Un je ne sais quoi!

Bonjour tout le monde!

This week, we are so excited to publish an interview with Aude, the owner of Un je ne sais quoi in Dupont Circle. For those of you who don’t know, Un je ne sais quoi is a magnifique bakery/café located in Washington, DC. The atmosphere, cuisine, and ambiance can’t be beat. It’s a great place to go and practice your français!

French in D.C: What region/city of France are you originally from?

Aude: We both are from Lille, in the North of France. It’s located two hours from Paris, and one hour from Brussels and London.

French in D.C: What made you decide to open a patisserie in Washington, D.C? Did you own one in France as well?

Aude: We came to D.C to visit because François wanted to see the Lincoln Memorial and we fell in love with the city. We did not find a large offer of French pastry shops, so we decided to open one. In France, François used to own a wine shop, and I worked in communication at the unemployment agency. François did culinary school when he was young, so he knew the basics. He sold his wine shop, and then worked in a bakery to learn new recipes.

French in D.C: What is your most popular item, and what do you think makes it so delicious?

Aude: Everybody loves our almond croissant. It is so popular that we had to double the quantities we make on the weekend. We also have a pistachio version and almond, and pistachio and pecan versions for the pain au chocolat. François is very generous regarding his pastries so his almond or pistachio croissant is very well-stuffed with homemade frangipane. It’s crunchy on the outside and smooth on the inside.

French in D.C: Do you have a favorite item to make?

Aude: The St. Honoré because you use different techniques when making it: flaky dough, pâte à choux, ganache, icing, or caramel and pastry cream.

French in D.C: Could you tell us about the different techniques used to make the pastries served at Un je ne sais quoi ?

Aude: The techniques are numerous, but the one you use the most is the pipping. We use it from early morning with the pâte à choux to make the chouquettes (these little hollow choux with sugar on top), the Paris Brest, the éclair, to the afternoon to make the meringues for our Merveilleux.

French in D.C: Which pastry, in your opinion, is the most quintessential French pastry?

Aude: In our opinion, the St Honoré is the most quintessential French pastry. This pastry was named after the French patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs, Saint Honoré. He was the Bishop of Amiens, and was invented in 1847 at the Chiboust Bakery on Rue Saint Honoré in Paris. The first one was vanilla flavor but now you can have several other flavors like chocolate, strawberry. As described before, you use different techniques, so it makes it a very challenging cake to make.

French in D.C: We noticed that the “mascot” of Un je ne sais quoi is a deer eating a Merveilleux. We bet there’s a story behind that. Where did the idea come from?

Aude: When we had the idea of opening a pastry shop in D.C, we wanted to make only our specialty, the Merveilleux, which comes from the North of France. It is made of meringue, ganache, whipped cream and shavings of chocolate. Merveilleux is a term used in French to speak about magic and fairy tales. When we were looking on the web to create a fairy tale universe, we found Claire Guiral, a French artist from Bordeaux. We visited her and her universe of characters made of paper, and it was perfectly matching the idea of what we wanted to create. We asked us to create one character per pastry: the deer for the Merveilleux, the Unicorn for the Mythique (white chocolate), the jay for the Memorable (coffee), the fox for the Majestueux (speculoos), and a beautiful fairy for the Magique (violet). A few weeks later, she sent us the drawings which are now on the wall of the pastry shop and we agreed that it was exactly what we wanted.

French in D.C: We imagine that you had to make some adjustments due to the COVID restrictions in cafés and restaurants. How did Un je ne sais quoi adapt to this challenge?

Aude: The pandemic period was very tough, but our customers always showed their support. We had to close one month in March/April 2020 and when we reopened, we had to limit the seating. So, we decided to offer delivery through UberEats. The Mayor of DC, Muriel Bowser, limited the delivery app fees for the restaurant at 15%, which was a big help, because it was at 30% before.

French in DC: For our students who are débutants, what is the best way to order a pastry in French?

Aude: Bonjour, j’aimerais commander un St Honoré au chocolat s’il vous plaît. Merci.

French in DC: What else would you like us to know?

Aude: We are very happy and proud to be part of the DMV community. It has been a big challenge for the whole family to come to the U.S, because we did not know if our project will be a success or not, but we never regretted our choice. We would like to thank our customers, regular or new, for their support since we started our pastry shop. When we opened, everyone was encouraging, asking us how the business was and telling us that they were happy that we were here. We are really thankful to have this everyday support since then! Merci beaucoup !

Reflections on Le Petit Prince

Bonjour tout le monde!

This week, I decided to do a little reflection on Le Petit Prince. It’s one of my all-time favorite books. For those of our readers who are unfamiliar with this story, it’s a coming-of-age journey across the cosmos, authored by famed French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry . While it has moments of sadness, it also has moments of great joy and wonder.

Voici mon secret, il est très simple.

On ne voit rien qu’avec le coeur.

Lessential est invisible pour les yeux.

(Here is my secret, it is very simple

We only see with the heart.

What is essential is invisible for the eyes)

Something that I’ve learned in life is that we all have ups and downs, highs and lows, and moments where we have to sit back and reflect. Is this the direction that I am meant to go in? What is the plan for me going forward? How do I respond in the face of a setback?

While it may not provide all the answers to life’s mysteries, Le Petit Prince will undoubtedly charm, delight, and amaze you with its prose, poignant nature, and passion. Bonne lecture!

Our Latest Sortie!

Bonjour tout le monde!

We had our first sortie in over a year and a half yesterday at Bluemont Vineyard. It felt wonderful to go out on a little adventure with friends. After a nice lunch, we ventured out to do a wine tasting at this incredible vineyard. While sampling some incredible wines, we thought about the French influence on the world of wine.

It’s so nice to combine what we’re passionate about with a fun outing with friends! Check out some of our pictures from this past weekend.

À la prochaine!

Back in the U.S. / Back to School !

Bonjour tout le monde!

It feels so wonderful to be back in the states. After a relaxing two weeks in France, it’s back to work. With the school year starting again soon, we’re ready to get back in the swing of things. I am so excited to be teaching my new, as well as returning, students!

While this year may look different from past years, one thing is for sure – it’s never too early (or too late) to start up with French again. With travel re-opening, it looks more and more possible that we will be able to use our world language skills again, even if we’ve been out of practice for a while.

So, if you’re looking to get back into French, look no further! Have a great beginning of the school year, and we hope to see you prochainement !

(Before hitting the books again, look at some of these final photos from our Paris trip!)

Beautiful Times in Paris!

Bonsoir tout le monde!

I’m so excited to be sharing this post with you. It’s a very special post…one of our team members is in France! After jumping through many COVID-related hoops, Kate was able to make it to Paris. It’s been a wonderful time so far, making many stops in restaurants, museums, and meeting up with friends. I’ve included some pictures below. It’s only been a few days, but so far she managed to visit La Sainte-Chapelle, Café de Flore, and The Palais Garnier. Even with the hurdles along the way, the trip was more than worth it. She will be returning to France in December to take pictures of the Christmas markets in Strasbourg, and we can’t wait to share the next batch of pictures with you!

Profitez-en bien!

Tartelettes drapeau français aux fraises, bananes et myrtilles!

Bonjour tout le monde!

Just thought I would share this great recipe for the upcoming 14 julliet holiday in France (also known as La fête nationale or Bastille Day). For a refresher, on July 14, 1789, the Bastille prison was captured by French insurgents. This was the beginning point of the French Revolution!

While it’s been a while since many of us have taken a history class, it does us all a bit of good to reflect on how fortunate we are to live in a democracy.

Enjoy this petite recette !

Reflections on Heading to France (For the First Time in a Long Time!)

Bonsoir tout le monde!

This week, we have a rather personal post. With COVID restrictions loosening and more people getting vaccinated, summer travel is making a comeback. A good friend of mine will be heading to Paris for two weeks this summer, and it got me thinking…will this magical city be the same as she remembers? Or will it be completely turned on its head after dealing with the spread of a deadly disease?

I thought back to when I studied in France as a student…the smells, the sounds, the atmosphere, the struggle to understand fast spoken French. I remembered some of the first people I met – their zest for life, their desire to be free to do as they wished, and their clear devotion to their family and friends. Thinking back made me ask myself, Will things be all that different? Will people still have their same dogged determination to live life, experience life, cherish it?


Plus que jamais. (More than ever)

If there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that nothing can take away the French people’s zest for life. The joie de vivre exhibited by so many French people (and observed by non-French travelers) is never going away, even during and after a pandemic. There is not a great deal that I’m sure about, but there’s one thing that we can always count on!

Teaching French in an Unlikely Place

Bonjour tout le monde,

I have a heartwarming story for you this week…I have a friend who works as a computer science teacher at a school in Alexandria. As you have probably guessed, the French language is not something that she encounters often in her job. All that changed about a week ago.

My friend (who speaks fluent French) was instructing her class on how to make websites, and she made one for a world language club as an example. She then had a student say how much they wanted to learn French, but didn’t yet have the resources/books to do so. The next class, she shared a French/English dictionary with them, along with some worksheets. Now, she helps her student learn a little French every computer science class!

Just goes to show how you can teach someone about something they love, even in an unlikely place! May 3-7 is Teacher Appreciation Week, so don’t forget to show teachers how much you appreciate them all month (and year!) long.

Interview with D. Alfaro from MuttsNBolts Creations!

Bonjour tout le monde! This week, we posted an interview with D. Alfaro, one of the vendors that we partnered with for our conference in August 2020. She was kind enough to donate masks to some of our conference participants, and we wanted to spread the word about her incredible products. Bonne lecture!

What kind of products do you make?

I started out making dog clothes about 8 years ago, but over the years I have added other items such as bags, wallets and purses into my store.

What is your most popular item (s) ?

Before the pandemic, it was a tie collar. I use all recycled men’s clothes to make them so they look very high quality when they are completed. During the pandemic, my biggest seller was a face mask with material that was from The Office and Schitt’s Creek.

Do you make products only for dogs, or for other pets as well?

I have made products for cats and I got to make a bowtie for a pig once! That was a lot of fun.

What are some things that inspire you when making your products?

For dog clothes, I love dressing dogs up in human looking suits. It is so fun to go out and find used men’s clothes, match shirts with suits and tie. When I watch TV I pay extra close attention to what men are wearing to see what looks great. I love creating combos. For the newer stuff, I just think about things that I need in my life and what I like for bags and try and create them.

What is your favorite item to make?

I would say the Poop N’ Fancy dispensary bag. It something that doesn’t take too much time and has instant gratification. I can make a bunch of them if I am feeling the itch to use a lot of fun fabric at one.

It’s so interesting that you have customers from all over the world. Can you tell us about one special international order you completed?

I am an actress as well, so there was someone who loves my work on a particular web series I did. She started following me and about a year after that I started my dog clothes business. She ended up ordering two hoddies from me and I sent them off to France.

I read that your pet chihuahua inspired you to start MuttsNBoltsCreations. Tell us about her!

Oh man, Xena is my most favorite little creature. I can’t believe something so small could have so much personality. My spouse is the one that picked her at the pound, but Xena decided that I am her person. She is always with me at home. It doesn’t matter what room I am in, she is there finding some sun to lounge around in. Sometimes she gets into these moods and she runs in circles as fast as she can all over the house. It always makes me laugh. She loves to wear her clothes, she knows how to put her arms into the arm holes. I think she understands that they keep her warm since she has no fur on her underside. I only make her little fleece sweaters to wear since she is very much a tomboy. Xena has definitely stolen my heart.

Could you tell us about some products you make for humans? Your very creative masks, for example?

Before the pandemic, I was strictly a dog or cat only company. I did make the bags but I had never made anything for humans. I lost my job in March, so I figured I had sewing skills, why not try making masks. I know a lot of my nurse friends were running out of PPE so I made them cloth ones. That’s how the mask business started. I was able to donate about 250 masks to frontline workers when there was a PPE crisis. To date, I have made about 3,500 masks. The only other products I make for human are these baby bibs that are different that typical bibs. They are called Baprons. They are much easier to put on the baby and it covers more of their clothes.

It’s great to see that part of the proceeds from MuttsNBoltsCreations go to animal shelters. Any way we could support them?

Right now, I am donating to Danielle’s Accidental Cat Rescue. She has been doing a lot of wonderful work getting kittens off the street and getting the older cast fixed so they can’t reproduce. I like to find small rescues that aren’t too big and are really wanting to do more but can’t financially. The Bolts in my company name was meant to also represent other furry animals.

What else would you like us to know?

I think it’s so important to adopt from pounds, shelters and rescues and not shop for pure bred animals. There are so many wonderful animals out there that need a loving home. Mutts make the best pets and they are less likely to have medical issues compared to pure bred ones.

Thank you for reading our interview! To learn more about MuttsNBolts Creations and the amazing products they sell, check out the following link:

Interview with Morgan from Morganic Handmade!

This month, we had a chance to sit down and interview Morgan from Morganic Handmade. She an incredible vendor from Etsy who was kind enough to donate masks to our conference participants last year. We hope you enjoy the interview!

To check out Morgan’s incredible products, click on the following link:

French in DC: How long have you been selling on Etsy?

Morgan: I’ve been selling stuff on Etsy since 2016- my boyfriend and I used to screen print designs onto cheap clothing and make stickers. In 2018, I started selling handmade hemp clothing.

French in DC: What made you want to start selling clothes?

Morgan: I started making/selling clothing after I tore my ACL and had full reconstructive surgery in 2018. I started sewing clothes to stay busy mentally while I healed my physical body.

French in DC: Can you tell us about the dyeing process?

Morgan: I use all natural plant dyes to color all of my fabric. Natural dyeing is an ancient art that involves cooking down raw plants and extracts to extract their natural color. Natural dyes take multiple dye baths and colors take from days to weeks to achieve full palette potential.

French in DC: What makes organic clothes more durable / better for the planet than non-organic clothes?

Morgan: Because my garments are made of natural fibers (hemp/organic cotton/merino fabric blends) they are biodegradable! Plastic (polyester) clothing that will eventually go into a landfill will never break down, because it’s a synthetic material. Hemp can also be grown without the use of harmful pesticides, takes far less water to grow in comparison to cotton, produces twice the amount of fiber to acre in comparison to cotton, it is the most durable natural fiber – four times stronger than cotton – naturally antimicrobial, naturally anti-fungal and naturally UV protective.

French in DC: What do you like most about creating and selling clothes?

Morgan: I enjoy having a creative outlet to express myself. I never really cared about clothes growing up but love how we can express ourselves simply from the color and textures we choose to wear.

French in DC: Have you been able to pass on your love of fabrics and organic clothes to others? If so, how?

Morgan: Yes! I am always advocating for natural fibers and teaching my friends/family about how good natural fibers are for our body and Earth.

French in DC: Where do you get your inspiration for making your clothes?

Morgan: I am inspired by the outdoors – mountains, trails, trees and rivers are where I draw most of my inspiration from.

French in DC: Tell us about Hood River. Is that where you harvest the materials to make your clothes? Does being outdoors inspire you?

Morgan: I don’t locally harvest all of my dye stuff, only a small portion for special projects – but do love foraging for dye mushrooms, lichen, oak galls and leaves for eco-printing! “The Gorge” is the ultimate outdoor playground nestled along the Columbia River. It’s a magical region that offers access to world class mountain biking, kite boarding, wind surfing, kayaking, hiking, skiing and snowboarding. Everyone in the Gorge gets after it! I am certainly inspired by the outdoors and all the Columbia River Gorge has to offer.

French in DC: What are your favorite products to make?

Morgan: I love making hoodies and hats most..probably because I wear these things the most.

French in DC: If someone is looking to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle, what tips would you give them? How can they make incremental changes?

Morgan: Say no to single use plastics! Say no to fast fashion! Anything that goes in a plastic bag can easily go in a mason jar or tupperware. You can even reuse old plastic zip loc bags just by washing them and hanging them to dry. If you like to drink from straws, get some glass straws.

French in DC: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

Morgan: More love, more life!

Thank you for reading!