Tour France: Gourmet Travel & Provence Picnics

Tour France: Gourmet Travel and Provencal Picnics

Warning: Drooling likely. Have snack handy.

Anyone who’s going to France is aware of the reputation France has for outstanding cuisine. The produce, the cheeses, breads, desserts, even meats are world renown. One of the single best ways to experience what France (and more specifically) Provence has to offer is to make and/or join in for a real picnic. Here are some photos of our absolute favorite picnic lunches. Some are self made. Some are offered by tiny out of the way auberges, and some are custom from our chefs. Try not to drool on your screen as you scroll through these mouthwatering treats.

Roast pork (from the farm) with rosemary potatoes, and house made goat’s cheeses

Wines, proscuitto, peppers, zucchini all made up the meal as we sat at this gorgeous mountain top locale.
Prepping for our own picnics in a local kitchen

If you’d like to experience one –or more– of these culinary fantasies, contact us now. We have ONE room left on our October Fall Foliage trip to Provence (and Chateauneuf du Pape) and we are booking rooms for next May in Provence!

Contact us now. Wendy@blisstravels.com

 

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4 Reasons A Guidebook Won’t Suffice for Real Foodies!

First,  a guidebook or review only gives you old news. First the place is reviewed, or worse, someone collects third party reviews  Then the review is edited. Then published. Then read by you. Then, eventually used!

Second, you have no idea who the reviewers were in most cases. Readers? Diners asked for their opinion? What kind of taste do they have and what is their level of experience? How do you know what they call charming isn’t an awful place that microwaves their food? How do you know that what they call nice, isn’t pretentious? The simple answer is, since you don’t get to interact with them and ask questions about their recommendations, you don’t know their point of view about these things.

Third, it’s written and then done. It doesn’t revisit or speak to people or update itself for your trip…

Fourth, what if you have a problem, change your mind, or something doesn’t go according to plan? The guidebook is useless.

Here is a recent true experience that highlights all four of these points:

I had been reading about a great little restaurant, with a “brilliant” young chef for a while. The place was teeny, tiny. The location was good. And I thought, this will be great either for a private dinner for a small group of my clients, or simply to recommend to my clients for a night out in a charming, authentic and well priced, casual gourmet bistro meal. But, and here’s the big “but”. I never recommend a place I haven’t tried. So, I went.

I was told I could only eat at 7 or 7:30pm, though I booked well in advance. Okay. I arrived at 7:30pm. The place was adorable. The waitress was lovely. The kitchen was open and the chef was visible and quietly working. All good signs. After about 40 minutes, I had not been shown the blackboard menu, and my order had not been taken. For a solo diner, that’s really inexcusable. Seeing that there were still 6 people ahead of me who had to order (a little less than  1/2 the restaurant) and making some calculations given there was one chef and one waitress, I decided to invent a polite excuse so I could leave. I said I had a 9pm appointment and as it was a little after 8pm, I was certain I’d never finish in time, and was very sorry, but could I pay for my glass of wine. I’d have to come back another time, I said (and meant).  The chef was a bit brusque, and said, why? There would be no problem serving me and getting me out before 9pm as they had another seating at 9pm. Now, here’s where someone with experience clicks in….

Immediately, that brought three major problems to mind:

1. They planned to serve me 3 courses (first, main and dessert) along with a check within 45 minutes? That meant they’d be able to prepare 2 of the 3 (assuming dessert was pre made) within 10 minutes. That meant it had to be microwaved Or precooked and microwaved…You can’t cook a duck breast in only 5 minutes etc. Not a good sign. Plus given the tables needing to order, and the one chef, it meant nothing whatsoever was made on the spot, not a pot on the stove.

2. That then made me wonder how fast I was going to have to eat….If it took them 5 minutes to prepare each microwaved, or cold plate, then that gave me about 7 minutes per course before their next seating. That sounded like a lot of stress!!!

3. There were NO SMELLS in the restaurant. There were two very  friendly diners next to me, eating a braised lamb concoction (that truly did need to be made well in advance –and was better prepared like that) but there was no smell of food in the restaurant. Also, the couple on my other side ordered dessert, which had to have come directly from the fridge –as it arrived in less than 30 seconds. Not a great sign.

So instead of deciding to return, I’ve decided that the reviews and the hype were inaccurate and Bliss Travels clients will not be going to this restaurant…Pas de tout!

Bliss Travels will be eating things like the below 70% cocoa chocolate tart with caramel (as they did yesterday):

Or the below pistachio cake with grapefruit, and “grapefruit paper”. Gone in a flash!

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!

5 Highlights of our Christmas Day in Paris…

 

  1. The Day starts with a stroll along the Seine (mais oui) to…
  2. Lunch. But, you must ask, what does one have for lunch on Christmas Day in Paris? Well, a mon avie (in my opinion), this is a meal meant for comfort and relaxation –not “white table cloth” fine dining. Just friends enjoying a great time….Now, don’t be confused. I don’t mean that the food should be “average”. It should be superb –just not “stuffy”. So, my recommendation (and our menu) consisted of Oysters or Salmon or Foie Gras… followed by Roast Leg of Lamb or Duck stuffed with Dried Fruits, or Scallops. You get the idea, I’m sure. Dessert was a made to order Buche de Noel of Chocolate, Chestnut, Clementine. And, I for one, have to say, YUM. It ranked as one of my favorite meals of the season.
  3. A stroll to see the City Hall of Paris  –location of Robert Doisneau’s famous “kiss” photgraph, and site of Rodin sculptures –and iceskaters!
  4. Then, it might be nice to stroll the Ile St Louis? It has such an aura. Of course, Bertillon is a requirement if you stop there! As is the Felini-esque show performed, as is usual, in the most interesting way possible, along a bridge on the Seine river.
  5. Finally –an evening stroll along St Andre des Arts and a stop at St Michel –and perhaps a wine and cheese somewhere (nod to Brooke!!).

Now, that’s a Christmas Day!

5 Ways to Know: It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like….Paris at Christmas!

1. Christmas Markets…Biensur!

2. Bouche de Noel…Fanciful Christmas specialties in every window!

 

3. Bistrots are all wrapped up like pretty little presents!
4. Pizza is a thing that is served with truffles and sliced potatoes…OMG. You truly do want to lick the window. (The literal  translation for the phrase to “window shop” in French.)5. Macarons –in gold, with decorations, made to look like (yep, you guessed it) a Christmas Tree (or is that Treat).JOYEUX NOEL A TOUS!

Christmas in Paris: It Must be Time for Something…

Christmas in Paris: It Must be Time for Something…

You know –that moment after you’ve had lunch, and walked, and seen “everything”…there must be something else to do or have or see….cause this is so much fun!

So, how do you spend a day in Paris over Christmas week? Well, first you…

1.Find an out of the way, top of the top, Bistrot, with a star chef

2.You walk a mile and take the metro –to get there (and stimulate appetite

3.You order: Oysters Tartare with Cream of Lettuce or some other unfathomable but superb combination of ingredients

4.You walk the Christmas markets all afternoon

buying presents and drinking hot spiced wine!

  1. Enjoy the sights!

    Stay tuned for DAY TWO!

5 Holiday Treats You Can Bring Back from Paris for Family & Friends!

It’s all just too good! Right? That’s what you’re thinking as you take another bite of something wonderful or walk by another specialty shop or Christmas market chalet…Too much to try and too little time!

And what about your sister, best friend, mother, boss, neighbor….Wouldn’t it be great if they could just taste this? Maybe then they’d believe you that it really and truly is better in Paris!

So for those of you who are traveling to France over the holidays (you lucky guys and girls), even if you aren’t traveling with Bliss Travels, here are some treats you can safely bring back to the US to share and extend that fabulous holiday experience (video)! Continue reading