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.

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.