My Top 10 French Gifts of the Year

My top French gifts of the year.

Four of my top 10 French gifts of the year. All are described, below.

Greetings, friends. Each year, I unveil my list of the best French gift ideas—gifts for lovers of France (and food). Take a look! And always remember that any purchase you make through one of the links on my site will help support the work I do on this blog. So, if I’ve ever led you to a great recipe, a favorite wine, or a lovely French town, please consider making a purchase through one of my links. Doing so won’t add to your costs in any way!

PS: Even if you don’t buy exactly what I’m selling, if you get to Amazon through one of my links, I’ll still get some credit. So go shop!

Thanks for your consideration. And above all, thanks for reading Chez Bonne Femme.

 

My Top 10 French Gifts of the Year

1. The Fabulous French Read of the Year: Finding Fontainebleau—An American Boy in France

This irresistible memoir is must-read for anyone who loves France. What I appreciate most about this book is that it goes beyond the usual touchstones of our Francophilia (The food! The markets! French bakeries! Cafés!) and tells us about a France few of us know: France of the 1950s. The author’s father, an Air Force officer, was posted to the town of Fontainbleau after the war, and Carhart recounts, among other things, life as an American schoolboy in a French lycée, along with camping trips his family took in post-war Europe. Interspersed with these utterly charming stories of his expat American boyhood is the history of the Chateau Fontainbleau itself—intrigues of those who lived there and often made their own marks on art and architecture of the grand residence, from François I to the Bonapartes.

Published this year, the book has not yet made the huge splash that Americans-in-France memoirs often make, but for you, that’s a good thing: Chance are, the recipient hasn’t already received or read it—and they’ll love you for turning them onto it. Right now, it’s priced on Amazon at $17.47.

2. A Must for Urban-Dwellers and Farmers Market Fans: Le Papillon Vert Market Bag

A great choice for the young, urban-dwelling food-lovers on your gift list—or anyone who shops often, like a European—this French market tote holds just enough to get them from the butcher, to the green grocer, to the bakery and the wine shop, with perhaps just enough room to stash a bouquet of flowers as they round the corner to the pleasures of home.

It’s nicely spacious, but not so big that you can’t easily store it someplace in your big-city dwelling. PS: These bags also make good totes for beach-hopping, if anyone you know happens to be headed that way soon.

As of this posting, the tote us currently $55 on Amazon.

3. French Serving Tray for the “Queen Bee” in Your Life

Even in my not-so-ginormous condo, I appreciate having a tray to bring things from the kitchen to the dining room or the balcony. And I especially appreciate something pretty and sturdy. This glossed wooden tray is eye-catching and colorful (but not so colorful that it will clash with the recipient’s décor). It’s also food safe, so you could potentially serve an array of cheeses on it as well.

Not sure about the “Queen Bee” motif? Café Press, the makers of this tray, have lots of other lovely designs, both French and otherwise. Check out this list of great serving trays.

It’s currently on Amazon for $37.99.

4. French-Designed Rooster Tablecloth

The proud rooster has been the symbol of France since the Renaissance, and it’s just such an elegant design for this irresistible cotton tablecloth, available in a range of sizes, from 54″x54″ to 60″x120″. And, if you really want to knock yourself out, get the matching hot-pads, tea towels, and aprons to go with it. Seriously—I can’t imagine a better home décor gift for a French-lover who entertains (or perhaps someone whom you’d like to nudge into the entertaining realm?).

Right now on Amazon, the prices range from $25.99 to $46.99, depending on the size. And if you don’t love the rooster design, the Maison d’Hermine brand makes plenty more linens with Gallic charm. Check out the list.

5. Serrated French Dining Knives

Serrated table knives. I won't call these "steak knives," because you'll use them for everything from chicken to pot roast to pizza. It's the French way.

Serrated table knives. I won’t call these “steak knives,” because you’ll use them for everything from chicken to pot roast to pizza. It’s the French way.

Everything from chicken breasts to pot roasts to pizza cuts better with a serrated knife, and that’s why the French use serrated knives at the table for just about everything except fish. So while these might be classified as “steak knives,” once you start using them for everything else, you’ll wonder why you’ve been using flat-edged table-knives for so long.

Now, let’s not get into the whole “Laguiole/not Laguiole” debate. Laguiole is known for great knives, but the name was never trademarked, so many manufacturers use that name. Are these the “real” Laguiole? No. But they’re made in France and they’re reasonably priced ($36.59 as of this posting) for casual gift-giving.

6. The Wüsthoff Set: The Ultimate Gift for Artisanal Cheese Fans

Enjoy a little German craftsmanship with your French cheeses with the Wusthof Gourmet 3-Piece Cheese Knife Set with Cheese Board ($99.95). I especially adore the soft-cheese knife—it’s the one with the holes in in the blade. Use it for washed-rind and bloomy rind cheeses (like Camembert, Epoisse, et al.); the cheese won’t stick to the knife. The offset knife is stellar for cutting firm and semi-firm cheeses, while the cheese plane lets you cut those ultra-thin slices from favorites like Comté and Gruyère.

PS: If you want, you can just purchase the Soft Cheese Knife (currently priced at $89.95), my favorite of the three. But frankly, for $10 more, I’d go for the set.

7. The Splurge Gift for a Lifetime of Great French Meals: The Le Creuset Braiser

The Le Creuset Braiser. Available in a multitude of legendary colors.

I don’t know how I ever lived without my enamel cast-iron braising pans from Le Creuset. Braising is a “low and slow” cooking method for transforming less-expensive cuts of meat into rich, succulent meals. Coq au Vin, Boeuf Bourguigon, Blanquette of Pork, Osso Bucco are all braises, as are a slew of great everyday recipes, like pot roast and beef stew. With its tight-fitting lid, wide base, and shallower-than-a-Dutch-oven sides, the braising pan is simply the best choice for this cooking method.

As I write this (11/2016), they’re currently priced around $285 for the 3 3/4-quart braiser, or $324 for the 5-quart braiser. Which one should you buy? If you usually cook for four to six people, get the 3 3/4-quart braiser. If you generally cook for six to eight, go for the 5-quart braiser.

8. A Less-Expensive Alternative to the Le Creuset Braiser: The Lodge Braiser

It might not be called a braiser, but the Lodge Color Enameled Cast Iron 3-Quart Covered Casserole works just like a braiser—I’ve tested one and give it a hearty thumbs up.

So, if you don’t want to splurge for French pedigree with the Le Creuset, I can recommend this braiser. It’s made of enamel cast-iron, just like the French pans; see my review for more information. It’s designed by an well-respected American company and made in China. PS: For some reason, the braisers cost differently depending on the color. Right now, the Blue braiser is $50.99 and the red braiser is $53.99. Either way, there a bargain.

9. The Bonne Femme Cookbook: Simple, Splendid Food That French Women Cook Every Day

I know. I’m blowing my own horn here. But if you have a food and France lover on your list, please consider giving them a copy of my book, The Bonne Femme Cookbook: Simple, Splendid Food That French Women Cook Every Day. Now in its third printing, the book continues to be a guiding light for those who want to bring French joie-de-vivre to the table, but don’t have all day to do so. It showcases a fresh, simple, modern approach to French cooking—an approach I discovered through many summers living and cooking in France. I’m especially honored that Publisher’s Weekly called it “a good read”—there are a lot of vignettes about how I discovered everyday French cooking. But don’t take my word for it! Check out the reviews on Amazon.com.

10. A Bundle of Crêpe-Making Essentials

I love my T-Fal skillet; in fact, I am on my third skillet (they last a long time but one finally wore out after 15 years, and I misplaced the other one when doing a crêpe demo off-site recently). These non-stick skillets with flared sides are perfect for making crêpes and French omelets (and many other French and non-French things). I also highly recommend a small silicone spatula for flipping the crêpes. And if your recipient needs a crêpe book, I’ve purveyed two recent ones, below. (Of course, the Bonne Femme Cookbook has plenty of crêpe recipes in it as well!).

French crêpe-making essentials


 

Disclosure: Chez Bonne Femme is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

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French Appetizer Crêpes with Smoked Salmon and Herbs

Smoked Salmon Appetizer Crepes. Fun for the holidays. If you need step-by-step instructions, see my e-How video.

Smoked Salmon Appetizer Crepes. Fun for the holidays. Easy recipe appears below, but if you need step-by-step instructions, see my e-How video.

In support of Small Business Saturday, I recently made about 48 chocolate- and caramel- sauced crêpes for a demo at a great local gourmet food shop. I ended up with some leftover batter, and I thought: Enough with the dessert crêpes! Let’s do something savory. So, with my extra batter, I made an old favorite: Appetizer Crêpes with Smoked Salmon and Herbs.

Hard-smoked salmon is smoked over wood; it’s often from the Pacific Northwest.

I first came up with the recipe when e-How asked me to develop a recipe for Smoked Salmon Crêpes and present it in a video. The video itself wasn’t my finest hour—but crêpes with smoked salmon have become a favorite. They make terrific appetizer crêpes for the holidays—flag this recipe for the festivities ahead.

Note: I prefer using hard-smoked salmon (also known as hot-smoked salmon), which often comes from the Pacific Northwest. This is different than lox-style salmon. If you’re having trouble finding hard-smoked salmon, here’s a source on Amazon.*

French Appetizer Crêpes with Smoked Salmon and Herbs
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 30
 
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces of light cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill weed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 ounces hot-smoked salmon, flaked (you can also use lox-style salmon, if you wish)
  • 4 6- to 8-inch crêpes
Instructions
  1. Beat it with an electric mixer to soften it.
  2. Beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer to soften it.
  3. Fold in the parsley, chives, lemon juice, dill weed, salt, and pepper. Gently fold in 4 ounces flaked hard-smoked salmon. Stir gently until it's evenly dispersed throughout.
  4. Spread ¼ cup of the mixture across the center of a crepe, making sure you go to the edge. Roll up the crêpe. Repeat with remaining crepes and salmon spread.
  5. Cut the crêpes in to 1-half-inch pieces and arrange them on a serving platter.

* You should be able to find hard-smoked salmon at a local gourmet shop or larger retailer like Costco or World Market. I’m giving this link simply to show you what to look for. Disclosure: Chez Bonne Femme is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

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Provençal Triptych: Une Pause Française

How about a little pause française in your day? Here’s a poem by David Wolf, my husband (also known as Mr. Sportcoat). May it bring a little loveliness to this moment.

 

Provençal Triptych

baguette-shaped clouds

above the brûléed plain

dusted just now in lavender

light

*

after the rain shower:

pastis puddle

along the trail

*

a little late-afternoon wine at a café

after milling about

the ruins of a Roman villa

Sinatra’s “Summer Wind”

blows through…

glazing the moment

in honey

 

 

 

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