Halloween in France…and at La Petite!

LPF Halloween
The French are known to love costume parties, especially for Mardi Gras and birthdays, but they did not celebrate Halloween until more recently.  Traditionally on November 1st, they celebrate the Catholic holiday of “la Toussaint”. Although a sad celebration, it’s a time for family to come together to bring flowers, pray and mourn their dead.


During the 1990’s in France, young trendy adults, especially those that traveled, started having costume parties. And now, many families and certain locations like bars and restaurants joined in on the celebration.  You can even carve your own pumpkin at some grocery stores.


At La Petite France Bakery we do celebrate Halloween and we have made many delicious desserts for the occasion. Also, please be sure to stop down for a few fun celebrations:


  • On October 31st from 11:00am to 4:00pm, come down to our bakery in your favorite costume for our Halloween contest.

Children (ages 0-21) and adults (ages 21+) are welcome. (1) Adult wins a catered lunch for their office holiday party or personal holiday party (10 people max – mini sandwiches and desserts) and (1) child wins a $20 gift card. We’ll take a pic with your info and winners will be announced on our Facebook page on November 13, 2015.


We look forward to seeing all of your creative ideas!



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The Eiffel Tower Turns 125



Arguably the most iconic landmark in France, the Eiffel Tower turned 125 on Monday, March 31st and shows no signs of age affecting her popularity.


Easily one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world, the Eiffel Tower is popular for its majestic height, design, beauty and sense of romance. People come from all over to take pictures in front of the grand lady and travel to the top of the tower to take in the beautiful 360 degree views of Paris.


That the Eiffel Tower has survived this long is a surprise because it was only intended to be around for 20 years! What saved it was not it’s beauty but it’s use in science. From the Eiffel Tower’s official website: “it was saved by the scientific experiments that Eiffel encouraged, and in particular by the first radio transmissions, followed by telecommunications.” In 1925, the tower transmitted the first public radio program and later transmitted broadcast television.


There have been many restorations and renovations to maintain the grand lady’s splendor and help her maintain her position as one of the most globally recognized structures in the world.


Here are 7 interesting facts you may have not known about the Eiffel Tower:

  1. Two years, two months and five days – that’s how long it took to build the Eiffel Tower, with construction beginning in 1887.
  2. 324 metres – that’s the height of the Eiffel Tower, including the antenna at the top. That works out at 1,063 feet. Without the antenna it is 300 metres tall (984 feet).
  3.  Six inches- That’s how much the tower grows in the sun. Yes the Eiffel Tower grows when it gets hot and shrinks in the cold. Although this is fairly hard to see with the naked eye.
  4. 18 – That’s the number of times the iron lady has been repainted over the years. It takes a mammoth 60 tonnes of paint to give it a first coat. It’s clearly not a job for the faint hearted.
  5. 41 years – That’s how long the Eiffel Tower was the world’s tallest building for, before the Chrysler Building in New York came along and stole its mantle.
  6. 1944 – The year when the Eiffel Tower could have been pulled down. Hitler ordered the German military governor of France to tear it down but he refused.
  7. Six to seven metres – Anyone who has been to the top might be able to guess what this figure is for. It’s the amount  the Eiffel Tower sways in the wind. But don’t let that put you off going up.



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The History of French Mardi Gras

French Mardi Gras


La Petite France is proud to host the first ever Downtown West Hartford Mardi Gras Celebration which will take place on March 8th from 11 am – 3 pm.


When most people think of Mardi Gras, they tend to think of New Orleans but Mardi Gras actually originated in France! To find out more about the history of French Mardi Gras, read this excellent article from James Withers, eHow contributor:


Mardi Gras has proved to be one of the most popular of France’s exports. Originating in France during the Middle Ages, Mardi Gras continues to be celebrated in France as well as in locations around the world, most famously in New Orleans. The celebration boasts Catholic roots, occurring as a pre-Lenten festival to prepare Catholics for Ash Wednesday. Often, Mardi Gras celebrations are used as an excuse for raucous behavior, and they have garnered the disapproval of church leaders in past centuries. However, they are generally recognized as a way for commoners to unite and enjoy life.


The King Cake


The tradition of baking a King Cake (or “La galette des Rois”) for Mardi Gras is one that developed in France during the 12th century. Each year, at the close of Christmas, King Cakes are baked in the days preceding Mardi Gras. Traditionally, they are baked in honor of the wise men who arrived bearing gifts to celebrate Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. However, in contemporary practice, the King Cake is usually used as an accoutrement for parties, and may be used for diverse purposes (including to honor the “Lord of Misrule”). Little figurines (or “feves”) are baked inside of the cakes, and anyone who discovers a toy inside of his piece is deemed “king for a day.” He is allowed to wear a paper crown to celebrate his status as king.


Fat Tuesday


Fat Tuesday is usually the wildest day of French Mardi Gras celebrations. It is positioned at the end of Mardi Gras, just before Ash Wednesday (or, “the Day of Repentance”). Frequently, a fatted bull (or “boeuf gras”) is sacrificed to celebrate Fat Tuesday. This custom of sacrifice originated in France in 1512. For centuries, Fat Tuesday has been a controversial celebration. During the 15th century, church fathers attempted to suppress these festivities, on the basis of their close similarity with pagan rituals. However, the popularity of Fat Tuesday has endured, and has survived to this day.


Carnival Activity


Carnival activity common to French Mardi Gras celebrations is generally quieter in nature than the activity of a New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration. For example, the Limoux fête is noted for its characteristic dances. Such French carnival celebrations are generally communal in nature, dating back to celebrations involving the millers in the 14th century. After being offered a day of remission from paying their taxes by the monks of Prouille, they would celebrate by tossing flour and sweets to observers. Carnival celebrations are often organized in nature, involving music, dancing and participants disguised with masks and wearing garish colors.


Monsieur Carnaval


The burning of the effigy of Monsieur Carnaval is a ritual that is celebrated in various parts of Europe, including France. In modern times, this ritual is discussed more as a school tale than it is actually ever practiced. However, carnival participants still do burn the effigy of Monsier Carnaval. A similar ritual is also practiced in Basque country, where an effigy for the excesses of the carnival, Zanpantzar, is burned to culminate the first day of its Mardi Gras carnival.


Exportation to New Orleans


Commonly believed to have been exported to the French colony of Louisiana in 1743 by the Marquis de Vaudreuil, Mardi Gras more likely came to be claimed as a local celebration later during the Revolutionary War. In New Orleans, Mardi Gras thrived, being practiced annually. There, it has evolved in many ways, to become very distinct from its French counterpart.



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Vive Les Macarons

New macarons

With Valentine’s Day a little over a week away, here’s a little history lesson on La Petite France’s signature dessert that is sure to bring a smile to whoever receives them 🙂


Macarons originated in France and are a sweet meringue based confection made with egg whites, icing sugar, granulated sugar, almond flour and food coloring. It is commonly filled with ganache, buttercream or jam filling sandwiched between a cookie base. Because they are made with almond flour they are perfect for those on gluten-free diets.


Macarons are characterized by a smooth round top and mildly moist, melt in your mouth texture. They come in a variety of flavors and colors and are perfect for any occasion from a special treat for yourself to wedding favors.


Our macarons here at La Petite France have been a hit since they were first introduced and have become our signature item. Our Chef Julien has created some special macarons just in time for Valentine’s Day which include a pink heart shaped macaron filled with white chocolate ganache; something we’re sure your valentine will love.


Be sure to come to the cafe and taste all the delicious flavors of macarons we have to offer and taste for yourself why there is nothing like a La Petite France macaron!

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La Chandeleur – Crepe Day



The French holiday of La Chandeleur, celebrated on February 2nd, falls in direct competition with Superbowl Sunday here in the U.S. so it may not get a lot of attention.


For those looking to learn more about this wonderful holiday, read on from this article written by About.com’s Laura K. Lawless:


The Catholic holiday of Candlemas, on 2 February, is a feast to commemorate the purification of the Virgin Mary and the presentation of baby Jesus. In France, this holiday is called la Chandeleur, Fête de la Lumière,* or jour des crêpes.


Not only do the French eat a lot of crêpes on Chandeleur, but they also do a bit of fortune telling while making them. It is traditional to hold a coin in your writing hand and a crêpe pan in the other, and flip the crêpe into the air. If you manage to catch the crêpe in the pan, your family will be prosperous for the rest of the year.


There are all kinds of French proverbs and sayings for Chandeleur; here are just a few. Note the similarities to the Groundhog Day predictions made in the US and Canada:


À la Chandeleur, l’hiver cesse ou reprend vigueur
On Candlemas, winter ends or strengthens


À la Chandeleur, le jour croît de deux heures
On Candlemas, the day grows by two hours


Chandeleur couverte, quarante jours de perte
Candlemas covered (in snow), forty days lost


Rosée à la Chandeleur, hiver à sa dernière heure
Dew on Candlemas, winter at its final hour


*No relation to Lyon’s Fête des lumières, which takes place from 5 to 8 December.

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Coldest January Ever?

Cold temp thermomater

I know that headline may be exaggerating a bit, but not too much…


It seems that we are experiencing some of the coldest temps for the third time this month and the term ‘polar vortex’ has become the norm in the Northeast.


I can’t remember a January in recent memory where we have had this many freezing cold days in a row and when school has to be cancelled due to temperature rather than snow, you know you’re dealing with a very abnormal January!


Yes we live in the northeast so cold is to be expected, but this type of cold?! I’ll just keep repeating 57 days til spring, 57 days til spring…

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Cronuts…Right Here in West Hartford

LPF cronuts

Can you believe it is January 15th already?! Looks like 2014 is off to a fast start…


January is usually the time when people make resolutions and plans for the new year and at La Petite France we are no different. We have lots of great new ideas, events and of course food items for you to try and we recently debuted one of those new food items to great success: the cronut!


The cronut is a hybrid between a croissant and a donut and is sugared, glazed, and filled with cream. The name cronut was trademarked by French pastry chef Dominique Ansel of Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York City. This hybrid pastry goes by a few different names like: cronut, crodo, dosants, and frissant, but the basic recipe is the same.


The cronut was introduced in New York City last year by chef Ansel and was an instant success, with many people getting up at the crack of dawn and standing in long lines just to get one and the demand is still going strong.


La Petite France is happy to bring a version of the cronut right here to West Hartford and we offer them filled with raspberry or vanilla cream at $4.95 each. Come and get yours while supplies last!

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La Galette des Rois is here!

King's cake

January is the month of the Galette des Rois or Kings’ Cake in France. What is the Galette des Rois?


The Galette des Rois is one of France’s favorite desserts. Deeply rooted in French tradition, in the northern half of France the galette is a puff pastry filled with frangipane, a delicious cream made of custard and almond creams while in the southern part it is a gateau made of brioche and candied fruits. A little bean was traditionally hidden in it. Today the bean has been replaced by a fève, which can represent anything from a car to a cartoon character and have become popular collectibles.


The galette is originally eaten on January 6th for the epiphany to celebrate the Three Magi’s’ visit to baby Jesus. Nowadays people eat the Galette des Rois during the whole month of January just because it is a very tasty dessert and a fun tradition.


During a galette party we not only eat a delicious slice of cake, but we also “tirer les rois” (meaning draw the king). To ensure a random distribution of the cake shares, it is traditional for the youngest person to place themselves under the table and name the recipient of the share, which is indicated by the person in charge of the service. The person who finds the trinket in their slice becomes king for the day and chooses his/her queen /king. This person will also have to offer the next cake.


At La Petite France we bring you a complete French experience and offer a crown, a traditional paper galette bag and a fève that represents France or Paris; try to get them all!



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New Year’s Eve in France

Bonne annee

In France, New Year’s Eve is called la Saint-Sylvestre and is usually celebrated with a feast called le Reveillon de Saint-Sylvestre. This feast usually includes special items like champagne and foie gras, and the celebration can range from an intimate dinner with friends to a grand ball (une soiree dansante).


At midnight everyone kisses under the mistletoe and offers best wishes for the new year. Kissing under the mistletoe is a New Year’s custom in France rather than a Christmas custom as in other countries. It can be on the lips or on the cheek depending on the relationship between the two people.


La Petite France has everything you need for your New Year’s Eve celebration from mini dessert and sandwich platters to classic French yule logs, macarons, pastries and breads.


Bonne Annee et Bonne Sante! (Happy New Year and Good Health!)

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French Christmas Desserts

Gold buttercreme yule log

In part three of Laura K. Lawless’s About.com article about Christmas in France, she talks about traditional French desserts, one of which we specialize in and feature here at La Petite France Cafe, the Buche de Noel or Yule log:


Throughout the French Christmas season, there are special traditional desserts:
La bûche de Noël (Yule log) – A log-shaped cake made of chocolate and chestnuts. Representative of the special wood log burned from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day in the Périgord, which is a holdover from a pagan Gaul celebration.


Le pain calendal (in southern France) – Christmas loaf, part of which is traditionally given to a poor person.


Treize desserts (in Provence) – nothing like going a little overboard during the holidays.

La Galette des Rois (on Epiphany) – round cake which is cut into pieces and distributed by a child, known as le petit roi or l’enfant soleil, hiding under the table. Whoever finds la fève – the charm hidden inside – is King or Queen and can choose a partner.

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