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

6 Holiday Paris Treats! 

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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….

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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

 

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Tour France: Holiday Chocolates in Paris

Chocolate in Paris

Not all chocolate is created equal. And not all chocolate desserts are either. In Paris, especially in winter, when the heat won’t destroy these delicate creations, we find a plethora of magical chocolate treats. They are chocolates with a richer, deeper, more unctuous feel and flavor than typically exist in the United States. They are in pastry form, liquid form and candy form. Paired with a wonderful Champagne or a digestive, they are the perfect ending to a meal –or a fabulous treat on their own. Imagine sitting on a Parisian bridge with Champagne and a chocolate truffle from the Maison du Chocolat, for example….Pure Bliss! Of that, we are sure!

Tour France Paris for the holidays

Liquid gold: The hot chocolate is thick. Served like an expresso in a small cup, it is an elixor of sorts. No children’s treat, this one. Originally served only to the most privileged. It was a drink served as if it were a coffee. It was black, intense and served as a morning or after meal beverage. This drink is meant to warm, arouse and fill.  There are many Parisian boites claiming to be the “best hot chocolate” in. Let us know yours, and we’ll take you to ours!

Little Jewels: Chocolate candies in Paris are small, less sugary bits of wafer thin intense flavor filled with seasonal, sometimes subtle and intriguing ingredients. Champagne truffles. Chocolates filled with flavored ganache. Typicallysmall and delicate these are treated almost like a medicine. The French even refer to the recommended serving size as a “dose”.  Chocolate is good for you and you should have just a bit at the end of a meal, or as a late afternoon break. Not packets of sugary froth —just a taste of something more pure –to warm you up and cheer you up in the cold of winter.

(From the Parisian Christmas markets. Do not miss out on this!)

And the pastries….Well, over the holidays, those include whipped, pureed, and melted chocolates flavored and seasoned with hazelnuts, cardamom, cinnamon , walnuts, salted caramel and orange as well as pear, chestnut and liquor.  Whether it’s a Bouche de Noel –the famed Christmas log –rolled chocolate cake with a mousse of Grand Marnier (as we had last year) or chestnut or hazelnut…covered in chocolate and decorated with meringue –perhaps confectionary mushrooms and other woodland items –

Tour France Visit Paris for the holidays

or an éclair filled with a rich dark chocolate cream –or perhaps even, an opera –with chocolate and hazelnut –it is the lack of sugar and intensity of flavor that make a French pastry distinctive.

We have our favorite places and items for all of these. But, it’s always wonderful to hear other people’s opinions as well. Please let us know what you think.

What are the best choices for holiday confections in France? If you introduce us to something new, we will treat you to Champagne and pastry in Paris as our “merci”! N’importe quand. (whenever) you are there!

(Love Brussels too for the holidays and for the chocolate ….mmmmm! Want to come with us, let us know.)

A Bientot and happy holiday planning,

Wendy

Paris for the Holidays: Tips & Travel Bargains

Tour France: Paris for the Holidays: Tips & Travel Bargains

Paris sparkles over the holidays. In so many ways. We find it pure Bliss and the best way to celebrate. Below are tips for bargains and beating the mad holiday travel rush.

Traveling over the holidays can be exciting –and a great deal. As the New York Times points out, holiday travel bargains can be found by checking flights on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and keeping your schedule flexible. In addition, they point out that purchasing 8 weeks in advance is ideal for airline bargains.

Trusted traveler programs also help make your trip easy and pleasant. Global Entry (apply through the US Government sites) can help you bypass long customs and immigration lines. While others may wait hours, you can proceed to a kiosk where you are allowed to use the automated system. This typically takes less than 5 minutes.

There are also “trusted traveler programs”. If you qualify, these can help you navigate airport security so much quicker!

The same sort of “ease” is true for vacations and hotels if you book early. Booking early can get you great deals and save you time and trouble later in the event that your favorite activities book up. If you book trips where transfers and activities are included, you will often save money and always save “hassle” and time.

Visit the big things: Notre Dame for Christmas mass –just for the experience. And the Christmas markets for hot spiced wine, delicacies, crafts, gifts and little trinkets.

 

But, don’t forget the less obvious, less touristic things. The holidays are a food and wine lover’s paradise. Champagne, oysters, scallops, foie gras, roast meats, truffles and chocolates…all winter fare. Don’t miss out! Try the French hot chocolate, thicker and less sweet that what Americans typically have. Try the homemade chocolates and seasonal pastries (we always do a private tasting and wine pairing over the holidays. Yum.)

And of course, non chocolate desserts!

And truffled pizza, mais oui! The best ever! This is really Bliss –in our opinion! Let us know if we can help make your holidays special.  Contact us now for great travel deals during or after Christmas.

 

7 Chocolate and French Wine Pairings for Valentines!

Chocolate and Wine….

Much like wine, chocolate is harvested, fermented, liquified and “made” into the final product. The “terroir” and the “maker” bring much to the final product.

Cocoa grows near the equator, and the heat and type of plant (like wine) create distinct flavor profiles. Cocoa beans are harvested and then fermented. They are dried and processed and eventually ground, roasted and broken down. Finally, they go through a process called “conching”, which is akin to constant kneading–and determines the texture of the chocolate. At this point the chocolate is then used as a raw product for artisans and large manufacturers to make their bars, ganaches, clusters and other candies.

Each manufacturer adds his/her own special mixture of ingredients –vanilla, sugar, cream, spice, nuts. Different cultures tend to produce similarly styled chocolates. American chocolates tend to be sweeter, less pure (i.e. milk v. dark) and larger. Belgian and French tend to use much less sugar, rely on thinner more delicate shells for their filled chocolates, use pure creams in the centers (not ‘creamy’ sugar fillings),  and produce higher percentages of purer (i.e. more dark and less milk) chocolate.

This blog is going to focus on Pairing French Wine and Belgian or French Chocolate, of course!

Here are 7 tips and pairing suggestions to sweeten your Valentine’s Day at home or abroad.

 

1. Pair Champagne with chocolates. Especially with lighter less rich chocolates, or fresh filled Neuhaus creams. Also, this pairs well with chocolate fruit combinations.

 

2. Pair a French Burgundy (Pinot Noir) with mild, but rich dark chocolates, and dark chocolates with mild spice, roasted nuts or ripe berry fruits. So, consider chocolates with cardamom, hazelnut or dark cherries for these wines.

3. Pair Rhone wines, such as a  Chateauneuf du Pape (and other Grenache heavy wines) or wines with rich spicy flavor and high tannins with highly spiced complex chocolates that can match the power of the wine. So, consider chocolate and chili pepper or chocolate with pink peppercorns or strong tea flavors and spice mixtures as good combinations.

4. For purists, wanting to experience the depth of one flavor,  use a single origin chocolate with a single grape wine. You can focus on the subtly of each more easily.

5. Pair a dessert wine, we prefer a Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, with a salted chocolate or salted caramel chocolate. Make sure you use a rich full flavored deep chocolate. Not a milk chocolate.

6. Have a Cognac with a chocolate –either complement it with a cognac flavored truffle or find a very low sugar, almost pure, dark chocolate.

7. Come with Bliss Travels where we do custom pairings and tastings of these things all over France, and in Brussels! At all the best spots! That’s why we call it Bliss!

Time for Truffles! 3 Favorites to Eat in Paris in February!

Winter in France. What’s for dinner? Truffles.

Best to get the most of your truffle, since they are so expensive. First, make sure you’re using the best truffles. Not the nasty flavorless things that sometimes show up in place of the real:

 Tuber melanosporum, available in France (found in Perigord and Provence) between November and March.

La truffe ou la "rabasse" en provençal

So, what to make with Truffles, you ask?

First, store them with your eggs. Egg shells are porous. Thus, the aroma and taste of the truffle will permeate the shell, and flavor your eggs for a

1. Brouillade: softly scrambled eggs with truffles. At this time of year the better bistros will offer a bowl of this unctuous first course. Use sea salt and enjoy!

2. Salad des Truffes: A salad of Mache, with thin sliced steamed tiny yellow potatoes, a poached egg, truffle vinaigrette and shaved truffles on top. There’s nothing more to say!

3. Pate a la Truffe: Pasta with a cream sauce and shaved truffes…

Now for 3 things we will try in February on our trip:

1. Truffled butters.

2. Truffled cheeses. We know a cheese monger who makes a double cream cheese stuffed with black truffles in the middle.

3. Our already famously sought after Truffle pizza….

It’s pure Bliss!

http://www.blisstravels.com