Saturday, March 30, 2013

Gluten-Free Paris

Sometimes I organize my Paris trips around art exhibits. Sometimes around food. It's ideal when I can combine the two. One of my first stops on the last trip was Helmut Newcake to pick up breakfast supplies for the next morning, since the youth hostel I stay at doesn't offer gluten-free bread in the mornings (a point in their favor is that what they do offer is free, so I have an unlimited supply of coffee and apple juice and orange juice and jam). Helmut Newcake offers bread for sale, but also many cookies and cakes and delicious little tarts, and some of those are even also lactose-free. I ended up buying two slices of lemon-ginger polenta cake, and ordering a pot of peppermint tea with sugar to set me up for my afternoon of walking. I do a lot of walking, in Paris.

One of the places that I walked to on Saturday afternoon was Mil Amores, the new (and only, I believe) tortilleria in Paris. Right now you have to order ahead by Friday evening, and then pick up your tortillas on site between 1:00-3:00pm at their facility on Avenue Parmentier. You can also get the tortillas vacuum-packed and delivered, but that doubles the price of a kilo. However, that's definitely cheaper than taking the train to Paris for the day, so I might consider that option ... I bought half a kilo, or about 25 tortillas, and am planning a shrimp taco feast tonight. Miam!

On Friday night I met up with a fellow student, Galina, and her husband Roland, for dinner. They made a reservation at NoGlu, a completely gluten-free fine-dining restaurant in the 2ème arrondissement in the center of Paris, not far from the Louvre, in a covered passageway filled with cafés and shops. It's one of the places I'd been considering for the celebratory dinner in May, so I was glad to have the chance to check it out. They also offer lactose-free options, and I thought the food was almost as good as at Chapeau Melon, though there are fewer wine selections. However, dessert is included in the prix fixe option; on the other hand, there is only one entrée, rather than two. My starter of carrot soup with roasted mushrooms was delicious, and I very much enjoyed the pineapple upside-down cake to finish. I will be e-mailing the owner/chef at Chapeau Melon to discuss the soy- and dairy- and beet- and gluten- and (what else goes on the list, Mom?)-free dinner menu possibility, but I had a long talk with the waiter when I stopped by the restaurant and he seemed to think that there was not much of a chance that this would fly. We'll see. I did verify with the waitress at NoGlu that substitutions were possible, since the accompaniment to my lovely crispy-skinned cod was a pile of beets. She said they had no problem with flexibility, there. Well, we'll be in Paris two nights, so perhaps we can try both places.

Another fellow student, Laure, had recommended a good place for gluten-free food, Le Petit Cambodge, which is just down the street from Helmut Newcake, I discovered. I know where I'd live in Paris, now. I went there on Saturday for lunch, after the Dalí exhibit. I arrived a bit early, and had half an hour to wait before the restaurant opened. I considered another pot of tea at Helmut Newcake, but then I saw a Chinese massage salon across the street and decided to treat myself to a 20-minute head massage. The salon was open, but there was no one there at first, and then a small boy came up the stairs and peeked around the corner at me. "Ni hao," I said, using up 50% of my Mandarin vocabulary. His eyes grew wide and he giggled, and said hello back. We traded greetings for a few minutes until his mother came up to the desk, wiping her mouth and apologizing that everyone was in the middle of lunch. I apologized for interrupting them, and she said no, it was okay, they really were open, and le monsieur who specialized in acupressure was on his way. I handed over a 20-euro note, and was shown to a little cabinet, where I lay face down on a table. Le monsieur didn't speak English or French, so I had to use my own hands on his to explain that OW he was pressing a little too hard to start out with. But then it was all right, and he also ended up cracking my back and getting rid of a knot that had been there since I'd woken up, so that was good. And when he was done, my head and shoulders were loose (if a bit sore), and Le Petit Cambodge had opened for business.

They specialize in Vietnamese and Cambodian food, and Laure particularly recommended the bo bun, rice noodle bowls. The restaurant makes their own fried spring rolls with pork and shrimp in rice paper wrappers, and I ordered a "special shrimp bo bun" rather than the sliced beef version, with an extra spring roll. It was all very good, full of crunchy vegetables, savory spring roll slices, fresh shrimp, and rice vermicelli in a slightly sweet-tangy broth. I am glad that I got there when the restaurant opened at noon, because it quickly filled up, and by the time I left towards 1:00pm there was a line of people waiting to get in. It was a bit chilly to use the outside tables, but I expect those are a popular option in warmer weather. Definitely on my list of places to go back to, and you can get the food to go as well, though it might be a bit messy as a picnic item.


  1. Great scouting trip - I'm hungry already.

  2. The sacrifices I make, doing all this research ...