Category Archives: French

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.