Macarons in Paris

Once upon a time in Paris, there was a well-dressed young woman traveling with her friends who could not eat gluten. Not eat gluten in Paris?! The horror! The agony! The baguettes and the croissants… oh my! But our heroine persevered. Pastries and crepes may have been off-limits but we’re forgetting one very important thing Paris is also famous for – the macaron. And so, one dreary morning our savvy celiac went out and scoured the streets of Paris (but really had a map and knew exactly where to go) to find the legendary Laduree macaron emporium and Pierre  Herme patisserie, proving that alls well that ends with macarons and a trip to the Paris opera house.

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La Mere Catherine, Paris

sacre coeur at night

Sacre-Coeur by night

Since I haven’t had time to bake anything lately thanks to a full course load this semester, multiple home improvement projects and my job nannying the worlds cutest children, I thought I would finally write a post from… Paris! I visited the city of coffee, pastries and macarons way back in November over Thanksgiving weekend (which, of course, Europeans do not acknowledge). Since my friends and I had missed possibly the best food-centered holiday back home (1. I know its supposed to be about giving thanks and we totally did… but come one, turkey! and 2. I say “possibly” because we all know Valentine’s Day is made for chocolate and who doesn’t like a good 4th of July cookout?) we decided to treat ourselves to a nice meal in Montmartre after an incredible tour of the district with Sandemans which I would highly recommend.

On a dark cold night we learned all about the Montmartre neighborhood, saw van Gogh’s apartment, the Moulin Rouge, and Sacre-Coeur by night before ending at the highest point in Paris which was also home to the first ever bistro that coincidentally shared the name of one of my friends and I – La Mere Catherine. If the history and name alone hadn’t already convinced us to go in, the nice waiter at the front door informing us there was live music inside would have done the trick.

We sat down to red wine and a beautiful piano accompaniment (the instrument played by a beautiful French man, no less) and I promptly pulled out my gluten-free dining card in French – and may I just say thank LAWD for that piece of paper. (Which you can print out for free here!) Our waitress was the most helpful and sweetest person I could have possibly been met with. I wanted to order the combined meal that was both an appetizer and entree and she took it upon herself to personally quiz the chef each time I asked about a dish. A lot of sauce and soup bases in France use flour so this was particularly comforting. After several trips to an from the kitchen, our waitress helped me choose a pumpkin soup, snails in garlic butter (aka escargot) and a entree of steak and potatoes and salad, sans dressing/gravy that had originally been intended for the steak.

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a horribly dark “mood-lit” picture of my steak at La Mere Catherine

The steak was a little dry (I imagine because it was lacking that damned gluten sauce) but everything else I ate that night was heavenly and I felt so well-taken care of that I wasn’t the least bit worried about getting sick. The restaurant does nothing to advertise as gluten-free or celiac-friendly, but I found people all over Paris willing to help me and answer my questions about food. And when all else failed, I got macarons and coffee!

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the absolute best soup I’ve ever had – pumpkin creme soup

If you find yourself in Paris anytime soon and can or cannot eat gluten – I would definitely recommend La Mere Catherine. It’s a little pricey (at least for students! And by that I mean I paid somewhere between 30 – 40 euros for the soup, escargot, entree – which was steak, salad, and potatoes gratin – and a glass of hot wine) but well worth the trip for the service alone. I wish I knew our waitresses name… I mean, she even taught me how to get snails out of their shells to eat!

exotic gluten-free food and I!
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