To say it has been weird to be back in Paris is an understatement. From strolling along familiar streets to seeing the Eiffel Tower twinkle at night, a confused feeling has come over me. Everything is different, yet the same.
While my visit to France is quick, it’s filled with new and exciting experiences, specifically my first French Noël. It was bittersweet to be away from my family for Christmas and spend it with my boyfriend’s family in Paris, but the two day fête was a new adventure and can be summed up in one word: FOOD. In between meeting extended family members and practicing my français, we celebrated with two big and elaborate meals that I’ll never forget.
At home in Atlanta, the night before Christmas has always been a bit different with my family. After the Christmas Eve service, we have a strange tradition of eating at our favorite Chinese restaurant for dinner. None of us remember how pu pu platter and spring rolls made the cut for our annual celebration, but it has always been a fun, quirky tradition of ours.
Chinese on Christmas Eve may seem weird in America, but the idea is even stranger in France. This year in Paris, Harold’s parents hosted about 20 family members (and moi) for dinner and gift exchanging the night before Christmas. The house was beautifully decorated, the champagne flowed and we indulged in several traditional Christmas Eve dishes.
On the menu:
- Champagne and hors d’oeuvres such as foie gras tea sandwiches and saucisson
- First course: Foie gras, salad and fresh fig with a side of onion confit paired with a very sweet, white wine
- Second course: Mashed potatoes, carrot purée, poulet rôti (rotisserie chicken) and chestnuts
- Cheese course: A large tub of Vacherin fromage, a creamy, Swiss cheese made from cow’s milk was passed around and accompanied by a cheese platter and bread
- Dessert: Buche de Noël otherwise known as a yule log, a traditional sponge cake frosted and filled with chocolate
The next day we drove an hour south of Paris to Montargis, a small town where Harold’s mom grew up and extended family lives. Sometimes referred to as “Venice of the Gâtinais”, Montargis is your typical sleepy small town, but features several canals and bridges (hence the name).
We gathered for Christmas lunch at a quaint, local restaurant called L’Orangerie du Lac. Little did I know upon arriving that we were about to impart on a true, five course feast. As I reflect on what we ate that afternoon, it’s honestly a blur now. All I remember is that it was delicious and heavy and I barely made it past the cheese course.
On the menu:
- First course: A kir royal (champagne aperatif) with several amuse-buches, a selection of complimentary mini-hors d’oeuvres, including a cold, pesto soup and pâté
- Second course: Smoked salmon and scallop tarte topped with a creamy sauce
- Pear sorbet in between courses to cleanse our palettes
- Third course: A grande assiette des fruits de mer, or a seafood platter
- Fourth course: Cheese course featuring a cart of selections
- Fifth course: A dessert platter with the choice of sorbets or traditional desserts
My first Noël was definitely a success and I enjoyed every second of meeting and eating with a big, French family. While I’m sad I missed my Chinese Christmas Eve tradition, I’m happy to have experienced something new.
Happy New Year!