Giveaway – Monsieur Lazhar Screening

As the month of the Francophonie wraps up it’s important to remember that French is spoken throughout the world… in France, of course, but also in Quebec and in Algeria for example. Of course the French I speak is slightly different from one spoken in Canada… heck, even within France… I have a hard time understanding what my cousins from Marseille are saying sometimes ūüėČ But it’s these linguistic differences that make our shared language so rich. Monsieur Lazhar,¬†¬†a 2012 best foreign picture nominee from Canada explores this topic, among others,¬†in a quiet and engaging film that will opens in D.C. on April 27th and will also be shown on April 13 and 17 as part of FilmFest DC.

I’m thrilled to be able to give away some tickets to a special screening of Monsieur Lazhar¬†that will take place at 7PM at E Street Cinema, in presence of writer/director¬†Philippe Falardeau, this Thursday (April 12th.) Monsieur Falardeau will also answer a few questions at the end of the screening. Since the film is about a teacher – the title character, Monsieur Lazhar, is a subsitute teacher and recent Algerian immigrant to Quebec who gets hired to replace an elementary school teacher who committed suicide – I thought I would make the giveaway about teachers… great teachers to be exact! Just write a quick comment either about a great teacher that you have had or about what you think makes a great teacher and I will randomly picks a few winners tomorrow. Each winner will get a pair of tickets to Thursday’s screening.

Ma petite liste – April 9-15, 2012

It’s the last week of the Francophonie Festival in D.C. so I’m filling this week’s picks with lots of¬†cultural events from France, Belgium and¬†Quebec, with¬†a sprinkling of Thai food and of course, some cherry blossoms related events.¬†¬†That festival lasts 10 times as long as the actual flowers do…

The Royal Thai Embassy is sponsoring Thai Restaurant Week to coincide with Songkran, the traditional Thai new year (which falls on April 13th this year). Through April 15, enjoy special menus at local participating Thai restaurants like Bangkok One, Bankok Joe’s, Mai Tai Downtown or Mai Tai Old Rown.

The World Languages and Cultures Department & the Department of Radio, TV and Film¬†of of Howard University presents the Tourn√©es Festival – New French Film on Campus in collaboration with the Alliance Fran√ßaise of Washington, D.C. and the Maison Fran√ßaise at the French Embassy. ¬†Tonight’s screening is the 2008 Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or winner (and¬†really good movie) “Entre Les Murs/The Class.” Showing that some French teachers are faced with similar issues than their U.S. counterparts, the film follows¬†a real-life¬†instructor (Fran√ßois B√©gaudeau who wrote the screenplay and plays himself in the film) as he attempts to teach the French language and culture to¬†a multi-ethnic class of under privileged students in the suburbs of Paris. The screening will take place at 7PM at the Johnson School of Communication – Powell Building: 525 Bryant Street N.W. (Room West, free for students, $5 for general public.)

As I mentioned earlier, Le Festival de la Francophonie is closing out with week and it looks like they saved the best for last. From Tuesday through Saturday, l’Alliance Fran√ßaise is throwing a number of cool events showcasing Belgian creativity with Small is More: Snapshots of Belgian Performing Arts. Five extraordinary companies are putting on five very different experimental performances mixing dance and¬†theater. I’ll be attending the first one on Tuesday (‚ÄúSociety, Strange Fruit & Frites‚ÄĚ) but are other performances every day this week. Wednesday’s performance¬†is “Good Mourning” by Florence Minder at Artisphere¬†(8PM, Dome Theater, $15 or¬†$10 Alliance Francaise Members.)

The 2012 edition of Filmfest DC opens with Starbuck, a Quebec film about a 42 year old loser whose main accomplishment in life was to father 533 via anonymous sperm donations. Now 142 of these “children” want to meet daddy, giving Starbuck a reason to grow up and an opportunity to turn his life around. The film will be shown at Regal Cinema Gallery place (7PM, $25) and followed by a¬†party at Bar Louie. Also opening this Thursday is the patio at the Sofitel Hotel Washington DC Lafayette Square. And since it’s Cherry Blossoms time and the Sofitel’s restaurant Ici has a fabulous cherry-themed menu, they’re celebrating with a Cherry Blossom cocktail soiree! House mixologist (and fellow Frenchie) Vincent Gernignon has concocted some¬†great cocktails for the occasion like a cherry mojito. Can’t make it? The Whisk & Quill has the recipe for you….

Back to our Belgian performers… this time, they’re taking over the National Portrait Gallery‚Äôs Kogod Courtyard which will turn into a vibrant night spot¬†for “Visio-Disco: A Remix of Music and Art.” Among other animations and performances (the Belgian¬†creative dance group will also be joined by French composer-performer Koudloum and local Washington DJ The Pinstriped Rebel) there’s going to be a giant bubble on a bed of water which sounded intriguing enough for me to buy a ticket! (Tickets are $35)


Final mention of the “small is more” snapshots of Belgian performing arts I promise… this time as part of Lumen8Anacostia, a (free) noon to midnight of light, art, music and fun. Lise Duclaux will be “stamping” passers-by between 2-4PM and 6-8PM at the Old Police Warehouse Back Lot. There will be tons of other happenings too and a launch party at noon at the Lightbox. Check out the full schedule here. On a more traditional note, there’s also the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street festival ($5 entry fee) Saturday, the largest Japanese culutral festival in the US, featuring food, arts and culture as well as traditional performances, including martial arts demonstrations. Highlights for me always include the food sold by the 25 some vendors present (here’s a complete list for this year… they’re definitely not all Japanese…) and the Sakura Matsuri‚Äôs Sake Tasting Pavilion.

I love the concept of this class… bitter about Tax Day? Well, tax day is actually the 17th this year, but on Sunday, you can learn all about bitters at Last Exit with the brilliant intoxicators behind Scofflaw’s Den. The class starts at 5:30PM and is limited to 10 people so grab your $50 ticket quickly

Team Easter Bells!

I’m allergic to chocolate but that’s not the reason why the Easter Bunny will not be bringing me any chocolate this Sunday. The Easter Bunny won’t be bringing me any chocolate because les cloches will!!¬† Most Americans¬†grew up with the Easter Bunny and think that bells bringing candy to little children on Easter morning makes no sense at all… Well, I think it makes about as much sense as a bunny if you ask me ūüėČ

Pierre Herme doesn’t pick sides and makes both chocolate bunnies and bells comes Easter season.

Despite being a fairly secular country these days, France was once a strong Catholic nation. We still hold many of the Catholic holidays, and for Easter for example, have Good Friday and Easter Monday off. But back to my bells. According to French tradition, all the church bells are silent from Good Friday until Easter Morning. They’re silent because they’re actually on holiday (like the rst of country). Except, in this case, they’re in Italy. On a pilgrimage really.¬†The Friday before Easter, they fly off to Rome to see the Pope and they come back bearing gifts of chocolate eggs which magically drop from the sky into the backyards of little French children. Makes perfect sense to moi¬† ūüėČ

Whether you’re Team Easter Bunny or Team Cloches de¬†P√Ęques, have a wonderful¬†Easter filled with wonderful food and delicious treats (brought to you by either a bunny or a bell)!¬†Joyeuses P√Ęques!

[This post is an update of last year’s Easter Bunny versus Les Cloches post]

Ma Petite Liste – April 2 to April 8, 2012

Wouldn’t it nice to hear about Greece in another context beside debt, austerity measures and riots? I think it would… Kellari Taverna and the office for economic and commercial affairs of the Embassy of Greece would like to steer your mind toward some of the country’s epicurean exports, most specifically its wines. The K Street restaurant is now hosting a Greek wine happy hour from 5PM to 9PM at their bar or with dinner, on the first Monday of every month. This Monday, they are introducing the wines of Crete. Since I was 3 years old when I went to Crete, I know NOTHING about their grape varietal, but when it comes to wine, I’m always willing to learn ūüėČ 3 wines will be featured, a white, rose and a red. They will be available by the glass for $5, carafe for $11 and with dinner with a discount of 20% per bottle. Cheers!

As a way to thank¬†their customers for their support and to celebrate 34 years of scooping the chunkiest, funkiest ice cream, frozen yogurt and sorbet, Ben & Jerry‚Äôs scoop shops are happily giving it away! Check the Vermont ice cream makers’ site to find a participating Scoop Shop in your area, then head there between noon and 8PM to get your free scoop!!

In its March 2012 issue, National Geographic spotlights France’s second largest city, Marseille, a diverse Mediterranean seaport where, among other things, my maman was born, grew up and where some of my family still lives. Photographer Ed Kashi will be at National Geographic’s HQ to discuss¬†The Changing Face of Marseille¬†as he discovered it while on assignment there. (7:30PM, tickets are $18 for NatGeo members and $20 for others).

Photograph by Ed Kashi for National Geographic.


It’s The Phillips Collection‘s time to celebrate the National Cherry Blossom Festival with an evening of gallery talks, language lessons¬†and Japan-themed food and drinks. There will be fashion too, with traditional Japanese kimonos modeled by former Cherry Blossoms Queens and Princesses and a little something French, as the 6PM and 7PM Gallery Talks will explore Japonisme in France. (5:30-8PM. Reservations for this event at The Phillips Collection are strongly recommended. $12 or free for members.)

Don’t miss the first crawfish boil of the season at Acadiana (4‚Äď6:30PM.) Let’s hope the weather is nice enough for the patio!! If it is, you can choose¬†between crawfish ($15/pound) or shrimp ($19/pound) boils, and save room for the potatoes and fresh corn on the cob,buckets of four, ice-cold Abita or Heineken beers for $14, or a pitcher of draft Abita beer for $15. I’m actually pretty excited for crawfish boil slash patio season! I *love* the crawfish boils at Acadiana.

It’s BYOM (Bring Your Own Mat) on the National Mall as Lululemon hosts its annual Yoga on the Mall event in conjunction with the Cherry Blossom Festival. I took part¬†in the event 2 years ago, and it’s a ton of fun if you don’t mind hords of tourists and passer-bys taking your picture while you’re in the downward facing dog position ūüėČ

And of course, it’s almost Easter. If you have little kiddies and want to treat them to a French oeufs de Paques hunt at l’Alliance Fran√ßaise, they have partnered with Paul Bakery to organize a fun morning of cultural, fun and tasty activities. The day will start at 10:30AM at l’Alliance‘s gorgeous headquarters at 2142 Wyoming Avenue NW for traditional French children’s story time with an Easter theme, including animated voices and puppets! Then the families will all walk together to nearby Mitchell Park for the Easter Egg Hunt. Meanwhile, Paul will provide fresh baked croissants and sweets and every child participating will go home with a goodie bag from l’Alliance Fran√ßaise.¬† Space is limited: RSVP at 202-234-7911 x814. $5 per child/adult.

I recently tried out the new lunch “plates” deal at the Capitol Grille of Chevy Chase (there’ll be more on that in a seperate post) and couldn’t help but note how awesome their all you can eat Easter buffet brunch looked!¬†The buffet includes a raw bar, made to order lobster benedict and lamb loin among other delectable offerings… for just¬†$48 a person which as long as you wear a pretty loose fitted dress, seems like quite a great deal to me! (oh, kids have their own menu too¬†that includes mac and cheese and burger for just $18). Joyeuses p√Ęques everyone!

Le Temps des Cerises

Come Cherry Blossoms festival time, the delicate flower pops up everywhere in Washington, D.C., your food, your cocktails… even the metro catches Cherry Blossom fewer. Here are some of my favourite cherry blossoms inspired products, some of which are available well beyond the festival:¬†
¬†1. U.S. Postal Service Cherry Blossoms Centennial Forever stamp¬†($4.5 for 10 stamps). 2. Le Palais des Th√©s’ Fleur de Geisha – a delicate green tea scented with cherry blossoms,¬†inspired by the Japanese tradition of Hanami ($12.5-$30 depending on format, available online at or at Cork Market and Tasting Room on 14th street NW. Bonus: you can also order the Fleur de Geisha tea candle)¬†
3. Dior Cherry Blossom Nail Lacquer 4. 150th anniversary celebration Fleur de Cerisier macarons from Ladurée (864 Madison Avenue, NY) and Cherry Blossom Candle, both of which come in beautiful special edition gift box designed by Japanese designer Tsumori Chisato. 
5.¬†Lanc√īme Ombre Magnetique Spectacular Sparkle Eye Shadow – Cherry¬†
6. L’Occitane’s Cherry Princess hand cream – the only thing better than l’Occitane’s regular hand cream, is this freshly floral scented edition.

Kiss kiss!

If you watched the (long anticipated) season’s premiere of Mad Men last night you probably have a catchy little french tune stuck in your head right now. Zou bisou bisou as performed by Don Draper’s new¬†French speaking Canadian wife Megan (portrayed by Jessica Par√© whose dad is a McGill¬†University professor – had to throw in a shout out to the alma mater!)¬†in front of his colleagues and friends has become an instant hits. Slate has a great article about the catchy 60s French pop song, which you can now download on iTunes… Watch at your own risks… it’s catchy ūüėČ

Did you watch the season’s premiere for Mad Men last night? What did you think of the episode?

Americana – Patriotic Campaign Nail Polish

Only in America…¬†

If you’re an Obama supporter from head to toe, well, your toenails better proudly display your support for your president. Designed by Richard Blanch of Le M√©tier de Beaut√©, this set of fashionable and patriotic nail polishes with cutesy campaign related names (red-y to win; victory white and bo blue) are made in the U.S.A (bien sur!!) and will only set you back $40. But $40 well spent since they will help the democrats in their effort to re-elect President Obama ūüėČ There’s all sorts of other fun stuff on the Obama reelection website store¬†including a t-shirt by Beyonce and Tina Knowles:

Yoga pants:

A Tory Burch canvas tote:

A doggie knit sweater (why should your pup be left out when you’re all decked out pro-Obama style?)

And of course, a set of wine glasses…¬†

I don’t even know what to say … except Sarkozy… whatcha got for moi? ūüėČ

Wine Wednesday – Lebanon

A few kilometers away from a temple dedicated to Bacchus, in the heart of Bekaa Valley in Eastern Lebanon, stretches of vines remind visitors that the country of cedars was also once the country of vines. Speak to any local producer or exporter and he will undoubtedly remind you of Lebanon’s viticultural history and of its biblical roots, joking that when Jesus turned water into wine, in the southern Lebanon city of Cana, it wasn’t Italian wine ūüėČ It wasn’t French wine either, though Lebanon’s modern wine industry was heavily influenced by France’s own culture and traditions. After the collapse of the Ottoman empire, Lebanon became a “protectorate” of France, from which it gained independence in 1943. Since then, its history has been tumultuous, marred by conflicts with its neighbours Syria and Israel, a long civil war and a recent revolution. Its wineries have struggled along the way, with just five vignobles standing at the end of the civil war in 1991. Today, there are over 30 operating in Lebanon, and the wines that were first mentioned in the bible are now attracting worldwide attention.

Modern Lebanese wines “taste French” and that is not surprising since the wine industry in Lebanon is based on French grape varieties and has depended heavily on French or French trained winemakers. When I tasted the Ch√Ęteau Ksara Special¬†during a recent wine tasting at Dupont Circle’s Kabab-ji Grill I would not have guess that the 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10% Petit Verdot blend did not come from Southern France. And I mean that as a compliment, of course. The same thing happened with Ch√Ęteau Ksara’s Reserve du Couvent, a robust, dark ruby wine made of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Carignan grapes. Overall, I was very impressed with most of the red wines I tried, and I even liked some of the Chardonnay based wine (Ch√Ęteau Ksara Blanc de Blanc,¬†Ch√Ęteau Ksara Chardonnay and the Ch√Ęteau St. Thomas Chardonnay) despite not typically liking Chardonnays. Most are very affordable on the restaurant’s menu, ranging in the $30-40 price point for a bottle and with a few of them offered by the glass ($8-9 price range.) And of course, they are the perfect pairing for Kabab-ji’s authentic Lebanese cuisine.

For anyone who has spent some time in the gulf, Kabab-ji Restaurants are a welcome familiar sight, with franchises throughout the region offering a casual alternative to American fast food dining options. But don’t call it a chain ūüėČ My friend Jenn, whose family still lives in Beirut, pointed out that with 35 outlets in the world (and just one in North America), Kabab-ji Grill can hardly be called a chain or be labeled a Middle Eastern Kentucky Fried Chicken. And the food is much better, making Kabab-ji Grill a favourite spot of Lebanese expats and local Armenians. Its signature kebabs of beef, chicken or vegetables are proudly displayed at the front and grilled to order, though my favourite item on the menu requires no grilling at all. That would be the¬†southern kebbeh, a spicy middle eastern take on France’s steak tartare.¬†On a hot summer day, try people-watching from one of the tables on the restaurant’s patio front, with a refreshing plate of tabouleh¬†and a glass of Ch√Ęteau Ksara Sunset, a dry ros√©. Or stay cool inside with the air conditioning and share a bottle of Ch√Ęteau Ksara Cabernet Sauvignon (100% cabernet grapes) and a variety of hot and cold mezzes. Although you might have a hard time sharing the Kebbeh Mikleyes… or the bottle of wine for that matter ūüėČ

Kebab-ji Grill is located at 1351 Connecticut Avenue, NW. The restaurant’s wine list includes selections from Ch√Ęteau Ksara, a vineyard that was established by Jesuits back in 1857; Ch√Ęteau Musar, Lebanon’s best known and most exported wines, with strong ties to the Bordeaux region; Massaya wines, Cave Kouroum¬†and Clos St. Thomas “Il faut en boire pour y croire…”

Ma Petite Liste – March 20-25, 2012

This week is World Water Week, culminating in the¬†United Nations’ World Water Day on March 22nd. Throughout the District, thousands of restaurants are participating in the UNICEF Tap Water Project from March 19-25, 2012. Participating restaurants in D.C. (full list here) will invite their diners to donate a minimum of $1 for the tap water they would normally order for free to raise money for the UNICEF Water Project. Every dolla raised provides clean water for a child for 40 days. So throughout the week, order some tap water for a good cause!!

The Cherry Blossom Festival 2012 starts today and yes, it’s the first day of spring. But most importantly, it’s Macaron Day!!! Indulge your sweet tooth at some of my favourite spots in the city.¬†The Sweet Lobby¬†on Capitol Hill got some national attention in February for winning Cupcake Wars but its their macarons that always catch my attention. Visit their boutique today for a free treat and buy more while you’re there. 25% of today’s macarons sales will benefit a local organization promoting science education for children.¬†Tout de Sweet¬†in Bethesda (read my initial thoughts about this cute little patisserie) is also getting into the holiday spirit with limited quantities of free macarons. Just mention that you’re celebrating macaron day! They will also be donating 25% of additional macaron sales today to the¬†Make a Wish Foundation¬†so you don’t have to fell too guilty if you pick up a whole box!! Finally,¬†DC Patisserie¬†has created a special cherry flavour for the occasion (and to a mark the beginning of the Cherry Blossoms season), which will be available at¬†Seasonal Pantry¬†between 6-8PM.¬†

Macarons from Pierre Herme, who started La Journee du Macaron in Paris

If you managed to get tickets to see Fiona Apple at Sixth and Eye Sinagogue, I’m very jealous. I failed miserably and plan to drown my sorrows at¬†El Centro¬†which is hosting a feature night in anticipation of¬†ARTINI at the Corcoran on March 31. 20% of the bar sales during happy hour will support Corcoran ArtReach.

Is is already Sweet Sixteen time? I really haven’t been following March Madness this year ūüėČ But it must be because the¬†Hoops for Hope event benefiting¬†Becky’s Fund¬†is throwing a sweet Sixteen event at¬†Arlington Rooftop. Also¬†l’Alliance Fran√ßaise¬†is screening Napoleon at the¬†Hillwood Estate, Museum and Garden,¬†in parallel with their¬†¬†The Styles¬†that Ruled the Empires: Russia, Napoleon and 1812¬†exhibit.¬†


Yes, the Hunger Games comes out today and we’re all excited about that… but La Delicatesse, featuring Audrey Tautou and the music of Emilie Simon (who I adore!) also opens, probably on a LOT less screens ūüėČ The French film will be showing at both Landmark Theaters (E Street & Bethesda Row). I’ll be honest, the critics coming from France have not been entirely positive, but I’m still looking forward to seeing it! It’s also La Grande Fete de la Francophonie at La Maison de la France.¬†It’s always one of the most anticipated and popular event of the Francophonie Festival (probably because it involves drinking and eating your way through French-speaking countries in the fabulous setting of the French Embassy.)

It’s Spaghetti and Meatballs night at¬†Carmine’s¬†to benefit the¬†Washington Humane Society’s Fashion for Paws. It sounds like such a fun afternoon, with Disney Trivia (Did I mention I used to work for Disneyland Resort Paris? I’m ridiculously¬†knowledgeable¬†on all things Disney) and Lady and the Tramp showing on big screens. ring the kiddies (or don’t) and watch¬†Lady and the Tramp¬†on big screens. The event is between 3-6PM at Carmine’s in Penn Quarter.¬†Tommy McFly, host of the Tommy Show on 94.7 Fresh FM¬†and¬†Dr. Katy Nelson¬†will be on hand for extra entertainment too! You can¬†sign up online in advance (it’s $25 for the little ones, and $40 for the grown ups.) You can also pay cash at the door.


I’ve had this day marked on my calendar for a while: Mad Men returns to AMC. Celebrate the season premiere and learn all about the cocktails imbided within the halls of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce advertising agency with Scofflaw’s Den Drink Like a Mad Men class. The history ofeach ingredients used and the cocktails will be detailed and students will take home recipe cards to create the libations at home, while watching the eagerly anticipated episode! (5:30PM at Last Exit, $50) If you’re like me, just gave up your cable because you were very tired of Comcast and you need a place to watch the show, Bourbon Steak is throwing a mad premiere event, starting at 7:30PM with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, a three course dinner with wine pairing and of course, the episode starting at 9PM. At $75 this actually sounds like a bargain… (email to reserve your spot) Bar Dupont will also be getting in the Mad Men cocktail spirit with a watch party and some specialty drinks for the occasion. Sip on a Don Draper (Ron Zacapa Centenario, coffee infused sweet vermouth, apricot brandy and semi sundried pineapple syrup) which will be half priced for the occasion.¬†

‚ôę Napol√©on Premier, Descend les Escaliers… ‚ô™

If you weren’t a small French child, you probably have no idea why I chose this title… if, on the other hand, you did grow up in France or have a kid that did, I’m sure you know the next lyric is “et demande au boucher o√Ļ sont les cabinets!”¬†Either way, France’s (in)famous emperor is one of the subjects of a current exhibit at Hillwood Estate, Museum and Garden. “The Styles¬†that Ruled the Empires: Russia, Napoleon and 1812” opened earlier in February. For the 200th anniversary of the¬† Patriotic War of 1812 (when Russia pretty much trounced France) Hillwood celebrates the Russian decorative arts that were created to celebrate their¬†military triumph but also explores the Empire style that was adopted by Russian artisans, despite the war, signaling the continued enchantment with French art and culture.

If you need a little history refresher, the “patriotic war” were pretty much disastrous for Napoleon, who enjoyed a reputation as an undefeated military genius until his ambitions of European dominance were dealt a terrible (and cold Russian) blow. Tolstoi’s masterpiece “War and Peace” (which I promise I will finish reading one day!) is set precisely during that time and explores the impact of the¬†Napoleonic era on Tsarist society, as seen through the eyes of five Russian aristocratic families. So it’s a perfect pick for a series of Napoleonic films to be shown at Hillwood concurently with the exhibit. Hosted by Sandro and Tati of Art Soiree, the 1956 film adaptation of the book, starring Audrey Hepburn and Henri Fonda, will be shown on Tuesday, March 29th (5:30-10PM.) A week earlier, l’Alliance Fran√ßaise will provide insight into the other side’s perspective by showing the 1955 French film, Napoleon. Directed by (Russian born) Sasha Guitry, the film follows Bonaparte from his early life in Corsica to his death in Saint Helena (shown March 22, 5:30-9:30PM.) Admission is $7 for Alliance Fran√ßaise, Art Soir√©e and Hillwood Members and $15 otherwise. You can pick up snacks at Hillwoods’ cafe or bring your own picknick…