Paris with a peanut-allergic three-year-old -- tips for delicious nut-free dining?
July 8, 2012 5:02 AM   Subscribe

We're heading to Paris for a week -- hurrah! Only catch: my three-year-old daughter has a really serious peanut and tree-nut allergy. She needs to avoid anything that could conceivably contain even a trace of nuts. Is she going to have to live off Goldfish crackers, or can we find safe dining options for her and ourselves?

We've got an apartment with a kitchen, so we'll be able to cook for ourselves and prepare picnics. We're also staying near to a Monoprix supermarket, which looks to have pretty decent labeling policies, so we can shop there. But we're raging foodies, and we're eager to find nut-safe options for eating out.

We'd love to feed our daughter baguettes and croissants, but most small bakeries seem to cook pastries that contain nuts. We're also concerned about the presence of lupin in French flour -- apparently it's pretty widely used, and can trigger peanut allergies in a fairly high proportion of sufferers. Are there any good options -- dedicated nut-free bakeries, small places that sell croissants/baked goods but not almond or other nut-based pastries, chains with good manufacturing/labeling practices, etc?

Similarly, my daughter loves crepes, but most of the small street stands use Nutella and hence are off-limits. Any suggestions?

Finally, are there any restaurants (chain or otherwise) that have decent allergy policies? We don't need them to be completely nut free if they take food allergies seriously and have decent labeling. Mrs Morsa speaks fluent French, so she'll be able to explain the situation to waiters/chefs, but we've heard some French restaurants get grumpy about special dietary needs.

So: does anyone have any experience or tips for traveling in France (especially Paris) with nut allergies? We'll be staying in the 5th near the Rue Mouffetard, but would go quite a long way for delicious food.
posted by Yo Soy La Morsa to Travel & Transportation around Paris, France (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Peanut and *nut allergies are very well-known in France now. However, there might not be many bakeries even in Paris that are nut-free. I don't even bother asking boulangeries and pâtisseries any more whether they have gluten-free options, for instance; they tell us gluten-intolerant folk that the "market isn't big enough" to merit gluten-free stuff. I have French friends with children who have nut allergies, and they're similarly stymied (but we're not in Paris).

Look for shops with the word diététique in them. About a dozen years ago, that meant shops catering to people on low-fat and low-sugar diets; nowadays they've expanded to include foods for practically all food allergies/intolerances. Including breads and pastries, though freshly-baked options are minimal. (So the market IS big enough, hrmph :) ) Also, Monoprix is my favorite French supermarket precisely because they're so good with labelling, so good choice there. Try to avoid Carrefour and Casino shops; their own-brand stuff seems to have allergens galore for no reason whatsoever.

we've heard some French restaurants get grumpy about special dietary needs.

This was more the case a few years ago, when shellfish/nut/gluten allergies/intolerances were still viewed with suspicious, raised eyebrows here. A few severe allergic reactions, unfortunately, helped change outlooks. That said, Parisian waiters are some of the grumpiest on the planet – just keep in mind, Paris is the top tourist destination in the world. France gets more tourists than its own population. Anyone would get grumpy with that amount of tourists. In other words, it's not you, it's just life in Paris. Don't take it personally, even non-Parisian French will throw their hands in the air when it comes to Parisian grumpiness.
posted by fraula at 5:35 AM on July 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

The pâtisserie chain Paul has nutritional information, including information about possible allergens, on their website (example 1 - bread without nuts, example 2 -bread with walnuts).
posted by iviken at 6:36 AM on July 8, 2012

Best answer: You might have some luck at the handful of organic bakeries in Paris. Here's a roundup -- Moisan and Keyser are particularly good. I have no idea if they carry nut-free stuff, but they should be able to tell you about their ingredients.

You can also get "traditional" baked goods at many health-food (bio, in French) stores, which all carry gluten-free products as well. Naturalia and Bio-Coop are the best-known.

Sorry I can't help you with the restaurants. I like mine nutty. Have a great trip.
posted by Paris Elk at 7:47 AM on July 8, 2012

If you really want a great dinner out, why not get a babysitter for at least 1 night? Most 3 year olds aren't going to enjoy Guy Savoy anyway. And then you can have family meals for the other times.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:13 AM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

If all else fails, there is now a Chipotle in Paris (18-20 Boulevard Montmartre); Chipotle is our go-to place for food allergy issues. There are no nuts in their menu and by all accounts this holds true for all their locations (ask first of course). Of course it's not French food (I felt ridiculous eating it when we were visiting Texas!) but it should be safe and worthwhile for a relaxed lunch or two. Good luck! Would love to hear a report back.
posted by girlhacker at 9:56 AM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

You can find some answers by searching the forums at Paris By Mouth and that would also be a good place to ask this question.
posted by cushie at 12:17 PM on July 8, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! This is all really useful. We'll definitely check out the diététique joints and organic bakeries.
posted by Yo Soy La Morsa at 3:10 AM on July 9, 2012

Response by poster: Hi everyone -- just wanted to report back.

We generally avoided eating out at restaurants, but were really impressed by the Poilâne bakery on the rue du Cherche-Midi -- they use walnuts in one of their breads, but have good practices in place for segregating nuts both in preparation and during baking, and don't cook with any other nuts. They were also willing to take the time to talk us through their cooking processes and the provenance of their ingredients, and in the end our daughter was able to eat their pains au chocolat, croissants, cookies, etc, without a problem. They also have an excellent breakfast/lunch bar next door which serves their bread and pastries.

The supermarkets were generally fine -- Monoprix was by far the best, but Carrefour also had fairly decent labeling. Oh, and the Bon Marché food hall has a good range of foodstuffs from around the world, so it might worth checking there if you're looking for specific brands that you're familiar with.

Thanks again for all your help -- we had a blast, and ate well.
posted by Yo Soy La Morsa at 5:37 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

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