La Vie Francaise, Portland-style

Keep it local while being inspired by Bastille Day celebrations of French style and taste.

By Kristin Belz July 12, 2013

To get into the French spirit in Portland, start the day with croissant and cafe au lait.

Bastille day is the "other" red-white-and-blue holiday. Ten days after the Fourth of July, we’ve fulfilled our patriotic duties and can move on to appreciating other countries and cultures, starting with France. Bastille Day, July 14, is a reminder of how excellent it is to emulate la vie Francaise.

Flying your French freak flag at home is worth doing any day, but the Bastille Day celebrations can get help get you in the mood. Start on Saturday at one of two big Bastille bashes; go to both – they each stretch out for hours so you can pace yourself. Technically Saturday July 13 is the day before Bastille Day, but if we consider the time difference between Portland and France, it's probably right on.

Faced with a Pain au Chocolat, who wouldn't say "oui," even if it isn't Bastille Day? This patisserie comes from St. Honore Boulangerie.

Pix Patisserie Bastille Day Bash – Saturday July 13, 2 pm – 11 pm – benefits the Oregon Food Bank (please bring non-perishable food items as a donation), and veers a little off the traditional French activities with its “hoola hoopin’, bicycle scavenger hunt and cupcake stomp.” But hey, this is Paris a la Portland-wierd, right? It’s all good.

  • Live music throughout the afternoon and into the evening, from some of Portland’s hippest bands including Sun Angle, Tope, Charts, and Wooden Indian Burial Ground.
  • Mini Medoc Marathon Fun Run – a 5K version of the French wine region Medoc marathon, which visits 50 chateaux on the 26.2 mile route, and encourages sampling the Bordeaux offerings at the same time. This race is a bit shorter, and requires runners wear fun costumes.

Part of why St. Honore Boulangerie (on NW Thurman) turns out such good French bread and pastry is because of this oven.

Director Park Bastille Day celebration – Saturday, July 13, 2013, 12 noon to 6 pm. Billed as "the West Coast’s largest Bastille Day celebration, the downtown park and adjacent streets will be blocked off for French style fun.  

  • Authentic French food from folks at the Heathman, Brasserie Montmartre, St Honore Bakery, and C’est Si Bon.
  • Waiter races – i.e., racers wear proper garcon attire and carry a tray of glasses filled with champagne. 

After your Bastille Day orientation, how to be French in Portland?  Some ideas:

  • When shopping for groceries, stay away from the one-stop big boxes (though these do exist in France) and instead try to buy bread, cheese, meat and beverages all at different shops. This might be difficult to achieve in Portland, but some stand-ins for Petit Paris can be found in a few of our favorite neighborhoods (try NW 23rd, NE Alberta, or the Pearl District), where a variety of specialty food stores are within walking or biking distance.
  • While shopping, make sure you have a baguette peaking out from inside your grocery bag.
  • To wear: a French-inspired fisherman's t-shirt (blue stripes on sandy white, boat neck, long-sleeved)
  • Breakfast: French press café au lait, accompanied by a croissant or, even better, pain au chocolat.
  • Lunch: baguette, cheese and meat are the basics, but variations are endless. From the simplest backpacker’s lunch (take a baguette and slather it with a buttery soft cheese like Camembert or Brie) to an elaborate gourmet creation, French sandwiches are more than just a vehicle to get a protein into your mouth without getting your hands messy.  Wine is optional.
  • Sandwich inspirations from St. Honore Boulangerie: the authentic French bakery on NW Thurman prepares “Casse-Croute” sandwiches made with their classic baguette and stuffed with various traditional combinations. Try Poulet aux Crudités – oven-roasted chicken with celery, mayonnaise, tarragon, Dijon mustard, and hard boiled egg; Brie aux Fines Herbes – double cream brie, frisee, cucumbers and toasted sliced almonds; Jambon Parisien – Black Forest ham, Emmental cheese, cornichons (tiny French pickles), Dijon mustard butter, and lettuce.
  • Dinner: Steak au Poivre or Salade Nicoise. Plenty of wine. Creme Brulee for dessert. 
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