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August 31, 2006

Ooh La La

630 Ninth Avenue at 44th St.
(212) 333-2323


Ooh. We have found a fab French restaurant with a twist that serves a special treat which comes from the South of France and is gluten free. La. La!

Panisses are made of a chick pea dough which is cut into wedges or sticks and fried. You can find them at food stands on the beachfront boardwalks in Marseille, France, usually served in a paper cone.  Although that scene sounds absolutely divine, Marseille restaurant and bar, located in Hell's Kitchen, will transport you to a 1940's French Morocco with its deco decor; dark wood, bright orange walls and red leather banquettes. Entrees range from $17 to $26.

Kaylyn, Marseille's gifted bartender, has celiac disease and knows good food .. she's also a chef.  She has single-handedly educated the kitchen and waitstaff about gluten and its evil effects on people like us.  So, asking questions about the existence of flour in a dish when you are not sure won't result in that disconcerting look of 'Huh?' on your waiter's face.  But of course, mon ami, always have your patient and positive celiac community representative attitude ready, for waitstaff do come and go often in NYC.


Kelly and I started with gf vodka French Martinis (of course).  Kaylyn introduced us to a vodka we hadn't tried before called Ciroc, made from grapes.  Good vodka, and a cocktail prepared avec amour.  We decided on a selection of appetizers in addition to the panisses.  The panisses are a perfectly fried crispy/chewy taste delight, served with a tangy aioli.  To avoid deep fryer cross-contamination, ask politely for your panisses to be fried in the pommes frites dedicated fryer.  Thanks to Kaylyn, they will accommodate us.

Next, Artichokes Barigoule, which is a lemony artichoke stew, was a perfect zippy compliment to the starchy panisses.  Kaylyn highly recommended the Grilled Octopus, which was melt in your mouth, tossed in a colorful sweet and spicy relish.  A champagne vinegar is used for the relish.  In fact, all vinegars used in any of the dishes are either champagne, rice, or pure balsamic (no artificial fillers).

Artichokes Barigoule
Grilled Octopus


Ah, dessert.  At this point, there was a couple sitting next to us at the bar who couldn't help but stare, longingly, at the desserts we were about to devour.  They were very nice, but we would have knocked them off their stools if they got any closer!  Creme Brulee with fresh berries and strawberry champagne granita.  Kelly sacrificed a clear complexion (she gets a rash from dairy) to indulge in this very classic very perfect brulee.  Also, Meyer Lemon Chiboust with citrus confit and blood orange sorbet.  Need I say more?  Non.

More special thanks to Kaylyn, who, on top of everything else, sat down with me and marked up Marseille's menus with symbols indicating the dishes which are gluten free and those which can be prepared gluten free. Study them before you go ..

Download Marseille_menus.pdf

There are so many other dishes that we want to try at Marseille.  They also offer an award winning wine list and a variety of selections from La Grillade.  Steak Frites will be MY next choice.  And what do I expect?  Nothing less than superbe.


Posted by Kim | Permalink


We should all be so lucky to have a Kaylyn wherever we eat!

Posted by: Allergic Girl | Sep 3, 2006 11:39:33 AM

Thank you Kim and Kelly for such a great review!! I just wanted to let other celiacs out there know my schedule at Marseille. I am there tues, thur, fri, sat night and sunday brunch. I am marking menus with symbols for guests as we change our menu seasonally. They should be available for your use within a few days. I will be out of town Sept 11-20, but the staff is more than ready to help you all out!! Looking foward to meeting and feeding you!!! Kaylyn

Posted by: Kaylyn | Sep 4, 2006 8:15:05 AM

Hey Kim, Thanks for posting about Marseille. I would love to check it out. Kaylyn sounds most helpful!

(Kim, I have been trying to respond to your email about the NYC celiac meetup at Sacred Chow but your email keeps bouncing back saying "mailbox is full: retry timeout exceeded". Please contact me so I can send you my review! Thanks)

Posted by: Erin | Sep 5, 2006 1:54:28 PM

I really like Ciroc as well. My ever vigilant boyfriend discovered that there are two new grape vodkas. Idol vodka is also from France. Roth vodka is from California grapes.

I really enjoyed the Roth, but didn't get a chance to open the Idol my last trip to see him.

I tend to stick to potato vodkas most of the time.

Posted by: Jenn | Sep 6, 2006 9:09:46 AM

I ate at Marseille last night and had some comments to share, before anybody makes reservations or gets their hopes up for deep fried goodies and safe French cuisine.

First off, the ambiance is very nice and my waiter was friendly and helpful. The staff in general was very nice and efficient.

After dreaming of fried chickpea dough for weeks, I finally made the trip cross-town. Upon ordering I encountered some problems when I asked if the panisses could be fried using the pommes frites dedicated fryer (as indicated in the initial blog post). My waiter was very nice and accommodating and said that he'd ask the chef about my request. He returned with some bad news, saying that the chef (whom he said was Katlyn's boyfriend) said the article I read was incorrect and they DO NOT have a pomme frites dedicated fryer. Cross-contamination could not be prevented, and my dreams of chickpeafattyfriedfun were dashed. They use the pomme frites fryer for other fried foods and "would not throw out their oil to accommodate one customer". This wasn't said rudely at all, just matter-of-factly, and of course I completly understand. Needless to say I was bummed at this news and replaced my order with the artichoke dish described in the blog post (Which sadly, was about 1 and half artichoke hearts, straight from a jar, spritzed with lemon and plopped into a small plate. Ok, I’m exaggerating the simplicity, but those were absolutely artichoke hearts taken directly from a jar).

My duck was anti-climactic at best, and came to the table with a lovely, but inedible fried piece of stuffed phyllo dough. My hay-eating friend really enjoyed it...and she also enjoyed the adjoining pieces of duck that I couldn't eat because of the glutenny treat they were served under. The meal I had been looking forward to for a month turned into a jarred artichoke heart, four small medallions of tough duck breast, and a table spoon of mashed potato. Of course I gobbled everything up in three seconds, because, heck, its food I didn't make for myself, for once.

Even though I was disappointed, the staff was very nice and the place seems like a great night out...especially for hay eaters :)

Thanks for the great blog, you're doing a wonderful service!

Posted by: JG | Sep 20, 2006 7:37:29 AM

OH NO!! That's crazy! We are looking into this right now and we'll get back to you asap. Thanks for the scoop.

Posted by: Kelly | Sep 22, 2006 1:18:09 PM

DO NOT GO TO MARSEILLE! A Celiac horror story..

After reading your review my celiac gilfriend and I went tonight to Marseille with high hopes of eating panisse etc. This was supposed to have been a very special night.

After much miscommunication with our waiter I got the feeling that he wasn't quite understanding the whole celiac thing. I went over to the nice lady behind the bar, Kaylyn. She was very helpful. We put in our order with the waiter, making sure that nothing would contain gluten. Strangely enough, the waiter told us that he was unsure the chef would listen to his request for separate oil. It's probably not a good sign when the waiter tells you he doesn't know if the chef will listen to his request. But we said not to worry because Kaylyn reassured us that even if it was made in the same oil the panisses had never upset her.

Unfortunately we never got to try the panisse.

Out came my girlfriend's endive salad. She enjoyed half of it until she discovered at the bottom - a CROUTON.
After attempting to lie, and getting angry at us for being so high-maintenance, the waiter admitted that there had been several croutons on top of the salad and that the chef had taken them off.

Don't worry, he said, it's just a few crumbs.

Kaylyn tried to be helpful and was undestanding when we walked out. We're home now and my girlfriend, who has to fly out tomorrow morning, is feeling pretty lousy. Not a nice way to spend our last night together for awhile.

I'm sure that Kaylyn, as a celiac, understands the importance of getting her point across to the kitchen. I'm sure she also realizes that good feedback on this web site (which we check all the time) is good for business. Hopefully she can work harder on communicating with her kitchen.
Until then, celiacs be warned.



Posted by: Mark | Sep 24, 2006 6:16:40 PM

I hate to say this, but I'm not at all surprised. I adore the celiacchicks, and what they are trying to do is great, but I have seen this sort of thing more than a few times--overly credulous behavior that leads to mistaking gluten-free for, well, frankly, rather glutenous. The worst example to me was the stubborn insistence that a puffed wheat indian bread, chole batura, was gluten free. Restaurant owners lie, people exaggerate, and that's why, frankly, gluten free people should, for the most part, probably NOT ever eat in conventional restaurants. I simply don't believe it's safe.

Posted by: dr. annie | Sep 26, 2006 11:21:39 PM

First off, it's a shame these comments are buried under an old story. I hope readers are taking note and not getting their hopes up.

Sadly, I agree with Dr. Annie. I worked my way through college in all sorts of delis, greasy spoons, and rated joints in Manhattan. While my experience is New York-centric, the some of the lessons I learned are universal.

Here's some things to remember about any restaurant:

1. The staff usually, if not always, hates the customer.

2. When you make a special request, no matter how politely you ask, you identify yourself as a problem. This allows the staff to focus their general hatred of customers onto you, "Mr/Mrs Special Needs".

3. If you send something back, you're going to have the same thing returned to you with some crude modification done to it as to meet your requirements in the shortest amount of time. Just like the salad entry from above... they will remove the croutons, curse you, and send the salad back. The urban myth of spitting on returned food (or worse) really does happen, but usually the fastest thing to do is re-arrange your food and send it right back.

4. Running a kitchen is all about "point-of-sale" and "food cost percent" (Read Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, its a bible for current and former food slaves). The fact that you get sick and won't come back is better for them than altering their menu, replacing already cooked food with new food, or wasting time in a busy kitchen dealing with our issue. Profit margins are slim enough without time and food being "wasted" dealing with a special needs customer.

6. Waiters do not want to be educated about our condition. The time you spend explaining that your cilia is harmed by even the slightest amount of gluten found in barley, wheat, oats, soy sauce, etc, takes away time from their smoke break. They will nod, smile, listen intently, and not give a damn about whatever it is you’re talking about. They are trying desperately to remember what table four asked about, and how the chef wanted them to describe the specials. They want you to sit down, order, shut up and leave a nice tip. That's it...and if you don't come back, good, one less "problem customer".

Go out with your friends, enjoy yourself, but never trust a waiter or a chef. Use your restaurant time to scout new food ideas. If I see something on a friend's plate that looks interesting, try to make it yourself at home with ingredients you trust. One of the blessings of being diagnosed a Celiac is that you're forced to become your own chef.

Thanks again for the great blog, even as a celiacguy I find it informative and entertaining :)

Posted by: JG | Sep 27, 2006 11:31:32 AM

CeliacChicks.com is a personal blog about how we cope with a gluten-free lifestyle and at the same time try to enjoy it. Is there risk of accidentally ingesting gluten while eating out at restaurants? Yes, there is. We like to think of it along the same lines as relationships. There's always a risk that someone will lie, rip your heart out and stomp on it, or even worse, turn out to be Ted Bundy and kill you. Is the healthy reaction to be so afraid that you never open up and trust anybody? This is ultimately a personal decision. We have decided that it is worth the risk to be pioneers of a food movement in order to find tasty food, help establishments become more aware of the millions of us that are restricted, and continue to enjoy the social interchange that dining has always offered. Yes, sometimes people lie, sometimes they don't get their facts straight or there is miscommunication. Mistakes will be made. To err is human. We don't allow these possible negative factors to stop us from trying. Does this mean that we act with "overly credulous behavior?"

The Chennai Garden "Chole Batura Incident" was sad and unfortunate. Many visits, many confirmations and lots of followup with the owner and kitchen told us that their version was gluten-free. Since then, the owner has changed his tune and will no longer make this claim. The only reason he'll give is that he was threatened to be sued by a patron that insisted on being allowed into the kitchen to see for herself. Something is definitely fishy, but does this mean that all of the other exceptional gf Indian dishes they offer, like the dosas, should not be enjoyed by us? That is for the individual to decide.

We do eat at GFRAP restaurants most of the time, but we've always been motivated to explore and find new ethnic foods or establishments that may be willing to work with the celiac community. It is important to mention that most of the GFRAP restaurants came to be by way of friendly celiac patrons who explained their plight and helped the management to understand their restrictions. We had a similar experience with Rice. We found the name intriguing, tried their food and like it, and then started speaking to management about the gf menu advantage. There were mishaps along the way, but eventually, after a lot of diligent research about manufacturer's products and gluten facts on celiac.com, they finally created a separate gluten-free menu. This is the kind of experience that keeps us sharing our adventures with you, our readers. Like Lewis & Clark facing danger along the trail, we are willing to face intestinal danger, driven by the possible rewards. Others can benefit from these discoveries if they choose to do so.

In regards to Marseille, we are thankful that someone like Kaylyn, is willing to take on the challenge of educating her employer and fellow employees. Getting management to believe in your cause can be tricky, and then indirectly managing fellow employees can be even trickier. Should we give up on Marseille? We think the possibilities are great if we show our support rather than strictly our criticism. Perhaps for now it is better to stick to the appetizers and eat them at the bar during Kaylyn's shift, which will enable her to personally send instructions to the kitchen. When we write about a place like Marseille, it is the beginning of a work in progress. Consider it like reading our dining diary and if you dare to follow in our footsteps, you are welcome, but we are not trying to coerce you.

We are not alone in our quest to dine out gluten-free. Most respected experts on celiac disease encourage dining out, with caution. Dr. Greene's book, Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic, contains an entire chapter on eating in restaurants and while traveling. Included in the list of guidelines (p.225) is to "keep a positive attitude along with perseverence." Let us remember the definition of perseverance: steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. Another tip is, "If you eat out regularly, frequent a few favorites and develop a good rapport with the owner/chef/headwaiter. Go there with your friends - more customers. Work with them to develop dishes you would like to eat."

Believe us, we know how very lame it is to have a bad restaurant experience, AND to get sick from a restaurant outing. Maybe those with very gluten-sensitive tummies would be wise to stick to GFRAP restaurants, especially if you're out for "a very special night." Whenever we speak with the cool chicks at GFRAP, they're always on the lookout for ambitious people with infectious enthusiasm to become GFRAP liasons.

By doing what we do, we hope to help and/or inspire all of you to convert any negative energy caused by these frustrating experiences (which we all have to deal with from time to time) into a motivating, positive spark to further the cause, if only in small ways. We respect your opinions and we always welcome your comments.

Posted by: Kim & Kelly | Oct 1, 2006 8:15:11 AM

I feel compelled to respond to JG comments above about eating out with special needs.

As an *allergic* diner, who has both fatal allergies and intolerances and who eats out at least 5 nights week, I think JG must have worked in some of the worst joints in town. And in that respect, yes that is all true--don't trust your waiter and order as simply as possible, almost as if you were in a foreign country.

But really the more upscale you go that should never be the case. Case in point, I interviewed Chef Franklin Becker from Brasserie and asked him that very question. Here's that exchange and I think it’s VERY helpful to hear it from a Chef’s mouth.

Q: "How do you feel about special needs diners?"

A: You have to take care of them; you have to accommodate them.

Whether diners have special needs or not, they're coming to your restaurant and they trust you to prepare food for them. They trust you with their lives because they can get sick from a bad clam, for example.

But for a special needs diner, you have to take their allergies very, very seriously. You have to make sure the diner is well cared for and then you have that diner for life. They're going to come back over and over and over again because they know that when they come to your restaurant, like Brasserie, they're safe.

Q: "Sometimes, when I communicate my food allergies/intolerances, I get a "why did you bother even leaving the house" attitude from my server. What should I do?"

A: If you go to a restaurant and that's the feeling they give you, you should get up and go someplace else because they don't deserve your business.

If that's their reaction to you, odds are your needs are not being communicated to the Chef correctly and there's a good chance you are playing Russian roulette with your health at that restaurant.

Posted by: Allergic Girl | Oct 3, 2006 1:53:01 PM

I was really saddened to read some of the posts. I was diagnosed many years ago, before the proliferation of Low carb diets. I travel extensively and eat out quite often and rarely have I had a problem. But I truly believe that it is how our issues are presented. And if I ever feel that the waitstaff does not understand or respect my needs ( which is usually evident pretty quickly), I don't tempt fate and try to have them change all of the recipes in the kitchen. I would bet that us celiacs have learned to appreciation real ingredients more than most people- because so often we skip the sauce and the dressing. And if your instincts tell you that something is too good to be true- it is. Don't eat it. I also don't try to educate about celiac disease. I simply say that I have an allergy. Pretty much everyone gets that.
Marseille is a wonderful restaurant. Thank you Kaylyn.

Posted by: Amy | Oct 29, 2006 5:22:44 PM

I ate at Marseille last night, despite reading the comments above and being nervous! The whole crouton at the bottom of the bowl has happened to me before at another restaurant and it was awful; this was at Sardi's - where the waiter told me not to "be upset" because it was "all in my head". I spent my $100. Broadway ticket, lying on the bathroom floor of the theater. Needless to say, I received a very large gift certificate after I called the Manager and went ballistic about it.

I have to say that my experience at Marseille last night was a great one. My waitress knew exactly what I was talking about the minute I said "gluten" (instead of staring at me blankly, prompting me to go on and on about what gluten is...) and was very helpful. I felt totally comfortable, and the food was great (I had the chicken, and creme brulee of course). I will definitely be going back.

Posted by: Christie | Nov 9, 2006 10:58:26 AM

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