Category Archives: Events

On est avec vous, la France

Words can’t express the sorrow we are all feeling because of the tragic events that transpired in Paris on Friday, the 13th of November.

Image credit: Les Cartons

Image credit: Les Cartons

It was shocking to learn of the places that were targeted, especially Le Carillon and Le Petit Cambodge, restaurants my husband and I used to frequent when we were living in the 10th arrondissement of Paris.

All I can say is that we are with you, Paris, we are with you, France. You hold a special place in our hearts, and we will be thinking of you.

As a tribute to those who lost their lives and the loved ones who have also been affected by these tragedies, une chanson, “Pourquoi les guerres?”:

 

© Jessica’s Franglais 2015

French in Brooklyn Part I

When I lived in Brooklyn, I adored mon petit quartier français: my little French neighborhood nestled into Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens. We enjoyed French cafés, bars and restaurants, and even heard little school children speaking French in the streets as there is a bilingual school in the area: P.S. 58 The Carroll School.

Every Bastille Day since 2006, they close off Smith street for a pétanque tournament and the French establishments serve their Frenchest food and drink. Check out Bar Tabac’s website for more information.

Recently, a French TV station mentioned ce petit coin as a francophone destination:

TV5 Monde Destination Francophonie #115: Brooklyn

Notice the yellow café in the video? That’s Provence en Boîte. While there are many French restaurants in Brooklyn, this one was my favorite. I loved this place so much my husband and I had our last breakfast there before moving to Paris. Oui, c’est un resto francais, bien sûr. We simply had to have our last café et croissant before heading to the motherland.

Here is a post, or a love letter really, that I wrote to Provence en Boîte on my old blog Le Quartier Français à Brooklyn before we left for la tour Eiffel:

“Even from the outside, it’s easy to see that Provence en Boîte has a bright character all its own. Quite literally a sunflower-yellow box plopped down on the corner of Smith and Degraw in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, this petit bistro warmly welcomes every passer-by to come in and discover the delights of Provence.

Installez-vous sur la terrasse

Installez-vous sur la terrasse!

Guests are seated at simple copper-topped tables and served water from French bottles. The golden colored walls are covered with eclectic paintings and photographs of Provence and Brooklyn, while antique French tins and bottles of Ricard and Lillet line the wooden shelves. Diners are tempted by the glass case at the center of the restaurant filled with fruit tarts, éclairs and decadent chocolate pastries. Above the pastry display sit rows of puffy croissants, glistening pains au chocolats and fresh baguettes just begging to be taken away.

As a resident of the neighborhood, I myself am drawn to this sanctuary like a moth to a lamp. Every brunch experience there is filled with fluffy egg and creamy goat cheese omelets, real French bread, rich espresso, perfectly vinegretted salad and mimosas that taste like sunlight on your tongue. I often see Jean-Jacques and Leslie, the charming French owners and executive chef (Jean-Jacques), making their rounds to the tables, saying “bonjour” and making sure that everything is delicious. Sometimes even les petits, their young children Andrea and Jacques, come around to collect the bill. Quite possibly they are in training to take over the restaurant from their parents one day.

Not one to forego new dining prospects, I noticed one evening that the yellow bistro is open for dinner as well. My boyfriend and I decided to stop in and see what was being served. Transformed for the evening with lights dimmed, a candle flickering on every table, and a track of smooth jazz playing, we found ourselves in a slightly more sophisticated version of the daytime hotspot.

Entrez!

Entrez!

That evening we were the only diners, but instead of feeling awkward it seemed as if the place had been reserved especially for us. We both ended up choosing the prix fixe menu, which was $22 for soup or salad, fish or entrée of the day, and crème brûlée for dessert.

The smooth and attentive waiter swiftly brought us our house salads with dark mixed greens and cherry tomatoes, which were to the same acidic perfection as when ordered during the day. Next for my boyfriend was the chicken special: a large thigh with crispy golden skin in a red wine reduction sauce, accompanied by creamy mashed potatoes and slices of savory portabella mushrooms. Quel paradis! On my plate sat a generous portion of thick buttery white monkfish smothered with an olive tapenade atop a chunky bed of ratatouille. The olive oil infused vegetables burst with flavor and complimented the fish superbly.

Topping off the evening with a bit of sugar, we gladly savored the vanilla custard of our home made crème brûlées down to the very last spoonful. Well, I savored. My boyfriend gobbled ravenously.

Crème brûlée. Photo credit: Foodspotting.com

Crème brûlée. Photo credit: Foodspotting.com

At the end of our lovely meal after paying our bill and saying our merci’s, I couldn’t help but notice chef Jean-Jacques sitting in the back of the restaurant watching a French drama on TV5. That evening, as he was privately enjoying a little bit of home, I hope he knew that Provence en Boîte had also brought a little bit of France to us.”

263 Smith St (at Degraw)

Brooklyn, NY 11231

Metro: F or G to Carroll St

http://www.provenceenboite.com/

What’s your favorite French place in Brooklyn?

Stay tuned for Part II!

© Jessica’s Franglais 2015

French in Portland

On a recent trip to this hip, green city in the Northwest, I discovered many things French. From restaurants to art to the upcoming Bastille Day celebration, here’s how to make your stay un peu plus français:

Celebrate

Portland Bastille Day Festival with the Alliance Française de Portland

Saturday, July 11, 2015 12-6pm

Image credit: AF Portland

Image credit: AF Portland

One of the largest celebrations on the West Coast, the 13th annual Bastille Festival will be held on the Portland Art Museum grounds in conjunction with its exhibit from Paris’ École des Beaux-Arts (more information below). This free event will include music varying from accordion to opera, aerial performers providing entertainment, and children’s activities in the sculpture garden. Sip and snack on food and drink supplied by local French bakeries, cafés and bars while you peruse the marché with authentic French products and experiences on offer.

Admire

Gods and Heroes Exhibit

Portland Art Museum

1219 SW Park Avenue

June 13 – September 13, 2015

 

If you’ve ever dreamed of visiting the Louvre or had the privilege of actually going there, you’ll appreciate this exhibit from Paris’ École des Beaux-Arts “the original school of fine arts in Paris and a repository for work by Europe’s most renowned artists since the seventeenth century” which includes approximately 140 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper dating from antiquity through the nineteenth century.

The museum’s website explains the exhibit as such: “At the École, learning how to construct persuasive and powerful paintings from carefully delineated anatomy, expressive faces, and convincing architectural and landscape settings was understood to be the route to success and recognition. The ideology was rooted in the study of the idealized human form as envisioned in classical art. The exhibition features extraordinary works that served as models for the students, including ancient sculpture, a drawing by Raphael, and prints by Albrecht Dürer and Rembrandt van Rijn.” During my visit, I found the competitions such as the torso drawings to be strikingly realistic.

Eat and Drink

Chez Machin

3553 SE Hawthorne Blvd

Photo credit: bunrab.com

Photo credit: bunrab.com

Opened by a Frenchman from Chartres and currently run by an American woman married to a Frenchman with 30 years experience in the hospitality industry, Chez Machin’s food is based on local and rural French cuisine. Expect to find traditional French food such as crêpes (savory and sweet), moules (mussels), boeuf bourguignon, escargots, and soupe à l’oignon. Open for brunch, lunch, dinner and drinks.

Cocotte Bistro & Bar

2930 NE Killingsworth Street

Photo credit: relevantstudios.com

Photo credit: relevantstudios.com

This is a modern Parisian-inspired bistro that uses local ingredients to fuse French with New American cuisine. Offerings include chicken liver mousse, seasonal oysters, frog legs, and gigot d’agneau (leg of lamb). For cocktails, try the French Intervention (Lillet Blanc, Mezcal, Suze, Yellow Chartreuse) or the Cocotte Old Fashioned (Basil Hayden, Angostora, Raw Sugar, Orange Peel). Open for dinner and drinks.

Le Bouchon

517 NW 14th Avenue

Photo credit: Le Bouchon

Photo credit: Le Bouchon

If you’re looking for an authentic French dining experience, look no further. Owned by a French couple with 45 years experience in “classic French cuisine with a country flare,” you’ll find traditional French fare like confit de canard, entrecôte de boeuf, and medaillons de porc demi glace (porkloin). Open for lunch and dinner.

Le Pigeon

738 E Burnside St

Photo credit: swimming.ly

Photo credit: swimming.ly

Winning Best in Class in 2014 on the Oregon Live website, you’re sure to enjoy an elegant night out at this French gem. Choose between its namesake Grilled Pigeon Breast, the beef cheek Bourguignon, or the foie-gras profiteroles. For a special occasion or just because, try the 5 or 7 courses with a wine pairing. Open for dinner.

Laugh

Portlandia Bastille Day

This post wouldn’t be complete without a nod to the fantastically bizarre show Portlandia. Here’s a clip of Fred, Carrie and their roommate frolicking French-style in The Rose Garden in celebration of le 14 juillet:

Et toi? How will you celebrate Bastille Day?

© 2015 Jessica’s Franglais

Nous Sommes Charlie (We Are Charlie)

Photo credit to PBS

Le choc.

Most people in France and all over the world were and still are in shock after the shooting of cartoonists, journalists, policemen and -women, as well as others at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, the French weekly satirical paper last Wednesday morning in Paris. The bloodshed continued with the killing of 4 Jewish hostages at a kosher deli.

Over here in California, it may feel physically far away from the tragedy, but at the same time our hearts go out to France and all those touched by what happened. These events affected so many people, whether French, Muslim or Jewish, living in France or any other country.

What is at question here is a key element of French identity. Freedom of the press is a civil right in France, the U.S. and many other countries, even if what is being expressed is offensive. I don’t know if any of us will take that right for granted ever again.

As we have seen with the massive rallies in Paris and all over France, le rassemblement (gathering or meeting of people) is something the French do very well. With over 3.7 million protestors marching in the streets of Paris with their “Je suis Charlie” signs, it is the largest gathering in France since World War II.

photo credit to l'express

photo credit to l’Express

Despite the tragedy, it is heartwarming to witness people uniting to protect their freedoms. With countless other events and political attitudes polarizing individuals in the world today, at least this is bringing many people together.

On the other hand, others are lumping all Muslims into the “extremist” label, similarly to what happened in the US on 9/11. Growing anti-Muslim immigration sentiment may increase support for the French far-right Front National (more on politics here). Some also fear there will be a French version of the Patriot Act instated.

In speaking to French people about how this has affected them, I get a strong sense of national unity, even if the French may not agree with one another on other subjects. Apolline, a young Parisian expat living in California with family in Paris not far from the attacks, told to me with tears in her eyes that it was a direct attack on an essential element of the French identity: freedom of speech and freedom of the press is something the French have fought for since the French Revolution of 1789. She explained that even if she doesn’t live in France, she is still French and France will always be in her heart.

Geraldine of Comme une française expressed the same sentiment, and explained how many French people grew up with the comics that these cartoonists drew. You can watch her video here.

As a teacher, I believe it is an important part of our job to talk to our students about these tragic events. Yes, it’s hard to watch the footage, and yes, it’s extremely sad. But ignoring it will not make it go away. By sharing with our students some background about what happened and providing them with an avenue through which to express themselves, they can work through their own feelings about what happened and express empathy for those affected. This is one step towards making our world a better place in the face of tragedy.

Nous sommes tous Charlie (We are all Charlie)

© Jessica’s Franglais 2015