Monthly Archives: August 2014

Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free at Le Pain Quotidien, NY


I went for a lovely lunch at Le Pain Quotidien when I was in New York. The bakery chain that focuses on serving classic, rustic loaves, started in 1990 in Brussels. It quickly grew to an international one, opening 200 locations throughout the world, including UK, US and Australia. There are bakeries, bakery classes, books and products (including foods, dinnerware and furniture).

The bakery grew from Alain Coumont’s vision of sharing freshly-baked traditional bread. The sense of community is key for Le Pain Quotidien and they say it is “what nurtures, inspires and feeds the soul.” The first bakery was build with a communal table with wood salvaged from the floors of retired Belgian trains. And the communal tables – made with reclaimed wood – have become their centerpiece.


The menu is lovely, albeit very light on gluten-free options. There’s a range of Hot Dishes, Tartines (Belgian open-faced sandwiches), Salads and Sharing & Small Plates. They say that they keep it simple by starting with fresh, wholesome ingredients and sourcing organic and locally where possible. Vegan dishes are highlighted, as are the dishes that have a gluten-free option or can be made with gluten-free ingredients. All of the tartines could be made with gluten-free bread and there was also a gluten-free/vegan Six-Vegetable Tart, with artichoke, vegetables and tofu on a gluten-free buckwheat crust, so I ordered that.

It was delicious. The crust was full of buckwheat-nutty flavours and the artichokes and all the different vegetables created different layers of flavours and textures. It came with a salad – and there was some seriously good olive oil for drizzling over. Really delicious. But also a very small portion!

It’s great to go to a place that takes free-from diners seriously. But, in truth, a place is only as good as the people who work in it. One woman told me I could have the spelt bread, when I asked whether they had any gluten-free bread. I told her that spelt wasn’t gluten-free but that was clearly news to her…

Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free at The Greenhouse at Wild



Opened by Miki Agrawal who is intolerant to pesticides, hormones and additives, Wild is dedicated to giving people a positive environment to eat nourishing, yummy food, and offer true peace of mind. That’s a tall order! But, with their careful focus on better-for-you-food, made with organic, additive-free and gluten-free ingredients – and beautiful environment – I think they manage it.

Miki calls herself a serial social entrepreneur. Since opening Wild in West Village, followed by Greenhouse at Wild in Williamsburg and now in Lass Vegas (and setting up a franchise of the business and writing a book), she is spreading her net. Her next undertaking is Thinx, an alternative underwear that funds getting Ugandan girls into school. And she’s also a partner in Super Sprowtz with her twin sister Radha, which is a children’s media company to get kids to eat more vegetables.

Greenhouse & Wild Vegan-Pizza

The food is healthy food at its very best. Truly. And they’re phasing out the few gluten-containing dishes they have, so that all the dishes will be gluten-free, too. There are dishes such as Seasonal Soup, Wild Salad and Kale Caesar Salad. There are gluten-free pasta dishes, such as Penne Pomodoro. And there’s a wonderful range of pizzas – all of which are gluten-free and vegan (and made with wild yeast). The day I went there was a choice of Skinny Bitch, Pear, Fig & Gorgonzola, Wild Mushroom & Truffle, Spicy Prosciutto and Vegan BBQ.

They made me a Pear and Cheese pizza. With a crunchy, crispy gluten-free base, and with vegan cheese. It was a delightful mixture of sweetness from the pear and salty savouriness from the soya cheese. And the thin base was fantastic. I just wish I lived in NY, nearby, so I could get takeaways from there regularly!

Greenhouse at Wild is at 340 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211

Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free at Caracas Arepa Bar, Williamsburg, New York



My friend Elinor told me I had to go here when I visited New York. And this was one of the best recommendations. Tucked behind the main streets in Williamsburg, Caracas Arepa Bar is a great experience. It’s hip, but not too hip – and the food is truly delicious.

The Brooklyn restaurant follows on from the the first Caracas Arepa, which opened in East Village in 2003 (and a new one has just opened in Rockaway). Its name showcases the arepa, which is a Venezuelan corn muffin/bun. These are gluten-free and usually crisp on the outside and soft in the middle because they’re baked and grilled. They can be plain or filled – and can be a snack or a main meal, or even a breakfast.


There are 12 variations of the Arepa on the main menu – and usually Brunch Arepas with Perico (Venezuelan-style scrambled eggs) and a Special, too. Most of them have wonderful-sounding fillings such as the La de Pernil (Roasted Pork Shoulder, Tomato Slices and Spicy Mango Sauce), or the Playa Deluxe (Pan-Seared Tilapia with Garlic-Infused Oil, Sautéed Mushrooms, Avocado Slices, Pickled Onions and Homemade Herb Mayo). I chose the La Sureña (Grilled Chicken, Hearty Chorizo with Avocado Slices and the Classic and Always Enigmatic Spicy Chimi-Churri Sauce). It was completely delicious. Chicken, chorizo and avocado are classic pairings – and always good – and these worked really well within the corn casing and with the fantastic spicy sauce.


One arepa is not enough. Truly. Even if you’re already full, they taste too good to not try something else. So I did… The Ceviche de Camarón proved irresistible. Shrimp Ceviche with Purple Onions, Green Mango, Red Peppers, Jalapeño, Cilantro and Lime, with Plantain Chips. As they say – summer in a glass. The soft, marinated shrimp with the crunchy onions and pepper were spicy and delicious – and the lime was beautifully balanced. On top of this were fantastic sweet/salty plantain chips.

The staff are assured and knowledgeable about gluten-free/dairy-free. And there’s a great choice of dishes for free-from customers. It usually takes a while to get a table. When I went, during the day, there were a whole load of empty tables, but I was still made to wait for 20 minutes until I was taken to a table. And the evenings get very, very busy, apparently – with loooong queues. But, like many places where you have to wait, it’s definitely worth it.

Caracas Arepa Williamsburg is at 291 Grand Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211.