French New Year’s Wishes Thursday, Dec 29 2011 

In France, the holidays, or la période des fêtes, are about family, friends and especially feasting. This applies to le Reveillon (New Year’s Eve) in particular. It is common to spend several hours enjoying un dîner de reveillon (New Year’s Eve dinner) complete with oysters, smoked salmon, chestnuts, truffles, mushrooms,foie gras, duck, and all manner of other French delicacies. (Click here for a previous posting on French holiday tastes.)  

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A beautiful French table set for “le dîner de reveillon”

Our recent French Cookbook Club gathering got a wonderful preview of French holiday dishes as we celebrated Paula Wolfert’s The Cooking of Southwest France: Recipes from France’s Magnificent Rustic Cuisine. If you haven’t spent time with southwestern French cooking, it’s all about the foods that appear en masse on the French holiday dining table—seafood, foie gras, mushrooms, game birds, beef and more. While our entire multi-course meal was worth making again, a real holiday stand-out was the “Chestnut and Mushroom Soup with Walnuts” – merci, Betty! You’ll want to make it just as the recipe says with French cêpes / Italian porcini mushrooms all the way to the finishing of a touch of a bit of walnut oil and a splash of lemon juice. This dish transports you to France—immediately!

Of course, no dîner de reveillon would be complete without toasts and good wishes for le Nouvel An (the New Year). The most basic is “Bonne année!” (pronounced buh nah-nay), i.e. “Happy New Year!” Or one can get more elaborate with the following: “Que cette nouvelle année vous apporte bonheur, santé et réussite,” meaning “May this new year bring you happiness, health and success.” Quite nice, don’t you think?

If you were in Paris for New Year’s, you could follow your dinner and toasts by going out on the town. You could join the crowds thronging the Champs-Elysées. Or you could head to the Eiffel Tower to watch the fireworks going off at midnight. Or you could watch the French President Nicolas Sarkozy on television sending his meilleurs voeux 2012 (best wishes for 2012) to the citizens of France.

On the subject of French New Year’s wishes, it is interesting to note that the French typically send New Year’s cards rather than Christmas cards to their loved ones. Greetings for the New Year in this format are often a little more formal. Here are a few examples as only the French can do them:

Meilleurs voeux pour 2012! (Best wishes for 2012!)

Nous vous souhaitons une très bonne année 2012! (We wish you a very happy 2012!)

Paix, amour, joie, prospérité, santé, bonheur… Que cette nouvelle année soit exceptionnelle! (Peace, love, joy, prosperity, health, happiness…May this New Year be exceptional!)

And then there is this lovely New Year’s wish I received from a good French friend last year:

Que cette nouvelle année déborde de bonheur, de paix et de prosperité. (May this New Year overflow with happiness, peace and prosperity.)

On that note, I’d like to wish you a wonderful 2012 full of all good things—and mais oui, full of things French!

Bonne année à toutes et à tous!

(Happy New Year to all!)

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Paris for Sale Saturday, Dec 10 2011 

If you love Paris but don’t live there, have you ever just wanted to take it home with you? Bundle the whole thing up, put it in your suitcase and pull it out when you need a ‘Paris fix’? What if you could “buy Paris”?

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I like to believe that anything is possible when it comes to France so it got me thinking about various ways to purchase the French capital. Of course, one can always buy an apartment there but that is a WHOLE other project. There are more reasonable items whose style just shouts Paris such as a beautiful scarf from Pétrusse or a gorgeous art book from the Louvre or a luscious box of almond macarons from Ladurée or Pierre Hermé. Then there are small trinkets you can pick up around town that say Paris—literally.

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 Les cartes postales (postcards)…

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Les caleçons (boxers)…

The Eiffel Tower seems to be the quintessential visual image of Paris and for good reason. So a small version for your desk or even a porte-clés (key ring) might be nice. Then you can drive around with Paris in your car.

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You can also buy an artist’s view of the city. This vendor regularly offers her wares along the Rue de Rivoli on the Right Bank. She is on board with the Tour Eiffel motif for sure.

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I think chocolate versions of Paris are nice—only they don’t last as long. Miam (yum, in French)! Chapon and Debauve & Gallais on the Left Bank each have their versions. 

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Debauve Paris

Or maybe a bread version of the Eiffel Tower is more your speed.

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There is always the light-up version of the Eiffel Tower. Our Paris trip group picked up a few of these last week. Perfect for holiday decorating.

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But they have a hard time competing with the real thing at night, n’est-ce pas?

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Don’t forget the French folks at the Paris airport duty free venues. They are the ones who have elevated buying Paris to an art form. If you need some cognac in an Eiffel Tower glass bottle, they’ve got it.

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Or I like this current holiday offering of chocolates in an glass Eiffel Tower keepsake complete with Santa hat on top. Maybe one year at Christmastime, the City of Paris should put a faux Santa hat on top of the real Eiffel Tower. Can’t you picture that? But I’m thinking that wouldn’t mesh with the ‘sophisticated Paris’ image near and dear to its residents. Tant pis (too bad)!

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So with all these ideas in mind–and with a budget of 100 euros (as long as the euro currency lasts!), what would YOU do to “buy Paris”? Send in your thoughts in the comment section of this post. There is no end to creativity when it comes to putting Paris on sale or to buying it.

French Take-Out – La France à emporter

If all this Paris paraphernalia makes you want to rush out and buy something, you can find some kitschy Paris items at Target.com under “Eiffel”. Eiffel Tower centerpieces, posters, wall clocks, pendants—it’s almost like being at a souvenir stand in Paris. Almost.

Just know, though, that if you do a search on their web site for “Paris,” you’ll mostly get items for “Paris Hilton.” Hélas (alas), signs of the times. Bon Paris shopping!