French Eggs Saturday, Apr 15 2017 

Since it’s Easter and eggs are top of mind, I’m reposting a previous article on wonderful eggs in France. ”Joyeuses Pâques” to you and yours!

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I am always amazed at the food side of Easter in France. Of course, the French plan a big Easter Sunday lunch with family and all kinds of favorite recipes and dishes. But it’s really the Easter chocolate which is astonishing. Every pâtisserie and candy shop is overflowing with chocolate eggs large and small, chocolate bunnies, chocolate bells (in France, their ‘Easter bunny’ is the church bells which bring candy and chocolates back from Rome), chocolate chickens, and so much more, all wrapped with colorful ribbons and bows. As French Affaires’ friend Betty Reiter – Betty was born in France and now lives in Dallas, Texas – puts it, “Childhood memories… We got loads of chickens, fishes, eggs and bells all made out of chocolate and stuffed with more chocolates!” And this is no dime-store candy, my friends. This is great eating chocolate even at your more humble pastry shops. So for Easter in France not only do you do your Sunday lunch market shopping, you do your Easter ’chocolate shopping’ as well.

But in the extravaganza of French chocolate eggs at Easter, let’s not forget the joys of real French eggs all year long. Eggs in France are fabulous in my opinion – large, flavorful and with deep golden, nearly orange yolks. You can buy wonderful fresh eggs from vendors at weekly farmers’ markets all over France and also from local farms where one lives. This egg vendor and eleveur in Normandy raises his own chickens outdoors – “en plein air” – and is proud of his wares.

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Recently, I’ve been craving the French version of deviled eggs, les oeufs mayonnaise. A popular staple on many bistrot and café menus, this cold French starter of hard-boiled eggs comes with a side of homemade mayonnaise and a little bit of salade. Though it may not sound all that interesting, les oeufs mayonnaise is always a surprisingly tasty and satisfying French dish. Not only French eggs but also real mayonnaise make it delectable whether the mayo is served straight up or enhanced with fresh herbs, spices or something else. The other day, I ordered les oeufs mayonnaise at a neighborhood café on the Rue du Bac in Paris. It felt like spring on a plate – and their mayonnaise came flavored with a hint of salty anchovies…miam, miam!

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Also delicious were the oeufs mayonnaise served with lettuce spears I had not long ago at the cozy Left Bank bistrot La Fontaine de Mars…

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Eggs take center stage in another very French dish, les oeufs en meurette. Originally from Burgundy, this comfort food of eggs poached in rich red wine sauce with shallots or onions and bacon is a classic hot starter on French menus. La Fontaine de Mars offers its own version with a Southwestern French red wine touch. 

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But of course, there are numerous other French egg dishes that don’t require more particular ingredients such as wine or anchovies. Omelettes in France make a great lunch or an easy dinner at home and are often made with ham and cheese, herbs, mushrooms or other fillings. This nice tender one at Ladurée featured ever-so-pungent truffles. If you’ve never tried the divine egg and truffle combo in France, be sure and put it on your “Must taste” list! 

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The French also do scrambled eggs remarkably well. Very creamy and almost pudding-like, les oeufs brouillés in France make me never want to eat scrambled eggs anywhere else. The secret is cooking the eggs very slowly using a bain-marie with the water kept just below the boiling point. Of course, French cooks add a bit of cream to the mixture for that perfect taste and texture. Les oeufs brouillés make a great French brunch as shown here in Paris with smoked salmon, shrimp and salade. If you like your scrambled eggs dry, however, you’ll definitely pass on this dish in France.

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Not to be left out of any food conversation concerning eggs in France are quiche and soufflés. French quiches are rich and hearty and usually are accompanied by a side salad with vinaigrette. This one from the restaurant at the Jacquemart-André Museum in Paris was délicieux, although it was hard not be distracted by the exquisite decor of Tiepolo ceiling frescoes, Flemish tapestry wall-hangings and ornate red and gold lamps. And if you are a fan of soufflés in all their egg glory, you can click here for a previous French Affaires’ post on “The Best Soufflés in the Universe.”

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The French also use eggs to accent a variety of dishes in their meal repertoire including hard-boiled ones in la salade niçoise or un club sandwich… 

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There’s also the noteworthy fried egg served on top of a croque madame sandwich – or sometimes on top of certain pizzas in France…

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And this traditional bistrot in Versailles served steak tartare with a fresh egg yolk on the side to be mixed in by the diner – moi! – at the table… 

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We could go on and on about French eggs – we haven’t even mentioned the nice soft-boiled ones the French sometimes eat for breakfast with toast sticks to dip into the yolk or poached ones that show up on top of salads or with steamed asparagus and hollandaise sauce. And exotic egg offerings like duck, goose or quail eggs are pretty readily available in France. This vendor at the Aix-en-Provence market had a basket full of tiny quails’ eggs waiting to be added to a dish or slightly boiled and served with sea salt to be eaten as an appetizer! Bon egg appétit!

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French Take-Out ~ La France à emporter

French language tip: A note on the pronunciation of ‘eggs’ in French – one egg or “un oeuf” is pronounced with the ‘f’ as in ’uhn uff’ (sounding almost like ‘enough’ in English). But in the plural “des oeufs,” the ‘f’ is no longer pronounced as in ’dayz euh.’

And for a touch of Easter egg whimsy on French Affaires’ Instagram pages today, April 15, 2017 (French_affaires):

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I love these French topiary ‘Easter eggs’ from the lovely gardens of an historic manor house in southwest France. We’ll have aperitifs outdoors in the garden during our French Affaires’ stay there this fall. Just magical. We still have a bit of space on this ’Fall in Southwest France’ trip if you want to join us. And airfares to France are way down this year! (You can mail us for the trip itinerary and details at: French.culture (at) frenchaffaires.com.)

French Easter ~ Your French Easter Basket Saturday, Mar 26 2016 

This past week in France has been la Semaine Sainte (Holy Week) in the Christian tradition. The culmination of the period of Lent or le Carême, it started off last weekend with Palm Sunday, le dimanche des Rameaux, and has continued on to le Vendredi Saint. In France on Good Friday, faithful Catholics often attend Good Friday prayer services and participate in the “Way of the Cross” liturgy. Of course, Notre Dame in Paris is a majestic place to be part of French Holy Week and Easter.

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But further afield, one of my favorite places in all of France to experience le Chemin de la Croix is in the breathtaking cliffside town of Rocamadour in Southwest France. A major pilgrimage stop on a key pilgrim route leading down to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, Rocamadour is full of history and worth a visit at Easter or any other time of the year. And its stunning Way of the Cross path zigzags up the cliff to arrive at the 14th and final station hewn out of the rock, highlighting the spiritual culmination of Easter.

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On a more secular note, Easter in France also makes a splash at pastry and candy shops across the country. Colorful displays of chocolate eggs, chickens, chicks, rabbits, fish and more tempt shoppers of all ages. You’ll also see lots of chocolate bells both in chocolat noir and chocolat au lait. The presence of candy bells in France harkens back to the legend that on Maundy Thursday, all the cloches (bells) in French churches would fly away to Rome for the culmination of Holy Week. Then on Easter Sunday, they would fly back to France dropping chocolats and bonbons for the children on the way back. But whether you prefer the story of the Anglo-Saxon Easter bunny or the French cloches, they all make darling additions to Easter baskets. You can see the lovely array of French Easter treats below for just a sampling of items to add to your French Easter basket!

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French kids also love to go on Easter egg hunts to search for eggs and candy. In Paris, there are numerous options for the chasse aux oeufs across the city on Easter Sunday. This year, over 20,000 eggs will be hidden at the Champ de Mars park by the Eiffel Tower, an event sponsored by the French children’s charity Le Secours Populaire. In addition to the egg hunt, there will be lots of other activities including face painting, games, sports and dancing. The event lasts from 10am to 5pm, and the 5 euros per child supports a great cause.

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There are a couple of other important things to note about this Easter weekend this year. The French change their clocks for daylight savings time tonight – so everyone in France will be moving their clocks forward one hour. And Easter Monday is an official holiday so many businesses and official entities are closed on that day.

Wishing you a wonderful Easter – Joyeuses Pâques!

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King’s Cakes in Paris Tuesday, Jan 6 2015 

Move over les bûches de Noël (yule log cakes), it’s time for les galettes des rois (king’s cakes). In France, the holiday sweets keep coming even after Christmas with Epiphanie, also known as la Fête des rois (Three Kings Day, or Feast of the Epiphany), and its signature galette des rois. You can’t miss Epiphany in Paris as just about every Parisian pâtisserie sports loads of these round, golden disks in its windows from December until January.

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It’s proof that the sacred continues to infuse French life and cuisine even if fewer people actually observe this holy day. According to the Bible, three kings or Magi came to pay homage to the baby Jesus and brought him gold, frankincense and myrrh. The Christmas carol “We Three Kings of Orient Are” recounts this journey. Today, the arrival of the Magi and the news of the birth of Jesus to the Gentiles is celebrated by Christians twelve days after Christmas on January 6. This beautiful panel of stained glass from the Basilica of St. Denis just north of Paris illustrates the Epiphany events…

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So what exactly is a galette des rois? In most parts of France, the galette is made of puff pastry filled with a delicious almond pastry cream called frangipane. The Provence version, however, is more like brioche, a rich egg bread, and is studded with candied fruits. What makes the cake and the religious feast eternally festive in France is the tradition of hiding a lucky charm, or fève (literally a “bean”) inside the cake. Even though many pastry chefs today use small porcelain figurines instead of a bean, family and friends still gather around the table as the cake is cut. And whoever receives the piece with the fève inside is king or queen for the day (or year) and wears the gold paper crown that accompanies the galette.

A few years ago, a friend and I went on a girls’ shopping trip to Paris in January. We decided to prepare our own Sunday-night dinner and so shopped at the nearby Boulevard Raspail morning market for provisions. As it was a casual supper, we bought soup that was prête à manger (ready to eat), une quiche aux poireaux (leek quiche), de la salade (lettuce) for a beautiful green salad with homemade vinaigrette, and some stunning brie au lait cru (raw milk brie) for our cheese course. And since it was fête des rois time, we noticed the bread and pastry vendor was selling les galettes des rois, both whole cakes and quarter portions. Perfect! We bought a quarter and took our market loot back to the Paris apartment where I was staying. After a thoroughly simple and satisfying meal, we cut the kings’ cake and in my one-eighth piece was an adorable porcelain magi kneeling with his gift for the infant Christ. What are the odds, I thought. And I was reine (queen) for the day in Paris!

Interestingly, les fèves have become quite collectible in recent years. I keep seeing flea market vendors all over France with huge tables of the porcelain charms for sale. Here are selections from some marchands de fèves (lucky charm vendors – what a job!) at the Aix-en-Provence and Isle-sur-la-Sorgue antique markets.

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If you’ve shopped around lately in Paris for a king’s cake, you have probably come across ‘mod’ versions at some hip Paris pastry shops. Ultra-cool French pastry chefs always like to put their particular take on traditional pastry offerings and galettes des rois are no exception. Citrus, pistachio, chocolate, pineapple, coconut and other exotic flavors are showing up in king’s cakes at fancy pâtisseries such as Fauchon, Pierre Hermé and others. Click here for a quick article from the French newspaper Le Figaro on this phenomenon.

Many of the big pastry shop names also offer a special collection or coffret de fèves each year that fans can collect. This year’s set from from Hugo & Victor features four monuments of Paris for 30 euros. And Fauchon has a limited edition of seven fèves 2015 for 60 euros – only 250 sets will be sold. (Be sure and click on the links for photos.) While these shiny new sets are tempting, it might be more fun – and memorable – to put together one’s own set by rummaging through the colorful piles of figures at the French flea markets.

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Bonne fête!

French Take-Out ~ La France à emporter

On the other hand, you can go fève-less for the fète des rois in America. If you’re looking to buy a French-style king’s cake in the U.S. this year, be aware that many pastry shops now are making the king’s cakes without the prize – see this article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. It seems that some American pastry shops are leaving out the fève or giving it to customers on the side in order to avoid any potential lawsuit due to choking on the charm. Sans blague (no joke). All the more reason then to celebrate Epiphanie in France!

French New Year’s Wishes Sunday, Dec 28 2014 

In France, the holidays, or les fêtes de fin d’année and also known as la période des fêtes (note that the expression “le temps des fêtes” is used in French-speaking Canada), are about family, friends and feasting – especially the feasting. This applies to le Réveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre (New Year’s Eve) in particular. French revelers commonly celebrate with un dîner de réveillon (New Year’s Eve dinner) complete with oysters, smoked salmon, foie gras, chestnuts, truffles, mushrooms, duck, capon and all manner of other French delicacies. (Click here for a previous posting on wonderful French holiday tastes.)

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A beautiful French table set for “un dîner de réveillon”

Of course, no dîner de réveillon 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? And with these good wishes comes lots of bisous – air-kissing family and friends on the cheek.

If you are 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 light show going off at midnight. Or you could enjoy a more laid-back street celebration up by Sacré Coeur in Montmartre. If you are out and about in Paris on New Year’s Eve, you’ll love that Paris transport – Métro, buses, RER – are free to the public again this year from 5pm on December 31st until noon on January 1st, with most of the transport network running full force until 2:15am. Or you could stay home and watch the French President François Hollande on television sending his meilleurs voeux 2015 (best wishes for 2015) 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:

- Meilleurs voeux pour l’année 2015! (Best wishes for 2015!)

- Nous vous souhaitons une très bonne année 2015! (We wish you a very happy 2015!)

- Nous vous souhaitons une bonne et heureuse nouvelle année. (We wish you a good and happy new year.)

- Recevez nos meilleurs vœux de bonheur pour la nouvelle année. (Please accept our best wishes for a happy new year.)

- Je vous présente mes meilleurs vœux pour 2015. (I send you my best wishes for 2015.)

- Nous vous adressons nos meilleurs vœux pour 2015. (We send you our best wishes for 2015.)

- Que la nouvelle année vous apporte paix, santé et bonheur. (May the New Year bring you peace, health and happiness.)

- Paix, santé et bonheur pour vous et les vôtres! (Peace, health and happiness to you and yours!)

- 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 once received from a good French friend:

“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 thank you for your support of French Affaires and wish you a wonderful 2015 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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A previous version of this article appeared in December, 2011.

Paris Christmas Cakes Monday, Nov 26 2012 

It’s nearly December and the start of la période des fêtes (the holiday season) in France. The holidays are one of my most favorite things about the country, not least because of the Christmas eve and New Year’s eve dinners. The French spare no expense in pulling together the tastiest and most beautiful flavors of the season for these convivial moments, and the traditionally served bûche de Noël Christmas cake tops off the holiday meal in a perfectly festive and French way.

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Stylized bûches de Noël from Dalloyau in Paris

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Mini ’bûchettes’ – small yule logs sized for one

The bûche de Noël, or yule log, harkens back to the tradition of burning an enormous hardwood log in French farmhouse fireplaces on Christmas eve. The log needed to burn through the night until Christmas morning, celebrating the birth of Jesus. Around the turn of the twentieth century, the cake version replaced the wooden yule log. In the traditional recipe, the yellow sponge cake is rolled up to resemble a log and frosted with chocolate buttercream icing. Fork tines are often dragged through the frosting to imitate bark, powdered sugar is sprinkled about to look like snow, and sprigs of greenery and meringue mushrooms add a forest-like effect. One bûche de Noël typically serves 6 to 12 people depending on its size.

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Homely bûches de Noël from an outdoor market in southwest France

These days, however, the bûche de Noël goes far beyond the basic model of yore. Parisian pâtissiers (pastry makers) have turned these Christmas cakes into an art form. Much like the current competitive craze for the most original almond macarons, yule logs have turned into a pastry fashion frenzy all their own. With every passing year, the top Parisian sweets designers try to outdo each other in imagination and creativity. Their goal? To come up with the most extravagant, exotic and often witty gâteau of the season.

Here is a sampling of some of the Christmas yule logs on offer this holiday in Paris – pastry couture at its finest…Take a tour and vote for your favorite edible jewel in our comments section. And if you will be in Paris to order your Christmas cake, do note that they are very easy on the eyes but sometimes less easy on the pocketbook!

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Dalloyau’s milk chocolate, hazelnut & caramel marvel

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Pierre Hermé’s realistic yule log – sumptuous chocolate with white meringue

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 Dark chocolate & red berries in a package ‘très design’ by Lenôtre

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 Citrus mousse & seasonl fruit compote enrobed in white chocolate by Eric Kayser

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Mountains of white chocolate enveloping black currant mousse & quince compote at Fauchon

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Arnaud Delmontel’s white peaks – chocolate & raspberry heaven

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Stars galore from La Maison du Chocolat – dark chocolate, caramel milk chocolate & touches of citrus fruit

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 Chestnut, pear and hazelnut bûche de Noël from Hugo & Victor – gluten free!

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Another gluten free beauty from Hugo & Victor – passion fruit, mango, pineapple, papaya, ginger, coconut & pistachio

So which one would you serve as the grand finale to your holiday dinner? Weigh in and tell us your choice in the comment section below. And if you are in Paris this December, snap some photos of your favorite bûches and send them to us to post here (info.french@frenchaffaires.com) . The more the merrier. Joyeuses fêtes (happy holidays) to you and yours!

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Another bûche de Noël from Lenôtre - I think this one is my favorite this year!

French Take-Out ~ La France à emporter

"Christmas in France: A Celebration of the Holidays French Style" on December 4 at SMU in Dallas, Texas

France is festive at any time of the year but especially around the holidays. Join Dr. Elizabeth New Seitz of French Affaires for a visual tour of the sights, sounds and tastes of Christmas done the French way. In addition to the unforgettable images and stories of Paris and France at holiday time, the event includes a sampling of authentic French Christmas carols. And our holiday evening would not be complete without tasting les bûches de Noël, the traditional French Christmas dessert. Get into the holiday spirit and experience ‘Christmas in France!’

Christmas in France

D Home Magazine featuring "Christmas in France" in its latest issue

Date:  Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Time:  7 to 9pm

Place:  SMU main campus in Dallas, Texas

Registration:  To sign up for "Christmas in France," please contact SMU at 214-768-2273 or by clicking here.

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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Sparkling Paris Friday, Jul 1 2011 

The air is crisp and cool. The sky is clear. The tourists are long gone. Transatlantic airfares are super low. And Paris is dressed up in her holiday best.

Christmas-time is a feast for the senses everywhere in France but especially in Paris. The whole city sparkles with dazzling Christmas lights, fabulous window displays, marvelous gifts, endless champagne, to-die-for gourmet seasonal cuisine, and festive happenings. This year’s French Affaires Fall Trip celebrates the best of the Paris holiday season with all of this and more for a truly insider stay in the City of Light.

Our Paris journey begins just after Thanksgiving on Tuesday, November 29, and wraps up Monday, December 5, to get everyone back to their families and friends in plenty of time to enjoy the holidays at home. If you’ve never “done Paris” at this time of year, then treat yourself to a unique cultural experience and a fabulous vacation too!

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“Paris at the Holidays” Itinerary

Join French specialist Dr. Elizabeth New Seitz and other French Affaires patrons for this exclusive holiday excursion to Paris! This festive & unforgettable journey to the French capital will include everything that sparkles in Paris—Christmas lights, holiday markets, gourmet Parisian dining, champagne, art, culture,  jewels, gift shopping, & more. We’ll also get a personal Parisian touch with private events such as our own holiday cooking class with Susan Herrmann of “On Rue Tatin” French Cooking School, Insider tours & events with Paris friends of French Affaires, a Champagne Tasting class, & our special holiday dinner at an exquisite museum in the Marais. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!  A once-in-a-lifetime immersion into the French holiday spirit. Trip cost covers everything except airfare & two meals. For a customized & superlative French travel experience, our trip is limited to 8 participants.

TUESDAY, NOV 29 – Depart U.S. for Paris!

WEDNESDAY, NOV 30 – PARIS HOLIDAY SHOP WINDOWS TOUR, CHAMPAGNE RECEPTION & WELCOME DINNER

We’ll arrive in Paris Wednesday morning where pre-arranged transport will take us to our hotel, the charming & gracious Hôtel Duc de St. Simon on the Left Bank. Then, we’ll lunch at the celebrated tea salon Ladurée on the Left Bank in its lovely chinoiserie-styled dining room. We’ll be sure to taste Ladurée’s famous almond macarons. That afternoon, we’ll take a walking tour of gorgeous French shop windows dressed up for the holidays & also browse the annual Christmas market along the Champs-Elysées. In the evening, we’ll celebrate our arrival with champagne in our hotel’s wine cellar followed by a delicious dinner at an authentic Parisian bistrot.

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Holiday lights & shop windows along Paris’s Rue du Faubourg St. Honoré

THURSDAY, DEC 1 – SPARKLING PARIS—JEWELS, ART, CHRISTMAS LIGHTS

Today in Paris includes everything that sparkles. In the morning, we’ll be treated to private viewings of well-known Place Vendôme jewelers, including a private jewel workshop & jewelry museum. For lunch, we’ll stop at the casually elegant Le Soufflé & try the best savory & sweet soufflés in the universe. Then, we’ll take in a current art exhibition at a prominent Paris museum. That evening, we’ll be treated to a private dinner & guided tour at the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature in its stunning 17th century mansion in the Marais. Our magical day ends with a car tour of Christmas lights in Paris at night!

FRIDAY, DEC 2 – HOLIDAY COOKING CLASS WITH SUSAN HERRMANN LOOMIS OF ON RUE TATIN COOKING SCHOOL

Celebrated cookbook author & chef Susan Herrmann Loomis of “On Rue Tatin” Cooking School will take us on a special open-air, food market tour where we’ll buy seasonal ingredients for our multi-course holiday lunch. Then we’ll head to a private Paris Left Bank cooking studio where Susan will lead us through a hands-on cooking class of quintessential French dishes that are wonderful to make at Christmastime. Finally we’ll sit down & enjoy our culinary creations paired with French wine. Late afternoon free for shopping or sightseeing. Dinner & night out on your own.

SATURDAY, DEC 3 – GOURMET FOOD SHOPS TOUR & GOURMET HOLIDAY DINNER

This morning, we’ll tour some of the best chocolate, pastry & specialty food shops in Paris with the opportunity to purchase Christmas gifts along the way. We’ll lunch at a casual Parisian café amongst the locals. That afternoon, there will be ample free time to shop for gifts–be sure to bring an extra bag for your shopping treasures! Or you can go ice skating in front of Paris’s town hall in the center of the city! In the evening, we’ll dress up for our gourmet holiday dinner at a celebrated two-Michelin starred gastronomic restaurant & enjoy breathtaking holiday dishes paired with French wines.

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Shop windows & holiday lights at Paris’s grand department store Galeries Lafayette

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Ice skating French-style in front of Paris’s town hall

SUNDAY, DEC 4 – NOTRE DAME CHRISTMAS TREE & PRIVATE CHAMPAGNE CLASS

This morning, you can sleep in & enjoy brunch/lunch on your own or sightsee as you wish. We’ll meet in the early afternoon to visit Notre Dame Cathedral with its spectacular 50-foot Christmas tree & French nativity scene. After a brief stroll of the islands, we’ll head to Paris’s best Champagne bar for a Champagne class & tasting since Champagne is THE French drink for the holidays. That evening we’ll have our final celebration dinner at a charming French restaurant & be treated to a wonderful discussion of French etiquette & holiday table traditions by Marie de Tilly, the renowned French manners expert. Walk back to our hotel along the Seine for beautiful views of Paris at night.

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Annual Christmas tree in front of Notre Dame Cathedral

MONDAY, DEC 5 – Return to the U.S.

For those interested, we will pick up your custom order of Poilâne breads & holiday cookies to take home for wonderful holiday entertaining. Pre-arranged transport to Charles de Gaulle airport for travel back to the U.S.

Poilane’s famous Christmas cookies!

Trip Registration & Cost:   For the “Paris at the Holidays” full description & registration form, please email us at info.french@frenchaffaires.com . The trip cost is $4450 per person double occupancy & includes hotel, most meals, cultural excursions & events, tips, transport in Paris & trip guiding (airfare & one lunch / one dinner not included). Single supplement additional. Please call us with any questions at 214-232-5344 . There are a few spots remaining so make plans to enrich your travel experience AND your 2011 holiday season!

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Happy Holidays!!

The French Year: Planning Your Travel Around Special Events in France Friday, May 13 2011 

Going to France at any time during the year is rich enough. However, planning your stay around certain annual special events can be terrifically rewarding. To help you decide on when to visiter la belle France, here is a compendium of events and activities in Paris and elsewhere in France that are particularly memorable:

January
La Fête des Rois – Close on the heels of Christmas comes the la fête des rois (Feast of the Epiphany or Three Kings Day), commemorating the arrival of the three kings to see the baby Jesus. You know the Feast of the Epiphany is nigh in France when the galettes des rois (king’s cakes) take over many pâtisseries (pastry shops) in France for the month. So if you are in France in January, be sure to try this delicious dessert—and you might become queen or king for the day! (Click here for how this works.)

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Les Soldes d’hiver  – Shop sales, or soldes, are closely regulated in France and happen twice a year – in winter and in summer. Discounts can be significant at everything from high-end luxury shops such as Louis Vuitton to department stores to small boutiques. The French mark their calendars for this event and line up with gusto to take advantage of the great prices. The French winter sales start around the third week in January and run through mid-February. Summer sales run from the end of June through mid-July.

BHV in Paris

February
La Saint Valentin
– Valentines’ Day in France is not as commercial as in the U.S….but it’s getting there. If you in Paris for February 14, you will have a gorgeous array of chocolates, cakes, tarts and flowers to choose from when celebrating your loved one. Click here for a visual Valentine ‘tour de Paris’…

Carnaval de Nice – There are many Mardi Gras carnaval celebrations all over the world but the one in Nice is particularly noteworthy. The festivities last for two weeks and draw over a million visitors to this southern French city. Parades, cultural activities, sporting events, fairs and more mark this famous French winter event. www.nicecarnaval.com

April
Paris Marathon
– For the sportive / sportif (athletic) among us, a great way to see Paris is by running the Paris marathon. It takes place in mid-April and draws more and more runners each year. You can start training now for the next one which takes place on April 15, 2012!  www.parismarathon.com

May
May Day
– May 1 is a national holiday in France so most things are closed on this day. But it is also May Day and French people celebrate by giving each other un joli petit brin de muguet (a beautiful small bouquet of lily of the valley flowers). It is a charming moment to experience in France if you happen to be there. Just look for a street vendor selling the wonderful-smelling flowers to purchase some for yourself or a loved one.

Nuit des musées – “Museum Night” in France has become a big hit with all sorts of cultural institutions staying open into the evening and putting on interesting programs, lectures and concerts. This year’s Museum Night is tomorrow, May 14. During the evening, you can take in some of the current temporary exhibits going on – click here for the French Affaires’ recent museum posting on this – or try something not on the article’s list such as fashion mogul Ralph Lauren’s classic cars on view at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (in part of the Louvre building). You can browse tomorrow evening’s offerings at a variety of Paris museums by clicking here.

Cannes film festival – If you are into cinema, then you’ll want to check out the Cannes Film Festival that runs from mid to late May every year. Woody Allen just kicked off this year’s festival with his film ode to Paris, Midnight in Paris. He even managed to get a cameo appearance from France’s first lady, Carla Bruni Sarkozy. And as you dine at restaurants in and around the Cannes area while the Festival is going on, you will see movie stars and film directors from around the world so be sure and bring your autograph book! www.festival-cannes.com

Roland Garros The French Open Tennis Tournament, known as Roland Garros for the sports complex where it’s hosted on the western side of Paris, runs from mid-May to early June each year. Tickets can be purchased online or through agents. If you go, don’t miss the tennis museum on the grounds which chronicles the history of the sport. Click here for more info on the tennis museum.  www.rolandgarros.com

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June
Fête de la musique
– Of all the annual special events in France, this is definitely one to work your France trip around. Of course, it’s during prime travel season which makes it easier—but it’s also one of the most fun and accessible to anyone, native French people and visitors alike. The Music Festival takes place each year on the evening of June 21 and marks the summer solstice, ie the longest light day of the year. Thousands of musical events and concerts are held all over France—and are free. From rock concerts in the Place de la Bastille in Paris, to chamber music quartets in courtyards, to Edith Piaf sound-alikes on streetcorners, there is something musical for everyone. The French Fête de la Musique has been such a success over the past 30 years that it now has spread all over the world. www.fetedelamusique.culture.fr/

July-August
Festival d’Aix en Provence
– Another musical extravaganza worth noting is the Music Festival of Aix-en-Provence held each year from late June through July. Tickets are expensive and hard to come by since this event rivals the famous annual music festival in Salzburg, Austria. But attending is worth every penny and the effort to get there for these world-class performances of opera, symphony, chamber music and more.  www.festival-aix.com

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Bastille day – July 14 marks la Fête Nationale in France, or the French equivalent of July 4th in the U.S. Also known as le quatorze juillet, this national holiday in Paris is marked by parades along the Champs-Elysées including fly-overs by French fighter jets and by fireworks displays above the Eiffel Tower.

Jazz à Juan-les-pins – One of the most famous jazz festivals in the world takes place every July at Juan-les-pins near Cannes on the French Riviera. What could be better than listening to B.B. King at this wonderful French beachside town? Click here for this year’s Jazz à Juan program.

Tour de France Bike Race – This legendary bike race zooms all over France and ends in Paris on the Champs-Elysées every year. Take in a view of the bikers on one the étapes around France or wait for the grand finish in Paris. It is a French event not to be missed. www.letour.fr/

Paris plages – The “Paris Beaches” celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Designed to bring a vacation motif to Parisians who don’t have the time or means to go the beach, the city brings in truckloads of sand and palm trees to create a beach setting along the Seine in the heart of Paris. The Paris Plages event lasts for a month from the end of July to the end of August. Bring your beach towel and suntan lotion for a true Paris tan!  www.paris-plages.fr/

September
Les Journées du Patrimoine
– This is one of my favorite annual events in France. For two days in mid-September, “French Heritage Days” offers visitors the opportunity to take tours of all sorts of fabulous palaces, buildings and châteaux that are not normally open to the public. The Luxembourg palace in the Luxembourg gardens in Paris is just one example. This year’s Journées du Patrimoine fall on Saturday and Sunday, September 17 and 18, so mark your calendars now for this extra-special and ultra-French event. www.journeesdupatrimoine.culture.fr

November
Armistice day
– November 11 marks Armistice Day from World War I and a national holiday in France. If you’ve never seen a military parade on the Champs-Elysées in Paris, then be sure and see this one sometime in your France travels.

December
Noël en France
– Ah, Christmastime in France…Late November and the beginning of December mark the start of the magical French Christmas season. Holiday lights glow all over Paris on the grand boulevards and in side streets, the French department stores are dressed to the nines with their holiday lights and window displays, and the Christmas markets along the Champs-Elysées and by area churches sell holiday gifts and mulled wine to shoppers. And seeing the 50-foot Christmas tree in front of Notre Dame cathedral is a travel must.

If you want to get to Paris to see the festive sights and do some Christmas shopping this year, consider joining the French Affaires’ “Paris at the Holidays 2011” trip. It’s scheduled for just after Thanksgiving and will showcase Paris at its sparkling, holiday best. Of course, French food and wine at the holidays are amazing so will be a big feature of our holiday time in Paris. The trip is starting to fill up so click here for the Paris holiday trip itinerary and make plans to put Paris in your Christmas holiday season!  “Joyeux Noël” (Merry Christmas) and “Joyeuses fêtes” (Happy Holidays)!!

  

Valentine’s Day the French Way Monday, Feb 14 2011 

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Today in Paris, stunning boxes of chocolates, beautiful heart-shaped cakes and gorgeous bouquets of flowers have been whizzing out the doors of shops all over town in celebration of la Saint-Valentin. I thought I’d send a couple of ideas to make your Valentine’s Day a little more French if you are so inclined:

- Send a French Valentine’s Day e-card to your loved ones. Click here to see the variety of virtual French Valentine’s greeting cards available. (And there’s even an ‘Anti Saint Valentin’ option for those not wishing to oversentimentalize February 14!)

- Make the ‘Coeur au Chocolate’ cake featured by the famous Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris for Valentine’s Day this year. They have the recipe for the Chocolate Heart Cake in English with the US measuring system to make it even easier. Treat your loved ones to this French sweet treat by clicking here.

Wishing all French Affaires readers a little “Love” the Paris Ladurée way – and Joyeuse Saint-Valentin!   ~Elizabeth

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French Christmases in France and the U.S. Thursday, Dec 23 2010 

Since my last online posting, I was in Paris for the French Affaires “Gourmet Paris” trip. Our lovely group savored the culinary delights of la Capitale, and I’ll be sharing some of our French foodie experiences in upcoming articles. I have also been deep into planning exciting new programs and events for 2011 that will bring the spirit of France to the U.S. in wonderful ways.  

As Christmas 2010 is almost upon us, this week’s post features holiday experiences some of my French friends and colleagues who live in Texas and have brought their French heritage with them. I asked them to share one thing that made Christmas special when growing up in France and also one thing they now do in the U.S. to add France to their holiday season. I hope you enjoy their stories–and I wish you and yours a “Joyeux Noël” (Merry Christmas), “Joyeuses fêtes” (Happy Holidays) and “Bonne Année” (Happy New Year)!! 

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Isabelle de Wulf, Executive Director of the French-American Chamber of Dallas / Ft. Worth (www.faccdallas.com) :
“One thing that made Christmas special growing up in France was living in the countryside as a child, we would have a pine tree cut from the forest and hook candle holders on the branches. Then my dad would light the candles just before the Christmas celebration. Of course we had a bucket of water not too far!” 

“One thing I do now in Dallas to make my family’s Christmas season French is to eat turkey with ‘purée de marrons’ (chestnut purée) and order a ‘bûche de Noël’ (Christmas yule log) for dessert from Main Street Bakery!”

Betty Reiter, owner of the Betty Reiter boutique in Dallas:
“I have memories of wakening up on Christmas morning and checking the front of the fireplace for gifts. I also remember going with my dad to the Mouffetard food market in Paris near our apartment. I especially treasured the smells and visual displays at the market-and of course, the time with my dad. We would come back home and then enjoy the usual turkey stuffed with chestnuts and oysters. We would finish off our Christmas dinner with the bûche de Noël.

“As for now, if I am ambitious I try to make traditional Provence 13 desserts and always a big “réveillon de Noël” (Christmas eve dinner). We eat a lot late in the evening and if we don’t have oysters, we at least have some foie gras!”

Jean-Marie Cadot, chef and owner of Cadot French restaurant in Dallas (www.cadotrestaurant.com) :
For me growing up in France, there wasn’t any one particular thing that made Christmas special. It was the combination of things similar to Christmas in many countries: family reunions, gifts & candy for the children, holiday church services & le Réveillon.” 

“Now in addition to spending time with family, much of my experiences and specialties with Christmas involve cooking. I prepare traditional French dishes such as capon, Lobster Thermidor, turbot, oysters, foie gras, caviar, chestnuts, bûche de Noël, and many others. Spending time in the kitchen preparing these especially for the season helps to put everyone (including myself) in the spirit of French Christmas at home in Dallas. And of course, I make all these French delicacies at my Dallas restaurant for the holidays!”

Cécile Marche, Marketing Director and co-creator of Dallas-based Frog du jour, the online shopping place for French treasures (www.frogdujour.com) :
“One thing that made Christmas special growing up in France was the emphasis on tradition and family. Christmas is the main moment of the year when French families spend time together. It’s so reassuring in this crazy world and in good times or bad to be near to those close to you.”

“My family and I now live in the U.S. and we make sure to have foie gras with toasts and Champagne with close friends as we wish each other a Joyeux Noël!”

Dr. Maurice Elton, former professor of French at SMU and owner of his French translation business:
My mother was French and I grew up in England so we had more British Christmas traditions growing up. Of course, France is part of my heritage and I spent summers there with family when I was young. My wife and I have included some French elements in our Christmases over the years in the U.S. We have a collection of twelve books of Christmas around the world which we shared with our children when they were growing up. The book has the story of the Santons of Provence (clay figures of the nativity with villagers included), and we have almost the complete set of 110 figures by Marcel Carbonel that we purchased over the years in France. We display them at Christmas time. And some years, we celebrate the ‘Fête des Rois’ (feast of the Epiphany) with the galette des rois (King’s cake) to add a French flavor to our extended holiday celebrations.”

Anne-Lyse Ségur Hardesty, Part time intern with French Affaires:
“When I grew up in France, my family and I used to go to the midnight mass on Christmas Eve in a small church in a village in southwest France. The mass was really special because you could enjoy the birth of Jesus Christ with a live nativity scene. It was played by kids from catechism. For few years, I was shepherdess holding a real lamb and then Mary holding this time a newborn baby. The mass last one hour and half and then we came back home and ate the “bûche de Noel” and some exotic fruits.”

“Now being in the U.S., I of course miss my family back in France. The other thing I miss the most is the Christmas eve dinner which lasts five hours and includes ten courses. It has all the French specialties: foie gras, saumon fumé (smoked salmon), oysters, capon, bûche de Noël, and of course some good wine and Champagne. This year, my family sent my husband and me many of these wonderful foods and ingredients that I can’t find in the United States. So good long food preparation and a long wonderful dinner is waiting us for on Christmas eve!”

 French Take-Out™ ~ La France à emporter 

For a very special holiday gift, French Affaires offers gift certificates for upcoming events, programs, trip design and more. If you would like to give some for delivery this Christmas, send us an email asap at info.french@frenchaffaires.com and we’ll get it to you in time for December 25th!

Christmas market wreath

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