But I had decided to "pick my poison." I knew that a French chef's head would pop off if I requested a meal with no grains, no dairy, no soy, so corn, no garlic, no alcohol, no sugar,no potatoes, no tomatoes, no peppers, and no eggplant, so I decided to draw my line in the sand with no gluten (sans gluten, in French) and no garlic. And, of course, I did not order wine.
In her book, "The Gluten-Free Bible," Jax Peters Lowell provides international gluten-free dining cards in 17 different languages ( including Swahili and Thai). The cards state that the bearer will become ill if they eat any foods with wheat, rye, oats, etc. I felt comfortable enough speaking French that I didn't need the card, but I did make a copy of the one in Dutch (fortunately, nearly everyone in Amsterdam speaks English).
Do your homework. I cannot emphasize this enough. I spent weeks looking up menus on the Internet and sending emails to restaurants in both our destination cities (Amsterdam and Paris) and it was so worth it! Most of my correspondents were happy to accommodate me. It also helped to improve my written French and added new words to my vocabulary. For me, half the joy of traveling is in the planning, so the research was not onerous at all.
Don't deprive yourself. This may be a once-in-a-lifetime trip, so sample the native cuisine judiciously as long as it's not something that will send you to the hospital if you eat it. Indulge yourself a little. If dairy doesn't push you over the deep end, pop a Lactaid (but bring some with you because it's hard to find abroad) and sample (not gorge on) the magnificent Goudas in the Netherlands or the creamy Columiers in France.
And maybe pick one thing that you absolutely cannot resist. For me, France's iconic baguettes and croissants were out of the question, but not so the jewel-like macarons in the windows of every patisserie in Paris. Thankfully, these lovely indulgences are made with ground almonds (Paleo!), without a smidgen of grains. They are sweetened with sugar ( not Paleo, but I'm o.k. with small doses once in awhile)and flavored with fruits, chocolate, or spices. Sorry, no macaron recipe here, because they are incredibly labor-intensive (trust me, I know: on a pre-Paleo trip in 2012, Henry and I took a macaroon-baking class. It was great fun, but not something I need to do again). If you are so inclined, however, there is at least one Paleo macaron recipe on the web.
Realize that every place you visit is so much more than the sum of its cuisine. There are so many gifts for the senses, that I promise that you will not mourn the untasted pains au chocolate, brioches, or Brie ( well, at least not for long). After several pre-trip emails back and forth to one of Amsterdam's most highly rated Rijstaffels (Indonesian restaurants which are a remnant of the time when Indonesia was a Dutch colony), it became clear that there was nothing on the menu that did not contain rice and/or soy sauce (which makes me really, really ill), I knew I would have to skip that particular culinary adventure. But truly, the walks along Amsterdam's canals, the Rembrandts in the Rijksmuseum and the spectacular displays of tulips in Kuekenhof gardens more than made up for it. It's hard to feel deprived with so much beauty surrounding you.
Piece of Advice Number 4:
Rent an apartment, rather than stay in a hotel. This gives you the greatest flexibility around meals. We did this in both our destinations, and found ourselves in a lovely little place overlooking a quiet canal in Amsterdam and an elegant (but not pricy) flat in the heart of Montmartre. We took advantage of farmers' markets, delis, wonderful little greengrocers and fabulous rotisserie chicken stands (especially in Paris) and put together our own delicious Paleo meals.
Roast Chicken with Braised Carrots and Radishes
1 organic roasting chicken, 4-5 pounds
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 TBS dried herbes de Provence
1 bunch baby carrots, peeled
1 bunch radishes, leaves and stems removed, cut in half lengthwise
2 TBS ghee or duck fat
1/2 cup water
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Squeeze juice from lemon half over chicken and then place in cavity, along with rosemary sprigs.
3. Sprinkle with herbes de Provence and put chicken on a rack in a roasting pan
4. Roast for 1/2 hour, baste with pan juices, then turn over
5. While chicken is roasting, melt ghee or duck fat in heavy pan and sauté carrots and radishes for about 5 minutes until lightly browned. Add water and cover pan. Braise for 5 minutes, then remove cover. Cook another few minutes until most of the water has evaporated and vegetables are tender.
5. Roast chicken for another 1/2 hour, basting from time to time, then turn chicken breast side up again. Cook for another 20 minutes or so until leg joint moves easily and juices run clear (not pink) when you pierce the thigh.
Dutch Baby with Cinnamon Apples
2 large sweet,tart apples, like Pink Lady, cored and cut in chunks. Do not peel.
2 TBS ghee
1 TBS coconut sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup ghee
3 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup canned organic coconut milk
3/4 cup almond flour
Coconut sugar for sprinkling, optional
2-3 quart capacity oven-proof frying pan or wok (3 inches deep, at most)
1. Melt ghee in large pan; add coconut sugar and cinnamon and stir.
2. Add apple chunks to pan, stir until they are coated, and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until apples are tender, about 7 minutes. Set aside.
3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
4.Put ghee in pan and place pan in pre-heated oven.
5. Put eggs and coconut milk in the food processor, blend, then gradually add coconut flour.
6. Remove pan from oven and pour in batter. Return pan to oven immediately and bake until pancake browns and puffs up, about 20 minutes.
7. Serve immediately, topped with cinnamon apples and sprinkled with additional coconut sugar if desired (Dutch Baby will deflate a bit after you remove it from the oven. Not to worry, it's still delicious).