The French-American Chamber of Commerce Houston held the French Festival 2020 on the evening of November 19th, Beaujolais Nouveau Day, as a virtual affair. Jacques Fox of Artisans Restaurant emceed an enjoyable event of French food, wine, and culture. This year’s guest of honor was 2 Michelin Star Chef Thierry Marx. Chef Marx owns and manages several highly regarded restaurants, has written over a dozen cookbooks, and is a star of Top Chef France. There was another special guest, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet!
Virtual attendees had several ticket packages as a way to participate in the event. I purchased the Discovery package which included access to the event, a bottle of the main featured wine, Dominique Piron Fleurie, as well as a second bottle of wine of my choice. I selected the Duluc de Branaire Ducru Saint Julien as my second bottle. Two other package tiers were available, each including more wine, a cheese plate, and other French food goodies. The organizers even offered a delivery option for those in the Houston area.
The weekend before the event I received an email with a Zoom link, information about the wines, links to cooking demo videos, and a digital magazine that included a well-written program for the event. A courier promptly delivered my wines the day of the event. Overall, the event was extremely well organized. To embrace our home participation, I made a simple Steak Frits for an early dinner using one of my French cast iron pans. My wife made a loaf of bread in our big French enameled cast iron pot. We also made a cheese plate to munch on during the event.
The event kicked off with a brief introduction by Franck Avice, president of FACC Houston.
We then moved into a mixology class that featured the history of Calvados, the famed apple and pear brandy of Normandy, and a demo on how to make a Calvados Negroni. Next up two wine professionals from Spec’s led a wine tasting of the event’s five featured French wines, which included:
- Louis de Sacy Champagne Grand Cru
- 2019 Langlois Chateau Sancerre
- 2019 Domaine de Triennes Rosé
- 2019 Beaujolais Piron Fleurie
- 2014 Duluc de Branaire Ducru Saint Julien
My wife and I decided to enjoy the Dominique Piron Fleurie during the event, which complimented our dinner and cheese plate very well. This Cru Beaujolais is 100% Gamay Noir from a 50-year-old vineyard in the village of Fleurie. Domaine Dominique Piron was just named a finalist for the 2020 Wine Enthusiasts Wine Star Awards European Winery of the Year. Dominique Piron is a 14th generation wine maker with a family history of winemaking that goes all the way back to 1590! The Piron Fleurie showed raspberry, cranberry, dried herbs, and floral notes on the nose. All of these aromas carried onto the palate making for a delicious and very food friendly wine.
After the wine tasting, attendees had a chance to be a bit more interactive with a French-themed trivia game. Next a cheese expert from Central Market led a tasting of four French cheeses. He was very knowledgeable and did a great job of teaching us about the cheeses. He also shared some good tips on how to best enjoy cheese.
As the evening moved, along it was now time for the cooking demo with Chef Thierry Marx. From his kitchen in France, Chef Marx shared a recipe for chicken fricassee with wine and morel mushrooms. This is a special recipe as it is a dish that French astronaut Thomas Pesquet took with him to the International Space Station. After Chef Marx’s cooking demo, Thomas took questions from the audience about his experience at the International Space Station. He shared a lot of interesting insights about food at the ISS and what it is like to live in space.
What a whirlwind evening! My wife and I really enjoyed ourselves. It was nice to have an opportunity to immerse ourselves in another culture at a time when it is so difficult to travel. I learned a bit more about French food, wine, and culture, and I have some new recipes to try soon!