time it was a poached egg in red wine with a lamb shank following up for the main course, with dessert being rhubarb crisp.
The service is a bit scattered, but that to me is the charm of eating in a neighborhood-type restaurant where people just go for good food but are welcome to linger. It’s the kind of place where the tables are pushed close together so you’re rubbing shoulders with your neighbors and perhaps sharing a basket of good bread. That’s one of the pleasures of dining in smaller Parisian restaurants and cafés.
My friends and I shared a bottle—ok, two bottles—of fruity gamay from the Touraine which went very nicely with everything from the charcuterie to the game and through the dessert. And afterward as well.
Café des Musées
49, rue de Turenne (3rd)
Tél: 01 42 72 96 17
Related Posts and Links
Here’s my address book for the most popular and some favorite places for ice cream in Paris. I update the list from time to time, and for the most up-to-date information, check out my Paris Pastry app, which lists over 300 of my favorite places in the city for ice cream, chocolate, pastries, and hot chocolate.
In addition to these glaciers, some of the pâtisseries make their own exceptionally-good ice cream which they’ll scoop up from freezers parked on the sidewalks outside during the summer. Some of the best include Kayser, La Maison du Chocolat, and A La Mère de Famille.
Many of the places keep curious hours, some of which I’ve noted. Most don’t open until mid-morning, and one, Deliziefollie, simply closed for the winter while Berthillon closes mid-July for the summer. I’ve listed phone numbers so you can call in advance.
Little needs to be said about Berthillion that hasn’t already been said. This most-famous of all Parisian glaciers makes what many consider the best ice cream in the world. Go see for yourself! I was a fan of their glace chocolat until I saw the light and switched to the chocolat amer sorbet, which has the deep intensity of chocolate but without the distraction of cream. Their Caramel Ice Cream is excellent, but I think the Caramel-Buerre-Salé doesn’t measure up to it. The fruit sorbets are excellent and the one made with tiny wild strawberries, fraises des bois, is worth the supplement.
Berthillon is served at many cafés in Paris, and other locations near the original also scoop it up, which is helpful when they’re closed. Beware of other storefronts nearby which some people confusing think serve glace Berthillon as well. (They’ll always display a Berthillon logo if they do.)
31, rue Saint-Louis-en-l’Ile (4th)
Tél: 01 43 54 31 61
Métro: Pont Marie or Sully-Morland
(Closed Mondays and Tuesdays, the second half of July and all of August.)
Popular with tourists and locals, Amorino does quite the business, making delicate ‘flowers’ of gelato on cones. Interesting flavors include Bacio, the Italian-style ‘kiss’ of hazelnuts and chocolate and Amarena, candied sour cherries embedded in vanilla custard. Those of you who are lactose-intolerant can find digestive comfort in Amoriso which they say is made with rice and rice milk. Twelve boutiques in Paris.
31, rue Vieille du Temple (4th)
Tél: 01 42 78 07 75
Métro: St. Paul or Hôtel de Ville
More often than not, you’ll find me at Pozzetto, waiting from my scoop of sticky gelato in a cone being handed through the window to me.
Taillevant & Le Cave Taillevent
Last month I had a fabulous lunch at Taillevent, the recently-demoted three-star restaurant, courtesy of some good friends from the states. But if our lunch was any indication, I don’t know who’s plucking the stars. And at 70€ it’s the deal of the decade: Three courses and lots of little extras. Plus they were very pleased to substitute any of the desserts which didn’t appear on the fixed menu for the selection offered. And to make the lunch even more special, another recent guest kindly bought me a bottle of lovely champagne…what’s not to get all starry-eyed over?
But whether or not you can make it to Taillevent, the restaurant, you should definitely visit their wine shop in the main Printemps department store. Run by Alison Vollenwider, with the help of Stéphanie (aka la petite), this wine cave is one of the most interesting in Paris.
Alison trained as a sommelier at Windows On The World with famed wine expert Andrea Immer, then worked in Bordeaux as a sommelier before settling here in Paris. Stop by and say hi—you’ll find plenty of reasonably-priced wines, starting at less than 10€, and lots of good advice from Alison. She’s friendly and knowledgeable…what more could you want from a caviste?
Update: Alison is now a proud mom and no longer working at Le Cave Taillevent.
Ever since I got my new espresso machine, I’ve been trying to learn as much about the complex art of making espresso as possible.
Anyone who uses iPhoto probably remembers your first thrill of plugging in your digital camera and magically, with no effort at all, having your photos automatically downloaded for you. Then they’re neatly filed on your computer so you can view, cut, or paste your memories until your heart’s content.
It’s great for the first few times, but once you’ve hit a certain number of photos, in my case the 1k mark, things start to slow w-a-a-a-y down, making it necessary to either burn them onto disks like the old days (iPhoto’s dirty little secret, forcing us to resort to ‘outdated’ technology…bad Apple!)
Or sadly, just to delete them.
So I spent my weekend going through my older photos and realized that I never wrote about one of the most special places in France: Locronan, allegedly the birthplace of my beloved Kouign Amann.
Note I used the word ‘allegedly’.
I’d been told by several French folks that the town is famous as the lieu de naissance of this buttery cake. But when I asked at the Office de Tourisme, the woman there had no idea what I was talking about. And wasn’t all that interested in pursuing it with me either. So I’ll let someone out there do the research since I’m too involved in burning photos onto disks all weekend. But even though Locronon may not the be the birthplace of this famous Breton Butter Cake, it’s certainly become the epicenter for lovers of butter & sugar bound-together.
Although the town is teeming with tourists who come to gawk at the granite buildings and churches, the town is also teeming with other fans of the sweet-stuff: les guepes, or yellowjackets.
Every bakery had swarms of the lil’ stingers flying all around, hundreds of them are everywhere, feasting their wings off on the sugary treats and tartlets for sale, like the rhubarb ones above. The women who work in the bakeries must’ve made some top-secret pact with the bees since they showed no fear of them and would swat ‘em away while packing up tarts and cakes. We decided to use the bees as a guide and follow their advice, since they’d probably know which was the best Kouign Amann in town. Like truffle hunters use pigs and dogs, this pastry-hunter decided to follow the bees, and I reasoned the places with the most yellowjackets would have the best pastries.
I got a very cute message lately from a couple who had come to Paris and followed some of my restaurant suggestions. But it got to the point one evening here they were undecided where to go one night, and her husband said, “I don’t care. Let’s just go anywhere that chocolate-guy says to go!”
I was glad to be of service, but I like being known as ‘that chocolate-guy’ just as much.
But frankly, I don’t go out as much as most folks imagine. I love going to my market, talking to the vendors, and coming home with something new that I’ve never tried before, like the chervil roots I bought the other day, which involved a rather detailed, lengthy conversation with the vendor.
I mostly cooking all the fine things I find here and learn about. So when I do go out, I want it to be good…no, I want it to be great…and I find the best food in Paris is classic French cuisine; confit de canard, steak frites, and coq au vin. When you find a good version, I don’t think there’s anything more satisfying. Especially if it’s accompanied by good friends.
And, of course, a few obligatory glasses of vin rouge.
So here’s a round-up of places I’ve eaten lately.
There’s a few you might to want to bookmark for your next visit, as well as one or two you might want to avoid.
Since man, and woman, cannot live by chocolate alone (although wouldn’t it be nice if we could?), our group spent the rest of our time slaving away putting together sumptuous meals, and learning about wine the hard way: by tasting it.
One of my favorite snacks of the class On Rue Tatin turned out to be these golden-brown, eggy gougères enriched with gruyère cheese and a dusting of freshly-toasted, fragrant cumin powder.
While it was a bit chilly to sit out in the garden overlooking the cathedral, enjoying our apéritifs and goûtes, we had plenty things to cook up indoors…