Postcard from Montréal ~ BYOB Restaurants

I spent a lot of time during my last visit in Montréal reminiscing about the past. I guess that’s what happens when you’re back in a city you called home for four years. Suddenly, the dépanneurs (deps!) and S.A.Q.s (saqs!) bring back memories of carefree evenings with friends. That coffee you’re drinking at this trendy new spot tastes better with a side of nostalgia for the memories of that pretty green dress you had bought there back in the days when it used to be a chic boutique. Some of it is bitter sweet of course, like seeing that a place you loved went out of business and was replaced by something new or realizing that you used to live in a WAY nicer house (and for much cheaper) when you were a junior than now that you are a professional. Gosh, I miss Montreal and its cheap real estate!! I don’t miss the heating bill though 😉

That nice house I used to live in when I was a junior was on Rue Sainte Famille, right in the heart of the McGill Ghetto (<– not an actual ghetto, just how the neighbourhood is called). We had a dépanneur right around the corner, where we could get our milk in plastic bags, as is done in Quebec, or a bottle of “Château Dépanneur,” aka cheap 2-buck chuck. On the other end of the street, there was Place Milton where we would go for cheap breakfasts on Saturdays and Amelio’s where we would treat ourselves to dinner once in a while, and sometimes go on dates too. We loved Amilio’s: the food was good AND it was cheap AND it was convenient AND we could bring your own wine to diner. When you’re a college student, that’s a magic formula!

The facade of Amelio's now Amelia's... my fave BYOW when I was in college

The facade of Amelio’s now Amelia’s… I’d love this spot even more now with this mural!

Being able to bring your own wine (Apportez Votre Vin as it is know in Quebec) with no corkage fee is a thing in Montréal. I’m almost ashamed of some of the wines I brought to very decent restaurant like Au 917. Yes, I’m French. But I was also 20 years old, wasn’t earning any money and was just beginning to appreciate wine for more than just my preferred method of getting a buzz. Well, wine and Molson, of course. It all started like a lot of things start… with a legal loophole. A couple of restaurateurs in the Plateau began allowing patrons to bring their own wine back in the 80s. The government corrected the situation a bit, requiring establishments to at least have a liquor license but the practice caught on and is still around today, and you will not be charged a corkage fee for bringing in your own vino to the table. The plateau is still where you’ll find most of the city’s BYOB resto, but new ones have started popping up all over Montréal too. 

Apportez votre vin

I know a 200%-400% mark-up is the norm in most restaurants, and that it is how dining establishments make money. But sometimes it just breaks my heart to spend THAT much on a bottle I know I could get for less than $20 at my favourite wine shop. In France, meals seem a lot more affordable, even with gratuities included, because the wine is so much more reasonably priced than it is in the United States. So if you’re visiting Montréal, definitely have diner at a BYOW one night! It’s a pretty unique only-in-Montréal kinda thing. Since my Montréal references are a bit dated – I mean, I’m not sure how much I’d actually enjoy Amelio’s or Place Milton these days, other than for the nostalgia factor – I asked a couple of my friends who still live in the city what their favourite BYOW are and here are some that stood out:

  • Au 917 – Now this is a place I used to go to because its reasonably priced table d’hote menu AND BYOW option was basically a French-expat-on-a-college-student-budget’s dream! Try the veal tongue! Seriously, try it… 

Restaurant au 917

  • Les Heritiers – pretty much all of them mentioned this upscale Plateau establishment from the restaurateurs duo Pierre Roy and Marc-Andre Paradis who own a mini-empire of amazing BYOWs including O’Thym… read below.
  • O’Thym – What pairs with foie gras tarte tartin… because that’s one of the items on the menu. OMD! This one is in the Village, which makes me sad that I didn’t go because I was staying right there during my last trip…
  • Le Quartier General – everyone also brought up this restaurant as not just one of the best BYOW restaurant, but also just one of the best Montréal restaurant. Noted for my next trip!!
  • Wellington – I never went to the Verdun neighbourhood when I lived in Montréal, but it sounds like Wellington would have been a good reason for me to head there! It offers a $45CAN table d’hote on Sundays, which coupled with BYOW makes it a pretty good deal. Despite the name, the food it pretty French. 

Do you have a fave restaurant Apportez Votre Vin in Montréal? Do you wish that concept could come to where you live? I know I do!! 

Highlights From My Long-Weekend in Montreal

I first fell in love with Montreal when I was seventeen, so much so that I moved across the Atlantic right after high school to attend its prestigious McGill University. Recently, my college flatmates and I met up back in the city where we had lived together for four years for a quick 3-days mini college reunion slash girls getaway. Here are some highlights from my trip down memory lane back to the city I still love so much. 

WHAT BROUGHT ME TO MONTREAL?

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I went to college there and hadn’t visited in a while (like 8 years a while!) So I was definitely overdue for a visit and when one of my university floormate and flatmate who lives in Calgary suggested we meet up, I jumped at the chance to reconnect with both my friend and the city I called home for 4 years.

Met these two ladies my very first week at McGill when we were floor mates at McConnell Hall's 7th floor

Met these two ladies my very first week at McGill when we were floor mates at McConnell Hall’s 7th floor

HOW I GOT THERE

So, I’ll preface this by mentioning that there are direct flights from Dulles to Elliott Trudeau airport on Air Canada, Porter Airline and other American carriers like American and United. But that would be too easy right? Right. I actually flew to Hartford, Connecticut, where I was picked up by my old McGill roommate and bestie Elena, who currently lives near New Haven. We road-tripped up to Canada through Vermont and while it took longer, it was also super fun and delicious as we made stops at Grafton cheese, Harpoon Brewery, Magic Hat Brewery and the Ben & Jerry’s factory along the way. Totally planning a trip to Vermont for the fall now!!

WHERE WE STAYED

I had wanted to re-live my college days a bit by booking an AirbNb in the McGill ghetto (note: not an actually ghetto… but that is how the neighbourhood around the university is known) like this stunning loft or this cozy 3 bedroom house. But we found a good deal at the Hotel Gouverneur Place Dupuis. The hotel was ok, it’s the location that was a real draw, at the crossroads of the Quartier des Spectacles and the Gay Village and a major metro hub. Getting around the city was a breeze, both on foot and public transportation and there was some interesting people watching as the hotel held auditions for the Québécois version of The Voice while we were there. The view didn’t suck either 😉

Auditioning for Quebec's The VoiceView from the Hotel Gouverneur in Montreal
Montreal's Pink Balls

I loved being so close to the pedestrian stretch of Rue Sainte Catherine (and its famous pink balls!) but if you can splurge, stay at the Ritz Carlton (the grande Dame of Sherbrooke) or the Sofitel, both right by the Musée des beaux-arts in a ritzy Anglophone side of the city. Back on the francophone side, and more budget friendly, I also love the Hotel de l’Institut du Quebec, a teaching hotel and restaurant with just 42 rooms on the edge of the Carré SaintLouis between the Quartier Latin and the Plateau. 

Square Saint Louis, famous for its Victorian style residences facing a quiet park

Square Saint Louis in the Plateau, famous for its Victorian style residences facing a quiet park

BEST THING I ATE

From poutine, to smoked meat sandwiches at Schwartz’s and bagels at St Viateur, my Montreal eats are obviously worthy of their own post so I’ll just highlight our decadent diner at Au Pied De Cochon. Everything I put in my mouth that night was outstanding, though the bone marrow topped with caviar was probably my favourite. It was light enough that I could enjoy hors d’oeuvres, desserts and a few bites of my friend’s Duck in Can without leaving the restaurant feeling overstuffed, yet luxurious and highly satisfying. 

Bone marrow topped with caviar at Au Pied de Cochon

Bone marrow topped with caviar at Au Pied de Cochon

BEST FREE ACTIVITY

Montreal is said to owe its name to Mont-Royal, the “mountain” that sits just above McGill University, downtown and the plateau. Since the weather was beautiful, we metro-ed over to the Oratoire Saint Joseph du Mont-Royal and from there joined one of the many hiking trails to Le Lac des Castors, a man-made lake that turns into an ice skating rink in the winter. The whole Mont Royal Park, which was designed by the same person responsible for New York’s Central Park, is a breath of fresh air in the city and the views from the chalet simply cannot be beat (and we certainly needed the exercise ahead of our diner at Au pied de Cochon that night 😉 

Montreal skyline

I also loved just walking the city, revisiting old college haunts including campus. Located right in downtown Montreal, McGill University is an English-language school that was founded in 1821 on a royal charter from King George IV. Some of the buildings were built in the Victorian era and you’ll even spot a statue of the British queen in front of the School of Music that bears her name. A lot of it was under renovation while we were there, including the The Roddick Memorial Gates (affectionately known as the Erotic gates because college kids are stupid even when they attend one of the best university in the world), the Three Bares fountain and the bookstore… which was kinda devastating because I really wanted to buy a bunch of new McGill stuff.

McGill 1 McGill 2

As I mentioned, the neighbourhood around the University is known as the McGill Ghetto and there’s a lot of great street art around there and down Saint Denis, thanks in part to a mural festival that take place in the city every year. 

I used to live on this street ad frequent Amelio's now Amelia's all the time. Now it's got a fabulous mural courtesy of French collage and stencil artist, Mathieu Bories, alias Mateo.

I used to live on this street ad frequent Amelio’s now Amelia’s all the time. Now it’s got a fabulous mural courtesy of French collage and stencil artist, Mathieu Bories, alias Mateo.

BEST SPLURGE ACTIVITY

Did I say you couldn’t beat the views from the top of Mont Royal? I may have to retract… So, since our hotel had an indoor pool, I actually tucked in a swimsuit in my small weekend bag at the last minute. Best decision ever because BOTA BOTA. What happened is an old college friend of mine suggested we meet up for lunch near the old port and then asked if I had brought a bathing suit to Montreal. I had no idea what kind of lunch I was in for that required me to be practically naked, but hey… I put my bathing suit in my purse and headed to the Vieux Port for a little touristy sight-seeing before lunch. Turns out we never actually ate lunch, though there is a restaurant at Bota Bota. Unless you count rosé as liquid lunch. Then we had lots of “food” 😉 

Bota Bota Spa sur L'eauThe View of Montreal from Bota Bota

Bota Bota in Montreal

 So what is this Bota Bota? It’s a floating spa on a former ferry boat that’s now anchored on the Saint Laurent river, offering stunning views of the city skyline AND 40 different kinds of spa treatments. It was amazing in the summer, and I can imagine that it’s a completely different, yet equally fabulous, experience in the winter! Spread other 5 levels, Bota Bota offers wet and dry saunas, outdoor/indoor cold and hot pools, facial treatment, swings, a restaurant (apparently lol)…. It wasn’t cheap, but it was SO worth it!

MY TIPS IF YOU’RE HEADED TO MONTREAL

Winters get really cold in Quebec and Montrealers really make the most out of their (short) summer. From the pink balls that topped Sainte Catherine in the gay village to festivals every other weekends, there’s SO much to do in June-July-August. Which of course were the three months out of the year that I never got to spend in Montreal while I was a student. You’ll want to check out a calendar of events to either avoid certain happenings or schedule your trip during a festival that’s of interest to you. One of my favourite was always the Festival International de Jazz and Just for Laughs, and we did manage to catch the tail end of that and the accompany Bouffons Montreal street food fest on this trip. 

Catch These French Films at Filmfest DC

FilmFest DC 2016

In the winter months, I try to cram in as many oscar-nominated films as I can before the awards are given out. After that movie-binge, I typically take a needed break from the cinemas. Until April and Filmfest DC

Filmfest is the District’s first, largest and only international film festival. Between April 14 and 24, 2016 Filmfest DC will celebrate 30 years of delighting Washington cinephiles with a really impressive line-up of 75 movies from 45 different countries. As always, that includes a number of films from France and Belgium. Here are some of the French(-ish) or French-language films you can look forward to this year. 

THE BRAND NEW TESTAMENTLe tout nouveau testament

The poster claims that “G-d exist… and he lives in Brussels.” Colour me intrigued, especially since the film is directed by Jaco Van Dormael who has made such great films as Toto the Hero or The Eight Day. In the story, G-d (Benoit Poelvoorde — catch him in Romantics Anonymous available on DVD on Netflix!) is alive and grumpy in the Belgian capital, where he controls the universe from his computer and torments his family, including his wife the amazing Yolande Moreau and 10 year old daughter, Ea. To get back at her dad, Ea sends everyone their death dates via SMS… and that’s just the beginning. Intrigued? You should be! The film was Belgium’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards, making the December shortlist of nine films, but falling just short of being nominated (it was nominated but didn’t win at France’s Cesars.) Watch the trailer here and catch The New Testament at AMC Mazza Gallerie on April 21 at 6:30PM or April 22 at 6:30PM. (In French with English subtitles.)

BELGIAN RHAPSODY 

Belgian rhapsody

Belgian Rhapsody illustrates the competition between the small country’s two linguistic groups – the French-speaking Walloons and the Flemish –  through the fierce battle of two brass bands vying for a European championship. The exuberant Wallo-Flemish musical comedy will be shown at Landmark’s E Street Cinema on April 18 at 8:45PM and April 23 at 5PM. (In Dutch and French with English subtitles.)

THE MEASURE OF A MANla loi du marche

I just saw posters for this film in new York City, which makes me think it has the best chance out of all the movies on this list to actually make it to theater in Washington, DC. Vincent Lindon is always superb and won awards for his performance both at Cannes and at the Cesars. This terrific drama echoes the Dardenne brothers’ “Two Days, One Night” in its exploration of what people are willing to do to keep their jobs. Here, Lindon portrays a fifty-something former factory worker, who after being unemployed for 20 months, finally accepts a soul-destroying job as a security guard for a megastore.  The movie is co-presented by the French Embassy where it will show on April 22 at 7PM. It will also show at AMC Mazza Gallerie on April 16 at 5PM. (In French with English subtitles.) The French Embassy will be screening another film, Anne Fontaine’s The Innocents, immediately following The measure of a man, at 9PM on April 22 if you feel like a French double feature. Details here

MY KING

Speaking of acting awards at Cannes, its director Emmanuelle Bercot, who also plays the tittle character in this movie (called Maiwenn in French), won that last year. Her film focuses on Maiween who tears up her knee cap skiing in the opening sequence. As her therapist hints that the whole thing was more of a cry for help than an accident she looks back at her life with her man-child partner Giorgio (swoon worthy Vincent Cassel) and remembers the highs and lows of their life together. My King is showing at AMC Mazza Gallerie on April 15 at 6:30PM and at Landmark’s E Street Cinema on April 17 at 5:30PM. (In French with English subtitles.)

My King

 

THE WHITE KNIGHTS

But back to Vincent Lindon. He leads the Move For Kids organization in this provocative Franco-Belgian drama that looks at the darker side of humanitarian assistance. Directly inspired by real events (the highly suspect story of French NGO Zoe’s Ark whose members were arrested in 2007 for illegally trafficking children they claimed to be orphans from war-torn Darfur) The White Knight raises many questions and offers no easy answers about what is wrong and what is right… what my husband would dub an excellent but infuriatingly French film 😉 Catch The White Knight at AMC Mazza Gallerie on April 15 at 9PM or at Landmark’s E Street Cinema on April 22 at 6:30PM. (In French with English Subtitles.)

The White Knights

 

LOVE & FRIENDSHIPLove and Friendship

What is this very British love satire based on Jane Austen’s never-previously-filmed novella in letters Lady Susan doing in a list of French film you ask? Well, it’s co-produced by France, the Netherlands and Ireland. So there, French enough-ish! Plus it looks really good (I always love a good period film!) Brit Kate Beckinsale plays a widow who seeks refuge with her in-laws. As rumours about her private life begin to circulate, she sets out to find a husband for a herself, and a father for her daughter, the reluctant debutante Frederica. There’s only one showing at Landmark’s E Street Cinema on April 19 at 6:30PM so don’t miss it. (In English… no subtitles.)

3000 NIGHTS

Saying that I loved Room doesn’t feel quite right because the topic the film/book dealt with is so dark. 3000 Nights feels almost like Room and is also partially based on true stories, that of Palestinian women in Israeli prisons. In the film, Layla is unaccountably thrown into a police van and convicted. She ends up pregnant and in jail and is allowed to keep the child who grows up in a grim cell, knowing nothing of the outside world, but surrounded by love from his mother and her five Palestinian cell mates. Palestinian director Mai Masri is initially a documentary filmmaker and 3000 Nights concludes with a powerful documentary.

3000 Nights

A Palestine/France/Qatar/Jordan/UAE coproduction, the film is co-presented by the Embassy of Qatar and showing at Landmark’s E Street Cinema on April 21 at 8:30PM and AMC Mazza Gallerie on April 23 at 9:30PM. That last screening will be attended by the director too. (In Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles.)

MY INTERNSHIP IN CANADA

The festival saved the best for last with its closing film! Academy award nominated director Philippe Falardeau, of Monsieur Balthazar and The Good Lie fame, returns with a political satire featuring Starbuck’s Patrick Huard (one of my absolute favourite in-French film currently streaming on Netflix… watch it!!) as a former pro-hockey player whose career never took off because he was afraid to get on planes. Now an independent MP and the last honest man in office, his vote can decide the fate of legislation that could send the country to war. The PM relies heavily on guidance from his Haitian intern Souverain, who seems to know more about the ins and outs of Canadian politics than he does.

My Internship in Canada

While reviews agree that My Internship in Canada (watch the trailer here) doesn’t quite live up to its potential, you won’t want to miss this screening at AMC Mazza Gallerie on April 24th, the closing night of the festival, because it will be attended by director Philippe Falardeau and followed by a reception sponsored by the Office of Quebec. (In French, Creole, with some English dialogue and English subtitles.)

Are you looking forward to Filmfest DC this year? The list above is by no means exhaustive, just some French-ish movies that I would like to see during the festival. You can see a full list of all the films shown through April 24th right here. Let me know if you see anything good!  

Gad Elmaleh in DC – Part Trois, Now All In English


Le revoici, le revoilà! Gad Elmaleh repasse au Birchmere, avec un petit changement qui n’est pas négligeable: 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’s 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’ll 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 😉 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!!*** 

Go Habs Go: Poutine Pizza for Game 7

I don’t know who’s been doing poutine’s PR lately, but Quebec’s classic dish has been ALL over the news. There was this poutine porn in Huffington Post last month. A poutine burger was NPR’s featured Sandwich Monday recently. And then there was all the hoopla that accompanied the opening of Chicago’s Big Cheese Poutinerie, a restaurant dedicated entirely to, you guessed it, poutine!  Most recently, poutine popped up in this great Wall Street Journal article. The (Canadian) author, Adam Leith Gollner, laments the rise of enhanced poutine, topped with foie gras for example, arguing that poutine should remain, at its core, the greasy kind of dish that’s consumed when cold or inebriated. Or both 😉

I spent four glorious years in Montreal as an undergrad at McGill University. Often cold. And often inebriated. I’ve come to appreciate poutine and wish it were more easily available here in D.C. I did have really good poutine at the Canadian embassy once. And some not so good from Trader Joe’s. With my beloved Canadiens gearing up for a very important game 7 against the Bruins tonight in the Stanley Cup playoffs, I decided  to make my own poutine! Actually, I decided to make poutine pizza, which Adam Gollner would probably have frowned upon…

poutine, poutine pizza, molson, molson canadian

 

Poutine pizza is actually super easy to make. The hardest part is probably finding the cheese curds! (some local farmers’ market will have cheese curds occasionally but your best bet is to make your own or order them.) For the rest, I used store-bought everything: crust, gravy, frozen fries… of course you could be more ambitious and make everything from scratch. I just wanted something quick, simple and sort of Canadian to enjoy while I screamed at my TV! I pre-cooked the fries and the crust, then layered them with the cheese curds and cooked that until the curds got nice and melty. Towards the end, I added the gravy and cooked it for another minute or two. I paired it with, what else, a Molson Canadian. That was also hard to find in D.C. I looked at all the nice liquor store that I thought might carry a decent selection of “international” beers. Of course, Molson is not really nice nor international. It’s owned by Coors now. So I should have known I would end up finding a 6-pack at Walmart!

Are you watching the Stanley Cup playoffs tonight or will you be tuning in to watch the Wizards play? I’ll be cheering for both, I mean, there is a Frenchie on the team after all!

 

Celebrating Poutine Week… in Washington, D.C.

I think I may have mentioned it a few times on this blog, I used to live in Montreal, Quebec. For 4 years. You’d think this would mean I’d be able to weather this cold snowy winter like a champ, right? Well, not quite. But it means I have learned to appreciate Quebec delicacies like shish taouk and poutine (and Molson beer… let’s be honest). Montreal has changed a lot since I lived there. It’s still cold. But it now has macaron shops and poutine week. POUTINE WEEK!!! Are you kidding me!?!?

It’s basically like our Restaurant Week except between February 1st and February 7th, there are 30 restaurants that offer special poutines for $10. Do you have any idea how all over that I would have been when I was a college student? (hint: a lot all over). Ok, I don’t know if I would have been all over the Poutine au Phoque at Au Cinquième Péché… but otherwise, yes, all over that. Check out all the poutines on Thrillist and drool with me….

Poutine week

But now I live in the United States… and yes, we have the Canadian Embassy here in Washington, D.C. It’s got great views of the U.S. capitol and, occasionally, I have had poutine there. But most of the most time, it’s really hard to find poutine in the District. Well, apparently it’s not that hard according to this recent WaPo article but may I remind you, I used to live in the land of poutine, ChurchKey‘s Disco Fries and A&D Poutine Potato Chips aren’t gonna cut it. It’s even hard to find cheese curds to try and make your own poutine at home 😦

So when I heard that Trader Joe’s started selling poutine (thanks for the tip, Eater), I was, at the risk of repeating myself,  ALL OVER that. I mean, who needs poutine week… when I can basically pour myself a glass of Sleeman Honey Brown, stream Starbuck on Netflix and de-freeze some Trader Joes‘ Poutine?

Trader Joe's Poutine, poutine, frozen poutine, poutine in dc, dc,

Ok, while Starbuck is a great movie, the poutine from Trader Joe‘s is only OK. There wasn’t enough gravy, the fries were too soft and the curds tasted almost like mozzarella. So yeah, maybe I do need Poutine Week. Le sigh.

French More Widely Spoken in US than German or Italian… interesting non?

A few weeks ago, the U.S. Census Bureau released a new interactive online map pinpointing all the different languages spoken in homes across the United States. According to the data collected through the American Community Survey from 2007 to 2011, some 60.6 million people spoke a language other than English at home in 2011. Of course, a majority of these (37.6 million, represented in pink on the Washington Post map below) speak Spanish. The other “foreign” languages most spoken throughout the country in 2011 were Chinese (2.9 million), Tagalog, one of the languages spoken by the Filipino community (1.6 million), Vietnamese (1.4 million), French (1.3 million), German (1.1 million) and Korean (1.1 million). I found it SO interesting to learn that there are so many people in the United States who speak French (darker blue on the map) at home.

Screen Shot 2013-08-23 at 6.53.38 PM

Map from The Washington Post, SOURCE: Census American Community Survey 2007-2011

Not surprisingly, French speakers in the United States are concentrated in two main areas: in Louisiana and in parts of Maine and Vermont, close to the border with Quebec. In Frenchville, Maine, for example, 80% of the population speaks French at home, making the small town quite appropriately named 😉 Historically, the number of immigrants from France has been smaller than from other European nations though some arrived earlier… like before the United States was even founded. According to the Census Bureau, approximately 10 million Americans claim French ancestry. Comparatively, 49 million Americans claim German ancestry and 17 million claim an Italian heritage. Yet, both languages are less spoken these days in the United States than French is. German (yellow on the map) is only spoken at home by 1.1 million Americans and Italian by just 700,000 people. Why  is that?

For the French, there are distinct waves of immigration to the United States. Some, as I mentioned earlier, came really early, straight from France as settlers to New France. Others settled in Canada but then made their way South looking for work between the 1840s and 1920s. These are the French speakers now found in the Northeast. There was also a wave of French protestant Huguenots who fled religious persecutions in the 17th and 18th century. And then there’s the newbies, the more recent arrivals who apparently love the sun and are mainly found in Florida and California. These different waves help to explain why French Americans are less visible than other immigrant groups. French-Canadians who settled in America and the Cajuns in Louisiana are very likely to speak French but also very unlikely to identify with France. They identify with the New World. They’re Cajuns. French-Canadians. Not French. The French protestant huguenots, on the other hand, assimilated early and very well. They’re unlikely to identify with France other than as a distant heritage and do not speak French.  As a result, there isn’t a strong French American identity the way there is for Italian Americans or Americans of German ancestry but there’s still a strong attachment to the language. I did some additional research and found some interesting little stories that might further explain the decline of German and Italian among the immigrant communities. And some of those have to do with the fact that during World War I and/or World War II, I they were considered the enemy’s language. You risked being branded an “enemy alien” if you were caught speaking them in public. Schools stopped teaching them. French never have that stigma… German recovered a little bit and is now one of the most taught languages in U.S. high school (though far behind Spanish and French) while Italian never did. That’s unfortunate because I think it’s a beautiful language. Not as pretty as French though… or, apparently, as widely spoken in the United States 😉

 

Ain’t no party like an S Club a poutine party!

Sometimes back in 2011, the Canadian Embassy figured out that I wasn’t actually Canadian. Initially I guess, my degree from McGill University got them confused and I somehow managed to get invited to a lot of great events, celebrating the Vancouver Olympics, Stanley Cup finals and Canada Day. But last year it all stopped. Le sigh. Where will I get my Molson fix now? 😉 Luckily, the Canadian Embassy is stepping up its game this year, and offering a lot of options for people who, like me, would like to celebrate our neighbours up north but aren’t quite special enough to get official invites. Starting with… drumroll… DC’s first-ever poutine party. Yes. Poutine party!!

I haven’t been to Rhino Bar and Pumphouse since I graduated from GWU. And I only used to go there because some of the people I was friends with at the time liked the place. But you can be sure you’ll find me there on Friday, June 29th when Wonky Promotions and the Embassy of Canada team up to host DC’s first ever Poutine Party in honour of Canada Day. For $25, you get all you can eat poutine AND an open bar (though shame on the organizers… there are NO Canadian beer options! Really!?!). Wow. It’s like they want me to relive my college days… which I gladly will. (door tickets are $35 so get yours now if you like the fries + cheese curds + gravy goodness that is Quebec’s unofficial national dish, event is from 7-10PM.)

Poutine with short ribs and cheddar, from Gilead’s Cafe in Toronto

The next day, cheer for the Montreal Impact as they take on D.C. United at RFK Stadium. The party will start early (4PM) at lot 8 with a special Canada Day Tailgate Party. On June 30th, a $26.25 ticket gets you  a ticket to the game and admission to the Embassy-hosted tailgate party with hot dogs, beer and soft drinks. Just enter “canada” when purchasing tickets (link: here.)

Finally on Sunday, give your brunch a FrenchCanadian twist with a Canada Day Gospel brunch with the Nathaniel Dett Chorale at The Hamilton. For more on The Hamilton’s gospel brunch, check out this review by the experts (ie. the bitches who brunch.) On Canada Day, there will be a special all-you-can-eat-buffet filled with breakfast classics and Southern dishes. Now The Hamilton does have poutine on their regular menu but no word on whether that will be available for brunch on the 1st… Tickets are $25 and available here.

Bonne fête du Canada everyone!! Oh, and happy Euro 2012 final too… let’s not forget that other big event that happens on July 1st. I’m keeping my fingers my bleus make it all the way!!

Hockey Night in Canada Washington

While I like to think of myself as a proud cocorico-ing French woman, my nationality is apparently not as obvious to everyone as I would like to think it is. Maybe it’s because I speak fluent French and English. Love soccer and hockey, wine and Molson Export. Perhaps the confusion come from the fact that did I spend 4 years living in Montreal. Or it might be due to pictures like this floating on the internets:

Whatever the reason, I often get mistaken for a Canadian. And that’s just fine, eh.

 

Among other things, my time spent in Montreal has introduced me to hockey. They say a woman never forgets her first love and that’s definitely true for me and my first hockey love. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Caps but I’ll always feel a little something for the Habs… On a typical hockey season day, I can reconcile my two hockey loves, and cheer for both the Canadiens and the Capitals. But eventually, the two teams must meet and test my allegiance. My rule so far has been to always cheer for the Caps except for the few times every year when the Habs are in town. Those days, I proudly put on my Canadiens jersey and make the walk (of shame) to the Verizon Center, a few blocks away from my place. I don’t necessarily go hate on the Caps, but I’m definitely all “Go-HABS-GO” which, as I have learned, is not a good idea when the two teams are squaring off in game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals 😉

Which is why I, for once, welcome the opportunity to cheer for the Habs, in DC, when they are not playing against my Caps. Instead, I get to hate on the Leafs!! The Habs-Leafs rivalry is kind of the canadian hockey equivalent of baseball’s Red Sox versus Yankees or French football O.M. contre P.S.G. It’s intense! To celebrate this all Canadian rivalry, the Embassy is getting together a group of hockey fans for a special “Hockey Night In DC” on Thursday February 24th at Penn Quarter Sports Tavern. The puck drops at 7:30pm, but the fun doesn’t have to wait that long. Canadian hockey fan can come cheer for either teams on the 2nd floor as early as 6pm! I can’t wait! (eh)