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Christmas Time in Paris ~ Champs Elysees

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I cannot begin to describe the feeling in Paris at the start of the christmas season. The buildings are lit up with lights, red and green, silver and gold, and wrapped in bows. Ok, not all of them…but the famous boulevard Champs Elysees is pretty spectacular with its famous shops, chic bistros and light decorations. This weekend I strolled this famous boulevard as musicians played christmas music in the street and I drank cups of hot wine (vin chaud). The whole street turns into a Christmas festival with different booths selling all kinds of food and potential christmas presents!

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The Champs Elysees Boulevard runs from the famous Arc de Triomphe (pictured above) to the Jardin des Tuleries.

Come walk the Boulevard Champs Elysees avec moi 🙂

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And we end in the beautiful Tuleries Gardens…

A day full of festivity and Christmas cheer. We have not seen snow fall yet this year in Paris… however, the air is crisp and there is a chill. Coats, furs, scarves, gloves, boots and hot chocolate are present. I love the seasons and I feel Paris is a city that deeply experiences the beauty of seasonality.

I am off to sip hot chocolate and watch Parisian life go by on this calm Sunday… Busy days ahead as I will head to Bordeaux for three days of intense winery visits and tastings. I will go back to Saint Emilion, however most of the trip will focus on the other regions including Pauillac, Medoc, and Margaux…. and we will stay in a beautiful hotel near the famous Chateau Margaux. If it is anything like our stay and experience in Champagne, I am in for a fabulous time!

Happy holiday season everyone. Blessings to all.

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Champagne, France

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Spending the last three days in Champagne, France was nothing short of absolutely, luxuriously fabulous.

Every 2 seconds a bottle of Champagne is opened.

I feel I was in an out-of-body experience as I was sitting in the mansion of Louis Roederer Champagne House comparing Dom Perignon to Cristal vintage 2002. In other words, sipping 300 dollar bottles of Champagne amongst professionals sitting by the fire being served… by butlers.

I am not joking. Wow.

 

In total, we visited 6 Champagne houses which are : Louis Roederer, Dom Perignon/Moet-Chandon, Bollinger, Ulysse Collin, Duval Leroy, Jaques Selosse… We had private tours of their productions facilities, traveled down to their cellars and had multiple Champagne tastings … not to mention fabulous multi-course lunch and dinners prepared by private chefs. Some of the best meals I have ever had in France… and that speaks volumes. Seriously, the best quality of food and wine… I am so honored. I was treated as a top professional at all locations. I felt a bit like royalty. It was a little surreal.

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Presents! Bottles of Moet and Dom Perignon!

Who am I???

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Tasting ~ Duval Leroy. We tasted 8 of their champagnes… and had to precisely compare all of them… one after the other. This was a very luxurious experience, yes… but I was also required to be immensely focused.

 

I was required to speak to the professionals on my thoughts of the Champagne. Wow… talk about pressure. It was very nerve-racking but so good to develop me as a professional in the wine world. The room was silent as my name was called to discuss the Dom Perignon vintage 2006. If I can be comfortable talking to the sommeliers of Dom Perignon about the vintage of 2006…. I think I can go out in Paris, or anywhere in the world and discuss wine with anyone 🙂

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Champagne, France is so beautiful. There are 300 houses that make Champagne… if sparkling wine is made outside of these houses… it is not allowed to be called Champagne. The feeling there is rich as you drive along the roads and see all the vines and top producers of this 4.5 billion dollar industry. I seriously had the most amazing time. A truly unique experience… we had a mountain of fun but I am also saturated with knowledge regarding the making of Champagne, the region as a whole, and how the top Champagne houses do this business.

To think my classmates and I have 4 more trips across France like this ~ makes me so elated. Next stop… the beautiful Burgundy region of France. If it is anything like this experience I will go back to my slice of heaven on earth again 🙂

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After our long days of “work” we celebrated with dinners out and fun times in the hotel. I swear even after our professional tastings all day…we can still discuss the wine list at dinner with great passion.

 

Back to Paris now…. Au Revoir Champagne.

 

I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and I drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it, unless I’m thirsty. ~  Madame Jacques Bollinger 1961

 

 

 

 

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Oh Paris….

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I have to send a love note to Paris. The attacks that happened here on Friday evening are beyond disturbing.

Paris does not deserve this. My heart is with all who suffered. I am extremely lucky that I was away from the crossfire and locations where the killings took place.

….a fragrant cup of coffee and buttery croissant in the morning, beautiful women in short dresses smiling freely on the street, the smell of warm bread, a bottle of wine shared with friends, a dab of perfume, children playing in the Luxembourg Gardens….. the right not to worry about calories, to flirt and smoke and enjoy sex outside of marriage, to take vacations, to read any book you want, to go to school for free, to play, to laugh, to argue, to make fun of prelates and politicians alike, to leave worrying about the afterlife to the dead.
No COUNTRY does earth better than the French. A country devoted to joy everyday. The beauty of Paris never dies.
PARIS, we love you. We cry for you. You are mourning tonight, and we with you. We know you will laugh again, and sing again, and make love, and heal, because loving life is your essence. The forces of darkness will ebb. They will lose. They always do.

~I did not write this. But this speaks to me right now in a huge way. 

(This embodies Paris for me…. my life. here. Thank you to whomever wrote this….. I LOVE this city and am thinking positive that proper measures will be taken… I have never experienced Paris so quiet…. wow.

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Thank you GOD for my safety.

I am traveling to Champagne this coming week…. I will post about the adventure next… very excited and now will try and stay in the positive.

XO

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Sake Tasting…

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Today I attended a Sake Conference and sat in on a professional food and sake pairing!

Amazing. Being that I am going to be in the world of wine … I really need to also know what other alcohols pair with food. I should be an expert if I have a request for a “non wine” beverage. So,  I should definitely be versed in beer as well as ……sake.

This is a post dedicated to realizing that sake is not only delicious with japanese food, but also french food! A more traditional menu… paired with the sakes of Hiroshima. I also was unaware how diverse the different sake’s could be. I tasted 9 in total 🙂

To make sake …. the shortened version~  is to break down the starch in rice to transform it to sugar that can be fermented thus, producing alcohol. I sat through a lecture on this process and the history of sake… but again this post is not educational on sake making it’s geared rather toward pairing.

Let’s Begin. #1

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Wow. Who knew camembert cheese was so complimentary to sake. There is lactic acid in sake so naturally it pairs very well with strong dairy products. Camembert is definitely a candidate for a strong aromatic dairy product.

# 2 Next, was a gougers a traditional french cheese puff.

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Sake pairing brewery ~ (Umeda Schuzoujyou) This brought out not only the cheesy notes of the puff but also brought a delicate sweetness for the after finish of the cheese puff.

# 3 Countryside Pate on Crostini + Suishin Yamane Honten

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Again, Sake pairs really well with heavy meats. The high content of alcohol can handle this.

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#4 This salmon rillette was loaded with pink peppercorn as well as fresh dill. This rillette was also perfectly salted, which means it was a savory dish. The sake we paired with it was Miyake Honten Brewery. 
#5 Mussels… Who knew. So now we have seafood, heavy meats and strong dairy products.

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Next, the sake got interesting. This sake is clearly darker in color. This happens in the process when they make it. This sake took on an umami flavor smell (fried garlic, savory and salty notes of soy sauce) then to taste… it was almost chocolaty, brown sugar, plus brandy. This was the most interesting sake …it was paired with a smoked duck breast and dried apricot. Sweet and Savory… both in the dish and the sake.

#6 Enoki Schuzo- Sake Brewery

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This next picture does not do this dish justice AT ALL! This was my favorite pairing and dish. It was melt in your mouth to die for! (I forgot my professional Camera…darn!)

#7 Duck Gizzard Confit (Cooked in its own rendered fat, served with pomme puree)

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Okay, are you full yet?! Of course the portions were two bites each! Pictures appear larger.

#8 Next, Avocado with fresh Wasabi Vinaigrette. 

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#9 Finally, yogurt and honey.

Yes. Yogurt. So simple but a really brilliant pairing. When you smell most sake you get a banana, tropical fruit aroma on the nose. Then each will vary in taste…but I have discovered, just like wine, sake is fun to play with and experiment to see what you prefer.

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I am excited to get back to wine… but just wanted to capture this beautiful three hour educational lunch on Sake. Tomorrow, I am attending some very high end wine events in Paris! Three to be exact… I need to get some rest and get my game face on 🙂

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Treize (A Baker’s Dozen)

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Weekend brunch in Paris is the best…

My girlfriends and I met at Treize (A Baker’s Dozen) for a leisurely brunch around 2 pm. This charming little hot spot is located in a hidden courtyard in the Saint Germain Des Pres area. Closed on Sundays… so Saturday it was!

The owner and operator of this quaint eatery is Laurel Sanderson… an American. She is a baker and makes the most delicious cakes in addition to the lovely brunch dishes. Brunch dishes include Chicken and Waffles, Omelets, Artichoke Pie or Beef and Butternut Pie, among other specialties…. I wanted everything on the menu! 

I settled on the loaded Princess Omelet and took bites of my friends dishes. Chicken and Waffles with Peaches and Syrup, plus a platter of quick breads including Cornbread, Apple-Gingerbread, Chocolate Hazelnut Muffins, Buttermilk Biscuits, all served with a delicious Pear Compote.

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The food was delicious… all organic and natural. Everything on the menu is sourced sustainably.  Brunch runs around 30 E… but you get a fresh juice, large dish, coffee or tea and an assortment of quick breads. We also got a glass of Champagne, bien sur!

We were then treated to a slice of cake on the house. It was chocolate with mocha buttercream. YUM!

This little restaurant is so incredibly quaint and it’s one of those restaurants you feel as though you are in someone’s home. Laurel is also running the place and is very friendly. Obviously she is American… so perfect english is spoken. I would definitely recommend this place to anyone wanting a good brunch in Paris. Make a reservation! It’s packed.

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The menus are on muffin tins 🙂 I love the vibe here.

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Fun times!

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Yes, does anyone see the Boulevard cookbook? My old restaurant 🙂 Oh memories flash back to me of being a pastry chef in San Francisco…

Now I am in Paris. Surreal and could not have imagined!!

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HAPPY HALLOWEEN! Yes, the french actually celebrate this as well… I am going to go live it up in Paris tonight… Costume remains to be decided.

Have a beautiful weekend Everyone!

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1st Food & Wine Pairing…

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Last night at 7 pm, we attended our first “chef demonstration” with wine pairings.

Basically, a chef creates a menu and not only cooks it but talks us through the preparation and recipes… and then there were wines that were selected to taste with these dishes. This was incredible. The professionals at my school selected the wines so all I had to do was enjoy the food and wine immensely…. and take notes! This was absolutely amazing… unforgettable. I cannot believe this is a required class. How can this be so fun?!

We started with a glass of Roederer Champagne… to cleanse the palate and intense the appetite 🙂

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Then….

Foie Gras Ravioli with Hazelnut and Fried Jerusalem Artichoke

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This paired absolutely wonderfully with a nicely oaked

Viognier (grape variety) from the Condrieu region. 

The oak aging in the wine paired lovely with the hazelnuts in this dish. It was an obvious compliment. On the nose of the wine in regards to aroma… there was a roundness of dried candied fruit and baked apricots that stood up to the rich and savory foie gras in the ravioli stuffing. This wine also had a beautiful buttery creaminess on the palate that paired exquisitely with the creaminess of the dish… 

Am I getting good ?! 🙂

At this point I have to be. The chefs and professors are starting to just randomly select someone to discuss the pairing. It is like the socratic method where you are “called out.” I must be able to attend formal professional tastings and be able to speak what they call “wine talk.” I have to articulate my observations with confidence and proper vocabulary. Otherwise, they say they will not grant the degree at the end of the program. This is a very important step in passing! This definitely pushes me out of my comfort zone… I can no longer be the shy, observer… but it is the best thing. Oh, and they will definitely tell you if your observations are wrong in front of everyone. The french are very blunt and hold nothing back.

I thoroughly enjoy this and could literally spend all day focused on food and wine and the nuances…. I think I am in the right place!

My notes!

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Next, after discussing this dish with the chef and all of my wine-loving class mates… we were onto the delicious entree course.

Mussel risotto, with lobster… and garnish of parmesan. The chef basically cooked the mussles… then used this oceanic mussle broth and reduced it with cream, white wine, and salt… until it is this very fresh sea, salty, umami flavor. Umami is the 5th sense of taste in the gastronomic world. You have sweet, salt, bitter, acid and… umami… according to the chef world. It is a savory flavor.

This was a strong, rich dish that needed a wine with the proper acidity to stand up to it. The wine selected was a Riesling from the Alsace region. 

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Oh. My. Goodness.

Delectable. Simply Divine.

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This risotto dish was out of this world, melt in your mouth. Luckily, I have all the recipes as well! I am definitely recreating this.

Finally, we were onto the cheese course. What is a french meal without the cheese course, right?! I am quickly learning that a cheese course will just always happen in France. Not a problem with me AT ALL.

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This was an aged goat cheese, with ash on the rind. From….Sainte Maure Frais

It paired impressively with this Sancerre.

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Sancerre and Goat Cheese is actually a classic pairing. I secretly knew this… remember my hot goat cheese salads with a glass of Sancerre when I first moved to Paris?!

What an incredible experience. I still “must” attend 9 more of these fabulous pairings. I simply cannot WAIT until my next one!

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Chef Demo… we can ask questions and also learn the cooking methods.

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One part of my final exam next June will be this~ I will be handed a seven course menu and I will need to pair excellent/and proper wines with these dishes. I will have 10 minutes and I will have to complete this off of pure memory including the analysis of why…i.e., the flavor profiles as I described above. The professor said this is the easiest part of the exam. To think I will have that kind of expertise in food and wine pairing come June blows…. my mind. How exciting! 

I have another tasting in Paris on Friday night that I have to attend… I believe this one is at a highly acclaimed restaurant. Stay tuned!

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Le Season for Soup…

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Hey guys just wanted to post a quick and delicious recipe! I went to the Le Marche and all of the Cepes (mushrooms) were just screaming my name. So I purchased three big bunches of different kinds… chanterelles, oyster and good ‘ole white button. Then, I proceeded to make this absolutely scrumptious cream of mushroom soup…. complete with red wine, thyme, nutmeg and of course a little cream 🙂 This recipe is so simple and ultimately the perfect comfort food on a fall day. I have been purchasing a fresh baguette every evening from my new favorite boulangerie and tearing off a hunk to dunk in… YUM!

I left my soup nice and chunky with mushrooms …however, it would also be incredible blended. Either way the flavor is amazing!

Recipe posted below…

In other news, the tasting I attended the other day ~ Les Rencontres Vinicoles was out of this world! You walk into a ritzy hotel in the 11 arrondissement, Paris… and you are immediately greeted with a badge, a wine glass and a booklet to keep your “tasting notes.” Again, this was a private event held for wine professionals only. The fact that I got to walk around and taste anything I wanted and fully be apart of this was so amazing! I tasted about 30 wines! Incredible. I have business cards and am already starting to network in Paris. It really interests people when I say I am from California… many of them have exports to Napa so it is a great introduction for me. Yay!

On the agenda in school this week are Food and Wine pairings!  We are studying this topic all week and you must attend actual pairings after the lectures! I am going to try my best to take photos. This is one of my favorite topics… I will never get tired of describing food…. and reviewing menus…. and selecting wines to pair with!

Finally, I was asked to write a “guest post” for another blog (Ginger and Nutmeg) on How to Move to Paris! Even if this article helps one person to follow their dreams as I did… I will be so happy. Please check it out… I sourced all of my creative energy for that article this week!!  (Ginger and Nutmeg is a blog I follow and it is great and heavily centered on food and France!)

Link ~

http://www.gingerandnutmeg.com/20/15/10/how-to-move-to-paris#.ViTcHqIS_TO

It feels so good to be back in the Paris Cafe Life. So lucky to call this home!

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Mushroom Soup

serves 4

*Please do not rinse mushrooms. Lightly clean them with a damp cloth or paper towel.*

Ingredients

3 bunches mushrooms (or 3 pints/cartons at your grocery store)- sliced and stems removed

1/4 cup butter (unsalted)

1 yellow onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

4 table spoons flour

1 cup beef broth (or water)

1/4 cup red wine

2 cups half and half

salt, pepper

nutmeg (about 1/4 tsp)

dried thyme (about 1/2 tsp)

1 bay leaf

Procedure

Melt butter in a large saute pan. Once melted and foaming, add onion and sauté until golden. Add garlic and sauté another 5 minutes over medium heat. Salt and pepper this mixture well. Then, add mushrooms. Saute until deep caramel brown and golden… about 10 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and thyme. Add flour and cook for 2 minutes. Slowly add broth. Then pour in red wine. Stir constantly for 1 minute. Then add in 1/2 n 1/2. Add nutmeg. Now taste and add more salt and pepper. Add bay leaf and cook for 10 minutes over very low heat. Taste and adjust but it should just be delicious!