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The Alliance Française de Denver, a Paris-based nonprofit that’s been teaching Denverites the French language since 1897, was finally set to resume regular operations at its Baker headquarters when, in early June, disaster struck: The building’s north-facing wall collapsed, delaying the organization’s return to in-person classes. The Alliance is working to find alternative spaces to celebrate the French culture (check in with the group on Facebook for updates and ways to help). In the meantime, executive director Zoé Hess gave us a tour of local French fun to help ease the pain. Cue the accordion music.
French-Senegalese siblings Aminata and Rougui Dia opened Le French Bakery & Cafe in 2019. Aminata is known as the African Queen of Parisian Cuisine, a moniker earned after she became the first Black woman in Paris to be named executive chef of a Michelin-starred restaurant. Now, the sisters serve staples like boeuf bourguignon and duck fat potato confit in southeast Denver. (Tip: Cheese courses are between the main dish and dessert.) Hess goes for an outdoor brunch of escargot in garlic-parsley butter and croque madame.
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The skincare chain L’Occitane en Provence is found in 90 countries, including a shop in the Cherry Creek Shopping Center. Hess says it’s beloved by expats not only for its stellar line of products—its shower gels, soaps, hand creams, and cologne are made in southeastern France—but also for the comfort the lavender aroma elicits as you walk through the door. “It’s like McDonald’s for Americans: All the stores smell the same,” Hess says. “If I’m homesick, I visit to feel like I’m in France or Belgium.”
La Vie En Rose
Sure, jazz and blues are American inventions, but some Francophone musicians in Denver have meshed those gritty and pliable art forms with French traditions. Nicolas Busquet, whose influences include Georges Brassens—think Bob Dylan, but French—mixes French folk music with a soulful rasp and bluesy guitar. Find him year-round on his YouTube channel. (Plans for an October show at the Alliance Française’s headquarters were up in the air at press time.) Maria Diedrichs Lopez is a Swiss-American-German-Ecuadorian chanteuse appreciated for, among other musical stylings, an Édith Piaf repertoire that often includes the French national favorite “Hymne à l’amour.” Catch her at 100 Nights of Jazz, a virtual concert series at Classic Pianos in Denver.
À Votre Santé
The Infinite Monkey Theorem in RiNo pours its wines in a distinctively Denver way—from stainless steel kegs—but its cultivation methods are as French as a Colorado vintner can get. Founded in 2008, the winery grows Cabernet Franc on the Western Slope at a similar latitude as France’s Loire Valley (Cabernet Franc’s place of origin). The terroir produces a wine that’s medium-bodied, herbaceous, and fruit-forward. Hess pairs it with charcuterie from her favorite delicatessen in Boulder, Le Frigo.