For me, our time in Europe in September can be summed up by this plate of food. Fresh, simple, gluten-free and all my favorite things.
That mini-feast is my dinner from the night we had to empty the fridge in our Paris apartment before heading back to London for one last (incredible!) night. I think I ate my weight in radishes from the rue Daguerre market in Paris (14th) during our stay.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I should begin in London. Better yet, let’s begin with getting to London. After all, the point of my post(s) about Europe is to share with you how we ate gluten-free with little issue while there and how you can, too!
Before we left, I was fortunate to have tips for London from my gluten-free friends Peter Stewart (of Gluten Free Radio) and Kavita Kaul (NYC makeup artist and beauty writer for Food Solutions Magazine).
Kavita enlightened me as to how to make the most of the Tube (love it!) and how to get about in general, not to mention pointers on where to stay. Peter gave me the inside scoop on all sorts of places to visit, most of which I never made it to. The best intentions go awry when one finds herself smack dab in the middle of Oxford Circus or wandering through Hyde Park. Or at Top Shop with a teenage daughter. Or at HMV. Or at a pub on Abbey Road. You get the idea.
Incidentally, there was another G. Stewart on Abbey Road. She was a hyphenated Stewart, which is why I hacked off half the placard.
If you followed my Instagram feed while we traveled, you already know the gluten-free fun started in Atlanta at Hartsfield Jackson airport. If you find yourself there (and hungry), check out the French Meadow in the International Terminal for lots of gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, organic, etc. bites. (You’ll notice we took most of these pics with iPhones, so bear with me.)
We flew Delta, as I always try to do. When booking the flight, I made our special diets meal requests for gluten-free. You can do this online via the Delta website by selecting GFML in the special request section of your booking. Delta offers 17 special meals. If you order a special meal, your food will be served first, separate from the other diners. Everything was labeled and sealed, stored away from the other food cart and trays.
Of course, things picked up a bit in terms of dining when we finally landed in London. There are first-stop priorities, you know.
We were fortunate to be literally across the street from The Portman Gastro Pub with an elegant upstairs restaurant. They knew us by name by the time our stay in London ended! There was no shortage of delicious gluten-free food there!
We had the freshest fruit each day at breakfast.
And many pots of Earl Grey.
We broke up miles of walking about the city and (too much) shopping with simple bowls of bouillabaisse and the like.
These green and white asparagus spears were some of the sweetest I’ve ever tasted. The wine wasn’t bad either (note the shadow from my glass).
I love the handwritten menu and drinks boards you see all over. They were refreshed daily with new offerings.
If you visit The Portman, you can’t miss the resto upstairs. Roast chicken with braised fennel was divine (although the candlelight didn’t help my photography).
And we actually did leave The Portman occasionally, too. :) This was the view outside our hotel. I love geraniums! They were everywhere.
We did some of this and lots of sightseeing! I’ll spare you those pics, though, and keep it to the food.
We absolutely adored Hummus Bros. on Wardour Street in Soho. We started with fresh pressed apple juice. It was so fresh and sweet, it was like dessert! I had a difficult time not chugging the entire glass in one sip.
The house made hummus is served as a base, and you choose from a wide variety of freshly prepared toppings. I had chicken with sundried tomatoes and guacamole. And that’s gluten-free bread and carrot sticks in the background, too! (For gluten-free, avoid the pita bread. The servers and management are familiar with celiac and take care to keep gluten-free orders separate from others.) I really like how they set up their website, too. It allows you to select your allergens to determine what foods on the menu suit your needs.
On the walk back to Oxford Circus (more shopping, thank you very much), we saw this captivating display of hams in a shop window. I had to go inside.
I’m so happy we did! We met the lovely shop manager from Barcelona, such a delight. We sampled lots of ham and he made these flowers for us. They are made from Tete de Moine (literally, Monk’s Head) cheese, an unpasteurized cow’s milk cheese from Switzerland. This cheese is scraped with a tool called a girolle in order to develop its flavor. The gadget is named for chanterelle mushrooms (called girolles in French) because the cheese sliced on it resembles them. I still like to think of them as flowers. :)
Another exceptional food find in London was Leon. There are locations all over the city, but we visited the Regent Street location. I had an amazing lentil salad and crunchy cabbage slaw.
The slaw had green peas, so I was sold! We stopped in a park to enjoy our late lunch (note plastic spoon and paper sack). One of the delights of visiting some place new is allowing oneself the time to sit on a park bench and enjoy a meal, watching passersby. Everyone should do more of that.
Especially this guy. :)
Just kidding. He was guarding the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London (go if you have not!).
Of course, no trip for me would be complete without a visit to Whole Foods London on Kensington High Street. I was like a kid in a candy store – a 3-story candy store, that is! There were escalators inside, and I decided if I shopped there on a regular basis, I would probably wear those escalators out from going up and down to get items I forgot or that weren’t on my list.
We were off to Hyde Park for a picnic, so we picked up some items from the charcuterie and the cheese room (where we found Ticklemore cheese, which I’ve since learned you can get right here in Atlanta at some of our Whole Foods locations).
The store was the same in some ways as our WFM stores here in the US, but very different in others. Love the egg display!
And there was an exceptional selection of gluten-free products! (Sainsbury’s markets also carry quite a few gluten-free items.) I would show you all of them, except we ate them and took absolutely no pictures, mainly because they were things like Nairn’s Gluten-Free Oatcakes (you can see two of these in the upper right of the first image on this page, they are spread with mousse de canard, more on that in my next post) which were consumed at random on the Eurostar train as we traveled between London and Paris – twice!
We picked up this nice Cornish Blush Cider at Whole Foods (from Cornwall, as they stay true to their “sell local” policy) which was so refreshing for our picnic. And that bread, it is gluten-free (also free from dairy, soy, peanuts, tree nuts!) from the Whole Foods bakery – quite possibly the softest most pillowy GF bread I’ve ever had. Ever. We made Kensington sandwiches, which you’ve never heard of because we created them in the park that day. :)
The others also indulged in a few orange cream macaron from WFM.
Dreamy said our picnic day was his favorite of the entire time we were in London. It was his “London moment”, as I say. :)
And unrelated to Dreamy or his London moment, I also spotted this dairy-free creamy Sheese, which I had to share with you mainly because I love the name. But as you can see, gluten-free and dairy-free items are readily available in London, and affordable, too!
On our way out, we spotted these giant meringues in the bakery – the picture doesn’t come close to giving you an idea of their size. They were as large as a grapefruit! We bought one, just because I was so overwhelmed with their size. I picked one with the strawberry swirl (see lower left of the image). We ended up saving it for a train station snack the following day when we went to Paris on the Eurostar (again!). It was tasty, sugary, and we were basically sticky for the two-hour train ride. Sorry to all those folks who touched door handles after me.
After a short nap on the train that whisked us through the English countryside, through the Chunnel (oh, you simply must put this on your list!) and across Western France, we were in Paris at the Gare du Nord changing our British sterling for Euros and embarking on a week that would (literally) change our lives (in a fabulous way!).
Next time, I’ll take you around Paris for a taste of the gluten-free foods we enjoyed there!
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