Cheesy cheesy melty food

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In the mid-west we are known for our casseroles and hot dishes. If you grew up here you might have memories of eating mounds of tater tot hot dish or green bean casserole. These recipes probably involved some variation of vegetables and/or tater tots swimming in a pool of condensed mushroom soup.

Green bean casserole that is not in an actual casserole dish.

The word casserole itself has french origins. “Casse” refers to the type of pan that casseroles are usually cooked in. This makes sense as the early casserole was created in 1866 by a French Canadian named Elmire Jolicoeur who immigrated to New Hampshire. In the 1950s, preparation of casseroles became very popular and this had a lot to do with an increase in availability of light-weight glass and metal pans as well as modern inventions such as canned and processed food becoming available. People could easily create a dinner with canned goods.

What many seem to agree on in casseroles is the importance of a variety of textures. No one wants a casserole that is all soft and mushy! To add a bit of crunch dried onions are often added to the top of a green bean casserole and tater tots make up the crust of a tater tot casserole. In France, the gratin is what adds a texture to what is usually a soft inside.

An example of a gratin.

Gratin refers to the brown crust of cheese and/or breadcrumbs a dish such as potatoes gratiné. Gratins can have a variety of ingredients such as vegetables, pasta, and seafood. Pretty much anything can be a gratin as long as it has that crunchy crust. 

Fun Fact: “Le gratin” is also an idiomatic phrase that refers to being “the upper crust” of society.

Learn how to make a perfect gratin in our next cooking class: Winter Gratins, and hurry up we are almost sold-out!




French Loop to the rescue!

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What do you do if you want to learn French at the Alliance Française de Chicago but none of our classes fit your busy schedule or it’s an ordeal for you to visit us at 810 N Dearborn?

Never fear! The French Loop is here! We’ve designed this new addition to our family with busy professionals in mind. Now you can arrange a private or semi-private lesson at our convenient loop location at 53 W Jackson.

Join us when you can for our Grand Opening on Friday, January 27 between 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Enjoy a complimentary crêpe and beverage, meet your future French teacher and other students. You can also take a free placement and get a free one hour lesson upon sign up.

Due to space, confirmed registrations only. Please, register on our Facebook event by January 26th or call us at (312) 337-1070 !


Apple of the earth

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The potato arrived in Europe at the end of the 16th century with very little fanfare, yet it soon found its way into the hearts and stomachs of many as a staple food.

This journey to fame was not without a bit of turmoil. The veggie was even illegal in France from 1748 to 1772 due to concerns about them being poisonous!

When Antoine-Augustin de Parmentier, a medical army officer, was forced to eat pommes de terre as a captive of the Prussians he found that potatoes were not only edible but might actually have great nutritional value and so he decided to study them. Parmentier’s researched them extensively and was eventually able to convince the Paris Faculty of Medicine to formally declare the potato edible in 1772.

Even after this declaration many people didn’t believe they were safe to eat so Parmentier made many efforts to change public opinions. To do this he got some very powerful friends to help; He gifted Marie Antoinette potato flowers and she and Louis XVI wore them as accessories. What a shame we don’t have any pictures!

Today, fear of potatoes is long gone and people have found countless ways to transform the seemingly humble root into countless amazing dishes. One such dish, hachis parmentier, is named after Parmentier himself!

Come to the Alliance Française on Saturday, January 21 from 11:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. to learn some amazing potato recipes with Chef Madelaine Bullwinkel.


How music can aid in language learning

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Here at the Alliance Francaise we are always interested in learning about new ways to acquire language. So when we found this article we thought you could be interested too!

Cap Enfants, a network of nursery schools in France is taking a unique approach to develop the listening skills of toddlers. They believe that exposing children to different rhythms in infancy allows them to better understand languages in life.

This intent is related to a study by the Institute of Learning and Brain Science for the University of Washington that discusses the relationship between musical rhythms and language rhythms. The study looked at the neural responses of 9 month old infants after they were exposed to music. It found that infants exposed to music were more sensitive to changes in rhythm in both speech and music than infants who were not.
At the Cap Enfants,the centerpiece of the nursery playroom is occupied by a colorful igloo-like “La Bulle Musicale” that was designed to bathe the children in sounds from all angles. They hope that by exposing the children to a variety of sounds and rhythms early in life it might make it easy for them to be more perceptive of languages, both mother-tongue and otherwise. It was designed by a team made up of an early childhood educator and a sound engineer.

At the Alliance we love singing! Come see for yourself and enroll your child in our Chez Kids Academy classes. If you would just like to learn more about us, come to our Kids’ Open House on Saturday, February 4th.

To read more about Cap Enfants and the Bulle Musicale read the original article.

Let us treat you to a FREE French class!

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And no, that’s not a joke!

‘Tis holiday season after all so treat yourself or your friends and family by signing up for our Guest program.

Call us (312) 337-1070 to register as a GUEST and attend any French class for FREE!*

That’s it! Easy enough right? And… did we mention it was FREE?


Currently a student? That’s good too! Refer a GUEST and get a $25 discount on your next class.**
Your guest can come to class with you or they can attend a separate course if they have a different level. Ask us about your level, we will tell you which class is best.


*This offer is valid only once. No exception. Students who have attended classes within the last year cannot apply for this offer.
**Current students can only refer one person per session. The subsequent discount cannot be added to other existing offers.

Tricot Social

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Voulez-vous ‘crochet’ avec moi? Sign up for “Tricot Social”!


About the Course

Join crochet designer Heïdi Mullins-Lemieux for an exclusive introduction to the art of crochet: Tricot Social! In this crochet class, which is taught all in French, you will explore the history of crocheting and how it is used in fashion today. No prior crochet experience is required.

IMG_0090“For those who are interested in taking their current knowledge of the French language to the next level, this is the place to  experience it in a more social and relaxed environment,” says Heïdi. “And you get to start the week off with the opportunity to do something that can be fun, relaxing and quite creative.”

By using basic patterns, you will learn how to crochet hats, scarves, and ornaments. Tricot Social will be a space for creative freedom. Students can explore the art of crochet and practice speaking French in a relaxed and inviting environment.


About Your Teacher

Heïdi Mullins-Lemieux earned her bachelor’s degree in Fashion & Textile Design at The School Of The Art Institute Of Chicago in 2010. One of her garments from the 2009 graduating class collection was used extensively for promotional material for the SAIC Nightwalk Fashion Show of 2010. Heïdi is originally from Montréal and speaks French fluently. Growing up, she was influenced by the world of the opera and Le Cirque Du Soleil. She is passionate about costume design.

Heïdi Mullins LemieuxIMG_3807Heïdi is a dedicated designer who loves to break the common ‘crochet’ stereotypes. Instead of using a multitude of colors, she focuses more on the crochet pattern. In general, she uses no more than one or two colored yarns in her designs to make an authentic, but wearable garment piece.

Heïdi is familiar with the Alliance thanks to her mother, Elaine Lemieux, who has performed at music events hosted by the Alliance.

Heïdi looks forward to working with her students on a collaborative project toward the end of the session. “I’m excited to share my knowledge and perspective of crochet with my students,” she says. “Winter will be knocking on our door, so we need to get those scarfs and hats ready!”


Register online for a morning or evening class on Tuesdays! Or call us at (312) 337-1070.

TRIC1 : Tuesdays, 10:00 – 11:30 a.m.
TRIC2 : Tuesdays, 7:45 – 9:15 p.m.

To see what materials you need for the course, click here.

Sign up for Fast Track courses!

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Take the “fast lane” in French at the Alliance with our new Fast Track courses!

Fast Track courses are running from September 6 through September 9. This your chance to improve your French language skills at a quick pace before la rentrée. 
Immerse yourself in one of our three intensive levels: Initiation, Advanced Beginners, or Intermediate. Call us at (312) 337-1070 or click below to register online!


Initiation Level
6:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Advanced Beginners Level
6:00 – 8:30 p.m.

Intermediate Level
10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Improv en français

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Check out the brand new course “Improv en Français” at the Alliance this fall!


About the Course

Taught by RenéeClaude Thériault, this course is designed to help you think on your feet and become more comfortable speaking French. RenéeClaude has many fun activities planned for the course, including character games where students will create characters through movement and voice. They will also get to improvise full scenes by the end of the term.

RenéeClaude is excited to share her love for French and improv with her class. She cannot wait to see her students progress and get more and more comfortable speaking French each week. Of her experience with improv, she says:

“It helped me gain confidence in my social interactions and kept my creativity active. Then when I moved in Chicago, I had to switch to doing improv in English and it really helped me develop linguistic reflexes in my second language. I saw an improvement in communicating. I want to bring that tool to the students of the Alliance because I truly believe that the best way to learn is through having fun!”

About Your Teacher

Renée-Claude started learning improv in French when she was eight. She grew up in Grand Falls, New Brunswick, Canada and studied improv and stand-up comedy in Toronto for two years. In January 2014, she toured French Immersion schools all across Ontario, performing a bilingual show called “O Canada!”
She moved to Chicago in the summer of 2014 to pursue her career in comedy. Renée-Claude wrote and performed One Woman Show in French called “Pardon My French.” Since January 2015, she has been performing shows with her improv troupe, “Hulk Spanx.” For more info about Renée-Claude, read her interview (en français) with French in Chicago.

Register for 390E (Level B1) or 390F (Level B2).