I’m in love. Not with a man oddly named Helmut Newcake, although I could certainly fabricate a story to that effect. Rather, on a friends advice, I went in pursuit of a gluten free patisserie in Paris. And found it. I’m going back. Maybe every day til we leave.
Food intolerances and travelling don’t go so well together, so when we decided to spend a month in France, I wasn’t expecting to be able to eat much. No bread. No cheese. No garlic. No butter. I distinctly remembering pursuing the idea that I would live on carrots, eggs and rice. I’ve lived on less.
This is why helmut newcake is such a treasured discovery: everything in the store is gluten free. Everything. And I’m not talking a simple flourless chocolate cake. No. There were chocolate eclairs, passion fruit tarts, lemon meringue pies, salted chocolate tarts, pistachio something’s, Madame de Fontenay’s and so much more. Yum yum yum!
Everything about this cafe oozes cool. It is quaint and homely. Not overly decorated, but simply tasteful. The cabinet of pastry beckons you ‘come, taste and see’. Nothing tastes gluten free, it simply tastes delicious. The tea is served in delightfully small fine china teacups, and the coffee is surprisingly good. Even if you’re not a coeliac or intolerant to gluten, if you’re ever in Paris, this is a brilliant spot for morning or afternoon tea.
La pâtisserie sans gluten.
I’ll be back.
There are a million tiny thoughts circling around the periphery of my mind. I cannot decide which one to grasp hold of. It could be the dreaded farewell of one of my best friends coming up on Sunday. It could be that today I moved out of college permanently. It could be the uncertainty of future friendships. It could be any of the thousand little tasks to be done before Monday. It could be that this time next week I will be in Paris.
They sit there, threatening to jump into my consciousness and overwhelm me with grief or excitement or fear or busyness. Their presence destroys me a little. Partly because I know they are there. Partly because I don’t know what to do with them except wait.
In the meantime, I sit on the worlds most comfortable couch, enjoying the view of a wild green garden, the sound of birds playing in the bird bath, and my mums gluten free, dairy free, fructose free, but curiously not flavour free tabbouleh.
Ah, home. I like it here.
I’m preparing for the digital meltdown. The irony of posting this article, written on an iPad, on my blog is not lost on me. Nevertheless, I have this fascination with bygone eras, especially the ones where traditional skills like carpentry, navigation, and cheese making were common, and where you knew a blacksmith, a cobbler, and a seamstress. In my mind, that place is much calmer than the present, although I know that’s probably not true. Partly in an effort to reclaim lost skills, partly to delight in making fresh cheese, and probably partly as procrastination, a couple of friends and I have been learning how to make cheese.
We started last year with ricotta. It’s so easy. Heat milk. Add vinegar. Stir. Strain through cheese cloth. Voila! Ricotta.
Today we made haloumi. It’s less easy. Heat milk to 34 degrees. Add rennet. Sit in a water bath at 34 degrees for 45 minutes. Cut into cubes. Increase water temperature to 40 degrees. Strain through cheese cloth. Apply pressure. Let sit for half an hour. Chop into large pieces. Poach in whey for half an hour. Remove and cool. Salt. Leave for 2 more hours. Let sit in brine for 24 hours. A little bit more work, but still, voila!
If there is ever a digital meltdown and life as we know it falls apart, at least we’ll have cheese.
Whenever I go on holidays I always get a little nervous about the food. You see, I’m intolerant to most foods, which makes it quite hard to eat out. I never used to have these problems. A group of particularly nasty parasites took up residence in my intestines a few years back when I lived in Mexico City and now, voila, I am intolerant to gluten, dairy, fructose, plus a few other things just for good measure. It’s a lot better than it used to be: my reactions are less severe, I can eat more than rice and boiled chicken, and my mum and I have embarked on a journey of food discovery that has enriched her cooking and my eating. Still, holidays are tricky cause I never know what I’m going to be able to find or eat. Usually I just resolve myself to feeling ill and eating whatever I want (much to the dismay of some of my more concerned friends).
This time it’s been different. Our first day here in the beautiful Adelaide Hills (I’m totally coming back here one day) we were looking for somewhere to have lunch. Grace mentioned that she had seen an organic cafe up the street so we wandered up that way. Entering the store, we were captured by the smells of home cooked food, and then almost immediately by the gluten free menu. I could hardly believe it! A friendly lunch. But even more than that, there were options! The entire menu was gluten free! I could have a frittata, some risotto, a potato bake, a Moroccan vegetable roll, or soup. All gluten free. All served with your choice of a quinoa salad, a roast pumpkin salad or a Greek salad. Normally resigned to the one gluten free option on the menu, I was stumped. I never get to choose. I usually just order the one gluten free option. I had almost forgotten how to make a choice at a restaurant. I settled on a pumpkin and tomato risotto – gluten and dairy free. It was delicious. Dessert was, of course, compulsory. Again the choice baffled me. I settled on a lemon tart. It’s been so long since I’ve had a lemon tart that didn’t make me ill. It was great.
We returned for lunch today. I just had to go there again. This time it was pumpkin soup with gluten free bread (normal bread wasn’t even an option). I realised that pumpkin soup is comfort food. It is something I miss. Dessert was a chocolate and raspberry friand. So so tasty!
Finding Ruby’s Organic Cafe has been such a delight. Sometimes I get frustrated with my limited diet, I just want to go out for Lebanese or Italian or Greek or Thai or Mexican (the irony of not being able to eat the food that gave me these intolerances is not lost on me). But even here, in this most unexpected of places, I have discovered that it is possible to make delicious food within limits. I may have even stolen some ideas for meals to make when I get home.
Ruby’s Organic Cafe. You have made this trip that much more delightful. Just another reason why I love the Adelaide Hills.
I like to dream, it’s not a secret.
Sometimes I think I could own a cafe. It would be a cool one, with non-matching vintage furniture and eclectic music playing in the background. I like to think there’d be a vast book collection that people could peruse at their leisure. It goes without saying that there would be a vast tea collection, including my current fave arctic fire; good coffee, and a range of delightfully different allergy friendly cakes and cookies. Just think about all the people you’d meet. It would be the perfect job for people watching. Now all I need to do is find a generous benefactor who will provide me with some land in Nice and persuade a friend to come with me.