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

‘Bon App’’

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

Navette Recipe: Celebrate Spring à la Marseillaise


Printemps est enfin arrivée à Washington and for springtime à la française, one of the best treats is the classic navette, an individual, boat-shaped cookie traditionally made à la fleur oranger: with a touch of citrus and a hint of floral that will help you welcome the blooms — and take your mind off those allergies! The ideal place to find navettes is in Marseille, where the historic origins lie, but you can make them at home,… Read More

Fast Food Meets French Culture


The epicenter of haute cuisine, France may not seem a likely location for a fast food craze, but believe it or not, quick dining options have arrived and are making it clear they’re not going anywhere. Despite recent debates over the future of French cuisine, the country continues to be known for its gourmet food culture, and yet fast food restaurants have become increasingly popular. One study by food consultancy… Read More

Finding Red in a White Wine Capital


In Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer, a cocksure Ewan McGregor turns down a nice-looking pour with, “White wine — never really seen the point of it.” Despite its cheeky air, the quip conveys a preference that many probably find forgivable. Measured economically, on a global basis red wine outweighs white in terms of both volume and price. Yet the Loire Valley turns this law on its head. Along the banks of… Read More

Gender Confusion in French Nouns


As an anglophone, the whole idea seems murky and overcomplicated, but you’ve accepted the facts: knowing which words are masculine and feminine in French is a pain in the fesses. Little did you know the heads-is-feminine-tails-is-masculine coin you’ve been flipping has a third surface. One that means the noun in question can be masculine or feminine. Fun, right? Depending on which article you choose, the word’s definitions are entirely different. The full list… Read More