Save the Date: Screening of Full Moon in Paris at the National Gallery of Arts

I’ve got an idea for you: travel to Paris without leaving DC. Actually, without leaving the National Gallery of Art

On September 20th, the National Gallery of Art is hosting a 4PM screening of Les Nuits de la Pleine Lune/Full Moon in Parisa masterful comedy of manners by new wave film maker Eric Rohmer that was recently restored. You can read a summary of the film here

Full Moon In Paris
Also on view at the National Gallery of Art right now (and through October 4th) are 50 of the most important and beloved paintings of Paris and its environs by impressionist Gustave Caillebotte. Never heard of Caillebotte? You’re not alone 😉 “Known” as the “unknown Impressionist” in light of Cézanne, Degas, Monet or Auguste-Renoir’s success, Caillebotte played a vital role in the early history of Impressionism by being a patron of the impressionists, whose work he supported and purchased (he came from a wealthy family and didn’t need to sell his work to get by.) His most famous work, “Paris Street, Rainy Day” is one of the highlights of the exhibit, which will move on to the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas once it wraps up here. 

Gustave Caillebotte Jour de pluie à Paris
For a perfect “French in DC” afternoon, I would start with a casual brunch at Paul’s flagship store at the Navy Memorial then walk over to the National Gallery of Art on Sixth and Constitution Avenue to soak in Haussmannian area Paris at the Caillebotte exhibit before wrapping the day with the screening of the very French comedy of manner. If you *really* didn’t want to leave the National Gallery of Art you could also start with brunch at the museum’s Garden Cafe too 😉

Dîner en Blanc – Part Deux, DC Edition

When Washington played host to its first Diner en Blanc last year, the main complaints from participants concerned the location. Yards Park in Southwest DC was a beautiful venue, don’t get me wrong, but it didn’t strike anyone as particularly iconic. Compared to some of the other famous locations where the all-white diners have popped up across the globe — Lincoln Center in New York, the Trocadero with the Eiffel Tower as backdrop or on 6 bridges over the Seine in Paris, Covent Garden in London, Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles to name a few — the 42-acre development on the Anacostia River waterfront was a bit lacking in Washington monuments and recognizable sites. It was also a bit out of the way, with few passers-by likely to stumble upon the scene. With that in mind, the organizers sought out not only a more central location, but also one that felt more-DC. And that location was the Carnegie Library at Mount Vernon Square, a 1900s beaux-arts building in front of the more modern Convention Center. 2,700 revelers, all dressed in their best whites, squeezed into the park around the former library for an evening of eating, drinking, dancing and of course, instagramming 😉

This was my second Dîner en Blanc of the summer. In New York last month, I got to experience what it was like to be a care-free guest at the event, showing up in Manhattan just hours before the start of the diner. Yesterday was a completely different story! I started the evening in Dupont Circle, where 500 of the guests met one of 10 different group leaders that would whisk them to the secret location — part of the concept of the flash mob dinner party is that guests only found out where it is being held at the last minute. The logistical challenge for the organizers is to get everyone onsite in a timely and orderly fashion, while they’re lugging their table, chairs and food. On the metro. The DC metro. Once my five groups had left Dupont Circle with their leaders, I hopped in an uber to beat them to the location, so I could be onsite to welcome them and help them set up in a pre-determined spot on the lawn of the Carnegie Library. The few quiet moments I got to spent before the storm of white-clad guests descended upon Mount Vernon Square were some of my favourites of the diner. 

Diner en blanc DC 2015

Diner en Blanc at the Carnegie Library at Mt. Vernon Square ~ Enjoying some quiet moments before the groups arrived.

Then the groups arrived from the 8 different meeting points scattered around the city and Northern Virginia. The Convention Center and Chinatown groups arrived first obviously. The Dupont Circle groups arrived last which led to a somewhat frantic setting up. Before we knew it, it was 6:45PM and the second edition of Diner en Blanc DC officially kicked off with the traditional waving of the napkins. Finally, it was time to relax and eat! 

DC's 2015 Diner en blanc at the Carnegie Library

Rather than order from the catered options available for purchase, I had prepared a simple cold diner that was heavy on prosciutto: spiced watermelon soup with prosciutto, prosciutto wrapped melon (with additional hors d’oeuvre sized ones to pass around the tables) and a spinach-prosciutto quiche with a green salad. I had picked up some shimmery vanilla macarons at Olivia Macaron, the Georgetown shop had made them especially for the occasion and they looked so pretty on my table (in addition to being delicious of course!)  

diner Macarons

Bonus, like in New York, Celebrity Cruises also passed around some white chocolate dipped macarons and my friend Cecilia of OneVanillaBean had made all sorts of delicious desserts like a raspberry-rose roll-out cake and caneles, which she was kind enough to share with the people sitting next to her. By 8PM when the sparklers were lit and the jazzy background music that accompanied diner turned into more upbeat sounds spinned by DJ Sabeel, I was ready to kick-off my shoes and hit the impromptu dance floor set up on the stairs of the library!

Sparklers at diner en blanc DC

At that point, all of the stress I experienced in the early evening was long gone (copious amount of Lanson Champagne definitely helped with that as well!!) As I danced with old friends and new friends alike, 2,700 strangers from all walks of life who came together to share a magical moment, I remembered why I love this event so much and why I’m so proud to be involved with it. Because you have to bring basically everything with you, you can really express your creativity at Diner en Blanc, whether you express it through your outfit, menu or tablescape. My friend Sandy made this crafty #DEBDC sign, which was quite a hit! My friend Xionara had a bird on her head. Felicity Amos, my Dupont Circle co-group leader, had an elaborate table display, complete with a white bust of George Washington. 

My friend Sandy made this crafty sign! #DEBDC

The fact that I was able to walk home in less than five minutes made it only better 😉 

Cheer on These Three Frenchies at DC’s Citi Open Tournament

CitiOpenToday is the first day of the new Citi Open tennis tournament in Washington, D.C.! Formerly known as the Washington Open and, more recently, the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, the tournament still takes place at Rock Creek Park Tennis Center. It’s an official ATP and WATP event like the US Open in New York, though it’s not considered a Grand Slam so it doesn’t typically doesn’t attract top players. Nonetheless, Andy Murray and Marin Cilic have made the trip to Washington, as have 4 French players: Richard Gasquet, who recently upset Stan Wawrinka in an epic five sets battle to join Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray in the semi-finals at Wimbledon; Alizé Cornet and Kristina MladenovicAdrian Mannarino was slated to compete as well, but had to withdraw due to a wrist injury 😦

Alizé Cornet posted this pic on her instagram feed. The caption: "Early bird practice for this first day in Washington! But already 30 degres at 8:30am!!!" Yep, sounds about right.

Alizé Cornet posted this pic on her instagram feed. The caption: “Early bird practice for this first day in DC! But already 30 degres at 8:30am!!!” Yep, sounds about right.

The tournament goes until August 9th and you can still purchase single tickets to games on the Citi Open’s website. Price range from $10 for qualifying games to $45-55 for the rest of the tournament. 

 

Dine at These 6 French Restaurants During Restaurant Week


Between August 17 and 23, some 200 restaurants will be offering three-course prix-fixe lunches for $22 and dinners for $35 as part of the
Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington’s Restaurant Week. I’ll actually be in France that week so I’ll be missing out on the biannual promotion. Which, let’s be real, is ok because I’d rather be in France 😉 If you’d like to pretend you’re in France too that week, may I recommend you make a reservation at these French restaurants:

Bistrot LepicBISTROT LEPIC WINE BAR

Did Tom Sietsema’s (glowing) review of Bistrot Lepic in the Post recently made you wonder why you don’t go to one of DC’s best French restaurant more often? Now that the circulator goes up Wisconsin, you have no excuse, and restaurant week is the perfect time to discover or rediscover this Georgetown gem. Standout items on the lunch and dinner menu include salade de langue de veau (that’d be French for veal tongues!), a beet and apple salad with farm goat cheese quenelle, snails baked in garlic butter and those are just the appetizers. For mains, there’s a truite meunière, rognons de veau (veal kidneys) or beef medaillons with Gruyère polenta. For desserts, there’s some iles flotantes (baked egg whites floating in crème Anglaise) one of my fave French dessert that you don’t see very often on menus here. I must say, you might actually need to go to Bistrot Lepic more than once during restaurant week!

FIG & OLIVE

The newly-opened City Center restaurant is offering 2 great prix-fixe menus for restaurant week. The $22 lunch includes a salmon crudo appetizer with Arbequina olive oil and a rosemary lamb with couscous with fig and Koroneiki olive oil. Dinner, priced at $35, gets even better: beef carpaccio with white truffle olive oil,fig & olive’s tajine, with harissa Arbequina olive oil or a paella del mar with oregano Hojiblanca olive oil. For an additional $10, you can even get filet mignon with Arbequina olive oil Béarnaise. Both menus include dessert crostinis and an optional crostini tasting for an additional $7 too. Fig & Olive is definitely the one restaurant I hope does extend its restaurant week promotion!!  

Fig and Olive Cocktail

MINTWOOD PLACE (DINNER ONLY)

Mintwood Place jumped on this list mainly for their key lime speculoos pie dessert, for which I would totally head to Adams Morgan for.  The bread pudding with rhubarb sounds pretty amazing too. Can I swap out an appetizer for a second dessert you think?  Hum, actually, I really want the steak tartare with jicama to start, so maybe no swapping, just two desserts 😉

BASTILLE

If you haven’t had a chance to out Bastille since it relocated to its new (and much bigger) location on N. Fayette Street, restaurant week is a great excuse. Not only does restaurant week at Bastille last until September 6th, but the menu includes some awesome modern French dishes like a a shrimp nicoise salade (lunch menu only), a shenandoah valley lamb burger with harrissa aioli, Moullard Duck breast or shrimp and grits a la basquaise. For an extra $12, you can even add a fourth cheese course before desserts. But don’t fill up! Chef Michelle Poteaux’ take on the key lime seems worth saving a little room for.

 

2941

2941 

Executive chef Bertrand Chemel and pastry chef Caitlin Dysart have designed a simple restaurant week dinner and lunch menu with seasonal ingredients. Start with the the ricotta salata with peach marmalade, ricotta, Cancale sea salt, TrueFarms lettuce or the crab Salad with watermelon gelée, basil, cherry tomatoes. For main, skip the risotto, though it sounds great with cherry tomatoes, goat cheese, popcorn shoots, yellow corn, marjoram oil, and opt for the pan seared rack of lamb with summer squash, herb vinaigrette, spaetzle before ending on a sweet note with Caitlin’s dessert, like the Peaches & Cream with yogurt mousse, poached peaches, vanilla chiffon, raspberry sorbet. For lunch, I wouldn’t miss the duck bolognese, because DUCK! Bonus: restaurant week is extended until August 28th, so I might even be able to squeeze in a quick meal when I get back!!

 

BISTRO BIS

Two appetizers really stand out for me on Bistro Bis’ restaurant week menu. First, the steak tartare. I love love love a good steak tartare! The other is the moules Marseillaises, which combines the two cultures I come from: my dad is from moules-land (aka. the north of France by Belgium) and my mom is from Marseille, the land of pastis which is used in the broth of the mussels. There are too many stand-out dishes to list on the entree side, classic French dishes like a confit de canard Toulousienne (kind of like a light cassoulet), a Daube d’agneau (with merguez saussages too!!) or a rockfish provencal. Here the lunch menu also brings the addition of a Salade Niçoise, but a more classic one with tuna. 

Pinea at the W Hotel

BONUS: PINEA

Pinea hasn’t posted its restaurant week menus online but based on past experience, the mediterranean inspired restaurant inside the W will probably open up their entire menu, which few restaurants do. Plus, the dining room recently underwent a complete re-do at the hands of street artist Gaia, so that’s an additional reason why you should check out Pinea during restaurant week! 

Do you usually dine out during restaurant weeks? Have you made reservations yet? Any dinner or lunch you’re particularly exited about? Let me know in the comments!! 

Six Budget-Friendly French Wines for Bastille Day

From a baguette relay race at Paul to diner at Bistrot du Coin or a fancy patio fête at the Sofitel Hotel, there are plenty of options to celebrate France’s national holiday, le Quatorze Juillet, in Washington, DC. If you’re more of a homebody, why not stay at home and watch a great French film while sipping a good bottle of French wine!

For the films, I’ve narrowed down 20 of the best French films available on Netflix right here. And to help you find the perfect bottle of wine to go along whichever flick you pick, I turned to Michelle Lim Warner and Michael Warner, co-owners of DCanter, for some suggestions.  One of the things I love about the Capitol Hill wine boutique (other than the amazing chandelier in the tasting room!) is their “good juice wall” featuring affordable bottles in the $15 and under price range. In the spirit of that wall, Michelle and Michael recommended these six affordable French sippers:

Six Affordable French Wines for Bastille Day

 

PIERRE OLIVIER BRUT VIN MOUSSEUX NV

Champagne is the ultimate celebratory drink, but the price of a bottle can put a damper on your French party. Luckily, there are plenty of sparkly alternatives that won’t, like this $16 bottle of brut. This “vin de France” isn’t made in Champagne – it’s actually made in Burgundy using grapes from around the French/Spanish border – so it’s labelled as a vin mousseux which literally means foamy or bubbly wine (a bubble bath for example is called a bain moussant in French). Light and fresh, this “mousseux” will be a great aperitif to kick off your evening! It would also be great as a kir royal, with a few drops of cassis added to it!! 

CLOTILDE DAVENNE SAUVIGNON 2013

When you think Burgundy, you probably picture full-bodied reds, but the region also makes some great white wines like this Sauvignon Blanc. Most notable white burgundies like Chablis tend to be made from Chardonnay grapes so this wine is a bit of an oddity for the region. Another fact that makes this wine a bit of an oddity: it’s made by a woman winemaker, which sadly is still not that common in the male dominated wine industry. Like other white Burgundy, this sauvignon blanc pairs well with seafood (oysters and mignonette anyone?). 

Le Petit Gueissard RoseGUEISSARD LE PETIT GUEISSARD ROSE 2014

Since my grandparents lived in Bandol, I’ll always be partial to rosés from that part of Provence. Doesn’t hurt that they’re some of the best in the world either! Unfortunately, it’s hard to find an affordable bottle of Bandol, especially in the US. Just a few kilometers away from Bandol, however, is Sanary-Sur-Mer which also produces fine rosés like this $15 bottle. Pair it with Ma Vie en Rose or La Vie en Rose, bien sur 😉

ALAIN JAUME & FILS “HAUT DE BRUN” 2012

Alain Jaume and his three children make a great Côtes du Rhône that’s complex, yet perfect for every day drinking.

CHATEAU FESTIANO CUVEE DES FOUDRES 2013

Ever since I started planning my trip to the Languedoc-Roussillon I’ve been obsessed with trying as many different wines from that region as I can get my hands on! For research purposed of course. This juicy bargain, which retails at $15, is from the Minervois, one of the AOC in the Languedoc, and it’s definitely getting me excited for my trip!! Try it with some herbed cheese like Boursin, or blue cheese like Roquefort, whose caves I will also be visiting during my trip in a few weeks! 

CHATEAU BLOUIN BORDEAUX RED 2012

Bordeaux is probably the most well-know wine region in France, and this small right bank chateau makes a great red (80% merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc) with silky tannins and a well balanced finish. At $14, it’s a nice bargain that’s light enough to drink throughout the summer. 

What will you be drinking for La Fête Nationale on July 14th?

DCanter is located at 545 8th St SE near the Eastern Market metro. You can follow the wine boutique on Twitter, Facebook and Instragram for some cool wine tips! 

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! 

 

 

A Taste of Burgundy: Jambon à la Chablisienne

Making Jambon à la Chablisienne is very simple and allows you to bring together two ingredients that are abundant in Burgundy: wine and ham. In this case, the wine in question is Chablis, one of the better chardonnays produced in the region. The original dish as it was created in the first half of the 20th century called for a whole ham cooked on the boned in Chablis with added flavouring and served over spinach or fresh noodles . Today, the recipe has been simplified: thick slices of ham are baked with a sauce made of tomatoes, wine and shallots and served over rice. Here’s how to make it at home…

INGREDIENTS

1 lb. cooked ham, sliced 1⁄4" thick; 1 3/4 cups chicken stock; 1 cup chablis; 2 tbsp red wine vinegar;  4 sprigs tarragon, plus 1 tbsp chopped for garnish; 2 large shallots, minced; ! small can of tomato paste; 1 1/2 sour cream; salt and pepper

1 pound cooked ham, cut into 6-8 1⁄4″ thick sliced ; 1 3/4 cups chicken stock; 1 cup chablis; 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar; 4 sprigs tarragon + 1 tablespoon chopped for garnish; 3 shallots, minced; 1 small can of tomato paste; 1 1/2 cups sour cream; salt and pepper

 

PREPARATION

Start by heating up the oven to 400° and preparing your ingredients. You’ll want to slice the ham (rolling it is optional, I didn’t, but most people do) and chopping the shallots into small dices. Measure all your other ingredients. The 1 cup of chablis is basically one hefty glass. Pour yourself a smaller one to enjoy as you cook!  

Before the oven is fully heated, you can start cooking the shallots and tarragon sprigs in the chablis in a dutch oven or ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Once it has started to reduce, you’ll want to add the 2 tablespoon of red wine vinegar and the chicken stock and reduce it all further until there’s only about half a cup left. At that point, you’ll want to blend the sauce in a mixer before returning to the pot and add the tomato paste. Once that has cooked a little (let’s say 3-5 minutes) add the sour cream, salt and pepper and simmer until the sauce thickens.

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Arrange the ham slices in an oven-proof dish (it’s ok if they overlap!) and strain the sauce over them through a fine-mesh sleeve. Shake the dish to make sure all of the ham slices gets coated with the sauce and bake for 30 minutes. Towards the end, you can add gruyere on top of the ham and sauce to make the dish into more of a gratin, but you don’t have to.

Once you remove the dish from the oven, sprinkle with one tablespoon of chopped tarragon and/or parsley and serve over 1 cup of white rice to absorb the sauce, as well as the rest of the chablis bottle you used for cooking! In the case of the recipe, a chablis (not petit, not 1er or grand cru) is best, as long is it about 3 years old. I chose a 2012 Chablis from Domaine Long-Depaquit that had been sent to me by Pure Chablis and it worked beautifully! 

 

 

Five (French) Reasons to Visit City Center DC

I’ve lived in downtown-DC long enough to have seen multiple incarnations of the area now known as City Center DC. First, it was the former convention center, which I saw being demolished back in 2004. Then it was a municipal parking lot, where Megabuses and Bolt Buses would load and unload passengers. It was the site of Cirque du Soleil, Kastles tennis matches and a Trapeze school. And then it was a construction site for a while… 

Today, it’s a luxurious mixed use space, with more than 185,000 square feet of retail space situated on the ground floor of six buildings that include both rental apartment units and condominiums, as well as office space. Seattle-based Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, who previously worked on the atrium at the National Portrait Gallery, designed the outdoor spaces, with contemporary fountains and marble benches. Every Tuesday in the summer there’s a Freshfarms farmers’ market.  And of course, there’s the super-cool kinetic installation conceived by New York media designer David Niles that screens various videos throughout the day and night on the three sides of a 25-foot-high archway between DBGB and Mango Tree. Eventually, a Conrad Hotel will be built on some of the remaining space… but let’s get back to the retailers and restaurants that filled that ground floor. A slate of high-end retailers have signed leases and opened already, with more on the way, turning City Center DC into a downtown shopping destination that hopes to rival Chevy Chase and Georgetown. And of course, a handful of those retailers are French…

LONGCHAMP

IMG_7339_2I own a ridiculous number of pliage bags, in various sizes and colours so obviously I was very excited when Longchamp announced it would open its first standalone store in the region at City Center. In addition to the famous pliage bags, which line a colourful wall at the back of the store,  the petite boutique also sells shoes, luggage, and other leather leather goods for men and women. 

DBGB KITCHEN + BAR

IMG_6386Chef Daniel Boulud returned to Washington, D.C. last year by opening DBGB, a casual French-American restaurant that serves a Lyonnais-inspired menu including coq-au-vin, seven varieties of home-made sausages (try the boudin blanc or the tunisienne!) and a baked Alaska for two flambéed with chartreuse right at your table. The bar is also very inviting.

ZADIG & VOLTAIRE

IMG_7333_2I’m pretty much not cool enough to shop at Zadig & Voltaire, a French-based fashion label known for its use of cashmere in its chic, and edgy clothing & accessories for men & women. This is the first boutique in the Washington metropolitan area for the clothing retailer, which is expending its US presence and also opened new shops in Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles around the same time. 

HERMES

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If I’m not trendy enough to shop at Zadig & Voltaire, I’m not rich enough to shop at Hermes 😉 Known today for its iconic colorful carrés and Kelly handbag, Hermès initially focused on leather goods like saddles, which it still sells. The City Center location just opened and sells a little bit of everything from dinnerware (head in to check out the exquisite table setting!) to tie, scarves and baby accessories. 

CAUDALIE

I’ve beenIMG_5562 using Caudalie’s Vinotherapie skincare line of products for years, so I was stoked to hear that the Thomas-es were opening a boutique and spa at City Center. I’ve already sipped wine from the founders’ vineyard (Caudalie’s first Vinothérapie spa is on the grounds of Château Smith Haut Lafitte near Bordeaux) at their opening event and dropped in for a facial, so yeah, I’m a fan! 

Bonus: these five Frenchies at City Center will soon be joined by Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior, upping the ante on the already luxurious shopping district . Oh la la! 

Saint Paddy’s Day Treats at The Sweet Lobby & Olivia Macaron

Two of the best macarons shops in Washington have cooked up special Saint Patrick’s Day treats! Obviously both are going green, though Olivia Macaron’s Irish Cream macaron has a hint of gold dusting too!

macarons

What would your ultimate Saint Patrick’s Day macaron flavour be? I love Bailey’s so I think that’s be a great flavour… but I also think an Irish Whiskey Caramel macaron would be pretty awesome!

Images courtesy of Olivia Macarons’ instagram and The Sweet Lobby’s Instagram

Francophonie Festival, 2015 Edition

The largest celebration of French culture and language in the world—the Francophonie Cultural Festival—is returning to the US capital March 5 to April 1, 2015. Organized by the D.C. Francophonie Committee in association with l’Alliance Française and Smithsonian Associates, the festival engages over 40 embassies for a month of cultural events ranging from lectures to concerts and movie screenings, culminating as usual with la Grande Fête de la Francophonie, a huge foodie bash at la Maison Française at the French Embassy.

What I’ve loved about the partnership with Smithsonian Associates this year is how active Smithsonian at 8 (the 21+  after-hours event planning art of the Smithsonian) has been about shinning a light on all the different countries that belong to the francophone world. Check out their facebook page, for example. Over the past few years, they’ve posted a recipe for Belgian waffles and the essentials of Senegalese cuisine, highlighted 10 of the most confusing words in the French language, gave us a crash course of playing the African drums and got me dreaming of jetting off to Guinea!

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Of course, Smithsonian at 8 has also been promoting the Grande Fête which will cap off the festival on March 27, 2015, and doing a Caption That contest to help you win free tickets. I’ve been to the Grande Fête many times, and here are a few tips to enjoy the party at the French Embassy:

  • la grande fete de la francophonieBuy your tickets early. The event will sell out, it always does.
  • Get to the party early. Even though the Grande Fête takes place on the expansive grounds of La Maison Francaise at the French Embassy, it gets very crowded, very fast. If you’re attending with a large group of people, agree on a meeting point because you’ll probably loose each other.
  • Don’t bring a big bag! They’ll be checking IDs and bags at the entrance so you’ll go through faster if you don’t have too much on you.
  • Uber to and back from the Embassy. There’s no parking available at the Embassy and not many spots in the streets nearby. The D6 bus does stop and pick up really close if you want to take public transportation.
  • Be prepared for long lines as you sample food and drink from more than 30 embassies as diverse as Ukraine, Cape Verde, Haiti, Tunisia and Belgium.
  • Stay for the concert! DJ Princess Slaya will spin music from Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, and plenty of destinations in between. The concert is when you stop spending all your time in a line and when the party really gets moving!
  • Bring cash. You’ll get food/drink samples from 7-9PM but it’s cash bar afterwards.

This year’s schedule seems a little more limited than in previous years, but besides the Grande Fête, there are a few interesting events like the Swiss Art Night at Hillyer Art Space, March 26 (6:30-9:00PM – free), Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler, a celebration of Louisiana at l’Alliance Française, March 20 (7PM – $20-$30) or Annecy in DC: a Selection of French Animated Shorts at the French Embassy, March 11 (7PM – free but reservations required.)

Make sure to visit FrancophonieDC.org for more info, including ticket costs, the description of the events and films, and times and locations.