Event: Best of France featured: live music, food, products, travel, technology and more from France.
The thought of being in tourist-infested Times Square on Saturday afternoon sent cringes up my spine; however, I plucked up my courage and set off to find my inner-Frenchie.
In spite of the crowds, I really enjoyed the delicious food on offer and sampled some amazing cheeses. It seemed that this event had everything. 150 different tourists offices, restaurants, cosmetic companies, hi-tech firms and financial institutions had stands set up in the middle of Times Square.
There was the stage, where the crowds enjoyed live music from an impressive all brass band from the Midi-Pyrénée region in France and other novelities such as make-overs from L’Oréal. Whatever the live entertainment was lacking; however, the food stalls made up for it big time. Amongst the food stalls, round-the-clock cooking demonstrations and tastings attracted crowds of gastronauts and press photographers alike.
My mate, chef Claude Godard, from Madison Avenue Bistro was dishing out sinful chocolate crêpes while my friend Ariane Daguin from the French gourmet food supplier D’Artagnan sold traditional country pâté and duck sausage sandwiches, along with an array of foie gras, terrines and the ever-decadent truffled butter. François Payard and his team sold the most amazing fruit tarts and éclairs. Vive la France!
It wasn’t just brie and baguettes at this fair. The Basque country also made their mark. Sophie Garcia from Amerikanuak Bakery tantalized her guests with free samples of a beautifully made gâteau Basque, a flaky pastry filled with onctuous custard cream. Yummy!
Two gals from Saint-Germain, the importer and food distributer for gourmet European Brands handed out free mini jars of jam, and Bakery Michel et Augustin, based in Brooklyn, gave samples of freshly baked cookies to us. French high-end mustard maker Maille, introduced us to their new truffled Dijon mustard, which although delicious, was a step too far even for me.
The cheeses on sale were absolutely incredible, and I made sure to make as many friends as I could, hoping for an invite to upcoming events. The much loved Président was selling the usual suspects including Camembert from Normandy and authentic Roquefort. Seriously delicious! Further south, other distibutors gave samples of chaume and nutty sheep milk Basque cheese. Utterly to die for!
The French states or départements Guadeloupe and Martinique also were offering special super cheap deals for one-way flights with Norwegian Air. We’re talking $100 here, even cheaper than a flight to Chicago! Saint-Martin, a tiny but beautiful Franco-Dutch island in the Caribbean also showed traditional costumes and dances for the audience.
Tourst Offices associated with Àtout France came from every corner the French Hexagone had stalls set up including Rhône-Alpes, Lyon, Enghien-Les-Bains, Centre des Monuments nationaux (National Monuments) gave all sorts of freebies including flash drives, kitchen novelities, brochures and smartphone stands to the event-goers.
Many might be suprised but France is also hi-tech innovator and many French firms have a major presence in Silicon Valley. But France is aiming higher with Arianespace and Dassault Falcon, an aviation firm, which is based in New Jersey. Thales a French hi-tech aviation and defense enterprise also featured smart innovations for on-board flights.
With all this good stuff going, I never regretted not buying the ludicrously priced wine-tasting tickets for $150-$200 per head. There was so much to enjoy instead.