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Tasty Side to Life Tours Website

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How to Get from the UK to Champagne

While most of my clients so far for the tours I arrange to taste Champagne at private small producers have been Americans I'm wondering why I don't I get more emails from Brits especially when the trip over to France is so easy?! 

If you are British and have a short break, a long holiday or a just a free weekend with nothing to do why not make a little hop skip jump trip to Champagne? In all reality Champagne vineyards are the closest to Britain of all the others in France it is a no brainer to come to this region. Here is a little guide about how to get to Champagne for those coming from the UK. 

1) DRIVE: Reims, champagne's largest city is a 3 hours drive from the UK or the french channel ports. It's a nice drive and the added bonus is that you have your car. Thus, after a day of being driven around and tasting at award winning producers you can take the cases you have just bought and put them in your trunk for the journey back to the UK! 

2) TRAIN: Sitting back and relaxing while the train brings you through the channel is an easy option as well. You can travel from London's St Pancreas under the Channel and arrive at Paris Gare du Nord by the Eurostar. Then either take the 45 min TGV to Reims or Epernay or have your chauffeau for your small producer trip pick you up and bring you to the region. Return train fares from London to Chaumont start at 98 pounds.

3) WHAT TO DO. Drink to your hearts content and hire a chauffeur and a guide who has already researched all the top small producers where you can buy for 13 euro a bottle. Here are a few things to make sure not to miss.

  • REIMS CATHEDRAL- where all the kings of France were crowned, it is breathtaking and in my book even more impressive than Notre Dame

  • SMALL PRODUCER TASTING- Thousands of glorious small producers to see and get to know, taste various cuvees in their living rooms, play with their dogs, and buy Champagne for unbeatable prices! Seeing them is a no brainer

Talking to the Export Manager of a small house in Pierry
Playing with a small producers cute Golden :)
  • DINING AT MICHELIN STAR RESTAURANTS- lots and lots to see and surprisingly quite affordable
Yumm a 38 euro 4 course Michelin Star lunch in the middle of vineyards
  • CHATEAU VIEWING- Les Crayeres is a Chateau/ Hotel in Reims that you should not miss. Stop by for a drink or eat at either one of their restaurants. The Jardin restaurant is less expensive, has a beautiful terrace and is totally affordable. Also, Les Aulnois is a beautiful 16th century Chateau to stay the night in.
Les Aulnois a 16th century old Chateau converted into a beautiful hotel 

Vineyards by the Chateau

The Cheateau's perfectly manicured gardens
  • LARGE PRODUCER VIEWING- It's great to see one large cave while you're in the region. I like Pommery, Veuve Clicquot and Moet and Chandon. I think after one of these tours you are done ie bored of the tour, sick of watching the same corporate video which kicks each one off and ready to drink MORE than one glass of Champagne for 20 euro!! Solution= visit more small producers

    A perfect pour after a Veuve Clicquot large producer tour

Champagne Jacquart Large Producer tour

If you're interested in a trip please email:

Tasty Side To Life Tours
Attn: Sydney Krueger
15 Rue Conservatoire 75009 Paris France

Email: tastysidetolifetours@gmail.com or sydneykrueger@gmail.com

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Real Deal Birthday Brunch

Potato Latkas with lemon creme fraiche, red onions,  dill, smoked salmon and capers

I decided to celebrate my birthday all month this month because, well yes, I am a bit ridiculous :) Other than that, I thought hey after successfully launching a champagne  business in a foreign country and getting settled in a new French city where I had to create my entire life from the ground up I deserved to spoil myself and congratulate myself for all my hard work.

 So, celebrating I have been doing. A concert, a dinner and dancing, a brunch and more to come (friend dinners, theatre shows, etc). This last weekend ended with me cooking a big 'ol brunch for a bunch of friends.

Cooking is what I love, it's my passion and this was by far the highlight of my b-day. I made a 5 course brunch for 6 friends and it was the most relaxed meal I have ever cooked (thanks mainly to 2 great, proficient and abnormally skilled choppers, mixers and sauteing professionals ie my friends Jackie and Darren who assisted as sous-chefs in the kitchen).

The 5 course brunch menu was as follows:  

prosciutto, parmesan and white truffle oil

smoked salmon, red onion, capers, dill, lemon creme fraiche

poached eggs, crab, avocado, chives, lemon hollandaise, fresh bread

watermelon, strawberries, bananas, kiwis, honey-mint-lime dressing, edible flowers

homemade lemon curd, cinnamon, ginger pears, raspberries, edible flowers, fresh maple syrup   

Showing off our edible flower decoration techniques


Saturday, April 16, 2011

One of the Best Michelin Star Restaurants in Champagne- Hostellerie La Briqueterie

Pan fried John Dory, carrot puree, artichoke and liquorice from 1 Michelin Star Restaurant Le Briqueterie

This last week I went to the Champagne area for a research trip and I was so excited to be back in the old countryside and out of the hustle and bustle of Paris. A few days off from being smashed inside the metro like a sardine, being forced to inhale second hand cigarette smoke on every corner and stepping over surprisingly purposely flooded drains that clean the trash. Ok, ok Paris isn't THAT bad but I was excited to get into the quiet country. I mean who wouldn't be?

I couldn't wait to see some new hotels, taste at some new small champagne producers and above all eat at some local restaurants that I was D.Y.I.N.G to try. I had heard a lot about the Hotel La Briqueterie and was looking forward to seeing the property and doing a tour of the grounds. Little did I know the best part of the hotel would be the fact that a new chef who was managing 30 chefs and working at a 3 star Michelin Hotel just outside London (The Waterside Inn, Berkshire) had transplanted himself to the little town of Vinay in the Champagne region and had revamped their 12 year old menu with a fresh twist and new ideas.

I met the new chef Michael quickly after I did a tour of the rooms and he proposed that my friend and I join him for dinner. If we could make it he would prepare a few of his favorite dishes and even show us how to make a dish if he had time. I think I almost stopped breathing. Sounded amazing. My friend and I went back to my friends Chateau/hotel we were staying in, the beautiful Chateau Aulnois and decided to head to La Briqueterie for dinner.

We arrived at 8ish to a completely packed restaurant. Mainly suited men and a few big tables of Chinese journalists. The restaurant was big, nicely lit and beautifully decorated. They had reserved a table for us in the front, right by the window. We reminded the waiter we had met the chef earlier in the day and he quickly took our menu's back and said that our "special" menu would be coming. Lauren and I were a bit excited to say the least. In the menu there are options of numbers of courses with prices ranging from a 49 euro lunch to 80 or 110 euro dinner. 

Our waiter placed the first amuse bouche on our table. It was a verrine filled with mousse of avocado, pieces of carpaccio of salmon and a nice bite of lemon. A great, light and bright first course.

Following this was the first course of shellfish which came as a tartare of langoustine with citrus, melba toasts and aquitaine caviar. The thin slices of langoustine were delicately layered on top of one another. Covering the raw langoustine was bright colored small dices of red and green bell peppers, lemon, olive oil, micro-greens, and lastly the caviar.The flavor was crisp, smooth and so bright and flavorful. The dish tasted so fresh it could have jumped off the table.

If a perfect fish dish could be embodied in a single plate it would be the next; Pan fried John dory with carrot puree, artichokes and licorice. The minimalistic presentation allowed each and every flavor to be tasted separately, from the ocean fresh John Dorry to the sweet and bright puree of carrot. The dish was brought together by the soft dollop of white wine and celery foam. The John Dorry was lightly seasoned on both sides seared on one side and then finished quickly with quick spoonfuls of butter while cooking. The dish was delicious and had a great spectrum of flavor.

This was followed by pigeon, I know it sounds scary but it was ohh so good. I had to convince Lauren it was a different type of bird because I knew she would never eat it if she thought it was a Parisian street pigeon :) The pigeon was slow roasted leaving it full of flavor and perfect lightly gamey taste which was superb. The dish was cooked perfectly, just the right amount of pinkness. The pigeon sat atop savory shredded cauliflower, and was paired with a nice rich reduction sauce which the chef described as a compilation of pigeon stock, caramel sec, and finished with a hint of lime which softly alerted the senses.

At this point I realized we had both probably eaten enough yet I looked to my left and there was the cheese man rolling a huge table of utter goodness towards us. I mean, how could we resist this? There were over 30 cheeses to choose from. We kinda had to make room and room I made. 

Impressively this young boy knew everything about these 30 cheeses. He knew the different types of milk they came from, the consistencies, the production processes, everything! After a long convo we chose the tomme de savoie (my favorite because of its perfect sweetness from the French alps), a few regional cheese the chaource made in Champagne ardenne from cows milk which was soft and creamy, a chevre and another Champagne Ardenne regional cheese the langre which was soft and crumbly yet pretty strong.

Our pre-dessert was a shot of whipped cream, topped with fudge and a nutty sweet sesame cracker. This was pretty simple but I knew more was coming.

The first official dessert was a coconut corolle, passion fruit panna cotta, gingerbread apple and fennel tart and slices of oranges and grapefruit. The flavors of dessert were nice and full of citrus and acid yet there was a little something missing. I'm not sure what it was. The creativity was there but I think it was the textures. I loved the citron pairings but did't love the fennel and apple dish.

Before we had time to even talk about everything we had just ingested next thing I knew the manager was walking over with bags of presents for us (Champagne and a booklet) and we were being whisked to the kitchen to watch the Chef cook one of the dishes in front of us and have a quick chat. This was almost like a dream. Like I wanted to pinch myself.  

Next thing we knew Michael was preparing the John Dorry in front of us and explaining every part of the preparation process. He offered for me to spend a day in the kitchen learning some new techniques and I can't wait to take him up on his offer.

It is official, this is a great Michelin star restaurant with an up and coming star chef who treats his customers like real people and is certainly a 28 year old to watch and a restaurant to visit while you're in the land of bubbly.

There is phenomenal Champagne tasting just a stones throw from this property. Stopping for lunch during a day of tasting at 3 or 4 small producers with a Mercedes driven Chauffeur is my kind of day. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Alaska Adventure

I really want to motivate to make a trip to Alaska this summer and I am lucky enough to have an amazing aunt who lives there thus making the dream a little bit more possible!!  I mean hiking, bald eagles, glacier viewing, followed by picking some wild strawberries and blueberries to head home and have some family time and make a HUGE lemon curd and berry tart sounds amazing to me. As does jumping on a fishing boat, catching some halibut and some Alaskan king crab while hopefully your boat is surrounded by whales like it was the last time I was there.

Would love to catch some King Crab like this and have a boat that comes with a dog :)

If I go and If i can muster the motivation to get on a fishing boat at 3 am when the halibut are feeding I hope I could catch something to cook up. If so, I would prepare the halibut with a simple preparation I learned from my German roommate. Pan roasted with blanched and pealed almonds, a simple wine, shallot and butter sauce and a bit of lemon. Recipe to come...

I wonder how much a Paris-Alaska ticket would be?! Hmmmmm....

I mean don't you kind of want to be on this boat?

And hiking here looks perfect

I'd listen to this little track from talking heads the whole plane ride over and while sizzling up the fish and quickly boiling the crab.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Johnny Cash kind of day

I could probably listen to him all day as I cater for a photo shoot and party of 13

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

White Asparagus Season: White Asparagus Salad- Organic Microgreens, raspberries, lemon zest and a Dijon Vinaigrette

White asparagus season is one of my favorites in France. I just love them because they are so odd looking. During the months of April you can find these bizarre fat and albino bunches of asparagus blanketing the Parisian morning fruit and veggie stands. It's a sign that winter is almost finally over, so that means grab the umbrella because Paris rainy spring season is almost here :) Apparently legends have it that the white asparagus was discovered in the 16th century when a hailstorm destroyed the crop and forced people to eat what was left. It was then that they discovered the beauty and sweetness of white asparagus. We'll glad they did.

The Ancient Greeks and Romans thought it had medicinal properties yet technically speaking it's just green asparagus deprived from light during cultivation... (doesn't sound as interesting does it)? I like the first part of the story better...

Regardless, white asparagus is delicious and has a much more delicate taste than its green cousin. It's great in soups or salads or paired with "fatty" additions like hollandaise sauce, butter or eggs. French chefs also like to serve them natural with just a light dash of olive oil, salt and parmesan. Here is a recipe below of a nice simple salad I made which lets the seasonal ingredient-"the white asparagus" shine. This could work great for lunch or brunch.

Recipe follows

White Asparagus Salad

Organic Microgreens, raspberries, lemon zest and a Dijon Vinaigrette
Serves 4

This is a light, bright and seasonal salad which gives you a creative way to serve seasonal white asparagus

  • 1 Big Bunch of White Asparagus (At least 8 individual sprigs)
  • Pinch of Sea Salt
  • 4 large handfulls of Microgreens
  • A bunch of raspberries
  • Good Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 teaspoon Lemon, zested
  • 1 Tbls French Dijon Mustard (a good quality brand is important here)
  • 3 to 4 Tbls French Cider Vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 shallot diced fine 
  1. Snap off the hard ends of the asparagus so you are left with moist tender parts. Wash, dry and peel them and reserve. 
  2. Meanwhile, boil water. White asparagus should take a bit longer than the green ones.
  3. Wash and reserve the microgreens
  4. Add White Asparagus to boiling water and cook for 5-9 minutes until tender but not overly done. Be careful that you don't cook too much or the delicate heads will start to fall apart. 
  5. Zest the lemon into the mustard, add diced shallots and sugar and slowly whisk in the vinegar. Keep whisking briskly until you have a soft paste.  Now whisk in the extra virgin olive oil until you have a consistency you like. Should be about 2/3 of a cup of olive oil. 
  6. Remove the asparagus gently from the boiling water. Lightly add dressing to microgreens in a large mixing bowl.
  7. Add a bunch of microgreens, top with raspberries and lastly 2 asparagus sprigs per plate crossing them to give the dish a bit of height.
  8. Finish with an extra dollop of dressing over the asparagus and a bit of left over lemon zest

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