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

6 Holiday Paris Treats! 

Tour France

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….

Tour France

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: Visit Paris with 60 Minutes & David McCullough

Tour France

Visit Paris with 60 Minutes & David McCullough 

The Eiffel Tower is the most visited tourist site in the world, and sparkles over the holidays with Christmas markets, Carrousels and its very own Champagne bar.

People often forget the tremendous bond between America and France. Much is made of short term petty disagreements, and not enough is made of the historical ties and lasting bond between the two countries.

Americans have a long time love affair with France for so many reasons. The French helped us gain our freedom. The French gave us the Statue of Liberty. (Did you know there are two replicas in Paris…one in the Luxembourg Gardens and the other in the Seine river, near the Eiffel Tower.)  The French have a culture rich in beauty that many of our founding fathers mined in order to build our own nation. (Did you know that Benjamin Franklin lived in Paris or that he modeled much of Philadelphia, including its city hall, after the city of Paris?)

Paris City Hall is graced by Rodin statuary. Ice skating over the holidays in Paris

Did you know that Thomas Jefferson also lived in Paris, and there is a statue of him along one of the bridges crossing the Seine river?

Watch David McCullough’s interview on 60 Minutes to learn more about how Americans have viewed and learned from Paris over the years.

There is truly much to learn about the connections between our two countries. The writers who were inspired by their time in Paris…Hemingway among them. The publishers and book sellers who made literary history, like Sylvia Beech (a Princeton ex pat who first published James Joyce) and artists from all over the US who have found their inspiration in the beauty of Paris and Provence.

Whether you go on your own, or with us, we know you will be inspired and thrilled by your visit to France.

If a trip to Paris over the holidays is of interest to you, please look at the below photos and contact us so we can answer your questions.

We have 3 rooms left and flexible dates. We do only private events and sightseeing, such as our guided walk through the Christmas markets or our private Champagne and chocolate tasting –or our visits to the market streets. No more than 8 people doing or seeing things at the same time. Below are some photos of typical lodging and meals.


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!

5 Tips on how to find a GOOD restaurant in France

Everyone likes to eat well. But, just like not everyone knows how to cook, not everyone knows how to find a restaurant or pick a dish that  meets their expectations –especially when traveling to another country. Given that it’s Thanksgiving weekend (gobble, gobble) and we are only 3 1/2 weeks away from our Christmas week in Paris, I thought a few pointers would be helpful. What I’m saying is particularly true in France –though in general, this could be applied in other countries.

1. Get off the Beaten Track: While you may not be able to find the truly “off the beaten track” spots, you can, and should, avoid the huge boulevards in favor of smaller neighborhood streets. (Unless you’ve decided to eat in a very expensive world class gourmet restaurant, where the chef’s reputation and the gastronomic offerings support that sort of “store front”)  Why? Because the big tourist streets come with “big” rent. That means that to survive, the typical restaurant must make a number of culinary concessions just to pay their rent. They have to turn tables, buy bargain “product”, and, in general, crank out enough business to keep the lights on. So, don’t be seduced by the big, bright restaurant with the large dining room. Find a more intimate setting. You’re likely to have a better (and better priced) meal.

2. Read Menus: What is on the menu? Does it highlight a particular sort of cuisine? Do the dishes on the menu feature seasonal products? Do they have “blackboard” specials, or is everything special, every day? Other than the exceptional chef (who you are unlikely to “discover” as a tourist), most chefs have a particular cuisine that is their specialty, and a few signature dishes or techniques (cooking show video). I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “Jack of all trades, master of none”. Well, if the menu looks like it’s a United Nations manifesto –you may be dealing with a master of nothing. Also, if the menu seems to be the same 12 months out of the year, providing the diner with the comfort of eating the very same things in December as they eat in June, then it probably relies on packaged, processed or frozen foods. Things simply aren’t fresh year round! And fresh tastes better. Find a chef who knows what he likes to cook, is influenced and inspired by seasonal products and the food will be good. Look at the menu and see if you can identify the type of cuisine and that the products are seasonal.  For example, this Christmas in Paris, our menus will have things like scallops, chestnuts, foie gras, lamb, oysters, and chocolate (not on the same plate of course)!  Why? Because these things are winter specialties. In summer we see melon, tomato, peach, zucchini and similar produce dominate our meals.


3. Similarly, don’t read “English” menus. If it’s been translated, then they are telling you that tourism is their mainstay. You can have people cater to your “American” tastes when you’re back at home, right? Why not try something that speaks to the French culture? Find a restaurant with a French menu, in French, that’s market fresh, and ask them what their specialty is. Order the “prix fixe” (the set menu) even if you don’t know what the dishes are. They will be the market fresh chef’s specials of the day (not the left over meatloaf). Then, order the local wine to accompany the meal and sit back and relax.

4. Look at the patrons. Walk around, especially if you’re in Paris. If you’re in the countryside, you will be able to tell who is dining where by talking to people as well as doing a bit of “sightseeing”. As you stop and read the menus (all menus are posted outside the restaurant) look at and listen to the patrons. First, are there patrons? Second, are they local or tourists? What language are they speaking? If the answer is that the restaurant is full of people who look like a group you’d want to socialize with, and they are speaking French (for the most part), then it’s a good bet that this restaurant has something wonderful to offer! However, it also might be full and require a reservation. The places we go require not just reservations, but relationships. They are popular local spots (or open for us) and they have creative chefs…

And if you want that, then you may have to plan in advance (or come with us)!!! If you’re on your own, you’ll need to know whether “dropping by” is the best way to get a table (counting on last minute cancellations or snagging a late or early table) OR whether making a reservation for the next night or lunch is better. Some of this requires more information than you are likely to have as a tourist, but give it a try. If they’re too full, ask if coming back later or making a reservation for a different date or meal is a better idea.

5. Consider the Source! If you’re choosing your restaurants based upon recommendations –in books, by reviews, or because “someone” recommended it  (friend, concierge, person you meet while traveling), then it’s very important not just to listen to what they are telling you, but to listen to who they are so you know what they know! I don’t know about you, but I would consider a recommendation from a friend who lived in the area, and who was a chef or in the “food” world much more seriously than I would from someone I met while standing in line for a movie! But when people travel, all of a sudden, literally everyone they meet and everyone they chat with, has the “it” spot that they “must” go to! People blindly follow internet reviews or tourist guides, as does everyone else who’s traveling. Sometimes, I think that Air France should offer a shuttle directly from the plane to the restaurant being profiled by the “big guides” and save me the trouble of booking the same old thing for people! Again, if you’re not talking about the top few world renown Michelin chefs, who, of course, everybody knows, then seriously consider the source of your recommendation.

Nobody can guarantee a perfect meal, but find someone local, or in the food profession or with extensive travel experience in France  to recommend the dining experience that you crave. You’re more likely to have a “blissful” experience, than if  just blindly follow your neighbors’ brother’s cousins’ recommendation. Who knows what he considers “good”!

And, then Bon Appetite! How apropos to discuss eating well on Thanksgiving weekend!

Black Friday Travel to Paris for Christmas Sale!!!

dFor Black Friday only, Bliss Travels is offering any of it’s Paris trips for sale at 10% off the retail price, if a deposit is made by the end of  Black Friday (anytime between now and the morning of Saturday November 26, 2011). The Ultimate Gift…Paris over Christmas at almost $1,000 off for two people!

That means $460 off for Paris over Christmas, per person! Must make deposit via paypal from the website by November 26th. Contact wendy@blisstravels.com  with questions.
Marketing never looked so good! Stroll with us, wine in hand.

 Enjoy the holiday in a new way!

Discover Bliss Travels – a personal, small group experience.

 


Tips for Your Best Ever Holidays… in Paris

Paris for the holidays! Wow! What a fabulous experience. Take our advice and follow these easy tips to make the most of your Paris adventure.

1. Do pack waterproof boots or shoes –so the slushy streets don’t slow you down!

2. Do Make Dinner Plans for the Holidays. Even if you’re not religious, many restaurants have special menus (or conversely, the “real” chef is away) during the 24th and 25th. So, plan to plan for these days. You will have a great time if you do!

3. Do Choose in advance which Christmas Markets to visit. The Christmas markets are amazing! Each one of them is a bit different. Some focus on antiques. Some on food. Some on artisan products and touristy gifts…(Our personal favorite is the foie gras vendor at one of the markets–who is across from  the caviar stand! Where else in the world can you have foie gras and Sauternes or Caviar blinis while standing on a street decorated with lights, and lined with world class monuments?) Decide where you want to go and make sure you give yourself enough time to linger at each stand. Don’t forget to have a glass of warm spiced wine to take the chill off!

3. Do have “bad weather” plans. Have an idea of a warm cozy day, in case it rains or snows. What’s your favorite small museum? What fabulous covered passageways haven’t you seen? Which of the large department stores entice you? French theatre or film? Or simply bring your notebook and chill at a warm cafe and watch the world go by as you write your award winning novel.

4. Do save room for the best hot chocolate in the world! Paris is full of places where you can get “real” hot chocolate, from the well known Angelina’s to some of the lesser known, but top notch quality hot chocolate spots. Explore!

5. Don’t forget there are exciting day trips outside of Paris! If the weather permits, Champagne is wonderful over the holidays –and so appropriate!

6. Do bring an extra bag rolled up in your suitcase, for all the gifts you are going to buy!

For more information or to join us on one of our holiday trips, visit us at: http://www.blisstravels.com/parisgetaways.html#ParisTrip

or write wendy@blisstravels.com