What’s the Best Baguette in Washington, DC?

I’ve lived in the District for over 10 years now and as the French expat one of the top question I usually get asked is “where can I find good bread?” Usually it’s recent transplants from France asking… The answer partially depend on where you live I guess. I mean, Bread Furst probably makes the best baguette in the city. But I live in Shaw. It’s bad enough I have to spend close to $3 for bread, I’m not trekking all the way across town on top of it. So I get my baguette mostly at A Baked Joint now, and occasionally at Paul or Le Pain Quotidien. Two places where I would never buy bread back home…but hey, I have limited options here 😉
The best Baguette in DC

Of course, Parisians take their bread very seriously. It is like 20% of our diet… It’s so important that we have a trade association for bread and the bakers that make it, la Chambre professionnelle des artisans boulangers du Grand Paris. And since 1994, they’ve teamed up with the City of Paris to throw an annual baguette show-done to select the best loaf in town: la meilleure baguette de Paris. In addition to 4,000 euros, mad bragging rights and a guaranteed line outside your bakery for a few weeks, the winning boulangerie also becomes the official bread supplier of the French President and his residence. Yes, obviously, that’s a thing too.  

This year, the French Embassy to the United States has decided to organize its very own “best baguette” contest for the Washington, D.C. area. After polling district residents online to see what their favourite bread-spots were, the top 4 bakers are facing off for a carb-filled finale at La Maison Française September 29th. 

The bakeries competing for the Best Capital Baguette title are: 

A jury of chefs and other DC-food personalities will decide the winner that evening but guests are also invited to join and will get the opportunity to try the different baguette along with charcuteries, cheese and jam. Bonne Maman, D’Artagnan and President are partners, so you know there’s gonna be some good stuff there! No wine sponsor though, so that’ll be cash bar and at $25 for a ticket (which you can buy here), that seems fair.

My money is on Fresh Baguette or Bread Furst, but I guess we’ll have to wait until September 29th to find out and see who will become the official bread supplier of the French Ambassador’s Residence… and the 2016 Best Capital Baguette!

ps: New York hosted its own competition earlier this year… so if you’re looking for some the best bread in Manhattan, just head to one of Eric Kayser‘s many bakeries. And good news, it won’t be too long before we have our very own Maison Eric Kayser here in DC. CANNOT WAIT! 

Discover the Wines of the Languedoc Region

Is it August yet? I’ll be traveling to Montpellier, Bezier and Carcassonne in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in a few weeks and I can’t wait!! The Languedoc isn’t as famous when it comes to wine as say Burgundy or Champagne, but the Southwestern French region is one of the largest and oldest wine-producing area in France. Two wines that I personally love from the Languedoc are Corbière reds and rosés. The Languedoc, which spans the Mediterranean coastline from Provence to the France’s border with Spain, enjoys a warm and sunny weather, with 320 days of sunshine Languedoc Day infographica year, and produces some wonderful rosés. 

Since today is #LanguedocDay, an occasion for wine lovers around the world to celebrate and share their appreciation for the AOPs from the regions on social media event, here are the wines that Languedoc is famous for: 

LIMOUX

The sparkling wines from the region around the town of Limoux, south of the Medieval walled city of Carcassonne, claim to be the bubbly with the oldest mention in official records. Take that Champagne 😉 

Picpoul de pinetPICPOUL DE PINET

The production of the world famous Picpoul de Pinet white wine is centered around a few small villages close to the Bassin de Thau, a large saltwater lake that also produces some of the country’s best oysters. This very affordable wine is the south of France’s answer to northern French Muscadet, with a similar lemony zing but sometimes also with a subtle floral whiff.

 

IMG_8411CORBIERES AOC

Corbières is the largest appelation in Languedoc, and one of the better known. You’ll easily spot a bottle of Corbières in most wine stores in town. 95% of the wines produced in that part of the Languedoc are herb scented reds made from Carignan, Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache, but you can also find a few rosés. All are typically reasonably priced too, though there are more expensive “grande cuvée.   

 

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ROSÉ

Right now, I cannot get enough rosés and the Languedoc produces beautiful pale pink wines that pair especially well with a hot summer day! Try the Chateau de Lascaux rosé cuvée Garrigue 2014 (available at Eye Street Cellars for $12.99,) Domaines Paul Mas (found at Cork & Fork on 14th street,) or a Corbières rosés like Domaine Sainte Eugenie (from Continental Wines).

 

The wines of Languedoc

I hope I’ve inspired you to pick up a bottle of wine from Languedoc today and join the conversation. Follow @languedocwines and use the hashtag #LanguedocDay to chime in!! And, if you want to take it a step further, Bistro d’Oc near metro center is an adorable little restaurant (it’s easy to spot with its purple facade!) that specializes in the food of the Languedoc region. Happy #LanguedocDay! 

 

 

Postcard from France: Marseille

Last Christmas, my uncle invited us to spend the holidays at his house in Goult, a lovely village in the Luberon, located halfway between Aix-en-Provence and Avignon. My uncle is my mother’s brother and they both grew up in Marseille, France’s second largest city. Rather than take the train to Avignon and get picked up by my uncle there, we decided to spend a day and a half in Marseille and rent a car to drive to Goult. I have very little childhood memories of Marseille, and my husband had never been so I was excited to discover the city, especially with my favourite Marseillaise – my mom – as our guide!

FIRST THINGS FIRST: LUNCH AT CHEZ ETIENNE 

IMG_1482The trip from Paris Gare-de-Lyon to Marseille-Saint-Charles is just over 3 hours. After dropping our bags at our hotel near the vieux port, we quickly headed off to lunch at Chez Etienne, a no-thrills pizzaria in Le Panier. My mom used to go there when she visited friends and family back in the city, so it’s been around for a while, and other than adding a second room across the street from the original location to accommodate demand, very little has changed over the years. Service and ambiance are not the reason to go to Chez Etienne. You go there for the best pizza in Marseille, which here is served as a starter, not a main course, and only comes with two options, cheese or no cheese. The anchovies and olives come automatically as toppings 😉 You also go there for the pavé de boeuf, which is excellent, and the supions, small squids lightly pan-fried with garlic and parsley. Warning: there’s no phone to make reservations and it gets very crowded so if go, you might have to wait (in the street) for a table to become available. They also only accept cash and as I mentioned, service is, well, let’s say it’s very French.

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STROLLING THROUGH THE PANIER

IMG_1504The core of Marseille, the old port, is surrounded by hills and starting our tour through the city at Chez Etienne was a smart move because we then weaved our way down to the Vieux Port through the neighbourhood known as Le Panier. If La Canebière, Marseille’s main boulevard in the old quarters, is the city’s answer to the Champs Elysées, Le Panier is its Montmartre. The neighbourhood, once rather dodgy and filled with sailors from across the globe looking for a good time, has become quite trendy recently.  With its hilly narrow cobbled streets and pastel coloured houses covered in street art, it’s in the midst of a bit of gentrification and there’s been quite the influx of hipsters and artists lately (as well as public funds from the city.) From Le Panier, we made our way to the Maison Diamantée, one of the oldest house in town, and the 17th century City Hall, where my parents got married, before landing on the Quai du Port. 

OH MARIUS! THE OLD PORT OF MARSEILLE

IMG_1737Life in Marseille has revolved around the vieux port ever since the trading post of Massalia was founded by Phocaean greeks in 600 BC. In the 1840s (after Algeria became a French department) the commercial docks were transferred to La Joliette but the colourful Old Port remained the emotional heart of the city, crammed with fishing boats, pleasure yachts and visitors. You can get from the quai du port to the Quai de Rive Neuve on the other side by foot (or even those public bikes, known as Le Velo in Marseille)… or you can take the free ferry boat like we did! It’ll probably take you just as long, but if you only have one opportunity to get on the water in Marseille, you should seize it! For me, it was extra fun because I’ve read and re-read Marcel Pagnol’s Triologie Marseillaise, and I couldn’t help but think of Felix Escartefigue, capitaine of the ferry boite, as we made a quick pastis stop on the other side of the port at Le Bar de la Marine, where the author/director filmed the famous “tu me fends le coeur” scene from Marius. If you have NO idea what I’m referring to, may I recommend watching Daniel Auteuil’s version of Marius and Fanny, which are currently streaming on Netflix

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There’s lots of great stuff on that side of the port… a block away from the Bar de Marine, you’ll notice La Criée, a former fish market and now one of France’s edgiest theaters. We continued on quai de rive neuve until rue Robert on our way to the Musée du Santon (also known as Les Ateliers Carbonel) before making our way to Le Four des Navettes, THE place in Marseille to get the city’s iconic boat-shaped, orange-flower flavoured navette biscuits. I’ll warn you if you’re going to try them (which you should!): their nickname is casse-dent (teethbreaker) so don’t bite too hard into them 😉 We actually grabbed about 4 kilos worth for everyone to enjoy at the Christmas table… A few streets away from the bakery is the stunning Abbaye Saint Victor. We didn’t linger too much there because our ultimate goal for the end of the day was catching the sunset at another famous Marseille church, Notre Dame de la Garde, which was a quick but steep 20 minutes walk climb away. 

STUNNING VIEWS FROM NOTRE DAME DE LA GARDE

IMG_1608The Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde, or La Bonne Mère (the good mother) as it is familiarly known towers over Marseille and offers amazing 360 views of the city below, which are particularly striking at sunset. Topped by a massive golden statue of the Virgin Mary and Child, the Byzantine-style interior features anchor and sailing ship motifs. Since around the Mediterranean there’s a religious tradition of ex-votos to express gratitude for a wish granted, you’ll also see boat models hanging from the ceiling or displayed in glass cases to express thanks for a loved one having returned from the sea.  There’s also an Olympique de Marseille flag which was brought by the team after a victory so it’s not all sailing related (though l’OM is quite the religion in Marseille too…)

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DINNER TIME !

IMG_1750Since it was before right before Christmas, a marché de Noel and the Foire Aux Santons were in full swing at the old port and nearby Place Saint Charles respectively and we spent a little bit of time shopping at both before heading to diner at La Kahena, one of Marseille’s best Tunisian restaurant. I don’t get to eat a lot of North African food here in DC and Marseille happens to have very large Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisien communities, both muslims and jewish like my mother’s maternal side of the family. The fish couscous was excellent, as well as my brik au thon, and since we didn’t get a chance to swing by Les Delices Patisserie d’Aix, a famed oriental pastry shop, during the day we took full advantage of the dessert buffet to indulge our sweet tooth with some cornes de gazelles and makroud

 DAY TWO: MIXING THE OLD WITH THE NEW

IMG_2014Marseille is known as the gateway to the Mediterranean, so it was time for us to set sail! Well, or at least take a small boat trip 😉 First, we got up early to enjoy the small fish market that still takes place on the Quai des Belges around 8AM every morning. From there, we grabbed the Frioul If Express to the island fortress of If, where Alexandre Dumas imprisoned his fictional count of Monte Christo. Had it been summer or even spring, we may have extended the journey to the Frioul Island but instead we headed back to shore to explore the NEW Marseille. We didn’t realize how far the new Docks at La Joliette were so we only made it as far as la Cathédrale La Major before heading back to the brand new MuCEM where we had plans to meet my DC-based friend Laure, who was in town for the holidays visiting her family in Marseille. Inaugurated in 2013, the MuCEM offers perspective on mediterranean civilizations and mixes the old with the new by adding a modern building designed by Rudy Ricciotti to the 12th century Fort St. Jean. The two buildings are linked by a footbridge known as J4 (for Joliette 4.)

Lunch at the MuCEM

We didn’t actually visit the museum, focusing instead on exploring its architecture and enjoyed a sun soaked lunch with stunning views of the turquoise sea at Le Môlé Passédat, a restaurant on the top floor of the museum from Michelin-starred chef Gerard Passédat. The meal was amazing, but not cheap, so if you’re looking for a more affordable option, La Cuisine (Le Mole’s sister restaurant) offers a great lunch as well, minus the view.  Following lunch, we headed back to the vieux port to pick up a bottle of pastis at La Maison du Pastis, a shop that allows you to try any pastis from a selection of 75 different ones before you purchase the one of your choice. We also stopped at the brand new Galerie Lafayette Gourmet to do some last minute Christmas food shopping and then set out. On our way out of the city, we drove through an old industrial neighbourhood called la Belle de Mai. The area grew from the arrival of the railway and a former tobacco factory there has now become a thriving cultural center called La Friche la Belle de Mai, with lots of awesome street art nearby. We didn’t get to stop in this time but it was the perfect send-off to a quick stay at the once gritty, now thriving Marseille. Besides, I have a feeling I’ll be back soon enough! 

 

 

 

Meet Mimo, the Cheesy Jack O’Lantern

Last year, mimolette gave me quite a scare when it looked like its sale was going to be banned in the US because of some microscopic mite on its rind. Well, mimolette is back without mite this time and it wants to be part of your HalloweenMimolette celebrations.

Afterall, mimolette is round and orange, so it’s definitely a great alternative to a pumpkin for a Jack o’lantern and the French Cheese Board, the home of all things French cheese in New York city, is showcasing mimolette from October 23 to November 7 at their HQ at 26 West 39th Street. Conveniently enough, I will be in New York to cheer for a French friend running the New York marathon… looks like I’ll be meeting you soon mimo!

 

Give Your DC Summer a French Twist

Stuck in the city for the summer? Luckily, there are a ton of events across town to help you pretend you’re in France.

Allez les bleusCHEER FOR LES BLEUS DURING THE WORLD CUP

Head to Redline on game day to join the French Expat Meet-Up and L’Union des Français de l’étranger de Washington in supporting l’Equipe de France as they fight to get out of Group H. And if you want to learn more about Les Bleus, head to l’Alliance Francaise after the game on Friday, June 20. Sports historian Lindsay Krasnoff will moderate a panel of sports journalists on the history and importance of the 1998 World Cup champions in French society.


LA FETE DE LA MUSIQUE

It’s one of my favourite events every year. New York goes all out with an awesome French concert at Summer Stage on June 21 (this year, M and Emilie Simon  are headlining – I really wish I could make it!) We’re not as lucky in Washington but there are still a number of fun musically filled events taking place:

The following week, Malmaison is hosting Dimitri from Paris for a special concert as well, and that should be pretty awesome!

dimitri from paris

 

CATCH A FRENCH MOVIE (OR AT LEAST ONE SET IN FRANCE) 

Lots of good options this summer:

14 juillet

CELEBRATE LE QUATORZE JUILLET 

Head to your favourite French restaurant on July 14 or check out one of these events:

Have a very French été!

Angelika Pop-UP at Union Market

Angelika Pop Up at union Market

The Angelika Film Center in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood is a cultural institution for arthouse cinema. Its affiliate at the Mosaic District in Fairfax is FABULOUS! It’s an elegant, state of the art, 8 screens theater where you can nibble on tadoori popcorn and reserve your seat in advance. If it weren’t so far in Fairfax, I’d go there all the time! Luckily, soon enough, there will be an Angelika movie theater near Union Market, right here in downtown, DC. Until then (then being 2015), Union Market is giving us a little preview of what it will be like with an Angelika pop-up.

The pop-up opens this weekend with screening of Queen Margot, a French period drama featuring Daniel Auteuil and Isabelle Adjani about the tension between the Catholics and the Protestant Huguenots fighting to control France in the late 16th Century.  You can watch the trailer here, but it’s basically full of love and murders… and blood. (Screenings 6/13 – 6/19 at 12:30pm, 3:45pm, 7pm as well as a 10:15p Friday and Saturday. Tickets here). It’s also showing Supermensh (more details here) and has a slew of great independent art-house films coming up for the rest of the summer.

My french Film Festival Point Com

 

MyFrenchFilmFestival.com was quite a success last year with 750,000 film viewings in different 189 countries so it’s not a surprise that the leading worldwide French film festival on the Internet is back on our computers. The 4th edition of MyFrenchFilmFestival.com takes place between 17th January and 17th February and feature 10 features and 10 shorts in 13 different languages.  That’s all great, but my favourite part of the whole festival? The poster! I find it quite brilliant of course 😉french film festival, french films, french movies, french, french culture, how to watch french films online, movie festivals

 

You can download the film on iTunes for a fee but if you’re in DC, you can also screen them for free at Malmaison and Napoleon Bistro and Lounge. Starting on February 3rd, Napoleon will screen Augustine and Le jour des Corneilles (2/3 at 7PM), Au galop and Comme un Lion (2/4 at 7PM) and J’enrage de son Absence and Mobile Home (2/5 at 7PM). After that the festival continues at Malmaison with La Vierge, les Coptes et Moi and Mariage à Mendoza (2/6 at 7PM) and all of the short films on the 8th.

I haven’t seen or heard much about any of the films (Augustine does screen on Netflix right now though) so I can’t really tell you much about them. Let me know if you see any of them and they are any good though!!

Stromae Gets Some Love From Daily Candy

stromae, french music, daily candy newsletter

Towards the end of every week, there’s a few emails I can’t wait to see pop-up in my inbox. One of Frijolita‘s awesome Weekend Reads because a) she always shares the best links b) it means it’s FRIDAY! The other is Daily Candy‘s Apps and Distractions email. There’s always a couple of great finds in there. And this week, Daily Candy gave some love to Stromae, a Belgian singer that had the entire francophone world dancing to the gloomy beat-heavy hit Alors on Danse back in 2009. Four years later, he is back on top of the charts with his new album Racine Carrée. French music rarely makes it to American iTunes so it’s a testament to the success of this album that you can actually buy it in the U.S. store (I downloaded it a while back from the French iTunes store.) It’s also available to listen on Spotify if you’re not sure you want to commit $ to it 😉

Standouts from the album include the somber Formidable (<– watch the video, 42 million people already have!), which evokes another great Belgian artist, Jacques Brel, and is mentioned in the Daily Candy post as Shanon Cook’s favourite track on the album. It also includes the more upbeat Te Quiero and Papaoutai. That last one is actually not so upbeat once you listen to the lyrics — hint: papaoutai stands for Dad, where are you? heavy stuff when you know Stromae’s dad was mainly absent from his life and died in the Rwandan genocide! In Te Quiero Stromae also channels a little Jacques Brel when he cries “I love you until death” in between the dance beats of the chorus…  Overall, the narrative on many songs is pretty bleak and part of popularity has been attributed to his ability to channel the malaise that is currently gripping the youths of Europe. Also, the songs are good! So give it a listen… let me know what you think!

Who Needs Rankings when you have Paul?

Colonials, I have some good and some bad news for you. By now, I’m sure you’ve heard, George Washington University (which, full disclosure, is one of the main reason I’m in the US now… class of ’05… go buff and blue!) lost its U.S. News & World Report ranking earlier this week. Womp womp womp. But on the bright side, Paul Bakery is opening on campus, so you have at least something to celebrate!

The newest member of the Paul USA family at 2000 Pennsylvania Avenue NW – Photo Credit: Larkin Goff for PAUL USA


When I was studying at this now unranked institution of higher learning, there wasn’t much around Foggy Bottom beside McFadden’s (already quite douchy btw) and the worst Friday’s in the country (still the worst I’m sure). The cost of my education, which was already very high back then, would probably have doubled had I had access to a Whole Foods Market, Sweetgreen, Circa and Trader Joes. On top of all these great additions to the neighbourhood, George Washington University students can now treat themselves to macarons, eclairs, tarte aux fruits rouges (my favourite… try it!) and crunchy sandwiches at the latest outpost of Paul Bakery. I don’t know if I’m thankful or jealous on that one 😉 

Get your tarte citrouille with a purchase tomorrow by being one of the first to drop by the new store at 2000 Penn 



GWU students (and Mexican Embassy, IMF, and World Bank staffers too…), on the other hand, should be thankful that Paul is opening its fourth bakery at The Shops at 2000 Penn this week. As part of the opening festivities (and upcoming Thanksgiving holiday) Paul is giving away 2000 tartelettes citrouilles (that’s a fancy French way of saying pumpkin tart) to the first 2000 people who drop by the new store and make a purchase this Monday, November 19th, 2012 (the store opens at 7AM). PS the tarte citrouille is only one of Paul’s seasonal offerings, there’s a tarte pecan-chocolate too, that I can’t eat sadly, and a pecan cranberries tarte too that I’m dying to try… hopefully when I visit my old stomping grounds around 8AM tomorrow… 


French Fridays: Gratin Dauphinois

Greetings from Paris everyone! I just arrived this morning to spend Thanksgiving with my parents. It’s actually very likely that there will be a Gratin Dauphinois on our holiday table. In the past, for Thanksgiving, I’ve made this traditional French dish either with a mix of regular and sweet potatoes to give it a little extra seasonal flavour or with sun dried tomatoes to make it a little fancier.

I was particularly excited to make Gratin Dauphinois for this week’s French Fridays with Dorie because it’s a dish I know very well and grew up eating. I also wanted an opportunity to show off my cute turquoise polka dot dishes! I mean, how adorable are those?

French Fridays with Dorie: Gratin Dauphinois 

Dorie calls the dish Pommes Dauphinoises or Potato Gratin. I’ve always called it a mix of these two: Gratin Dauphinois. I’ve been making Gratin Dauphinois for so long, I barely follow any recipe anymore, but I followed Dorie’s recipe to a tee for the sake of French Fridays. I made two gratins, one with bacon as suggested and one plain. Both where excellent, though my meat-eating husband was obviously biased for the bacon one 😉

Bon appetit et bon vendredi (de Paris!!)