Is it any surprise that restaurateurs popularized the US celebration of Bastille Day? Something was lost in translation, though: The French holiday marks not July 14, 1789 (the storming of the Bastille, leading to the French Revolution and the end of the country’s monarchy), but its first anniversary, when soldiers marched for unity and people feasted in the streets for days (some even ran nude).
We’re not suggesting you go that far. But it’s the perfect day to indulge in gluttonous fun, and the county overflows with options. Get ready for a summer day worthy of David Lebovitz (or Jaques Tati, if you prefer).
On any given morning, I can expect to find a convivial knot of French speakers with whom to practice my French at La Parisienne in Larchmont. And the mini croissants — plain, raisin, chocolate, apple, or cream — are magnifique.
It’s as much a treat to start the day at Antoinette’s Patisserie in Hastings-on-Hudson, with a cup of their Hastings-roasted GiacoBean coffee — with luck, it’s also in the filling of an éclair au café.
Croissant loyalties run strong. I stand with the almond ones at Scarsdale’s La Renaissance Pâtisserie Française, and am also partial to their charred fruit tarts, some of which may sport the French tricolors. (Shhh … here is un coupon for $5 off.)
Free berets and red balloons, live music, the can-can, French cartoons, and crafts with Alliance Française of Westchester are in store at the New Rochelle BID Grand Market, honoring the city’s French heritage (Huguenots named it after their hometown, La Rochelle). Festivities close with a screening of The Red Balloon — a must see! Then, like the red balloon, continue your journey as you chase yet more fun.
Bonus points: Track down the city’s 15 fleur-de-lis sculptures with this map.
The day wouldn’t be complete without a crêpe — and the county is crawling with them. Little Crêpe Street in Mount Kisco has a broad selection of savory choices (chicken tikka masala, gluten-free lentil) and sweet options (mango cream, lemon curd with berries). In Larchmont, Estelle Gourmet makes real-deal, classic French crêpes behind the counter, including the ever-popular Nutella.
For something fancier, stick around Larchmont and sit down to the $16.50 three-course prix fixe menu at Encore Bistro Français. Or ditch the restaurant scene for a pique-nique with provisions from Auray Gourmet, where the French cheeses are watched over like babies.
Evening approaches, and thoughts drift to wine. In Armonk, Wine Geeks sommelier Derek Todd, original wine director of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, leads the Vive la France: Bastille Day Wines class ($35; 7-8:30 p.m.), a tasting of eight wines from French regions including Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Loire Valley, and the Rhône Valley, paired with French cheese and charcuterie.
La Panetière in Rye rules Bastille Day with a special menu ($90/person, $140 with wine pairing). In surroundings conjuring Provence, a strolling accordionist accompanies asparagus with poached quail egg and crisp Parma ham, sautéed Gulf shrimp with artichokes Barigoule, beef Béarnaise, cherries jubilee, and more, ending with petits fours. Suffice to say you’ll dine like, well, royalty.
But bring on the new guard: Le Moulin Eatery and Wine Bar, a relative newcomer on the Yonkers waterfront with a soulfully improvised menu of market-driven French classics, is essentially an one-woman operation that just received a glowing review in our pages. It’s small, so call ahead, and try to fit in a stroll by the river — not the Seine, but romantic nonetheless.
What better time to partake of the green fairy? Sip absinthe in Hastings-on-Hudson at Saint George, either from the fountain (via the traditional sugar and ice water or with bitter and orange peel) or in a Southside Sazerac. Alternatively, explore the bistro’s entirely French wine list at the candlelit, mirrored bar, with oysters, duck-and-pistachio terrine, or the ethereal gnocchi.
At Bistro Versailles in Greenwich, groove to French lounge music under a wine-bottle chandelier while sipping summer cocktails made with French liqueur (try the bracing Pamplemousse, a blend of Monmousseau Champagne and Giffard grapefruit liqueur with a grapefruit twist). If you’re still hungry, it’s hard to find a better moules frites. Daytime patisserie cred also makes it the ideal place for a tête-à-tête over opera cake or a Napoléon. North county, hit Vox in North Salem for Peach Melba, floating island, and a deep list of dessert wines.