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!

 

 

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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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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!

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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!

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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

Tour France: Dinner in the Home of a Paris Chef

Tour France: Bliss Travels has dinner in the home of a Paris chef

Have you ever dreamt of dining in the home of a chef in Paris? Maybe learning his/her secrets? Being treated to a special menu and feeling like a local as you sip wine in his living room, or peak into his kitchen?

Of course you have! We all wish we could do this!  Otherwise, how else can you explain the stunning popularity of the Food Network and our cult like obsession with “Celebrity Chefs” (all of whom we all know by name, and whose lives and travels we can intimately discuss, as if they were our own family)?

Our obsession with all things “food” is based upon our desire to get and insider’s exclusive access to this sort of experience! Bliss Travels has had the some extraordinary opportunities to do these sorts of “insider” foodie experiences. Our most recent, and, at the moment, favorite “insider” foodie experience, is our exclusive invitation to the home of a rising Paris chef for a gourmet dinner.  We truly enjoyed collaborating with this chef, formerly of Alain Passard‘s gastronomic Arpege, and loved having our clients visit the charming Paris apartment he shares with his wife and little (bien sur) Yorkie. We spent months creating a custom tasting menu and wine pairings to share with our clients. For sure, this will be something we do again and again! 

Our menu was truly special, as you can see below. An added bonus was the chance to  watch the chef plate his dishes and to enjoy them while learning how he made these signature preparations.  Here is our menu and some of the food photos of this truly “exclusive” dining experience.

Terrine of foie gras,  onion chutney and sauternes gelee with toasts

We paired this with a wonderful Champagne. And we watched as our chef showed us how he prepared this traditional holiday treat. (One of our foodie travelers, normally vegetarian, asked for, and received “seconds” of this dish, which she took for her breakfast the next morning (paired with a great fruit preserve the hotel was serving! Now, how often can you do that on a trip other than with Bliss Travels?)

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Endive salad with red onion, shaved parmesan, lemon, and truffle oil

 A refreshing segue into the meal. The bitter endive and the truffle oil paired beautifully with our Champagne as well as our first white, a white from Burgundy, and one of our most favorite villages, the picture perfect village of Meursault

Meursault, Narvaux, 2009.

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The famous Arpege  “perfect egg“ was our next dish.

I confess that I was so enraptured by the chef’s description of this dish, and dual temperatures of the one egg, along with the taste of this perfectly simple and elegant dish, that I forgot to take a picture!! We paired the egg with our second white, a rich, buttery Meursault Les Charmes 1er Cru, 2009. This was not just a  perfect ‘egg’ it was a perfect ‘pairing’!

Veloute of carrot, with tarragon

was an intense, non dairy carrot preparation made from caramelized carrots, cooked under pressure and reduced to a velvety richness. The two fold preparation of carrot (one caramelized, the other steamed led to this deep dark color. This dish had no meat and no dairy, and yet tasted richer than any beef based stock I’ve tried.

This rich dish led to the last drop of Meursault and a nice transition to our red wines.

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Salt crusted roasted beet root

Next our chef demonstrated how he made this absolutely perfect vegetable, salt crusted, intensely juicy and truly an unexpected star dish! We opened our 2007 , 1er Cru, Pinot Noir from Gevrey Chambertin, made by a winemaker and friend in whose 14th century cellars we get to enjoy exclusive barrel tastings  (We do love Burgundy!)

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Pan seared beef with a parsnip puree, creamed spinach, sweet and sour peppers and a red wine jus

A 2007 Premier Cru Burgundy from Gevrey Chambertin

One client enjoyed this dish so much, not only did she have 2 servings (a nice little perk of being in the home of a chef, instead of a restaurant, but also she said this was the best dish she had ever tasted.)

 

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Last, but not least, a real surprise for all was the dessert

A moist and delicious Olive oil cake, served with stunningly good Greek yogurt ice cream, Nutella powder and chervil

The Nutella powder was the “dark horse”. Nobody really expected to love that –but he made this using a great trick of molecular gastronomy and turned what is (in my opinion) a cloyingly sweet “kid’s” dessert, into a sophisticated delicious (please, sir, may I have more) end of meal. This was served with a fortified sweet wine from the south west of France.

Of course, that wasn’t really the end (it never is). We finished with a big bowl of creme fraiche caramels to take home. Yum! An absolutely Bliss-ful evening we intend to repeat with the next group of special foodies looking for something truly unique.

2013-12-23 11.20.57Let us know what you think. And let us know what dishes you’d like to see in your  “dinner at home with a Paris chef”

A bientôt,

Wendy

Tour France: The Must-Eat French Foods


Anyone who has toured France will tell you that it has some of the best food in the world, without question. But with so many dishes to try, it’s sometimes difficult to know where to start! We’ve given you a list of Bliss Travels‘ favorite French foods to get you started. Do you have some favorite meals of your own? Let us know if you agree!

1. Fougasse

This bakery good is a specialty of Provence. With a focaccia-like texture and height, the fougasse has several deep cuts which allow the toppings to infuse their flavor throughout the bread. This could be anything from olives to fresh vegetables to ham and cheese.  Our favorite is une fougasse gratins, which is filled with chopped bacon. The bacon fat gives it an incredible crunchy crust and more flavor than one would ever think to find in an inauspicious loaf of bread–marveilleux!

The shape varies with each bakery that makes it, but every one is delicious!

The shape varies with each bakery that makes it, but every one is delicious!

2. Duck- Canard

The French rarely “do” beef. Instead, they specialize in what we would consider “alternative proteins”– and boy, do they do them well! Duck in France is incredibly tender, with a rich, buttery, and unique flavor that simply can’t be copied. In general, the French do not complicate this dish- it will be cooked perfectly and served with potatoes and perhaps some sauteed vegetables. They know a good thing when they have it! The Burgundy region especially has a reason to brag– clients who tour France with us are always ecstatic about this dish!

With a drizzle of balsamic oil and sauteed vegetables, this is divine!

With a drizzle of balsamic oil and sauteed vegetables, this is divine!

3.  Lamb- Agneau

Speaking of these “alternative proteins,” French lamb is consistently out of this world. One of the reasons these meats are so incredible in France is the way they were raised. Lamb roam the countryside, literally dining on herbs de Provence. Thus, they are flavored with rosemary, thyme and the like –naturally! Raising animals using methods that are considered “organic” in America, with fewer hormones and better quality food– they raise happy lambs! Any version of lamb you get will be to die for. Bliss Travels‘ favorite place is in a small bistro on the Left Bank of Paris, which specializes in an mouth-watering shoulder of lamb for two!

A shoulder of lamb for two? S'il vous plait!

A shoulder of lamb for two? S’il vous plait!

4. Napoleon- Millefeuille

This classic French pastry is crumbly, messy, almost always falls on your lap, and is totally worth it. It has gained notoriety across the world, but France is still the clear winner when it comes to making it. Literally– it’s name in French means, “1000 sheets/layers). And so true! Layers and layers of flaky pastry are interspersed with creamy custard, finished with a distinctively patterned top glaze. Parfait!

Does it get better than this?

Does it get better than this?

5. Any and All Breads- Tous les Pains!

Nothing in France opens before 10 AM, with the exception of the local bakery. And they certainly give you a reason to wake up early–the open storefront fills the street with the heavenly and comforting scent of warm bread. Most of the time, you can find the nearest bakery by following your nose! Baguettes and brioche are always great options. If you feel like branching out, try something with olives or noisettes (nuts), or pain aux cereales, which has whole grains and an pleasant texture.

How can you choose?

How can you choose?

6. Warm Goat Cheese Salad- Salade du Chevre Chaud 

This is a summer favorite! A simple, fresh bed of lettuce provides the counterpart to the the tangy, partially melted goat cheese served on toast that surrounds it. Light and refreshing, yet completely satisfying, every restaurant has their own spin on this dish, usually using local goat cheese. Whether in Provence, Paris, Burgundy or Bordeaux, this is always a great option. As it is summer, a glass of rose is essential to finish off the meal–bien sur!

Fresh bread, fresh goat cheese...what's better?

Fresh bread, fresh goat cheese…what’s better?

7. Chocolate Lava Cake- Chocolat Fondant

This is France’s gift to the chocoholics of the world. America has tried to copy this classic dish by dousing it in sugar, but the French know that the chocolate should take center stage. Here, the cake is made using dark chocolate, butter…and that’s about it. Rich and almost bitter, these tiny cakes will almost assuredly make you put your fork down after the first bite to shout a happy, “Mon Dieu, c’est incroyable!”

This is perfection.

This is perfection.

8. Melon and Prosciutto

Going without this dish on a trip to France is like visiting America without getting French Fries. It is a staple in the spring and summer months, especially in the Provence region, and starts off just about every good meal. The prosciutto’s smooth, mellow flavor is always appreciated. But the melon is what steals the show! The trick here is to look for “Cavaillon” melons, which is the Provencal town where they are grown. These are to die for!

The perfect blend of sweet and savory.

The perfect blend of sweet and savory.

Feeling inspired? Come with Bliss Travels to taste your way across France! Our spring and summer trips to Provence are the perfect opportunity to try Cavaillon melon at it’s finest, while our upcoming September trip to Burgundy gives you a chance to sample the heartier fare of the wine region!

A bientot-

Bliss Travels

Tour France: A Culinary Adventure with Charitable Twist

Our love of food and love of helping others finally meet– and you can help!

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The culinary adventures our clients experience with Bliss Travels have become our specialty. How many people can say that that they ate the best meal of their lives with a Michelin-starred chef in their jewel-like restaurant?

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A Michelin-starred meal in a French bistro. One incredible dish!

Or enjoyed a perfect wine pairing with a custom meal cooked by our private chef in Burgundy or Bordeaux?

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A private wine tasting on one of our previous trips

Or enjoyed lunch at an off-roads Provencal farm as the sun-dappled trees swayed in the breeze and farm animals meandered by?

A picnic outside in Provence, with fresh cheese from the farm

A picnic outside in Provence, with fresh cheese from the farm

What a privilege, and what a treat! To show our gratitude it seems only fair that we help those who don’t have access to such luxuries. There are too many families in the area who cannot afford their groceries, much less enjoy a culinary adventure of their own –even a local one. In order to help out Bliss Travels sponsors trips to the grocery store for families in need, letting them enjoy a respite from the anxiety of paying for something that should, at least sometimes, be a source of enjoyment. For each vacation purchased, Bliss will donate $150 to a family so that they too can have the luxury of purchasing things on their “wish list”.

For us, food is much more than a necessity and a source of nutrition. Meals are a time to gather and relax, away from the stress of the day. It is a means of enjoying family, friends, and life–and we all deserve those moments.

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There is nothing better than the simple joy of sharing a meal with family and friends.

If you feel inspired by Bliss‘ example, feel free to try the “hands on” approach, help a family on your own, and let us know- we would love to hear about your experience! We’ll also reduce the price of your trip by however much you spend, up to $150.

Bliss Travels loves a good meal, and we know you do, too. Contact us if you want more information and to get involved in our culinary charity. Have ideas on how to expand this? We’d love to hear from you!

We can’t wait to expand this venture and help spread the bliss.

A bientot!

Wendy

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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: Food, Wine & Photo Vacations in Provence

Tour France: Food, Wine & Photo Vacations in Provence

Nothing is better, in my opinion, than the food and wine in France. And what better way to continue to enjoy the experience other than to photograph what you are enjoying?

The meal begins with an eggplant crumble and some wonderful tapenade. Follow this with braised lamb and kidneys.

Chocolate, mais oui!


Cafe…apres!
And, of course…digestive! Of course, the only “real” choice was the Marc de Chateauneuf du Pape!

The perfect end to a lovely day! Bliss!

7 Photo Categories (contest): Spring/Summer in Provence

Bliss – Full” photos of Spring and Summer in Provence, the Luberon

Please give us caption suggestions –either in comments or via email. We will post our favorites and  give you credit –and link to your blog if you are chosen!

A Bientôt,

Wendy

1. Sunflowers!

2. Painted buildings –from colors mined in Provence.

3. Color co ordinated flower boxes!4. Happy couples  -dare we say “blissful“?

5. Lavender cakes –yes, you heard right. These are absolutely wonderful –and only found here!
6. The amazing cliffs, and the unbelievable, otherworldly blue of the water.

6. The fabulous chefs we get to watch, work with, and whose specialties we adore!


7. Wines, and where they come from!