Category Archives: Culture

Cool On! A Francophile’s Guide to Summer in the City, Pt I 

The best summer days are defined by each Brooklynite’s attitude. If you’re positive, light on your feet, addicted to yoga and meditation and don’t mind sticky and sweaty humidity in the subway, then please create a blog so that I can easily follow you, and learn from the best at appreciating life and all that it has to offer.

But if you’re in my category of need to lose ten or more pounds when you’re a foodie, addicted to Époisses, creamy mushroom sauces, binging Netflix while eating, and southern California-dreaming, then have no fear fellow frenchie. Here is one surefire way to combat your negatives.

Finding chill things to do during the summer months, when Brooklyn and Manhattan are bursting at the seams with fantastic and often free, or cheap, events to attend is easy enough, but now made even easier by the following list of francophile-approved activities.

Of the list, I am mostly looking forward to the huge Smith Street Bastille Festival hosted by Bar Tabac among other French-American sponsors, the Banana Farm for free French cookies, and two French films at Transmitter Park, presented by the Films on the Green festival.

June 1-7
One Sings, the Other Doesn’t
BAM
30 Lafayette Ave
Brooklyn NY 11217
718-636-4100 ext 1
Tickets: https://www.bam.org/film/2018/one-sings-the-other-doesnt
A 1977 film that follows two women who, in the midst of life’s wins and losses, become great friends and create a bond stronger than space. Even after their lives go in different directions, their experiences continue to motivate each other to live inspiring lives in action. Sounds like the French appreciate and understand the beauty and power of genuine sisterhood.

June 3 and July 7
Fey Nan Bwa: A Haitian Herb and Song Workshop with Sirene
The Wyckoff House Museum
5816 Clarendon Road
Brooklyn, NY 11203

Having Christian parents from the South, I’ve always been one to avoid Vodou like it’s the plague, but this workshop might shine a light on the truth about Vodou’s connection to nature and its challenge to conventional medicine. Look for an upcoming guide to Haitian culture and restaurants in Brooklyn, “Flatbush Vodou: Brooklyn’s Little Haiti,” on BKfrench.com

June 7 and every 1st Thursday
Open House at the Banana Farm-French Cookies A Go-Go
The Banana Farm – Michel et Augustin
98 4th Street, #106
Brooklyn, NY 11231, FREE
646-820-0935
7pm to 8pm

A name like Banana Farm is all I need to excite my palette for sweets. I’m not particularly fond of bananas unless they’re in a cream pie but something about “bananas” just stirs my sweet tooth up. If you need more of an incentive, the Banana Farm’s Open House includes a “supersonic cookie tasting,” and a baking lesson among other sweet reasons to attend.

June 8
Paulin Soumanou Vieyra Shorts
Maysles Cinema
343 Malcolm X Boulevard
New York, NY 10027
212-537-6843
6:30pm–9:30pm

A showing of three controversial Senegalese short films by Vieyra—one of which was censored by the Senghor government, another selected by the Cannes Film Festival 50 years ago, and another instrumental and groundbreaking for Senegalese film—is sure to be uniquely informative, sometimes depressing and sometimes entertaining.

June 9
Creole Food Festival
DL Rooftop Lounge
95 Delancey Street
New York, NY 10002
3pm-8pm
212-228-0909

Look at this beautiful melting pot called Creole. A delicious cultural gumbo of about 30 different countries that will come together in celebration of the cuisine that unites and defines them. If I hadn’t already purchased my ticket for Saint Joan on Broadway, I’d be yummin’ up some Creole food from five different global regions.

June 13
Je Suis: A Theatrical Dining Experience 
Bisou Bisou
264 Carlton Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11205
7:30pm-10pm
718-624-4075

Yet another reason to admire the very quaint Bisou Bisou, besides its name, its cute and warm-in-the-winter space, and its speakeasy vibe that’s perfect for date night cocktails is a cabaret dinner dedicated to 1920s Paris. I AM, a female group of three performers, will make its exciting debut NYC appearance, which will honor the artistry of cabaret icon Edith Piaf.

June 1-Sept 6
Films on the Green
I’m hoping to see La Bûche and Garçon, the only two films presented in Greenpoint’s beautiful Transmitter Park by the “Films on the Green” festival. Showing in various NYC parks, this free festival offers up 12 French films about the dynamics between the art of French cooking and culture. Some of the other films are a tempting reason to take a subway ride into the City.

More Info: http://frenchculture.org/events/8052-films-green-2018

“La Bûche”
Transmitter Park
Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY, FREE
June 22, 8:30pm
http://frenchculture.org/events/8042-la-buche

“Garçon”
Transmitter Park
Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY, FREE
June 29, 8:30pm
http://frenchculture.org/events/8043-garcon

June 26
Dahlia Dumont
Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza
Part of the Arts Walk Bk, FREE
718-230-2100

Being a clear reflection of its influences, The Blue Dahlia’s music is a beautiful blend of its group’s backgrounds—American, French, Senegalese, Japanese, Argentinian, and Mexican—and then some. Imagine French chanson and reggae living side by side, in the same song. Now have a listen and confirm the only label it needs is happy music. Check out France Rocks for more contemporary, French-inspired music.

July 2-15
French Restaurant Week
Multiple locations

Of the 20 NYC bistros and brasseries featured in “French Restaurant Week,” none are located in Brooklyn. Such a shame because Brooklyn is home to quite a few great classic French and French-fusion restos that deserve a lot of attention.

That being said, I’m looking forward to Jubilee’s tasting of mussels (prepared three ways), the whimsical puff pastry of chicken and shrimp in a cream sauce at Deux Amis, and Boucherie’s Pistachio Bombe Glacee. Nothing looks more insanely decadent than the pouring of rich, silky-smooth, warm dark chocolate over a dome of ice cream. I can’t wait!

July 14
Downtown Brooklyn’s Bastille Day Celebration 
MetroTech Commons
Brooklyn, NY 11201, FREE
10:30am – 4:00pm

My love/dislike relationship with sometimes snooty Downtown Bk won’t stop me from attending (at least a small part of) this celebration, which includes a Petanque Tournament, live music and food. The celebration is hosted by La Defense, a notable French-American restaurant that serves traditional bistro fare in an American diner’s space.

July 15
Bar Tabac’s Bastille Day Celebration
Smith Street Festival and Pétanque Tournament
128 Smith Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
718-923-0918
12:00pm-10pm

For some reason, probably the lengthy amount of really great bars and restos, the snootiness of Smith Street has never affected me. Bar Tabac hosts this chill neighborhood’s Bastille Day Celebration which brings thousands of people from all over the world. Smith Street’s Festival is also a Petanque tournament with live music and food. Its only difference from Downtown BK’s Bastille Day Celebration is the down-to-earth charm of Smith Street and the people that love it.

July 24
Saint-Saëns’ Samson Et Dalila Ballet
(Opera HD screening)
FIAF Florence Gould Hall
55 East 59th Street
New York, NY 10022
800-745-3000
1pm (on July 24th premiere)

It isn’t very moi to purchase tickets to a French Opera Ballet. 1) It’s far away in Midtown East. 2) It’s an Opera Ballet. And 3) the subject matter is a biblical tale with complex characters at its center. But the above three reasons that make it “not for me” are also the reasons I should probably attend. I might just learn something.

Photo by Eddi Aguirre on Unsplash

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French Plus One: 6 of Brooklyn’s Best French-Fusion Restos

My favorite thing about French cuisine is its ability to pair with any other cuisine, to become an important part of it and, in turn, to make the other cuisine an important part of French cuisine, too. Why can’t relationships between people be that easy?

Or, maybe people fusion is that simple? If French cuisine were a person, I suppose it would have acquired many lovers that it never could say goodbye to, almost like a person that would prefer a relationship with two or more people at the same time, than one or none.

The following list spotlights Cajun, Mexican-French, and Senegalese eateries that produce beautiful, delicious and, in some cases, downright genius results of culinary multi-cultural relationships. Tchoup Shop’s shrimp and grits, Jolie Cantina’s duck confit quesadilla, and Cafe Rue Dix’s Yassa Guinar are tasty proof that polyamorous cooking is all love.

Darling NOLA Feasts: Cajun and Creole Cuisine

The Big Easy is a top-five spot on my travel bucket list. Its native cooking styles are two good reasons. Cajun and Creole are, in my opinion, vintage varieties of French-fusion cuisine due to their mixed cultural origins, heavy French influences and unique inclusions of the French palette.

Until I win my beads on Bourbon Street, or taste the original French-fusion cooking in the French Quarter, I’ll make do with exciting eats at Tchoup Shop (Tchoup is pronounced chop) and Lowerline while I dream of hurricanes, beignets and meeting the cast of “Southern Charm: New Orleans.”

Tchoup Shop
My mouth is watering, as I create a healthy list of Tchoup Shop must-tries: the crispy chicken biscuit sandwich, shrimp and grits, veggie hoppin’ john, cheesy crawfish bread, and famous duck and okra gumbo. I know that’s several mouthfuls to order, but I’m sure I’ll go back again and again to this popular Bushwick bar with Cajun aka Louisiana “country” cuisine to find favorites while checking off my must-try list.
Tchoup Shop, 50 Wycoff Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11237, (929) 234-3500
 
Lowerline
Lowerline receives high praise for bringing casual Creole soul to Prospect Heights. Specializing in fresh oysters, this quaint and casual Louisiana-street namesake delivers a short but sweet menu for seafood-ies like moi. The oyster po-boy, fresh oysters and the crawfish étouffée all tempt my low-country roots. Can’t wait to try ‘em!
Lowerline, 794 Washington Ave, Brooklyn NY 11238, (347) 533-7110, https://www.lowerlinebk.com

Fiesta y Fête: Mexican-French Cuisine

When the Millionaire Margarita recipe—tequila, lime juice, orange juice, simple syrup and Cointreau—was revealed to me, I should’ve realized then that the Mexican-French combo was undeniably great. But I recently had a lightbulb moment when I googled French fusion in NY and found that Mexican-French cuisine was and still is a hit. After finding quite a few spots that serve Mexican croques, I’m a staunch believer in the perfect Latino/Catalan bite.
 
Jolie Cantina
It’s French! It’s Mexican! It’s more than just a “pretty bar” on Smith Street. In fact, pretty isn’t the word I’d call Jolie Cantina’s bar area, which is also home to a bicycle that delightfully hangs from the ceiling. How Avant-Garde! But the lobster chilaquiles, duck enchiladas and croque señorita—substitutes ham in the croque madam with chorizo—are all pretty creative dishes. Jolie Cantina’s shrimp fajitas are tasty but not a sizzling hot example of Mexican-French fusion, rather a more traditional version of the dish.
Jolie Cantina, 241 Smith St, Brooklyn, NY 11231, (718) 488-0777, https://www.joliecantina.com

Santos Anne

If the Santos Anne’s dinner menu doesn’t sufficiently rep its fusion theme, check out its cocktail list. Smokey, refreshing, floral and spicy, the drinks at Santos Anne are unapologetically multiculti, if not crave-worthy. I’d start with a Fleur Spritz, a floral accompaniment perfect for a light appetizer. A Gentleman’s Sidekick, a strong and sweet drink similar to a boulevardier, would be a delightful end of the night treat.
Santos Anne, 366 Union Ave, Brooklyn NY 11211, (718) 486-6979, http://www.santosannebk.com

Of Our Canoe: Senegalese Cuisine 

I’m a little jealous that Brooklyn has a much smaller Senegalese population than Harlem. It’s evident in the scarce number of West African restaurants that are thriving in Brooklyn, compared to that, which is at least twice as much, that are thriving Uptown. Nonetheless I’m happy that we do have a bit of Senegalese culture in the warm and sensual Cafe Rue Dix and colorful Bed-Stuy favorite Joloff, among other smaller spots.

Cafe Rue Dix
When I brought my son to Crown Heights Cafe Rue Dix for an impromptu date night, he of course did all the things a five-year-old boy would do in his unique position of power: woofed down his grilled salmon entree, served with unbelievable black olive mashed potatoes and Shirley Temple with extra cherries; danced to the very energizing Electronica drum music; successfully pulled me away from my Yassa Guinar—lemony chicken and onion confit over couscous or rice—to dance with him; and wooed the beautiful 20-somethings who were dining at a nearby table. When I return to the lovely Cafe Rue Dix, I want to sample the duck confit and the grilled lamb chops (and a side of the phenomenal black olive mashed potatoes!), sans my little Romeo. I’ll miss him but I can drink as many El diablos as I want—probably not more than two because thankfully, they’re strong.
Cafe Rue Dix, 1451 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn NY 11216, https://www.caferuedix.com

Joloff
Shame on me for not eating at this long-standing, family-friendly establishment, but my sister swears by Joloff’s fare, especially Senegal’s national dish Thiebou Djeun—a fish dish served with vegetables and Jollof rice. The food looks so comforting, just like homemade. Popular fusion options abound: Yassa Yapp, grilled lemony lamb chops, Yassa Sipaakh, grilled shrimp in lemon and onion sauce, and Curry Tofu.
Joloff Restaurant, 1168 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn NY 11216, Joloff’s Yelp page

Photo by Caleb Lucas on Unsplash