A Gluten-Free Haven in Lawrenceville

At WildFlour Bakery-Cafe, chef-owner Marilyn Besner executes gluten-free tartines, crepes, pastries and more with passion and care.

The extra-long slices of baguette come with a slightly charred brown-and-yellow crust that gives the jaw a proper workout before yielding to a crumb that’s ivory in color, offers a yin-clear-through-to-yang of aromas and is flecked with bubble-shaped holes that trap droplets of eggplant-tomato jam.

This schmear of something terribly Provencal atop the tartine is then dotted with feta and chopped black olives and served with a brisk, salty whiff of the Mediterranean Sea.

I lie. Well, about the scent of the sea; that was in my head. Everything else is factual, this flight to the South of France served in a cozy house in downtown Lawrenceville that’s been fitted out as WildFlour Bakery-Cafe.

Tartine at WildFlour Bakery-Cafe

It’s the domain of chef-owner Marilyn Besner, and here’s the part—from the tartines, to crepes, to boules of pumpernickel to pies and pastries of all stripes—you’ll have every right not to believe once you experience WildFlour: It’s all 100 percent gluten-free.

Here, it’s neither a craze nor a trend, but a passion Besner and her crew take to the max of taste, texture and style. The tartines, typically served with a side salad at lunch, offer no visual clue nor conspicuous variant on flavor from a regular baguette topped with something savory or sweet.

Crepes

Meanwhile, WildFlour’s crepes, which on this day I get made with flours of rice and lentil, have the look of a dosa; when stuffed with Besner’s personal preference of a potato-spinach saute, they could well transport you to the Bay of Bengal off the coast of southeastern India. What’s more, the mint-cilantro chutney served on the side is a perfectly balanced rendition of the condiment that Besner happily admits she buys in an Indian grocery. Do yourself a favor and nab as well a ramekin of the house-made muhammara, a red pepper-walnut paste that works with almost anything savory on the cafe’s menu.

Which is a menu focused on breakfast and lunch, with brunch served on weekends, and breads and pastries flying out of the downstairs shop every minute the place is open. But take yourself to this oasis for no special reason at all other than to while away an hour with a WildFlour Breeze, a smoothie that’s light and bright with lime and ginger backed by jiggers of coconut and pineapple and the faintest pinch of agave. I was worried it’d be too sweet for the tartine and crepe. Wrong.

Apple tartlet

The smoothie did carry through to a trio of sweets I had for dessert: a darling apple tartlet, with a rough-formed crust cosseting slices of baked apple with tinges of caramelization; a pert mini lemon meringue tart, with a graceful filling-to-topping ratio and a shell as flaky as the blue ribbon winner’s in a national Junior League competition; and a double-chocolate super-fudgy cupcake with a generous cloud cover of frosting.

Lemon meringue tart

Double chocolate cupcake

But it was the round loaf of pumpernickel I took home that made me think Marilyn Besner is the Olympic goddess of gluten-free: Dark, hearty and not as dense as typical pumpernickel, it’s got the scent of molasses, a suspicion of sweetness and a whole lot of baking magic. Spread with unsalted butter from Valley Shepherd Creamery, it was better than a birthday cake.

Hmm, I thought, after I downed my third slice: Maybe I’ll get my next birthday cake at WildFlour.

WildFlour Bakery-Cafe, 2691 Main Street in Lawrenceville. Open weekdays, except Mondays, for breakfast and lunch, and weekends for brunch. 609-620-1100; www.wildflourbakery-cafe.com. Note: WildFlour’s baked goods also can be found at West Windsor Farmers’ Market, Princeton University Farmers’ Market and Princeton Farmers’ Market.

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