We all have ways of coping, I use sex and awesomeness. – Jack Donaghy, 30 Rock
Last Sunday in Paris shaped up to be one of those days. The kind where you feel you’d have been far more productive had you remained hidden under the covers and watched back-to-back weepy chick-flicks and testosterone loaded dramas (episodes of Homeland anyone?) with a bowl of popcorn in lap and a mug of tea – or glass of Zinfandel – in hand.
In the “real world” however, we don’t often get the chance to take such a time-out from life to set everything straight. Instead we have to find ways to fill the gaping holes in our hearts and move beyond those crap moments. Sometimes we do this by taking the mind’s attention away from whatever ails us and engaging in a certain activity (sports, shopping, sex, eating, etc.) in order to get the momentary respite and comfort we long for.
My choice of activity involved food. I wanted something rich. I wanted something that was sweet and easy on the eye. I wanted something so heartbreakingly good I would be reminded how pretty little things can indeed make the world a better place.
An awesome place in fact.
In search of that special “something” I made my way from central Paris towards the 10th arrondissement to Helmut Newcake; Paris’ first 100% gluten-free establishment that opened in late 2011. Somehow I felt that I couldn’t go wrong at a café run by a couple with food sensitivities of their own and whose intention is to create food with Intolerants in mind.
The deli-patisserie is cozy and spacious with wooden floors, stone brick walls and dreamy faux-feathers hanging from the ceiling. There’s also a bright and airy veranda in the back where clientele gravitate to gorge on their gluten-free goods.
I spent quite a bit of time in front of the dessert fridge visually feasting on items made with a blend of rice, quinoa and/or chestnut flours. What stared back at me were serious French-looking desserts – cookies, tartelettes, financiers, fondant, cakes – each one more captivating than the next.
My mind screamed that there was no way I’d be able to indulge in any of the desserts, but I asked anyhow and, lo-and-behold, there were a couple items that were both gluten and dairy free. I got quite greedy at that point and snapped up a pistachio tartelette, an “apple pop” (apple-based muffin) and a couple of pre-packaged date bars from the modest gluten-free grocery section.
The pistachio tartelette was fantastic. Laced with red currants it was the perfect size and well balanced in terms of sweetness, lightness and flavour (anyone who has tried baking gluten free desserts knows how hard this can be). I took my time savoring the tartelette and found my mood leveled out with every spoonful. It was working! My food splurge was proving successful; one bite at a time.
I planned on saving the apple pop for later, but I was so taken with the tartelette that I figured there was no point in putting off. I dug into the fluffy and wonderfully packaged muffin and sighed as the first rush of cinnamon hit my palate and was followed by a slightly sour apple flavour. Admittedly, the top was a bit too sweet (thanks to a generous dusting of sugar) but I was so blown away by the consistency and taste that I didn’t really give a damn.
Along with fantastic Intolerant-friendly desserts, Helmut Newcake also serves up two plat de jours based on seasonal and organic ingredients. The dishes – pasta, pizza, quiche, risotto, salad and more – keep celiacs and gluten-Intolerants in the clear though the lactose–Intolerants out there will have to err on the side of caution and inquire as to what is dairy free.
In all, my experience was most excellent and resulted in exactly what I was looking for: a sweet finish to a bitter day that resulted in plenty of pretty little things to admire and some much needed comfort.
Oh, and whole lot of awesomeness.