Our only full day in Paris started out with breakfast at Café Pinson. Cler Hotel does not serve gluten-free breakfast and paying 12 EUR for black tea and a bit of jam seemed a exaggerated. So, we took the metro and then walked past Fée Nature on Rue d’Argout, a place which also serves gluten-free options, but was closed, toward a better offer.
Café Pinson has a vegan, almost entirely gluten-free menu. It’s a cute, stylish restaurant, its interior reminiscent of the sixties and seventies, with several locations around Paris. For breakfast, we chose the so-called formule (get several components of breakfast at a lower price). First up were Madeleines (with cranberries), a coffee and a matcha latte as well as a smoothie made from apples, fennel and ginger. Then, we were brought soy yoghurt with homemade granola. Yeah, it was a lot! And really delicious! The cranberry madeleines came with vegan butter, strawberry jam and a vegan Nutella imitation. While I ate them, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. In my future, I see a madeleine tin. Over two years without the gorgeousness that are Madeleines is just way too long! I need this marvelous treat in my life more often!
Anyway, Café Pinson seems to be pretty well-known with the tourists, because there were a lot of other foreigners getting their gluten-free fix there with us. We would have stayed for a second cup of coffee, except the staff was quite busy, so we chose not to wait, but to take a bit of Café Pinson home. I bought a tiny package (about three servings) for EUR 4,50 and hope to perfect the art of making granola at home with its help. Their granola was truly delicious, which is saying a lot as I’m not a granola type of breakfast-eater at all.
From Café Pinson, we walked to Montmartre, past Moulin Rouge, the Café des Deux Moulins (you may remember it from the movie The wonderful life of Amelie Poulin) and up the hill to Sacre Coeur. We passed by streets with instrument stores and manufacturers and stopped at Blues Guitars France, which sells handcrafted guitars made from old tins and cigar boxes. After a sound demonstration, we walked out yearning for another instrument and almost turned around to buy one.
As much as I love Montmartre, it was unbearable that Saturday, just way too full of tourists and thieves. Thus, shortly after hitting up the area around Sacre Coer, we decided to walk back downtown (buying a bag of chips and some drinks on the way) and meet up with André, who is a fellow Toriphile currently residing and working in Paris. His boyfriend went there for work, and it was no question that André would go, too. (We all kind of hate him just a little tiny bit now, don’t we?) André and I met up on the roof of Printemps (Helene told us to go there to enjoy the spectacular view of the city). Printemps is pretty much the most posh and extravagant department store that I have ever been in. I wanted to go to a bank, wipe clean my bank account and leave all my cash there. Awful!
Just around the corner from Printemps is one of the two Helmut Newcake stores. It’s a gluten-free bakery. They have tartlettes, cakes and other gluten-free baked goods such as brioche and bread. Faced with so many sweet items on offer, I was a bit overwhelmed and decided to treat myself to two tartlettes (Paris Brest and rhubarb meringue) along with wonderful coffee. Helmut Newcake also sells products from Dove’s Farm and has a great tea selection. I almost ended up buying every issue of Niepi, a French magazine dedicated to the gluten-free lifestyle, which they also had laying around. Lack of space in my suitcase and the prospect of carrying the magazines in a plastic bag with me throughout the rest of the day sadly kept me from carrying out this project.
Then, the husband and I said goodbye to André, and drove to the North of Paris (after a short visit to LaDuree within Printemps), to visit Parc aux Buttes Chaumont, which is a beautiful park in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood. The husband had wanted to take me there ever since we met, because he had once visited there prior before we met and fell in love with the area. We then rushed to dinner reservations at Saveurs VegetHalles near Les Halles and had to call there twice to postpone our arrival, because we got really lost. Despite of our delay, the staff was incredibly charming and welcoming and we sat down at their last empty table inside.
VegetHalles is an all-vegetarian and vegan restaurant, which has kindly decided to label all gluten-free dishes. I think they are not very well known with tourists, because I only found them after doing a gluten-free restaurant search on Google in French. Their concept is non-fancy, homemade type, down-to-earth food for the soul. Their interior is simple, but also very warm. The staff consisted of only men, all of them very nice and very attentive. I loved the little metal sculpture, a cook, that showed the specials and which sat at our table until they took it away. I had a really hard time deciding on a dish, because there were so many delicious options in stock. To be honest, the menu pretty much surpassed all of my expectations: a vegetarian restaurant which also offers gluten-free food? Let’s celebrate!
VegetHalles had three different gluten-free beers available (Belgian Sturm dark and blond beers and Bio-Gluten Free beer, made from millet and manufactured by Moulin des Moines) , and we tried them all. The blonde Sturm was our favorite (it can definitely compete with Estrella Daura Damm from Barcelona). Next time we go to Belgium, we will be sure to bring some back home.
We decided on the vegetarian appetizer plate, to share, and were brought mushroom paté with caramelized onions, olive paste, hummus, marinated raw tofu and something involving the taste of sweet apples and sauerkraut. I was about to ask the waiter for a knife, so that I could cut the loaf of bread I had purchased at Helmut Newcake earlier in the day, but he brought me a plate with rice waffles to go along with my appetizers before I got a chance. Woot! My husband and I both greatly enjoyed the vegetarian appetizer and I had to fight him for the mushroom paté and the caramelized onions, which were simply scrumptious!
My main dish consisted of “chicken” nuggets (a really great meat imitation made from soy, mind you!), white rice, a peanut-based sauce and a side of spicy red lentils. I’m always happy when a restaurant serves protein to vegetarians, and I greatly enjoyed this rustic meal with so many different textures. The husband opted for a large vegetarian hamburger (not gluten-free) and fries (also not apt for celiacs). He loved his meal and told me about five times just how happy he was to have eaten it. We thought about coming back to VegetHalles for lunch the next day, but unfortunately they were only serving brunch and we wouldn’t have been able to order from the menu, so we skipped this plan as well as dessert, because we were so stuffed!
I can definitely recommend a visit to all the places mentioned in this blog entry. If you are a vegetarian celiac just like me, a visit to Saveurs VegetHalles is a must the next time you are in Paris! Of course, go eat cake at Helmut Newcake and enjoy the Madeleines at Café Pinson, but if you want to eat with the French and be in a non-touristy, laid-back place, then check out VegetHalles. Out of all the places we went to, it was my favorite.