There are some 300 employees at the French Embassy in Washington, D.C. It’s actually the largest French diplomatic mission in the world, and guess what, all this staff has to eat lunch at some point. I know… there are plenty of amazing lunch options in Washington. But pretty much none near the Embassy which is far far away, on Reservoir Road, near the Georgetown Hospital. It’s kind of a pain to get to… but the D6 bus and I are learning to get along. I digress. The French Embassy in the United States has 2 restaurants, a fancy one for business meetings etc. (I haven’t had a chance to eat at that one yet) and a more casual “cafet” for the staff, and occasionally their guests. Like moi! Both are catered by Sodexo, a French business that is also one of the largest food services and facilities management companies in the world. Sodexo used to run the cafeteria at Disneyland Paris back when I worked there and I have fond memories of the lunches they provide.
Apparently, it’s pretty easy to spot the visitor at the Embassy cafeteria. That person’s tray might look something like this, with wine, dessert, cheese, a main course and sides:
I’m not sure why I didn’t order a starter too… there were plenty of excellent options 😉 On the day I visited the Embassy to pick up my brand new stamp-less passport, the main course options were gigot d’agneau rôti ($8.5), filet de sole ($7.5… are you kidding me!?! the dover sole meunière is $35 at Le Diplomate!!!) and an entrecôte grilée ($11.5… half the price of the entrecôte at Bistrot du Coin). While I was tempted to order one of each, I settled for the lamb because, let’s face it, how often do you find lamb on an “office” cafeteria menu? In the US, probably never, unless you work at American Lamb… It’s one of the many many many reasons I love being French. We just “get” lamb. I also ordered the épinards à l’huile d’olive and the tomates provençales, a plate of cheese and a fruit tart. By the way, my friends’ trays? Like everyone else around, a lot emptier than mine. A salad and a yogurt… maybe the soup of the day… I guess when you get to eat like this everyday it becomes pretty repetitive… I guess 😉
Oh, and of course, I ordered wine… I mean you can’t possibly eat lamb (or cheese for that matter) without a glass of wine. There were plenty of great bottles to chose from (pictured above are only the reds… there were whites too…) Let’s face it, unlike the blasés embassy employees, I don’t get to eat there every day (le sigh). I had to take a full day off work just to pick up my passport so I thought I might as well have an amazing lunch AND fully indulge! And of course catch up with my girlfriend who are lucky enough to eat at the French Embassy everyday (and yet are so over it…)
So you might ask, how to I get to check this amazing French Embassy cafeteria? You’re in luck because this weekend, you don’t need to have a passport to pick up or friends who work there to experience this great and normally off-limit French “restaurant”. Saturday, May 11th 2013, is Passport D.C.’s annual Shortcut to Europe: EU Embassies’ open house and you can make reservations for a “diplomatic lunch” at my embassy. For $31 you can have a fab Franco-German 3 course meal at the Embassy. Why Franco-German? Well, France and Germany are celebrating 50 years of post war, Treaty of Elysée friendship, so France is hosting the Germany EU open house while their also inconveniently located embassy is undergoing renovations. They also celebrated like this earlier this week, which is adorable!
The menu options for Saturday are: tomato carpaccio with Maryland crab, duck rillettes or German potato salad to start; duck confit, barramundi filet with sorrel sauce; leeks and goat cheese quiche or pork schnitzel over sauerkraut with a choice of sides (brocoli purée, gratin dauphinois, braised cabbage, french green beans amandine or french fried sweet potatoes) and dessert: gateau marjolaine, fresh fruits tartelette (I had it, it’s amazing!), caramel flan, cheese cake with rapsberry coulis or apple strudel. The lunch is served with assorted bread and soft drinks though you have to order beer and wine separately (beer/wine $5, wine bottle $20.) 3 time slots are available with advance reservation on eventbrite at 11AM, 12PM and 1PM. Trust me… this is one of the best “secret” French restaurant in town, so you don’t want to miss this!