14 ways to celebrate Bastille Day in Philadelphia

Posted: July 15, 2014

FRANCOPHILES can't always put their finger on it. Call it a certain je ne sais quoi, an undefinable yet unmistakable quality that makes all things French so enticing. Today's the 225th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, which makes this a good time to get your French fix right here in Philadelphia, where we've loved all things French since 20-year-old Gen. Lafayette volunteered to fight on our side in the American Revolution. Let us count some ways.

Forget that bowl of cherries, French painter Paul Cezanne might have said. See "The World Is an Apple: The Still Lifes of Paul Cezanne," through Sept. 22 at the Barnes Foundation, on the Ben Franklin Parkway - our Philly-stylin' version of Paris' Avenue des Champs-Elysees. Also at the Barnes: 181 Renoirs and 59 Matisses. Counting art is so American, but we can't help ourselves.

Across 21st Street from the Barnes, on the Parkway, is the Rodin Museum, a recently restored jewel box holding one of the greatest collections of Rodin's work outside of Paris. Sculptures, studies, books, drawings and prints - some of it displayed in an exquisite French garden.

On Wednesday, The Oval returns to 26th Street and the Parkway. From 5:30 to 10 p.m., sample what's ahead Wednesdays through Sundays until Aug. 17, like food trucks, a beer garden, free entertainment, lawn games, kids' activities and more. This year's theme is Magic Carpet, and the brightly fanciful look of the eight-acre space comes from local multimedia artist Candy Coated.

There's an underrated gem of an art museum on the La Salle University campus, 1900 W. Olney Ave., with an impressive number of 18th- to 20th-century French paintings by artists such as Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Eugene Fromentin and Labert Gleizes.

Among the purest expressions of Philly's French accent can be experienced from an outdoor seat at Parc. Take in the views of Rittenhouse Square across 18th Street while you sip a Sazerac.

The newest French eatery in town is Le Cheri, in the Art Alliance, 251 S. 18th St., from Pierre and Charlotte Calmels. The space has double the capacity of the couple's 30-seat, always tough-to-get-into Bibou, at 1009 S. 8th St.

Another new French-inspired spot is Paris Bistro, 8229 Germantown Ave., in Chestnut Hill. A collaboration between chef Al Paris and restaurateurs Robert and Benjamin Bynum, this Dijon-colored bistro has a subterranean club where le jazz hot reigns. Upstairs in the kitchen, Paris riffs true to traditional form - classics like coq au vin, escargot in Pernod-infused butter and a top-rate steak frites.

Chef-owner Townsend Wentz opened Townsend in May, a contemporary French bistro at 1623 E. Passyunk Ave. Order a la carte or the seven-course chef's tasting menu of updated French classics. GM and sommelier Lauren Harris is brilliant with wine pairings.

The Tour de France isn't a huge fan fave here (to find out why it should be, see Matt Nestor's story on Page 27) but three area bars are giving it a run through July 27 with $1-off Ommegang drafts, and prizes: Devil's Den, 1148 S. 11th St., devilsdenphilly.com; Barren Hill Tavern & Brewery, 646 Germantown Pike, Lafayette Hill, barrenhill.com; and Old Eagle Tavern, 177 Markle St., oldeagletavern.com.

There's no celebrating France without dessert. Le Petit Mitron, a family-owned French bakery across from the train station in Narberth (207 Haverford Ave.). In true French fashion, this eatery is closed in August so that Patrick and Isabelle Rurange can head back to France.

Gourmet desserts, sophisticated sweets and artisan chocolates line the cases at Miel Patisserie, 204 S. 17th St. Try the Marjolaine, a cake layered with chocolate, vanilla, praline and hazelnut.

For a new outfit to match your French attitude, head to Third Street Habitboutique, 153 N. 3rd St., which carries Isabel Marant, a French contemporary women's line that has a cult following and is hard to find this side of Paris.

For the home, Laura DiFrancesco stocks Contessa's French Linens, at Reading Terminal Market, with French jacquards and coated tablecloths

Shoppers at Kellijane, 1721 Spruce St., can peruse imported French linens, bedding and tablecloths saturated with the sunny colors of Provence.

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