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

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Tour France: Cartier’s Grand Palais Exhibit in Paris

cartier_expo_0Ooh la la! Cartier, the “Jeweler of Kings,” has an opulent exhibit at the Grand Palais in Paris from December 4th to February 16th. This is a must-visit experience and a great addition to a tour through France. And what a perfect add-on to a Valentine’s trip (you could get some ideas for the kind of ring or tiara she likes 🙂 ) Bliss Travels is currently offering a deal for the Valentine’s weekend trip (the special price is only offered through January 2nd). Check it out here! A romantic opportunity awaits!

The exhibit is the most expensive of its kind. It's simply a must-see!

The exhibit is the most expensive of its kind. It’s simply a must-see!

WWD gushes that Kate Middleton’s wedding tiara and Grace Kelly’s engagement ring are among the star pieces of an exhibition on Cartier opening in Paris today.

Billed as the most extensive show to date dedicated to the French jeweler, famed for its panther-themed jewelry and Tank watches, “Cartier — Style and History” is set to run at the Grand Palais until Feb. 16. It showcases more than 600 items ranging from fine jewelry and watches to decorative objects, many reflecting the influence of exotic locations like China and India. Most are drawn from Cartier’s extensive archives, but about 100 items are on loan from private collections.”

Cartier's signature jaguar stands proud in many of the exhibit's displays.

Cartier’s signature jaguar stands proud in many of the exhibit’s displays.

In an interview with the Guardian, the curator of this opulent exhibit, Laure Dalon, explained its significance. “Cartier is one of France’s iconic companies and is a part of France’s tradition and heritage. It’s not just the actual monetary value of the pieces but their social history, their owners and their place in the history of decorative arts. That makes them priceless, really.”

Hasn't every girl wished to wear something as exquisite as this?

Hasn’t every girl wished to wear something as exquisite as this?

Well said, Mme Dalon! We are delighted to recommend our clients see  this magnificent exhibit during their Valentine’s trip. We can even provide a private guide to accompany and tour this exhibit, and others! Add it to your checklist: we’ll see you there!

A bientot-

Bliss Travels

Tour France: Bliss Travels Featured on “Places to Visit in France!”

Bliss Travels was featured in an article on Places to Visit in France as a great way to tour Paris for the Valentine’s weekend!

Places to Visit in France said:

Go with an “insider”!

This is our favorite option. You get alone time with your sweetheart while seeing the hidden, more intimate parts of the city that you wouldn’t get in a big group. One of our top choices is Bliss Travels, a luxury travel company that specializes in food and wine (so prepare for a gourmet trip). They are also offering a special Valentine’s weekend trip where everything is taken care of for you, but where you will not be with a group! Check out their site here: http://blisstravels.com/tour-france-valentines-day-in-paris

Read the rest of their article (and pick up some travel tips) at Visit Paris for Valentine’s Day. Sound tempting? Then check out Bliss Travels‘ special holiday deal on our Valentine’s Day in Paris package!

The "I Love You wall" in Paris is a beautiful reminder of your loved one!

The “I Love You wall” in Paris is a beautiful reminder of your loved one!

A bientot,

Bliss Travels

Tour France: Travel Experts Bliss Travels Blogged by French Wedding Style

Meet the Experts: Bliss Travels

 As posted on the TOP French wedding blog! French Wedding Style….Wow, Thank you Monique for such a great write up! It’s not too soon to plan for our Valentine’s Weekend Special or for summer. Contact wendy@blisstravels.com now to experience Bliss.

Bliss Travels - enjoying cheese selection on tour

There is nothing more apt when it comes to vacationing in France than the name Bliss Travels. With incredible history, unparalleled beauty, the best food & wines in the world, and a language that can make anything sound romantic, how could it not be the ultimate blissful holiday?

That’s why Bliss Travels, a luxury travel company that designs bespoke trips, weddings and other events in France, has been taking couples through France for over a decade!

French Wedding Style – Photography © most photos by Anthony Bianciella
Bliss Travels teaching photography

Introducing Wendy from Bliss Travels: “Our clients have extraordinary experiences, the kind you can’t buy. We like to say that traveling with us is like traveling with a very well connected friend (who has great taste!) We offer exclusive, insider access to things that no other company can provide. We aim to not only please, but provide “Bliss!”

Many of our trips begin in Paris. How could we deny our clients a chance at specially designed (one-of-a-kind) menus in Michelin-starred restaurants, dining with chefs in their apartments, or in their quaint little bistros; shopping in the fashion capital of the world; and privately guided walks of the major sites and museums?

Bliss Travels - gourmet food and desserts

We love telling people about the surprising histories of famous monuments, sneaking into private little courtyards, and offering up tastes from the shops you couldn’t find on your own. In short, we like introducing people to the little-known treasures of France, and the City of Lights in particular. (Do you know where to find the best hot chocolate you’ll ever drink?  Or how about that great bistro in the Red Light district?)

Surprise Engagements

Sometimes our clients take extra advantage of being in the most romantic city in the world… At the beginning of our wine-tasting trip to Burgundy this September, one of our clients popped the question to his girlfriend after a beautiful meal and an evening stroll along the Seine. So we feted their engagement the next day when we arrived in Burgundy, with a barrel tasting in a 14th wine cellar, followed by a dinner that included red wine poached lobster and finished with luxurious cheeses, all prepared by our private chef. Just a bit more “bliss”!

Wedding planning in Paris

When we design our wine trips, our goal is not just great wines and foods, but also relaxed fun. Bien sur, we have Michelin chefs design private meals in Grand Cru chateaux and taste fine wines from the private collection of wine makers. But we also treat people to authentic experiences, not just formal ones. “Bliss” sometimes means that we are invited into a farmhouse for a rustic meal or a tiny bistro that opened just for us. Sometimes we are invited into a chef’s or winemaker’s home to taste their cooking, as they regale us with their stories. Our goal is to make sure that our clients have extraordinary experiences that are relaxed and enjoyable, not stuffy.

Exclusivity

We’re especially proud of the exclusive access we provide. Whether that means being invited to a vineyard where renowned wine expert Robert Parker was turned away (score 1-0 for Bliss!) or having a special case of (sold out) wine that he rated 100 saved just for us, we want our clients to have experiences they can’t get on their own.  And, we want their biggest problem to be (as one client recently wrote) “How we will be able to go back to drinking the wines we liked before, after tasting so many fabulous ones on this trip!”

Private wine cellar tour with Bliss Travels

After our wine tasting in Bordeaux this year, we decided to take an impromptu trip to Basque country on our way to Spain, just because there were some delicacies we thought people might enjoy! Next stop:  Barcelona to live large! Late nights with gourmet tapas in a private rooftop party, tours with a Gaudi expert to the Sagrada Familia Basilica, and time to explore a city with great nightlife, art, and culture. Perfecto! Adventure seekers call this trip their “Bliss!”

Provence

For more laid back trips, our clients adore the unhurried, cheerful culture of the Provencal region. Miles upon miles of lavender, sunflowers, poppies, perched villages, and ancient ruins make even the drive to a new place gasp-worthy.

Food in Provence is like nowhere else; intimate and relaxed. Where else would a Michelin starred chef create new dishes with us in his kitchen and then joins us for dessert? Or where else could you find a tiny “end of the road” auberge, where the owner brings food out on wood planks and then serenades you by playing an ancient mouth harp, while his goats jump over nearby tables.

Gourmet food tour around France

We always say “you’ve got to see it to believe it.” So get your camera ready! (That’s why we bring a professional photographer with us in the spring to show clients the tricks of the trade.) There is nothing better than realizing you took the Best Photo Ever, of the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen or the most unforgettable experience you’ve ever had.

French Mediterranean

We love to end our trips with a stunning change of scenery: heading to the French Mediterranean to stay in an ancient Chateau atop a cliff, or to visit a festival and watch the bulls run the streets! Many of our clients have called these experiences reminiscent of  “a fairytale”—and we couldn’t agree more.

A day on a private yacht, drifting through the crystal blue waters and going for the occasional dip and sip of wine, leaves each and every person tan, relaxed, and in utter “Bliss!” A summer picnic in a lush garden followed by a night watching the bulls and dancing in the streets is exhilarating and the best honeymoon or anniversary gift, ever. Period.

We have even helped a groom organize a surprise elopement to Paris for his fiancée, which you might recognise from appearing on French Wedding Style.

We’ll see you soon!
A bientot!!

How many experiences in this post are you just itching to be a part of?  What is your favourite activity mentioned?  I love the idea of a bistro owner exclusively opening his doors and kitchen for a private gathering and of course the wine!

If you want to know more about Bliss Travels trips, browse the Bliss Travels website and find more testimonials.

Tour France: Provence is “heaven on earth”

In the New York Times article “Steal My Vacation: Norma Kamali’s Provence” , renowned fashion designer and dedicated olive oil conoisseur Kamali extols the wonders of Provence. She mentioned that “If there was a description of what heaven looks like, I would say this is it.” Tell us something we don’t know!

The lavender fields of Provence smell as beautiful as they look!

The lavender fields of Provence smell as beautiful as they look!

Thankfully, Provence isn’t only visited for its (admittedly fantastic) olive oil orchards. Bakeries, farms, ancient ruins, resplendent cathedrals, and warm locals all beckon people from across the world to take a break underneath its spotless blue sky. It is one of the best places to visit in France! Period! Oh, and what about the wines? Chateauneuf du Pape wines, Cote du Rhones, Bandols….and Rose of all shades.

Provence is completely unique, with a relaxed pace that stems from each easy moment. The cicadas chirping in an ancient olive orchard, a secluded lavender field heated by the sun, and an incredible dinner made from fresh ingredients bought at that morning’s market. It is a retreat from stress, and a voyage into “bliss“. Parfait!

The list of our favorite places to visit in Provence could go for days. Luckily, Bliss Travels creates small group custom vacations in Provence at several points throughout the year, in MayJune, July, August, and October, so you can come up with your own list of favorites!  And do it with an insider. Exclusive access is the best part of what we do. (See what our clients say about that.) Escape to your own “heaven on earth” with us to see what Norma Kamali and the New York Times are raving about.

A bientot-

Bliss Travels

Check out some photos of our previous trips to Provence below!

Provence offers divine meals with incomparably fresh ingredients.

Provence offers divine meals with incomparably fresh ingredients.

Every corner offers a new view to take your breath away.

Every corner offers a new view to take your breath away.

Hiking to the Ancient cathedral on top of a perched village was one of the group's favorite moments in July!

Hiking to the ancient church on top of a 1000+ year old perched village was one of this group’s favorite moments in July!

Olive orchards are around every corner

Olive orchards are around every corner

Our clients loved to stop in the lavender fields when we passed them!

some very special return clients on an awesome trip. Summer is the time that everyone loves to stop in the lavender fields. We pass tons!

Our October trip also features professional photography lessons!

Our October and May (for poppies) trip also feature professional photography for those who want to capture the beauty. Poppy fields are astounding

Tour France; New Van Gogh Painting Discovered!

After being stored in a Norwegian attic for over 100 years, “Sunset at Montmajour” has been officially declared a long-lost van Gogh original. The first van Gogh to be confirmed since 1928, it took two years of extensive testing before art historians accepted the hypothesis. Museum director Axel Rueger called it a “once-in-a-lifetime experience,” going on to effuse praise on his fellow historians and van Gogh experts.

"Sunset at Montmajour" was unveiled by the delighted  van Gogh museum director, Axel Ruetger.

“Sunset at Montmajour” was unveiled by the delighted van Gogh museum director, Axel Rueger.

Over a million people visit Amsterdam’s van Gogh museum each year. “Sunset at Montmajour” will only be on view until September 24th, as it is owned by a private collector, giving audiences even more incentive to visit the museum quickly!

Much of van Gogh’s adult life was spent in various facilities in Provence, France–even in the village that Bliss Travels visits each summer and autumn! Visiting the same sites that van Gogh painted has always provided Bliss clients an intimate link to the painter and his oeuvre.

Van Gogh's Provencal self-portraits provded a look at his tumultuous feelings.

Van Gogh’s Provencal self-portraits provded a look at his tumultuous feelings.

We hope that someday soon we will see “Sunset at Montmajour” on our summer or autumn trips to Provence. Come with us to get a unique look at his life!

This past summer Bliss clients explored van Gogh's favorite region.

This past summer Bliss clients explored van Gogh’s favorite region.

Bliss clients also enjoyed a beautiful late lunch just outside of van Gogh's Provencal sanitorium.

Bliss clients also enjoyed a beautiful late lunch just outside of van Gogh’s Provencal sanitorium.

If you want to know more about the esteemed artist, check out our previous blog, Vincent van Gogh’s Provence.

A bientot-

Bliss Travels

Tour France; Useful Phrases for Traveling in France

Traveling to France soon? Learn some essential phrases to help with everyday interactions!

Most French people speak English. But just like travelers coming to America assuming we will speak their language, the French appreciate those who attempt to speak the language of the country they’re visiting. These phrases will give you a head start–and maybe help make you some new friends!

Bliss Travels clients are always excited to talk to locals during our trips, and these are the first phrases we teach. Test them out and get comfortable!

1. “Bonjour, Monsieur/Madame!”

As simple as this seems, a friendly greeting in French will almost always elicit a smile!

Tip: Especially in Paris, addressing someone immediately as Monsieur or Madame is a “politesse” that simply must be used.

A kiss on the cheek is a typical greeting in France among colleagues and friends. Let's just stick with Bonjour for now!

A kiss on the cheek is a typical greeting in France among colleagues and friends, but let’s stick with ‘bonjour’ for now!

2. “Je voudrais ca.”

Pronounced “zje voo-DRAY sah,” this means “I would like that.” Especially in markets and bakeries, where you must point and ask for something instead of getting it yourself, this phrase is important!

"Je voudrais une baguette, s'il vous plait!"

“Je voudrais une baguette, s’il vous plait!”

3. “S’il vous plait.”

The previous phrase should always be followed by this one–“please!” Manners are very important in France! Pronounced “see voo play,” this is one that sounds familiar to most people.

4. “Ou est…”

“Oo eh” means “where is…” This can be followed by monuments, addresses, or the all-important bathroom! That phrase is “Ou est la toilette?”

An important word!

An essential word!

5. “Pardon!” or “Pardonnez-moi!”

“Par-DON-ay mwah” means “excuse me.” For times on busy metros or crowded market streets, this one is important!

6. “Merci, Monsieur/Madame! Au revoir!”

End every interaction, no matter how short, with this. (Again, the Monsieur/Madame should be there!) “AH ruh-VWAH” literally means “until we see each other again.”

Cheers to new friendships in France!

Cheers to new friendships forged in France!

A Blissful trip awaits you with these phrases under your belt! Need a chance to try them out? Come with Bliss Travels on a trip to France!  Our upcoming tours include our October trip to Provence–with an emphasis on photography!–and our winter holiday trips to Paris. Check out our trip itineraries to find the best trip for you!

A bientot!

Bliss Travels