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Tasty Side to Life Tours Website

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Insead MBA Integration Weekend - In Champagne!

We recently helped plan the Insead MBA’s Integration weekend tasting with Small Producers in Champagne. What a better way for 12 or so students who had practically just met to get to know each other than over a few glasses of bubbly in a beautiful hilly region in France? We took out two huge vans, had 2 chauffeurs and 2 guides and filled the day with regional food, Chateaus and yummy award winning small producer Champagne tasting!

It was a great trip and the group was very luck to have come to the region at the perfect time! It was the week of the harvest, the special 10 or so days a year when the grapes are picked, loaded into trucks and quickly brought to the pressoir to be ever so gently pressed. We saw the pressoir at work, talked with various small champagne producer owners and drank lots and lots of extra brut, brut, rose an vintage champagnes.

We are looking forward to helping Insead students plan events in the future!

The schedule looked like as follows:

1 Day Trip

9:00                Insead School Pickup in Fontainebleau

11:30               Champagne tasting with 1st Small Producer

                        This producer operates 7 hectares on the left side of the Marne. He owns.
                        Madame Veuve Clicqouts old Chateau/ hunting lodge and produces a nice, fresh
                        and clean Champagne with notes of Green Apple.

13h                  Regional Michelin Star Lunch at La Briqueterie or Brasserie Lunch at
Le Progres in the quant town of Epernay

14h30            Champagne Tasting with 2 Award Winning Small

Led by a brother and sister, this house has 7 hectares and is located on the hills south of Epernay. They produce 40,000 bottles/ year. Their Champagne has won top regional awards and 3 stars in the Guide Hachette de Vin. Champagne is dominated by black grapes (80%). You will taste a fine and persistent bubble and fruits (exotics, kiwi’s, plums accompanied with brioche)

15h45             Champagne Tasting with 3rd Small Producer 

                        This house was founded in 1768 in Pierry a small town near Epernay, and is still
                        family run to this day, passed down from generation to generation. They use a high   
                        percentage of Chardonnay in their Champagne. You will notice grilled flavors  
                       (almonds, hazelnut). These are accompanied by fruity notes (yellow fruit) which 
                        leaves a nice round mouth. This champagne is powerful and balanced.

17h45                 Dropoff at Insead/ End of Tour

The Grapes coming in to be pressed
The trip was the same week as the harvest so students got to see lots of action. Here the press is gently pressing the grapes and the employee is scarping away the sediment/skin which rests

The press

Anne Marie explaining to the group about the triple fermentation process in Champagne

Insead Group Photo

Herve showing the group how the vines are worked in the fields

Tractor transporting the grapes after the manual harvest

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentines Day Tips

Pic courtesy of A Cup Of Joe

Instead of grabbing a bunch of flowers at a little side store and a cheap bottle of white wine (or perhaps a bottle of the mainstream Moet and Chandon Champagne), check out these four Small producer Champagnes which are the perfect unique Valentines Day Gift (we visit these houses at times with Tasty Side to Life Tours). Cuvees range from 15-100€ a bottle. I'd love to have a bottle of any of these for Valentines Day! If you're in NY check out any of these flower shops ( one in Nolita, one in the West Village) 
Or, if you're in Paris I would say the perfect flowers can be found at the Hermes flower shop at Sèvres Babylone!


1) Champagne Vilmart et Cie-2006 Grand Cellar D'Or

Founded in 1890 by Désiré Vilmart and located in the Montagne de Reims this vintage has been vinified in oak for 10 months without malolactic fermentation. This 2006 is made up of 80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir. You'll find woody notes and hints of toasted almonds. This champagne is well balanced, elegant and pairs perfectly with white meat

2) Champagne Pehu-Simonet-Blanc de Noirs

A champagne which is distinguished by its harmony as well as its aromatic, fresh palate. There is an amazing balance here between density and liveliness and I love the uniqueness of using 100% black grapes. A well-constructed champagne. 

3) Champagne Huot et Fils- Cuvée Initiale Brut Zéro

Located in the charming village of St Martin d’ablois just shy of Epernay lies this fabulous champagne house. This cuvee is from the 2005 harvest and is made up of half white half  grapes and half black grapes (35% Pinot Noir, 15%meunier). This wine has no sugar added and thus is bright, fresh and oh so nice paired with seafood such as oysters, shrimps or fish. It is very unique. It has a discreet nose, hints of white flowers, dried fruit, and a very lively mouth

4) Ruinart-Dom Ruinart Rosé 1996- Ok, ok this one is a big producer but Ruinart is consistently a great large producer. With fruity notes and flavors of red fruits and citrus this champagne leaves a refined fresh finish. Nicolas Ruinart, a cloth merchant founded Ruinart in 1729 making this house the oldest champagne house in the Reims area. This 1996 has extraordinary complexity and is very delicate. Great as an aperitif or with a fine meal.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Paris Champagne Tasting Class- Launch!

So I finally have begun to offer Paris champagne tasting classes along with chauffeur/ guided trips to taste with small producers in Champagne! I am hoping this is a great solution for those that want to experience Champagne yet don't want to leave Paris. 

Check it out! 

Here is a little snapshot below of what we will offer. 

We are really excited to help even more clients taste unique small producer champagne with much more complexity, character and flavor than you would ever find in the champagne of large producers of the world (such as Moet, Pommery, Veuve Clicquot, etc). These small producers put their hearts and souls into creating truly fantastic champagne and for prices between 17-35€ euro a bottle it really can not be beat!

This Paris champagne tasting class is 70€ per person and is the perfect class for anyone interested in champagne with a desire to learn more. While tasting 3 different cuvees from 3 different producers, we will show clients the differences in small producer champagne, enlighten their palate and introduce them to champagne with great complexity and nice depths. We will teach you how to find flavors such as: white flowers, agrumes (lemons, grapefruits), toasted almonds, ripe summer fruits, etc. We will essentially help clients undercover the mystery of Champagne without leaving Paris.

You will learn which grapes are involved in champagne making, the process and the secrets. You will also be able to purchase the champagne that you try for 20-35€ a bottle.

If you are a cheese lover we have a champagne and cheese tasting class for 85€ per person or a champagne class with a 3 course lunch for 100€.

Here are more details below:

70,00€ (85€ with cheese pairing or 100€ with 3 course lunch)
(price per person)
Duration: 1.5 Hours, 2-2.5 hrs with cheese or lunch
Number of Champagnes sampled: 3 including one large Producer
Operating Days: Daily
Start Time: 11am or 5pm
Where?: 6th Arrondissement in a beautiful Parisian apartment
Near?: Place St Michel
(address will be sent after the booking)


This recipe highlights the fabulous french butter from Bretagne. The "culture of butter" as the french like to say is one that dominates France. 85% of the butter in France comes from the regions of Bretagne or Picardie. The crazy thing is that usually when I clarify butter I throw away the white solids. Yet, no, no, no in france when making a clarified butter they SAVE this butter! They say its great on vegetables and in vinagrates with butter. This recipe is rather simple (expect for the double brown butter sauce) and is very flavorful. The presentation is simple and clean.

Parsnip Puree With hazelnuts, dried cherries soft boiled eggs and a double brown butter sauce

Serves 4: 

4 parsnips
1 l of milk or better yet buttermilk
 4 large eggs
 Sea salt
Black pepper (preferably of Nepal). 

Hazelnut butter double 
100 g salted butter 
20 ml water, 
30 cl of the protein or solids from a clarified butter
100 g of fresh unsalted butter
1 c coffee soy lecithin or another emulsifier or stabilizer (known to fight "bad" cholesterol and help with concentration and memory).

Prepare a double hazelnut butter beginning with the clarified butter (melt butter in a water bath or over a double boiler, do not stir, in order to remove the solids that form from the liquid. Separate the white top from the liquid bottom). Cook the butter for 5 minutes until you just start to get a color, then add a touch of water, cook a bit more then add more water and take it off the heat. The evaporating water will help concentrate the butters in the sauce and help with it's consistency and also keep it from burning. Reduce it until it has a hazel color. When done cut up a few slices of salted butter and add it to the sauce. Next take a hand mixer and blend to create a nice foam.

Cook each egg 5-6 mins in boiling water. Put the eggs immediately into ice water to stop the cooking. Then peel the eggs. For the presentation, spoon a large dallop of puree onto each plate and spread out with a spoon. Hit the egg lightly, cracking it slightly and allowing the orange center to ooze out. Season with sea salt and pepper. Cover with the foam of brown butter. Serve.

Chopping up the hazelnuts and dried cherries or cranberries
Separating the solids from the butter

Blending the sauce

Adding the emulsifier to maintain the structure of the sauce

Removing the eggs after the precise 6 minute cooking time and immediately submerging them in an ice bath to stop the cooking

The "art" of plating

Voila the finished dish

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Best of ParisDesChef 2012

The Great Christophe Saintagne (Plaza Athenee 3 Michelin Stars and an Alain Ducasse restaurant- Paris menu at 360€) preparing Foie Gras craquante in a style similar to Chinese Peking Duck with torched duck skin, winter vegetables, black truffle and tea infused bouillon

I was fortunate enough to attend the mother event of all Paris food events this last week, ie ParisDeschef (Paris, France)!

I had a 3 day press pass and was able to watch, taste and learn from the best Chefs in the industry. There were demonstrations, lectures, cooking classes and even wine classes. The week was filled with culinary geniuses like Bertrand Grebaut (Septime Paris), Yannick Alleno (Le Meurice, Paris), the great Alain Passard with whom I am mildly obsessed (L'Arpege, Paris), Christophe Saintagen (Plaza Athenee, Paris), David Kinch (Manresa, SF).

I soaked up every second of the live demo's, atelier's, cooking lessons and wine tasting lessons.

Here's a little glimpse of what was going on:

Puree de Panais au lait ribot, oeuf mollet et beurre double noisette/ Parnip puree with buttermilk, soft-boiled egg and double brown butter. We finely chopped the hazelnuts and the dried cherries
We clarified the butter to remove the liquid from the solids and then actually used the solids to lightly cook the hazelnuts and to make the brown butter sauce
After cooking the parsnips with buttermilk and blending it with a hand blender we plated it. We put a dollop on the plate, and ran a spoon quickly through it to shape it
We then used a spoon and knife to make a line with the almond & dried cherries
We boiled the eggs in salty water for exactly 6 minutes and then removed them, peeled them and set them aside, we then made the Double Brown Butter Cream sauce. The whole recipe can be found in the next blog post. 
Located in Los Gatos, David Kinch is obsessed with California fresh food. A master of simplicity
Genius oyster shell was created by drying fish skin and frying it
Beautiful vegetables- Alain Passard (ie my hero's) color palate. 
Alain Passard of L'arpege Passionately choosing the best veggies of the season. In 1986 Alain Passard opened l'Arpege 3 Michelin Stars with 11 courses for 350€ or lunch for 90€ to 340€. He is famous for being "a great roasting chef" yet since 2000 he has switched his focus to a passion for working with fruits and vegetables. He is truly an inspiration for the new generation of chefs and he has just created a wildly original culinary comic book with his latest recipes!
Carrots, yellow beets, lemon, and butter all softly cooking over medium heat with a small amount of water
The finished veggie dish with shaved radicchio to give a bit of color
Christophe Saintagne (Plaza Athenee, Paris)
A native of Normandy, Christophe Saintagne trained in the Auberge du Vieux Logis in Conteville. He also worked at Hotel Crillon. Here he creates Foie Gras craquante. He wraps foie gras in duck skin and quickly browns it using a blowtorch creating a Chinese influenced Peking duck consistency. At the same time he pan roasted veggies in a duck broth and finely cut black truffle.

Black truffle, Winter Vegetables (Leak, Parsnip, Carrott, Beet)
Finally he infused the Duck broth which he had cooked the veggies in with a tea of fresh herbs and sprinkled sesame seeds over the foie gras

Homemade eclairs
The art of soft boiling eggs
Champagne tasting with Alain Thienot
Tasting a Alain Thienot Brut from 1988
Sushi with the french cheese comte
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