Five Ways to Put Some #France into Your Week: March 25, 2013

This week’s “ways” are all about sparkling wine. After all, since spring’s brightness is proving rather elusive in most of the country, why not at least bring some brightness to your glass?

If only.

1. Rigolez un Peu (have a laugh!)

If you follow me on Facebook, you probably already saw this, but it’s worth another look. A friend of mine sent it to me, and I have no idea where it came from. But it cracks me up every time.

2. Learn How to Pronounce Moët et Chandon

While we’re at it, let’s learn how to pronounce that great French Champagne. Remember the song “Killer Queen” by Queen? The first line goes, “She keeps her Moët et Chandon in a pretty cabinet.”

I would never quibble with the greatness of that song, but Queen led us wrong. In their song, they pronounce the first word MOE-ay. And for years, because I was a good French student who knew that you didn’t pronounce most letters at the end of a French word, and because I listed to Queen, I did the same.

Société Générale: My first job after college. No, the New York office didn’t look like this (pictured here is Paris), but it was at 50 Rockefeller Plaza, which wasn’t too shabby. Photo from Wikipedia.

And then, at my first job in New York City as a secretary for the International Banking Group at the French bank Société Générale, a French executive once asked me to bring him the “MOE-EHT et Chandon” file.

He pronounced the “T” on Moet! Say what? Hadn’t he heard the Queen song? What was he thinking?

Well, there are many exceptions to the rules of French pronunciation, but this case doesn’t have to do with French pronunciation at all: Moët is a Dutch name, so even though the Champagne house is in Epernay, France, the French stick with the Dutch pronunciation. So pronounce that “T,” okay?

PS: Here’s a great link to an explanation of the whole thing, with an audio example with a native French speaker pronouncing the words. Note the blasé tone in her voice….that is, expect a little French attitude, too.

3. Drink Sparkling Wine As If It Came from a Water Cooler

One thing I’ll never understand is why Americans don’t enjoy sparkling wines more on an everyday basis. In France, Italy, and Spain, sparkling wines are commonly enjoyed as an everyday pleasure.

So why do we feel we need to wait for a special occasion to enjoy them? I think it may be because of some misconceptions, which I’ll debunk tout de suite:

• Good Sparkling Wines are Too Expensive to Enjoy Every Day: Indeed French Champagne is not an everyday thing, but you can find French Champagne look-alikes (that is, sparkling wines from other parts of France) that are moderately priced (around $15). But if $15 is even too much for an any-night bottle, then turn to cava from Spain: There are some amazing $10 bottles out there. (My everyday favorite is Cristalino Brut, by the way).

• You Have to Finish the Entire Bottle ‘Cause It Won’t Last: Actually, if you recork your bottle and put it in the fridge, the bubbles will generally last a day or so. If, after that, you have a bit left over, just keep it to cook with–use it wherever “dry white wine” is called for.

• But I’m Having Takeout Pizza for Dinner!: Sparkling wines pair well with everything. Truly. So that bottle you opened to go with Fish Meunière on Tuesday night will finish off beautifully with pizza tonight. Just go for it.

Hummus-Tapenade Crackers. Great with Sparkling Wine. Photo by Richard Swearinger.

4. Cheat of the Week: Canapés à la Minute

And to serve with that first class of sparkling wine of the evening? I’ve been making these simple little canapés and serving about two per person. It’s a way to give everyone a nice little bite without filling them up. Here’s how to make them:

Spread your favorite cracker with a little of the best purchased hummus you can buy (I like Trader Joe’s Mediteranean Hummus). Dollop a bit of my Tapenade Noir or Tapenade Verte on top of the cracker. Recipes are in The Bonne Femme Cookbook, but you can also use your favorite tapenade recipe.

(PS: The great thing about tapenade is that once you make a batch, it keeps for a couple weeks, so you’ll have it on hand. So maybe “à la minute” is a bit of a misnomer here, but you get the idea.)

By the way: My new favorite thing is to add a touch of fennel pollen in my green tapenade recipe (instead of the toasted crushed fennel seeds called for). Try it!

5. Serve a Great Main-Dish Salad with Some Sparkling Wine

Like I said, sparking wine goes with anything, but I especially enjoy serving main-dish salads with a glass of sparkling wine. True, throughout most of the country, it’s still chili weather (thanks to an infernally late spring). But if you happen to get a whiff of spring in the air this week, and you’re looking for something a little lighter, try one of my favorite salads: Shrimp and French Green Lentil Salad. Serve it alongside roasted asparagus (that veggie should be making its way into the market very, very soon.).

Shrimp and Green Lentil Salad. Photo by Richard Swearinger.

Enjoy! And come back Friday for Five Great Ways to Put Some France into Your Weekend.

Other posts you might enjoy:

Swiss Chard Recipes (from myself and other food bloggers). Includes a great main-dish salad recipe.
Chicken-Comté Spinach Salad with Apples (another great main-dish salad)
Asparagus! Broccolini! Goat Cheese! Pasta! (a good pre-spring dish)



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