diner en blanc, philadelphia

Since I’ve been trying to get invited to the Diner en Blanc celebrations in Paris and New York for years now, I was overjoyed to find a new Diner en Blanc pique-nique coming our way in August! Here are some photos from the event.

How fabulous! My day finally came when I can fest with others who splurge on smelly cheese and appreciate the timelessness of white as a fashion statement. Diner en blanc is the most refined event to come to Philadelphia since Tory Burch’s birth in 1966.

Diner en Blanc is all the rage because of its secrecy. Invite only, you must pack a picnic. No jest: large baskets, cumbersome tupperware and champagne glasses encouraged! The location is kept quiet (a pop-up party at City Hall? Rittenhouse Square? Art Museum steps?) until the final moment, when throngs of picnic-goers show up basking in the glory of inclusion.


Let me (french wanna-be, cheese enthusiast, lover of clean, classy fashion) be your guide to Diner en Blanc Philadelphia (the above sandwhich was created by me during a real, Parisian picnic at the Cinema en Plein Air).

The Ultimate Philadelphia DEB picnic basket:


Please, I am willing to do anything to attend this event (baking? picnic basket building? I’ll even use my trusty Schwinn to transport your items the night of the event to avoid mussing your white frocks!). Send love to a wanna be Frenchie in Philly. Invite her to DEB and make her dreams come true.


Philly Donut Pilgrimage

So the sixth month mark is coming up on my new job, I’ve been living in the city for two months now, and what do I have to show for myself?

Philadellphia City HallCity Hall at NightEl VezMargs and guac at El Vez

Mummers Parade PhiladelphiaThe Mummers Day Parade

I’ve been doing everything everybody else has been doing for a  long time. I am just a little late to be doing it. Exploring Frankford Hall in Northern Liberties, old city classics like Eulogy Belgian Tavern, pretending I am French in Rittenhouse Square’s Parc, and NY day brunch at Sabrina’s in Fairmount has all been really fun and I am finally starting to get a good feel for the city.

This morning, I did something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, but never gathered the strength. I jogged to Federal Donuts for breakfast. After reading about it on blogs, local papers, and even (GASP) the NYT,  it became a realistic connundrum: how do I make it to Federal Donuts before they run out of donuts? With no car, no bike, and no willpower to get up early, the options were seemingly desolate. Then, I used Googlemaps last night to confirm that Federal Donuts is exactly 1.5 miles away from my apartment, making it a clean 3 mile Saturday morning jog (and a clearly counteractive activity).

Let me tell you, this was the cutest little donut shop I’ve ever seen. In the adorable neighborhood near 2nd and Washington, the sweet lady who served me was wearing skinny jeans and had those hipster red lips. Ignore the fact that I was sweating, wearing my workout gear, and in line for a donut. I took an immediate bite and the “cake” exploded in my mouth with buttery, creamy, textury goodness while the spices were sweet yet not overwhelming. The willpower I then used to stop eating and continue jogging was unfathomable, even now as I write this. Luckily, it was packaged in the most charming way that I kept my form tight and managed to make it to my front door and brew some coffee.

Federal DonutsI asked for the Apollonia, and it did not disappoint. A mixture of mocha, orange blossom, and some kind of cinnamon spice –  I loved it! Way better than any donut I’ve ever had. Now, should I jog back for fried chicken tonight?

Good Eats in Bordeaux

On my very strict budget, I can count on my hand the number of times I’ve “eaten out” in France. And let’s be real, most of them were when my dad came to visit. Thanks dad! But for some reason, we wanted to be boss for a weekend in Bordeaux. Go big or go home, right? Here are my recommendations for budget friendly eats in Bordeaux.

Our first culinary delight was in a beautiful little corner of Bordeaux, right past the gallant Porte de la Monnaie. We crossed underneath this arch and entered a gorgeous neighborhood, choosing to eat outside at charming red tables while awaiting the sunset. Our meal started with a homeade gaspacho topped with fresh parmesan, a perfect summer appetizer. I continued with the piece de resistance, confit de canard. You really haven’t lived until you have eaten this. This is heavenly duck leg slowly cooked until the end result is tender, juicy, and flavorful – a typical dish of the Gascony region.

On Saturday night we went to a fresh, local restaurant called Palais des Sauveurs. A little Bordelaise woman and her husband Gilles opened this quaint restaurant, off the beaten track and known only to locals. A cozy room distinguished by its tables set with mismatching dishware, I felt almost as if we were eating at the couples house. I had fresh steamed fish with local veggies and wild rice, which was refreshing and light. The menu changes daily according to what is in season, but always features their delicous savory tarts. The best part, however, is the homeade cakes and sweets for dessert. They also have an extensive list of teas – so if nothing else, be sure to stop here for tea and dessert after an afternoon of sightseeing. I had a dense, dark chocolate cake topped with lots of ripe strawberries. Miam miam.

We were lucky enough to be in Bordeaux on a Sunday, so headed to the Marché des Chartrons. This wonderful Sunday market along the river was what I hope heaven will be like. Tables filled with seafood and white wine, appetizing pastries like Cannelés de Bordeaux, runners jogging by the river, and gourmet cheeses calling my name. The ambiance was so calm and relaxing, a perfect Sunday activity.

After walking around, Craig and I sat down to eat at a table that was offering grilled meats and vegetables. I basked in the sunlight while Craig ordered for us. Poor Craig “accidentally” ordered duck heart – claiming he never thought “coeur de canard” could actually be the heart of a duck. He put on a good face and tried it anyway, but I still couldn’t stop calling him a duck heart consumer.

The moral of the story is that you can’t order wrong in France, until you order duck heart. Or Andouillettes. But that’s another story for another time.

Bar Cave de la Monnaie, 34 rue Porte-de-la-Monnaie
Tél : 05 56 31 12 33

Le Palais des Saveurs, 69 Rue Palais Gallien
Tél: 05 56 81 22 09

Marché des Chartrons, quai des Chartrons, 7am-1pm Sundays

American baking in France

I love to bake. My mom is an amazing baker, and everytime there was a particularly cold day, I remember my mom whipping up some homemade brownies or toffee bars. In the summer, she makes melt-in-your mouth peach and blueberry cobbler (if we are lucky with fresh whipped cream!). She emails me about what she’s cooking and I ooze with jealously.

I have tried to use my hidden family recipes in France – clearly to entice French people to be friends with me. For Christmas presents, I made my grandmother’s jam thumbprints and my mom’s chocolate walnut banana bread. I got rave reviews when I got back to France! So when my mom sent me some Ghiardelli chocolate chips (you can’t find chocolate chips in France!), I got a little cocky.

I got so cocky that I tried to make this chocolate chip cookie. Nothing says America more than warm chocolate chip cookies. It was not a fail, but it was not quite like home either. Let me share with you some tips about baking in France.

Flour – I learned from baking God, American/Parisian David Lebovitz, that I can’t use regular flour for American baking. He suggested type 65 flour, which you can find in the organic section of the food store (or in super-marchés you can find it in the flour section).

Baking Soda – David says you can find sodium bicarbonate in pharmacies, as that is the official term for baking soda (obviously). I found these little packets labeled “Levure Chimique,” with a cute little muffin drawn on it. I figured that was what I needed (also, I was afraid to pronounce sodium bicarbonate with a French accent). Luckily, I was right.

Brown Sugar – When we run out of brown sugar in my house, my mom taught me to just add molasses to regular white sugar. However, I was too lazy to run around looking for molasses (and I didn’t know the word was mélasses), so I bought sucre vergeoise, found at most grocery stores. You can also use sucre cassonade.

Butter – I happened to love French butter. Daily, I find myself wondering, “have I had any bread and butter today?” Maybe I have the taste of an 18th century French peasant, but darn, is it good. For baking, I use demi-sel. It is salty and delicious. For those of you with salt aversions, you can use doux.

So ex-pats, if you’ve forgotten how to make your delicious brownies/cupcakes/cookies/treats (that may or may not have contributed to wedding proposals), fear not. You will have the boys weak at the knees just in time for Valentine’s day.

What is your specialty in the kitchen? Happy baking!


So Wednesday was La Chandeleur, and while you all were watching Punxatawny Phil, I was eating crepes (yet another tradition involving food, kind of similar to here and here)! I wanted to take a picture of the warm and delicious pastry filled to the brim with Nutella, but I ate it too fast. So you all can just imagine the tastiness of a homeade crepe and let your taste buds seethe with jealousy.

In the meantime, I leave you with a great explanation of the reasons why we eat crepes here, on Anne’s blog, Pret A Voyager. Off to teach my kiddos about English breakfasts (my dedication to the English language goes cross-cultural!). Bon weekend!

galette des rois

January 6th is not a jour ferié in France, but it is a cake eating day. Do you remember Beaujolais Day? Whether it be cake or wine, I think I could get used to this.

It all started when my rowdy class of seven year olds got a little too excited about their home made cakes. Ms. Brenna, eat our cake! they screamed. How could I say no to their smiling faces? I took one bite of almondy goodness and knew I had made the right decision. But suddenly they screamed, watch out for the feve! The feve? What is the feve? It’s a little man that is in the cake! And if you get it, you are queen Ms. Brenna! Hm. Curious, I ate slowly, secretely hoping to wear the crown and rule France. But alas, my cake was gone and no little man had emerged from its buttery layers. Little Sally got the feve! She beamed from ear to ear, and stood as tall as a seven year old can stand. I grimaced; foiled again by a seven year old!

Traditionally, la galette des rois celebrates the Epiphany. Each region has a specific kind of galette: in Provence, the galette is topped with dried fruits. Here in Lorraine, I’ve seen mostly the “traditional” galette, with frangipane. Once it’s time to actually eat the cake – the French play fair. Typical distribution revolves around the youngest in the group getting under the table, and then picking who gets what piece as it’s cut. This way, there is no cheating. The anglos had a practice round when I was in the US. L won the feve, she did not choke or break any teeth, and she was queen for they night. We’re celebrating round two tonight – cross your fingers for me!

What’s your excuse to eat cake? Laissez-moi un mot :)

Adapting to the French Diet

So, if you haven’t read French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano, and you don’t know the secret, I’ll let you in on it.

You see, the top obese countries in the world are all English speaking. Why is that, you ask? Experts think it is because they are adopting the American diet.

I was certainly not the typical American consumer. While living in the US, I was addicted to Self and Women’s Health magazines, I ate mass quantities of hummus and greek yogurt, and I checked the labels on everything. I would describe myself as the typical American twenty-something-health-conscious. When I didn’t have time to eat (between class/late night bartending/meetings/etc) I would have an apple and a nutrition bar. I often found myself having five small meals a day rather than three. I ate because I was hungry and needed fuel, not for enjoyment.

Here, my attitude towards food has change completely. French people eat a small breakfast with a hot drink to “warm the body,” a long and lunch around 1 pm, and a big dinner with yogurt, fruit, or cheese for dessert. Never, ever, will you see a French person eating a Luna bar for dinner. In fact, energy bars are hard to find; you might see them only in organic food stores. Never, ever, ever, will you see a French woman eating a “snack”. My host mother used to tell me, even if you are really hungry, it’s better to wait. At first, this shocked me; when I’m hungry, I eat! Silly American girl, my host mother would shake her head in typical French disapproving fashion. Yet another reason French people think Americans take, take, take, without thinking about the consequences.

Nowadays, I never check the labels on anything. I grab full-fat cheese at the marché, put fromage blanc in my oatmeal, and never skimp on the extra helping of baguette (no, not whole wheat baguette, just baguette). Does my diet include a much higher fat content? Yes. Do my pants still fit? Yes. If they’re any tighter, it’s because of French pastry. But that’s another story for another time (French people don’t eat dessert – but as I am on a mission to try every pastry France produces, I haven’t adhered to that rule so much).

The point is, food is a passion, something to be enjoyed and savored. I am much happier here eating food that I truly enjoy, than in the US constantly worrying about calories and feeling guilty after I’ve eaten something “bad”.

How can you eat like a Frenchie? Make a bigger effort to include other people in your meals. Live alone? Invite a friend over once a week for dinner. Don’t skip your lunch hour. Try and cook everything yourself, without substituting anything “instant” or “frozen”. Don’t be afraid of butter, cream, or cheese. It keeps you full longer! Stop fighting against the food industry and start eating for pleasure.

thanksgiving recap

I had the most wonderful Thanksgiving possible, considering I was far from my friends and family. The Americans, and of course my Scottish boy, worked so hard to make the day special. To top it off, it was my first white Thanksgiving!

The turkey was in large a gift from a friend I met here in Verdun, who has connections to the turkey business. He handed it off to A, who went above and beyond his call of duty; while brining the turkey overnight, he had no choice but to leave it outside (it wouldn’t fit in the fridge or freezer). He set his alarm for 3 AM to go check on it, and flip it around! Then, he recruited the chefs at the school he works at to cook the turkey for him.

The other challenges included finding sweet potatoes (I bought all that the supermarket had), ovens, and cranberries (C substituted with sour cherries, whatever they are). L even borrowed a mouliner from her students at the professional school for her delicious mashed potatoes. Overall, everything turned out delicious; even the French were impressed with our cooking skills.

Nothing was sweeter than being surrounded by the people who have made an effort to help me out in my new home. A toasted – in beautiful French – and we sat down to slowly enjoy a meal together.

Merci à tout pour un très belle soirée !

beaujolais day

Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!

The new beaujolais wine is here! Last night was even more exciting than Christmas Eve, as Frenchies everywhere awaited the arrival of Beaujolais’ new wines. The tradition of celebrating the new harvest has become very popular in France, as people race to be the first to try the goods of the season. I had never heard of this tradition before, but find it absolutely divine! National wine parties are just my style.

Tonight, I’ll be heading to my friend’s house for a petit dégustation. Yesterday, one of my co-workers took me on a beautiful tour of Verdun and the battlefields; I learned so much about my new city and the history of the horrible war. Updates to come!

I will trinquer to you this evening! Santé!