Category Archives: Family-Friendly

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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The Better Brunch

Many years ago, I had my penultimate Manhattan brunch. (The very last one that I remember was at Cookshop, a great Chelsea restaurant, right below The High Line.) For some crazy reason, my sister and I chose to brave the crowded Theater District and agreed on a bustling “French” bistro for our Sunday brunch. It was overhyped, touristy and not even good for a hot chocolate. Not authentically French at all! From that moment on, we both swore off Manhattan brunches and promised to remember that brunch in Brooklyn, overall, is by far the better place for the meal that can make or break a girl’s weekend. But why is brunch specifically just plain better in Brooklyn?

The short answer is Brooklyn brunches are more French—due to a higher level of food quality, more personable service and often a unique, art-loving environment. The long answer is present in my top three discoveries about Brooklyn brunching, complete with brunch restaurant suggestions.

The Greener Good

Most Brooklyn restaurateurs are focused on using local, seasonal and sustainable ingredients with vegetarian options, which has one main benefit: quality, unequivocally fresh fare. And nothing tastes better when it’s organic, freshly plucked from a nearby farm, or grown and/or hand-processed on the restaurant’s premises than eggs, milk, cheese, fruit, bacon, etc.—basically all the components you need to make a fabulous breakfast or brunch.

For a sometimes intoxicating with sweets, sometimes fresh with veggies brunch make ressies for the famous Olmsted in Prospect Heights. Classified as a “vegetable-heavy” restaurant by its chef/owner, Olmsted has a lush green wall in its garden that isn’t just for show but its greens are actually used in dishes and listed on the menu. When I finally am able to go to this restaurant of veggie dreams, my first Olmsted brunch pick will be the very French-sounding Duck Duo. But if I were in the mood for a savory, laced with greens brunch, I would order the Spanakopita Shaksouka.
Olmsted, 718-552-2610, http://www.olmstednyc.com

Sans Tourist-Traps

Although I’m convinced that Brooklyn has the best NYC sights—French restaurants, Botanic Gardens and pizza (except for a couple of tourist-trap pizza spots in Dumbo)—there are so few longstanding gimmicky restaurants that seek to drain your pockets, while giving you little or nothing and getting away with it only because they’re close to a popular site for tourists.

Brooklyn’s lack of overhyped eateries has two prime perks: stability for family-run, neighborhood staples and a good amount of space for the younger generation of spots that serve everything from classic Eggs Benedict to Asian-fusion dishes for brunch.

Popular Crown Heights diner Tom’s, for example, has been serving the same fare since 1936, according to its website, and is still receiving the praise, that some say it deserves. Try the lemon ricotta pancakes and you probably won’t be disappointed. I couldn’t wait to try mine. The line to get in was long but went by in a decent amount of time.

Tom’s, 718-636-9738, https://tomsbrooklyn.com

Party of Four or More
Even with the hefty amount of unique nightlife experiences, most of Brooklyn is really for families. And where it’s meant for revelry till 4 a.m., cool “kids” create their own extended families. (An earlier BkFrench.com post, “Family-Friendly French” lists several eateries that cater to larger groups with children.) Carroll Gardens’ own Buttermilk Channel, one of the most famous of family-friendly Brooklyn restaurants, is crowded with a serpentine line for brunch. Most say though that its kid-friendly offerings, like the walnut sticky bun and the pecan pie french toast are well worth the wait. The kids menu itself is also intriguing. This restaurant’s name says it all, “Get the pancakes.” But rave reviews for Buttermilk’s chicken and waffles abound.

Buttermilk Channel, 718-852-8490, http://www.buttermilkchannelnyc.com

A walk down Smith Street in the Gowanus area, also known for family-friendly French cuisine, will bring you to the freshly opened, hubby-and-wife run French restaurant, Dumonet. Surrounded by the rustic charm of brick walls, mocha banquettes and tin ceilings, you’ll enjoy classic brunch items—Croques, brioche french toast, and poached eggs—as well as the stuff you’d only get at a French resto—cheese soufflé, tart flambée, and a very mouth-watering version French onion soup.
Dumonet, 718-625-0963, https://www.dumonetbrooklyn.com

Pint-Sized Picks 

An exploration of Brooklyn brunches often leads to an exciting encounter with a hipster-loved storefront window eatery or rather with the five-star worthy egg sandwich that it serves and proudly touts as its paramount creation.

Don’t overlook the small cafes or even the storefront window restos that remain in high demand with thick lines down the block, regardless of their short menu of only a few or sometimes two, well-executed items. They disregard the unwritten rule of creating an extensive menu that attempts to please the masses, choose to go with what they know, and are often successful because of it.

For brunch on a quaint scale, indulge yourself in The Little Sweet Cafe in Boerum Hill. With fluffy crepes, a popular dirty chai and an indecisive half Anthropologie and half Paris vibe, I wanted to stay here all afternoon, despite it being a wifi/computer free zone. Definitely meant for francophiles that savor a quiet, minimalist ambience with touches of rich, artsy culture everywhere.

The Little Sweet Cafe, 718-858-8998, https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-little-sweet-cafe

Photo by John Baker on Unsplash

Family-Friendly French

For my son’s birthday, guess what we did? No. Not a crazy party with five-year-olds, a bouncy house, lots of sugary cupcakes and the most tired, worked over version of me. (We’re doing all that and then some next year!) All of us sat at a comfortable booth table at the most upscale, kid-friendly French restaurant in Manhattan. (I’ve been taking him there since he turned one, so it’s a tradition or else I’d have chosen a Brooklyn resto.)

My family had a marvelous time despite our differences in priorities. Being an active toddler/ladies’ man/social butterfly, my son’s favorite restaurant sport is running under tables, all the while melting every heart in the room. My mom is a veteran retiree who deserves an Oscar for her role as a food critic and restaurant inspector each and every time our family eats out. My sister, embarrassed by us all, couldn’t pick a better time to be engaged with or to her phone. And, I can’t wait to get my appetizer, usually something French, served in a wine glass.

Not unlike any other family-friendly French restaurant that we’ve patronized, they served us with ready plates. Great service, good food and they have cotton candy! I’ve noticed that this inclusive behavior is typical of French eateries. I’m sure that France’s family-first policies have some significance in the general way that the French consider the importance of family life.

Most Brooklyn French restaurants that we’ve tried have been so accommodating for a family with a young child, and also cater to the needs of a family with an aging parent. Life is so good when you can swap a horrible, fast food chain location for a lovely, safe restaurant where you can watch your son play, and catch up with your mom and sister while enjoying a nice cocktail, even if only three times a year.

Hopefully with the tremendous amount of five-star family-friendly French restaurants in Brooklyn, I will continue to be be able to afford and enjoy many meals out with my family. extended family, and family-like friends and their kids too.

Here’s a short list of restaurants that I’d like to try. ’Tis the season to be jolly with your loved ones.

Cafe Paulette
718-690-2148
The Place: Lots of dramatic sunlight by day with sweeping windows and a view of Fort Greene park across the street. Spacious, somewhat plain, minimalist with an expensive air or maybe that’s the delicious smell from the kitchen that fills the room.

Other notes: No kids’ menu, but we noticed a few other families noshing on the Poulet Roti and the burger. Closed for one and a half hour before dinner.

L’Antagoniste
917-966-5300
The Place: Cute, quaint, and comfy cafe-type interior with a mural of black and white photos of French antagonists. A secluded table for one mid-sized family—it’s in a cozy corner. A handsome lush garden will woo you.

Other notes: No kids’ menu but they have several kid-friendly options. The Michelin-star-worthy food is so finely, crafted that you’ll want your future foodie (hopefully), to try it. My son liked the cheese soufflé, not the sorbet that comes with it. I liked everything.

La Cigogne
718-858-5641
The Place: True Parisian aesthetic vibe on Union Street. Green walls and a bit of greenery for tables that counter each other. A fireplace that if you’re lucky enough to get a seat by, is perfect for this kind of weather.

Other notes: Opens early at 4 p.m. for dinner. The kids’ menu is fantastically different. It doesn’t list chicken fingers that they won’t eat anyway. The Shirley Temple though would make my son smile.

Le Paddock
718-435-0921
The Place: French rustic appeal that is primed for a brick-oven pizza dinner. From the branches chandelier to the distressed wooden bar to the real wooden tables to the barn-like floor, this place takes its name seriously.

Other notes: Order the pizza and you’re an automatic hero to your kids. Order one of their cool cocktails and you’re wind-in-hair ready to face the world. Very close to Prospect Park. My son felt at home here after a trip to the park, and ravaged his salmon entree.

Le Petit Paris Bistro
718-369-3590
The Place: Brick walls, lots of accent lighting makes it cozy. The space is OK, but the view of the food is the reason you come this little Parisian bistro.
Other notes: Boasts an extensive menu with traditional French entrees. Picky eaters welcome. Lots of choices for everyone. Proudly doesn’t offer WiFi, but rather encourages actual face-to-face conversation.