French Words: Gourmande

January 17, 2017

French Words: Gourmande | modernfrenchblog.com

The first couple times we went back to France my language abilities were, shall we say, lacking. Outside of bonjour, au revoir, and oui, I couldn’t say much nor carry on a conversation.

This made it tough to dine with our French family and friends. At first the monsieur would translate for me, but at one point it became a chore and interrupted conservation so I was left to my own devices. This usually meant intense focus on the plate in front of me or excusing myself to the couch where I’d promptly fall asleep.

During one dinner, two family members were in a deep conversation. It looked fascinating so I nudged the hubs and asked him what they were talking about. After listening in for a few moments he said, “Oh, they’re talking about local chefs and their impressive repertoire.” Forty minutes later they were talking so much more intensely that I was sure they had moved on to another topic. “Non,” Arnaud reassured me, “they are still talking about local cuisine.”

That’s one of the many things I love about the French; they are deeply passionate about food and find great joy in eating. So many of the French people in my life have self-defined as a gourmande (pronounced gore-mahn-dd) that I’ve lost count. By the way, gourmande is the feminine version of the word; the masculine version is gourmand and is pronounced similarly but without the “d” at the end.

You’re probably familiar with this word since we also use it in English. However, our definition of gourmand has a negative twinge and conjures up the image of a glutton eating copious amounts of food, which says a lot about our culture’s issues with food more than anything.

Moi? As we all know, I’m becoming more French by the minute so I’m going to continue embracing the more positive definition of gourmande. This means less weird American food issues and more delicious French meals in my future, which is definitely something I can get behind.

P.S. How to say cheers when you’re dining à la française and a fancy dinner party menu for a celebration.

French Girls Aren’t Perfect

January 4, 2017

Being obsessed with the French is a full time job, or at least a very busy part-time job.

During my free time, you can most likely find me a) reading about something French, b) watching something in French, or c) hanging out with some French person and creepily trying to usurp their identity.

Okay, I’m kidding about that last part, but I will admit that I unknowingly file away the super Frenchie things my friends do and end up writing about it later.

The “French Girl” Doesn’t Exist

This brings me to something I alluded to in this blog post and have wanted to write about for a while. The French Girl, as we’ve come to know and define her, doesn’t really exist.

There is no French Girl who spends zero time on her appearance but is forever chic, who eats nothing but bread, cheese, and butter but never gets fat, and who is the perfect parent bringing up bébé but also a naughty kitten in the boudoir.

Elle n’existe pas. She is a figment of our imaginations.

The Irony of it All

This might seem funny coming from the person writing a blog that often aims to unravel the mystery of the all-mighty French Girl. Believe me, the irony is not lost on me.

When I write about French Girls, I know that I tend to make sweeping generalizations and romanticize the best bits of their culture while totally avoiding the not-so-great parts of it.

Are some French women incredibly chic? Oui oui. Do others have well-behaved children who eat alongside adults at dinner parties where the food is insanely delicious? They sure do.

But some wear color and many don’t have banging bods, and I even know a French woman who hates wine! Blasphemy, I know.

A Petit Grain of Sel

My main point here is to take all this French Girl stuff with a grain of salt.

French girls aren’t perfect. We aren’t perfect and, really, nobody is perfect. Thank god for that! Wouldn’t the world be a boring place if we were all the same?

Of course, I’ll still be here writing about wining, dining, style, and funny French things because I genuinely like this stuff and it makes me happy. If you are here reading this, I guessing you like it all too.

The important thing is that we go on liking and doing this stuff because we choose to do so, not because we’re trying to live up to some unattainable ideal!

A Call to Action for All Women

It’s going to be a tough year where women will need to fight hard to defend our most basic rights.

In light of this monumental task, I propose we stop striving for perfection whether it’s veiled in the idea of the French Girl or whatever version society is serving up to us these days. It’s not really worth it. Plus, I think we’re all pretty amazing just the way we are.

So, here’s to women in 2017!

May we band together and fight the good fight. I promise to be right here beside you in my striped shirt and with a wine bottle at the ready so we can celebrate our successes.

P.S. You can get more information about the Women’s March on Washington and Sister Marches planned in other cities. I’ll be at the one in LA, hope to see you there!

French Connections

December 13, 2016

French Connections | modernfrenchblog.com

T-minus 6 days until the monsieur and I are on a plane headed to Kauai. It turns out that this is our first vacation where it’ll just been the two of us. All prior trips were to visit friends or family; even our honeymoon was spent seeing the French fam. Not that we don’t love spending time with the people we love, but we’re long overdue for a week of beautiful beaches and romantic candlelit dinners. Hawaii here we come!

• This French-inspired print would make the perfect holiday present.
A gal can never have too many tote bags, right?
• If you have any French-loving cooks in your life, then this gift guide has you covered.
5 hosting hacks from a top blogger and fabulous hostess.
• Holiday parties = small talk central. Get some tips here.
Some thoughts on learning French.
• A wine and cheese map that is freakin’ magical. Seriously, try it!
• Garance Doré chats about entertaining with her friends.
• Wine extraordinaire Marissa A. Ross nails it with this short series.

Photo from my Instagram.

French Winter Dinner Party Menu

December 6, 2016

French Winter Dinner Party Menu | modernfrenchblog.com

There is a time for casual get-togethers and a time for a fancy fête, and the holidays are the perfect time to bust out Fancy with a capital F. This is a meal that we usually make a for a small dinner party with French friends on Christmas Eve. It would work equally well for a NYE shindig.

Dinner Party Menu

Apéritif
Potato Chips with Crème Fraiche and Caviar
Veuve Cliquot Brut Champagne

Main Dishes
Coq au Riesling
Mashed Potatoes
Butter Lettuce with Classic French Vinaigrette
Blue Fin Rieseling

Dessert
Camembert Cheese
No Knead Bread
Ravenswood Zinfandel

Dinner Party Tips and Tricks

Nothing says fancy like champagne and caviar, so why not start your meal with them? I love easy appetizers like this one where you basically spoon a little caviar and crème fraiche on a potato chip and call it a day.

As you may have already figured out, a slowly cooked stew or braise is my dinner party secret (see the Moroccan stew and vegan beet bourguignon from prior dinner party menus). These types of dishes are the best because you can cook it the day before and reheat the next evening, which leaves you with time to focus on the rest of the menu the day of the dinner party.

I started making this take on coq au vin with Riesling after watching Juliette Binoche cook it in Elles, a French film on Netflix that is worth your while if you find some extra time this winter break. The coq au Riesling is as deliciously decadent as the mashed potatoes, so bringing in a fresh salad with bright dressing is a nice complement to all that creamy goodness.

Unsurprisingly, the best wine to pair with this dinner party menu is a Riesling; I like the Blue Fin Riesling at Trader Joe’s. Once you get to the cheese hour, I highly suggest you turn to a Californian Zin. The heartiness of a wine like the Ravenswood Zinfandel (also available at ole Trader Joe’s) cuts through the creaminess of the Camembert and helps highlight the cheese’s herbal notes.

Of course, homemade bread is an ideal companion for wine and cheese. It’s also a great thing to pop into the oven right before the dinner party so that your guests are welcomed with the wonderful smell of fresh-baked bread and you get awarded 100 hostess points. No knead bread takes about two days to make because it needs to rest for long periods of time so plan accordingly.

Almost everything for this dinner party can be purchased from Trader Joe’s with the exception of the caviar, purple potato chips (unless you sub for regular potato chips), and yeast for the no-knead bread (unless you forego homemade bread and pick up a loaf of Pain Rustique).

Trader Joe’s offers a superb Camembert cheese in a circular wooden package from mid-November through the end of December. They also have another Camembert cheese that is sold as a triangular wedge wrapped in plastic almost year-round.

If you are wondering how and where to buy caviar, I found this article to be helpful. Brace yourself for the price though, caviar ain’t cheap and the appetizer recipe requires three tins (or upwards of 90 grams of caviar). You can probably skate by with two tins for a smaller dinner party group.

This is probably a good time to point out that this is not a cheap dinner party menu at all. Fancy with a capital F can lead to lots of dollar signs! If you want to keep your costs down, I suggest keeping the guest list small (4-6 people being ideal) and asking your guests to bring the champagne and wine should also help save a few bucks.

P.S. A French dinner party menu for vegans or you could just go out for dinner in Long Beach at one of the restaurants on this list.

Holiday Gift Guide for Minimalists

November 29, 2016

Holiday Gift Guide for Minimalists | modernfrenchblog.com

Don’t you just love the holidays? Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, all the twinkling lights, and the wonderful smell of pine trees. It really is the most wonderful time of the year.

Though the act of giving a gift is fun, shopping for them can quickly suck the magic out of the holidays. The list below should help alleviate some of the stress whether you are a shopping for a minimalist or are one yourself.

Sur la Table Cooking Class

Experiences are the perfect gift for a minimalist, and a cooking class is a great way to hone cooking skills whether your loved one is a novice in the kitchen or an expert chef. Extra points if you can afford two classes and you spend an afternoon or evening together. Sur la Table consistently has the best teachers and they also offer a wide variety of times and themes.

Salami of the Month Club

Give the gift that keeps on giving with a Salami of the Month Club from Olympia Provisions. For twelve months, you’ll receive a different salami with a brief explanation and pairing notes. Best enjoyed with a little wine, a couple of cornichons, and good company, bien sûr. If the salami subscription price is too steep, you could spring for the French Salami Sampler instead. Vive le cured meat!

Super Fancy Wine Bottle

Buy a wine bottle they’d never purchase for themselves (i.e. a very expensive one). As always, Trader Joe’s is a great place to get your wine. I’d go for the Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon or a bottle of champagne such as Veuve Cliquot or Piper Heidsieck. It would also be fun to gather your favorite affordable wine bottles together and gift them as a set of 4, 6, or even 12.

Bon Appétit Magazine Subscription

There’s nothing I love more than coming home and finding a new issue of Bon Appétit in the mailbox. Immediately devouring the issue is half the fun, but the magazine also pushes you to try new recipes and becomes an inspiration for dinner parties. Twelve magazines acquired over a year doesn’t necessarily take up a ton of space, but going digital will satisfy the soul of your minimalist.

Homemade Wine Gummy Bears

Cookies are nice and all, but perhaps a little over done. And, since I’m being brutally honest here, a box of chocolates falls in the same category. So, why not take an afternoon and make a big batch of boozy gummy bears with this easy recipe? Red wine gummies are a crowd pleaser and your gals pals will surely love the rosé-flavored ones. If wine is not your thing, then you can make these Campari grapefruit gummies.

Collection of Favorite Recipes

If you love to spend time in the kitchen, you’ve probably gathered your fave recipes into one spot already. A fellow cook would love access to all that deliciousness! There are a few ways to gift a recipe collection: 1) Use Molly’s tutorial for recipe cards, 2) print recipes and put them in a binder or scrapbook, or 3) create a Tumblr blog of recipes just for them.

Museum Membership

As head of membership at the local aquarium, I am totally and completely biased when I suggest purchasing your loved ones a membership to a local museum, zoo, or aquarium. That said, it truly is a great deal and allows for unlimited visits to a place that is both fun and educational. Plus, membership dollars almost always support the organization itself. Win win!

P.S. A cheese dome or a cast iron skillet also make great gifts.

Introducing The Long Beach Restaurant Guide

November 15, 2016

The Long Beach Restaurant Guide

Drum roll please! Today I’m introducing The Long Beach Restaurant Guide. A list of all the best places to wine and dine in this fair city that we call home.

Even though I was born and raised in Long Beach, moving back here a few years ago was admittedly tough. It didn’t take long to figure out that my high school hang outs weren’t suitable date night spots. Although sometimes I wish I would have made the monsieur hang out in the Jack in the Box parking lot just for old time’s sake.

After a lot of (tasty) research, we’ve landed on a pretty lengthy list of favorites. While the fare ranges from re-invented Latin American to modern Vietnamese and classic Italian, they all have one thing in common: good food and good wine that you can enjoy with your loved ones.

Enjoy zee guide and bon appétit!

Three Real Ways to Be French

November 1, 2016

Three Real Ways to Be French | modernfrenchblog.com

Be chic! Drink wine! Eat cheese! The world is happy to give you advice on how to be French (this blog included), but you can’t pinpoint an entire country into a few sweeping generalizations.

In the real world, some French folks are dowdy and many choose to wear color over black. I even met a Frenchie who preferred beer to wine! Blasphème, non?

However, there are three things that all French people have in common whether they’re from the fields of Provence, the swanky coast of Nice, or the bustling city of Paris. These things are easy enough so that you too can join in and add a few French habits to your daily life.

Fill Your Glass Halfway

Prepare yourself for the easiest and fastest way to become French. Get a glass, fill it halfway, and, boom, you are now French. Extra points if the glass is small.

This may be (surprisingly) tough for Americans as we’re taught to grab the biggest vessel possible and fill it to the brim with whatever we’re drinking. However, this is how drinks are poured in France whether it’s water, beer, juice, or soda.

So far, I haven’t figured out the exact reason why the French seem to only drink from glasses that are half full. There is probably some optimist/pessimist metaphor hidden in this simple act, but it seems to be habit more than anything else.

Perfect Your Resting Duck Face

Though I’ve picked up a few French words here and there, pronunciation continues to be incredibly tough. New sounds, silent letters, and things that sound nothing like the way they are spelled (here’s looking at you French “r”).

Part of the trouble is that my English-speaking mouth isn’t trained for French. There are certain muscles and lip-pursing positions that are really hard to make!

It’s these mouth muscles we Americans lack that give French people what I call Resting Duck Face. They’re lips are slightly puckered and often rest just barely apart. It’s a look that adds an extra dose of sexiness and helps to make up the whole allure of the French.

Wipe Guilty Pleasure from Your Vocabulary

A while back Michael Pollan shared a study about global food attitudes. The survey asked people from different countries what came to mind when they heard the words “chocolate cake.” Americans most often replied with “guilt” while the French mainly said “celebration.”

Why are we Americans so adverse to pleasure? Perhaps it’s our Puritan roots or that we’ve started to believe what advertisers tell us about guilty pleasures.

Either way, let’s take a page from the French book of life and start enjoying the little things. Lose yourself in every morsel of that slice of chocolate cake. Delight in every minute of your romantic comedy marathons. If it makes you happy, who the heck cares?

Conclusion

Being French is a lot easier than it’s made out to be. Simply fill your glasses halfway, perfect the pucker of your lips (aka your Resting Duck Face), and enjoy your guilt-free chocolate cake.

Of course, I’m kidding here. Like many other cultures and people around the world, the French are a very nuanced people and they are more complicated than half-full glasses of water.

However, it is pretty fun to note the small cultural differences between the Americans and zee French. And if anyone figures out the “why” behind the glass thing please feel free to comment below and fill me in.

P.S. French-inspired products you can buy at Trader Joe’s and five ways to dress like a French Girl.

Wine Review: Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Réserve

October 19, 2016

Good Cheap Wine: Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Réserve | modernfrenchblog.com

Wine: Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Réserve
Region: France
Retailer: Trader Joe’s
Price: $6.99

One perk of marrying a Frenchman is that you now have a mini sommelier with you at all times.

I love to watch the monsieur choose wine. He’ll stand in the aisle staring at all the bottles and I can practically see him rifling through all the folders in his brain full of info about different regions, grape varietals, and more. This Côtes du Rhône was a product of one of our recent trips to Trader Joe’s and quickly became a favorite.

Though a Côtes du Rhône can be a blend of up to 23 grapes, this one is a traditional “GSM blend” meaning it comes from Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre grapes. It results in an herbal, earthy nose. Tastes are subtle yet strong with hints of red fruits. There is also something spicy and almost peppery there too. On a final tasting note, the finish is dry and long in a good way.

You can pair this wine with practically anything. Our friends just poured a Côtes du Rhône along with roasted chicken and a pumpkin side dish. It was heavenly. You can also serve it with roasted lamb, your Thanksgiving turkey, or a cheese and charcuterie board.

It’s versatile enough to serve alongside Northern African dishes, Mediterranean food, stirfry, or even pizza (yes pizza!). Overall, it’s an easygoing wine that goes down easy, which is just how we like it in laidback Southern California.

P.S. Another laidback wine for lazy days and a pinot noir IN A CAN.

French Connections

October 4, 2016

French Connections | modernfrenchblog.com

The monsieur and I are currently caught in a whirlwind of work so all we can think about is a Hawaiian vacation where we do absolutely nothing. Okay, maybe we’ll do a few things like search out the best shaved ice or go on a hike but most of our days will be eat, sleep, beach, repeat. If you’ve ever been to Kauai, then I’d love to hear your tips. In the meantime, enjoy these wining, dining, and styling links.

15 cabernets under $15 from Trader Joe’s.
• Gotta try this recipe for giant, cheesy puffy dough things.
Something to consider when buying cheap wine. Note to self.
• Vanessa Jackman’s recaps of Paris Fashion Week are always my fave.
A great tutorial on making zee best cheese plate.
• If you’ve got a little chica in your life, then this is the perfect gift.
• The Madewell et Sézane® collection launched today! Youpi!
Rosé gummy bear recipe? Yes way!
• Finally, a workout plan that I can actually get behind.

Photo from my Instagram.

Modern French Wardrobe for Fall and Winter

September 27, 2016

Modern French Wardrobe for Fall and Winter | modernfrenchblog.com

French Girl style is a thing. Believe me, I’ve read every single article, blog post, and book about it. It’s the striped shirt, ballet flats, and trench coat all wrapped up in a little bit of je ne sais quoi.

However, French Girl style may not be a real thing. See, my French girlfriends have styles that are wildly different and I have yet to see one of them dressed exactly like this. Maybe all these perfectly Parisian pieces are just for French wannabes like me?

Whatever the case, this is what I’ll be wearing in the fall and winter. You’ll see a bunch of classic cuts in white and black (so much black). The neutral color palette allows for mixing and matching so getting dressed in the morning is easy breezy.

Most of my clothes come from J Crew, Madewell, Banana Republic, Gap and Uniqlo, but every once in a while I splurge for something big like the Reed Krakoff Atlantique bag or that pair of Chelsea boots in the finest, butteriest leather. It’s the perfect mix of high and low, which is a trick of stylish women everywhere.

Enough musings on French Girl style, let’s get to the heart of what is actually hanging in my closet.

11 Tops: Black tee, white tee, light blue button-up, white button-up, black silk button-up, white long-sleeved tee, black long-sleeve tee, white blouse, black sweater, gray sweater, and striped long-sleeved tee.

6 Jackets and Coats: Navy pea coat, navy cropped trench coat, collarless light down jacket (a great layer under any of the other coats!), black leather motorcycle jacket, black wool toggle coat, and trench coat.

3 Dresses: Long-sleeved black dress, black button-up dress, and black tee dress. Full disclosure: I have a three dresses that aren’t pictured here including a super cute dress from the Gap x Vena Cava collection a few years back.

7 Bottoms: Black pleated pleather skirt, black skirt with flared hem, black a-line skirt, black wool skirt, black slacks, dark denim skinny jeans, and black skinny jeans.

8 Shoes: Black patent pumps, silver pumps, black high heels, red ballet flats, black booties, black Chelsea boots, black kitten heel pumps, and black ballet flats.

Accessories: Cat-eye sunglasses, black aviator glasses, black structured purse, black envelope clutch, black beanie, camel scarf, and gray scarf. I also have two pairs black tights (one matte and the other opaque) and a small collection of jewelry that are not shown here.

P.S. How to dress like a French Girl in the spring and summer and five ways to dress like the French.