Let them eat cake!
Any Foodie might be tempted to side with the French aristocracy and laud Marie Antoinette as perhaps the very first exuberant pastry reviewer.
But that would be so wrong… and so 1%...
Celebrating Bastille Day is bound to be one of mixed messages.
Life, Liberty and the pursuit of all things French – especially culinary – and less about the raison d’etre for the French national holiday.
A bit of French history is in order. After all, shouldn't one know the history of all things related to the storming of the Bastille in 1789 before enjoying that next glass of Lillet aperitif or Moët & Chandon Champagne?
In the purest sense Bastille Day marks France’s Independence Day from the tyranny of its aristocracy – not a foreign power or invader as in the US Independence Day.
Before there was the Broadway show or the movie, Les Misérables, there is the basis of the literary reverence in Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities published in 1859.
One yearns to know that cultural enthusiasts of all sorts know in some way, the iconic literary opening:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way …
The storming of the Bastille launched the French Revolution.
On the other hand, the events of Les Misérables (in English that means a “pauper”) took place some 30 years later. In a different century – about 1832.
Victor Hugo wrote Les Misérables published in 1869 as the income gap widened. (Yikes, so 1% redolent)
That both Anglo and French literary artists chronicled the French Revolution and all things celebrating Bastille Day is so fitting for Americans who owe so much to the French for helping our own country’s revolution and fight for independence and freedom from tyranny.
We couldn’t have done it without our French friends.
So to better mark that spirit of shared freedoms, liberty and the pursuit of all things happy, here’s a few suggestions to extend the celebration of all things French.
After all, the party doesn’t need to end Juillet 14. It’s Bastille Week!
Le Midi Restaurant – so named for the area of le midi in the south of France.
Here in Gotham the restaurant is south of, well, 14th Street – in lower Manhattan!
It is conveniently located near Union Square on 13th Street and evokes a corner bistro ambience just the same.
It tries mightily to be that neighborhood haunt that can be found in the best arrondissements and no unlike the favorite bar they sang about on Cheers – that place where you go every day.
With a prix-fixe Bastille Day menu of $39 for a complete dinner package (a glass of sparkling wine, choice of appetizers (the escargot is a must-have and an all-too-rare-discovery on Gotham’s menus these days), entrée and dessert -- it was a delicious value – especially for the 99 percenters.
Monday night the restaurant was trés bustling and buzzy – a full bar crowd, too bon vivant, eating and drinking at the wide marble bar that looks half a block long.
We were hoping to dine at the bar for our wedding anniversary but not a chance. A table in the well appointed dining room was fine, though.
It was a party in full swing while black & white French Films play out against the length of wall above the wide-open bar. Think a drive in movie screen – indoors. With a French twist.The charming French actress, Audrey Tautou was in star form – looking like she could readily take the reins as France’s new-age Marianne, the national symbol of France, from long-time favorite Catherine Deneuve.
The delightful and dedicated owner, Andy, who gets his inspired food and drink creations while biking around the Le Midi region of France - provided a brilliant wine selection: Rasteau Domaine Fond Cruze 2010. It was smooth, rich and was a perfect partner to the evening’s steak frites entrée.
The evening’s only miss-steps were the very long wait time between the appetizer and entrée. (The kitchen was too busy?) and my dinner partner’s hangar steak was far too rare/raw – not the medium he ordered. They took it back and remedied the situation but this was the second time this happened here…
Crème brulee dessert and coffee were tasty and hit the right note to conclude the meal.
Frequent Le Midi for French Country menus and it will soon become your local bistro – a home away from home.
There is a $24.95 daily prix-fixe menu available 5pm to 6:30pm and one can order online too for good food delivered toute suite.
Le Midi Bar & Restaurant
11. East 13th Street
New York, NY 10003
Cercle Rouge hosted a pétanque tournament all weekend to celebrate Bastille Day. Pétanque is the French-flavored European game “boules” or the Italian bocce -- akin to outdoor lawn bowling but played on sand – with balls (hence the moniker “boules”) not pins. Maybe Boules/Pétanque is more akin to horseshoes but with a target that can move. By the way, the target is called a “cochonnet” – French for “piglet.”
Best to get back to the food and drink.
Cercle Rouge turned the area in front of the restaurant into a sand-covered street where the pétanque teams fought it out to win a round-trip airline ticket to Marseille, France courtesy of XL Airways France.
Fans could watch the game tournament while dining and sipping the fruity and refreshing French aperitif, Lillet.
241 West Broadway
New York, NY 10013
A sister restaurant, Tabac, is a Brooklyn-based bistro offering authentic, classic French food too, and an ambience that is right out of a Goddard film.
Located in Cobble Hill, Tabac claims the neighborhood is “home to the largest Bastille Day celebration in the Americas” as its owner Georges Forgeois created the event 11 years ago, covering Smith Street in sand for the pétanque tournament there.
Here too, patrons marked Bastille Day festivities with the un, deux, trois – triple treat of the tournament, French fare and Lillet aperitif: a sponsor of the pétanque tournaments.
The popularity of the Bastille Day party soon led to more, please – and so Bastille Week was launched. So no surprise the phrase “Trés Brooklyn” was sure to follow – in France - celebrating all things foodie and trendy in Brooklyn!
All week the two restaurants will offer special French inspired dishes, cocktails, themed Happy Hours (could one get any happier?!) Lillet and other aperitifs and pétanque.
128 Smith Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
For some curious reason news of the winning teams was not readily available. This Examiner called the restaurants and emailed for the results. Yesterday, the names were shared of the winning teams and the winners of the airline tickets to Marseilles. Congratulations.
Gagnants Cercle Rouge 11 Juillet 2014:
1. Bruce Janovsky
2. Mark Wright
Gagnants Bar Tabac 13 Juillet 2014: