Why You Need a Cheese Dome

August 16, 2016

Why You Need a Cheese Dome | modernfrenchblog.com

In the United States, storing cheese is not that big of a deal.

Here you can re-wrap that cheddar in the packaging it came in or throw a hunk of cheese into a Tupperware. Heck, you can even get cheese in a can and it will probably keep for…well…eternity.

However, in a country like France where there are more than 350 types of cheeses, you can imagine they take their cheese storage seriously. Hours of research revealed a super fancy (and super expensive) wrapping paper, some very strong opinions about plastic wrap, and one tip to leave it on a windowsill as long as you live in a colder climate. In a word, cheese storage can be very complique.

Why You Need a Cheese Dome

Enter the cheese dome aka the laidback, low maintenance queen of the cheese storage world. It’s sturdy, reusable, and looks just as nice in your fridge as it does on your table.

A cheese dome also creates the perfect climate for your favorite fromage. The bell-shaped curve of the glass top allows some humidity to form within the air of the cheese dome. This atmosphere mimics the cold, slight dampness of a cheese cave.

Most importantly, a cheese dome allows your cheese to breathe. See, there are million bacteria that work hard to make your cheese tasty. Suffocating those little guys can cause bad mold to grow quickly or, worse, can lead to an ammonia -like smell. Quelle horror!

How to Use a Cheese Dome

Cheese domes are best for soft, semi-soft, and washed rind cheese. This includes cheese like Brie, Camembert, Havarti, Basque cheese, Gouda, and others.

For the record, we’ve kept all different types of cheese in our cheese dome from fresh goat cheese to Parmesan and it always seems to work well. The only cheese I would avoid are ones packed in liquid like fresh mozzarella or feta.

Keep your cheese dome on a shelf in fridge. Before serving, take it out of the fridge and leave it on a counter for 1-2 hours. This allows your cheese to come to room temperature, which inevitably enhances the taste. It also allows softer cheeses to get back to their original texture (i.e. helllllo creamy goodness).

Where to Buy a Cheese Dome

Currently, we own this marble beauty from Crate and Barrel. The white marble is on trend and really does look pretty against our wood table. My only complaint is that the marble is a bit heavy.

You could also go for a cheese dome with a wooden base like this one, this modern one, or this traditional one. However, moisture can pool on the base and eventually crack the wood.

Complaining and slightly dissatisfied with all types of available cheese domes…c’est très français, non? Since this post is quickly turning into the worst praise of the cheese dome ever, let me turn a corner here.

The Conclusion about Cheese Domes

While the initial outlay of $60-70 may seem steep, a cheese dome can last many years. This makes the cost-per-use dirt cheap. And as we already covered, they are easy to take care of and do double duty as both storage vessel and serving platter.

That said, the most exciting thing about owning a cheese dome is that you can fill it with wedge upon wedge of glorious cheese. From strong blue cheese to a mellow gouda and satisfying triple cream brie, they’ll be waiting for you in the fridge stored at the perfect temp and humidity.

P.S. Get the best cheeses from Trader Joe’s for to store in your cheese dome and devour later on.

French Connections

August 9, 2016

French Connections | modernfrenchblog.com

Isn’t summer the best? Long days full of fun like block parties, margaritas and tacos, picking fresh tomatoes off the vine, and mornings at the beach. It’s just like heaven and I hope it never ends. What’s up next? That frosé for starters and then the perfect summer read (second to last bullet).

Yes way frozen rosé.
• A detailed guide to help you take care of table linens.
The thing your sandwiches are missing.
• The French would definitely approve of these table manners.
• Totally not a summer recipe but I totally want to make it.
• Bookmarking this fun travel guide for our next trip to Paris.
French wine barrels vs. American wine barrels.
• Adding this novel to my summer reading list.
• Some tips on how to look stylish while traveling.

Photo from my Instagram.

Wine Review: Espiral Vinho Verde

August 2, 2016

Wine Review: Espiral Vinho Verde | modernfrenchblog.com

Wine: Espiral Vinho Verde
Region: Portugal
Retailer: Trader Joe’s
Price: $4.49

There is something about drinking a cold glass of wine on a hot summer day. For a while now, it’s been all yes way rosé at our home, but last week a friend brought over this bottle of vinho verde and now we have a contender for best wine of the summer.

The Espiral Vinho Verde is a white wine with a light, pale yellow color. It smells of straight up, full-on citrus with a very faint mineral note on the edge. Taste-wise, it opens with a burst of tart, green apple and then eventually mellows out to a honeydew melon that’s just sweet enough.

Notice all the references to green fruit? Well, that’s partly because vinho verde is Portuguese for green wine. However, the name doesn’t reference the color of the wine and instead refers to the fact that these wines are bottled super young. As a result, they are ever-so-slightly effervescent and do a little dance on your tongue.

With something so bright and refreshing, it’s no surprise that this wine goes well with the summer food like grilled chicken, pasta salads, spicy seafood dishes, and citrus-infused ceviche. You could also go Mediterranean with your food pairing and serve with a chorizo sausage appetizer or saffron-heavy paella.

Most importantly, be sure to chill the heck outta this baby. Plunge it into an ice bath or chill it in your freezer for 30-40 minutes. That way, you’ll take one sip and forget that the words “heat wave” ever existed.

P.S. How to say tipsy in French and a great red for those who aren’t into white wines.

Best Music for Your Dinner Party

July 19, 2016

Best Music for Your Dinner Party | modernfrenchblog.com

The table is set, dinner is made, and guests are arriving when it hits you: You forgot the music. If you are like me, then you have the best intentions to make a playlist that matches the musical tastes of your guests AND the cuisine you’re cooking. But if you are also like me, a lot of other dinner party things get in the way of that.

Good news is that you don’t have to worry about le musique at your dinner parties anymore thanks to apps, streaming, and the wonderful world of the internet. Here are four easy ways to set the mood with some music.

FIP App

Short for France Inter Paris, everything they play is laidback enough to give your dinner party conversation priority, but unique enough that people notice. What’s more, they have a knack for mixing genres and can easily switch from rock to French pop and then opera (yes, opera). We typically play the live stream, but you can choose one of the playlists like reggae for your next bbq or jazz for a fancier affair.

Delicieuse Musique App

Kind of like FIP’s cooler and younger sibling, this French-based music app offers up the best electronic music out there including house, disco, lounge, and more. You can stream direct or choose from one of their playlists. We have the best luck by clicking into the jukebox section and playing Happy or Excited.

KCRW Radio App

As a diehard KCRW fan, I am totally biased when I say that they are one of the best public radio stations in the nation. Why not find out for yourself? Download their app and tap on over to Eclectic24 for a mix of indie rock, laidback electronica, and other tunes.

Django Reinhardt Playlist

Django Reinhardt was a Belgian-born French guitar player who rocked the world with his hot jazz style back in the 40s and 50s. Download “Douce Ambiance” and “Django in Rome” to play on a continuous loop. Alternatively, you can stream his albums from Spotify or find a Django playlist on YouTube. His music is fun and upbeat but also appropriate for all ages, which makes it great for meals with older friends and family.

P.S. Some tips for last-minute entertaining and a dinner party menu with a French vegan theme.

21 Best French Products at Trader Joe’s

July 12, 2016

21 French Products at Trader Joe's | modernfrenchblog.com

For a Frenchie living stateside, there’s no place like home when it comes to food. But Trader Joe’s comes pretty darn close! Here are twenty-one French products that we stock up on our weekly grocery trips.

1. Pain Rustique: The perfect everyday bread. When the French family comes to town, we go through a loaf in less than two days.

2. Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter: Creamy, salty, and so wonderfully buttery. It’s also $1-2 cheaper at Trader Joe’s than other grocery stores.

3. Haricots Vert: Small, skinny, tender green beans. When steamed, they make an easy (and healthy!) side dish.

4. Crème Fraîche: France’s lighter and more delicate answer to sour cream. A dollop goes a long way in soups and sauces.

5. Potatoes: Steamed, fried, baked, or mashed, the potato is a staple in the French kitchen and an easy side dish in any meal.

6. Dijon Mustard and Whole Grain Mustard: Just like Americans love our ketchup, the French love their mustard. The Dijon packs a punch while the whole grain is a bit mellower.

7. Cheese: Hard rind, ooey gooey, mild, and stinky…the selection of cheese at Trader Joe’s is solid and affordable. You can check out a list of the five best cheeses here.

8. Truffle Mousse Pate: “Tastes like meat butter,” said our cheating vegetarian friend. She’s right, it’s buttery, creamy, and meaty. Sounds gross but it’s glorious, I promise.

9. Salame Secchi: Though actually Italian, this salami is a close cousin to a French saucisson sec and it’s always the first thing to go on the appetizer plate when we entertain.

10. Cornichons: Sour and crunchy pickles in a miniature size. They go well with charcuterie or pâté and a nice glass of red wine, bien sûr.

11. Belgian Endives: Part of the chicory family, this veggie has a bitter-yet-sweet flavor. Healthy folks will chop, dress lightly, and serve as a salad. Unhealthy? Google endive and ham gratin.

12. Trimmed Leeks: Famously used in soups and stews, leeks are a sweeter and milder version of an onion. I also like them roasted with olive oil or topped with sauce gribiche.

13. Handsome Cut Potato Fries: Trying hard to avoid any references to Freedom Fries, but whoops, it just happened. These frites go particularly well with steak or a big pot of mussels cooked in white wine.

14. Red Wine Vinegar: In a country full of wine, apparently life sometimes gives you vinegar. This vinegar is a great as a vinaigrette base or as way to add umami to braised meats or stews.

15. Shallots: The refined and sophisticated cousin to the trusty onion. Many French recipes opt for the delicate taste of the shallot rather than the intensity of a yellow or red onion.

16. Fresh Herbs: French cuisine may be based in butter, cream, and carbs, but fresh herbs are its culinary exclamation point. Thyme is especially popular in French recipes.

17. European Style Plain Whole Milk Yogurt: A daily staple for most French folks. It’s typically eaten at breakfast, as a snack at goûter, or at the end of the meal as a substitute for dessert.

18. Dark Chocolate: Though the French have included chocolate in famous desserts like chocolate mousse and chocolate éclairs, many prefer to savor dark chocolate one square at a time.

19. Raspberry Tarte: Simple, straightforward, and delicious. Keep this one or the pear tarte in the freezer for an easy dessert at your next dinner party.

20. Dark Coffee: A strong, rich coffee that’s perfect for your café au lait. At only $4.99, it’s a great value for the high quality.

21. Macarons à la Parisienne: Made of meringue, almond flour, and magic, macarons are as tasty as they are photogenic. These satisfy a craving or make a sweet finale to a heavy meal.

P.S. Trader Joe’s is a great place to pick up wine and some books about French cookery.

French Words: Youpi and Other French Interjections

July 5, 2016

French-Words-Youpi-and-Other-French-Interjections

While playing a round of Heads Up! last week, we got a particularly hard word right before the buzzer sounded and I exclaimed, “Ho ho!” to which one of our funniest friends replied, “Did Santa Clause just walk in here or something?”

Seemingly overnight French interjections had crept into my brain and overwrote all the English ones. Gone are the woo hoo’s and ah ha’s, which have now been replaced by the youpi’s and ho ho’s. Maybe I’m getting closer to 80% or 90% French?

Since they are kind of funny and pop up regularly in French conversation, I thought a list of ten expressive French words and how they are used may be useful for other Francophiles and aspiring Francophones.

Aïe: Similar to how we’d use “ouch” to express pain or worry. Pronounced like the letter “i”.

Bof: Equivalent of hmmph or meh that usually proceeds a sentence where you either don’t know, don’t care, or are indifferent. Pronounced like bo-fff.

Chut: Shush or shhh. A way to quiet someone down or try to shut them up. Pronounced like shhh-uu-t, but keep in mind the “uu” is very quick and brief.

Eh: Instead of uh or um, the French say eh. Fun fact: Spanish speakers also use eh in the same way. Pronounced like the “ey” in hey.

Oh là là: In English, we use this word to express how someone or something is stylish, however the French typically use it as a surprise reaction to something positive or negative. The “oh” is sometimes pronounced like ooo or oh while là là is pronounced simply as la la.

Ouf: Used the way English speakers would say whew or phew. It’s pronounced somewhere between uf and oof.

Oups: Easily translated as oops. More or less said the same way we say oops in English.

Ho ho: The French ha ha. Sometimes it’s said as “oh ho ho”, which is even more like something Santa Clause would say. Pronounced exactly how it looks.

Hop là: This word is used in so many ways that it doesn’t have a clear English equivalent. Sometimes it’s used to accentuate movement like when you pick up a little kid and say alley oops or when you reach for something that is very high. It could also be used the way we say here we go, there we go, or that’s the end. Pronounced like ope-la.

Youpi: Equivalent of yippee or woo hoo. Pronounced like you-pee. You pee, get it! #mindofafifthgrader

P.S. Learn how to say a French cuss word or check out how the French say the word lush.

Six Months without Social Media (What I Learned)

June 28, 2016

Six Months without Social Media (What I Learned) | modernfrenchblog.com

Last year I quit social media and then promptly shouted it from the rooftops because, well, I have a tendency to over share.

See, social media had become too much for me. I was so obsessed with getting likes and followers that I was missing out on socializing with my own friends and family. Plus, algorithm changes and forced ads in all my feeds were really getting me down (damn the man, right?).

Overall it wasn’t making a positive impact in my life, so I drank a glass of wine, deleted all of my accounts, and said au revoir.

The Tough Transition

A little bit of honesty here: The first couple of months were pretty hard.

Not only did it take me a while to get over the nervous habit of checking my phone for updates every two minutes, but then I basically switched one addiction for another and upped my internet usage. I subscribed to more blogs, followed more YouTubers, and often fell down an Internet rabbit hole that lasted one or two (or even three) hours. Whoops!

Eventually, I had a reality check with myself and decided I needed to figure out a way to limit my screen time…and I needed a solution fast!

Filling Free Time with Hobbies

It was then that I rediscovered the wonderful world of hobbies. By definition, a hobby is a regular activity that is done for enjoyment, typically during one’s leisure time.

As a kid, I had a gajillion hobbies including reading books and magazines, playing soccer, writing in my journal, making crafts, collaging, sewing, dancing, playing violin, collecting erasers, and (oddly enough) rubber stamping. Even if the Internet had existed then, I clearly wouldn’t have had time for it.

While Adult Alyssa had some leisure time on her hands, it definitely wasn’t as much as Kid Alyssa had. So, I did some soul searching and decided I would go back to my two greatest loves (reading and writing) and also tack on a new passion (cooking).

Hobby. Explosion. All of a sudden I was speeding through library books, writing blog post after blog post, and cooking up a storm in our little kitchen. It was a creative revolution, and the best part was that I didn’t even miss social media.

Happiness and The Domino Effect

Doing things you love will make you happy. This is awesome in of itself, but what’s even cooler is that it created a domino effect. Seeing the positive effects of good habits led me to pursue even better habits.

For instance, I finally signed up for French classes (a benefit for my brain) and started biking to work (a benefit for my body). A month or so after that, I started walking in the mornings while listening to my favorite podcasts (even more fuel for my brain and body).

Getting Back to Social Media

But then it started to happen. Every time I finished a great book or made a new recipe, I’d hear a little voice say, “Share it, shaaaaaare it.” Then, I’d re-do a little corner of our petite maison or drink an incredible wine and would hear it again. Share it, Alyssa, shaaaaare it.

Eventually, I had to admit that I really missed sharing little snippets of my life on social media and, more importantly, seeing little snippets of life from my friends and favorite bloggers. And so, I’m back on social media. This time with a better attitude and less time to obsess over it because I’m so busy with all these hobbies.

For now, you can find me on Instagram as @alyssapacaut. I’ll be the one posting photos of French things (because duh), white space (because j’adore), good books I’m reading (because you know I really want to share them), and glasses of wine (because that’s what I do when I’m not working or hobbying).

Are you thinking about doing a social media detox? Or have you done one before? If you have already taken a break from social media, what did you enjoy most about your time off? I’d love to know more about your own experience and hear your thoughts.

Photo from my Instagram.

French Connections

June 23, 2016

French Connections | modernfrenchblog.com

Exactly one year ago today, I started the Modern French blog. The first post was about how my French Obsession began and set the tone for 12 months of Francophile-tinged posts. To date, blogging has been my favorite pastime. I rush home from work and wake up early to write, and loved taking white-spaced filled photos even thought they aren’t all that great.

Every once in a while, someone pops up and gives me a compliment. It makes my day, nay my month, especially as I’m the worst self-promoter and never tell anyone about my blog. So, if you’re sitting here reading this, I don’t know how you got here (Internet miracle?) but I can already tell I like you.

Ten tips for decorating your home à la française.
• Snaps of Hotel Grand Amour in Paris. I want to go to there.
• The ultimate guide to dining al fresco.
• Wedding season is in full effect and wine might just make the perfect gift.
• Need to make time for this fashion exhibit at LACMA.
This song on repeat. #summeranthem
• Nothing says summer like a straw woven tote.
Download French-themed wallpaper for free. I’m partial to the “Oh la laaa” one.
• And finally, the first Modern French blog post for nostalgia’s sake.

Photo from my Instagram.

Wine Review: J.L. Quinson Côtes De Provence Rosé

June 14, 2016

Wine Review: J.L. Quinson Côtes De Provence Rosé | modernfrenchblog.com

Wine: J.L. Quinson Côtes De Provence Rosé
Region: France
Retailer: Trader Joe’s
Price: $6.99

A couple weeks back we went to a fancy pants party along the California coast. All the women wore pastel dresses, the men were in loafers, and there were a million bottles of rosé in silver ice buckets.

At one point we escaped from the party and walked down to the beach. We sipped rosé from our glasses and watched the sun set over the crashing waves as we thought to ourselves, “This is the life.”

While we can’t afford the wine from the party, this budget-friendly rosé is a great replacement. The first sniff is full-on strawberries, which perfectly matches the light-pink color. But that’s where the sweetness stops. The taste is bright and acidic with a mellow hint of something fruity on the back end. It’s not very complex or layered, but shouldn’t a summer wine be easy and breezy anyways?

For me, the best pairings for rosé are a hot day and ice to keep it super cold. However, if you’re really looking for foods to complement it, then look no further than your typical summer BBQ fare. The dryness of the wine goes well with salty potato chips, hot dogs, and hamburgers.

Food from a French-style barbeque would also taste good with this refreshing rosé. Try it with thin slivers of saucisson sec as an appetizer or for the main course with grilled veggies, pork sausages, or a tomato tart with a creamy, cheese base.

Above all, enjoy this light-hearted drink and let it be a reminder of the best of summer i.e. hot days, long nights, and good times with good friends.

P.S. Another awesome rosé and the five best cheeses at Trader Joe’s.

Five Ways to Dress Like a French Girl

June 7, 2016

Dressing Like a French Girl | modernfrenchblog.com

Everything I know about dressing like a French Girl I learned from a French Guy.

See, last fall I was getting ready for our trip back to France and the pressure to be chic was real. So, I went on a shopping spree and came home with a ton of shopping bags.

Giddy with excitement, I rushed to try on my new clothes and walked out to show my husband. It was then that I realized we were dressed almost exactly alike and I had, apparently, learned a few things about French style from him.

Build a Foundation of Basics

First things first, you need to build up your basics so that you have great foundation. You’ve likely seen or read an article about the basics of a French wardrobe. It usually includes a list with the perfect white tee, a black blazer, a striped top, and ballet flats among other things.

One look at what I keep in my closet and you can see that I’ve taken a lot of those lists to heart. While these basics definitely work for me, I urge you to figure out what fits your lifestyle and your taste. The key here is to buy what you really love. If black and white isn’t really your thing, your color palette can be gray, army green, and pink. Or maybe you walk a lot so flats make more sense than sky-high heels.

Once you have this foundation, it makes getting dressed infinitely easier because you have a bunch of individual pieces that you can combine into an infinite number of outfits.

Shop Less and Shop Strategically

When the French go shopping, they typically go with a purpose such as replacing a worn-out item or buying something for a special event.

For example, if Arnaud has a pair of jeans that are starting to look ratty, then he’ll say au revoir and buy a new pair. Summer wedding coming up? He’ll get a fancy suit jacket to dress up other items that he already owns.

Similar to the One In, One Out rule, this style of shopping ensures that you always have space in your closet. It also keeps you from “just browsing” and spending money on something cheap or trendy that you don’t really want. Not that I’m guilty of that…but then I’m not 100% French yet.

Know When to Invest

The French always seem to know when to invest in clothing and Arnaud certainly isn’t an exception. He doesn’t spend much on the plain tees, jeans, and other everyday basics that make the foundation of his wardrobe.

But the fancy suit jacket I mentioned above? That was an investment piece. He also splurges on leather boots, designer sneakers, and dress shoes because the man loves his footwear. Other items that land in the investment category include clothing for colder weather and fancy occasions.

The key with these types of pieces is that you should only purchase them few and far between. Arnaud may love shoes but he doesn’t own a million pairs, and he only has a few coats and winter jackets. Most importantly, investing every once in a while usually means you will be spending less and therefore have more money for wine (huzzah!).

The Art of Repetition

When we first got married, I was surprised that my French husband would wear the same outfit whenever we went out. He’d put on a denim button-up shirt, black fitted slacks, and black leather boots. Every. Single. Time.

This was shocking for an American who was taught to buy a new outfit for every occasion, but the art of repetition is ingrained in the French. Just think about Carine Roitfeld and her winning combination of a silk blouse, pencil skirt, and sky-high heels. Or try to imagine Emmanuelle Alt in anything but skinny jeans (I know, it’s hard).

The French wear these uniforms because they know it’s flattering and makes them look good. They also wear it with confidence and have zero regrets about repeating an outfit. And when you think about it, why would anyone ever apologize for looking good?

Rules are Made to Be Broken

If this is all starting to feel a bit limiting, you will probably appreciate this next tip. Rules are great and all, but go ahead a break one every once in a while.

Only wear neutral colors? Buy the bright yellow sweater. Tend to stick to vintage styles? Go for something in a super modern cut. Shake it up and do something different, because in the end fashion should be fun.

Conclusion

French Girls are effortlessly chic, but now that we’ve cracked the code you can be just like them. A quick recap on what we’ve learned:

• Build up the basics in your closet so that you have a great foundation with which to work.
• Try to shop with a purpose and hone in on what you really need.
• Know that it’s okay to make an investment and spend money on a special item.
• Learn the art of repetition and don’t shy away from creating a uniform.
• Break the rules! Life is too short to be super serious about your clothing.

Zat ees eet! Now that you’re armed with the rules of French style (and also have the power to break them), you can dress with ease and go out into the world as a stylish woman. Just don’t tell everyone that we learn all of this from a Frenchman. That will be our petit secret!