If you are a native (or even just a wannabe francophile), le 14 juillet est très important. That’s the date that marks the storming of the Bastille, a Parisian fortress and prison, by an angry working class crowd fed up with being ruled by a monarchy. The event became a turning point in the French Revolution, and eventually that monarchy was replaced by a democratic republic. July 14 is deemed “la Fête nationale” in France and other French-speaking countries, and the occasion is marked by parades, parties and more.
In D.C., you can raise a glass to France’s national motto of liberté, égalité et fraternité at these bistros and brasseries serving up inspired libations, regional wines and classic dishes. Vive la France!
Parisian native chef Christophe Poteaux and his wife chef Michelle Poteaux’s French Restaurant Week at the Old Town Alexandria brasserie lasts July 11-16. Their $35 three-course prix fixe menu features a choice of soupe du jour, escargots Provençales, melon avec concombres et feta or salade Niçoise to start; moules frites, grillade de poisson chermoula, confit de poulet à la Basquaise, onglet à l’échalotte, risotto au tomates et fenouil or grillades d’agneau (for a $9 supplemental fee) for the main course; and coupe glacée, crème brûlée, profiteroles, Bavarois vanille et framboises or tarte au citron for dessert.
To toast, order one of four specialty cocktails: the Guillotine tops crème de cassis and Williams-Birne Eau de Vie with sparkling wine, Lillet-Dy Liberté shakes Hendrick’s Gin and Lillet Rosé with orange bitters, Jacobin Club shakes Citadelle Gin, Dolin Rouge and Dry Vermouths and orange juice, and Antoinette is a liquid version of Marie’s cry to let the peasants eat cake, with Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur, amaretto, Kahlua and espresso.
Each evening from July 11-15, the late chef’s bustling bistro features a dish paired with a French wine. On July 11, “faux gras” and country pâté ($16) is served with a zesty Sipp Mack Riesling from Alsace ($11); that’s followed by grilled loup de mer and heirloom tomato ($32) with the berry-tinged Domaine Des Herbauges Grolleau Gris Rosé from the Loire Valley ($11), and duck leg confit and herb spaetzle ($32) and a glass of the grippy Château St. Louis Grenache, Syrah and Carignan from Corbières. The week wraps up with a special prix fixe three-course dinner on July 14 and 15 for $48 with gougères and fricassé d’escargots in the appetizer course, a lamb chop, piperade, baby kale and yogurt cumin sauce entree and Paris-Brest for dessert; optional wine pairings cost an additional $24.
Executive chef Bertrand Chemel--a native of France’s Auvergne region--is throwing a culinary-infused French fête at his contemporary restaurant in Falls Church to honor his country’s independence with a holiday-inspired five-course prix fixe tasting menu on July 14 and 15.
Priced at $90 with an additional $70 for optional wine pairings from sommelier Ryan Jones (tax and gratuity not included for either), it offers a choice of foie gras mousse with brioche, smoked and cured duck breast and Sauternes gelée or lentils and summer truffle with poached quail egg, friséee salad and hazelnut vinaigrette to start. Next up is bouillabaisse with monkfish, lobster, cuttlefish, mussels rouille and croutons, or aioli Provençal with baby leeks, asparagus, baby heirloom carrots, fried zucchini blossoms and truffle tapenade. The third course is gnocchi Parisienne aux cèpe with roasted porcini mushrooms, porcini cream and Comte Sainte Antoine Cheese. The four course offers a choice of canard aux cerise (leg confit and roasted breast) with cherry marmalade and Swiss chard, or ratatouille with eggplant, zucchini, tomato compote and thyme, ending with a dessert trio of baba-infused basil, chocolate pot de crème and hazelnut gâteau de crêpe.
The elegant spot at the Willard InterContinental Hotel will be transformed into a Parisian bistro on Friday, July 14. From 4:30 to 10 p.m., guests can partake in made-to-order sweet and savory crèpes for $8-$10, like the Marianne (with Nutella, chocolate and banana), Nathalie (with strawberry and vanilla), Aline (with blueberries) and the Melanie (with peaches.) A Grey Goose bar on the terrace will be stirring Dirty Martinis and specialty cocktails like the Willard Le Fizz, with Grey Goose Vodka, St. Germain, lime and Fever Tree Soda Water, the Pear-rartini, with Grey Goose La Poire, vanilla liqueur and lemon juice, and the Alpine Berry, with Grey Goose l’Orange, cranberry juice, ginger beer and lemon in a sugar-rimmed glass. From 5-8 pm, guests can also enjoy the music from a roaming violinist.
On Bastille Day, July 14, the newly expanded French-Belgian bistro in the Palisades neighborhood is doing a three-course dinner for $49.50, with country pâté as an appetizer, a main course of red snapper prepared bouillabaisse style, and Paris Brest for dessert. Start the night with the Peroquet, a cocktail with Ricard and mint syrup, then sip Chinon with dinner from Catherine and Pierre Breton.