Visitors are like buses: you don’t see anyone for months at a time, and then suddenly, everyone you’ve said “hi” to in the last fifteen years wants to turn up on the same weekend. As usual, I’m exaggerating somewhat – but I did have guests 3/4 weekends in April (and it was very nearly 4/4, too).
I’m not really complaining, I actually love having people to stay. Obviously, it’s wonderful to get the chance to spend time with friends and family – a rare opportunity, when we don’t live in the same country – and I’m always grateful to anyone who finds the time and funds to make it over here. I have discovered since moving to Paris that I absolutely adore playing hostess, too, be it for an evening, a weekend or a week. And hosting vistitors lets me see my wonderful adopted city through fresh eyes every time I share her with someone new.
Of course, it’s also a great excuse to indulge the foodie in me. (I say that as if I’m not 100% foodie. Ha.) After all, I’d be failing miserably in my hosting duties if I didn’t do my utmost to give every one of my guests The Best Food Weekend Ever. I live in Paris, for goodness sake. It’s just expected. Usually, it’s not exactly difficult: there are culinary delights to be had at every turn. Too many, if anything. The amount of willpower I have to expend every time I leave my apartment is bloody exhausting. One could so easily bankrupt oneself on pâtisseries and cheese.
It gets a little trickier, though, when half your phonebook are coeliac, or gluten-intolerant, or somewhere in between. After all, some of the most famous French treats include baguettes, croissants, crêpes, and the aforementioned pâtisseries – all of which (typically) contain gluten. And France is not known for her accommodation of dietary requirements; I’ve heard all sorts of stories of vegetarians being served fish, and even chicken, at restaurants, after discussing their restrictions with the person taking their order. Some of these stories have come from French acquaintances, too, proving it’s not even a language barrier issue.
So when my first gluten-intolerant guest came to stay (my mum, I think), I pulled out ALL the stops to try and ensure she fully enjoyed the fabulous foodie experience that any trip to France ought to be. Hours went into the researching and compiling of a ‘master list’, featuring 13 establishments from which I was confident we could procure not only gluten-free food, but really excellent gluten-free food. I wrote a blog post at the time, describing and reviewing the places from the list that we tried that weekend: “Paris ‘Sans Gluten’“.
I didn’t write about anywhere we didn’t try, though, and alas, there’s only so much one can physically do (/eat) in a single weekend. Hence this post. I was barely exaggerating (for once) when I said half my phone book can’t eat gluten, and that proportion has been pretty well-represented amongst the visitors I’ve had from England over the last year-and-a-half or so. And with those visitors, I’ve explored a few more of the establishments on my list. I thought it was time I shared a couple more of my findings with you. You’re welcome.
- 28 Rue Vignon, 75009 Paris (9th arrondissement, near La Madeleine) and 144 Rue Saint-Honoré, 75001 Paris (1st arrondissement, a short walk from the Louvre)
- Entirely gluten-free pâtisserie/boulangerie
- Breads, pâtisseries, cakes and… croissants!
Yes. Croissants. And pains au chocolat. These are not easy to come by gluten-free, even in specialist boulangeries/pâtisseries. My understanding is that they’re just bloody difficult to make without gluten. Helmut Newcake has triumphed, though – I’ve rarely seen anyone as ecstatically happy as my coeliac friend was, clutching her first pain au chocolat in almost a decade. They’re a little smaller and denser than the gluten-containing variety, but no less delicious. Helmut Newcake has a beautiful selection of other sweet treats, too, including the very french éclairs and moelleux / fondant au chocolat (there’s some disagreement over which is which, but in this case, I mean a little chocolate ‘lava cake’). And then there’s also a variety of breads (including, but not limited to, baguettes), some delicious-looking sandwiches and quiches, and even chouquettes to buy by the bag. I was so impressed, and I think the aforementioned coeliac friend had the impression she’d died and gone to sans gluten heaven.
AND it wasn’t even horribly expensive. I mean, Paris is expensive bien sûr, but these patisseries cost little or no more than they would at most other, ‘normal’ places in this city. I was somewhat surprised actually – if you’re reading this, you’re quite likely painfully aware of how much more it usually costs to get a gluten-free anything. But not at Helmut Newcake.
One more thing: at least at the time of writing (April 2019), both shops close on Mondays, and the Rue Vignon shop is closed on Sundays, too. Just something to bear in mind when you’re planning your
Yummy & Guilt-Free
- 9 Boulevard Montmartre, 75002 Paris (2nd arrondissement, by Grands Boulevards metro stop) and 3 Rue du Temple, 75004 Paris (4th arrondissement, right by the Hôtel de Ville)
- Exclusively gluten-free lunch/dessert spot
- Sweet and savoury waffles
Although it was on my original list, I’ll admit that the slightly twee name had given me some reservations about this place. But then I happened across the Boulevard Montmartre boutique a few weeks ago and it looked pretty lovely – as did the waffles pictured on a stand outside their door – so I made a mental note to try it in the near future.
“The near future” arrived last weekend, along with my coeliac friend (who I should probably just start referring to by name at this point. She’s called Steph). We had a few potential lunch options lined up, but the promise of savoury waffles was hard to refuse, so we made our way over to Boulevard Montmartre. Thankfully, there were a couple of tables available inside (it was raining hard) so we sat ourselves down and consulted the menu. Waffles really do seem to be the only option, and there weren’t dozens of choices for toppings, but both of these things suit me fine: I’ve come to the realisation that if you really want to try the best of something, food-wise, you should probably seek it out somewhere that does little or nothing else. It’s not a fail-safe rule, of course there are plenty of exceptions – but it’s often a good place to start.
Anyway, Steph and I both had the croque-monsieur waffle and ohmygoodness it was wonderful. The waffle itself was perhaps the lightest and fluffiest I’ve ever tasted, perfectly cooked to a deep-golden colour with a slightly crisp exterior – and smothered in ham, emmental, and some variation on béchamel sauce (I think). So. Good. And like I said, surprisingly light, too. So light, in fact, and so delicious, Steph finished hers and promptly ordered a second one (although she didn’t quite manage to finish it). Meanwhile I followed mine with one of the sweet options: the “cheesecake” waffle (pictured above). This one came on a lollipop stick, tied (very sweetly) with a little bow. Each of the little pockets (indents? Whatever you call the squares in a waffle…) were filled with a lemon cream, and the whole thing was scattered with a biscuit crumb which may or may not have been speculoos, but was very tasty either way.
Now, I’m always a little sceptical of people who claim that “you wouldn’t even know” with a gluten-free alternative, because “it tastes just like the real thing” – when they haven’t actually tasted “the real thing” in goodness knows how many years. However, as someone who does not follow a gluten-free diet, and who is quite
picky discerning about the alternatives, I can whole-heartedly confirm that with these waffles, you absolutely would not know. The savoury ones were perfect, and whilst I would perhaps have liked a little more topping on the sweet variety (I think the priority was the aesthetics there), the waffle itself could not be faulted. Hands-down some of the very best waffles I have ever tried. And I’ve tried plenty.
I’ll write about any more gluten-free shops/cafés/restaurants in Paris as and when I have the opportunity to try them out for myself, but rest assured there are plenty of options here. You just have to know where to look… or which blog to read.*
*Mine. I mean mine.