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Gluten Free in Paris??!!

Any recommendations for GF foods/pastries/snacks around the 14th in Paris? My husband and I are going in September for a week. As it is a work function, our dinners will be taken care of but we are on our own for breakfasts/lunches/snacks/shopping. I have not been to France since being diagnosed with Celiac and have no clue where to begin. We would be willing to travel outside the 14th, too.

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  1. Well, comrade, you're in trouble. Gluten-free is, alas, an unexplored continent in France. And given the mythical, central status of bread, it is an uphill battle. In fact, I found the gluten-free goods to be better in the US than what you can find in France (so much so that I'm thinking about starting a business here by importing recipes from... Connecticut. How crazy is the world?).

    I have one address: the yellow crepe stand on bd du Montparnasse called Génia, across the bd from rue Vavin, has genuine buckwheat crepe. You can ask them for a sweet or savory crepe, but you need to specify you want buckwheat (sarrasin) if it's a sweet one as they're traditionally made with wheat. Sausage and ham are not gluten-free, but cheese, eggs, meat are, as are of course nutella, jam and sugar (I like their "spéciale": ground beef with spices, tomatoes and mushrooms, cheese and egg).

    In most other crepe stands, all crepes have flour in them, even the buckwheat ones.

    Naturalia (organic groceries) has some gluten-free stuff, none of it too appealing, frankly.

    And of course, the grilled meat and fish and the veggies are always safe orders. But beware of all sauces.

    To my knowledge, there is one gluten-free restaurant in Paris. It is called Des Si et Des Met (http://www.dessietdesmets.com/), on 63 rue Lepic, in Montmartre. The chef is very good (former vegetable chef de partie at l'Arpège) and the hostess is very pretty. That's all I know about this restaurant, haven't tried it yet.

    Pho 67, on rue Galande, has MSG free pho soups.

    5 Replies
    1. re: souphie

      Soupie, sounds like it is going to be even more difficult than I thought! I wonder how the heck I will get through without getting glutened?? Thankfully I have no GI symptoms and do not get sick but obviously I do not want to harm my insides. I am also very concerned about the dinners - we are going out to superb restaurants each evening (in dinner groups of 8). I mean, being in Paris totally surrounded by gluten? It almost makes me sick thinking about it.

      Thanks for the information - it is very helpful. Will check out Des Si et Des Met.

      1. re: chefathome

        Look, I'm gluten intolerant too and I live here, and I like to think I eat pretty well. But you have to resist the bread, which is the most difficult part, in my opinion.

        It's not hard to eat gluten free in superb French restaurants, but you have to make it clear that you can't tolerate any flour, any bread, any breading, any soy sauce. Scare them by pretending it will kill you.

        Le Cinq for instance can absolutely manage and even has gluten free bread. At Joséphine, most dishes are flour free. A true bearnaise is gluten-free. So is a real mayonnaise. Be mindful of most stews like boeuf bourguignon, for they often are thickened with flour. And of most cured meat, as they usually are seasoned with wheat dextrose (but artisanal charcutier will offer wonderful stuff that is gluten free).

        What I'm saying is, no one knows what gluten is here, so you need to be careful and basically can't expect to trust anyone. Anyway, feel free to contact me directly for advice.

        1. re: souphie

          The breads would definitely be my biggest temptation as well. I am so pleased to hear that Le Cinq manages and is at least knowledgeable about GF. That is one of the places we are going to for dinner.

          I was off gluten for nearly six months (had to wait ages for my biopsies) so I got good at it but it is far easier at home than eating out, obviously. The problem is I would have no clue whether I was glutened or not! Plus this is my first Paris trip since my diagnosis so I will really struggle as a MAJOR food fanatic.

          I will contact you when I have more specific questions. I first wanted to sort of get a feel of how Paris is with this issue (of course some countries are easier than others). Thanks lots!

      2. re: souphie

        Just for anyone who is still following this chain (I read every post in detail) Des Si et Des Met is no longer open.

      3. You might consider something like this: http://www.triumphdining.com/products... I was recently in Berlin for over a week, and made my own card to carry in my purse. One server was even kind enough to correct my poor grammar! I found that as long as I ate in places that cooked to order, kitchens were accommodating and considerate. Of course, Germany isn't France, but I imagine the French will take you seriously if you make yourself clear. Calling or emailing ahead is always a good idea, too.

        One thing to note, I felt this definitely required budgeting and planning, because I was unable to eat just anywhere. You likely won't be able to grab a quick bite in little cafes, because much of the food is made ahead and wheat based. I did end up with a protein and a salad at a few places until my traveling companions grasped that I required an actual restaurant, and preferably to make reservations specifying my needs in order to get much in the way of carbohydrate. Don't forget about cross contamination, too, because if your crepe is made on a griddle that also makes wheat based crepes, or the same ladle is used, that's damaging, too. I am glad to hear you aren't symptomatic, because, well, at least you won't be sick on a business trip... good luck!

        1 Reply
        1. re: amyzan

          I did use those cards when off gluten whilst awaiting my biopsy (takes months here to get in) and during that time was in Italy, Slovenia and Croatia where they definitely came in handy. It was not a good sign when after reading the cards people looked totally clueless! After the first few places we started to get the hang of it but you're right - you must plan like crazy! Every morsel that goes into your mouth must be well thought out. Once I find out where we all we are going I will definitely email each restaurant to alert them of this. Thanks for the reminder re crepes! So they do GF crepes? That would be a great help!!

          After our week in Paris my husband and I are heading to another country for two more weeks (unsure which yet but somewhere in Europe) so will be getting plenty of experience!! Plus we own a house in Croatia where, thankfully, we are able to do our own food prep (mostly grilling fish and such).

          Amyzan, thanks for your help! At first I was quite frightened of the prospects but I think it is also because I was just diagnosed last week and SHOCKED at the results. It takes awhile for something like CD to sink in. I mean, I LOVE gluten so much!!!

        2. We were in Paris for a week last September, my wife requires GF and and provided you explain things first up you will have no problems. There is usually something on the menu that is OK and the waiters are extremely helpful. My wife often ordered duck, but be careful of any jus and don't be afraid to ask about ingredients. Le Cinq, Josephine Chez Dumonet and Cafe Constant are on our list for this September and it is good to hear that Le Cinq has GF bread. Thankyou souphie.

          1 Reply
          1. re: DownUnder

            Juices and sauces at Joséphine are also beyond suspicion, homemade, and they know what's in it. It is unfortunately not the case with many restaurants, that use industrial fonds or sauces. Even some nice ones.

          2. I bought a new book that will be useful to anyone going to France--The Gluten-Free Guide to France. its got tons of restaurants with prices, websites and location stuff. Can't wait to use it when I go to Nice in 2 weeks! www.gfguidefrance.com. Good luck and have fun on your trip. I know I will on mine!

            1. I hav read that Macarons have no flour in them - anyone else verify?

              3 Replies
              1. re: bucksgirl

                It depends. Many, esp the bigger ones, have a bit of flour in them. But indeed, the true recipe is egg white, almond powder and sugar, so they are gluten-free.

                The ones at Renard, like everything in the shop actually, are entirely GF.

                1. re: souphie

                  It is very good to know that Gregory Renard's macarons are gluten free, although I am about to go off sugar too. In my opinion his are the best in town, especially the pomme cannelle.

              2. Sounds like salad and Steak Frites for my family....travelling to the Charentes this summer with two Celiacs.

                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/784213

                7 Replies
                1. re: worldwidestuff

                  Be very careful with the fries. A lot of them, especially the frozen ones, are actually rolled in flour to make them crispy. Even if no label says so, the fries at McDonalds for instance are a big no-no for gluten-sensitive persons.

                  Steaks are indeed safe.

                  1. re: souphie

                    That's a good warning about fries; pommes sautées, on the other hand, should be safe.

                    1. re: souphie

                      Unreal. French Fries. A staple for my family when dining out here in Canada.
                      Maybe we have to move to Europe. And start a GF Bakery there

                      1. re: worldwidestuff

                        Homemade French fries are safe. The "Belgian" ones on rue Saint Jacques, next to the corner of Soufflot, across the street from Bon, for example, are fine.

                        1. re: souphie

                          Not if they fry other foods made with flour in the same oil. It's fairly rare for resties to have a fryer dedicated to just potatoes, but maybe the French have a different tradition? Cross contamination is a real bugaboo for celiacs.

                          1. re: amyzan

                            And for other gluten-sensitive persons, most of which are not even aware that they are...

                    2. re: worldwidestuff

                      Then, there is the whole cross contamination issue, which you may have to explain to kitchen staff. I carried a little translated statement for waiters to take back to the kitchen. Only one restaurant returned an apologetic waiter who said the chef couldn't accommodate me. This was in Berlin last fall. I wish you luck!

                    3. Any updated information on this topic? We leave in 14 weeks for Paris. What is the general feeling towards celiac disease in Paris? Are restaurant well versed in cross contamination? Are they careful? What is the level of awareness?

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: chefathome

                        Hi, Chefathome. Obviously there are gluten intolerants and celiacs in Paris, but chances are you will have to search high and low for a restaurant where the chefs/cooks are concerned about it or even know of such a thing. The first thing they put on your table is a basket of bread. No telling what goes on in the kitchen.

                        David Liebowitz' Living the Sweet Life has a page devoted to gluten free in Paris. You might take a look at that. He suggests Le Potager du Marais, a vegetarian restaurant, and also renting an apartment and cooking it yourself.

                        I will be looking forward to what others who live in Paris have to say on this subject.

                        1. re: forestqueen56

                          Forestqueen, thank you for your information. This trip makes me slightly apprehensive. We unfortunately must stay at the same hotel that everyone else is staying at (husband's business trip) so cannot rent an apartment (which is the route we take when traveleing any other time). I will contact the hotel about breakfasts. The registration for this did ask about dietary concerns and I would imagine that with nearly 1,000 of us there others must have celiac. It cannot be just myself!

                          What goes on in the kitchen does concern me. I will be taking along gluten-free bread and snacks but who wants to do that in Paris?! Le Potager du Marais is an excellent suggestion. I will look into Liebowitz's info again in greater detail.

                          I have been to countries/regions where celiac disease is taken seriously and people do their utmost to help and prevent cross contamination. Some places have even designed special dishes just for me. (Of course before we eat out we contact the restaurant at least 24 hours in advance.)

                          I am curious as well to hear from others on the attitude of gluten-free eating in Paris.

                          1. re: chefathome

                            read Souphie's responses upthread -- I'm not celiac, but I've been much more aware of the issue because of this and other threads.

                            Nobody's denying that celiac exists by any stretch....but it is absolutely not a major concern amongst the general population.

                            1. re: sunshine842

                              Yes, Souphie's responses are helpful. Just wondering whether things have changed in the past year since I asked this because in some places I've traveled to things have progressed in leaps and bounds! Some, not so much.

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  Understood. That is unfortunate. This could be an even more interesting trip than I had anticipated!

                            2. re: chefathome

                              My celiac husband and I just returned from a trip to Paris. We had no problem eating gluten-free. All the restaurants at which we ate were aware of celiac disease and very accommodating. We used our broken French and a gluten-free card to explain to waiters.

                              We ate at L'Arpege (which provided quinoa bread), Septime, Le Chateaubriand, Briezh Cafe, La Cantine de Troquet, Huiterie Regis, Philou, and Astier, among other places.

                              1. re: garfieldpl

                                It must have been a relief to both you and your husband that he was able to eat gluten free without any issues in Paris. I just did not know how celiac aware and accommodating it is. Thank you so much for taking the time to respond and for providing me with names of restaurants that you safely ate at. I will look into them all. This is great info!

                        2. HELMUT NEWCAKE - the cheesecake is divine.
                          36 rue bichat, in the tenth arrondissement, and it is a completely gluten-free cake shop!

                          1. Also - Soya Cantine Bio - 20 rue pierre levée in the tenth - is a vegetarian restaurant with clearly marked gluten-free options

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: heureusement

                              Oh, wow! Thanks so much for this. So glad I can have my cake and eat it, too.

                            2. I would note, late in this thread's game, that Daniel Rose's Spring is gluten avoidant (he being sensitive himself to gluten & food allergies) and on reserving (yes Virginia, you can get in at lunch) and on sitting down you will be asked if you have any food issues.

                              1. Just to let you know we spent a week in Paris, arriving September 27. We have traveled a lot but this had been our first visit to this lovely city. We were impressed by the friendliness of Parisians we were in contact with. Though we were there for my husband's annual meeting, we did have a bit of time to explore on our own.

                                Well, to date Paris has been the most difficult place to eat gluten free but that is mostly due to daily errors our hotel made. The concierge desk and staff were absolutely fantastic but the chefs/cooks got my orders wrong most of the time. As my husband was in meetings the lunches were mainly lovely packed boxed lunches but when I asked for mine I was instructed to pick up a vegetarian box. Obviously this was NOT ok. (I had contacted the hotel in advance, explaining that I have celiac, etc.). Other celiacs at the hotel encountered the same problems. Breakfasts were buffets which I cannot do, either, so I lived off fruit and cheese for breakfasts and lunches. Dinners were mostly planned in advance. This created difficulty. The first place we went to was only able to offer me one item on the entire menu which saddened me. I was nearly in tears because the others at the table enjoy good food but were not food people (except my husband). I missed out on so much!

                                The next few evenings were planned (with the same problems but not as extreme). After the first dinner I had resigned myself to the fact that I would just try to eat safe food - not seek out the dishes I so longed to have. I actually lost 7 pounds in Paris in a week! My husband and I had two dinners on our own which were vastly different (as I had done research in advance). We were able to have veal's head, rabbit terrine, grouse mousse, etc. Finally my Parisian food dreams came true!

                                We bought vast amounts of macarons from a patisserie that were gluten free. The staff behind the counter even had a printed list of what was safe there for celiacs. (I have the place written down - must look up). We gorged ourselves on those things.

                                One of our activities was a cooking class at Chef Martial's Cooking School which was fun. To be honest I did not learn anything (I've been doing this type of thing for years) but it was delicious. Only problem was the Chef added dried veal stock to a gastrique before I caught him. And it contained gluten. :( So, I had my seared duck without the gastrique. I had to grab each and every single ingredient/container to read labels. Some in the group were a touch annoyed but they learned about celiac requirements! I had no choice. (I had emailed the cooking school in advance to discuss.) I could only have a portion of the starter and thankfully the creamy polenta with my duck. Could not have the chocolate tart that was dessert, of course, but the chef had made me a special fruit salad which was very good.

                                If it was not for the food difficulties I would have loved Paris even more than I did. However, I tried to focus on things other than food (which was a switch!). It is not my favourite city in the world (and my husband took the Metro all over the place - we ventured from our group from time to time as we tended to be far more adventurous than most there) but it was beautiful with lovely weather.

                                Will list the restaurants we ate at when I gather that information together (we went to Croatia for a month after that and my info is still not completely organized).

                                Thanks to you for all your contributions to our trip! We appreciate your help. :)