There are people in France who refuse to recognize Bastille Day because it celebrates a revolution that killed aristocrats and priests, destroyed churches and libraries, and plunged France into half a century of political chaos. They tend to be conservative, moneyed Catholics in positions of power and influence, but they are wise enough to keep their elitism under cover. (Most of them don't have anything to do with the faux-populist, anti-immigration, right-wing National Front.) I only mention this because the French Fête Nationale (which is how the French refer to the July 14th holiday) falls on a Saturday this year. So there's more going on around Seattle. Following are a few of the bigger events; if you want to see them on an interactive map, head over to Seattle.Eater.com.
- From 3 to 8 PM on Saturday, the Madison Valley neighborhood hosts Seattle's first "Bastille Bash." Vuelta La Luna plays from 3 to 5, Rouge performs from 5 to 8. Small plates from $2 to $6; there's also a $10 wine-tasting passport. Participating restaurants: Rover's, Luc, Harvest Vine, La Cote, Voila Bistrot, Cafe Flora, Crush, New York Cupcake and Ines Patisserie. A dozen local retailers are involved as well. Spearheaded by Thierry Rautureau, who says, "it's an attempt to put Madison Valley on the map."
- Hey, you'd expect beaucoup goings-on from a joint named for a holiday, and Bastille doesn't disappoint. The celebration includes a pétanque tournament, street performances, oysters on the half shell, and French brasserie dishes flavored with herbs from the restaurant's 4,500-square-foot roof garden. Ooh-la-la burlesque and gypsy-jazz music, too. Ballard will never be the same.
- For years now, Cafe Campagne has been celebrating Bastille Day in the French style, "dans la rue." That's the Post Alley level, with music, wine, and street food "priced for the people." Accordion music and oysters, too, all from 4 to 10 PM. Weighing in on the side of the aristocrats is Marché, same ownership as the proletarian cafe one level down. The dance-hall girls start demurely up here, before their descent to the alley below. Food, drinks and prices are the same on both levels, but there's Cognac upstairs for the big spenders
- Always crowded, Jim Drohmann's double-dose of francophilia (Cafe Presse on Cap Hill and Le Pichet in the Market) brings Paris to Seattle. On Bastille Day (no reservations, no cover), there's music from a couple of retro bands and a cameraderie you won't find anywhere else. Order the gâteau de foie de volaille, a submlime mousse of chicken livers, and perhaps a pichet of Corbières, and your life will be changed forever. Except you'll be hot in your black turtleneck.
- At RN74, there's a special drinks menu (French 75s for $5), plus $5 bar snacks (popcorn, gougères, pâté). We're also excited to see the gyrations of a couple of gals from the Atomic Bombshell troupe (Kitten LaRue and Lou Henry Hoover) "performing" tableside. For the aristocracy, there's a $65 prix fixe menu, too.
- All of which is apart from the "official" celebration, part of Seattle Center's Festal series, which benefits France Education Northwest. The program is enhanced this year with French-themed items (crèpes, glaces, fromages) from several food trucks, in addition to booths, exhibits and activities, including two presentations by francophile Rick Steves and a dog parade at 1 PM. Seattle's only French-owned hotel, the Warwick, has a booth featuring its Brasserie Margaux. Vite, Fifi, to the barricades!
- If you've got stamina (and 50 bucks) left over, head to Luther Burbank Park on Mercer Island. There's an Argosy cruise ship leaving at 7 PM for dessert and a view of the fireworks. Tickets online. Fireworks? Who knew? If you can't make it to the actual barricades, you'll have to settle for sparkles and rockets.