Brooklyn Half Marathon: I Missed the Royal Wedding for This

You guys! I ran a race in New York City! Nope, I didn’t run the New York Marathon. (I weirdly have no desire to!). I didn’t run the New York Half Marathon. Though I did want to run that one, I just didn’t get in through the lottery. I did get into the Popular Brooklyn Half Marathon so that’s what I ran and , well, it was a tough one!

The New York Road Runners‘ Brooklyn half owes it names to the title sponsor of the race, Popular Bank, but it bears it well! Indeed, it’s is one of the most popular half marathon in the United States, attracting some 27,000+ runners this year. I was looking forwards to running it as my first New York City race, especially since I had never been to Coney Island where the race ends. Also, I was going to run it with my friend Caitlin and that’s always fun. We’ve now ran 5 races “together”: the 2010, 2011 and 2018 Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, the 2017 Disneyland Paris Half Marathon and now the¬† 2018 Popular Brooklyn Half Marathon. I put together in quotation marks because she’s a lot faster than me and we don’t actually “run” together ūüėČ Still, it’s a shared experience. Kind of.

Since the race is on a Saturday, I bused up to Manhattan Friday afternoon, which meant I missed the expo. I snagged a $5 Megabus ticket that was too good to pass. My friends Calla and Nicole traveled in a little more style than me (ie. they took the train) earlier in the day and we met up for some carbs at Basta Pasta, a casual Japanese restaurant in Chelsea that serves classic Italian dishes, with a twist.¬† I love seafood pasta (spaghetti with clams are my go-to pre-race) so I had been lusting over the Linguine Al Ricci Di Mare (uni pasta!) for weeks! It doesn’t photograph well, but it didn’t disappoint.¬†

Uni Pasta at Basta Pasta

Caitlin scooped me up after dinner and we headed to bed early-ish since we had to get up at the crack of dawn and, you know, run 13 miles the next day.

If you live in the East Coast, you know the weather has been simply atrocious and unfortunately, it looked like conditions would be less than ideal on race day. Oh well, you run the race you’re given not the race you want and ours was going to be wet and cold. We got up at 5AM and ubered to the Brooklyn Museum. Because the race is so big, runners are divided in 30+ corrals split between two waves. Since she’s a faster runner, Caitlin was in Wave 1 and I, of course, was in Wave 2. That meant her expected start time was after 7AM and mine after 7:45AM. We got there a little after 6AM and since you have to go through metal detectors to get to the corrals we quickly said goodbyes as Caitlin headed to her earlier start. Meanwhile, I had quite a while to wait so I found myself underneath a scaffolding for protection from the rain, in a garbage bag questioning some of my life choices. I mean, I could have been warm at home, in my pjs, sipping hot tea and watching the Royal Wedding ūüėČ

If you’ve read some of my previous race reports, you know that I have been extremely frustrated by my inability to improve my race time. I had ran the Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon in early March in 2:41 and the National Women’s Half Marathon in late April (recap here) in the exact same time. Worse, I had ran my very first half, the 2013 Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon in DC, very under-trained, and had finished that in 2:43. At least, at the 2018 Rock’n’Roll half, I had fun and enjoyed the race so my initial plan for Brooklyn was to just try and have a fun race without worrying too much about my time, hoping I could still shave off a few minutes. Of course, mother nature had other plans for me and it was obvious given the weather that “having fun” wasn’t really going to be an option. So I decided I would try and run a good race instead. I wore the pace bracelet for 2:35 and thought I’d follow the 2:30 pace leader for as long as I could (that strategy had worked well for me at the 2018 Cherry Blossom 10 miler — recap here) hoping to finish somewhere between 2:30 and 2:35, which would be a solid PR for me and a result I could finally be proud of. Turns out, as a French citizen, that I couldn’t possibly run 21 kilometers behind this lady…¬†¬†

So I was on my own in the rain with my Garmin to help me make sure I stayed at as close to 11:30 minutes per miles as I could. I didn’t cross the start line until a few minutes after 8AM. That meant Caitlin was probably halfway done by the time I started, which sucked. The rain was pouring pretty hard in the beginning but I still ditched my garbage bag right away and started running with everyone else.¬†The first half of the race has you running around Prospect Park and¬† then through it. Given the early hour and the weather, it was not surprising that there weren’t a lot of people cheering along the way, mostly just people walking their dogs, but I appreciated every single person that was there in the rain. The park has a few inclines and declines but nothing too bad and there were ample water stations right from the beginning, which I really appreciated.¬† Prospect park was pretty boring though the rain did kinda stop for a little bit, which I appreciated very much. I was glad to be out of the park though, and into the second part of the run: racing down¬†Ocean Parkway. It’s basically straight course down a 6-lane avenue. There’s a ton of space to run, but not a ton to look at for distraction. Again, there weren’t a ton of people cheering or spectating which meant I really only had the race to focus on.¬†The rain started coming down strong again at that point, but despite being drenched I was actually¬†trudging along as a decent pace between the 10-11 minute per mile range. My fastest mile was miles 3 at 10:05/mi, my slowest ones, miles 5 and 6 were 11:11/mi and 13.16/mi. Mile nine was also a bit of a struggle at 11:09/mi. Otherwise I ran in the 10s and I all I could think about while running down Ocean Drive was that I could realistically finish the race with a 20 minute PR.¬† That was a huge motivation to just keep going and not slow down!¬†

I missed the royal wedding to run in the rain… and PRed so it was all worth it!

In the end, I finished in 2:24. I missed the Royal Wedding for a 17-minute PR. Most importantly, I finally had a race result I could be proud of, especially given the less than ideal conditions. I had something to show for all the training and running I have been doing since the beginning of the year and that made it all worth it. 

Calla and Nicole were supposed to meet us at the Boardwalk with dry clothes and umbrellas (and my phone charger) but given the weather they stayed in bed to watch the royal wedding. And I can’t blame them.¬† While I had to wait at the start, Caitlin had to wait at the end and she was frozen by the time I got there (a solid hour and half after her!) so once we found each other we didn’t stick around too long. It was a bummer because the party at the finish line looked like it would have been a ton of fun… had we not been tired, wet and cold. I guess I’ll have to go back to Coney Island under better circumstances.¬†

As much of Coney Island as I got to see… from the metro back to Manhattan

The next day, the sun finally came out. Hurrah! I had almost forgotten what it looked like ūüėČ We went back to Brooklyn for brunch at Chez Ma Tante, a French-Canadian neighbourhood bistro in Greenpoint. The pancakes were worth all the accolades they’ve been getting!¬†Calla and Nicole brought the sign they had planned to use at the finish line along for brunch! How cute is the sign? Though I don’t think it would have survived in the rain ūüėȬ†

And of course, we took our medals on a little photo shoot to make up for the pictures we didn’t get to take the day before and I *finally* got to have my Coney Island beer at The Brooklyn Barge! No Nathan’s hot dog though…¬†

Coney Island Beer

Would I run this race again? I dunno…. there are SO many races. If it were a local race, I definitely would and I would make sure I can attend the expo as well since the New York Road Runners does a great job making sure it’s a special event, almost a pre-race party. And I’d love to see what kind of party at Coney Island we all missed out on because the weather was so awful. I guess I have a whole year to figure that out.¬†

Next up for me is the Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon on June 2nd. It’s likely to be very hot and humid by then in Purcellville so it will be a very different race but I hope to prove to myself that my 2:24 finish at the Brooklyn half wasn’t just a fluke and finish in under 2:25.¬†

 

Postcard from NYC: “Bird Watching” in West Harlem

Audubon Mural Project: Roseatte Spoonbill by Danielle Mastrion

Let’s be honest, I’m a city baby and any¬†flying animal that’s not a pigeon is a pretty exotic bird for me! Bird-watching is not an activity I typically engage in… unless the birds in question happen to be drawn on urban walls that is ūüėČ Thanks to the¬†Audubon Society and the Gilter & ____¬†Gallery, the Washington Heights/West Harlem neighbourhoods is just the perfect spot¬†to catch a flock of colourful birds! All in graffiti of course…¬†

Right now there are a few dozens murals of varying scale scattered around uptown Manhattan, and eventually the goal is to have street artists and muralists paint over 314 different species of North American birds that a¬†sobering 2014¬†Audubon Society¬†report on¬†“Birds and Climate Change” identified as being at risk because of global warming.

Here are some of the birds I spotted during a recent¬†street art “birding” excursion:

Audubon Mural Project: Swallow-tailed Kite by Lunar New Year

The Swallow-tailed Kite, located at 575 West 155th Street, was painted by artist Lunar New Year and depicts 12 different climate-threatened species

Audubon Mural Project: Tricolored Heron by Iena Cruz,

Tricolored Heron, by Iena Cruz, appropriately located next to Audubon Hall at 432 West 163rd St.

Audubon Mural Project: Endangered Harlem, by Gaia

Endangered Harlem, by Gaia, located at 1883-7 Amsterdam, between W. 153rd and W. 154th streets

Audubon Mural Project: Fish Crow, by Hitnes

Fish Crow, by Hitnes, can be seen at 3750 Broadway between 155th and 156th streets

Audubon Mural Project: Bald Eagle by Peter Daverington

I love how colourful this one is! The Bald Eagle by Peter Daverington brightens up 3623 Broadway

Audubon Mural Project: Allen’s Hummingbird by Socky Chop

Allen’s Hummingbird, painted by Socky Chop, is at 101 Edgecombe Avenue, between 139 & 140 St

Audubon Mural Project: American Redstart, by James Alicea

American Redstart, by James Alicea, at 3612 Broadwaybetween 148 & 149th streets

Audubon Mural Proejct: Black-throated Blue Warbler, by minusbaby

Black-throated Blue Warbler, by minusbaby, at 3637 Broadway between 149 & 150 streets

If you’re not¬†familiar with Jean-Jacques Audubon, you should know that he was a Franco-American ornithologist and naturalist who painted, cataloged, and described the birds of North America in his famous book Birds of America. ¬†Most of the murals are concentrated in the upper East Side neighbourhood where he once resided and is buried (in the Trinity Church Cemetery, on the south side of 155th Street, between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway.) If you feel like going on a little bird watching excursion of your own, check out the Audubon Society’s website to map out your route. And if you want to spot some actual real non-graffiti birds, check out the New York City Audubon’s quick guide ¬†to birding in the city! I think I’m good with the mural versions for now ūüėČ

Postcard from NYC: 5 Things I Ate Last Week

Other than a week in Portugal for Thanksgiving, I¬†don’t have a lot of trips planned this year. At least not fun trips… So I’m determined to make the most out every single work trip I have, starting with the one I just took last week to New York City. And that, of course, includes enjoying some good eats around town. There’s no shortage of restaurants in Manhattan. If anything the options are limitless and a bit overwhelming when you don’t have a lot of free time. Since I¬†stayed at the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown many of the spots I ended up at are concentrated in that part of town. Here are some of my favourite eats from my last “work-cation” in New York City:¬†

ALL THE PINK PASTRIES AT DOMINIQUE ANSEL

I’ve been a fan of Dominique Ansel since before¬†the whole cronut craze. I actually arrived in New York on Valentine’s Day so my first stops were Ladur√©e and Dominique Ansel, conveniently located right around the corner from each other in SoHo. Every year on February 14, the French p√Ętissier¬†turns¬†his¬†entire pastry case pink. I grabbed two of the chestnut-cassis-rose Mont Blanc, two Paris-New York (a twist on the classic Paris-Brest) and the most amazing caramel eclairs with pink Himalayan salt. All were pink, of course, and all were amazing!¬†

Valentine's day at Dominique AnselValentine's day at Dominique AnselDominique Ansel Bakery is located at 189 Spring St.

 

HIBISCUS DONUTS FROM DOUGH DOUGHNUTS

In keeping with the pink theme, I loved this ginormous hibiscus donut from Dough Doughnuts. Luckily for me, Urban Space Vanderbilt just opened a¬†stone’s throw away from the Roosevelt Hotel and Grand Central Station.¬†The new food hall¬†boasts fare from 21¬†different food purveyors like Red Hook Lobster Pound, Roberta’s or¬†Kuro-Obi (from the team behind¬†Ippudo ramen, a fabulous ramen spot in Manhattan). Between Toby’s Estate,¬†Ovenly¬†and Dough Doughnuts¬†my mornings pretty much always started right (and early… good thing UrbanSpace opens its doors at 6:30AM!) After trying the pistachio cardamom bread from Ovenly, I’m a new fan of the Brooklyn bakery and I’m definitely planning to visit their cafe on Greenpoint avenue during another trip, when I have a little more free time.

Hibiscus doughnut from Dough Bakery

UrbanSpace Vanderbilt is at 45th St. & Vanderbilt Ave, in The Helmsley Building 

 

MISO RAMEN AT TOTTO’S RAMEN

The first time I made my parents wait over an hour outside of the tiny Hell’s Kitchen ramen restaurant for¬†a bowl of soup, they weren’t too impressed (by the wait at least). But¬†we’ve been going back to Totto Ramen ever since. I caught a later train back to Washington, DC so that I could attend a taping of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. You can read more about that here… when I had a quick hour and a half to kill between lines at the Ed Sullivan theater,¬†I headed straight to Totto. This is one of the best spot for ramen in Manhattan and the Miso Paiten soup with ground pork, half boiled egg, scallions and char siu¬†was just what I needed to warm up!¬†¬†

Miso Paiten from Totto Ramen

Totto Ramen is located at 366 W 52nd St.

 

EVERYTHING AT IZAKAYA MEW

A basement in the middle of k-town is probably not where you’d expect an authentic Japanese izakaya¬†but there it is! Izakaya Mew is actually a really popular late night spot and there’s usually a consequential wait to get a table, but I was able to snag a spot at the (tiny) bar since I was dining solo. It’s probably not the best spot actually if you’re eating alone since there’s only 6 seats at the bar and no television or bar tenders to distract you but the food is amazing and varied ranging from raw fish starters (called¬†toriaezu or while you wait…) to hot pots, grilled skewers or gyoza, grilled seafood, noodles, ramen and sushi rolls. I tried the pumpkin roll since I had never seen something like that on a menu before, the grilled hokke fish (I *love* mackerel) and shishito pepper and the shime saba (told you I love mackerel). I washed everything down with a 300 ml bottle of¬†Itami Onigoroshi, which kinda confused my waiter… Apparently, he thought I should have ordered a bigger bottle but I thought that was pretty good all by myself ūüėČ

Charred shishito peppers at Izakaya Mew

Izakaya Mew is located in the basement of 53 W 35th Street.

 

THE NOVA SCOTIA BAGEL FROM MIKE’S BAGELS

For the record, I am and will always be team Montreal when it comes to bagels… but, you know, when in New York…. I happened to be in West Harlem/Washington Heights checking out some of the Audubon Mural Project street art and ordered Mike’s¬†Nova Scotia (still gotta give Canada some love!) bagel, an everything bagel, toasted, with lox, red onions, capers, tomato & scallion cream cheese. It was almost enough to convert me. Almost… #TeamMontrealBagel

The Nova Scotia Bagel from Mike's Bagel

Mike’s Bagel is located at¬†4003 Broadway (at the 168th street metro)

 

BONUS: ALL THE WINE AT LA COMPAGNIE DES VINS SUPERNATURELS

I really wanted to check out this wine bar in SoHo, especially since I never got a chance to go to the Experimental Cocktail Club before it closed. Here’s a little background. Paris, and France in general, isn’t known for its cocktail culture (unless you count a kir royal as a cocktail…) but Frenchmen Rom√©e de Goriainoff, Olivier Bon, and Pierre-Charles Cros sparked the new wave of the craft cocktail trend when they opened the insanely hard to get into speakeasy l‚ÄôExperimental Cocktail Club in the Sentier neighbourhood in Paris. That spot was followed by a few others, including Beef Club which makes a mean steak tartare. They gave it a shot in New York City, but their location is currently closed for relocation.¬†But they also¬†opened a wine bar last year (there’s one in Paris as well, rue Lobineau in the 6eme, and in Neal’s Yard in London).

La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels - New York, NY Picture courtesy of Experimental events

La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels РNew York, NY Picture courtesy of  the Experimental Group

There’s a selection of 600 wines, with a strong emphasis on French ones, and most of the by-the-glass options are¬†poured using an Enomatic wine dispenser. If¬†you know your wines, try the mystery wine, a $15-ish unidentified glass of wine¬†that you can¬†correctly guess to win the¬†whole bottle (typically in the $100 price point). Try it!!!¬†

La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels is located at 249 Centre St. in SoHo. 

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I’m going back to New York for another (even shorter and busier) workation in April… any recommendations??? Those in midtown are always particularly appreciated ūüėČ

 

Postcard from New York: Going to A Late Show Taping

Attending a taping of the Late Show with Stephen ColbertHere’s something free and unique to do if you have a spare afternoon in New York City: attend the live taping of a late (or late-late) night talk-show! I say afternoon, because a) while the shows air in the evening, tapings typically happen earlier that day b) even though you have to book your tickets in advance, there’s a lot of waiting around in lines involved before you can actually take your place in the audience. Here‚Äôs what my experience attending a live taping of ‚ÄúThe Late Show with Stephen Colbert‚ÄĚ was like.

But first, why The Late Show with Stephen Colbert?¬†I actually watch the show every day and I absolutely love Stephen Colbert. I love his smart humour, and think his guests tend to be more interesting than those on other shows. Also,¬†I was busy all week with work commitments and his late show is the only one that tapes on Fridays when I finally had some free time ūüėČ

The first step if you want to see any late night talk-show ¬†(Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers or Trevor Noah¬†also shoot in New York City) is to go online and get (free) tickets. I knew exactly when I would be in New York and stalked the Late Show’s website¬†for available tix, which are typically released a¬†month in advance and¬†go REALLY fast. I booked my spots for February 19th on January 11 to give you an idea of the timeline. Once you’ve got the tickets, you should clear out your calendar for that entire afternoon.¬†Attending a live taping is a BIG¬†time commitment and involves a lot of waiting around. Even with your pre-reserved tickets, you still need to queue to¬†physically claim said ticket on the actual day of the taping and seats are first comes first served starting at 2PM. My ticket instructed me to get in line “no later than 3PM” but I showed up at the Ed Sullivan Theater on Broadway (between 53rd and 54th) at 1PM¬†to get decent seats. Each show is overbooked, and reserving a spot is no guarantee that you’ll get in. At 2PM, the line started moving, as Late Show staff checked my reservation and my I.D. They gave me a numerical ticket (111/400… not bad!), stamped my hand with a black CBS logo and instructed me to come back at 3:45PM.¬†

CBS logo

That gave me about an hour and half to grab a late lunch.¬†Luckily, I knew of two great options in Hell’s Kitchen, within a 5 minute walking distance:¬†Danji¬†and¬†Totto’s Ramen, both¬†on 51st street between 9th and 10th avenue. After standing an hour outside in the middle of February, ramen seemed like the best option to warm up!

Pre Stephen Colbert Late Show RamenTotto's Ramen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At my assigned time, I headed back to the Ed Sullivan theater and waited another 10 minutes lined up in numerical order based on my ticket. Our bags were scanned before we got to queue some more, this time at least in an indoor area inside the theater. Another pro-tip: if your bags are too large, they’ll make you check them so pack light. And I was able to go in with a bottle of water. That time of the waiting was possibly the worse because you’re crammed into a rather small room with 150 other people with 2 TVs cranking out old Stephen Colbert skits as only distraction. FINALLY, a young lady with a microphone welcomed us and reminded us of a few things: mainly, we’ll be filmed (duh!) and we’re not allowed to use our cell phones. I’d attended a few tapings of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart before so I knew the drill. No tweeting, snap-chatting, instagramming and NO photography whatsoever in the studio! Womp womp!¬†

Attending a taping of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert

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Finally, I sat down at my seat, on the fifth row, right in front of the band area. There’s pros and cons to sitting on the main level of the theater. The main pros are proximity to the stage, the host, and the guests but on the con side cameras do get in your way and you can’t see the beautiful projection on the ceiling of the theater. Around 5PM, comedian Paul Mecurio came onto the stage to get us pumped for the main show coming up. He reminded us quickly of our purpose today as audience: to laugh, preferably loudly, at Stephen’s jokes. He made a few jokes of his own and pulled a few people onto the stage, including a software engineer from Google and his friend who was an opera signer and had an absolutely beautiful voice. Then Stephen Colbert came in for a quick Q&A. The questions weren’t riveting but he did mention that his wife was in attendance with some of her girlfriends, which was pretty cool.

At around 5:45PM,¬†Jon Batiste and Stay Human, the house band, came onto the stage to play a few tunes¬†and before I knew it the taping was finally starting!! I will say Jon Batiste and Staying Humans are pretty awesome in person, even with an extra human tap-dancing in the “percussion” areas. I took a couple of screen shots of the show afterwards, which included special audience members from the Coast Guards, Chelsea Handler in a tight little white number, an awesome segment on Marco Rubio’s “Morning Again in America” ad that included references to some of my favourite Canadian things like DeGrassi and Poutine, Zosia Mamet and a performance of¬†The Lumineers’ new ¬†song Ophelia.¬†

Coast Guards members in the audience of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
IMG_5790Chelsea Handler on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert

About the guests – when you book tickets to the show, you have NO idea who the guests are going to be. Like, when I saw Jon Stewart in Washington, D.C., I had no idea that President Obama would be his guest… the day AFTER I got to be in audience. I don’t even remember who the guest was when I went… I just remember that it wasn’t Obama ūüėČ I’m pretty happy with who I got to see, though honestly I would have been happy with anyone, as just getting to be in the audience was quite the treat. One of the highlights of the show that evening though was the cute interaction between Colbert and his wife (“darling”), either during the taping or during the commercial breaks as well as his interaction with us the audience the few times that he had to re-tape a segment (quite a few times actually). Otherwise, the guests pretty much just ignore the audience ūüė¶

After the show wrapped, Colbert did a few reshoots, including Zosia’s name, which he had mispronounced. He explained to us that earlier in the day, the building next to them had a sewers issues that had prevented them from being able to do their rewrites in their typical offices and that was one of the reasons the show’s taping appeared a bit frantic and disorganized. He chatted up with his wife a bit, asking her where she¬†and friends were headed for drinks afterwards and that was that. I myself headed to¬†Casellula¬†for a¬†post-Late Show glass of vino. Overall, I had a blast at the taping, it was so fun to see behind the scene of a show I watch everyday though it was a lot of¬†waiting around, and definitely required some advance planning. Here’s my last pro-tip if you’re planning on being in the audience like I was: wear warm clothes! The theater is FREEZING so much that the staff is walking around in their coats. I definitely wished I’d worn a warmer sweater ūüėČ

Have you ever attended a show’s tapping, whether in New York or Los Angeles? How was that experience for you?¬†

Highlights from Best Of France 2015 in New York

Over the weekend, I made a quick trip to New York City to check out the third edition of Best of¬†France, ¬†an event organized by the New York French community to showcase French brands in the United States. Yes, there was wine. Yes, there was cheese. Yes, there were stripped shirts – including the world’s biggest marini√®re courtesy of Breton brand Saint James. There were even cancan dancers from the Moulin Rouge. But beyond the¬†expected images of France, there were also US-based French start ups, major brands like Air France, L’Oreal and Ariane Espace, as well¬†as¬†small businesses¬†representing the best of France’s savoir faire from cakes and foie gras to apps, knives, bikes, etc.¬†

POLITICIANS, A COW AND THE BAGUETTE-MASTER

Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, kicked of the event on September 26

With visits from the minister of foreign affairs, Laurent Fabius, the¬†minister for ecology, sustainable development and energy (and former presidential candidate slash unofficial French first Lady) S√©golene Royal¬†AND Fran√ßois Hollande (you know, just THE¬†President of the whole country) it’s fair to say the event attracted some high profile visitors.¬†

French president Francois Hollande visits Best of France 2015

French president François Hollande visits Best of France 2015

Unfortunately for moi, Hollande¬†dropped by Best of¬†France¬†on Sunday around 3PM and that’s exactly when my train back to DC left so I missed out, again. But I did get to get to meet some pretty cool French icons like La Vache qui Rit and Eric Kayser.

Laetitia Brock and Eric KayserLaetitia Brock and La Vache Qui Rit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kayser provided bread for pretty much every event where bread was needed (so all of them, we’re talking France here!) and was pretty much everywhere during the two days of Best of France: signing books, ringing the closing bell at NASDAQ, meeting the president, etc.¬†

Eric Kayser meets president Francois Hollande Eric Kayser helps ring the closing bell at NASDAQ

Of course, I inquired about plans to open a Maison Kayser in DC, which have been in the works for quite some time. Sadly, I have no good news to report on that front, it’s not gonna happen until 2017 at the earliest. Le womp womp.

VIVE LE BEURRE

There are Guinness World Records for pretty much everything and over the course of Best of France, President¬†broke the record for largest butter sculpture with this impressive rendition¬†of the city of Paris’ skyline. It took 7 days for¬†dairy artisans Jim Victor and Marie Pelton to carve¬†a ton of butter into this spectacular landscape.¬†Cocorico!!¬†

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GATEAUX BASQUES, CANELES AND OTHER SWEET TREATS

Speaking of butter, I loved tasting some wonderful French products like this amazing gateau basque from Gateau Basque Lauburu.
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Not familiar with this almond-based cake? ¬†Read this NPR primer to learn more. It’s so good and will soon make an appearance at a Whole Foods near you!!¬†

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More well known in the US is¬†the equally buttery canel√©. The lovely Celine of Canel√©s by Celine, who opened New York’s first canel√©-only bakery back in 2014, was around to sell some of her original creations like a basil pesto or bacon¬†canel√©.¬†I have my reservations about these flavours, but¬†it looks like Hollande was a fan!!

Introducing the bacon canel√©, a definite made in France treat…with a distinct American twist, from Canel√©s by Celine

Michel et Augustin at Best of FranceThere were too many wonderful French food at Best of¬†France to mention everything, but I’ll just mention one more: Michel et Augustin. They too not only had the chance to present their products to Francois Hollande (apparently everyone but me got a pic with the pres who roamed the event for over an hour before walking back to his hotel by foot…) but also to gain some new fans in the US. After perfecting their recipes and selling more than 150 million cookies in France, Augustin moved to New York to bring his kooky cookies to the homeland of cookies. Their products are¬†currently available in 25 Starbucks in New York and hopefully that’s just the beginning because I *love* their raspberry with bits of pistachio cookies.¬†

OF COURSE THERE WAS WINE... 

Let’s be honest… you can’t have an event promoting France without wine being involved. There was the not-so traditional, like Winestar which offers¬†single-serving cans of vino…¬†

Winestar: French wine in a can…and then there were more traditional offerings at two FABULOUS grand tastings held at the AXA¬†Center, just a few blocks up from the main event.¬†

Wine tasting at New York's Best of France eventGrand tasting at new York's Best of France

Presented in partnership with James Beard Award Winner and New York Sommelier Jean-Luc¬†le D√Ľ, the tasting offered¬†over 100 wines,¬†organized by¬†regions from Champagne to Jura, Corsica or the Loire.¬†Having recently returned from a (too-quick) trip to Bordeaux, I lingered at the table promoting wines from that region, sampling wonderful wines from Saint Emilion and Pommerol.¬†

…BUT THERE WAS ALSO RHUM

The area of Best of¬†France where I spent the most time was the “Rendez Vous in France” section dedicated to French tourism. I have a million new spots I want to visit on my next trip to France but at the top of the list are the French Antilles islands of Martinique, Saint Martin and Guadeloupe. The islands sponsored the welcome reception on opening night where I sampled some wonderful rhum-based cocktails (another sponsor was Diptyque and all attendees left with a candle. Not a mini one. A¬†real candle. That was VERY awesome.)

Rhum french CaribbeanSaint Martin Cocktail

Other than Saint Martin, the¬†French Caribbean islands are not super well known to American travelers, in part because there were no direct flights to reach them… until now!! Throughout the winter, European low-cost airline Norwegian is offering pretty affordable flights to Point-a-Pitre and Fort-de-France.¬†I’m already plotting a birthday get-away ūüėČ

LE MOULIN ROUGE DANCERS CANCAN-ED ON BROADWAY

Danceuses du Moulin Rouge at Best of France

The beautiful danceuses of the most famous cabaret in the world garnered the most attention in both the French and US media (sorry¬†Fran√ßois Hollande!) for their first visit to New York in their 126 years history. They made the rounds on morning and late night shows, performed on the main stage at Best of¬†France¬†and even posed for pictures in front of the Statue of Liberty. Americans, of course, are the third largest clientele for the Moulin Rouge, after the French and the Chinese,¬†¬†so this was an important promotional visit I’m sure for the cabaret and I must say I enjoyed watching their high energy performance! Of course, like everyone else that’s not me, they too got their photo op with the president ūüėČ

Francois Hollande and the Moulin Rouge Dancers

Gad Elmaleh in DC ‚Äď Part Trois, Now All In English


Le revoici, le revoil√†! Gad Elmaleh repasse au Birchmere, avec un petit changement qui n’est pas n√©gligeable: le comedien fait son show en Anglais!!¬†

It’s hard enough¬†being funny in your native language, let alone in a foreign one. Seinfeld, for example, was notoriously bad when dubbed in French, and the humour didn’t quite translate. And yet, that‚Äôs exactly the personal challenge that French funnyman (and Seinfeld BFF) Gad Elmaleh has set for himself. After performing sold-out shows in Washington, DC twice in 2013 (in April and September – you can read my recap from the September show right here), the comedien is back for a third time. This fall, he‚Äôll try to branch out of the French-speaking and expat crowd by performing en anglais in 17 cities across the US and Canada.

Gad Elmaleh al in English

I thought he was absolutely hilarious when he performed at the Birchmere in Alexandria two years ago. The running joke throughout the performance was Cathy, the lone non-French speaker in the audience whom Gad picked on repeatedly. Good news for her, she can go back to the Birchmere on December 13 and finally be in on the jokes. I, for one, would rather see the comedien in v.o. (version originale). But I’m excited at the prospect of bringing my husband to the show this time, or some of my other friends here who appreciate French but may not speak it well enough to follow an entire stand-up routine in it (maybe they should do like at the opera and have surtitles!). 

You can get your tics for the DC, Montreal and Vancouver shows here. You can also catch one of his film, Capital, on Netflix right now. Or you can¬†get a sneak peek of his English show¬†on YouTube, with a¬†short segment where he¬†comments on two very American things French expats in the US¬†don’t get: air conditioning and over-zealous wait staff at restaurants ūüėČ Don’t worry, it’s not all US bashing during his routine. The French definitely get picked on too!¬†

*** note: it appears the DC show is already sold out… womp womp for those who didn’t purchase tickets soon enough, like me! But wow, that was quick!!***¬†

D√ģner en Blanc – New York Edition

Last night, I joined 5,000 revelers at Pier 26 in Tribeca for the fifth edition of New York’s D√ģner en Blanc.¬†Being involved with the DC event, which this year will take place on August 29th and involve 2,500 guests, I can appreciate the sheer logistics of getting all of us, carrying our own tables, chairs, tableware, centerpieces and food, there!

Diner en blanc New YorkWashington Square Park

Diner en blanc Washington Square Park

 

Our¬†evening started at Washington Square Park, one of 24 meeting spots throughout the city. Well, really it started on a bus to New York… but let’s not go there ūüėČ Following a quick¬†glass of ros√© on tap at Claudette¬†(no it wasn’t weird at all to show up there with 2 chairs, I swear…), my friend Caitlin and I met Katie, our very organized table leader, as well our 48 diner mates.

Part of the concept of D√ģner en Blanc, which originated in Paris (I mean where else??) is that the location of the diner is kept secret until the very last minute so we had no idea where we were headed. Previously, D√ģner en Blanc New York has popped up at¬†Bryant Park, the Lincoln Center¬†and,¬†more recently, Nelson A. Rockefeller Park at Battery Park. It took a good hour and a half to get from Washington Square Park to being set up in our designated area on Pier 26. With only two entry points to get¬†5,000 people in and out of the site, it was definitely a challenge to get everyone there and ready for diner, but the end result was worth all the sweating and slugging of white chairs in the metro and 33 degree heat!

Diner en blanc new york

Diner en blanc new York

Diner en blanc at Pier 26Despite being so close to last year’s location, which was a little disappointing, the backdrop of this year D√ģner en Blanc –¬†the Hudson River, New Jersey City Skyline and the new One World Trade Center – was absolutely stunning! You could even see a small ¬†Statue of Liberty in the background! The site¬†will be converted into a mixed-use recreational facility soon so this was the very last event held on the empty Pier.

Diner en blanc New YorkDiner en blanc New York

Caitlin and I opted to skip the picnic baskets provided by Chef Todd English and brought in our food, sushi from Beyond Sushi¬†and macarons from Mille-Feuille. ¬†Per New York regulations, we did pre-purchase a bottle of champagne to pick up on-site,¬†from D√ģner en Blanc New York sponsor Perrier Jouet.

Diner en Blanc New YorkDiner en blanc new York

One of my favourite element of the diner, which I hope we will have in DC too, was the Celebrity Cruises volunteers who not only had the cutest outfits as they held signs indicating the different rows of tables but also handed out white chocolate dipped macarons to all of the guests toward the end of the dinner. I cannot wait to see what they have planned for the event here in Washington, which they are also sponsoring!! 

Celebrity Cruises at diner en blanc new york

Have you ever attended a D√ģner en Blanc event before? When? Where? Are you planning on attending one this year? I’d love to hear!!

Paris vs New York: The Striped T-Shirt Edition

Paris mon Amour or New York my Love? That’s the question that JCrew’s little sister Madewell is asking in its second collaboration with the French label S√©zane¬ģ. After a successful first capsule collection last year,¬†Madewell x S√©zane is back with flared jeans, a very Parisian-chic little black dress, Ulysse lace-up sandals, accessories like a flirty printed scarf to wrap effortlessly around your neck, a “F√©minin et Masculin‚ÄĚ gray sweatshirt that’s guaranteed to sell out as fast as the “Superbe” one did in 2014, and, my personal favourite, this¬†set of two striped tees:

Paris Mon Amour New York My Love

Paris mon Amour New York my Love t-shirt image by Madewell

J’adore New York, but Paris will always be my home so I just ordered the red-striped shirt. I can’t wait to show it off around town here in Washington, D.C. The collection is only available online (check it all out right here) and will sell out so I wouldn’t wait too long if I were you. As a matter of fact, the¬†madewell x¬†s√©zane¬ģ striped knit dress is already gone. Le sigh. I really liked that one too ūüė¶¬†

 

 

Liberty Enlightening the World… For 130 Years

Did you know that the Statue of Liberty, this universal symbol of freedom,¬†is technically French? Yep, one of America‚Äôs most iconic monuments¬†was born in France to Mr.¬†Frederic Bartholdi, a French sculptor who modeled her after his mother, and given to the people of America as a gift of friendship from the French people. 130 years ago today, she arrived¬†in new York Harbour¬†after a long trip across the Atlantic Ocean in¬†350 individual pieces. These pieces took about a year to be reassembled and the¬†450,000-pound statue was officially dedicated on October 28, 1886, by President Cleveland. To¬†celebrate¬†the anniversary of the Statue of Liberty’s¬†arrival in the United States,¬†google created a cool little doodle, bien sur!
Google Doodle Statue of liberty June 17 2015
Did¬†you know lady Liberty has a little sister in Paris? Well, actually, she has quite a few… but there’s a little (11.50 metres or¬†37¬†feet 9¬†inches) one on l’√éle aux Cygnes¬†near Pont de Grenelle in the 15th arrondissement that was given to Paris by the Americans as kind of a return gift. The Parisian statue of Liberty faces west in the direction of its American sibling and if you go to Pont Mirabeau, or¬†walk along the quai Louis Bleriot between Quai Mirabeau and the Pont de Grenelle, you can snap a pretty awesome picture of both the Eiffel Tower AND the statue of Liberty (the inside armature for the American statue of Liberty were actually made by Eiffel!) ¬†

Everything is bigger in America, including the Statue of Liberty ūüėČ

And while Washington, DC doesn’t have a replica of the Statue of Liberty we do have a fountain designed by its creator,¬†Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, in one of my¬†favourite hidden gem garden, the¬†Bartholdi Park, right behind the US Botanical Garden.¬†

Hermione & the Spirit of Lafayette Back in the US


Nope, I’m not talking about a Hermione Granger, the Harry Potter character, but Hermione, the Frigate of Freedom, a ship. The replica of the ship that brought the Marquis de Lafayette to the United State some 235 years ago to carry the message from King Louis XVI that France was going to aid the colonies. In 1997, a group of people came up with the idea of reconstructing the frigate using the same building methods applied in the original. Some 17 years later, on April 18, 2015, she¬†left Rochefort in France¬†to¬†set sail¬†for Virginia and retrace a journey through American history. For the past month,¬†L’Hermione plied across the Atlantic, retracing Lafayette’s journey.¬†She’s set to arrive in Yorktown, Virginia, this week and then sail up the¬†Coast to 11 additional ports. If you’re hoping to catch the ship, here’s her schedule:

11044588_331276043728780_4448991414628043060_n

  • Yorktown, Virginia (June 5-7)
  • Mount Vernon, Virginia (June 9 – not docking)
  • Alexandria, Virginia (June 10-12)
  • Annapolis, Maryland (June 16-17)
  • Baltimore, Maryland (June 19-21)
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (June 25-28)
  • New York, New York (July 1-4)
  • Greenport, New York (July 6-7)
  • Newport, Rhode Island (July 8-9)
  • Boston, Massachusetts (July 11-12)
  • Castine, Maine (July 14-15)
  • Lunenburg, Nova Scotia (July 18)

At each stops, there will be a¬†traveling photography exhibit covering the 17 years of the ship’s reconstruction and visitors will be able to tour the ship and enjoy other pier-side cultural activities.¬†As always, New York gets the best stop of all, the one on July 4th, with a whole parade of boats that will accompany the Hermione as she sails from the Verrazano Bridge to the Statue of Liberty. Then of course, there’ll be fireworks, but I think those would have happened regardless ūüėČ I wish I could make it to that, but I’m hoping to catch the ship in Philadelphia since I’ll be out of town on a work trip pretty much the entire time it’s going to be in the DC-area.¬†

For more information on L’Hermione and her transatlantic trip, check out the website Hermione Voyage¬†or follow her journey on instagram and twitter. The photograph used in this post was courtesy of L’Hermione.