FIAF's Bastille Day Festival

Bastille Day or La Fête nationale is a French holiday that celebrates French independence. Every year, FIAF, the French Institute Alliance Française, hosts Bastille Day on 60th which is NYC's largest public celebration of the holiday with a day of French food, culture, and entertainment. The festival was held on 60th Street and between Lexington and 5th Avenues from 12PM-5PM. This year, I finally was able to attend with my sister, and we had a fantastic time!

Popular French restaurants, bakeries, and specialty food booths lined 60th Street to create a unique shopping and tasting experience.  DBGB, Epicerie Boulud, Amali, and Japanese creperie, Eight Turn Crepe were among some of the popular restaurants offering delicious food and even rose wine popsicles.  Dominique Ansel Bakery, Canelé by Céline, Francois Payard Bakery, Payard Patisserie, and Bosie Tea Parlor were quickly and happily selling out macarons, caneles, eclairs, and other delicious pastries. My favorite tea purveryor,  Palais des Thés, and the fine Dijon mustard brand Maille served refreshing teas and savory bites to all the curiously hungry guests. 

Naturally, our first stop was Canelé by Céline.  It's not a proper celebration of Bastille Day or any French holiday, occasion, or event without the best, and our favorite caneles in NYC!  I highly recommend trying the rum and caramel flavors if you have a sweet tooth. Those two are classics. For savory types, I suggest the black truffle and chorizo. The black truffle is seriously a meal in a mini bite, and it's hard to resist!  We picked up raspberry, one of the seasonal flavors, and a bunch of the usuals - black truffle, blueberry, chorizo, caramel, dark choco, pistachio, and rum.  In addition to caneles (mini and original sizes), Céline makes financiers, and other traditional French specialities that are available online and at her UES shop on 82nd St. and 1st Avenue. You'll want to take home all of the pastries when you visit!

 

Maille had recently completed a tour of the Northeast with its mobile mustard truck.  My sister and I sampled five different types of mustard with cornichons and salted pretzel sticks. The flavors we tried were the Dijon Originale (the classic), Honey Mustard, Horseradish, Old Style, and Rich Country. I have to say, my favorite flavor was the Old Style.  There's something about the whole grain that gives it a very nice texture, and sharp taste on the palate. 

We briefly paused on our trek down 60th towards Lexington Avenue so I could capture this mime moment.

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Discover Beaujolais had a photo booth at the festival, and just like the one at the Taste of France event last summer, we seized the opportunity to pose for another silly photo.  Plus there was a FIAF Twitter challenge was going on, and we wanted to participate in it using our picture.  It appeared that we were one of the very few who chose to pose with vineyards scene in Beaujolais.  Most people selected the Paris background.  I guess they didn't realize that Beaujolais isn't in Paris or vice versa.  We gave it our best look in the photo below!

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Before heading over to meet my friends to watch the World Cup Final match between Germany and Argentina, I stopped by the FIAF VIP Lounge for the wine tasting. No other way than to enjoy a Sunday afternoon in the fine French way!  

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Bastille Day on 60th is a fun and exciting event that allows you to experience all aspects of French food and culture with friends, family, and other Francophiles.  Hope you'll be able to check it out next year!  I'm already looking forward to it. 

NYC Food Events - June Round-UP

Here's a couple of upcoming food festivals to check out this month. Prepare yourselves for a whole lot of good eating and drinking!

Brooklyn: Food Republic + Finger On The Pulse BBQ Blowout Is On June 10
http://www.foodrepublic.com/2014/05/28/brooklyn-food-republic-finger-pulse-bbq-blowout-ju

La Nuit en Rosé - NYC's 1st  Rose Wine Tasting Festival, June 13 and 14
http://nuitrose.com/

Jazz Age Lawn Party, June 14 and 15
http://www.jazzagelawnparty.com/

Sugar Hill Market x Harlem Garage, June 15th
http://sugarhillmarketnyc.blogspot.com/

Garden Party, A Taste of Pride - June 23rd
https://gaycenter.org/gardenparty

 

Japan for the Weekend

Could you manage a trip abroad in just three days? No airplane required.

Let's take a short trip!

Every March during Japan Week in Grand Central Terminal's Vanderbilt Hall, Japanese culture, cuisine, technology, trade, travel are celebrated in great fashion. At the Japan Week celebration at Grand Central Terminal, you'll be able to taste regional Japanese cuisine in convenient bento boxes, high-quality sake and whiskey at a tasting bar, and learn about Japanese culture, trade and the latest technology.  This year, the event was held for three days from March 6-8, however you can continue exploring regional Japanese cuisine at many participating restaurants in Manhattan since Japan Restaurant Week runs until March 16th. 

I picked up the Kanimeshi Ekiben, Crab with Egg, Salmon Roe, Pickled Plum Ume  Over Rice, since it looked appetitizing, and it was something I haven't tried before.  It was perfectly packaged, and the combination of salty, sour, and sweet flavors complimented each other very well!

Bronx Letters Benefit 2014

On Wednesday, February 26th, I attended the Bronx Letters Benefit with my friend, Anthony, at the Metropolitan Pavilion (the 19th Street venue) in support of the academic and enrichment programs at the Bronx Academy of Letters.  The school's co-founder, Mike Jackson, was honored with the Spirit of the Raven Award, and special guest, Anthony Bourdain (chef, world traveler, writer, and culinary master) spoke about his involvement with the school and the importance of a good education as the foundation for all gifted and promising youths.  Anthony and I were blessed to be surrounded by the greatness of Mr. Bourdain, the delicious food of several amazing local restaurants, and the fantastically strong cocktails by PDT.  There was also a silent auction where people could bid on prizes such as a special lunch tasting menu at Le Bernardin, a package of Soul Cycle classes, an impossible to get restaurant reservation at Rao's, etc, etc.

Meeting Mr. Anthony Bourdain. Legend-ARY!

Fluke Crudo with Blood Orange and Bird's Eye Chili from The Cecil
They were refreshing! Take me to Harlem, because I want more of this!


Bubbles & Beats: Sparkling Cocktails & Posh Parties

People who know “know” me can tell you that I’m a lover of wine especially of the sparkling variety.  And if it’s French, even better!

Fortunately I received an invitation to a cocktail party from the folks at French sparkling wine house Veuve Ambal, a well-known sparkling brand hailing from Burgundy. My first impression when I walked in? Welcome to great open bar in a cool place with interesting people.

The first of their event series,”Envy”, was held in the newly renovated upper lounge of the upscale French-Vietnamese restaurant, Le Colonial, on the Upper East Side.  The beautiful and charming decor is reminiscent of the French colonial era in Southeast Asia, and it will transport you to another world. Having been to the lounge once before it was revamped, I was surprised to find that the space opened up a lot. The new lounge still retained its cozy feel, but the warm ambiance is more comforting and inviting. 

There were guests of all sorts - young and old professionals, nightlife partygoers, socialites,  bloggers, writers who were dressed and ready to impress.  Fresh, energetic beats spun by DJ Teal Cammer set the mood. Mixologist Moses Laboy, Le Colonial’s recent addition and formerly the mastermind behind the cocktails at Red Rooster, Ginny’s Supper Club, Krescendo and Los Americanos, kept the drinks flowing all night long.  Supposedly, he also created and served cocktails to Presidents Obama and Clinton. Do we have a presidential cocktail craftsman in our midst? Seems like he already has impressive credentials under his belt!

For this occasion, Moses crafted three unique cocktails using Veuve Ambal sparkling wine which were the 1) “Wild Ambal” (Veuve Ambal Cremant de Bourgogne, Russian Standard, fresh lemon juice and spiced pomegranate), Bubbles” (Veuve Ambal Cremant de Bourgogne, Tanqueray Gin, fresh lemon juice, lemongrass and Burlesque bitters) and the “French 85” (Veuve Ambal Cremant de Bourgogne, Maker’s Mark, fresh lemon juice and simple syrup). Of the three, my favorite was the French 85. Based on the classic “French 75” cocktail, I took an immediate liking to Lamboy’s playful take on the original version. 

Pictured below from left: The “French 85" and ”Bubbles” cocktails

Guest nibbled on hor d’oeuvres done in the French-Vietnamese fusion style of Le Colonial’s Chef Ronald Wingwee Hsu. Served that evening but not pictured were the “Bo Lui” (Grilled sesame ginger beef skewers with scallion oil), “Cha Gio Chay” (Vegetarian crispy spring rolls filled with mushrooms, tofu, taro and carrots, Served with spicy soy sauce) and “Chicken Lettuce Wraps” (With turmeric, roasted peanuts, dill and fresh chili). These small bites were the perfect pairings for Lamboy’s cocktails.  

Toward the night’s end, Veuve Ambal sparkling wine was served in flutes to guests on its own.  It was great to see that the bubbly beverage would be savored as is to close the party, and a nice touch it was indeed. Would I say it was a success? So far, so good! 

For more info about future events, visit the websites below:

Envy by Veuve Ambal http://envybyveuveambal.com/

Le Colonial NYC - http://lecolonialnyc.com

The Paris-Tokyo Connection

For the finest things in Europe, Paris has them all. And for the finest things in Asia, you can be sure to find them in Japan.  Together, the best of the East meets West’s best. At this event,  I sampled what both cities had to offer.

Recently I was invited to attend the “Try the World” Paris-Tokyo tasting event at the Posterati Gallery in SoHo to learn more about this fantastic gourmet delivery service.  Founded by two creative Columbia graduate students with the same passion for traveling and discovering new cultures, David and Kat wanted to bring culturally unique products to people everywhere.

Each “Try the World” subscription is $45.00/box, and every two months you receive a mint green box filled with handpicked goodies from a different city starting with Paris then followed by Tokyo. In it you’ll be able to taste delicious treats and discover the cultural richness from beautiful cities around the world. Other fascinating cities are being added to the list after being sourced by the “Try the World” team for the best treats that ideally represent each place. With that said, how could you not want one of these?  

Try the World event at Posterati Gallery in SoHo

Above: Inside the Paris box - Alain Milliat jams, Le Petit Saunier salted butter caramels, Palais des Thes teas, Fleur de Sel, nougat, marron (chestnut) paste and French hot chocolate. 

Try the World event at Posterati Gallery in SoHo

Above: Goodies from the Tokyo box - Senbei rice crackers, spicy Japanese mustard, fresh dried seaweed, yokan sweet red bean sweet, high-grade Japanese green tea and handmade chopsticks.

Try the World event at Posterati Gallery in SoHo

That evening, I tried lovely French wines from M. Chapoutier and a refreshing Calvados (apple brandy) cocktail with a spritz of cinnamon for a festive Christmas spirit.

Try the World event at Posterati Gallery in SoHo

Try the World event at Posterati Gallery in SoHo

One of my favorite tea brands, Palais des Thes, presented their limited edition holiday teas for guests to taste.  Featured here the green, white, black and rooibos blends.  Better stock up on these comforting flavors before they’re gone…a reminder that I should start doing that too!

Try the World event at Posterati Gallery in SoHo

The Rooibos Chai blend was brewed and served to eager tea drinkers in these simple porcelain cups.  I enjoyed this tea very much! The combined orange, cinnamon, vanilla, rose and almond in this tea are perfect holiday flavors. It’ll give a warm, cozy and comforting feeling.  I kind of wanted to snuggle up under a blanket and sit in front of a fireplace while drinking it.

Try the World event at Posterati Gallery in SoHo

The excited crowd enjoys delicacies from both cities, Paris & Tokyo. 

Try the World event at Posterati Gallery in SoHo

A variety of mini Alain Milliat jams ideal for breakfast time, a snack or fine jam emergencies on the go.

Try the World event at Posterati Gallery in SoHo

The selection of Japanese snacks for the evening: yokan, a traditional Japanese red bean sweet, senbei rice crackers, ramune sparkling soda and wasabi peas.

Try the World event at Posterati Gallery in SoHo

Ramune sparkling soda (a flavored, carbonated beverage) was a drink I used to consume in cases during my tween years. Although I don’t drink them as much as I used to, I still enjoy one every now and then.  How cute are the labels on these bottles?

Try the World event at Posterati Gallery in SoHo

Above: A quick presentation on how the “Try the World” idea began. 

Try the World event at Posterati Gallery in SoHo

It was a fun evening -  meeting and mingling with culturally curious and hungry invitees.  I’m glad I had the opportunity to be a part of the tasting. As delicious as it was, the event was also inspirational and educational. Everyone was gifted a goodie bag of French treats to take home - I loved it!

David and Kat invite you to try the world with them - get closer to interesting cultures and lifestyles through their unique and tasty products.  I encourage you too!

To subscribe or to learn more about “Try the World,” visit the site herehttp://trytheworld.com

Experience the Best of France

After a successful first run last year, the second annual “Taste of France” event was hosted in Bryant Park.  Over 100,000 visitors were expected to show, so the larger exhibition area was an excellent choice.  I visited Bryant Park around 11:30AM on Saturday, September 28th thinking I’d be early, but by the time I arrived, the event was already well underway!

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The tri-color hot air balloon was up and ready!

Many exhibitors from major French businesses and local Franco-American NYC organizations participated in this year’s big event such as L’OREAL (including the beauty brands they own), D’Artagnan, Canele by Celine, Georges DuBeouf wines, Maille, La Maison du French Bulldog, Palais des Thés, and FIAF (French Institute Alliance Française). At the “Taste of France,” special currency called “Mariannes” were available for purchase in place of dollars. It was a great idea but actually a hassle to keep exchanging money for fake bills, because you couldn’t really tell how much of it you’d need initially and then when you run out, lining up and waiting to buy them again only to be told you need to wait longer since they ran out is a drag.

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My favorite booths were La Maison du French Bulldog (because I’m a huge fan of them, and hope to own one in the near future),Canelé by Céline (those bite-sized treats were ready to be eaten), the wine and liquor tasting area, and the Southwest and Southeast areas for the best of French cuisine and wines (in my opinion). 

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This little Frenchie in a chef’s uniform stole my heart!

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And yes, the truffle canelés were there along with the sweet varieties!

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"The Green Beast," a Pernod Absinthe cocktail - refreshing & neat; no "silly green fairy" to be seen here!

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Bouillabaisse by the culinary team at the Intercontinental New York Barclay Hotel

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First time trying fine mustard “on tap” from Maille! It was served on mini toasts with the fresh Chablis Dijon mustard (imported just for this event - it’s usually only sold in the Maille boutiques in Paris and Dijon) or the Honey Mustard with Balsamic Vinegar (from Italy) of Modena. This special pump dispenser in the photo above is a type of tool used to serve French royalty back in the day. I wish the freshly dispensed mustard was available to us here in the US, but at least we’ll have the Honey Mustard with Balsamic Vinegar product next April 2014!

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Rhone Valley Rosé wine by Jean-Luc Colombo

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The “Taste of France” was an adventurous and sublime, sensorial experience.  Like a quick trip to the French countryside to frolic in lavender fields, great chateaux for wine tasting and back to the city for luxe indulgences, it was such a tease(!) but more of an alluring one.

Oh, the French — they make you fall in love with them and all their lovely things!

For more event photos, view the entire set on my Flickr: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjK4NGW6

Let's make it a holiday, "French Your Day"

NYC is a city of many great things, and many great French things to be exact!

It was exciting to a part of the “French Your Day” event hosted at the flagship store of Le Palais de Thés in SoHo on July 1, 2013.  As a press invitee, I was able to enjoy two hours before the trade guests.  So here, I took the opportunity to learn more about already well-known French food/drink brands in the US (mainly New York) such as Canelé by Céline and Le Palais des Théswhile sampling their delectable treats. I also encountered other reputable brands at the event - Pommery Champagne, Baume des Anges ,Alain Milliat and Truffes Plantin, and I happily enjoyed tasting their products. 

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Le Palais des Thés selection of Iced Teas - Thé du Hammam Rooibos & Thé des Vahines Rooibos (caffeine-free).  I enjoyed the Thé du Hammam Rooibos iced tea as the taste was quite similar to the black tea variety with the same name minus rooibos.  Both were very refreshing and flavorful.

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Canelé by Céline introduced its newest flavor, Truffle!

Truffes Plantin was one of the brands new to me at the “French Your Day” event.  The savoriness of Céline’s newest creation surprised me at first since I’m usually accustomed to her sweet canelés.  Since the black truffle from Truffes Plantin was the main ingredient, the richness and bold flavor of it was a game changer.  It was like a meal in a bite.  A big bite.  While there were Céline’s trademark mini canelés, the new truffle was available in large and bite-sized portions.  I can’t recall how many of this particular flavor I ate, but they were so delicious.

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As you know, my appetite is great, I indulged in many of the other flavors (orange, caramel, vanilla, dark chocolate) and had no regrets!

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More canelés and some Pommery Champagne to quench your thirst. 

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Pommery Champagne is available in Brut and Brut Rosé.  I’m not a wine expert, but I can at least differentiate between the good & the bad, and Pommery is a goodie.  You had the choice to drink it as is, or mix it with Alain Milliat fruit nectars or with Baumes des Anges lavender or verbena essence.  After tasting several Pommery champagne cocktails and lavender/verbena infused San Pellegrino sparkling water, I got hooked on the latter.  I asked where I could get my hands on those magical elixirs from Baumes des Anges to be sadly told they were only available for gastronomical use - meaning by professional chefs in high-end restaurants.  Hence, I drank as much as I could - mostly of the San Pellegrino enhanced sort, because it would be my last encounter with that aromatic and theraputic essence for some time. 

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Baume des Anges in my sparkling water everyday, please.

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More than one drop & you’re ruined. For professional use only.

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These fruit nectars from Alain Milliat were the best I’ve ever had in my life so far. 100% all-natural fruit with pulp, the nectars come in Wild Blueberry Nectar (above), Apricot and Peach flavors (not pictured). You can enjoy them chilled on their own or added to your champagne to make a pleasant cocktail. You can also use them in your cooking!

Interesting Fact: You can find these nectars and Palais des Thés teas at my favorite little French dining spot, Cocotte in SoHo which is conveniently located up the block from here on 110 Thompson Street. TIP: Ask for Raphael or Chef Sebastién and tell them you were recommended by Leslie.

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Press, bloggers, and photographers swarming the Truffle canelés.

Can you spot my friend, Niko, & fellow food blogger/photographer of the DessertBuzz blog right in the center at the Canelé by Céline table? I highly suggest you check out his blog if you also have a sweet tooth like me!

At the end of the evening, I had a happy tummy & big smile on my face.  Success!
 

To learn about featured brands at the event, visit the websites below:

Les Palais des Théshttp://us.palaisdesthes.com/
Canelé by Céline - http://canelebyceline.com/
Alain Milliat - http://www.alain-milliat.com/en/
Pommery Champagne - http://www.pommery.fr
Truffes Plantinhttp://www.truffe-plantin.com/en/
Baumes des Anges - http://www.baumesdesanges.fr/english.php
 

* For the full set of the “French Your Day” event photos, visit my Flickr here: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjHKSiBX