A croque madame from Bar Boulud's Olivier Quignon.
magnify Click image to view more.

Vive la Revolution!

Abbe Lewis / July 12th, 2013

As the saying goes, when in France, do as the French. But what happens when you’re French in America? While we hear of goings-on across the nation (French Restaurant Week in New York City, or a traditional celebration of French food and live music at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon in Yountville, California), we asked some of our Francophile friends in the industry how they like to celebrate La Fête Nationale—the glorious day of days, where the French commemorate the storming of the Bastille.

“Just after the French Revolution (Bastille Day) on July 14th, 1789, the newly elected deputies established a new bread, the “Equality Bread.” This bread, dedicated to all the French citizens, was composed of 3/4 wheat flour and 1/4 rye flour. It was created as a bread for sharing in order to celebrate this new era. Served as a “tartine” with a fresh mixed salad of lamb’s lettuce, dandelion and beetroot, it’s perfect with a poached egg on top of it.” —Eric Kayser, owner of Maison Kayser, various locations

“For me, Bastille Day is a playful celebration of French culture, and more importantly, its food. In France, the holiday honors the start of a unified republic, so I really see it as an occasion to have fun with traditional dishes from all over France—going beyond the few dishes classically associated with French cooking to play up each region’s diversity with vibrant ingredients and presentations.

As far as an ideal Bastille Day menu, it’s impossible to decide for this reason: I like to cook (and eat) all types of French food!

This year’s menu for our Bastille Day celebration at Fish here in Charleston ranges from baked artichoke & escargots barigoule to truffle flounder quenelles with sauce Nantua, Parisian mushrooms, and Emmentaler cheese. I’m also excited about my roasted stuffed quail with lamb and chanterelle mushrooms, and especially the duck à la peach—a Southern play on duck à l’orange with caramelized onions, summer corn, lentils, haricots verts, roasted hominy, and fresh South Carolina peaches. —Nico Romo, executive chef of Fish Restaurant, Charleston, South Carolina

“In France, Bastille Day starts with watching the military parade on the Champs Élysées, in person or on TV. During the day, there are celebrations with friends and family, and at night there are fireworks, like on the 4th of July. I will be celebrating Bastille Day upstate with friends, enjoying a good meal together—we’ll grill fish and steak, prepare salads (greens, potato salad), and drink Pastis or Lillet, plus, of course, rosé! After we eat, in the late afternoon, we play the French game pétanque. If I stay in NYC for Bastille Day, I try to participate in a pétanque contest. If you’re staying in NYC for Bastille Day this year, you can visit the Bastille Day on 60th Street fair, where there are many French foods for sale (like jambon beurre, merguez sausages, and cannelé de Bordeaux from Épicerie Boulud), music, and activities.” —Olivier Quignon, executive chef of Bar Boulud, New York City

“A lot of street food is eaten on Bastille Day, or popular foods, to remember the revolution. Nationally, the traditional food is North African fare, mainly from Morocco and Algeria, in which merguez sausage is served on a bun similar to a hot dog bun, but made with brioche, and topped with spicy Dijon mustard. In Southwest France, where I’m from, we grill shish kebabs of duck magret and foie gras seasoned with salt and pepper, and serve them on a baguette with a Sherry wine vinegar reduction. And of course, there are petanque tournaments—I plan on playing in several this weekend.” —Ariane Daguin, owner, D’Artagnan

"It's party time—like Fourth of July—and always celebrated outdoors. Casual, regional French food is served. I celebrate in my Boston and Chicago restaurants, as well as Hickory Creek Winery in Buchanan, Michigan. It's all about good food, good music, good friends, and good wine. I usually eat foods I grew up with—foods people like to eat—like big bowls of mussels with baguettes, suckling pig, brioche, and chocolate mousse for dessert." —J. Joho, Everest and Paris Club, Chicago, Brasserie Jo, Boston, and Eiffel Tower Restaurant, Las Vegas