Each year, Bastille Day brings the best of France to New York City. The festival is held on 60th street in Manhattan and stretches for three blocks. As someone who plans to spend some time in France in the near future, this was really an exciting day for me to be a part of. Walking along, the first table I came across was Mad Mac. In front of me stood the famous French pastry chef, Florian Bellanger. Monsieur Bellanger is the chef and co-owner of Mad Mac authentic French macarons, as well as a judge on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. I completely geeked-out for a second before shyly asking him if he would be so kind as to take a photo with me. After he agreed to the photograph, I told him I would be moving to Paris shortly to attend culinary school when his ears perked up and he replied, “ah, Paris (French accent)!” Such a simple reply said it all. I could see the nostalgia written all over his face. If I was not already ecstatic for my adventures in Paris, Monsieur Bellanger set it in stone for me.
Chocolate & Pistachio
My plan the entire time was to find some good food then follow it by indulging in some French pastry. As I moved along, I was stopped short by the smell of steak being seared perfectly on the grill. At the table for Bistro Chat Noir, they were serving hanger steak sandwiches on French bread topped with a béarnaise sauce. The sandwich was good, not something I have really thought about since that day, but it was nicely put together and the meat was cooked by people who knew how to grill a steak.
My eyes were drawn to the next table as I saw the sign for Les Halles, big and bright. For those of you who do not know, Les Halles is the home base for Anthony Bourdain, executive chef and TV personality. I am a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain. Born in New York City and raised in New Jersey, we share a lot of the same outlooks on life. I think Bourdain is brilliant. He calls it how he sees it and you never know what the guy is going to say next. Watching his show No Reservations for years, I have become familiar with the friends and faces who join him in his travels. Carlos Llaguno, current executive chef at Les Halles and friend to Anthony Bourdain, joined Bourdain on his episode to Mexico, Llaguno’s birthplace. This still remains my favorite and most memorable episode of No Reservations to date. Carlos’s story is so inspiring. Seeing him standing behind the table for Les Halles stopped me dead in my tracks. I stopped by for a photograph and a taste of the Beef Bourguignon, or as Americans call it, Beef Burgundy. It was hearty, comforting and delicious. Chef Llaguno was nothing short of gracious and kind when he realized I knew exactly who he was. I must say, this experience made my day.
Now, on to the pastries. I was standing along a table to purchase these beautiful little tartlets when they were offering a free sample of something. Usually I say no thanks as a way of habit, but considering I was there to sample food, I said yes please and I could not be happier that I did. When it comes to pastry, this piece of cake could quite possibly be the best thing I have ever eaten. I am not huge on sweets so this cake was perfection. It is a rich butter-based cake that is moist and dense, the way I think all cake should be. In French it is called gateau breton or Brittany butter cake, from the Brittany region of France. I can’t wait to bake my own version of this. It is pure heaven.
Apricot & Almond Tartlet
Strawberry & Pistachio Tartlet
White Cake with White Chocolate Creme & Strawberries
Raspberry Macarons with a Fresh Raspberry
& Chocolate Ganache center topped
Brittany Butter Cake
There was also some entertainment, including a live band performing on stage.
I will leave you with a video from the young and talented
B A N D A M A G D A
Below are more photographs from Bastille Day NYC
Since my video is filled with the hustle and bustle of the city, sirens, cabs, people talking, etc., below is another video from Banda Magda. I happen to love them.
Check it out!
xox, Xristina Marie
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