Tour de France of Wines & Cheese: Virtual Travel with Bliss Travels

French Wine & Cheese Parings on our Tour de France

tour france paris for the holidays

Burgundy, Chateauneuf du Pape, Bordeaux… people “oooh and ahh” over these fabulous wines –forgetting that they are place names –names of villages and towns, not actually names of specific “brands” or even “makers” of wines.

Certainly the places have a terroir that creates a similarity between the wines and the foods. So too, certain grapes (which have different flavors) are grown in certain regions (like pinot noir in Burgundy or Grenache in Chateauneuf du Pape) and that also gives wines from a particular area similar flavor profiles. It’s a good idea to find what grapes you like, first.

The ruins of the Chateau at Chateauneuf du Pape which we visited on our May and October wine/photography trips

The ruins of the Chateau at Chateauneuf du Pape

In some ways saying “I like Chateauneuf  du Pape” is like saying “I like Princeton food” or “I like bread from New York City” –okay….but which food in Princeton? What restaurant? Which bread? They are, within a common American theme, all very different…just like the wines made by different people of the same region or village in France. One exception to this idea is where the place uses only one grape. The best example of this is Burgundy. By using one grape –the wines are much more identifiable by area. A French pinot tastes completely different than an American one.

Then there are cheeses. Also similar to wines in that their place names have almost become their brand names to us. Why do I say that? Well, Camembert is from ….you guessed it! And Roquefort? That’s right. Towns name their prized products (much like people do) after themselves! Now, it might make sense to you why “Champagne” would be so upset that people from other places started calling their sparkling wines by their regions proper name. They thought it was deceptive. Many of us would agree if we were to see a company called, for example, Beverly Hills Real Estate Brokers located in Brooklyn. Same concept.

So, what did we pair at our Tour de France of wine and cheese.

Here’s the list. Below are the tasting notes.

1. Champagne Marie Weiss,  paired with a Brie. (And a Cremant d’Alsace as the bargain substitute for this pairing).

It’s blend of 25% Pinot Noir, 25% Pinot Meunier and 50% Chardonnay from the Montagne de Reims and the Cote des Blancs. About half of the juice comes from 1er Cru and Grand Cru vineyards. The Marie Weiss label is produced by the superb, small Champagne house of Ployez-Jacquemart, near Reims. The nose is of apple, white peach, brioche, and fresh nutmeg. It is full-bodied, crisp and balanced.

(Note: Sparkling wine is a wine with significant levels of carbon dioxide in it making it fizzy. The carbon dioxide may result from natural fermentation, either in a bottle, as with the méthode champenoise, in a large tank designed to withstand the pressures involved.)

2. Laurent Combier Crozes Hermitage Blanc with Chevre and fig jam. Both from Provence, where figs also grow –this is combination that really enhances the flavors of each. The wine is made up of 80% Marsanne and 20% Roussanne, is aged in temperature controlled stainless steel, and 30% is fermented and aged in new oak.  Aromatic nose combines flowers, dried fruits. Medium body, perfect acidity. Ready to drink right away.

Tour France Provence

Artisan made goat cheeses in Provence

3. David Moret, Bourgogne, 2010 paired with Epoisses. Epoisse, a cow’s milk, bloomy rind cheese from Burgundy, that is washed in a Marc de Bourgogne is a wonderful treat. This was a great chardonnay made in the town of Beaune.

Tour France:: Regions of France: Burgundy

The town of Beaune Burgundy

4. Bourgogne Pinot Noir with a crystalized, well aged Comte. Unless you’ve tasted a real, well aged Comte –you won’t understand the allure of this pairing. We compared this with a California pinot noir to highlight the fruit forward flavor of the California pinots and to explain the common characteristics of the French Burgundy wines.

Tastings of Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines

Tastings of Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines

Burgundy cellar

There is a video linked to this photo so that you can see a wine trip to Burgundy. You can also access the video on the Bliss Travels website.

5. Vacqueyras (Les Amouriers) primarily grenache –with  small percentages of CarignanMerlotSyrahGrenache blancRoussanneViognier. This was served with a St Marcellin.  The wine was put in a carafe 1h 30m before drinking to allow it to aerate so that the tannins would soften. There was spice and fullness to this wine. This was best liked by the group as a whole.

6. Muscat de Beaume de Venise with Forme d’Ambert  -sweet and strong. A great finish to a meal. A muscat is a fortified sweet wine from a stunning postage stamp sized Provencal village like the one below. It is offered typically as an apero and served with olives or other salty contrast. Serve more chilled than typical whites. Is ready to drink right away.

Tour France luxury vacations in provence

So, other than following the list (mine or anyone else’s) how do you find a way to pair wine and cheese yourself? Well, you’ve probably figured out that cheese that is made from animals who graze on the same land  as the land where the grapes that make your wine have grown, fit the wine very well together. An herbed rack of lamb is lovely with a Rhone wine because the land infuses both with the same subtle flavors and spice.

So, if you’re looking for an “easy fix” find the cheese that is from the same area as the wine. This dish paired beautifully with a Chateauneuf du Pape, La Nerthe (white)….So well, we did it twice!

Tour France Paris French Food

A big thank you to Swati and Vinnay who generously purchased the wine and cheese “tour” to benefit the Pennington School! Thank you for being wonderful hosts and inviting a great group of people!

Any questions? Contact Wendy et a tres bientot a tous!

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: 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

 

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

Tour France: Food & Wine Vacations are Bliss!

Some places are extraordinary. Some meals are as well. It’s that magical combination of place, ambiance, warm welcome, specialty cuisine and company that makes these places pure Bliss! 

Of course, getting there is also half the fun. 

The wines were all Chateauneuf du Pape. Chateau La Nerthe 2009 white and red. The white was among the best I’ve every had.

An amuse bouche of eggs. The eggs in Provence are different (yes, even if you eat free range, farm eggs in the US. They are not the same.)

A lasagne of vegetables topped with girolles mushrooms was as tasty as it was healthy and beautiful.

An absolutely marvelous variation on the theme of Bouillabaisse. Truly memorable. A saffron fish broth held the freshest poached fish –not overly cooked–and still succulent and tender — with a saffron aioli and a tapenade crouton. This dish was a trip highlight and one we will make at home –that’s a promise. When the recipe is worked out Bliss Travels will share it.
Scallops in a lemongrass and leek broth…another “keeper”.

The requisite chocolate, salted caramel with dark chocolate and hazelnut was as good as it looked, but the real surprise was the Grand Marnier poached pear with orange and a four grain tulle. A truly superlative example of what fresh fruit can become in the hands of a master chef!

Experience Bliss with us. Contact us when you are ready to have this sort of vacation.

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!

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.

 

Tour France: Wine Tasting in Burgundy with Bliss Travels…A Video!

Tour France: Wine Tasting in Burgundy with Bliss Travels.

 See our video.

Our Trip was remarkable. From the barrel tastings in the private cellars to the 12th century chapel where we tasted 7 Grand Crus Burgundy wines, it was an amazing experience. Michel made us this video where you can share in the experience of the Grand Cru tastings, the special private lunch in the caves, and the barrel tastings with our favorite wine maker!

 

Our lunch with rabbit terrine, salmon and whitefish terrine, pate, asparagus mousse, beet salad, carrot rapee, cornichons, Burgundy cheeses, gougeres, tarts….and more. This lunch was served with Charmes Chambertin 2009, Clos Vougeot 2009 (Grand Cru), Puligny Montrachet Premier Cru, Meursault Les Charmes…and the list goes on! 

See what we have in store for the Holidays. A rare food and wine experience in Paris. Contact us now!

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: How to Have The Best Sunday Ever in Provence

Tour France: How to Have The Best Sunday Ever in Provence!

There are few things better than a Sunday in Provence. In fact, even if you do nothing special, it’s a pretty great day. However, the photos below are what we consider pure Bliss. This is the best Sunday EVER! (And after you’ve read this, if you disagree, I truly would love to know what you do in Provence that is BETTER!!)

To start, we go to our absolute favorite place for a traditional 4 course Sunday lunch. Nestled in the cliffs…It’s a stunning but very casual place. When we talk about authentic dining, gourmet but not fussy, this is what we mean.The appetizer platter comes out for people to share. Provencal treats like Anchoiade, tapenade, moules or wild mushrooms…Followed by one of the traditional main courses –this is ‘yours truly’ filleting everyone’s fresh stream trout! Of course, daube and lamb etc are also choices.The Provencal tomatoes and purely delicious creamy potatoes are served as accompaniment.After is the cheese course. Banon is local to the area. It really can’t be found anywhere outside of the region –not the real stuff properly ripened.Then come desserts…Then the traditional Sunday hike.  When we say the road less traveled and “off the beaten path”, we mean it!Up to the ruins for a quick “look”. Though some people chose to relax in the shade instead of making the climb.Capturing the view.If you can!And then back “home” for the evening. If you can top this day of pure Bliss, I’d sure like to know how! If you’d like to do this with us some day, contact us! We’d love to share this wonderful experience with you sometime this summer. We will be there in July and August!

A Bientôt,

Wendy