There hasn’t been much written here recently. This is because I haven’t been at home for the last 6 or 7 weeks. Instead I’ve been in the south of France working and in Thailand having fun.
Both trips where fantastic. In the culinary sense and in pretty much every other way too. And both were, for me as a celiac, at times challenging and at times liberating: I got “glutened” a couple of times and I also managed to enjoy some really delicious food and try some new things.
So I thought I would put up a couple of posts detailing my experiences as a Celiac travelling in these two places: tips and tricks, what to be careful of and what you can (and definitely should) try.
There are a couple of things I should first mention. One: I’m not a vegetarian. I’m the Celiac half and “Vege and Celiac”. Two: I don’t think I’m as sensitive to gluten as some Celiacs are. I think my body can handle very small amounts of gluten without too much adverse effect. So while I always attempt to avoid gluten and have had gluten-accidents that have made me sick, it may be possible that the things I recommend here contain some very small amount of gluten that I did not have any issues with, but that you might.
I might first say that Bordeaux is lovely. I’ve spent quite some time there over the years and I have to say that Bordeaux and the southwest of France are my favourite parts of a beautiful country.
At first I found it pretty tough being in France post-diagnosis. This is after all the home of the croissant and many other delicious, and unfortunately for to us, poisonous things. However there are still lots of good things to look forward to. Bordeaux is the home of the macaron for example. Those are highly recommended – I suggest you double check first with the shop that they are glutenfree though (they should be but you never know).
As a vegetarian Celiac you might have some problems in Bordeaux. Particularly if you do not either eat fish. I suppose it’s not very difficult to believe that a race that forcefeed geese to make their livers tastier (i.e. foie gras), is not really so vegetarian friendly: The French love red meat. As red meat is not a problem for me, my strategy was often to have steak, salad and vinegrette. That was a) almost always on the menu and b) seemed to not ever contain gluten. If you eat fish, you can often (but not always) find good, safe fish options. But other than fish you may have some difficulties.
As an aside, that made me realise that lots of red meat is probably not that good for you. Especially if you’re not used to it: as I am not, these days.
Even though it may be at times difficult to find something (especially if you’re a vegetarian) I still recommend eating out in Bordeaux. There’s nothing quite like sitting in one of the many beautiful squares in the old town, soaking up the atmosphere. Even if you’re just having a coffee. And I would recommend two restaurants specifically. As they both were meals that I will remember for a long time. The first is the Brasserie Bordelaise and the second, Le Plat Dans L’Assiette. BB is really well done regional cuisine and the “Plate in the Plate” is something like French style tapas: so that every dish comes with many different things to try. Both places left me amazed at French food. It’s so simple and yet so, so good. For example the confit de carrot at Le Plat was amazing. I wonder what you need to do to a carrot to make it taste like that?
If you’re really having a hard time then, there are two stores that can help. The first is Auchan, which is perhaps the biggest supermarket I’ve ever been in and has plenty of great fresh fruit and veg and also a small glutenfree aisle. And also a massive selection of awesome cheese. Also something that you should kick yourself if you don’t enjoy as much as possible while in Bordeaux. And the second is Bordeaux Régime a small specialty, healthfood store: they are friendly, speak English and cater for all kinds of specialty dietary requirement including Celiacs. I would for example very often get some crackers from Régime and then some wicked cheese and that would do me pretty well for dinner. Probably not that healthy, but everything in moderation including moderation as they say.
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And I would of course be remiss not to mention the wine. Bordeaux is after all one of the most famous wine regions in France. So if you’re a wine buf, then definitely partake of it’s pleasures. Also I could recommend a trip out to Saint Emillion too to explore the many vineyards there, sample the wine and see the village.