Tour France: Extraordinary Dining in France

Extraordinary Dining in France

I’ll bet you think this article is about the best tip top Michelin starred eateries….Well, you are partly right. Or maybe it’s about those little “off the beaten track” bistros that many great chefs are defecting to? Also, partly right. Or do you think it’s about the market streets…yep, just a little. Mostly, it’s about the special sort of balance you need in order to get the most out of your trip to a culinary Nirvana. So, even if you don’t travel with us, you can experience your own little bit of Bliss! So let me quote a great article by Moshulu:

“Eating done, what a pleasure it is to sit back comfortably, cradling a last glass of Jurancon (not too sweet, slightly bitter, slightly resinous), thinking about how good life is, and how silly people are. For example (and no offence!) why is it that The Chowhound Team continues to conflate “chow” with “food”, and “eating” with “dining”? Or why do so many Paris-bound chowhounds laboriously compile and post lists of restaurants, hoping to stuff themselves into a stupor throughout every moment that they are here? It’s just like being one of those manic tourists who rush through the Louvre making sure that nothing escapes them (Michelangelo? check!, Rubens? check!, Leonardo?, check!). It makes no sense. A gastronomic romp in Paris should be a quietly composed, elegant sonata, with a beginning, a middle and an end. Or maybe a tasteful country bouquet with just the right combination of colors, textures and smells. It should consist of a few choice selections from a palette that includes, among others, a neighborhood bistrot, a noisy brasserie, a simple fish place, a temple of “haute bourgeoisie” cuisine, a creperie, and (why not?) one of those phantasmagorical Senderens/Ducasse/Robuchon affairs. Each should be savoured for what it is, not checked off some list on the way to the next Michelin-rated clone. A quiet dinner… is like lingering for an hour in the Louvre’s Palissy room, grateful that someone once made such extraordinary efforts on one’s own behalf. And thankful that a few good restaurants still survive in Paris, even in the sixteenth arrondissement’s frigid, stony heart.”

If you eat at 3 star Michelin’s every day you will become numb. (And, not insignificantly, so full, you will not be able to move). If you go to Paris and eat nothing but crepes, quiche, croque monsieur or baguettes you will miss experiencing true culinary genius –and believe me, what passes in Paris (and other parts of France) for a nice quality bistro meal, is probably better than anything you’ve eaten anywhere else. (Yes, I’m talking to you foodies too. It’s just not possible to replicate terroir and the treatment that food gets as art in France). And, if you approach both food and art the same way, you will have a sensual and satisfying experience all around.

Mix it up…You’ve got to. The concept of courses at meals –not just giant plates of one thing is the same concept. You must have a little bit of a wide variety of foods. Your palate doesn’t become desensitized. Your body needs food that way. And the food is interesting, and your dining is mindful. Eating the same foods (high end or low end) every day on vacation is the same as eating a giant bag of chips in front of the TV. You stop tasting it. It’s just mindless repetition. But, when you switch it up –country lunch outdoors, gourmet tasting menu for dinner, cheese and baguette by a river bank, market fresh bistro –you magnify each experience, not just one of the experiences.


So, this is about balance. The idea for writing this article came from the above review. It so beautifully described how to have a top level culinary week, that I thought I’d excerpt it below and add one final point –yes, I know I make this same point a lot. Famous places can be great. Some restaurants are even famous because they are great. But, fame changes all but the most careful places (much like it changes all but the most grounded people). Thus, guidebooks and celebrities can help you find certain sorts of experiences. But, they likely won’t be unique or unspoiled. For that you must get “insider info” and go “off the beaten track”.

If you want to dine with Bliss, or come on one of our culinary trips, please contact us. All of our Spring and Summer trips can be found on our website, where you will also find our testimonials. Every one of our trips takes this approach to food. Our fall trips to Burgundy and Provence are pre booking and will be posted soon.

So, how about some coffee before you get up?

A bientot,

Wendy Jaeger –owner, Bliss Travels

Holiday Vacation in Paris: Paris Pastry, Party & Holiday Treats

Holiday Vacation in Paris: Paris Pastry, Party & Holiday Treats

The LA Times wrote about Paris pastries, and I am quoting below, because this is the time of year we start to think of sweet treats –the holidays are approaching and we are busy planning so that our holiday travelers experience the best of that Paris has to offer in the form of sweats and treats.

“The next time you’re in Paris, drop your concern about carbs and surrender to sugar. The jewelry-like pastries these top-tier tastemakers turn out make it worth putting aside your intestinal fortitude for a bit of heaven.

Pierre Hermé: In this chic shop on Rue Bonaparte in the St-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood, a serious discussion is taking place between a well-dressed Frenchwoman in her mid-40s and the store clerk. The salesperson is inquiring about what cuisine and wines the hostess will be serving, the purpose of the occasion and even the dress code.

After gathering all the information he deems necessary, the merchant makes his recommendations. The hostess affirms his choices with a brief nod and, with gloved hands, he removes a selection of macarons from their place in the case and places them gently in a round box with orange piping that says simply, “Pierre Hermé.”

Pierre Hermé is one of several famous patisseries in Paris that have become well known for their macarons — a delicate cream-filled cookie with a crisp outer shell. Part of what has made these macarons so popular, despite their price tag of about $2.50 each, is the unusual flavor combinations, such as Arabesque, with apricot and pistachio; Mogador, made from passion fruit and milk chocolate; and Magnifique, a combination of strawberry and wasabi.

One of the top pastry chefs in Paris, Pierre Hermé has managed to marry the dense taste of an exotic cake with the light crunch of a sugar cookie — creating nothing short of a macaron movement.”

Bliss Travels Review: What I find most interesting are the places they chose to write about. Among them are Pierre Herme and Gerard Mulot, two renown pastry chefs with quintessential Left Bank shops. You certainly don’t want to miss the pastries at either. I’m surprised though that no mention was made of Pierre Herme’s “2000 feuille”. What we commonly call a “Napoleon” –a pastry confection piped with caramel and vanilla cream –is one of his best treats. The “real” name for this is Mille Feuille (thousand sheets/leaves). This refers to the paper thin layers of pastry that are piled below, between and above the filling. Chef Herme’s is called 2000 Feuille –an obvious nod to his opinion (accurate) of his pastry and its delicacy. So, all of this is by way of saying that the LA Times sure found some hot spots…Pierre Herme is no slouch. But, they didn’t find some of the best kept secrets in Paris pastry. (Or maybe they did but they didn’t want to publicize the places and change the nature of what they made and how they made it.)

 

The places we most enjoy frequenting, in addition to what the LA Times mentions are the little shops with small production of what can only be described as a cross between a gastronomic feast and a work of art. 

Whether they are items that are color coordinated for the holidays, double as decoration, or are little jewels packed with astounding flavor, as only the French can do, we encourage you to explore and try them all. They are a feast for the eyes as well as the mouth. The experience is Bliss! So, plan your pastry extravaganza through Paris, or come with us!

France Food Tour: This Summer’s Dining Experiences in Paris, Provence & Med

France Food Tour: This Summer’s Dining Experiences in Paris, Provence & Med   This summer provided for some interesting gourmet discoveries and some wonderful repeat experiences. Below are some of the highlights of our fine dining and country fare.  Everything from Michelin stars to picnics on the grass to lunch overlooking the Mediterranean.   First: Dining in Paris….Reach for the stars! Foie Gras with cherries and chutney. Clams…with a parmesan foam. OMG.Tomatoes with almonds over a base of mackerel seviche –before the chilled almond soup was poured on top! Pigeon with a rhubarb fruit puree…  From Paris to Provence and the Mediterranean. Fish and the freshest produce dominated those wonderful menus…

Fresh Trout pulled from the local stream and cooked at out local auberge.

Aioli –a favorite dish…cod, carrot, haricots verts, cauliflower, tomato, zucchini –and in this case, a special touch of mussels!Rouget. Another great Mediterranean specialty –seen mostly in the South of France. In this case, filets served with a variation on ratatouille.Last, but not least –fresh wood grilled sardines served with olive oil to drizzle over them, a wedge of lemon and a fresh green salad.What more could you want? Oh, that’s right….Picnics of all sorts…From the rustic but gourmet…To the impromptu apres Marche picnic on the castle grounds…To the custom dining based upon local produce… It’s absolute BLISS. Contact us now if you’d like to experience Bliss

Tour France (& the world) with Bliss and other Bloggers!

An Award! Love it! Thank you Backyard in Provence. We find your posts “blissful” to read as well! Ashley is living the dream, having moved to Provence with her husband and daughter. She gets to spend all of her time on exploring this amazing region – imagine if your vacation in Provence didn’t end after a week or two!! We love her posts, and know that every single one of our readers and clients are jealous@

The “how to” of this award is:

  •       Thank the person who gave this award and write a post about it.
  •       Answer the questions on your favorites below.
  •       Pass on the award to 10 fabulous bloggers, link their blogs, and let them know you awarded them.

Here are my favorites:

Favorite Color – Red in Spring (for poppies) and Purple/lavender in summer for you know what! And, of course, oranges in fall….Do I have to pick one color for the entire year?

Favorite Animal – Emmy the wonder dog (all of my clients know why that is….the rest of you will have to come on a trip to find out!)  –any clients who wish to comment on Emmy may do so freely below!

Favorite Number – right now, 5 –the number of exciting summer trips we have planned!

Favorite Drink – Rose in Provence and Burgundy anywhere else!

Facebook or Twitter – Facebook –I like photos!

Your Passion – That’s easy –France–mostly Provence, the Med and Burgundy. That’s why the business is named BLISS travels!

Giving or getting presents – Giving. Love to see happy surprised people!

Favorite Day – Any day spent in Provencal sunshine.

Favorite Flowers – Poppies and anything growing in the Luxembourg gardens.

Backyard in Provence “stole” some of my favorite blogger’s names. So please know you also would have been nominated.

Please click away and check out some of these blogs. If you’re on the list, please pay it forward….

1. bobbieconti

2. ENOFLYZ

3. Foodimentary

4. Lot18 Blog

5. Rantings of an Amateur Chef

6. Leslie Carter

and related 7. Bucket List Publications

8. FrenchWeddingStyle (Monique Mariage)

9. My World of Food Adventures

10. Travel Destination Bucket List

All great writers, adventurers, diners –as well as visually exciting! Share the Bliss 

Spring in Provence: Bliss Travels Newsletter

Bliss LogoOUR NEWSLETTER!

Bonjour!
Spring has sprung! On our recent trip to Paris was sunny and beautiful. Spring is a spectacular time to travel to Provence too. Poppy fields, iris’s, cherry blossoms, vines, and beautiful weather.  All without any crowds. . There is still time to book our May 15-21, 2012 custom trip to Provence and Paris. See things most tourists don’t have access to. Enjoy custom itineraries in a private, small group setting. Contact us now. 609 462 6213.wendy@blisstravels.com.

Foodie Trends in France
Local takes on new meaning in France. Local is not just from the region, it’s specific to the village, sometimes the farm. Our artisan jam maker in Provence grows all of her own fruits and herbs. Lavender, olive, lemon, verbena, strawberry, peach…if it’s not in her back yard, and ripe for the picking, then it’s not in her pots of jam or sorbet flavors. Chemicals and additives? No way. And now the chefs are following that trend. The top spots are buying from the local producers, in small quantities….
See our blog for more photos and trends.

Summer Provence Travel
mediterraneanSpring and Summer fun in Provence and along the Mediterranean. We have great dates and special itineraries available. Tour the Provencal markets. See the Bastille Day fireworks. Witness the running of the bulls. Ancient villages, impressionist art, wineries and so much more. Book your trip now. wendy@blisstravels.com
“I miss France! What a great trip. I felt so spoiled having you take care of everything. Thank you. Being a person that does like “tours” and having already been through Provence I didn’t really expect much – I couldn’t have been more wrong!!!” (October, 2011, New York client) 

 

Contact us now. Special family prices and custom small group trips. wendy@blisstravels.com or 609 462 6213
Sincerely,
Wendy Jaeger
Bliss Travels
Up and Coming
French Culinary Trends
Summer Trips
Spring in Provence

Insider Access Makes the Difference!
What does an “insider” provide? What difference does exclusive access to things not available to the public make? Click here to read what Anthony says and you’ll find out!
Or just read what our clients say:

“Wendy gave me not one but two vacations of a lifetime. The first vacation was so nice I booked a return trip within 60 days…. Her knowledge of the country and culture and attention to my special needs…and ability to deliver made me feel I was always in good hands. It was so nice I did it twice.” (April and June 2011, Philadelphia client)

“I had the most wonderful trip to Burgundy….. As a former head of the Bordeaux wine society in Washington, DC, but a great lover of Burgundies, I can tell you that all of my expectations were exceeded, from the pre-Burgundy days in Paris , during which I experienced things I had not, despite living in Paris for almost 5 years, to the Burgundy Adventure – including where we stayed, the tours, both of Beaune and the chateaux, the teaching sessions, and the meals (Ah, the meals!) it was the best vacation of its type I had ever taken. ” (September, 2011 Washington, DC client.)

Follow-up Links

Top New Food Trends in Paris & Provence

TOP NEW FOOD TRENDS

As culinary and wine specialists, we watch the food and drink trends in France closely. As everywhere, the trends are for fresh, seasonal and local. But, as usual, the French take this to a new level…

Top restaurants have been getting rid of menus. Many places now offer only seasonal, not printed, menus. These vary by the day– by the time, even the table. You are asked what you don’t or can’t eat. Special requests are always honored. But, after that, it’s up to the chef. Brilliant, if you think about it. Now the chef can buy top product, even if there are only small quantities. There is no waste. Nothing is left “un ordered”. It’s local, fresh, conserves energy, limits waste, and, most importantly, allows the chef to showcase his or her talents –which is the reason you are there to begin with!

 

Below was a wonderful seasonal dish of asperges et seche, offered only that evening, and only until it ran out!The other thing this trend away from printed menus created was the trend to little plates, and tiny tastings of many things. Freed from the need to purchase XX kilos of something, each plate could be prepared with small tastings of small batch artisan products and heirloom treats. Plus, this means the chef has greater opportunity to be creative  -as you can clearly see from the mini tasting plate below.

The highlights were numerous. However, see bass with a sweet potato puree seasoned to perfection and another plate of baby squid with black ink risotto and lardons were stand outs!
This trend continued to dessert, which is served in two courses. Traditionally the sweet is followed by a chocolate. Here we had homemade macarons and miniature cream puffs.We are excited to see what the Provencal chefs make of these trends this spring and summer given the extraordinary access to produce that they have. I think this year will be a banner year for French cuisine as these new trends migrate  across the country (and even the world). We are on the cusp of a new style of dining. And, it is timed in such a way that popular movements like Slow Food and local farm to table programs will only magnify and speed the development of these new trends.

As always, Bliss will be ahead of the curve and exploring these new trends and others.

A Bientôt,

Wendy

How to Have a Great Lunch in Paris…Off The Beaten Track

Everyone wants that little, special, “we’re the only tourists there and the chef is soooooo good, but without all the pomp and circumstance” bistrot. But, here’s the thing. Not everyone finds it. Why? Because unless you know someone, or live in Paris, or go there a dozen times a year, you just aren’t going to be in the know. You’re going to know what the guide books know. Unless, of course, you experience “Bliss” as we did today!

Our favorite “private”  chef in Paris treated us to a new treasure!

(Bliss Travels clients have tasted his amazing creations –everything from goat cheese flan with roasted tomatoes to chicken roulade stuffed with foie gras in a mason jar on a bed of seasoned vegetables, plus a side dish of  cold artichoke and vinaigrette, accompanied by starters of homemade breadsticks and an eggplant dip. Not to be outdone, dessert was a roasted and caramelized pineapple with homemade nougat. And we’re talking a PICNIC he made for one of our train rides….So, yep, you get it now, don’t you?  So, when he said, “Allons Y” or Let’s go, we did! Tout de suite!)

Off the beaten track. Great chef. Warm welcome. So fun, we closed the place down. (Sorry, Chef, next time we’ll peel carrots to help with the mise en place for the dinner service!) Christian, Pierre and Serge along with their wonderful staff made us feel utterly at home!

First course was a boudin terrine with chestnuts, and a great, salad.After came a pintadeau with thyme, on a bed of lentils, carrots and parsnip. Lardons bits were cooked with the lentils, and potatoes on top were like nowhere else! There was also veal chop, cooked rare, topped vegetables and in a black truffle jus….oh, ho hum. I know you have this every day!
Just to put the icing on the cake, as it were, we were treated to an outstanding view, and we learned that our chef is willing to give private lessons to Bliss Travels Clients!