On the French Fourth of July: 'It's a big party'

Following closely on the heels of the Fourth of July comes Bastille Day July 14, often referred to as the French Independence Day.

And local French restaurants, crepe makers, bakers and chocolate sellers are playing up that holiday for all it's worth.


"It's the French Fourth of July and it's a French restaurant," said Allison Parker-Abromitis, spokeswoman for the Foreman Wolf restaurant group, which owns the popular Roland Park bistro Petit Louis.

"It's a big party."

Celebrating Bastille Day has become a tradition at Petit Louis, but this year, for the first time, the restaurant group headed by restaurateur Tony Foreman and chef Cindy Wolf is planning outdoor seating under tents as well as offering a special menu, French wines, Bastille Day T-shrts and live entertainment — including Can-Can girls and an accordion player.

The fixed dinner price will be $39 per person, or $25 for children or for dinner without wine.

"We celebrate all things French at Petit Louis," Parker-Abromitis said.

Bastille Day commemorates the date in 1789 when Parisians angry over perceived hypocrisy and corruption by the aristocracy stormed the Bastille fortress-prison, freeing seven prisoners, and sending King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette scurrying to safety in Versailles. The day is usually celebrated with fireworks and a big parade on the Champs Elysees.

For a growing number of French-themed businesses, the holiday is an excuse to throw a party in hopes that customers, fresh from the Fourth of July, will catch the spirit of the day.

"It's a great day to celebrate if you have a French item," said Ann Costlow, of Evesham Park, owner of Sofi's Crepes, which has locations in downtow Baltimore's Women's Industrial Exchange, as well as next to the Charles Theatre and inAnnapolis.

Costlow also plans to serve crepes in the Senator Theatre, once it is renovated.

And in a tie-in with Bastille Day, she is opening her newest creperie in the Valley Village shopping center on Reisterstown Road in Owings Mills.

At the restaurant Crepe du Jour in the Mount Washingon Village shopping district, owner Mustapha Snoussi is planning a special French-themed menu that includes a Crepe Marie Antoinette — with shrimp and jumbo lump crab —as well as live music and a chance to win a $100 gift certificate if you wear a French costume.

"The storming of the Bastille may have been a historical turning point for the French as they rose up against monarchy, but (Bastille Day) just gives us another excuse to party," Snoussi said in an e-mail blast.

But he thinks the music will be salsa, not French.

"I wish I could get French," he told the Messenger. "It costs more to get them" on Bastille Day.


Not only restaurants are getting into the act.

"We hope folks will join us in celebrating all that is French," said Susannah Siger, owner of Ma Petite Shoe, a boutique store on The Avenue in Hampden that specializes in shoes and exotic chocolates. The store will offer French music, free chocolate tastings, and a special appearance by Marie Antoinette lookalikes from a Baltimore performing troupe, The Mermaid Workshop.

The 20-seat Bonjour Bakery and Café, in Mount Washington, along with its partner, Haute Dog, a gourmet hot dog stand outside, are also preparing for Bastille Day, as they have in years past. This year will be the first time that they serve dinner on Bastille Day.

The 13-year-old Bonjour, which specializes in crepes, quiche and French pastries, will have a special menu set to include a confit of duck crepe with fois gras, as well as three or four other savory crepe and four or five desserts, including profiteroles with Chantilly whipped cream and sauce au chocolat, said Gayle Brier, of Guilford, the co-owner of Bonjour with her husband, Gerard Billebault..

And this year, as they do every year, the couple, also well-remembered for their former restaurant Brasserie Tatin, in Tuscany-Canterbury, will throw a Bastille Day bash at their house for 100 of their closest friends, Brier said.

"My husband is French. This is our holiday. We really wanted to share the Bastille Day experience."