Holiday Bliss: Top 5 Reasons Paris Should be Calling your Name

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Wintertime has a bad rap of being gloomy, dark, cold, and insufferable.

A Paris holiday is the exception indeed! Let the City of Lights soften your winter blues. Paris becomes a glitzy, sparkling wonderland, bustling with beautiful people, food, and sights. Everyone in Paris enjoys the breathtaking Tour Eiffel, but not everyone gets the inside scoop. Here are a few tips for people who want to make the most of their Paris holiday:

These are the top 5 reasons you need Paris this winter holiday. Be in Bliss, you deserve it!

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5. The Christmas Markets

Of course you have heard of the bustling street markets that dazzle with their seasonal delicacies, flashing lights, and twinkling charms. Imagine taking a stroll in these seasonal Christmas markets, where you can grab a warm cup of mulled wine to warm up the belly. But, here’s an insider’s tip: A few of the formerly Michelin starred chefs have taken stands at one of the markets, and are offering tastes of great bistro food, and even music….Gourmet bistro food on the streets? Only in Paris!

 

 

mulledwine

what will you choose?

 

What will you choose in the sea of possibilities?

4. Bright Lights of the Streets and Storefronts

‘Tis is the season of giving (and of course treating yourself!) so don’t forget to pack lightly so you can fit all your new finds from the dazzling storefronts that glisten with light. Remember, the markets aren’t the only place to shop. There are fabulous finds in the 6th and also along the Grand Boulevards. Don’t forget Bon Marche, where you can indulge yourself in every category of purchase.

 

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stores

3.  La Seine

There is nothing quite as dreamlike as the reflections of all the lights on the main vein of Paris like La Seine. Stunning to stroll along, or perhaps view on your way to or from Christmas mass at Notre Dame or ice skating at Hotel du Ville……. Can you say romantique?
In past years the weather was nice enough that we brought some special gourmet treats and treated our clients to an impromptu “casse croute” and a street performance!  Worried it’ll be cold? Not a problem –last year we switched it up and had oysters and Champagne under the Tour Eiffel.

 

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2. The Magnificent Monuments

Imagine the stained glass windows of the cathedrals illuminated as the winter light passes through them, or how about the fairytale-like views leading to L’Arc de Triomphe? Surely there is nothing more magnificent than the glittering lights of Paris and her beautiful adornments!

monuments

 

 

and the TOP reason you need Paris this holiday season……..

1. The Food and Drink

Your taste buds will thank you for treating them to such excellent Parisian fare! It’s foie gras season, chocolate season,  truffle season, chestnut season, and more. The holidays are the culinary pinnacle of the year! From Champagne to Burgundy to Bordeaux, the wines enchant. From discreet patisseries to private dinners in the home of a chef (formerly of three Michelin star Arpege), discover foodie Bliss.  And share that holiday cheer with the new friends you meet along the way!

Yes that is a golden trees of delicious macrons, all for you!

Yes that is a golden trees of delicious macrons, all for you!

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a dish from a recent vacation in Paris!

Tour france visit paris over the holidays

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Tour France. Holidays in Paris

 

Tour France French food Paris for the holidays

Tour France Paris for the holidays

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Give yourself an incredible present this season: a holiday in Paris with Bliss!  Be an insider and put the treat in your retreat! Contact wendy@blisstravels.com for more tips and info!

 

A bientôt,

Wendy Jaeger

Bliss Travels

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Tour France: Christmas in Paris

A “snapshot” of the holidays in Paris

Here’s our “photo essay” of the experience. We hope you enjoy it and have a wonderful holiday season.

Tour France

From the Tour Eiffel to the Louvre….
Tour France Paris

And Santa’s of all sorts!DSCF0603DSCF0605So many great things to see….

DSCF0599Have a great holiday!

A Bientot,

Wendy & Bliss Travels

Tour France: French Sparkling Wine & Dessert Pairings for the Holidays

Tour France Champagne

This photo is from a trip we did through Reims, in Champagne. We toured Mumm.

Food and wine pairings, especially things with bubbles are great. Over the holidays you can have entire parties based around these things. So, whether you are looking to have a champagne and chocolate party or simply serve an elegant finale to a celebratory meal, here are some ideas for pairing the two that we tasted in a class I taught on December 11, 2012.

All of the wines were purchased at the Princeton Corkscrew’s wine shop. Laurent Chapuis, the owner, is a master at finding great wines from around the world, and at reasonable prices.

Dessert Item #1: Choice or roasted pears or a goat cheese tart with a rosemary walnut shortbread crust, topped with figs or pears.

Poire Authentique:

“A sommelier by training, in 1992 the maker of this cider took over his family’s estate and orchards. His goal was to revolutionize the cider industry and bring it into restaurants, high-end retail and export markets. A close friend of his, Didier Dagueneau, the icon wine-maker in Pouilly-sur-Loire encouraged him down the path of producing ciders from apples and pears that are like no others. Ciders that make one draw comparisons to fine vintage wine. The core of Bordelet’s estate is the 1.5 hectares of antique varietal apple and pear trees that are 40-50 years old. He plants only true varietal (non-hybrid, non-cross) trees, and the trees are balanced between sweet, bitter and sour varieties. Currently, he has 20 varieties of apples and 14 varieties of pears planted. The orchards are farmed organically and biodynamically, and Eric believes that this is the regimen that produces the best fruit for ciders. Bordelet’s Poiré Authentique, which is done in a traditionally off-dry, sparkling style, works brilliantly with goat cheese roasted pears”

Poached pear with orange and a four grain tulle from one of our new fav's in Provence

Poached pear with orange and a four grain tulle from one of our new fav’s in Provence

The class enjoyed this cider, finding it light and not too sweet. Concensus was that this would go well, not just with pear based desserts, but also with salads, goat cheeses, cheese courses generally and summer lunches. Think: outside, warm weather, salad or light lunch of bread and cheese….

Roasted pear with orange and four grain tuile, served by one of our new fav's in Provence

Think about pairing the cider with a cheese and salad plate as a light lunch. Round it off with walnut bread and baguette.

Idea #2 –Anything goes with….

Armance B-“This a fantastic value sparkling wine made in the traditional Champagne method. A blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Folle Blanche makes for a beautifully floral sparkling wine of considerable finesse and elegance. A lovely pale gold color, the Armance B. shows impressively fine, persistent effervescence and a Champagne-like yeasty, toasty, brioche-driven nose. Rich and creamy on the palate, the bottling fuses brisk Côtes-des-Blancs-like acidity with gripping, resinous texture and warm notes of homemade bread. Hints of clover honey, grated ginger, lemon zest and pain grillé appear on the wine’s impressively long, complex finish. No, this is not Champagne, but it will fool – and impress – a lot of wine lovers. Here’s the value choice sparkling wine to open your holiday festivities, to be used for celebratory toasts, and for superb pairing with all things seafood, especially sole in a beurre blanc sauce, broiled true cod, and bivalves. Impressive, inimitably French sparkling wine for a song!”

This was the class favorite for all of the reasons above. People liked it on its own and with every item we tasted. The “balance” is what made this so likable.

Pair this with something truly elegant, like this creative seafood dish, from our June 2012 trip to Paris.

Pair this with something truly elegant, like this creative seafood dish, from our June 2012 trip to Paris.

Dessert item #3: Biscotti and cookies or chocolate covered treats (think about salted cashews, espresso beans…) with the following

Cravantine Brut, Fabrice Gasnier –Cabernet France, Loire, near Chinon. Originally just made for the family, was commercialized in the last few years.  Strawberry notes. This wine was less popular for it’s nose, which nobody enjoyed. However, the class was split on its pairing with foods. Some people felt the pairing with dark chocolate and espresso worked well -the bitter elements of the food blending with the bitter notes in the wine. Sweeter desserts made the wine taste “off”.

In general, though, the class preferred the Alsace sparkler with the above flavors –and even on it’s own. It was clean, crisp and was a good marriage with all of the desserts.

Cremant d’Alsace. From Alsace. Organically produced.: “A zero-dosage sparkling wine whose initial impression of lively petillance and keen, refreshing citrus slowly settles into a wine of gentle, charming textures, fringed with brioche, meringue, and jasmine-blossom tea.” – Jeremy QuinnGasnier

Last, our goat cheese tart with walnut herb short crust was a hit with all of the sparkling wines. This tart  is good year around and can be served savory or sweet. We make this in Provence. In summer, we top it with incredible, juicy fresh figs. In spring we use strawberries. You can even make a savory version topped with tomato and drizzled with olive oil. Watch for the recipe –coming up in our next blog!

Any questions? Write us!

Tour France: Have you seen the Buddy Bears?

Fellow blogger and traveler, Anita Mac, posted this today. Of course, it’s my favorite place (France) and my favorite topic too. The message is wonderful. It’s an added sightseeing bonus for those of you traveling to Paris over the holidays -with Bliss or on your own. But, most importantly, it’s a great message and a great cause. Share it and pass it around.

Have you seen the Buddy Bears?

 

Have you seen the Buddy Bears?

POSTED BY  ⋅ DECEMBER 5, 2012 ⋅ LEAVE A COMMENT

Have you seen the Buddy Bears?

A message of world peace hit the Champs de Mars (the lawns extending out beyond Paris’ Eiffel Tower) in the form of Buddy Bears.  These unique works of art – 140 in total – represent living in peace and harmony.  There is one Buddy Bear for each of the 149 nations represented by the United Nations.

“We have to get to know each other better …
… it makes us understand one another better,
trust each other more, and live together more peacefully.”

These bears bear quite the passport too!  They have traveled the globe, raising more that 1.9 million €uro for UNICEF and many local children’s relief oranisations through dontations and auctions (ref: United Buddy Bears site).

Paris buddy bears

View of the United Buddy Bears from the Eiffel Tower

I first spotted them as I climbed the Eiffel Tower.  From high above the Champs de Mars, I could see hundreds of people milling about, flashes going into overdrive as dusk settled in on the city.  Curiosity took over – I had to check it out!

United Buddy Bears in Paris

While imposing at 2 meters tall, the buddy bears are so incredibly friendly.  They dwarfed many of the people (mostly kids and some slightly bigger kids!!) as they ran in for photos between the painted bears.  I found myself quickly drawn into the excitement, reading the plaques that were associated with each bear, trying to find the Canadian bear, as well as those representing many of the countries I had visited and knew well.  They are each incredible works of art…each one unique, the spirit of some cultures really evident in their artworks.  The bears presented a feeling of unity, with arms raised, as a sign of optimism and togetherness!

Paris Buddy Bear

The Buddy Bears made a spectacular appearance in Paris, the Eiffel Tower providing a stunning backdrop to the message and display.  Paris was chosen to commemorate 25 years of town twinning with Berlin, the birthplace of the United Buddy Bears.  This also commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Élysée Treaty underlining the good relationship between France and Germany and between their famous cities of Paris and Berlin.

world peace

The bears had had their start in Berlin where their popularity turned them into the international sensation that they are today.  Now the bears travel the world, raising money for important charitable works.  Since the first exhibition in Berlin, more than 30 million visitors world-wide have seen, photographed and rubbed the bellies of the United Buddy Bears.  They have travelled to Berlin, Hong Kong, Istanbul and Sydney in the early years.  In 2012, they have continued to roam…. Kuala Lumpar, New Delhi, St. Petersburg and Paris playing home to their messages.

An important aspect to the success of the Buddy Bear project was the design of each bear, and what it represented.  They were each designed by artists from their respective countries and they demonstrate a diversity of cultures, history, and people.  Icons such at Lady Liberty and the Sydney Harbour Bridge make it easy to pinpoint exact where some of the bears originate, but others cause visitors to stop and take pause…attention is brought to each country for their different works of art….all bears are equal in the United Buddy Bears.

The Message: The Buddy Bears stand together “hand in hand”, symbolising the future vision of a peaceful world. Each bear stands for the people of the different countries and their culture, yet not for political systems.

Charity: Buddy Bear activities and aid for children in need have formed an inseparable unit. To date, more than €1,9 Mio. (September 2012) have been raised through donations and auctions in aid of UNICEF and local children’s relief organisations.

The Buddy Bears shared these important messages along the Champ de Mars in Paris from October 12 – November 18th, 2012.  The question that remains….where to next for the Buddy Bears?

Buddy bears in Paris

Note: As Christmas approaches and I look back on all the travels I have done in 2012, I recognize that I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to travel and experience the world and so many different cultures.  In an effort to give back, I have decided to donate $1 for every like on this post between today and Christmas Eve.  The  money will be donated to UNICEF to help those in need!  Please feel free to share this message – I will tweet the donation on my twitter account @wheretogoam on Christmas Day!

A Bientot,

Wendy

Tour France: 6 Culinary Treats to Eat in Paris Over the Holidays

6 Holiday Paris Treats! 

Tour France

One of the great things about French food is that it’s so seasonal….Unlike our large supermarkets where you can find “n’importe quoi, n’importe quand” (anything, anytime), that’s not the case in France. April/May are for strawberries and asparagus. July and August for peaches and melons, and so on. Well, the December holidays, though not during a “growing” season, have some of the most special culinary treats of any time of year. This is the time of year for….

Tour France

1. Foie Gras. Too hot to keep well (and too rich) for summer. This is prime time for foie gras. Best served with dried fruits, fruit breads, chutney…Don’t miss out on this. There are even “stands” at some of the Christmas markets that serve this as street food. And also, there are fabulous specialty places that make or bring in the best of the best. We have a restaurant we frequent who does this beautifully.

Photographer Anthony B makes this foie gras with fig look as good as it tasted!

2. Oysters and Champagne. Yes, you can have this along the streets or by the river bank during the holidays only. The vendors are set up, and a heater or fire is not too far away. Contemplate the lit up night sky while having these treats. Best of the best, at the best time of year. Walk to find the best market streets or by the river bank, where the views are “manifique”.Tour France Paris over the holidays

3. Chestnuts. In many forms. Roasted, and sold on the streets, or pureed and served with lamb or venison. Or candied and soaked in cognac (and sold by the best gourmet shops. Try Fauchon for this special treat. They do it particularly well.) A nutty but sweet flavor, that can be an accompaniment to both savories and desserts (think, Angelina’s Mont Blanc)!

photo by Sarah Miller Photography

4. Anything…in a Truffle Sauce. (Still remembering that dish as it simmered for Christmas Eve dinner in a little –very little– bistrot we frequent, on the Left Bank). I met the chef that morning as I was out shopping and he was taking a cigarette break. When i commented on the heavenly smell coming from his kitchen, he invited me in. He showed me the boudin blanc and the truffle sauce he was making. Also cooking a stuffed game hen for the night, he gave me a personal recommendation –Get the hen, and then ask for the truffle sauce. It was sublime!


5. Warm Wines. As we stroll the Christmas markets, there are vendors who sell warm mulled wine, both white and red. They add calvados or cognac to them for an added degree of “warmth” and you take your cup and stroll along the miles of markets looking for your favorite artisan products or gifts. We visit several of the markets each year and highly recommend you too visit more than one. Because some specialize in art and antiques, some are filled traditional gifts and crafts, and others have the best foods…Tour France Holidays in Paris

6. Chocolates. This is the time of year the really fine, and very perishable chocolates come out of hiding–and in full view. Perhaps you’ve heard of the wonderful Maison du Chocolat. Truly a great place. But, there are some remarkable, amazing, smaller (lesser known outside of Paris, but feted as masters in Paris) chocolate houses….And dare I say, it’s worth going to Brussels to experience some of this magic. We often do day or overnight trips to Brussels for just this purpose (along with some mussels, or amazing savory waffles).Tour FranceWe love these little holiday treats. Inexpensive and deceptively light. Try one!
Tour France Paris for the holidays

Contact us if you’d like to celebrate with Bliss!
www.blisstravels.com

 

Tour France: Best Celebrity Tips For Visiting Paris (or Anywhere in France)

It’s not what you see, it’s how you see it!

Last night, I watched Anthony Bourdain’s new show “Layover“, the first episode of which focuses on Paris. And I was struck by how much I agreed with him. He said the exact same things I say to my clients all of the time (without the use of @#%&  and other colorful wording.)  For the second time (he also did a show on Burgundy) I knew most of the places (restaurants, streets, sights) he spoke of quite well, having been to them many times myself with and without clients. I even knew several people he spoke with/visited on air –quite a surprise to see them on the television instead of in person! But it is not familiarity that made me agree with Mr. Bourdain. It was that his advice was the best recipe for having a truly outstanding experience in France. Let me explain why.

Everybody and their uncle tells you what to see while in Paris (or Burgundy, or Provence, or just about anywhere)….Your best friend, the guidebook, the blogger you love, the New York Times, your neighbor etc. There is a very long list of things you “absolutely should not miss”.  (Even I have items remaining on that list.) But, how you plan your time is even more important than what you decide to see. I know that they might not seem to be very different things. But they are.

People ask me all the time what they should see and when –well, that is the business of Bliss Travels. They also ask me to plan for their “downtime” (i.e. time not spent with Bliss Travels) and for the meals they will have on their own. And they should. They are, in fact, paying for my expertise. And they listen carefully to the names of restaurants and special streets and bakeries. The one thing I have a difficult time getting people to hear is that they shouldn’t overbook themselves or run themselves ragged. Sure, they should see a few major sites. Sure, they should see a few “off the beaten track” items. But, they should also allow themselves to absorb the place they are visiting. The magic of Paris (or France in general) isn’t revealed by a guidebook, or located solely in the many beautiful things to see. It is more keenly felt when one experiences the place and the culture as the locals do (even if a bit more intensely). There is something quite true about that old saying “when in Rome, do as the Romans” 

That is not to say that you shouldn’t take a tour….Of course you should. Obviously, we pride ourselves in our small private walking tours and discourage big bus tours. However, bus tours are of interest to some people –especially if they have limited mobility. If you can’t do a walking tour with someone like Bliss, then designing your own is a good idea.

Of course you should see art in Paris. If not there, where? So choose a museum or two (depending upon the length of your stay) and enjoy that experience. (Tip: Get museum passes if you are going to visit one of busiest museums so you don’t spend all morning in line.)

Do remember to meander the streets of some of the more interesting neighborhoods, not just the grand boulevards…Do it without a destination in mind. Do you know that some streets in Paris are 1000 years old?

Remember to try the local cuisine in one of the postage stamp size bistros that are so popular. (Unfortunately, once Mr Bourdain -a celebrity– recommends a place on national television, the character of the place, and maybe even the menu can change –so try to find a place that still has its neighborhood character.) If you don’t have someone like us to provide that information for you, wonder around  –off of a main street, in a nice, but less touristic neighborhood. Start reading menus. If they are in English, move on. Do the same thing if the menu is large. Find a market fresh place with a lot of native French speakers, and give it a try.

Lounge at a cafe with a coffee or a wine, and watch Paris go by. Walk along the Seine, or sit on the banks or a bridge and absorb the scenery. Visit a park.

Visit a market street. You must! Taste as you go. A great trick, if you are doing this on your own, is to find a good market street, and look at where the customers are. Stand in line behind a long line of French locals. Listen to what they are ordering –or watch, if you don’t understand the language…You’ll see a pattern. Try what they are trying! (Normally, I do not advocate acting like sheep –however, if you are trying to find truly fine, non touristy food and drink, and you don’t have anyone with inside knowledge helping you, then you must become aware of what the locals are doing. That’s the only way you can do a real “quality check” and also experience local fare you wouldn’t necessarily know was available.

Attend a performance of some sort. How about a concert in a church (Paris over the holidays has many)? A ballet? A local circus for festival? (A Provence activity in the spring and summer) Even a a street performance is a good idea. You will relax. You will find that humor and entertainment are different and exciting. I will never forget one particular performance in a Mediterranean beach town. It was at the beginning of a trip and I was with two clients from Princeton New Jersey. That evening, before the fireworks –fun huh?– there was a theatrical street performance as intricate and absurd as a Fellini movie. with actors tossing others into a small pool made on the sidewalk, yelling, laughter, grand gestures. And you didn’t need to speak or understand a word of French to appreciate the humor and also how different it was from our own American street performances.

Or the time last Christmas in Paris when, after lunch, we stumbled upon a street performer, who kept us in stitches without saying a word.

Most of all, just relax and eat and drink and walk…You cannot have a bad time if you do those things! This is Bliss!

Wendy

Tour France: 5 Tips for Holiday Wine & Cheeses Combos

5 Special French Wine & Cheese Pairings for the Holidays

There are so many great French cheeses, and so many great French wines. It’s almost too much to contemplate. However, we decided to profile the ones you are less likely to know about, and which, not coincidentally, go best with our favorite wines –those wines being Burgundy whites and reds, Provencal roses, Chateauneuf du Pape reds (and whites), and Champagne….(The pairings also have a seasonal element to them. The first and second pairing are ones we prefer over the holidays, while the 3rd  is a fall favorite. The fourth reminds us of Provence in the spring and summer. And the 5th is a fall and winter treat to have anywhere!)

1. Chaource: Chaource is a creamy cow’s milk cheese with a bloomy rind that is made in both Champagne and Burgundy. This cheese has been made since the 14th century. When ripe it gets extra creamy and almost liquid. It’s a great cheese for those who like creamy cow’s milk cheeses and want something with a rich, balanced flavor. Pair it with Champagne –which is a wonderful combination –the creamy rich cheese and the sparkling wine. Or pair it with a Chablis. The ideal way to have this cheese is after a wonderful roasted Turbot with beurre blanc. Drink with Champagne –preferably in Champagne or Paris , in nice chilly weather over the holidays!

2. Comte: Comte is a pressed cooked cow’s milk cheese. The young ones are fruity with a softer, pliant texture. The older ones are crystalized and have a stronger more sharp flavor. And if you find one that has been properly aged, it’s an unbelievably delicious cheese. The flavor of a great Comte is quite complex and hits you in different places on your palate. We have been lucky enough to find a cheese monger in Paris, who, over the holidays, carries a 48 month old “holiday” Comte that is truly remarkable with a full and deep complex flavor and crystallization that adds crunch and interest. It’s a remarkable find. This wine goes well with either a very light red (Beaujolais) or a very rich white (a full, rich, oak, Burgundy) in my opinion.

3. Epoisses: Is a stinky (really) raw cow’s milk cheese that has been washed while aging in a Marc de Bourgogne (a form of brandy from Burgundy). It is amazing. Because it is a raw milk cheese, you can only buy it in the US if aged more than 60 days. Thus, the best Epoisses is still found in Burgundy. Many people will tell you to pair this cheese with a red wine, since it is strong. However, I think the best pairing for this cheese is a white Burgundy. A full, round, buttery one. Try a Meursault Les Charmes, 1ere cru.  Or for more minerality, a Puligny Montrachet. And, do try it in France if you can! Every time we go to Burgundy, I make sure to have this cheese with a wine that fits this profile. We are never disappointed by this combination.

4. Banon: This is our absolute favorite Provencal cheese! It is primarily made of  goat’s milk which is washed in a marc (from Provence) and then wrapped in Chestnut leaves that are tied with raffia. Legend has it that it has been made since the first century A.D. This goes nicely with the scenery in Provence, which is also that old! When it is younger it has a creamy, slightly crumbly texture and a mild flavor. As it ages, it becomes creamier and runny. Both versions are delicious. This cheese pairs nicely (bien sur) with a Provencal rose. Also, though a crisp, slightly sweet white works. This cheese is best served with fruit before dessert, but is also good on a green salad as a starter or light lunch. We have a special cheesemonger we go to in one of the area markets who sells Banon “bien fait” (well aged and runny) and “moins fait” (creamy and younger) –at an astoundingly reasonable price. People line up 10-20 deep at the market just for her cheeses. They are Bliss!

5. Roquefort: Is a sheep’s milk cheese aged in caves with a strong flavor profile. It can be paired with a variety of wines. I like it with a Chateauneuf du Pape or other Rhone red. The full bodied reds compliment and stand up to the cheese. Of course, you can also have this with a port or other slightly sweet drink at the finish of a meal. Think about Roquefort served with roasted pears or figs –or even a fig confit — slightly sweet fruit breads or oat crackers and port. Yum.  Wonderful varieties of Roquefort can be found in the U.S. Pair it as we did below, with a Chateauneuf du Pape, Beaurenard 2007! Wow.

A post Thanksgiving gift of Chateauneuf du Pape and cheese reminded us of this past October in Provence! What a treat.

Have a Blissful Holiday Season!

A Bientot,

Wendy