French Words: Chin-Chin (or How to Say Cheers In French)

September 13, 2016

French Words: Chin-Chin (or How to Say Cheers In French) | modernfrenchblog.com

The act of saying cheers in France is serious business. There are subtle rules built on years of tradition that turn a simple act into a cherished ritual.

First, you must wait for everyone to be served. Then, you raise your drink and say cheers while being sure to clink glasses with everyone at the table. This seems easy enough.

However, here’s where it gets hard. While clinking, it’s extremely important that you 1) do not cross someone else’s arm to clink another person’s glass, 2) look everyone in the eye when your glasses meet, and 3) acknowledge everyone in the group whether it’s an actual cheers or a head nod from across the table.

Sound stressful? It kind of is! No worries though because the French have no problem correcting your behavior so you end up learning pretty quick. Plus, practice makes perfect, non? Just in case you need another excuse for wine time (wink wink).

Now that we’ve gone over how to cheers in France, let’s go over the French words you say. You can always use santé, a vôtre santé, or à la vôtre. These expressions basically wish the other person good health and are regularly used.

However, being a laidback Californian gal, I prefer to use the more casual chin-chin, which is sometimes spelled tchin-tchin. It is pronounced cheen cheen, which is kinda cute in my book. Perhaps it’s a repetition thing because I also love the word boui-boui. Je ne sais pas…

Above all, I love the chin-chin because it means one thing: Drinks are present and it’s time to celebrate. So, next time you raise a glass, do it the French way with a casual chin-chin!

P.S. A great wine from Trader Joe’s to cheers with and great music to play in the background.

How to Organize Your Recipes with Gmail

August 30, 2016

How to Organize Your Recipes with Gmail | modernfrenchblog.com

Once I started getting into cooking, I quickly amassed a collection of recipes ripped from magazine pages, scrolled on pieces of scratch paper, and hastily bookmarked online.

At one point, I got tired of trying to hunt down my favorite recipes and decided I needed a place where I could easily access all of them. After some trial and error, I finally settled on a recipe saving system using Gmail.

Why You Should Organize Your Recipes with Gmail

Gmail is an easy, digital way to save your favorite recipes.

You don’t have to install a new app on your phone, which means you don’t have to keep track of yet another username and password. It’s also pretty accessible, especially if you are like me and are always logged into your email with your phone (almost permanently) attached to your hand.

Another plus is that it’s super easy to share recipes. If someone asks, just find the requested recipe and forward it along to your friend. Boom, done.

How to Organize Your Recipes with Gmail

The basic premise is that you email recipes to yourself and save them in a special folder in Gmail. Though fairly straightforward, here’s a detailed description of how to go about it.

1. Scroll down the left sidebar of Gmail and click on “Create a New Label.” Type “Recipes” into the box under “Please enter a new label name” and then click on “Create” to create the digital folder where you can gather your emailed recipes.

2. Start a new email and enter the recipe you want to save. If it’s online, simply cut and paste it into the body of the email. If it’s an old family recipe, then take the time to type it out or snap a photo of the handwritten recipe.

3. Now it’s time to organize your recipe within the email. Warning, it’s about to get a little OCD! First, put the recipe title in the subject line of the email. Then, organize the recipe in the body of the email using the following format: Ingredients, Preparation, Tags, Source, and Link.

Tags are like hashtags or keywords that will help you find a recipe and can be as detailed as you want them to be. You might tag a recipe with the meal (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) or recipe type (like starter, main dish, side dish, or dessert). You could even include key ingredients.

Since this is all a little esoteric, here’s an example of what a recipe looks like. Bonus! This is a Guamanian recipe from my mom’s side of the family that’s pretty darn tasty.

Chicken Kelaguen

Ingredients
6-8 pieces of chicken (legs and thighs preferred)
1 small yellow onion
2-4 lemons
Small bunch of green onions
1 fresh coconut (optional)
1 serrano pepper (optional)

Preparation
Salt and pepper chicken to taste. BBQ chicken on grill until just barely cooked through (don’t worry, the lemon juice will cook it the rest of the way). Take chicken off grill and let cool. Separate meat from the bone and chop into fine pieces.

Finely chop onion and mix with the chopped chicken. Add lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste. If you have access to a fresh coconut, halve the coconut and grate it with a hand grater. Add the grated coconut into the mixture. You may also add in finely chopped peppers if you want a little heat.

Cover and allow to rest in fridge for a few hours. Garnish with sliced green onions before serving.

Tags: LUNCH, DINNER, BBQ, CHICKEN, GUAMANIAN
Source: Family Recipe
Link: N/A

4. Finally, email the recipe to yourself and drag it to the “Recipes” label in your Gmail sidebar.

Et voilà! That’s how you get your first recipe into Gmail. Continue and repeat until you have all your favorites saved via email.

Once your done, you’ll always have your favorite recipes at your fingertips whether you are cooking at a friend’s house, whipping up a meal on vacation, or in the middle of Trader Joe’s trying to remember what you need for your favorite dish.

Do you have a method to organize your recipes? If so, do you store them online or prefer an analog style?

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.