French language and culture commentary from the U.S. capital

‘Bon App’’

Famous Parisian Cafés

Enjoying one a Ladurée's charlotte aux fraises et à la menthe with some tea / Photo courtesy of Ashley Estes

There is perhaps no place more beloved or revered in French culture than the café. For the French, the café is more than a simple spot to grab coffee – it’s a meeting point for discussions with old friends, an opportunity to read Le Monde and reflect, a corner table to work on your developing novel, or just a venue for a café au lait and people watching. Everyone has his… Read More

Top 5 Viennoiseries

Image courtesy of iStock/Getty Images

If you’ve ever been to any town in France, you’re familiar with the warm, sweet smell that fills the streets around 8am: the boulangeries have been hard at work for hours, and now it’s finally time to open for the day. In addition to being home to that emblem of French food, the baguette, and the delicate pâtisserie confections, the boulangerie is where the French pick up their daily viennoiserie. The… Read More

Le bourru est arrivé!


Beaujolais nouveau, the short-fermented red wine released just weeks after the grapes are harvested, is increasingly becoming known in American tradition thanks to the widespread marketing push behind this Gamay wine as the first new French wine of the season. Long celebrated with great amusement and fanfare in France, its release at 12:01 on the third Thursday of November is rapidly growing in popularity in the U.S. as well. Beaujolais’ white counterpart, le bourru, on the other hand, remains… Read More

Les vignerons puristes


“A ‘rustic’ wine is one that can be described as hearty, earthy or rough-edged.” – @AskDrVinny @WineSpectator Flavor Delivery Vehicles In the south of France, well away from the limelight that shines on organically certified wines and biodynamic vineyards live the two arguable greatest adherents of a stern oenological philosophy. Premised on simplicity, respect for natural circumstance, and non-intervention, Domaines Gauby and Gramenon craft some of the world’s darkest, most enveloping… Read More

5 French Pastries That Will Make Your Mouth Water


Buttery flakes of tender, delicate pastry that melt in your mouth, with a gush of warm chocolat that evokes the very spirit of France — a perfect, just-out-of-the-oven pain au chocolat is a near life-changing pastry, it’s true. But as iconic as it is, it is by no means the only French pastry worth salivating over. La patisserie and  la boulangerie are essential fixtures of any French town, whose daily commerce in croissants and baguettes is often their… Read More

Bandol: the perfect end of summer red


Getting stuck in a wine rut is easy in summer, especially in Washington. The heat and humidity make classic seasonal food and wine pairings difficult to shake: Oysters? Muscadet. Dover sole? Sancerre. Lamb? Light burgundy. New vintages and vintners preserve a measure of novelty, but even there it can be tough to escape the ordinary. Dans ce cadre, consider Bandol, a French commune at the edge of the Mediterranean Sea and the most serious wine in sunny, coastal Provence. Bandol is known… Read More

Fromage Faux Pas: How to Slice and Eat Cheese


The well known gastronome Brillat-Savarin once said, “A meal without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye.” Dramatic, to be sure, but so is the characteristically French love of fromage. In fact, many French people will excitedly be able to tell you that France has over 365 varieties of cheese. Enough varieties of one food that you could eat a different type every day for a year and still not get… Read More

An Introduction to Wine Tasting


This blog has already profiled specific wines, wine regions, and winemakers, but for those who aren’t familiar with tasting, we thought it might be useful to provide an introduction to the subject more broadly. Accordingly, this post presents a convenient framework (and several resources) for thinking about wine. We’ll start with some encouragement and theory, followed by a few brief lessons and a case study on arguably the world’s best syrah. Wine experts are not mystics, just good students For… Read More

For the Love of Nutella


Oh sweet, sweet Nutella. The chocolate-hazelnut paste that has spread its way onto tables across the globe is easy to love and has become an obsessively addictive delight to be enjoyed on everything from crêpes to croissants to bare fingers the world over. And like every great love affair, there’s a story to go with it. Nutella got its start in Italy in the 1940s as a response to cocoa rationing during World War II. It originated as a… Read More

L’art du pique-nique

Warmer weather signals many things: longer days, lighter clothing, and, of course, the pleasure of eating outdoors. There’s nothing quite like relaxing outside with a good meal and a bottle of wine, whether it’s at the beach, on a picnic table, or even sprawled out on a blanket in your jardin, to christen the arrival of good weather. Le pique-nique à la française is practically a national pastime. The French are known for their great… Read More

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