Drink Your Way Through Election Season at Bastille & ENO Wine Bar

It’s a time honoured tradition in Washington, DC. We like to drink. We like politics… so every election cycle, whether it’s the primaries or the general, local bars come up with politically-themed cocktails. If you’re like me and less than thrilled with your options this year (not that I can vote anyway), I’m sure you can use a stiff drink, or five, with a cheesy name poking fun at the candidates. I love it, especially when an awesome French restaurant gets involved. 

Bastille is one of my favourite French restaurant in the city… well, technically it’s not in the city but right outside in Alexandria, VA. It’s definitely worth a metro ride to Braddock Road though, and that’s saying a lot given how bad WMATA is these days!! There’s 47 days until Americans head to the polls (and 59 until I do! That’s right, I get to vote in November too, but in the French Republican presidential primary). With election season in full swing, Bastille has designed a cocktail for each candidate, even the long shot ones like the Green Party’s Dr. Jill Stein and Libertarian Gary Johnson

Deluded little Manhattan cocktail at Bastille Restaurant

“Deluded Little Manhattan” with Korbel Brandy, Dolin Rouge, Dolin Dry + Belle Orange Absinthe Rinse

The Crooked Cocktail features Dewar's White Label, lemon cordial, Allspice Dram garnished with lemon peel and a cherry

The Crooked Cocktail features Dewar’s White Label, lemon cordial, Allspice Dram garnished with lemon peel and a cherry

My favourite of the five different cocktails offered is the “I Vote Canada.” Leave it to a French restaurant to come up with none-of-the-above option, bien sur 😉

I vote Canada! (flee the country vote) cocktail at Bastille Restaurant wth Crown Royal, lime juice, a dash of Allspice Dram and Angostura bitters.

I vote Canada! (flee the country vote) cocktail at Bastille Restaurant with Crown Royal, lime juice, a dash of Allspice Dram and Angostura bitters.

Regardless of who wins the election, Canada always seems like a good idea to me!! Each cocktail is priced at $10 and from October 4th through November 8th, the restaurant will keep a tally, or “straw poll” if you will, based on popular demand. Will the results match those at the ballot box? I guess only time will tell!! 

Of course, Bastille is hardly the only bar offering its boozy take on the presidential race. Like I said, this is a time honoured tradition in the city, and pretty much every bar is getting in on the pun-tastic action. 701 Restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue got inspired by the candidates’ slogans to create “Make America Grape Again” and the “I’m With Her” (both $12). Shaw’s Mexican eatery Espita Mezcaleria and the Oval Room are all about that wall, with “The Wall” (mezcal, Campari, orange juice and soda – $11) and the “Build That Wall” (Muscat Grape purée, spiced honey syrup, Champagne vinegar – $12) respectively. So far, I don’t think the newly open Trump International Hotel bar at BLT Prime by David Burke is doing anything, but Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons Hotel is. And for election 2016, the Georgetown establishment is not picking sides and throwing it back to past Commanders-in Chief instead. Head bartender Torrence Swain crafted four specialty presidential cocktails inspired by the drinking preferences of James Buchanan, Harry Truman, Herbert Hoover and Dwight Eisenhower. At $20, those are pricier, but $5 from the sale of each former president-inspired cocktail will go to the nonpartisan organization Nonprofit Vote, which aims to assist other organizations integrate voter engagement into their ongoing activities and services. If you’re more of a wine person like I am, the hotel’s wine bar, ENO, has something for you too! From now until election day, you can select one of two presidential candidate inspired flights, each priced at $20 and featuring wines from locations significant to each party’s nominee. 

Presidential Candidate Wine Flight at ENO Wine Bar - Picture Courtesy of ENO Wine Bar

Presidential Candidate Wine Flight at ENO Wine Bar – Picture Courtesy of ENO Wine Bar

The Clinton “I’m With Her” flight features white wines from New York state, where Clinton served as senator for eight years and include:

No Arkansas wine? Shocking lol. Meanwhile, Trump’s “Make America Great Again” flight features red wines from New York and Pennsylvania, where Trump attended University:

I must say I’m a little surprise that flight doesn’t include any wine from the real estate mogul’s own winery in Virginia… Putting two Pennsylvania wines on there seems to guarantee no one is going to order it… which might be the point I guess? Both flights will be available from October 1–November 8, and the winner’s flight will be served through Inauguration Day.

Have you spotted any other fun election-themed gimmicks at bars and restaurants around the city? Or wherever you live… I know it’s corny, but I kinda love it, especially since picking a drink or wine flight is the closest I’ll get to voting in the US elections 😉 


French State Dinner: 1996 versus 2014 menu

So the last time a French president was honoured with a State Dinner was back in 1996 at the invitation of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Here is what the menu looked like 18 years ago:

Lemon Thyme Lobster with Roasted Eggplant Soup

Rack of Lamb with Winter Fruit and Pecans

Sweet potato puree, root vegetables

Tarragon Huckleberry Sauce

Layered Artichoke, Leek and Herbed Cheese with Green and Endives, Balsamic Dressing

Apple and Cherry Sherbet Pyramid with Apple Brandy Sauce

Peanut Butter Truffles, White Almond Bark Chocolate Fudge

The wines paired with the dinner were all from California:

Beringer Viognier 1994 (CA)

Zaca Mesa Syrah 1993 (CA)

Roderer Estates, l’Hermitage 1990 (CA)

The highlight of that dinner was the towering pyramid concocted by (French) White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier, built of balls of apple and cherry sherbet with apple brandy sauce and circled with small pastry swans swimming on a bed of dark red raspberries. We’ll see if current (perfectly French-speaking) pastry chef Bill Yosses can outdo him 😉

Guest at the 1996 dinner included designer Oscar de la Renta (who also dressed the first lady), Michael Douglas (who had sort of hosted a French president to a State Dinner of his own in The American President), Mr. and Mrs Eisner (Disneyland Resort Paris had just opened a few years earlier), the United States Ambassador to France, Mr and Mrs Shapiro (of the MoMa), the President of the Gugghenheim museum (the French like art…), John Grisham (we like to read too!), pretty much the entire Louisiana delegation in Congress and the mayor of New Orleans, Mr. and Mrs I.M. Pei (who has designed the East Wing of the National Gallery here in DC, as well, bien sur, as the Pyramid at the Louvre museum in Paris) the president of the AFL-CIO, and actor Gregory Peck and his (French) wife.

Let’s compare with tomorrow’s State Dinner shall we?

The menu:

American Osetra Caviar

Fingerling Potato Veloute, Quail Eggs, Crisp Chive Potatoes

“The Winter Garden Salad” ~ Petite Mixed Radish, Baby Carrots, Merlot Lettuce, Red Wine Vinaigrette

The White House teased a pictured of the Winter Garden Salad that will be served during the State Dinner honouring French President Hollande on its Instagram page.

The White House teased a pictured of the Winter Garden Salad that will be served at the State Dinner for French President Hollande on Instagram.

Dry-aged Rib Eye Beef, Jasper Hill Farm Blue Cheese, Charred Shallots, Oyster Mushrooms, Braised Chard

Hawaiian Chocolate Malted Ganache, Vanilla Ice Cream and Tangerines.

The wines:

Morlet la Proportion Doree 2011 (Napa Valley, CA)

Chester-Kidder Red Blend 2009 (Columbia Valley, WA)

Thibaut-Jannison Blanc de Chardonnay (Monticello, VA)

I wonder if they picked up that last wine during their visit to Charlottesville today 😉 So far, we don’t know the full guest-list. We know the current US Ambassador to France will not be there… because, there isn’t one right now… We know Bradley Cooper will be dazzling the French ladies with his sexy French accent and that Mary J. Blidge will perform. I guess we’ll have to wait a little to see who shows up at the White House tomorrow. Until then, we can speculate… Hubert Joly CEO of Best Buy perhaps? California boys Emmanuel Saez (professor at Berkeley), Renaud Laplanche (CEO of Lending Club) and Stéphane Le Viet (CEO of Work4Labs)? Xavier Mosquet, formerly of Obama’s task force to save General Motors & Chrysler? New Yorker Yannick-I’m-Happy-To-Pay-a75%-Tax  Noah? We’ll see…

Which menu would you rather eat? The one served in 1996 for Monsieur et Madame Chirac or the one that will be served tomorrow for Monsieur Hollande?

Mr. Smith Hollande Goes to Washington

J – 1. In less than 24 hours, French president François Hollande will land in the United States for a whirlwind 3 day official state visit. It’s a big deal. While you may remember Nicolas Sarkozy eating some half smokes at Ben’s Chili Bowl back in 2010, that was not, in fact, a state visit but an official visit. Ah protocol 😉 The last State Visit from a French president dates back to the Clinton days:

Jacques chirac, bill clinton, jacques chirac and bill clinton, state dinner, french state dinner, hollande state visit, hollande,

Don’t know about you, but I miss these two! Pic from the French Embassy in the US

François Hollande is expected to get a super-red carpet treatment while he is here, starting with a quick trip aboard Air Force One to visit Monticello and culminating in a black tie State Dinner at the White House. Unlike Jacques Chirac and François Mitterand before him, François Hollande will not address the US Congress. The White House and l’Elysée insist it is not a snub, but due to a lack of time. Hollande will find some time, however, to meet with representatives of the French business community here in D.C., visit Arlington Cemetary, grab dinner at the French Embassy with IMF head Christine Lagarde and Dr. Jim Yong Kim, of the World Bank decorate 6 World War 2 veterans, lunch at the State Department with John Kerry and Joe Biden… as well as give a joint press conference with the American president and attend the State Dinner. Busy Busy.

Meanwhile, since Francois Hollande is traveling solo, Michelle Obama’s schedule probably cleared up quite a bit. No first lady to have tea or go on a school visit with 😦 And that’s probably a good thing. She has a state dinner to focus on. Hillary Clinton, was said to be particularly stressed out about the state dinner she hosted for Chirac, due to the perceived high culinary standards of the French hosts. And perhaps she was justified in her apprehensions. Apparently, ever since that 1996 dinner, state dinners have no longer listed the year and appellation of wines on the dinner menu, simply stating instead that “an American wine will be paired with each course.” I wonder what went down with the wines at the Chirac state dinner 😉 I also wonder SO many things about this particular State Dinner: what will be on the menu? How sexy will Bradley Cooper look? (obviously, très sexy.) Who else is on the guest list? What will Michelle wear? Who will seat next to Barrack Obama, in the seat that Valérie Trierweiler should have occupied? So many questions. I guess I’ll just have to wait until Wednesday morning to get some answers…

Barrack Obama and Francois Hollande at the White House in 2012

Hollande & Obama at the White House in May 2012. Pic from French Embassy in the US.

And on Wednesday morning, Hollande will be on his way to San Francisco. The West Coast city is home to some 60,000 French expats, maybe of them working in the tech sector. There he will meet with Edwin M. Lee, the mayor of San Francisco, and Jerry Brown, the Governor of California. Hollande may not be traveling with any lady friends but his US-posse includes Pierre Gattaz, the head of the Medef (the Medef is the largest union of employers in France, yes, even the bosses are unionized in France… though they don’t usually strike.) Together they will lunch with American CEOs. I’ve heard the names Eric Schmidt, Sheryl Sandberg as well as Jack Dorsey (Twitter) et Mitchell Baker (Mozilla) thrown around so I hope they both brushed up on “Lean In” 😉  They’ll inaugurate a US-French Tech Hub in San Francisco before meeting with local French civic leaders and addressing the French community. Also traveling to the United States are Pierre Moscovici, miniter of economy and finance, Arnaud Montebourg, Minister of Industrial Renewal (his job is basically to promote the made in Framce… even though the delegation itself will be staying in a made in China hotel while they’re in town) and of course, Laurent Fabius, John kerry’s French counterpart.

All in all, it will be a very busy agenda for a very important visit. Thanks for coming to see us Flamby!

Help Welcome Hollande to the White House

The White House is offering you a chance to help say “Bienvenue” to French president François Hollande when he lands on the South lawn ahead of France’s official State Visit next week. A State Visit that we all know by now he will be attending stag 😉

#WHSocial at French Arrival Ceremony


This is a pretty neat opportunity for social media users. I myself had the opportunity to attend one of the White House’s first TweetUp a few years ago during the holiday season and it was a great experience. Though, it didn’t involve my own president, so this would be considerably better…

The morning arrival ceremony will be pretty lavish and include a review of troops. It will be followed by a panel discussion with Administration officials where the #WHSocial attendees can ask all sorts of questions about what it’s like to put this sort of high profile diplomatic event together.

You have until Wednesday, February 5th at 6PM to submit your application right here.

The White House Says Cheese (Virtual Cheese)

Have a question about cheese? You’re in luck: tomorrow, the White House is hosting its first (Virtual) Big Block of Cheese Day, inspired by Andrew Jackson … and the West Wing. And while one could think this would just be a way for the White House to get in the mood to host the (newly single) French president who’s coming to town in a few weeks, the Virtual Big Block of Cheese Day actually has very little to do with cheese. Womp, womp.

White House Virtual Big Block of Cheese Day

According to the White House statement, the original “Big Block of Cheese Day opened the doors of the White House to thousands of citizens to interact with cabinet members and White House staff – and carve off a slice of the four foot by two foot thick slab of cheddar.” This time around, there won’t be any *real* cheddar, though if you ask me, cheddar isn’t real cheese either… I do hear there’ll be some space cheese though…intriguing… I guess.

Instead, on Wednesday, the day after President Obama delivers his State of the Union speech, officials will be answering social media (Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Google+) throughout the day. Again, womp womp. Though trust me, I’ll be asking some hard (cheese) questions using the hashtag  #AsktheWH. Like, about what kind of cheese they’re going to serve during the State dinner honouring the republic of 246 cheese. Or about why I can’t buy mimolette in the US anymore 😉

The Audacity of hope Europe 1

Did you catch this colourful quarter page advertisement on page A9 of the Washington Post today?


Obama on Europe 1, gutsy request for interview

It certainly caught my attention as I was trying to read about the situation in the Ukraine. Perhaps of course because I work in the advertising industry now and pay closer attentions to ads. And perhaps of course because I know that Europe 1 is a French news radio station…

So what’s a French radio station doing advertising in Washington DC’s newspaper? Courting the francophone audience that could tune in online? Not really… Officially Europe 1 is trying to score an interview with the American president. But really, the cheeky ad that plays on the usual American clichés of France is a very clever way to get some free press… in the French media. Every major French news outlet is talking about it today 😉 And that was totally free too since Europe 1 paid for the ad by trading advertising space with the Washington Post. So clever and free. Well done Europe 1.   You can’t beat the press you’re getting today. Well, I guess you could if you actually do score that interview (keeping my French fingers crossed for you! #OBAMAonE1 !!)

France is back (sort of) on the cover of The Economist

You develop a thick skin when you’re an expat, regardless of where you’re from and where you end up living. I learned that early. 15 year olds aren’t kind to one-another and they can be downright cruel, sometimes without meaning to be, to a foreign exchange student who barely understand their southern accents and is dealing with culture shock. But guess what, pundits and american politicians are even worse. You should have heard some of the atrocious stuff I heard when I moved to Washington, D.C. It was 2003, the heydays of the Freedom Fries, and NOT a good time to be French in the United States. Things are better now, though making fun of the French is never going to go away, especially in politics. John Kerry was ridiculed for speaking French back when he was running for president in 2004, as was  Mitt Romney more recently. G-d forbids a candidate for the presidency would speak a foreign language, that’s just the worse thing ever right? Well, now it’s Obama’s turn to be mocked as “French”, appearing on the cover of the Economist in a béret and marinière, clutching a baguette (is there a new French bakery in D.C. I don’t know about? lol)… 


That’s another thing about being an expat, you have to get used to seeing your country reduced to a cliché… I cringe every time a news segment or a TV show mentions France and cues the obligatory accordeon music. I mean, can’t we move beyond that now? And the béret… please, I don’t know a single French person who owns one! So, The Economist is dedicating yet another (harsh) cover to the French. Yes, the idea of the cover is to criticize Barack Obama, but really it’s a back handed slap in the face of the French and our “socialist” ways. And that’s ok. French-bashing is like a hobby for the brits and with London now being one of the largest French cities in the world, we clearly do not hold it against them 😉
And that’s the last truth about being an expat… most of us left France for a reason and while we will always defend the motherland against all and any criticism, in the end, we think The Economist is onto something. But admitting that would be admitting that the brits can be right… and we just can’t have now can we 😉

Moi Président de la République…


j’ouvrirais les jardins du palais de l’Elysée*

It was a gorgeous, yet cold, fall day in Paris. A perfect day for the French presidential palace to open its ornate wrought-iron gate (topped with a golden French rooster, cocorico please!) to the public for the first Elysée gardens open house tour of the year. Starting with today, visitors will be able to stroll the green grass of the palais every last Sunday of the month. That’s better than the bi-annual White House Garden Tour, though there’s no kitchen garden at l’Elysée… 

I must say, Francois Hollande’s new policy to open the 18th-century Elysée Palace gardens to the public every last Sunday of the month (they were previously only open once a year during Les Journées du Patrimoine in September – when you can actually visit the inside of the palace too) may be the first of his policies that I approve of 😉

We waited about an hour to cross the Grille du Coq on October 28, 2012
The grounds of l’Elysée, once a jardin parc à la française, now à l’anglaise
Though a little bit of that 18th century French touch remains 😉
L’Elysée was built between 1718 and 1722 and was once occupied by Napoléon

In Paris on the last Sunday of a month? You can try your hand at reproducing Hollande’s official portrait when visiting the presidential gardens… They’re open from noon to 5PM until March and then from 1PM to 7PM from April to September. Entrance is free and takes place on the Champs Elysées side of the palais, kitty corner from the Grand Palais (metro stop: Champs Elysées-Clemenceau), in front of the grille du coq, the rooster gate. Entrance is free and you can bring food, but no glass bottles. A group of parisiens in front of us had clearly planned a nice picnic only to get their bottle of wine confiscated at the security check-point… 

* “Me President of the Republic… I will open the gates of the Elysée gardens.” The title of the post refers to Hollande’s use of the phrase “Moi Président de la Republique je…” (Me, when I’m president of the Republic, I will…) fifteen time during his televised debate with Nicolas Sarkozy during the campaign to announce how his presidency would differ from that of his predecessor.

Well played, Charlotte.

Pardon my Southern slang, I’m here in Tampa for the Republican National Convention and everyone else staying in my hotel is from Arkansas… but y’all know by now I’m sure that I’m a huge cat lady. I love cat videos (hello, who doesn’t) and the Democratic National Convention just won a few points with me by releasing this cat-astic video featuring Fernando, a cute orange feline. It’s like they knew I’ve been enjoying Tampa a little bit too much and wanted to remind me that Charlotte’s got a lot too 😉 Well played Charlotte. Well, played.