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Tasty Side to Life Tours Website

Friday, March 24, 2017

7 tips to know before you to go on a private trip to champagne

One of our favorite past clients, Sherrelle Kirkland-Andrews planned a girls trip from the USA and brought such a great groups friends to champagne! She proceeded to post one of the best articles that we just had to re-post here. Sherrelle on her blog http://iamsherrelle.com/ wrote the "7 tips to know before you to go on a private trip to champagne." Take a look below! xo



Bonjour!  Here’s another post of my Paris trip with my girlfriends.
My vacation in Paris was filled with many wonderful days, but the day that we spent on a private champagne tour in Reims, France will always be one of my favorite memories.  That day was the absolute pinnacle of fabulousness!
We started our day on the TGV to Reims.  Thankfully our 1st class car was nearly empty because as usual, we talked non-stop all the way there.  Sydney, our driver and tour guide, met us at the train station with croissants (yum!).  She drove us through the lovely town of Reims to our first stop, Reims Cathedral.  Even bigger than Notre Dame, Reims Cathedral was breathtaking.  It  was the site of 25 coronations of the kings of France and is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
champagne tour http://iamsherrelle.com
A short walk down the block from Reims Cathedral was our next stop, La Petite Friande chocolate atelier.   Although the shop is filled with many wonderful treats, we were there to sample the bouchons, little chocolate corks filled with champagne.  Sydney unwrapped a chocolate and demonstrated how we were to pop the entire bouchon in our mouth at once for the ultimate experience.
Reims Chocolate Bouchons http://iamsherrelle.com
Wow!  It was an explosion of champagne – intense and flavorful, like slamming back a shot!   That was the most delicious chocolate experience that I had ever had!  We bought bouchons for family and friends back home and piled back in the car to begin our tour of champagne houses.  Through rolling hills and quaint towns Sydney drove to our first champagne house, Pehu Simonet.  Proprietor David Pehu met us in his office, ready to educate us about his champagne and offer us several tastings.
champagne testing http://iamsherrelle.com
I wish that I could tell you all that David shared with us, and the commentary that Sydney provided about David’s small champagne house versus the big champagne houses, but we tasted 4 bottles of champagne, so understand when I say that I don’t quite remember the details of what David said.  By the second glass we were all more than a little tipsy and I seriously wondered if we were going to make it through the rest of the day standing upright – this was just our first stop!  I asked David to ease up on my champagne because I figured at least one of us had to be sober enough to get us back to Paris.   Sydney assured me that after a long lunch we would be fine.   Since she did these tours all the time and has surely seen people far worse off than us, I trusted her and continued to taste (albeit half-full glasses; I am a light-weight).  
Let me pause here to say that I rarely drink alcohol, but if I do, I prefer it to be champagne, Veuve Clicquot if possible.  All my friends adore champagne.    But I tell you, if you think you have tasted good champagne, you have not until you have tasted champagne like we did, straight from the producer.  We were completely and utterly blown away by the smell and taste of this small producer champagne.  Each bottle tasted better than the last and we had a hard time deciding which bottle to buy (and that had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that we were drunk by the time we left).
But Sydney was right.   A 20 minute drive and a two hour, 5 course lunch at Le Grand Cerf sobered us up and by the time we got back on the road, we were ready to drink some more.  The entire meal was delicious – bread, soup, seafood ravioli, fish, dessert and cheese plate.  From Le Grand Cerf we drove to the champagne house of Le Gallais, which is set on the most beautiful property.  That is Madame Clicquot’s chateau, Boursault Castle, right there on the property.  Gorgeous!  Hervé Le Gallais welcomed us to his house and made us feel right at home.  He explained the champagne process from grape to bottle and stole our hearts with his charm, enthusiasm and warmth.
champagne tour - herve - http://iamsherrrelle.com
And then a special treat!  Hervé led us into his caves to taste a special reserve, vintage champagne.  I can’t even describe how amazing that experience was for us, really there are no words.  We would have stayed with Hervé all day if we could have; we loved him.
champagne cave http://iamsherrelle.com
Back in car once more, we drove to the town of Épernany and down Avenue de Champagne, which features the leading champagne manufactures like Moët et Chardon and Perrier Jouet.   We stopped at Champagne de Castellane for a tour.  Champagne de Castellane is one of the oldest families in France and a large producer of champagne.   This tour was different than the tours of the small producers; an official tour guide gave us a historical background of the champagne house before leading us past the vats and through the caves.  She explained the entire champagne process along the way and we ended the tour with a glass of champagne.
If you ever visit France and love champagne, then a trip to Reims is absolutely necessary.   It was the highlight of our vacation.  I can’t wait to share my champagne with my husband; I  think that we will open a bottle this Christmas season.  I know that with one sip I will be instantly transported back to France and that wonderful day I spent in Reims.

7 Tips To Know Before You Go:

  1. We arranged our private champagne tour with Sydney Krueger of Tasty Side To Life Tours.  I highly recommend using Sydney’s services.  Before the trip she answered all of our questions and put together a touring day according to our wants.   She was professional, but personable and her knowledge of the region and champagne history was impressive.   We immensely enjoyed our day with Sydney.
  2. It was much colder in Reims than in Paris; dress for warmth.  We did not and we were cold.
  3. Take the TGV to Reims.  After our botched train ride to Versailles, we were nervous about taking the train to Reims, but the Gare de l’Est train station was easy to navigate.  Seamless, picturesque and a quick 45 minutes, the TGV ride was lovely.
  4. Buy your TGV train ticket at one of the SNCF boutique agencies a few days before your trip.   There are many boutiques in Paris; we went to one right next to Jardin du Luxembourg on bd Saint-Michel.  You can buy tickets online, but that requires reading the schedule in French.  And while you can obviously buy train tickets at the train station, we didn’t want to risk sold out seats.  At the SNCF boutique the agent spoke English (and was patient with my broken French) and answered all of our questions.  She even told us how to stamp our tickets at the yellow machines before boarding the train.    Pay a few dollars more for the 1st class tickets; we practically had the car to ourselves.
  5. Bring cash (euros) to buy champagne.  While the larger houses will accept credit cards, the smaller houses may not.
  6. Expect to buy champagne.  You will want to bring some home, so leave room in your luggage (per TSA rules, you won’t be able to carry it on the plane).   If you remember to pack bubble wrap, you are exceptional.  If not, you can roll your champagne bottles in your clothes.  That’s what we did and all of the bottles made it home intact.   Champagne bottles are very heavy so your luggage will weigh considerably more on the flight home; plan accordingly.  I always pack an extra bag to accommodate my vacation souvenirs.
  7. If possible, tour the small producers over the big producers.  While the tour of the big producer was educational and nice to see, our experience was richer and more personable with the small producers.   I’m glad that Sydney suggested that we see Le Gallais instead of another big producer because it was the highlight of our day.
 À votre santé!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Absolute Best Champagne for Valentines Day!

Happy Day of LOVE! How about 3 Valentine's today instead of 1? Tell your partner it's going to be OK, were just talking about BUBBLES. Or, more specifically gorgeous, amazing grower fizz Champagnes that is. Our top 3 picks for Valentine's Day are below and a link to have them at home here and here. Our Motto today via one of our favorite interior designers This La Holiday is-Love is more than just a day, it doesn't just sit there like a stone, it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new :) xo

Champagne Lelarge Pugeot Rose de Saignée $55

An amazing 100% organic and biodynamic producer which we love! 100% Pinot Noir, this Rosé is a blend of 90% of white wine and 10% of red wine. A blend from 3 vineyards: Les Maupas, Les Clos and Les Champs Chevaliers. This has refined texture and fruity notes of cherry, strawberry and toasted brioche. Aging: Aged for three years. Alcohol 12.4%, acidity total 4.3g, S02 total 34mg, Dosage 7g/l

Champagne Assailly Rose $50

A new producer for us! In Grand Cru village of Avize or Cote de Blanc this producer operates in some of the best terroir in all of champagne! This Rose is 87% Chardonnay and 13% Pinot Noir. Aromatic nose of red fruit. On the palate red fruit again with some hints of citrus. Style: rich and complex. Dosage: 4 gram/liter Brut

Champagne Stroebel Logos de Heraclite Rose de Saignée 2005 $107
A small, garage style winery Tim is awesome! Organic de Saignée 2005 which is aged 10 years and gives off a gorgeous ring of complexity. This wine has soul, heart. No Filtering, no cold chamber, 0 dosage, indigenous yeast, biodynamic, deep roots, increased complexity. This cuvee is straight MAGIC.  Long slow fermentation, 50 year old vines from 1964, 36h maceration, notes of lemon peel, elegant, feminine, delicate, lifts on your palate! YES! Only 814 bottles produced. RARE. 1er cru. 
If you want to order any of these gorgeous bottles minimum quantity is 6 bottles of a mixed case and shipping is free. Arrival in 5-7 days. Click on this link to see catalog and fill out this sheet to buy. Email: tastysidetolifetours@gmail.com to place an order or call + 1 510 590 0943. If you ever make it to champagne do think of Tasty Side To Life Tours (us) to chauffeur you around on a wine tour in champagne.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Summer Brunch- Brioche stuffed french toast with fromage blanc, passion fruit, lemon curd and huckleberry, blackberry compote and much more

Stuffed Brioche French Toast: with sweetened fromage blanc, passion fruit, homemade lemon curd and huckleberry, blackberry, blueberry compote served with creme fraiche, raspberries and pure Vermont maple syrup inspired by Girl and the Fig in Sonoma, ca    

So, I wrote this 5 years ago on a balmy summer morning in Paris and it somehow poof disappeared from the blog so I decided to resurrect it and repost b/c well, it's a keeper!!

Summer in Paris is all about forever sunlight to 10/11pm, huge open air markets w/ fruit filled to the top and spilling off vendors carts and new inspiration from seasonal fruits and veggies. This was a test brunch from back in my days of wanting to open a supper club at my Paris flat which sadly never actually came to fruition. My dream was to play black and white french old school movies, serve rare small producer champagne and cook a 4 course brunch or dinner for friends of friends in a relaxed super club type of environment. This was a nice brunch "test" menu during a Parisian lazy Sunday among 11 friends.
Brunch Menu
This is a bright and seasonal menu for a summer brunch 

  • STUFFED BRIOCHE FRENCH TOAST with sweetened fromage blanc, passion fruit, homemade lemon curd and huckleberry, blackberry, blueberry compote served with creme fraiche, raspberries and pure Vermont maple syrup 
  • DUCK CONFIT AND POTATO HASH with a touch of ratafia, poached eggs, hollandaise and black truffle oil
  • LEMON AND RICOTTA PANCAKES with ginger cinnamon creme friche

The Table Setting with Some Small Producer Champagne from Huot et Fils. The stuffed brioche french toast plated

My inspiration: Duck Confit & Potato Hash with a touch of ratafia, poached eggs, hollandaise and black truffle oil
My version of the potato hash after a bite or two

Lemon and Ricotta Pancakes with ginger cinnamon creme friche- my inspiration photo

And a few bites gone

Brunch didn't start til 2 to 3pm and lasted so looooooong, per the usual Parisian tradition amongst my friends, that as we were finishing up cleaning we were actually able to see the Parisian sunset. I'm not even sure you can call something that ends that late brunch :) Regardless, it's truly the best hr in Paris when at about 9pm everything turns pink. It's incredible really.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Sydney Australia the chic foodie guide

Park Hyatt Lunch and View of Opera house
From a sky filled with gorgeous tropical wild larakeets and yellow crusted cockatoos swooping above, to sun-blazed, bikini doted beaches with sandstone rock pools camouflaged into the cliffs, to watching perilous open-ocean swim competitions in great white invested waters- Sydney is all sorts of amazing. 

It's the sort of place where you can enjoy a Park Hyatt pre- lunch cocktail of out of this world rich, creamy Sydney rock oysters paired with minerally elegant Ruinart champagne followed by an insane tasting menu consisting foie gras, rhubarb and hibiscus with red and black berries and brioche in front of the Sydney Opera house. I mean, insane.

Sydney truly is a cosmopolitan city filled with a multi ethnic mix of people, culture and undeniable beauty. Below is a glimpse into some of the "Must do's" compiled from some of my favorite local friends. 
Coogee to Bondi walk
1) Coogee Beach- Bondi Beach walk. This is the place to start your Sydney adventure! Hands down. Stay away from the touristy sites and come STRAIGHT here and hang with the locals. The Coogee Beach-Bondi Beach walk is a cliff top coastal walk filled with stunning views, beaches, parks, rock pools and swimming spots. It's 6k or 3.5 miles and a perfect morning jog or walk. Most of the beaches have changing rooms, places to eat, have a picnic, go to the bathroom, etc. Tamarama, Bronte, Coogee and Maroubra have free electric bbqs! 

Waileys Baths

Tamarama Beach is the place to be seen, snorkeling is bests at Clovelly, Mackenzie point and Bronte are both the fav for surfers. Bondi has Icebergs for lunch which is iconic. I loved Coogee but I might be biased because one of my favorite friends lives there. I also adore Wailey's baths which is just past Coogee and a perfect place to relax and swim for the day. Feels like you're in Croatia or a Geneva Switzerland beach!

Coogee Beach on a 90 degree day with fog!

2) Hang in a locals neighborhoodPaddington- This area is night and day different from the sun drenched beach communities of Bondi or Coogee- the good historical, chic, gorgeous kind of different. Paddington is laced with 1800's terrace style housing, trendy shopping, great restaurants and is just a short walk from the center of the city. It's sophisticated and certainly a "must see". 

Josh Goot

Come here to check out designers on Williams street or Oxford street or at an area called the "Intersection". Here you'll find: Scanlan Theodore, Ellery, Camilla and Marc, Alice McCall, Josh Goot, Sass and Bide and Alannah Hill

For restaurants check out Williams St wine bar, Ampersand Pantry Cafe and Bookstore, Berkelouw Books and Cafe 1812, Underwood Cafe a hidden gem with a Balinese style deck, Ovvio (book a consult) for a visit to a naturopath, homeopath and herbalist. In the earthy surrounds of the Apothecary the herbal magic happens! Here they formulate and dispense liquid herbs and other natural remedies for clients. LOVE. 

OVVIO is the brand behind Sydney's acclaimed naturopath, homeopath and herbalist, Athia Koulouros.
Book a consult or peruse the organic health, beauty and home products, teas or spice blends

3) Go to Surrey Hills- Another sweet inner city neighborhood is Surry Hills. It's artsy, vibrant and filled with great uber creative foodie spots. The area sort of has a run down or up and coming vibe. Starting on Crown street is a good idea, make sure to stop a few galleries and checkout a few gasto pubs, outdoor dining spots and hidden bars. Make sure to check out Nomad (insane roasted carrots with dukkah and creme fraiche), 

Bourke Street Bakery (for a Strawberry rhubarb tart, ginger creme brulee tart or a savory chicken, sweet potato, pea, lime pie)

Bourke Street Bakery
 Bills in Bondi, Darlinghurt or Surrey Hills (for brown rice and sweet miso porridge, coconut yoghurt, mango and lime or ricotta hotcakes, banana + honeycomb butter or zucchini fritters, deep fried egg, haloumi, parsley salad, tahini yoghurt and pickles)

The Winery (just a cute little outdoor wine spot surrounded by plants and attractive people,

Winery, Sydney
Longrain (yummy cocktails, soul of SE Asian cooking and legit Thai street food),

Reuben Hills (
Banana Peanuts and Espresso Bread w /salted caramel butter, Ancho orange salmon w beetslaw, asparagus & goats curd, Lemon myrtle, lemongrass, licorice and ginger root tea or pancakes w/ Date caramel, pecan praline and quandong icecream. I mean.... YUM. Ah huhhh Sydney legit food.

Reuben Hills
The Rocks

4) Walk around the Food market at "The Rocks"-My favorite thing in the world is Gözleme. Yup Gozleme. They have a delicious one here. Brings me right back to 2007 or so in Turkey with my family when a gorgeous old Turkish lady was hunched over a huge, round open pan and mixed up a super simple little dough of flour and water, olive and salt, rolled it out ever so thin, cut a pocket in it and filled it with feta, spinach, zucchini, eggplant, leek, shallot and garlic. YUMM. The Rocks is THE PLACE to be Fridays from 9-3 or Sat/Sun from 10-5. Stop by one of the roof top bars after for a cocktail.

The Rocks
5) Check out Din Tai Fung is kind of a must if you like dumplings or Dim Sun. I've been in Singapore and Bangkok. Its literally the worlds tastiest dumpling. Every dumpling is delicately hand made to measure btwn 4.8-5.2 grams before being filled with 20 grams of filling. They're all made fresh in front of your eyes, steamed in exactly 3 minutes and on your table in seconds. It's gorgeous, delicate precious and quality control that makes this place INSANE. That and the fact that you can have truffles in your dumplings. Find it in Sydney, Taiwan, Japan, USA, Singapore, Indo, etc.  

6) Eat lunch at the Park Hyatt. Start with champagne and oysters at the bar and take in the view of the Sydney Opera House! Lunch is 1 course for $39, 2 $59 and 3 $69 at the Dining Room and it was one of my most favorite meals of my life. Hands down. While in this area go checkout the Museum of Contemporary art and maybe the botanical gardens.

Ruinart Champagne with Sydney Rock Oysters

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