Mid-July in New Orleans means a second round of patriotic parties with red, white and blue decorations, and lots of food. But this time, it’s all in honor of France. Bastille Day, or French National Day, is on July 14.
French Americans and Francophiles will celebrate the European country, and the city’s French heritage, throughout the weekend. Two big events take place in the same area but on separate days. Both gatherings boast festival fare and French-inspired cocktails from local restaurants, along with live music.
The Bastille Day Fête happens on Friday, July 14, at the New Orleans Museum of Art from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. And although Crêpes à la Carte and Boucherie will serve food outside, near the steps of the museum, most of the activity is indoors.
“It’s too hot,” said Béatrice Germaine, the cultural attaché for the Consulate General of France in Louisiana. “We have to be realistic.”
Chris Montero, culinary curator of Café NOMA and the executive chef of Napoleon House, will host a cooking demonstration with a French theme and also discuss the “farm-to-table revolution.” He plans to prepare duck confit, using locally sourced products from Grow Dat Youth Farm.
The demonstration includes free food samples and happens inside the museum’s spacious auditorium. It also kicks off Café NOMA’s “Artful Palate” summer cooking series, which spans eight consecutive Friday nights.
Café NOMA will sell French-inspired specials, such as veggie pissaladière (flatbread pizza with a French twist); a summery mixed greens salad; salmon bruschetta; a cheese board featuring three French cheeses; and a festive cocktail.
A children's menu will be available, in addition to soups and assorted pastries.
The Bastille Day Fête features a puppet show, a French film screening, a can-can dance performance by Trixie Minx and Friends, and lively music by Bon Bon Vivant.
“Bastille Day in France for French people is a popular party,” said Germaine, adding that it often involves, “going out in the streets and dancing with everybody.”
On Saturday, a Bastille Day block party kicks off at 4:30 p.m. in Faubourg St. John, 3100 Ponce De Leon St. Nearby restaurants will set up food booths along the street and serve menu favorites until about 9:30 p.m.
The free event is organized by Jacques Soulas, who co-owns Café Degas with Jerry Edgar.
Their restaurant will serve vichyssoise — a cold, creamy potato-leek soup, along with a duck confit and white bean salad.
But the party’s collective menu features more international offerings, like falafels from 1000 Figs and empanadas from Santa Fe restaurant. Lola’s will serve Spanish cuisine, while Liuzza’s By The Track brings the heat with its Creole gumbo.
Toast, a café known for breakfast and brunch items, will offer lamb ragout with stone ground grits, and aebleskivers (plump Danish pancakes) sided by assorted sauces.
“Despite the fact that it’s Bastille Day, it’s not just French,” Soulas said. “It’s a variety of stuff from everybody.”
Café Degas still will offer seating inside of the restaurant, but Soulas noted that it’s “wise to make reservations” in advance.
Their menu for that night is in the works, but Soulas suggested it will include roasted duck with wild rice topped with a duck cassis sauce.
As for drinks, they will serve nonalcoholic beverages by Orangina — a brand popular in France; French beers, like Kronenbourg 1664; Pernod Ricard’s anise-flavored liquors; and Kir — a French cocktail made with crème de cassis and wine.
The block party is held during the cooler hours of the day and features live music, activities for children and costume contests.
“This is a time of the year when there’s very little going on in New Orleans, so this is the perfect spot for us,” Soulas said. “It’s a good opportunity to have a little bit of fun in July.”
Bastille Day Fête
When: Friday, July 14, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Where: New Orleans Museum of Art, 1 Collins Diboll Circle, City Park
Admission: $5 (free for NOMA members, children 6 and under, and teens 13-19)
When: Saturday, July 15, from 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Where: 3100 Ponce De Leon St.