Eating {gluten-free & vegan} in Lyon, France | Le Café Vert

May 26, 2016

Le Cafe Vert storefront Lyon France

'Gluten-free? That's the same as vegan, right?'

If I hear this one more time, especially in vegan-centric Berlin, I might scream. Admittedly, this dietary niche is often a source of gluten-free eats for those of us whose dietary needs are not a choice, so I try not to take the misconception to heart. And when the vegan spot is charming and French? Well, then I'm even more likely to concede.

Our road trip back from the south of France last month took us through the beautiful city of Lyon, and I of course, had a sandwich ready-made in my bag for our lunchtime pitstop (thank you, Genius bread!). After walking around briefly, we realized that (a), it was freezing and wet and (b) we were there on Sunday, when most things were closed. Heading back to the car to eat whatever we could pick at from our gluten-free French grocery haul, we spied a little cafe that looked open. Upon further inspection, it had a notation for sans gluten on the sandwich board out front. With everyone eager to get out of the cold and the prospect of a warm lunch, we went inside.

We managed a small spot by the window in an otherwise very cozy and bustling cafe. When the staff realized we were American, and that my French would only get us so far, they brought out the chef from the back, who was also from the U.S. and happened to run the place. Josh had a friendly, Midwestern demeanor and a clear passion for his relatively new establishment. He explained that in addition to being vegan and entirely gluten-free (as always, do confirm the absence of gluten if you visit), the concept of the place was raw food. Hummus, seed crackers and salad dominated the modest food menu, rounded out by fresh-pressed juices, coffees, teas and my favorite part of any meal: dessert.

Le Cafe Vert hummus, salad and cracker plate Lyon France

While my companions went for hot coffees and miso soup, I opted for a green juice and the tapas plate, complete with salad, house-made dehydrated crackers and hummus. While this was exactly the kind of fare I needed after sitting for hours on our roadtrip back to Germany, I must admit this isn't my usual kind of spot. But I came away rather surprised. The salad was diversified with kale and carrots, the seed crackers were hearty and flavorful, even the 'vegan cheese', something I am highly against considering my intense love of all things dairy, was surprisingly good. Even after such a satisfying meal, I remained skeptical but intrigued by the 'cheesecake' ordered by the next table over, but I needn't be. Cool, creamy and delicious, the punch of perfectly fresh raspberries and mint leaves just the thing to accompany the slightly citrusy tang of the cheesecake.

This little Lyon spot is so new, it seems it's still finding its footing. The handful of tables inside means it can fill up rather quickly and the electricity that flickers off every now and then only add to the charm. The warm wait staff give off none of that stereotypical French attitude, and chat together in varying levels of French and English. It appears since my visit that the menu is rounding out with more options (again, be sure to inquire about the status of gluten in the kitchen with these changes) and hopefully is gaining more momentum in a culture so dominated by dairy and bread. In addition to being a cafe and restaurant, Josh and his wife Pauline also run Ashtanga Yoga out of the spot in the off hours.

Le Cafe Vert raw cheesecake Lyon France

Le Café Vert
48 Rue Saint-Georges
69005 Lyon, France
Tel: +33 6 52 39 12 23

Take part in #CeliacAwarenessMonth by exploring the hashtag and sharing more about the disease through resources like advocacy organization Beyond Celiac. Don't forget to tag your positive gluten-free food photos and experiences with #celiacdoesntsuck - and help spread the gluten-free goodness!

Eating {gluten-free} in Montpellier, France | La Coutinelle

May 24, 2016

Creamy 4-cheese gluten-free pizza at La Coutinelle in Montpellier France

Finding a restaurant created and run by a fellow celiac is pretty much the holy grail of gluten-free travel - and La Coutinelle in the seaside town of Montpellier in the south of France is no exception. Beyond a kitchen entirely free from gluten, there is an impressive wall featuring gluten-free products ranging from spreads and sauces to a plethora of pasta I haven't seen anywhere else. Add to that the entire refrigerator case full of gluten-free beer, and this might be the most impressive gluten-free restaurant I've seen yet.

La Coutinelle gluten-free beers Bon Samaritain Mongozo Estrella Damm Brewdog Montpellier France

My husband found this gem when researching where to travel to on the southern French coast, based on, as it so often is, somewhere safe for me to eat. While the beach out that way was a bit disappointing compared to the Côte d'Azur I knew and loved, upon arriving in Montpellier for dinner on our way home, we immediately regretted not spending more time there. Walking through the narrow, winding streets to get to La Coutinelle, the city had a Barcelona-esque vibe, with lots of young people out at bars and cafes with friends, spilling out onto the streets. When we made it to our dinner destination, things looked even better.

La Coutinelle weekly new gluten-free beers Montpellier France La Coutinelle gluten-free menu options Montpellier France

La Coutinelle gluten-free menu request for no outside food Montpellier France

The fully stocked gluten-free beer case wowed us as soon as we entered, but then the wall of food stuffs and menu that proclaimed not only that is was a 100% gluten-free establishment, but asked patrons to refrain from bringing any outside food or drink in that could compromise the safety of others, confirmed we had come to the right place. The menu offerings were rather simple, with pizza, appetizers and burgers of an impressive assortment (from beef to fish to vegan), but very French in its decadent details and presentations.

Since we wanted to try everything, yet again, we got an appetizer plate, a traditional beef burger and a pizza to share. Our pizza had a similar chewy crust out of buckwheat to Berlin's Cielo di Berlino, but with the most incredible cheese and creamy, fatty toppings, it almost felt like dessert. The burger was not overcooked, as so often happens in Europe, and the bun was fluffy and flavorful, perhaps the best gluten-free burger bun I've had yet. Going all in, I opted for some dessert as well, and where the apple crisp felt rather lackluster in presentation, it was made up for in simple and satisfying flavor. And of course, there was beer. Lots of gluten-free beer.

La Coutinelle gluten-free appetizer plate Montpellier France
La Coutinelle gluten-free Brewdog and quinoa beers Montpellier France
La Coutinelle gluten-free burger Montpellier France
La Coutinelle gluten-free apple crisp dessert Montpellier France

The owners of this casual little spot were warm and friendly, happy to make accommodations and answer plenty of questions. I could see them take pride in the gluten-free assortments they stocked, and even prouder when they saw how I oooed and ahhhed over all the treats that were safe for me to enjoy. The place was empty at our rather early French dinner time, but filled up pretty well as the night went on. The crowd seemed to be like us, deliberately seeking out free-from foods in a country that was practically founded on bread and cheese. Let me assure you, it is worth seeking out.

La Coutinelle gluten-free restaurant Montpellier France

La Coutinelle
25 rue de l'université
Tel: +33 (0)4 67 60 95 41

Take part in #CeliacAwarenessMonth by exploring the hashtag and sharing more about the disease through resources like advocacy organization Beyond Celiac. Don't forget to tag your positive gluten-free food photos and experiences with #celiacdoesntsuck - and help spread the gluten-free goodness!

Genius Sans Gluten French Baked Goods Product Review

May 21, 2016

Genius Sans Gluten France pastries on counter

Ever since Genius first gave me the heads up they would be coming to Germany, complete with a sampling of its entire German product line, I was smitten. Fluffy, delicious bread that was just like what I'd been eating nearly my entire life, before I even understood what gluten was. What celiac snatched away two years ago, Genius helped bring back. Now I've gotten a taste beyond just good bread... and I want more.

It wasn't until we were practically on our way to our holiday in France last month that it dawned on me: Genius was in France! With products catered to French tastes, visions of daily croissants danced in head while I plotted out every Carrefour within a 20 km radius of our destination. I knew of the pains au chocolat, which had won the Free From Food Breakfast Award in 2015, and have lamented that such a heralded treat was not to be in the German product line-up. But I discovered that this was not all. There was also brioche (one of my very favorite French breads) and Briochettes aux pépites de chocolat, which look to be mini sweet baguette-like rolls with chocolate chips (sadly, they were never found). If you too pine for the days of that illusive, gluten-filled texture of baked goods, prepare yourself as I share with you what I did find...

Genius Sans Gluten France croissant and apricot jam


Who doesn't love croissants? Flaky and buttery, they have the magical power to transport you to a little cafe along the Seine, people-watching all the chic Parisians. That texture and flavor feels so intrinsically tied to gluten, I feared I would never enjoy this French treat again - and all of the store-bought gluten-free attempts at this coveted baked good confirmed this. Until France. So I voraciously tore through every store purporting to carry the line, buying up every Genius croissant that hit the shelves. Technically, these are made without butter (dairy-free for the lactose-intolerant), but after a quick warm-up in the oven, they obtain that perfect balance of light and flaky, greasy and rich, essentially feeling buttery without the actual butter. Since I can indulge in that creamy yellow stuff France does perhaps better than anyone else, I enjoyed my croissants with a healthy smear of salted French butter, which melted into the delicate layers and made this exceptional treat even more of a treat.

Genius Sans Gluten France brioche close-up


Since first discovering brioche on my study abroad summer in high school, they have easily become one of my favorite baked goods. That wonderful texture paired with the light sweetness was my ultimate indulgence, and one that always transported me back to my first trip to Europe. Genius's brioche is a bit different, texture-wise from what I remember about the bread during my gluten-eating days - a bit more dense and spongy - but still completely indulgent and satisfying for a poor celiac like myself that can't actually indulge in 'the real thing'. The slightly sweet loaf is a bit like a cross between a poundcake and an angel food cake, similarly enjoyed as a simple slice with little to no accoutrements. That said, had I scored more of these loaves, I have a feeling they would make the best homemade brioche French toast I will ever have. Here's hoping one day to make that dream a reality...

Genius Sans Gluten France pain au chocolat detail

Pain au Chocolat

I am at a loss for words with this one. I don't think I've tasted anything quite this wonderful since having to be gluten-free, period. It's got the flaky brilliance of a croissant, then the dark, slightly bitter sweetness of dark chocolate, oozing out after being melted in the oven. One bite and it was easy to see why this is an award-winning pastry in the gluten-free world. Breakfast, snack, dessert - this amazing little piece of gluten-free goodness steps in whenever you could possibly want, *ahem*, need it. It is important to note that dairy-containing products are a rarity in the Genius line-up, and while I'm so sorry for those of you who can't get on with lactose, I am supremely happy they made the exception with this one. The chocolate is so creamy and decadent, I'm not sure the same effect could have been achieved without it. I couldn't stop dreaming about the pain au chocolat ever since I heard of its existence, and now that I know what I'm missing, I ask all of your to join me in a letter-writing campaign to Genius to bring these to Germany as well!

Genius Sans Gluten France croissant crumbs on plate

Even in France, where these have been on the market for quite awhile, they are still quite hard to find. I came across the croissants a couple of times, but the brioche and pain au chocolat, only once - not to mention I never even saw the briochettes. Perhaps like Germany, more stock is focused in the larger, more metropolitan cities, but it seems clear that if the demand is there, we should let them know. Contact Genius directly, comment on its posts and most importantly, but the products you can find so they know there are gluten-free eaters out there looking for better taste in their fresh-baked goods. Perhaps one day, we can enjoy a whole range of amazing gluten-free pastries and breads, available at any German supermarket (hey, a girl can dream, right?).

Take part in #CeliacAwarenessMonth by exploring the hashtag and sharing more about the disease through resources like advocacy organization Beyond Celiac. Don't forget to tag your positive gluten-free food photos and experiences with #celiacdoesntsuck - and help spread the gluten-free goodness!

Eating {gluten-free} in Avignon | Risotto & Co

May 12, 2016

Store front plus expansion space of Risotto & Co Avignon France

There is no comfort food quite like risotto. And lucky for us celiacs, it's naturally gluten-free. When I first did research for food possibilities for our trip to Avignon, this was the safest-looking, and frankly, the only, option. Little did I know what a good option it would be.

Like many other undercover gluten-free places, Risotto & Co does not market itself specifically as a gluten-free establishment, but that's exactly what it is. Not only is there an impressive line-up of risottos, but they also offer pastas, starters and desserts, all gluten-free. And if that weren't enough, there's also gluten-free beer and some fresh baked goods that beat out most of what I've tried here in Berlin. The only thing keeping it from being a 100% gluten-free establishment are the regular beers and uncooked bags of gluten-filled pastas for sale.

Gluten-free risotto, pasta, starters and dessert at Risotto & Co Avignon France

Upon arriving late in the evening on our first visit to Risotto & Co, we found a rather small, casual-looking space with a very cafeteria-esque vibe. All the food is offered in a chilled case near the entrance, where the easy menu option is laid out for you: one main + one dessert + one drink = an incredibly reasonable 8,50€. The girl who warmly welcomed us, apologizing for her English in English while I apologized for my French in French, explained we could also sub one of the savory starters in for a dessert if wished, and the speciality juices, wines and beers were an additional small fee from the regular drink line-up. Done, easy. Well... except for having to pick which wonderful-sounding meal we wanted to eat.

Gluten-free beer, polenta, chorizo risotto and lasagna at Risotto & Co Avignon France

Wanting to try everything, my husband and I started with one risotto, one pasta, one starter and one dessert that first visit. The set-up allows for easy carry-out (with a 1€ deposit on the Weck glass everything is packaged in) or easy heating up there at the restaurant in a microwave. This of course means that everything is not made fresh-to-order and there can be some discrepancies in how well each item warms up, but considering the price point, ease and deliciousness, it's a great value. Each warm glass of satisfying risotto is surprisingly filling and the rich flavors are what you would expect from those cream-and-butter-loving French.

After visiting several times, including with family that didn't need to be gluten-free yet enjoyed it all the same, there were definite favorites. The chicken and parmesan with hints of lemon risottos topped our list. The polenta starter was so good, we got it every time. Same with the creamy, delicate strawberry-lavender bavarois. What I wouldn't give for a place like this in Berlin! Another great indicator of its commitment to gluten-free? Fresh baked goods made by the owner, including the best speculoos cookies I've ever tasted. More buttery and shortbread-like than perhaps a German version, these were so tasty, I went back for a second bag to bring home with me.

Gluten-free baked goods and treats at Risotto & Co Avignon France

We were lucky that our visit coincided with the last week it was open before beginning its expansion project into the storefront next door, which means it's unfortunately closed until early June* for these renovations. Trust me, it will be worth the wait.

Risotto & Co
34 Rue des Trois Faucons
Avignon, France
Tel: +33 4 32 76 36 73
Open for lunch and dinner hours*

Take part in #CeliacAwarenessMonth by exploring the hashtag and sharing more about the disease through resources like advocacy organization Beyond Celiac. Don't forget to tag your positive gluten-free food photos and experiences with #celiacdoesntsuck - and help spread the gluten-free goodness!

The 5 Best Gluten-Free Things I Ate in April (France Edition) + Celiac Awareness Month

May 10, 2016

Genius Sans Gluten croissant and jam from France

I've always traveled mostly for the food. After my celiac diagnosis, I've mostly not traveled because of food. The amount of time most people spend researching all the sights and historical points of interest in a destination pales in comparison to the pre-planning that goes into a celiac trying to eat safely while on holiday. Just having a 'gluten-free' label on the menu isn't always enough. How was it prepared? Do the owners understand cross-contamination? What have other celiacs said about eating here? Did they get sick? It's all a careful and exhausting balance, one that can detract from the true to travel: the destination.

With May being Celiac Awareness Month and fresh off a successful (read: no accidental glutenings!) trip to the south of France, I figured I would focus on all things food - and all things French in the coming weeks. I'm starting with my new feature, 'The 5 Best Gluten-Free Things I Ate', to kick off the month and give you a little preview of what's to come...

Genius Sans Gluten croissants and breads at Carrefour France

1. Pretty much the entire assortment of Genius Sans Gluten products

Thinking about this now, nearly a week after the final pastry was enjoyed from my France haul, it makes me cry. Don't get me wrong, I'm so thankful that Genius has come to Germany at all. It's bread and rolls are so much better than anything else we have here. But the delicate textures and flavors of things like croissants and brioche, things I previously resigned myself to never enjoying again, are not only attainable gluten-free, but Genius is already producing them... in France. Ever since I read that its pain au chocolat had won awards, I've started a one-woman campaign on Facebook and Twitter, begging them to bring it to Germany. Now that I've actually tasted it, I'm considering flying to the UK and picketing for these products until they share them with us. Yes, they are that good. Stay tuned for a more thorough review of these baked goods next week!

Maison Bremond apricot-lavender jam from France

2. Maison Bremond Apricot & Lavender jam

Apricot jam has always been my favorite, but when I saw this stuff at a little shop in Roussillon, I knew I had found the accompaniment to the Genius croissants I'd come to love. After the first bite with those flakey pastries, I fell deeply in love. The sweet fruitiness is cut with the perfect amount of lavender that is neither overpowering nor too floral. Pricey stuff to enjoy on the regular, I do plan to order some more to have on hand for more special occasions.

Risottos to eat in or takeaway at Risotto & Co in Avignon France

3. Risotto, Risotto and more Risotto

I couldn't believe my luck that there was a completely gluten-free restaurant in the town we were staying in, which turned to absolute delight upon realizing it was relatively inexpensive, quick and surprisingly delicious. There was chicken risotto, chorizo risotto and perhaps my favorite: a lemon-seasoned parmesan risotto. I cook exactly one risotto at home (Molly Yeh's damn good pumpkin risotto), but this shop has inspired me to work on my own 'hot wet rice' game at home. Stay tuned for my review of this Avignon restaurant later this week!

Creamy 4-cheese gluten-free pizza and Brewdog gluten-free beer at La Coutinelle in Montpellier France

4. The most decadent pizza, perhaps ever

This pizza was representative all great French things: Cheese, cheese, dairy, fat... and more cheese. Unlike a greasy American counterpart, this was super creamy with rich, complex flavor, with vinegar notes from olives and a bit of saltiness from lardons. All that and a gluten-free buckwheat crust? I'm about ready to pack up and move to France! And yes... you did notice a Brewdog beer off to the side there, that is GLUTEN-FREE! What?! This place had the most amazing gluten-free beer selection and needless to say, my husband was in heaven. Enjoying great beer and he got to kiss me afterwards (note: even kissing someone who's eaten gluten can make a celiac sick - sucks, right?). This place is a must if travelling France gluten-free. Stay tuned for my review of this Montpellier restaurant later this month!

gluten-free vegan cheesecake with spoon at Le Cafe Vert Lyon France

5. A surprisingly delicious raw vegan cheesecake

On a stop in Lyon to grab some lunch on a Sunday, most places were closed, save a small vegan spot that advertised gluten-free offerings on the sign out front. I ditched my packed sandwich in favor of a meal with my road tripping companions, and ended it with this lovely little dessert. Cool and creamy, with a hint of citrus, this was the opposite of everything I dislike about traditional cheesecake. Perfectly ripe berries and a mint leaf added little pops of contrast, in both color and flavor. Stay tuned for my review of this Lyon cafe later this month!

Take part in #CeliacAwarenessMonth by exploring the hashtag and sharing more about the disease through resources like advocacy organization Beyond Celiac. Don't forget to tag your positive gluten-free food photos and experiences with #celiacdoesntsuck - and help spread the gluten-free goodness!