Bread is one of many, many reasons I love visiting Paris. Amazing fact: 32 million baguettes are eaten daily in the country of France. I'll let you in on a little secret...a million of them are eaten by me. But for someone like my husband who has a gluten allergy, a trip to France—proud home of baguettes, croissants, tarts and profiteroles—can feel pretty daunting.
Even though I don't eat a gluten-free diet myself, I love to scout out gluten-free places so Josh can enjoy local foods when we're traveling. Josh was diagnosed with Celiac disease about 10 years ago, so he has to be pretty careful with what he eats. It's fairly easy for him to monitor meals at home, but having a food restriction gets tougher to manage when we're traveling.
Fortunately, there are some simple ways you can make it work. If you or someone you are traveling with eats gluten free, I recommend learning how to ask some basic mealtime questions in the native language of the place you're visiting. For example, before we got to Paris, I practiced saying "Does this have gluten in it?" (Ce la a'til du glutine?) and"Without gluten, please!" (Sans glutine, s'il vous plait!) so we could better communicate his allergy and do our best to avoid sounding like demanding tourists. It was also helpful to know the words for flour (farine) and bread (pain) so I could better describe what it meant to be gluten-free.
Here I am at Bistrot 65 (formerly called Tournebievre), one of my favorite bistros on the Seine. They have several gluten-free dishes, outdoor seating, candlelit tables and a perfect view of Notre Dame Cathedral.
"But, Ashley!" you say, "What is Celiac disease?!" Basically, it's an autoimmune disease where some people's intestines haaaaaate the protein gluten that is found in grains like wheat, oat and barley. When people with Celiac disease ingest gluten, their small intestine acts like a castle wall being breached by a Viking invader. The immune system rallies fight against the tiny protein, which leads to painful and uncomfortable intestinal pains. For some people with Celiac disease, it's dangerous enough that they need to get to a hospital if they accidentally ingest gluten.
Here's Josh the exact moment he realized eating an entire bag of biscotti that a coffee shop had incorrectly labeled as gluten-free. Needless to say, he was pretty sick that afternoon in Venice.
To avoid uncomfortable situations like the one in we had in Italy (photo above), we try to be really careful about the ingredients in each dish we order. That's why finding an entirely gluten-free restaurant (where every dish the kitchen makes is gluten free) is such a relief. So before we went to Paris, I used Google Maps to research popular gluten-free bakeries and restaurants.
Meet the best gluten-free bakery in Paris: Boulangerie Chambelland Paris
If you haven't fallen in love with Paris yet (check your heart), you will after eating at Chambelland, my favorite 100% gluten-free boulangerie in Paris. It's located a few blocks from the Parmentier metro stop between the 3rd and 11th arrondissements.
I've considered smuggling bricks of their 5-Seed sourdough loaf back into the United States,
but I never have enough room in my suitcase.
In normal bread, gluten in the wheat helps the dough stick together. That's why gluten-free bread, lacking that binding agent, tends to be dry and crumbly. Chambelland, however, has developed a secret recipe for bread with the most spectacular crust, consistency and crunch. The restaurant serves other items like soup and coffee, but the bread is their crown jewel. It's chock-full of nutritious goodies like figs, sunflower seeds and hazelnuts. Because they use such a unique combination of gluten-free flours and ingredients, the bread has a nice outer layer that yields an audible and oddly satisfying <CRUNCH> when you bite down.
If you are gluten-free and happen to be in Paris, this boulangerie will become your home away from home.
Chambelland's motto is appropriately, "In Crust We Trust," which they have printed on adorable yellow pins at the counter. Of course one of those pins flew home with me to Santa Monica and will live out its days on my farmer's market tote bag.
Here you'll find my dream meal.
Chambelland fulfilled my lifelong fantasy of sitting in a cozy French cafe with nothing to do other than enjoy a warm mug of coffee and a platter of fresh bread, fruit preserves, local honey and salted butter. It's also so much fun to actually share food with Josh! It's totally heartwarming to see his eyes filled with child-like delight as he bites into one of their famous gluten-free chocolate chip cookies and marvel earnestly at its crunchy consistency.
Chambelland is serious about avoiding contamination with gluten. So serious, in fact, that they built their own mill in Haute-Provence where they produce their own flours, made from rice, buckwheat, sorghum and millet.
If you've ever seen a French movie, you've seen a scene of a guy strolling the streets of Paris with a baguette tucked under his arm. I saw this scene ACTUALLY play out at Chambelland. This is a popular local spot and I swear to you, I saw a guy tuck a loaf of bread under his arm while the Amélie soundtrack played sweetly in the background. Okay, so the soundtrack part isn't true <sigh> but I heard it in my own mind whenever I saw a Parisian carrying a baguette out of Chambelland. Believe me, the French don't seem to be curbing their carbs by cutting out bread and I am HERE FOR THAT.
I know I've been writing obsessively about their bread, but if you're hungry for a more substantial meal, they do serve up lots of other gluten-free options like soups and sandwiches. Bu whatever you order, you have to leave room to sample a few of their pastries for dessert.
Here are just a few of my personal favorites:
1. Brownie Cookie/brookie (their own special name, not French)
2. Chocolate tart/tarte au chocolate
3. Chocolate chip cookie/biscuit avec pépite de chocolat (below)
4. Apple tart/tarte au pomme
5. Lemon meringue tart/meringue au citron
6. Poppy seed cookie/biscuit aux grains de pavot
7. Coconut macaroon/macaroon au coco
8. Cream puff with Chantilly cream/chou avec creme Chantilly (below)
9. Chocolate cookie/biscuit au chocolat
10. Sugar bread loaf/pains de sucre
11. Dough with sugar pearls/chouquette
Yes, I've tried each and every pastry above and honestly the reason I don't have photos of all of them is because I was more focused on eating them. Sorry. Again, everything on their menu is gluten-free and everything is amazing. There are lots of wonderful boulangeries and sweet shops in Paris with gluten-free options (check out my list below!), but Chambelland is simply a cut above the rest. Pro Tips: - If they don't have gluten-free bread at your hotel for breakfast (they probably won't), I recommend coming to Chambelland on your first day in Paris and picking up a loaf to keep in your hotel room.
- Enjoy a complimentary glass of water from the dining area to wash down your smorgasboard of pastries - Be respectful of others' space and mindful of your conversation volume, because there isn't a ton of indoor seating - If the weather is nice, grab a table outside!
- Be better than me and remember to bring a loaf of their 5-Seed sourdough home with you
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