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Yesterday, August 15th, was a big day. Not only was it my mom’s 50th birthday but it also was Julia Child’s (co-author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and TV host of The French Chef) 100th birthday anniversary!  Julia Child, who introduced french cooking to America through her textbook and TV series, changed America’s entire outlook toward not only french cooking but towards home cooking in general.  In an era stuck in canned mushroom soup casserole and jelly molds, Julia presented fine dishes in simple terms so that anyone could pull off a Beef Bourguignon, Coq au Vin or a Fricassees (whether or not they could pronounce it).

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This weekend I picked up a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and when I was reading it my brother came up behind me and began reading it in a mocking half-french, high pitched tone and I was flabbergasted and responded, “Hey, how do you watch Julia Child videos too?!” That quintessential silly voice, which allowed people to connect with her, will play in my head whenever I flip through the pages of her book. She was quite a jokester too, check out this vid!

Ok, as you can tell, Julia Child has inspired me.  And therefore, in honor of her I had a very Julia day, full of delicious french food! We started off by visiting Madeleine’s Petit Paris, a french restaurant in North Jersey which celebrated Julia’s birthday with a menu based off of her trademark dishes.  

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The menu consisted of three courses including an appetizer, main course and a dessert.  We started off, in honor of Julia, by ordering her favorite drink an upside down martini.  Unlike regular martinis, Julia’s is 1 part gin to 5 parts vermouth.  This combination burns down the throat but then leaves a pleasing after taste that would finely accompany the Coq au Vin.

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For an appetizer there was a choice of Vichyssoise (pronounced Vich-y-swaz) a cold potato, leek soup topped with chives and fresh cracked pepper, and salade Niçoise (pronounced salad Nee-swaaz) fresh greens adorned with tuna salad and a hard-boiled egg.

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I chose the Vichyssoise. And man o man did I choose right! The smooth yet thick and creamy texture of the soup encouraged you to sip slow and take in the perfectly seasoned mixture.  The leek added just the touch of oniony aroma to bring the potatoes to the next level.  The chives and cracked pepper brought it all together.  I had a bit of the freshly baked french bread left that they gave out individually before our meal which I used to sop up the leftover soup.  After I wiped mine clean I begged my brother to let me sop up his leftover soup which he abruptly said no and gave me a look which I knew meant, keep your hands off my plate.  So I sat patiently and waited for the main course.

The main course was a choice of her famous Coq au Vin, chicken which is browned in rendered bacon fat then slow cooked in red wine, and Quenelles de Poisson, crab, scallops, flounder and lobster dumplings covered in a sauce.  My mom and brother had the Coq au Vin while I dabbled in the quenelles.

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They were like nothing I had ever tasted before.  I read about them in her book and thought that they sounded gross (random parts of fish mashed together with butter?? >P).  How wrong  was! They were so light and fluffily that I barely needed a fork to cut them and they melted in your mouth with each spoonful. With this I realized the art of french cooking.  Taking things that regularly you would not imagine being delicious, or even edible and putting them together to create a masterpiece.

And for dessert we all got Crêpe Suzette which we quickly downed before I realized I had forgotten to take a picture! Light and delicious as well. 

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The food wasn’t the only thing that made this outing a wonderful experience but also the staff.  At one point when we were eating the chef and his wife (Madeleine,  for which the restaurant is named after, pictured above with her husband the chef) came out and sang a few songs for us (all in french). It was adorable! and afterwards Madeleine came around and gave kisses to each one of the guests.  She left a lipstick stain on my brothers cheek, classic.

I think we were the only people there under 75 years old, however I felt more welcome than I did in any other hip restaurant I had ever been to.  The food, the people, the day, Julia Child, Madeleine. what a good experience. No matter what age you will love this place.  Go enjoy and as Julia would say, Bon Appétit!

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