French Affaires Update ~ French Kings and Queens Wednesday, Jun 1 2016 

Bonjour France friends! It’s been a very full spring at French Affaires which has meant a slight pause in sending out our French Affaires Weekly newsletters. We thank you for your patience and look forward to sharing a great line-up of new French cultural and travel features in the weeks to come. In today’s post, we thought we’d highlight the latest news including photos from recent group trips to France, our newly designed website which will debut very soon and also the big news that my husband and I are now living in France. Yes, we’ve got a real French house complete with a real French wine cellar and a real French puppy. More on all that below!

French Affaires kicked off the 2016 France travel season with our annual “Paris Antiques Trip” in March. Our great group of intrepid antiques lovers scored lots of fabulous finds all week. And our special decorative arts culture excursion featured a private guided visit to the exquisite Musée Nissim de Camondo, a gorgeous 19th century Parisian mansion filled with extraordinary furniture, art, sculpture, porcelain and more.

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Next up was our custom ”Springtime in Paris” trip for the darling ladies of the Dallas Garden Club. Our special week in and around Paris was filled with luscious gardens, flowers and châteaux. In particular, the ladies received a royal welcome at the gardens and château of Chantilly from Frederic Nancel, Director of Special Events, as well as a unique opportunity to tour with Chantilly’s head gardener.  The trip even included a private perfume workshop where we learned all about various floral elements and created our personal scent to take home. Talk about the ultimate Paris springtime treat!

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Then we kicked off our two-week “Provence Language and Culture Immersion” in historic and lively Aix-en-Provence. Our fun and enthusiastic group savored French lessons, art and culture excursions, culinary delights and daily living in France. Below is a charming view of Arles from our ‘In the Steps of Van Gogh’ visit one afternoon. The inhabitants of this Arles house should win an award for always having the best flower boxes in town! On another day, our group enjoyed art and afternoon tea at the stunning new Aix museum known as the Hôtel Caumont. A former aristocratic mansion then music conservatory, the Hôtel Caumont now hosts wonderful temporary exhibitions – the current show is on Turner – and features restored period rooms and beautiful gardens.

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This spring, we’ve also been hard at work on French Affaires’ new website which will be launching very soon. For those of you who are Instagram fans, we’ve been posting great travel and culture tidbits on the photo sharing app. Here’s a recent posting from May Day in France where everyone gives muguet – lilies of the valley – to their loved ones. For photos that will transport you to France at a glance, come follow us on Instagram at ‘french_affaires’ .

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Last but not least, the move to France! As many of you know, I’ve been spending a good amount of time here each year hosting Americans on special France travels, all the while teaching, speaking and sharing the best of France back in the U.S. This spring, my husband and I moved to a small village near Fontainebleau, about an hour south of Paris. It is a beautiful corner of the world out in the French countryside – see our 17th century house below in spring – but with Paris right on our doorstep.  I will continue to create one-of-a-kind stays in France and also will be in the States regularly to speak and teach (come join me for a special seminar on “French Kings & Queens” on June 15th at SMU in Dallas). The best of both worlds!

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With the launch of the new French Affaires website, I’ll have many stories and cultural happenings to share from life over here in la belle France. There will be some great features on our small village of Courances – population about 350! – and on our new neighbor, the stunning Château de Courances. In the meantime, we have just found out that our village is going to be on French TV on June 7th. It’s one of 13 French towns up for the “Le Village Préféré des Français 2016″ award on channel ‘France 2.’ Hosted by Stéphane Bern, the show began five years ago and each year, the charming candidates are presented via spectacular footage. Before the show airs, the French vote on their favorite and the winner is announced at the end of the show. Click here to see a short preview of the Courances segment (you might be able to see the entire show later on the French channel TV5 Monde if you subscribe to it in the U.S.). And YOU can vote too – please click here to vote for our village of Courances by June 3rd. Merci beaucoup!

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UPCOMING FRENCH EVENT IN DALLAS, TEXAS:

If you need a French fix soon, I’ll be in Dallas for various events and talks including the rich seminar “French Kings & Queens: A History of the Monarchy of France” that I am teaching on Wednesday, June 15th, for the SMU Continuing Studies program. See the lecture details below:

“French Kings & Queens”: Come join us for this exciting overview of French royalty throughout the centuries! Discover the essence of French history with this special course focused on the monarchy of France. Through illustrated lecture, Dr. Elizabeth Seitz will trace the French royal dynasties through the centuries such as the Valois and the Bourbons. We’ll learn about the lives of known and lesser known French kings and queens as well as the castles and monuments they built. Remarkable stories and intrigues of the French court will add color to the rich content of this class. You’ll also receive travel tips on how to experience French royal history in France as well as a reading and film list for further exploration. Advance registration is required through SMU. Please click here for more details.

 

French Mustard on the Move Thursday, Sep 11 2014 

You’ve probably heard that the food truck craze has hit France and Paris in particular. French-style burgers, dim sum, tex-mex, pizza (though great pizza trucks have been around in France for a long time!), sandwiches, ice cream, crêpes and more are on offer in these mobile meal machines and are getting rave reviews. Last year even saw the country’s first “Food Trucks Festival” take place just outside Paris. Click here and here for quick guides to Paris food trucks by Le Figaro newspaper and L’Express magazine.

But the famous French Dijon mustard company Maille has decided to one-up the French food truck frenzy and share its delicious offerings on a national tasting tour across America. This month, following a wildly successful East coast tour this past summer, the Maille Mustard Mobile is turning heads in California and the Midwest. The snazzy mustard-bar-on-wheels will spread the French mustard love in San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles and Chicago at food festivals, local restaurants, food stores and trendy urban locations.

Maille Mustard Mobile on the Road

The black and gold Maille Mustard Mobile features a custom-designed tasting bar from which several Maille mustards including Dijon Originale, Old Style, Honey Dijon, Horseradish, and Rich Country can be sampled alongside the brand’s crunchy Cornichons. Mustard fans have the opportunity to compose their own palette of Dijon flavors, compare tastes, and choose their favorites. Recipes are also available to inspire creative cooking with mustard. And it’s all complimentary.

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So what is Maille’s goal in driving its chic French food truck around the U.S.? To entice discerning food lovers to try its world-renowned mustards and other gourmet products. And if it converted more than a few fans of regular yellow mustard into afficionados of its marvelous French moutardes, then that wouldn’t be so bad either!

So if you live in California or Chicago or are visiting there this month, check the Maille Mustard Mobile schedule below and come on out for some French mustard on the move:

September 11
Nob Hill Foods
1250 Grant Road
Mountain View, CA 94040
3:00pm-7:00pm 

September 12
2035 Filmore Street (Between Pine and California)
San Francisco, CA
12:00pm-6:00pm 

September 13
Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
1 Ferry Building Marketplace
San Francisco, CA 94111
8:00am – 2:00pm

September 17
Santa Monica Farmer’s Market
Location TBD
Los Angeles, CA
9:00am-10:30am 

Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese
7461 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90046
11:00am-3:00pm 

September 18
Albertsons
27702 Crown Valley Parkway Suite B
Ladera Ranch CA 92694 

September 20
Eat Real Food Festival
65 Webster Street
Oakland, CA 94607
10:30am – 9:00 pm 

September 21
Eat Real Food Festival
65 Webster Street
Oakland, CA 94607
10:30am – 5:00 pm

September 27, 28 & 29 – Chicago (locations TBA)

(Click here for the regularly updated schedule and locations.)

Another reason for coming out? Lucky tasters will have the chance to win a three-day culinary and cultural adventure in Paris for two while additional winners will score a year’s supply of Maille mustard. For a great preview of the Maille Mustard Mobile tasting experience and how to say the word ‘Maille,’ click here to take a look at the tour video. And you can click here to see a previous French Affaires article on Maille’s history and its wonderful boutique in Paris.

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Luscious French Drawings Wednesday, Aug 6 2014 

When visiting to museums in France and other parts over the world over the years, I’ve noticed that paintings are usually the main attraction. Museum-goers seem to prefer the often vibrant colors and textures of paintings over other more ‘austere’ forms of art such as drawings or prints. In addition, paintings typically are set off by beautiful frames, a phenomenon which directly or indirectly communicates “Look at me! I’m an important work of art.”

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Gorgeously framed Impressionist works from the Musée d’Orsay and the accompanying crowds of visitors

Fortunately for museum-goers in the U.S., the Dallas Museum of Art is offering an exciting opportunity to contemplate fascinating drawings and other works on paper now through October 26, 2014. The DMA’s new exhibition entitled “Mind’s Eye: Masterworks on Paper from David to Cézanne” showcases a variety of works on paper including drawings, watercolors and pastels by famous and lesser-known European artists. Notable about this show is the special spotlight on the artistic process and creative imagination of the artists as well as the fact that many of the works on paper are shown in magnificent frames.

At the “Mind’s Eye” press preview in late June, DMA Associate Director of Curatorial Affairs and former curator at the Louvre in Paris Olivier Meslay introduced the exhibition to the large group. He noted that the 120 works on view come from the DMA’s own collection and also significant loans from private collections in North Texas. The perhaps once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these privately-owned works adds a special dimension to show, he confirmed. (You may remember the Marmottan Museum in Paris had a great show this past spring on Impressionist paintings from private collections all over the world – it was a big sellout of course!)

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Meslay also described the show’s departure from traditional methods of displaying works on paper. Typically, museums mount these types of works in very neutral, almost-disappearing thin frames. Here, the DMA has chosen to display the works on paper in lovely, often ornate frames, some of which come from the DMA’s own Reves Collection and some from the private collectors themselves. To my mind, the frames add a wonderful dimension to the enlightening presentation of the exhibition’s works.

Following his introduction, he and co-curator Bill Jordan, former director of the Meadows Museum and Deputy Director of the Kimbell Art Museum, led our group on a tour through the exhibition galleries. Arranged in roughly chronological order, the arresting drawings, sketches and watercolors focus on European art from the French Revolution in the late 18th century to the birth of modernism in the early 20th century. The works by Delacroix, David, Manet, Degas, Van Gogh, Cézanne, Schiele, Mondrian, Picasso, and other artists span almost 150 years of creativity. The show’s curators pointed out the many ways the artistic creations reveal the working methods of the artists. You can literally see and almost feel the energy and vitality of the artists’ minds seeking to express their visions on paper.

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According to the exhibition’s curators and DMA Director Maxwell Anderson, a sub-theme of “Mind’s Eye” is the encouragement to collect art, i.e. that art collecting is not something reserved for a privileged few. “One of the goals of the Dallas Museum of Art is to encourage collecting within the community. There is no better example of how to do this than to highlight the Museum’s graphic holdings together with those that have been assembled in private homes throughout the area,” said Anderson. In essence, drawings are more available – and affordable – for those who have an interest in collecting art.

“Mind’s Eye” also includes ancillary displays such as how to care for and conserve works on paper as well as the various materials artists over the centuries have used to create paper-based works of art. In my opinion, seeing the actual samples of ink, pencil, charcoal, pastels, watercolors and other media is a wonderfully educational complement to the exhibition, particularly for those who have never taken a studio art class.

The exhibition is accompanied by a 240-page full-color catalogue, edited by Olivier Meslay and William B. Jordan, with contributions by Esther Bell, Richard R. Brettell, Alessandra Comini, Dakin Hart, William B. Jordan, Felix Krämer, Laurence Lhinares, Heather MacDonald, Olivier Meslay, Jed Morse, Steven Nash, Sylvie Patry, Louis-Antoine Prat, Richard Rand, George T. M. Shackelford, Richard Shiff, Kevin W. Tucker and Charles Wylie. The publication is distributed by Yale University Press.

To sum up, this exhibition is a must-see for art lovers of any stripe. And the preponderance of French artists makes it a must for Francophiles as well. A few thoughts for enjoying “Mind’s Eye” to the fullest: Allow enough time to really look closely at the drawings and absorb what the artists were trying to accomplish. Notice the ways the artists use the white of the paper to create forms and images. Take in the frames and how they set off these works on paper. Bring the kids – drawing and coloring are a time-honored childhood pastime. Finally, once you have nearly reached the show’s exit, turn around and go back through the galleries in the opposite direction from which you came (assuming gallery traffic allows). It’s amazing how many new things are visible by trying this technique. Bonne visite!

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The Harvest, 1895, by Camille Pissarro. Pen, ink, and lead white gouache on paper. Dallas Museum of Art.

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 Still Life with Apples on a Sideboard, 1900–06, Paul Cézanne. Watercolor. Dallas Museum of Art.

Dallas Museum of Art
1717 North Harwood
Dallas, Texas 75201

Museum Hours: Tuesdays through Sundays 11am to 5pm, Thursdays until 9pm. Closed Mondays.
Special Exhibition Tickets: $8 per person. Click here for further DMA visitors’ information.

Photos of Olivier Meslay and the Pissaro / Cézanne images courtesy of the Dallas Museum of Art.

French Take-Out ~ La France à emporter

In addition to the “Mind’s Eye” exhibition in Dallas, there are a host of other French-related art shows on view across the country. Check out these various offerings happening from coast to coast:

San Antonio:  Matisse: Life in Color. Also on view: The Art Books of Henri Matisse. San Antonio Museum of Art. Through September 7.

Houston:  Charles Marville: Photographer of Paris. Houston Museum of Fine Arts. Through September 14.

Los Angeles:  Rococo to Revolution: 18th-century French Drawings from Los Angeles Collections. J. Paul Getty Museum. Through September 21. Also in LA: Expressionism in France and Germany: From Van Gogh to Kandinsky. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Through September 14.

Oklahoma City:  Gods and Heroes: Masterpieces from the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris. Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Through September 14.

New York City:  Miracles in Miniature: The Art of the Master of Claude de France. Morgan Library & Museum. Through September 14.

Washington, DC:  Degas / Cassatt. National Gallery of Art. Through October 5.

Boston:  Daguerre’s American Legacy: Photographic Portraits (1840-1900) . MIT Museum, Cambridge. Through January 4, 2015.

Coming This Fall:

Dallas:  Bouquets: French Still-Life Painting from Chardin to Matisse. Dallas Museum of Art. From October 26, 2014 to February 8, 2015. Also on view at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA (March 22, 2015–June 21, 2015) and the Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO (July 19, 2015–October 11, 2015). Images courtesy of the Dallas Museum of Art.

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Ft. Worth:  Faces of Impressionism: Portraits from the Musée d’Orsay. Kimbell Art Museum. From October 19, 2014 to January 25, 2015.

France’s Food Scene – A Culinary Conversation with Susan Loomis Tuesday, Sep 18 2012 

This week’s article features Susan Herrmann Loomis of On Rue Tatin cooking school in France. Susan moved to France from the U.S. more than twenty years ago and currently teaches the art of French cooking in Paris and in Normandy. She has also authored multiple cookbooks and regularly writes food articles for major publications. There’s a lot happening in the culinary world around the globe at the moment so we wanted to get Susan’s thoughts on food trends and happenings in France in particular. Susan will also be leading a special cooking class for French Affaires in Dallas, Texas, in November on ‘The Art of French Cooking.’ Here are some excerpts from our foodie conversation:

When did you know you wanted to go deeper into French cooking and cuisine?

I knew it the minute I got off the train in Normandy and was welcomed by the French family I had come to stay with. What I remember was the mother and father, the kids, their beautiful Normandy home. We sat down to a simple French meal and when we got to the camembert cheese, I was in heaven. It was everything you imagine about French food and more. To this day, a real, authentic, fragrant camembert from Normandy with fresh French bread sends me over the moon.

Where did you get your culinary training?

I received my grand diplôme from La Varenne cooking school in Paris. Once I’d done that, I wanted to stay longer in France so I took a variety of jobs. Things really clicked when I landed the position as Patricia Wells’ assistant. She was in the process of writing the first edition of The Food Lover’s Guide to Paris and needed help with the research for it. This was the first book in English about everything food-related in Paris. We worked all day long seven days a week – we would check out everything culinary from shops to bakeries to restaurants from morning until night. And then we’d stay up into the wee hours planning our ‘food itinerary’ for the next day. I got to see up close and personally the richness and depth of French cuisine. It was really a dream job. And just recently, Patricia has put out the iPhone version of The Food Lover’s Guide to Paris. I did the chocolate and pastry sections for it which were a blast.

What is the best French meal you’ve ever had?

Of course, that is so hard to say. But if I think about it, the best meal experience I had was in the Dordogne in southwest France. I was in the region doing some work at a friend’s goose farm – it was late and had been a long day. We started with fresh foie gras that had come right out of the goose. Then, they roasted goose carcasses with salt and pepper on the spit over the fire. They served these with pommes salardaises which is potatoes roasted with garlic, goose fat and parsley. To finish, we had a prune tart with the special prunes from the region. It’s pastry with prune purée and cream on top. In France, to eat a meal that is completely from the region when you’re in the region is just about the best food experience on the planet.

What would you serve for the perfect French meal?

I would serve chilled oysters to start along with a white Bordeaux Entre Deux Mers wine. Then, it would have to be something luxurious but easy like a magret de canard (duck breast) with orange syrup. Of course, a big red wine from Languedoc or Gaillac is excellent with the duck. After the main course, I would have a green salad with vinaigrette along with cheese such as roquefort. And we’d finish everything off with a fruit tart in season. For example, when apples are at their prime, it’s hard to go wrong with an apple tarte tatin.

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What are three trends you see in the French culinary world right now?

The first one is the trend toward ‘small plates.’ In some French restaurants, it’s no longer the standard first course, main course and then dessert. The tough economics out there are making people – both restauranteurs and diners – more flexible. Diners might not want the full multi-course show when they go out to eat. Simplicity is in. And then too, restaurants need to make a living so they are turning tables more often than they used to. It’s not a bad thing to go into a French restaurant nowadays at 7:30pm and then be finished around 9:30pm, and then another group will come in and take the table. A good example is the restaurant Semilla on the Left Bank – Meilleur Ouvrier de France chef Eric Trochon creates amazing small dishes for the way we live now.

The second trend I am seeing is the focus on ‘home cooking’ or ‘grandmother’s cooking’ by young up-and-coming chefs. It’s in part a reaction against the Michlelin star rating system and anything too fancy. Again, economics might be part of it – with a more casual restaurant, the overhead is lower. The restaurant Jeu de quilles in the 14th arrondissement is a great example. It is focused on meat dishes and wonderfully enough, is located right next to the best butcher in Paris.

And the third tendance, as the French say, is a movement towards going ‘local.’ Of course, the French have always demanded locally grown products and things full of their natural flavor. But this is taking that concept even further. Some people are now fanatic about the ‘terroir parisien’ and only using ingredients produced in Paris / the Ile de France (the Paris region) itself. This seems a bit gimmicky to me and will probably run its course, but it’s definitely on the foodie scene in the city.

What is your favorite cookbook from the ones you have written?

It would have to be Cooking at Home on Rue Tatin. It’s a lovely book I return to again and again. The good food, the photos and the layout are all elegant yet simple and personal. It’s also full of wonderful tips that make cooking a pleasure.

Cooking at home on rue tatin

If you weren’t running your cooking school and doing your food writing, what would you be doing?

That’s a great question. I’d probably have a little table d’hôte (a French version of a bed and breakfast) somewhere. I love people, and I love hosting them. I’ve thought about having a restaurant and this would be a wonderful way to prepare authentic French meals for guests and create a warm and convivial experience for them. At a table d’hôte, it’s a fixed menu so the chef can focus on that perfect combination of dishes and things in season. More and more, I am finding that visitors to France want this authentic and deep experience of the country, and this is a perfect way to offer it to them.

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Enjoying Susan’s hospitality after a cooking class & market visit in Paris

In conclusion, it is fascinating to see how cuisine evolves, even in the well-established culinary context of France. Susan is there on the ground in Paris and Normandy and participates in both the ‘city’ and ‘country’ food scenes every day. She will share her extensive gourmet knowledge and expertise with ‘The Art of French Cooking’ workshop in Dallas from November 14 to 16, 2012. It will be three full days of cooking, tasting, learning, techniques, dining and of course, lots of inside food stories and anecdotes from France. Not least of all, Susan’s warmth and passion make getting one’s hands on French cooking all the more fun.

The French cooking workshop is a wonderful culinary opportunity for serious as well as beginning cooks. It’s also a perfect girls’ get-together experience or mother-daughter adventure or a wonderful Christmas gift. For those who can’t get away for all three days, it is possible to ’share the class’ with friends; please contact us at info.french@frenchaffaires.com to arrange this option. And for those who live outside of Dallas and are considering making ‘The Art of French Cooking’ a destination trip, French Affaires is happy to work with you on accommodations and logistics. Click here for more information and to register.

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French Affaires has organized several cooking classes with Susan in Paris and Normandy over the years as part of our personal trips to France. Here are some photos of great cooking in progress at the Paris cooking school:

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French Take-Out ~ La France à emporter

For more on Susan’s culinary story and the 15th century convent she renovated in Normandy, be sure to check out her delightful memoir On Rue Tatin: Living and Cooking in a French Town. It is available at various booksellers and at www.amazon.com.

On Rue Tatin

 

French News Friday, Apr 27 2012 

This week’s posting includes a potpourri of French-related topics, from the French presidential election to May Day in France to cultural French happenings in the U.S. Take a peek at this week’s French news and then skip American reality TV in favor of a real French cultural event or two!

French May Day – Each year, the French celebrate May 1 and the full-on arrival of spring by offering lily of the valley bouquets to their loved ones. According to many sources, this charming tradition dates back to the 16th century when King Charles IX of France received some lily of the valley as a token of luck. He went on to present the lovely flower each year to the ladies of the court. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the French decided to continue this custom into modern times on the first of May. If you are in France on May 1, be sure and pick up some lily of the valley for your traveling companions – and yourself. You’ll see vendors on street corners selling these ‘bunches of happiness.’ You can also send a May Day card wishing friends or family a “Joyeux 1er mai” (Happy May 1st) or “Bonne fête du 1er mai – Beaucoup de bonheur” (Happy May 1 Holiday – Much happiness to you)!

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French Gourmet Events at Central Market in Texas – The food experts at Central Market are transforming their stores across Texas into French gourmet destinations from May 9 to 22. Mark your calendars now to check out “Passport France” and the new French food products, pastries, artisanal breads, cheeses, wines and more, all brought in especially to celebrate the fabulous French approach to food and dining. A variety of cultural and culinary events will also be on offer – I am pleased to be collaborating with the Central Market Dallas Cooking School chefs on the following special culinary offerings:

“Pause Déjeuner – Lunch in Paris” – Friday, May 11, from 12 to 1pm. A visual tour of all things gourmet in Paris plus the French cooking demonstration and Parisian lunch. Cost is $25; advance registration is required.

“Shop the French Market – Hands-on Cooking Class and French Grocery Shopping Tour” – Tuesday, May 15, from 6:30 to 9pm. A visual and cultural tour of French food markets and shops plus the French grocery shopping tour, hands-on cooking class using seasonal ingredients and market-fresh dinner with wine. Cost is $75; advance registration is required.

“Pause Déjeuner – Lunch in Provence” – Thursday, May 17, from 12 to 1pm. A visual tour of Provence flavors and tastes plus the Provencal cooking demonstration and lunch. Cost is $25; advance registration is required.

Click here to sign up for these French culinary and cultural celebrations!

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French Concert in Dallas – Music lovers in Dallas are in for a treat this Saturday evening, April 28. Francis Vidil of the Versailles Music Conservatory in France will be giving a ‘Concert extraordinaire’ at 7pm in the chapel of the Episcopal School of Dallas. The school is located at 4100 Merrell Road at Midway Dallas, TX 75229. The concert is free.

French Movie Preview in Dallas – Coming up next week is a free sneak preview of Les Intouchables, the dramatic comedy that was the runaway French movie hit of 2011. Les Intouchables (The Untouchables) is the true story of two French men who should have never met – a quadriplegic aristocrat who was injured in a paragliding accident and a young man from the projects. The screening will be held Tuesday, May 1, at 7pm at the Angelika Film Center on Mockingbird Lane in central Dallas. For your free ticket, please click here. Film organizers recommend arriving at least an hour ahead to secure seats. If you don’t make it to the Dallas preview, be sure to check your local movie listings for upcoming showings of this film.

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French Presidential Election – This past Sunday, the French went to the polls in the first round of France’s presidential elections. It was close – the socialist candidate François Hollande edged out the incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy by about 2 percentage points. The two will face off in round two of the election on Sunday, May 6. According to the news media, the financial stability and future of the euro-zone will be greatly impacted by how the French vote. Stay tuned for the next eventful chapter in Europe’s economic story…

France Around the U.S. Friday, Mar 16 2012 

This spring and summer feature a variety of wonderful French exhibitions and events around the U.S. If you have a trip to France planned, they are a good way to whet your appetite for your coming adventures on French soil. And if you don’t have French travel planned at the moment, these activities can give you the sense of being in France – if only for a few hours. So check out the list below and experience a bit of France around the U.S.!

Boston:Manet in Black” at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts showcases the 19th century artist’s superb talents at drawing and print-making. Through October 28, 2012.

Cincinnati: Visit Monet’s gardens at Giverny through this small but choice exhibit entitled “Monet in Giverny: Landscapes in Reflection.” Through May 13, 2012.

Dallas: The French department at SMU is hosting their annual French film festival March 24 to April 13. A selection of six French films will be shown in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center. Admission is free. Click here for films and times.

Denver: The Denver Art Museum is the only U.S. venue to offer “Yves Saint Laurent: A Retrospective” beginning on March 25, 2012. This exquisite fashion show features 40 years of the designer’s genius and includes 200 haute couture creations as well as accompanying photos, drawings and films. Through July 8, 2012.

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Ft. Worth: Impressionism comes to the Kimbell Art Museum in Ft. Worth in this stunning exhibition of paintings entitled “The Age of Impressionism: Great French Paintings from the Clark.” The Clark Art Institute in Massachusetts holds one of the greatest collections of Impressionist art in the world and is sharing its masterpieces with the Kimbell through June 17, 2012.

Kansas City: Rodin comes to Kansas City in this special exhibition of 40 of the sculptor’s best bronze works. “Rodin: Sculptures from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation” is on view through June 3rd at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

New York: The Frick Collection pays homage to Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s stunning works in this first-ever comprehensive exhibition on his full-length format paintings. Renoir, Impressionism, and Full-Length Paintingfeatures nine incomparable grand canvases by the Impressionist artist. Through May 13, 2012.

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New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art presents “The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso and the Parisian Avant-Garde,” a noteworthy exhibition of over 200 works collected by the Stein siblings in early 1900’s Paris. This show was a sellout in Paris last year. Through June 3, 2012.

Philadelphia:Van Gogh Up Close” is currently view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This exhibition focuses on the intense years in Van Gogh’s life from his arrival in Paris in 1886 until his death in at Auvers in 1890. Through May 6, 2012.

Portland, Maine: The Portland Museum of Art presents “Edgar Degas: The Private Impressionist,” an intriguing exhibition of this complex artist’s drawings, prints, pastels, photographs, and sculptures. The show also includes rare works by artists of his circle including Cézanne and Toulouse-Lautrec. Through May 28, 2012.

Washington, DC: The National Museum of Women in the Arts presents Royalists to Romantics: Women Artists from the Louvre, Versailles, and Other French National Collections.” This intriguing show features the works of 35 women artists working between 1750 and 1850, many of which have never been seen outside of France. Through July 29, 2012.

Washington, DC: Hillwood Estate and Museum featuresThe Style that Ruled the Empires: Russia, Napoleon and 1812 commemorates the bicentennial of Russia’s military defeat of Napoleon. This fascinating exhibition that showcases the French Empire style of the nineteenth century through paintings, porcelain, glassware, metaware, attire and Napoleonic armor and militaria. Through June 2, 2012.

French Folk Art: Brittany’s Quimper Pottery Saturday, Jan 21 2012 

As I mentioned in the last French Affaires posting, the country of France is so diverse and rich in things to do, see and experience. Northwest France is home to la Bretagne (Brittany), a rocky and remote region known for its extensive coastline, Celtic influences, ancient forests and legends, native costumes, music of the biniou (bagpipe) and bombarde (horn), marvelous sea salts including fleur de sel, delicious sweet and savory crêpes, and charming hand painted pottery known as “faïence de Quimper.”

Quimper

The lovely town of Quimper (pronounced kam-pair) is the capital of the Finistère department, a very traditional area of Brittany. It has been a center of faience (pottery) production for over 300 years as Jean-Baptiste Bousquet, a pottery maker from Provence, moved here in 1690 and began producing utilitarian salt-glazed looking bottles and bowls.

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Quimper is located at the convergence of two rivers and near ancient forests so natural materials were readily available for the production of the pottery. One could say that Quimper faience went ‘upscale’ in the late 1600’s. As King Louis XIV’s treasury was running low due to his numerous wars across Europe, he asked the French nobility to donate their gold and silver plates and goblets to fund his military efforts. Consequently, pottery became fashionable to the aristocracy, and faienceries developed across France. The everyday dishwares of the peasants were now being decorated by artists to appeal to the tastes of the upper classes.

The folk aspect of Quimper pottery intensified when regional costumes became popular across Europe in the late 1800’s. In the 1860’s, the familiar figure of the “petit breton” wearing sabots (wooden clogs), embroidered skirts or vests with hats or coifs (a woman’s hat) was first depicted on the pottery’s plates, cups, and bowls, as well as on decorative household items. The Quimper faienceries then expanded production beyond basic wares to include “souvenir” wares as travel became easier for French citizens and for foreigners. Pieces were made in Quimper and sold to shop owners in Brittany’s seaside resorts and other destination villages marked with the name of each particular place. By this time, the faience was known for its five signature colors: blue, green, red, yellow and violet.

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Quimper faience became popular in the U.S. between the two World Wars when department stores such as Macy’s, Gumps, Tiffany, Lord & Taylor and Marshall Field’s began selling the colorful French “folk art.” The production was specifically marked with name and or logo of the U.S. retailer, as well as, the mark of the Quimper factory producing the pieces. Stanley Marcus introduced Quimper to Americans during one of the early “Neiman-Marcus Fortnights” of France in Dallas.

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Styles of Quimper faience decoration and form have evolved with the influences of other faienceries in France and the movement of artists between these faienceries and from other regions of Europe. Despite of all the differing decors made in Quimper through the centuries, the “petit breton” remains the most recognizable symbol of Quimper ware.

Today, Quimper pottery is made much the same way as it was 300 years ago–by hand. It is possible to buy lovely new pieces of Quimper. And serious Quimper lovers are always on the lookout for beautiful and collectible old pieces. Many of them belong to the Quimper Club International which holds meetings and symposia both in the U.S. and in France on special aspects of the faience and its history.

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I love this Quimper piece showing the Breton woman painting the pottery herself!

Other areas of France with important faience tradition include Rouen in Normandy, Nevers in Burgundy, and Marseille and Moustiers in Provence. If you are intrigued by pottery and its history, there are faience museums worth visiting such as the Musée de la faïence de Quimper. There is also the wonderful Musée National de Céramique-Sèvres located in Sèvres just to the west of Paris. One of my favorites, this museum contains excellent collections of earthenware, faïence, pottery and porcelain from around the world, dating from the earliest to the present.

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French Take-Out ~ La France à emporter

If this whets your appetite for a bit of Quimper, France, in the U.S., there are two events coming up in Dallas in February…

1) On February 7, the patron members of ”Friends of French Affaires” are invited to:

“The Glories of Quimper:
Private Talk & Viewing of Antique Quimper French Pottery”
Join the “Friends of French Affaires” for this special event featuring the beautiful and unique handmade French pottery from Quimper in Brittany. Dallas resident and president of the Quimper Club International, Susan Cox, will host us for this private viewing of her collection of antique Quimper pieces. She will talk about the history and artisanal nature of Quimper and what makes these objects so valuable and collectible. Our other featured speaker is Anne Marie O’Neill, a leading expert, author and dealer in antique Quimper pottery. Reception following the talk and viewing. Our gathering will be a special visit to Brittany, France!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012
6 to 7:30 pm
Private Collector’s Home
Dallas, Texas
RSVP required

Please note that this complimentary event is by reservation only for registered “Friends of French Affaires.” Attendance is limited at this particular event so please RSVP quickly at info.french@frenchaffaires.com . Directions to the event provided upon RSVP. To join the “Friends of French Affaires,” please click here.

2) If you are interested in collecting some antique Quimper faience of your own, dealer and expert Anne Marie O’Neill will be holding a Quimper pottery sale on Thursday, February 9, in Dallas, Texas:

Quimper Pottery Show
Hosted by Anne Marie O’Neill & Beverly Sherman
Thursday, February 9, 2012
10am to 1pm
6924 Oak Manor Drive, Dallas, Texas 75230
(located in the Lake Forest community; the gate house is just north of Forest on Hillcrest)
RSVP required to Anne Marie O’Neill at info@annmarieoneill.com

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First French Words Wednesday, Nov 30 2011 

The first French words I remember learning were la fleur. “The flower.” Our Montessori school teacher held up flashcards with colorful images and instructed us to repeat the French names after her. I was five years old and with those few phrases in our kindergarten curriculum, something French in me must have clicked.

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After a sprinkling of Spanish in elementary school, I started taking French in earnest in sixth grade and never stopped. Monsieur Ross taught us the building blocks of the French language in seventh and eighth grades. In high school, Mademoiselle Steensen reinforced grammar with the command, “Scamper to the blackboard, Mademoiselle Nouvelle, and conjugate your French verbs!” (My maiden name was “New” so I earned the name Mademoiselle Nouvelle or Nouveau depending on my teacher’s mood.) She had an eagle eye for mistakes so you definitely had to keep up on les verbes.

We graduated from French verbs to French literature by the end of my high school years. And then I continued my French language adventure in college, really taking the plunge by spending my sophomore spring in Aix-en-Provence. I still remember our vivacious and energetic Provence culture professor who kept us spellbound for hours with tales and legends of southern France–all in French, of course.

 

By this time, I was hooked on the language and the culture of la belle France, and it was only a matter of time before I ended up in graduate school getting a doctorate in the subject, going to the Sorbonne in Paris and finally becoming a professor of French myself. Even though I now do a variety of ‘French things’ in addition to teaching the language, I still love to work with people to help them learn their “first French words” and more.

 

A propos, I am often asked what advice I would have for making learning French easier and not so intimidating. Here are a few astuces (tips) for saving time, learning more quickly and sounding more French fast:

  • Have a positive attitude. Learning French IS possible.
  • Decide why you want to learn the language. Do you want to get around better on an upcoming trip to France? Or do you think French is poetic and you’ve “always wanted to learn it”? Or??? Once you identify your motivation, you can choose a French course or program that really meets your needs.
  • Learn the language “in chunks.” In other words, don’t try to overanalyze and figure out what every little word or syllable is doing in the French sentence. That can come later if you spend more time in the language. At the beginning, it’s fatiguing and prevents one from communicating–which is the point of language in the first place.
  • Find a part of the language that really motivates you and start from there. If you adore French food and cooking, then build your communication skills and vocabulary around this topic. Maybe your love is gardens, or art, or history, or Paris. Whatever it is, make that your French language learning focus. You’ll be more motivated and much more successful.
  • Recognize that the French value good pronunciation more than good grammar or good vocabulary. It pays to make an effort to shed that American accent and “sound more French.” So be sure to take a French course that includes pronunciation as part of its curriculum. Or take a very focused French pronunciation or phonetics class at some point in your language journey.

Speaking of journeys, a final thought is that learning another language and another culture is always a process. It doesn’t happen overnight (too bad!), and I am not sure it’s ever possible to say one has “arrived” as a language is wonderfully rich and the kaleidoscope of a culture is always changing. But with a little focus and effort, anyone can learn some French…and have a wonderful cultural experience along the way.

 

 

Paris fleurs…

 

French Take-Out ~ La France à emporter

The next round of French Affaires’ language classes will begin in January of 2012. If you have been thinking about learning your first French words or want to exercise your French conversation skills, then check out our upcoming offerings. We’ll also have our special “Travel French” class to make your next visit to France easy and rewarding. For more details, click here or click on the course titles below:

 

- Beginning French

- French Conversation

- Travel French

 

Courses coming later in Spring 2012 include: “Intro to French Conversation” and “French Pronunciation Clinic.” And there are always our ongoing cultural events designed to bring a bit of France to the U.S.!

 

Package Makes Perfect in France Wednesday, Aug 24 2011 

Shopping in France has its obvious pleasures. Creative window displays are a perpetual source of eye candy. Beautiful goods tempt in small boutiques and in les grands magasins (department stores). And when a French shopkeeper learns you truly appreciate his wares, he will bend over backwards to be helpful and informative whether or not you purchase a thing.

But there is an additional aspect to shopping in la belle France that is often overlooked–the gift wrap. The French can work a special magic with wonderful papers, ribbons, boxes and bags. I am so enamored of this part of life in France that I often request un paquet cadeau (a gift wrap) for my own purchases just for the pure bliss of opening the packaged “works of art” later.

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Les pâtisseries et les chocolateries (pastry and chocolate shops) in particular devote considerable artistic talent to their gift wrap offerings and even to their regular packaging. One of my favorites is Ladurée, the legendary pastry shop that has been in business since 1862. Their ribbons and boxes are a sort of ‘pastel heaven’ of sherbet-esque pinks and greens. After polishing off a small coffret of their famous macarons (almond macaroons) or a ballotin of chocolats, I use the delightful boxes to sort things on my desk or in drawers, making the packaging pleasure last that much longer.

How does the French gift wrap process work? In my experience, gift wrapping in France is always free for both expensive and inexpensive items. And even if there is a line of ten customers in a shop, the salesperson will not consider your sale complete until all your gifts are wrapped. But here’s the catch: You do have to ask for it–the salesperson cannot read your mind.

There are two common ways to ask for a gift wrap. You can say: “C’est pour offrir” (say poohr oh-freer) meaning ‘It’s to give as a gift.’

Or you can say in the super-polite French way: “Pourriez-vous me faire un paquet cadeau, s’il vous plaît?” (pooh-ree-ay voo meh fair uhn pah-kay kah-doh, see voo play?) which translates as ‘Would you gift wrap this for me please?’

If remembering this much French poses a challenge, you could communicate your desire for a French gift package simply by saying “paquet cadeau” (pah-kay kah-doh).

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but in France, I would say you can do pretty well with exteriors of the gift package kind. So keep the gift vocab handy, and try it next time you’re there. Bon shopping et bon gifting! 

French Take-Out ~ La France à emporter™

Ladurée has a great web site where you can check out virtually their shops, pastries, chocolates, books, home and beauty accessories, and more. There is even a page dedicated for ordering gifts and gift cards, which are known as “les bons cadeaux.”

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You can also send a Ladurée-inspired postcard to your Francophile friends. Click here for an array of choices.

So far, Ladurée has shops in France, Switzerland, Monaco, London, Japan and several other countries. And the bonnes nouvelles for the U.S. is that a Ladurée boutique is opening THIS MONTH in New York City. Mark your calendar for August 27 at 1pm when the French macaron headquarters opens its first American doors at 864 Madison Avenue.

Main article originally published September 2, 2009 on www.frenchaffaires.com.

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French Affaires Book Club 2011-2012 Thursday, Apr 21 2011 

Do you love books about France and the French? So do we!

Join us for our unique French book club as we meet quarterly to read and discuss books on French culture, art, cuisine, wine, language, and travel. Our meeting locations and hosts tie to each month’s book theme which makes our gatherings and events especially rich.

At each meeting, we’ll enjoy French themed food and beverages and hear from our hosts / speakers about their ‘French connection’ to our book. Then Dr. Elizabeth New Seitz will facilitate a lively discussion about our book selection. And we’ll close with French Affaires’ signature “If you liked this book, then you’ll also like…”

Whether or not one has finished the book, our book club gathering is interesting, informative and delicious. Perfect for any Francophile wanting to enjoy casual conversation in English about great books on France and the French.

JUNE

Parisian Chic: A Style Guide by Inès de la Fressange with Sophie Gachet

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“You don’t need to be born in Paris to have Parisian style. Parisian style is an attitude, a state of mind…” So begins our French book pick for June. Author, former face of Chanel, ex-runway model, designer, illustrator and business woman, Inès de la Fressange describes the secrets of the chic Parisian woman. She shares her best advice and tips on how to dress and develop one’s own beauty—French-style. She also includes her favorite resources in Paris for shopping, hotels, restaurants, excursions and more.

We’ll meet for our June book discussion at the very stylish Paper & Chocolate boutique in Dallas. Owner and creative spirit Vicki Petersen will host our gathering and tell us how she collects the wonderfully French objects, gifts and chocolates in her shop. We’ll enjoy a wine and cheese reception as part of our book club night and of course, there will be the opportunity to shop for French treasures!

Date: Monday, June 27
Time: 6 to 7:30pm
Refreshments: Wine & cheese reception
Location: Paper & Chocolate, 5460 West Lovers Lane, Suite 236, Dallas Texas 75209
(Directly behind the Inwood Theatre), www.paperandchocolate.com

AUGUST
The Red & the Black by Stendhal

Red and the black

Our August book is some of the best of classic French literature. The Red and the Black by Stendhal is a towering example of 19th century French novel writing. Decades ahead of its time, The Red and the Black recounts the saga of a provincial young man determined to change his destiny in prominent social and religious circles. With its psychological portrait of the protagonist and biting social commentary, The Red and the Black remains a compelling work of literature even today.

We will gather for our book discussion at The Dallas Institute of Humanities & Culture where we will be joined by its Executive Director, Dr. Larry Allums. A literary specialist and humanities guru, Dr. Allums will lead our discussion of The Red and the Black and will give us his thoughts on the book as a work of literature. If you have never been to the Dallas Institute, you are in for a real cultural treat!

Date: Monday, August 29, 2011
Time: 7 to 8:30pm
Refreshments: French desserts & liqueurs
Location: The Dallas Institute of Humanities & Culture, 2719 Routh Street, Dallas, Texas 75201 www.dallasinstitute.org

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