France’s Edible Art Thursday, Jun 24 2010 

Art is top of mind this week. In our advanced French Conversation class, we read a recent article from Le Point magazine on French attitudes toward art and museums. In a February 2010 survey of 1000 French persons 18 years old and older, six Français sur dix ont déclaré visiter un musée au moins une fois par an (six out of ten reported that they visit a museum at least once per year). In addition, the survey noted that museums are where most French go to take in art. Interestingly, les expositions temporaires, les galleries et les foires (temporary exhibitions, art galleries and art fairs) garner less attention.

But some of our group wondered why the French did not go to museums more often with so many temples of great art at their disposal. Class participant Kathy declared in lovely French, “Si j’habitais en France, je visiterais un musée au moins une fois par semaine!” (If I lived in France, I would visit a museum at least once a week!)

This got me thinking about other types of “art” that the French frequent more often in their everyday lives. Take the neighborhood pâtisserie (pastry shop) for instance. The daily expositions (exhibitions) of pastry art in France are breathtaking.  The various arrays of les gâteaux et les tartes (cakes and tarts) are des chefs-d’oeuvre (masterpieces) of color, creativity AND flavor. I would be willing to faire un pari (make a bet) that the average French family enjoys an edible oeuvre d’art (work of art) at least once a week, whether at Sunday lunch with the family or while entertaining à la maison.

To see firsthand the fruits of these creative pastry labors, let’s take an “art walk” through various pâtisseries in Paris and Provence: 

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Gosselin in Paris…EACH fresh raspberry has a perfect dot of raspberry glaze.

 

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In Paris, Pierre Hermé’s Ispahan confection blends raspberry, litchi & rose.

 

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 Béchard in Aix-en-Provence is a veritable field of raspberries.

 

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 A cream puff of a cake also at Béchard in Aix.

 

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Béchard even whips up ice cream cakes…Adieu Baskin-Robbins, bonjour Béchard!

In addition to all the regular art, I am fascinated by the mini versions of luscious pastries. What a labor of love to create each one of these little jewels. And their small size means you can taste a variety of flavors all the calories of the regular size. I wish more French pastry shops in the U.S. would include the mini pastries in their repertoire. Ah well, I’ll have to keep going to France for that one.

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It is tempting to want to collectionner (collect) these edible art objects and keep them on the shelf, they are so beautiful. But of course, photos will have to do instead—and memories of wonderful tastes.

Next week, we’ll take a behind the scenes tour of a French pastry shop and see the art of pastry-making in action. Until then, add a comment at let us know your favorite type of French edible art!

French Take-Out™ ~ La France à emporter

My experience of Art in France is that the French highly value their culture, history and art. Museums—large grand ones like the Louvre or small regional ones, historic monuments, and châteaux are packed on weekends and often during the week. There is even a “French Heritage Days” weekend (Les Journées du Patrimoine) every September where fabulous buildings and properties—both government-owned and private—are open to the public for two days. The lines outside participating establishments are very long but the French consider it worth the wait.

If you are planning to be in France in September, you won’t want to miss this incredible weekend of French Art. While the Journées du Patrimoine web site is not up yet for 2010, you can bookmark it for future reference:  www.journeesdupatrimoine.culture.fr/.

Even in Foodie France… Thursday, Jun 10 2010 

…the concept of a “Restaurant week” has JUST made an appearance. This year for the first time chefs of more than 800 restaurants in France, including 200 restaurants in the Paris region alone, have joined forces to host “Tous au Restaurant” and share their passion for great cuisine.

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From June 7 to 13, diners all over l’Hexagone are enjoying a gourmet lunch for 20,10 euros (you have to wonder where they got the ,10 euros?!) or 35 euros for dinner. Included are three courses: the ENTREE + PLAT + DESSERT (starter + main dish + dessert). From bistrots to regional restaurants to grand temples of cuisine, all types of eating establishments are participating in this effort to showcase French cuisine at its finest.

Inspired by the success of “Restaurant Week” in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, London, and other countries, Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse organized this year’s restaurant fête through his company Alain Ducasse Entreprise. Most, if not all, of his restaurants are included in the operation including Benoit, Spoon, Aux Lyonnais, Le Relais du Parc, Le Relais Plaza, and La Bastide de Moustiers. Additional crème de la crème chefs include Guy Savoy, Hélène Darroze, Anne-Sophie Pic, Joël Robuchon, Pierre Gagnaire, Paul Bocuse, and others.

I find myself wondering why “Restaurant Week” has not appeared in France until now. Perhaps the reason is that every week is in effect ‘restaurant week’ in this country where food and wine are almost a religion. But making such an idea official and offering attractive prices is certainly a creative idea, especially during these slow economic times. And if anyone has the ability to pull his confrères together to make such an event happen, Monsieur Ducasse certainly does.

This week, I have perused the “Tous au Restaurant” web site several times to choose the restaurants where I would dine if I were in France right now and found some interesting possibilities. I am curious what our wonderful French Affaires readers would choose and why. To that end, let’s encourage everyone to check out the “Tous au Restaurant” web site and make their selections:

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Then let us know which restaurant(s) you would most like to visit and why in the comment section for this article. There will be a prize for the most creative entry submitted by Thursday, June 17th—a set of signed French Affaires notecards with original photos of Paris…perfect for speical correspondence or for framing!

And if there is anyone in the FA community who is in France right now and dining at some of the French restaurant week establishments, be sure and let us all know.

On another note…

Thank you, dear FA readers, for your participation and for your support of a little bit of France in the U.S. We’ll be back to our regular weekly posting schedule next week. Stay tuned for more interesting cultural, language and travel entries about one of the most beautiful places on earth—France!

French Take-Out ~ La France à emporter™

Our new signed French Affaires notecards with original photos of France will soon be available on the French Affaires web site. The photo series will include the:

Best of Paris, Sacred Paris, Musée d’Orsay Paris, Paris Fleurs, French Markets, Best of Provence, Sacred Provence, Provence Markets…and more.

We’ll also post wonderful French antique and objet d’art finds from our French travels and séjours (stays) as they come available. Check www.frenchaffaires.com soon as we share more of the best of France.

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A Breath of French Air Wednesday, Jun 9 2010 

On Monday, French Affaires hosted celebrated food journalist and cookbook author Susan Herrmann Loomis as part of our French Affaires Book Series. She is currently based in France (more specifically in Louviers, Normandy) and runs her cooking school “On Rue Tatin” from there. Over a French-inspired lunch, she regaled our group of nearly 50 Francophiles with wonderful tales about cooking and living in France… “Every day I have at least one conversation with someone about FOOD.” In addition, she describes “France as a gracious place to live” but “the red tape is infernal” and “America has peanut butter. ”

Speaking of nuts, she made our mouths water when describing her ‘favorite three recipes’ from “Nuts in the Kitchen,” her new cookbook just out in April. She traveled from Turkey to Thailand to Sweden researching this latest labor of cooking love. Interestingly, she noted that the Swedes have made an art out of using nuts in cooking and that many good nutty culinary ideas come from that locale.

French Affaires’ next rendez-vous with chef Susan is our Paris market tour and cooking day in early November as part of the FA fall trip. Our French Affaires ‘Gourmet Paris’ travelers are in for a super-French culinary treat with her tremendous expertise and warm personality thrown in. Check out these photos of our previous ‘Gourmet Paris’ trip and cooking class with Susan:

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And we look forward to hosting her in Texas next year for a multi-day cooking class where we all can roll up our sleeves and COOK.

Merci to all those who came out to enjoy a “breath of French air”…we appreciate your being part of our French Affaires community in the U.S.

And merci to you, Susan, for providing a “breath of French air”…and Happy Book Tour!