The French Cookbook Club Friday, Mar 10 2017 

France and food – what a match! The joys of the French table are legendary and for good reason. France is endowed with a magnificent array of culinary specialties, products and traditions which make sitting down to a French meal one of the finer experiences on earth. Happily, you don’t necessarily have to live in France to enjoy these culinary riches. Cooking and eating French style can be shared anytime, anywhere. And for the seventh year in a row, French Affaires is hosting our unique “The French Cookbook Club” as a special way of cooking, savoring and sharing French cuisine with like-minded gourmet friends on location in both in the U.S. and now also in France.

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Each year, French Affaires’ founder and France expert Elizabeth New Seitz chooses a distinctive focus for our French Cookbook Club season. Our past themes have included Americans cooking in France – think Julia Child and Ina Garten, French chefs, a spotlight on La Varenne’s Anne Willan, French cooking in America, and more.

Via specially selected cookbooks, our French Cookbook Club explores the best of French culinary traditions. Typically each quarter, we read and cook our way through a superlative French cookbook. We gather for a seated multi-course dinner to taste our recipes and enjoy an evening of great French cuisine, wines and conversation. It is a unique chance to really get to know French cookbooks already in your culinary library or add to your cookbook collection as the French Cookbook Club continues. We also have added an annual French Cookbook Club trip to France to experience French cuisine in its authentic home environment and to actually cook and dine in France together. And of course, our French Cookbook Club dinners and trips are festive occasions to make friends with others interested in French cuisine and l’art de vivre!

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This year, with Elizabeth on the ground in at her home in the French countryside, our French Cookbook Club 2017-18 theme will highlight this wonderful French connection: “From Elizabeth’s French Kitchen ~ Cooking & Dining French-Style”

Along with the dinners and annual France culinary journey, our French Cookbook Club is expanding to include a quarterly French culinary experience sent directly to you from France. Elizabeth has specially chosen topics for French spring, summer, fall and winter – for each of the four seasons, you’ll receive a gift of goodies directly from her French kitchen in the village of Courances. Your culinary goodie box will feature a beautiful compilation of French recipes, food stories about cooks and food producers in France, cooking quotes, dining table ideas, food market happenings, cookbook suggestions, online French cooking resources, France culinary travel ideas, Paris restaurant and food shop updates, French terms in the kitchen, and more  – the very latest from Elizabeth’s kitchen and from being out and about in France. In addition, the culinary box will include several gifts you can use and put in your own ‘French kitchen’! It will be like receiving a delicious ‘taste of France’ in your mailbox every season. Our French Cookbook Club 2017-18 quarterly goodie box topics will feature “French Kitchen Gardens” for spring, “A French Cook’s Tools” for summer, “Cooking with the Seasons in France” for fall, and lastly for winter, “French Holiday Dishes from Throughout the Year.”  

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Our French Affaires’ French Cookbook Club 2017-18 Schedule

Part One) French Culinary Goodie Boxes from France 

SPRING 2017 – “French Kitchen Gardens”

I n France, kitchen gardens and herb gardens are a way of life. This quarter’s culinary treat box from Elizabeth’s kitchen will showcase everything about the French potager and how the French incorporate fresh, simple, colorful and flavorful garden bounty into their French cooking. Elizabeth will include recipes using what’s fresh from her garden and from local market produce as well as from her neighbor the nearby Château de Courances huge potager. We’ll take a tour of the 7-acre Courances kitchen gardens and see what their indefatigable gardeners are up to. We’ll also see how French restaurants change their menus according to garden and food market offerings. We’ll get ideas on how to grow something – whether or not you have a green thumb. Even if you don’t have a kitchen garden, the goodies and recipe features of our spring French culinary goodie box will make you want to celebrate vegetables and herbs French-style in your kitchen and cooking.

SUMMER 2017 – “A French Cook’s Tools”

This season’s culinary goodies will focus on cooking tools and techniques essential to a French kitchen. What are the top 10 tools for a French home kitchen? For a French chef? How do some specific French utensils transform your cooking experience? Which French antique and vintage culinary cookware, tools and accessories make your kitchen as fun to look at as to cook in? What’s the story behind Dehillerin in Paris, Julia Child’s go-to shop for everything cooking tool related? We’ll also highlight French recipes and dishes that use mainstream and specialized utensils. Not to be missed will be the resources for new and antique culinary pieces both online and in France. Of course, Elizabeth will send you her all-time favorite French cooking tool so you’ll have one in your own kitchen. And cooking tool stories and easy tips from French friends and cooks will make this a special culinary goodie experience!

FALL 2017 – “Cooking with the Seasons in France”

Fall is a great time to think about the seasonal food calendar in France. French cooks look forward to each season with delight and allow the time of year to influence their culinary efforts. And seasonal doesn’t just mean fruits and vegetables in France – cheeses, meats, wines, and more all have their moment in the French culinary calendar. In our French goodie package this quarter, Elizabeth will share a host of season-oriented culinary ideas including vintage and modern points of view on French seasonal cooking, a top easy-to-make French recipe for every month of the year so you can try your hand at a French foodie calendar, and more. We’ll also cover the great French foodie festivals that take place in France all year long to showcase France’s specialty food items. In addition, Elizabeth will share her list of favorite French seasonal products and producers so you can order in the U.S. or pick up some in France whenever you’re here. With this culinary goodie connection, you’ll get a great feel for the rhythms of the French cooking year and how it makes eating and dining very meaningful in France.

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WINTER 2017 – “French Holiday Dishes from Throughout the Year”

We’ll round out the year of our French cooking goodie boxes with a focus on holidays in France. Of course, Christmas and New Year’s are when the French pull out all the stops for their holiday meals. So we’ll have a treasure trove of recipes, dishes and desserts from this celebratory time of year. But there are a host of other fêtes and celebrations with their signature dishes and traditions as well, including the yummy galette des rois for Epiphany, crêpes for Chandeleur, Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras, Easter, Bastille Day cookouts, and more. We’ll even touch on regional variations for some of these holidays including Les Treize Desserts (Thirteen Desserts) from Provence – a wonderful Christmas custom going back centuries. As always, Elizabeth will handpick the gift goodies plus the compilation of recipes, stories, travel recommendations, and resources all inspired from her cooking and dining adventures in France!

 Part Two) French Cookbook Club Dinner(s) in Dallas – To Be Announced  

Part Three) FRENCH COOKBOOK CLUB Cooking Trip in France

~ Spring/Summer 2018 (Specific dates to be announced)

We’ll be scheduling our cookbook club dinners and France trip as our travel calendar permits – stay tuned!

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Here’s how the French Affaires’ French Cookbook Club works:

Part One) French Culinary Goodie Boxes from France – Spring, Summer, Fall & Winter 2017

-       Sign up for the 4 French Cookbook Club goodie boxes. The cost for the full year – spring, summer, fall and winter – including packaging, shipping and postage to your home is $195. To subscribe, send us an email at French.culture (at) frenchaffaires.com, and be sure to provide your current U.S. mailing address. Payment may be made by check (made out to ‘French Affaires’ and sent to PO Box 25536, Dallas, TX 75225) or online at http://www.frenchaffaires.com/registration_information.htm .

-       As each goodie box is hand created and assembled by Elizabeth, we have a limited number of subscriptions available. You’ll want to sign up early to reserve your spot!

Part Two) French Cookbook Club Dinners in Dallas (Dates TBA)

-       Sign up for the French Cookbook Club dinner online (will be posted when dates announced). Make sure to get our cookbook selection.

-       Read through our cookbook selection and choose a recipe that you would like to make. Each cookbook club guest is asked to choose one recipe from the following categories: appetizer, starter / salad, soup, main dish, vegetable, dessert.

-       Prepare your recipe and bring it to our French Cookbook Club evening along with your comments on the recipe-making process—was it easy? was it challenging? what aspect of French cooking did you appreciate in this recipe? would you make this recipe again?

-       Attend the French Cookbook Club evening and enjoy a brief overview of the French cookbook and its author by French Affaires host Elizabeth New Seitz. Our cookbook introduction will be followed by a four-course seated dinner of the various dishes prepared by fellow French Cookbook Club guests. Our French meal will be accompanied by specially selected French wines.

Part Three) French Cookbook Club Culinary Journey to France ~ Spring / Summer 2018 (Dates TBA)

-       Our unique France cooking adventure dates and itinerary will be finalized as soon as possible. Preference for trip spaces will be given to those who have participated in our French cookbook club dinners, trips and/or French culinary box subscriptions. The 2018 trip registration form and deposit will confirm your space in this extra-special France travel experience.

-       French Affaires’ can help you with travel arrangements before or after our culinary journey dates for a seamless trip to la belle France!

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Bordeaux is the New Paris Friday, Mar 3 2017 

The French sleeping beauty has woken up. Bordeaux has become the modern, hot, hip place to be in France. Whether you’re a resident or a visitor, you can’t help but feel the vibe every time you step out into the city streets. Named for the ancient Roman site of Burdigala, Bordeaux has it all – history, architecture, art, music, nightlife, cuisine, wine, shops, parks, gardens, modern transport, good employment, and much more. And it’s located smack in the middle of the best wine country in the world. In fact, Bordeaux is so noteworthy that the city of approximately one million inhabitants was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2007. And this year,  the travel guide Lonely Planet named Bordeaux the number one metropolis to visit in the entire world!

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Bordeaux has been a favorite of mine for years with its impressive medieval gates, elegant 18th and 19th century architecture, terrific cuisine, and superb situation along the Garonne River. And it’s been fascinating to see its urban renovation in progress. In 1995, Mayor Alain Juppé began a program of renewal, and Bordeaux has never looked back. First off, to combat its shabby, run-down exterior, the city incented residents and property owners to clean the facades of their buildings. Most residents responded and the beautiful blond stone shines bright once more. However, you can see below where a few Bordelais (residents of Bordeaux) have held out against the clean-up project and black soot remains on their building (or even their PART of the building) – and paid fines as a result!

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Bordeaux also has been cleaning up its dull and dilapidated industrial riverfront, tearing down old warehouses and creating new outdoor spaces and view-friendly development. To my mind, the stunning Place de la Bourse overlooking the river is the city’s centerpiece with its wonderfully symmetrical architecture set off by mirror fountains. 

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Also critical to breathing new life into the city was the installation of a modern tramway system which crisscrosses the town making it very easy to get around. Bikes are another great way to travel, thanks to kilometers of good bike paths and trails. And Bordeaux also decided to make large parts of the historic city center pedestrian only. Bustling shops and restaurants attract patrons day and night, particularly on the Rue Sainte Catherine the longest pedestrian shopping street in Europe.

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Getting all the buzz these days, however, is smashing new Cité du Vin on the Garonne River north of the center city. Hailed as Bordeaux’s version of the ’Guggenheim Bilbao’ or Paris’s ‘Fondation Louis Vuitton’, the museum and cultural center focuses on everything about wine including the design of the building. The daring architectural curves of the upper portion are meant to resemble wine swirling in a glass and also the eddies of the Garonne outside. The lower part takes on the form of ship which recalls the centuries old shipping and wine trade of Bordeaux. The Cité du Vin offers exhibits, events, tastings, restaurants, shops and other activities all year round – click here for more details. It is the latest must-see for anyone interested in wines and their cultural significance in France. 

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We could go on and on about all the other things to see and do in Bordeaux. A few of the most important include the Esplanade des Quinconces – the largest square in France and one of the largest in Europe, the historic St. Pierre district, the Aquitaine Museum covering prehistory to modern times in Bordeaux and southwest France, the Bordeaux Fine Arts Museum, many churches in the center city, the Grand Théâtre – Bordeaux’s gorgeous opera house second only to the Palais Garnier in Paris, the antiques district, and Bordeaux’s lovely Botanical Garden and Public Gardens. And of course the shopping. You can find top designers and brands as well as local specialty boutiques. My favorite French scarf designer has their headquarters in Bordeaux and their design atelier in a chateau about 40 minutes outside the city – great article to come on their fabulous scarves, shawls and accessories!

And then there’s the food. Bordeaux has loads of super bistrots, classic brasseries, trendy restaurants, haute gastronomie (think top chefs Gordon Ramsay, Philippe Etchebest, Joel Robuchon), tapas bars, wine bars, fusion cuisine, and more. With the Atlantic not far away, seafood is a great culinary option as well. And all this can be paired with local wines coming from thousands of different Bordeaux vineyards, wineries and chateaux. Last but not least are two Bordeaux sweet treats that you can’t miss on a visit to this jewelbox of a city. The first is the divine cannelé bordelais – a delicious little fluted cake with a light custard-like interior and dark caramel-like exterior that fits in the palm of your hand. Culinary legend has it that the recipe was invented around 300 years ago by convent nuns eager to use up the egg yolks given to them by local vintners; the yolks were left over from the wine-making process when stiff egg whites were used to filter wines. Whatever the recipe’s origin, you’ll want to taste cannelés from a good shop such as Baillardran (see below) which makes them the old-fashioned way.

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Finally, Bordeaux has a specialty for chocolate lovers too – its version of the truffle. As soon as you arrive, be sure and head to the historic chocolate shop Cadiot-Badie for a box of ‘diamants noirs’. These ‘black diamonds’ feature a chocolate ganache interior flavored with crushed grapes soaked in Bordeaux wine and are enrobed in dark chocolate and then rolled in fine sugar crystals for a little culinary sparkle.

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To sum up, Bordeaux is now a true destination and not just a side trip. If you haven’t been, be sure and add it to your France visit list ASAP. And if you haven’t been in a while, it’s definitely worth coming back to see the city in its revitalized glory. As for me, it’s on my visit-as-often-as-possible list - I discover something new every time I’m there. Fun, dynamic, modern, historic, interesting, elegant, profound, Bordeaux might just be the new Paris.

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Photo courtesy of the city’s convention bureau

How to Get There

Bordeaux is accessible by plane, train or automobile. Air France has multiple flights a day from both Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports. This summer, a new super-fast TGV line will make it possible to get from Paris to Bordeaux two hours and four minutes, down from three hours and fourteen minutes. (With such a short journey now from la Capitale, the Bordelais are bracing for all the Parisians who will be zooming down from Paris for the weekend!)

Join French Affaires in Bordeaux This Fall!

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Our ‘Fall in Southwest France Trip’ this October includes several days tasting the pleasures of Bordeaux plus experiencing the delights of the Bordeaux and Dordogne countryside. For the full trip itinerary and registration information, please email us at French.culture (at) frenchaffaires.com. A bientôt!

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Hello from France! and France Travel 2017 Thursday, Feb 9 2017 

Bonjour France-loving friends! Greetings from my 17th century stone house in the French countryside near Paris. Life is good here in our little village of Courances, and French Affaires had another wonderful year sharing the real France with you through our trips, classes and events. Though I must confess, our newsletter pause to finish our new website lasted a lot longer than planned! Renovations on our French house have proceeded at the proverbial snail’s pace (anyone who’s read ‘A Year in Provence’ by Peter Mayle will know this side of France) and took much of our attention – we have our fingers crossed that everything will be finished this March. Whew. So we are now putting the finishing touches on the new French Affaires’ website, and it will go live very soon. Stay tuned for a whole new look with great stories and things to experience here in la belle France.

Despite the house finishing delays, my husband and I have still been able to enjoy the stunning beauty of French country life and the soul filling rhythm of the French seasons. Life is full too with saying hello to our neighbors on our walks to the boulangerie, with catching up on the latest village news from Madame la boulangère or Madame la charcutière ,and with having aperitifs or dinners with our friends here and in the villages around. And our French puppy Marcel continues to entertain us with his antics. Monsieur Marcel, as I like to call him, is growing up fast body-wise so he looks like a full-grown dog. But he still acts like a puppy through and through – puppy mind, adult body. Whenever any workmen or delivery people cross paths with Marcel, they immediately say, “Mais c’est un bébé!” (but he’s just a baby!) Here he is as a little tyke in our garden a few months ago:

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In addition to rolling out our new website for 2017, we have our 2017 France travel calendar ready to go. We’re featuring some client favorites this year including the “Paris Antiques Trip 2017″, “Provence Painting and Culture Workshop 2017″ and “Fall in Southwest France 2017″. As with all our French Affaires’ trips, these rich journeys allow our friends and guests to experience France at its finest. Our special custom trips leave behind touristy clichés and focus on personal contacts with locals, artisans and experts; the best places and sights to visit often with insider access; culinary excellence with special chefs and purveyors; and more. And best of all are the wonderful friendships and warm camaraderie that unfailingly develop amongst our travelers both on our trips and at home afterwards. Hopefully this will tempt you to come travel with us. Below are brief descriptions of this year’s trips – and come and join us for a real taste of France!

 

Paris Antiques Trip – September 25 to October 2, 2017

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Join us for a marvelous week in Paris filled with French antiques, vintage finds and heirlooms. We’ll spend a day at a special twice-a-year antiques market outside Paris featuring over 800 dealers. Also included in our trip are visits to the main antiques flea markets of Paris itself. We’ll get plenty of decorative arts, antiques and cultural inspiration during our private guided visit of an extraordinary historic mansion on the Right Bank filled with beautiful furniture, paintings, sculpture and objets d’art. As part of our special French decorative arts immersion, we’ll enjoy a fabulous gourmet dining experience at a private Paris townhouse-turned-restaurant where each salon is decorated with lovely antiques and period decor. Another great part of our trip is a visit to Paris’s principal auction house where fabulous finds and bargains abound. And so you can look for great French antique finds with confidence, we’ll share our special insider tips and strategies for navigating the markets and bargaining for your treasures. Be part of our unforgettable week of French antiques and decorative arts in and around Paris!

For the detailed Paris Antiques Trip 2017 trip itinerary and registration information, please email us at French.culture (at) frenchaffaires.com . This special trip is limited in size for a highly personalized travel experience.  

To see a recap of one of our previous antiques trips with great photos, please click here.

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Provence Painting and Culture Workshop – September 22 to October 1, 2017

Provence is possibly the most beautiful and rewarding region in all of France. It is known for its charming villages, stunning countryside, warm sunshine, lively markets, fragrant gardens, flavorful cuisine, wonderful wines, and relaxed culture. And Provence’s stunning light and color have inspired artists for centuries.

  

Everything is arranged for your perfect French art and culture adventure – private apartment accommodations in the heart of lively Aix-en-Provence, painting lessons for beginning to experienced artists with celebrated painter Jill Steenhuis, superb cultural excursions in the steps of artists Cézanne and Van Gogh, wonderful lunches and dinners featuring Provence cuisine with wine, visits to colorful outdoor markets, airport transfers and land transport, and more. You’ll love soaking in the art and ambiance of Provence during this personal and unique painting trip in southern France.

 For the detailed Provence painting trip itinerary and registration information, please email us at French.culture (at) frenchaffaires.com . This special trip is limited in size for a highly personalized art and travel experience.  

 

Fall in Southwest France – October 18 to 27, 2017

Southwest France is one of the country’s best kept secrets – a remarkable region still steeped in glorious French history & tradition. From medieval villages clinging to sheer cliffs to majestic fortress castles overlooking the Dordogne River to ancient cave paintings to exquisite topiary gardens to lush vineyards to fabulous cuisine & wine, Southwest France offers amazing opportunities to travel through time & culture across the French countryside. On our itinerary: the delightful towns of Sarlat, Bergerac, Trémolat, Rocamadour, St. Emilion and Bordeaux; gourmet meals with local wines; vineyard visits and tastings – maybe we’ll even catch the grape harvest like last year!; guided visits and tours with local experts; shopping outdoor markets; special viewings of authentic prehistoric cave art; and of course, enjoying the spectacular landscapes and ambiance of Southwest France in the fall (our favorite time to be there!). Join us for this rich immersion into spectacular Southwest France!

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For the detailed Fall in Southwest France trip itinerary and registration information, please email us at French.culture (at) frenchaffaires.com . This special trip is limited in size for a highly personalized travel experience. 

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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.

 

Bonne annee ~ The Year in Pictures at French Affaires Thursday, Jan 7 2016 

Bonne année à toutes et à tous! Happy New Year to all!

As 2016 begins, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you a ‘très belle année 2016’ and thank you warmly for your support, readership and participation in French Affaires’ classes, cultural events and trips to France this past year. It has been a fantastic time of sharing the best of French language, culture, travel and l’art de vivre – and it has been our most wonderful year ever, thanks to you. Still, as France is endlessly rich in culture, history, travel and more, I can promise that there will be some terrific new surprises coming shortly in 2016 as well as a continuation of great language, culture and travel offerings. But before we get to some of the 2016 French goodies, I’d like to share a few highlights of French Affaires 2015 in photos. Join us for this virtual year in pictures below - and maybe get inspired to come away with us to France this coming year!

Highlights of French Affaires’ annual “Paris Antiques Trip this past March were the big Paris flea market at St. Ouen/ Clignancourt and the bi-annual foire à la brocante at Chatou just west of Paris. St. Ouen is the world’s largest marché aux puces, or flea market, with everything from bric-a-brac to museum quality pieces. We could have spent several days there alone as there are many different sub-markets spread out over the sprawling, easy-to-get-lost-in complex. On the other hand, Chatou is one of my favorite Paris markets perhaps because it doesn’t happen all the time. Running for about ten days each spring and fall, the fair showcases several hundred antiques vendors from all over France. It is a collector’s dream - café au lait bowls, confiture jars, regular silver, hotel silver, pottery, china, pewter, paintings, portraits, chairs, tables, chests…it is all there. And bargaining is a definite must at this market. Our antiquing group this past year found loads of fabulous finds at these markets and more during our treasure-hunting week in Paris. For info about our 2016 Paris Antiques Trip, please email us at French.culture@frenchaffaires.com.

While hosting the Paris antiques trip, I tasted several versions of one of my favorite French comfort foods – les oeufs mayonnaise. Afterwards, I posted an article on “Eggs in France” which hit home with many French Affaires’ readers. You can click here to read (or reread!) some of the great ways eggs are done in France.

Spring was a riot of flowers and gardens on our French Affaires’ trip designed especially for the Dallas Garden Club this past year. The Dallas ladies came to France in May for the “Great Gardens of Paris & the Loire Valley – a nine day joyous extravaganza of everything gardens and châteaux. Our lovely French hosts gave us a warm welcome everywhere, and nature cooperated by gracing all our destinations with exquisite flowers, plants and landscapes. Quel bonheur!

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In late May and in September 2015, we spent lovely light and color filled weeks in the south of France for the “Provence Painting & Culture Workshops” co-hosted with wonderful artist Jill Steenhuis. From color mixing tutorials to composition discussions to painting en plein air to following in the steps of artists Van Gogh and Cezanne to enjoying the gorgeous scenery to sharing wonderful French meals with wine, our painting groups’ creativity and enthusiasm knew no bounds.

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Since we’re on the topic of Provence, as readers of our French Affaires’ newsletter know, we can’t get enough of this region of France. So this coming May we’ll be doing our “Provence Language & Culture Immersion” trip again from May 6 to 21, 2016. It is a fabulous and laid-back opportunity to “live” in France and really experience the people, the landscapes and the culture – including the art. It’s also a great chance to take tons of incredible photos since everywhere you look is just Provence picture perfect! For full trip details, please email us at French.culture@frenchaffaires.com.

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This past fall, a wonderful group of French Affaires’ trip-goers immersed themselves in the riches of Southwest France. We spent many glorious days in the cool, crisp weather of the Dordogne, the Lot and Bordeaux. The distinctive history, architecture, landscapes, culture, food, wines and people made this a once-in-a-lifetime journey. Our pictures of this harder-to-get-to French region tell it all…

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And of course, faithful to my French professor roots, I was able to share all manner of lovely things about France in illustrated culture courses through SMU’s Continuing Studies program and in French Affaires’ language offerings. We covered the incredible chateaux near Paris in January – perfect for planning day excursions from the French capital. In late spring, I designed a course on “French Kings & Queens: A History of the Monarchy in France” which was an amazing journey through French time and royalty. “Gourmet Paris: A Culinary Tour of the French Capital” was also on our culture course list – and our annual “French for Travelers” reached a sell-out crowd for the eighth year in a row. If you’re planning some travel to France soon or just want to get acquainted with French attitudes, etiquette and basic conversation, you might want to join us for this year’s edition of “French for Travelers” which runs from February 16 to 18, 2016, in Dallas, Texas. Please click here for more details and registration information with SMU’s Continuing Studies program. And more French language and culture classes will be coming in 2016 so stay tuned to this space.

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We do want to pause to remember the terrible events in Paris in November and January of last year. For a short article on our thoughts and support for the French, please click here. The French are strong – and Paris will always be Paris!

Last but not least, our special “French Cookbook Club” and “French Cuisine & Culture Workshops” immersed us in French culinary delights all year long. The hands-on “Spotlight on French Vinaigrettes” was a festival of French tastes and flavors – with nary a bottled salad dressing in sight. And the “French Cookbook Club” – now in its fifth amazing year! – has been an extraordinary coming together of great French Affaires’ friends, great cookbooks and great cooking. We are looking forward to this year’s final celebration dinner and weekend in France – and I’ll be on the hunt for next year’s special new theme.

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So, again, je vous remercie de votre fidelité et je vous souhaite une extraordinaire année 2016. I look forward to sharing more of wonderful France with you this year. Come have some fun French style…A très bientôt!

A French Friday in Fontainebleau Tuesday, Jun 30 2015 

This past weekend, I was in Fontainebleau for the wedding of the daughter of some very dear friends. It was a fabulous event and also a great time to reconnect with this charming French town located about an hour south of Paris. While Fontainebleau is dominated by the royal château of the same name, the town itself is well worth a visit.

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I began the day with petit déjeuner at the Grand Café on Fontainebleau’s pleasant main square…

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It sits next to the historic Fontainebleau hotel the Aigle Noir. Celebrated French poet Jacques Prévert wrote his famous poem “Presque” while staying here.

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After breakfast, I ambled over to Fontainebleau’s lively outdoor food and shopping market that takes place every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Residents and visitors alike enjoy the various offerings by local vendors at the Marché St. Louis.

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Of course, I was more tempted by the antiques auction house located nearby. Osenat typically holds les ventes aux enchères in Fontainebleau every Friday and Sunday with viewings the day and morning before. I breezed through the galleries and saw lots of beautiful old French furniture, paintings and objets d’art

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Then I headed across the street to the real historic experience, the Château de Fontainebleau. Situated in the center of the former royal forest of Fontainebleau and nestled up next to the town, the castle showcases 700 years of French monarchs and their history. The various architectural styles of the château invite visitors to meet the successive French kings and queens who lived and sojourned here throughout the centuries.

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The place is so rich historically and visually, I could come here over and over and see something new every time. But the best part is that the Château de Fontainebleau usually has a reasonable amount of visitors, meaning that you can come here and really enjoy what you are seeing…

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For example, I had the stupendous Galerie François Ier (above) – King Francis I had this part of the château constructed from 1528 to 1530 – practically all to myself on Friday, high season in this part of the world. Such a feat would NEVER happen at the galerie des glaces (Hall of Mirrors) at Versailles!

French king Francis I left his mark all over Fontainebleau as did Napoleon. You can visit the French emperor’s extraordinary throne room in the château. Interestingly, it’s the only throne room in France that still retains all its original furniture.

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The Château de Fontainebleau also hosts temporary exhibitions. There was just a terrific one on Napoleon and Pope Pius VII and the pope’s two visits to France during  Napoleon’s reign. It’s the story of an epic power struggle, if there ever was one.

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While small, the exhibition was very well done. The best touch was putting the marble busts of the two ‘rulers’ facing off in the center of the show (below left).

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After visiting the château, you can stroll through the extensive grounds of the royal estate. Part of the gardens were designed by the famous French landscape artist André le Nôtre. You might also see preparations for a special event happening at the château. The day of my visit, party planners were setting up for the big gala that night for the French gendarmes – evening attire required!

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Later that afternoon, I walked up Fontainebleau’s main street la rue Grande to check out the French boutiques and restaurants. It’s a good time to shop in France as the twice-yearly big sales just started last week and run through the beginning of August.

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If shopping and town are not your thing, the area around Fontainebleau is horse country. You can find some stables and go for a ride or check out the numerous equestrian events that often take place in the neighborhood. Hiking and walks are also available due to the abundant walking trails in the beautiful forest of Fontainebleau. And rock climbers are big fans of the large granite rock formations found in the forêt de Fontainebleau.

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All in all, the town of Fontainebleau has a lot going for it and is worth a day or weekend detour from the French capital. Only 45 minutes away by train and about an hour by car, Fontainebleau is a great mix of town, country and history all in one place. Bonne visite!

Eggs in France Thursday, Apr 9 2015 

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Now that Easter season is past, it’s time to put away all those French chocolate eggs – and a good moment to focus on the real eggs that show up in so many great dishes in France.

French eggs 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. 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.

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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!

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French Take-Out ~ La France à emporter

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 to get that fresh, almost-like-eggs-in-France taste at your home, see if you can find a local producer who raises chickens and sells eggs regularly in your area. Our dear friend and Francophile Hugh in Texas has amazing ‘home-grown’ eggs and often shares his largesse with us. Below are some freshly gathered eggs from chez Hugh, including a nice goose egg resting on a newly-acquired-in-Paris piece of antique Quimper pottery (click here for a recap of the recent French Affaires’ Paris Antiques Trip). Bon egg appétit!

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Paris Antique Finds Friday, Mar 13 2015 

Last week in Paris, our Paris Antiques Trip group hit the antiquing jackpot with loads of great finds and an abundance of great weather. Wonderful sunshine was ours as we wandered the various flea markets, antique shops, consignment stores and fairs in and around la Capitale. At the end of each day, everyone was loaded down with beautiful French treasures. Decorative objects, paintings, mirrors, furniture, linens were just some of the pieces scooped up by our intrepid antiques lovers.

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Highlights of our trip were the big Paris flea market at St. Ouen/ Clignancourt and the bi-annual foire à la brocante at Chatou just west of Paris. St. Ouen is the world’s largest marché aux puces, or flea market, with everything from bric-a-brac to museum quality pieces. You could spend several days there alone as there are many different sub-markets spread out over the sprawling complex.

On the other hand, Chatou is one of my favorite Paris markets perhaps because it doesn’t happen all the time. Running for about 10 days each spring and fall, the fair showcases several hundred antiques vendors from all over France. It is a a collector’s dream - café au lait bowls, confiture jars, regular silver, hotel silver, pottery, china, pewter, paintings, portraits, chairs, tables, chests…it is all there. And bargaining is a definite must at this market. In fact, the negotiating was so good this year that dealers routinely dropped their prices almost without our having to ask!

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One great find for the portrait lover in our group was the antique oval frame to go with the lovely portrait acquisition above. It was quite a coup to come upon a frame that would actually fit an existing painting – and an oval one to boot.

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Another superb purchase was the beautiful painted chest below. One of our group had a ‘coup de coeur’ as soon as she saw it, she was so taken with the piece. We all agreed it was the prettiest chest at the fair.

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Incredible sconces and mirrors were everywhere at Chatou as well. Trip-goer and interior designer Lisa Henderson spotted the amazing pieces below. I walked away with some nice sconces myself – but the desired mirror in the right size didn’t materialize. Tant pis – too bad!

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Lisa also had a good eye for blue and white porcelain. Here are her purchases on display at the hotel later that night… 

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Blue and white is a lovely motif that shows up often in her interiors – and on her website as well:

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All in all, it was a great week of antiques and decorative arts fun in Paris, and French Affaires is on track to do our 4th annual antiques trip next March. We’re still waiting on final dates for some of the antiques fairs to set our trip plans - but for sure, it will be the first or second week in March 2016. If you’re interested in joining us for this fabulous time of antique and brocante finds, you can pre-reserve your spot by emailing us at info.french@frenchaffaires.com . Of course, we’ll let you know the definitive trip info prior to signing up. Our annual “Paris Antiques Trip” is a wonderful way of seeing Paris in a whole new light!

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Vive la France ~ Your Opinion Please Wednesday, Jan 14 2015 

Our heart goes out to Paris and to the families of those whose lives were lost in last week’s terror attacks. But the City of Light will rebound. It will renew itself. And Paris’s beauty and spirit will shine through. Prayers for all involved.

A recent, very Paris photo from French Affaires’ friend and reader Kathy Boyett captures the enduring spirit of the city…

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Mindful of this tragedy but hopeful for the return of the regular rhythms of daily French life, we kick off 2015 here at French Affaires. We are excited for another year full of French events, classes, culinary offerings, insider trips, personalized travel planning, and more. We’ll also continue to share a variety of articles and insights about France and French culture via French Affaires Weekly. A propos, we’d love your input on French topics you like and what you’d like to see more of. Is it French food and wine? Is it fashion? History? Art? Museums? Films? Gardens? Antiques? People profiles? Holidays and festivals? Open-air markets? Daily life and culture? Or are you interested in travel tips? Language tips? Other?

Please take a quick moment to send us your thoughts. You can use the comment section below or feel free to email us at info.french@frenchaffaires.com . We have some great topics already in the works and would like to add your ideas to the mix. As always, feel free to peruse the French Affaires Weekly archive for previous postings that might interest you.

We also are working on some fun French giveaways to go along with French Affaires Weekly postings this year. Stay tuned for your chance to receive special France-related treats.

Do drop a line. We look forward to hearing from you. And vive la France!

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!

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