Cover photo: © WhereNYC
Bottom Line: France may had lost dismally in the 2016 Euro Cup final, but in New York, the mood was far more jovial at FIAF’s annual Bastille Day block party. With the uncorking of champagne bottles, cheese tastings, pastries, and live entertainment, who could have asked for more.
Review: If only every Sunday could like this: French food, music, dancing, soccer and wine. French Institute Alliance Française of New York’s annual block party in Midtown is always one of my favorite summer events, and every year, it gets better. Even with the crowds of people stepping on each other trying to get from one booth to the next, there was no real mayhem. The addition of three ticketed indoor tasting events provided a perfect oasis from the heat and crowded street and made this year’s festival even more special.
Stretching from Lexington to Fifth Avenue on 60th Street, visitors sampled classic French pastries from legend François Payard, nutella crêpes from The Crêpe Escape Caterers. The event was full of great names like Daniel Boulud’s Épicerie Boulud (which serves the best gourmet merguez dog by Lincoln Center!). Delicious charcuterie by Le Bec Fin Fine Foods, and Maman Café and Financier dished out goodies. And who can forget those buttery biscuits from St. Michel! With all that food, I was about to surrender my soul to gluttony. How do the French stay slim!
Highlights included crispy-on-the-outside-and-gooey-centered classic French macarons by Madeleine Macaron or MadMac from Patterson NJ from and the crowd-pleaser crême brûlée. French Brasserie Maison Hugo from Midtown dished the perfect tarte aux pommes or apple tart. I could have had six of them.
Some traditions, however decadent, should never die. The traditional can-can dancers are always a hit as everyone waits for the perfect crotch shot. Just across Park Ave. Maison Close sold sexy lingerie, masks and plumes. Très naughty!
But it wasn’t all about decadence and hanky panky. French Morning, the French-language newspaper and organizer of the Speak Easy language exchange events, Air France Mon Voyage, French cable channel TV5 Monde and bilingual magazine France-Amérique gave out promotions.
First stop: The VIP lounge at restaurant Amali by Lexington offered guests a cozy retreat with open bar full of French wines, cocktails and tasty bites. Cognac maker Bache Gabrielsen served guests refreshing cocktails. Delicious and refreshing but a bit sweet.
I stuck with sparkling rosé and noshed on the cheesy bits. It was tempting to stay, but the clock was ticking towards the kick-off of the Euro Final.
Next Stop: Wine / Cheese / Beer / Cocktail tasting on the ground floor and lower level at FIAF.
Soldiering through the crowds on 60th street wasn’t easy, but we didn’t rest on laurels with more cheese and wine on our radar. The buzz at the Tinker Auditorium in the basement was incredible, while chilled Kronenbourg 1664 beer was available on the first floor.
For food, Président served the usual plate of the best French suspects: brie, comté and roquefort. My only negative was that the baguette slices were doughy and lacking the crunchy crust. But the cheese and wine worked beautifully. Most of the wine was from the Languedoc or Southwest region, which is one of my favorites but treacherously underrated.
Final Stop: The Champagne and Chocolate Tasting at Le Skyroom at FIAF.
Having had my sips of wine and Ricard cocktails, it was time to catch the soccer final at Le Skyroom on the eighth floor – one of two spots showing it at the Bastille Day event.
Guests guzzled champagne from some of the greats including: Brimoncourt, Billecart-Salmon, La Caravelle, and Drappier. One of my favorites of the bunch was Piper-Hiedsieck that had a dry misty refreshingness that complimented the chocolates beautifully.
Speaking of chocolate, Belgian chocolatier Neuhaus served a beautiful raspberry truffle.
Both the La Maison du Chocolat and Marie Belle served scrumptious champagne truffles. The latter had a unique crunchy exterior with a soft ganache filling. As for the game, the fact that no one scored in first 80 minutes didn’t seem to bother the guests as they cheered over a glass of bubbly. In the end, France lost to Portugal 0-1, but even in defeat, we toasted one last time with a sigh and carried on.
Don’t miss First Tuesdays with free language sample classes and hors d’œuvres. For more on upcoming events, visit FIAF.