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Tasty Side to Life Tours Website

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

French 3 Michelin Star Chef Alain Passards Risotto "le celeririsotto" Recipe

This recipe comes from Alain Passard who is my utmost culinary hero. The first time I saw him in person I blushed so feverishly that I wanted to hide my face under the table or fan myself ferociously with my napkin. I did none of the latter, instead I just sat there-star struck and wide eyed. 

Passard is a genius because he is a 3 Michelin star chef who showcases the beauty of the simple, elegant, sweet and subtle vegetable. His restaurant in Paris L'arpege previously had a tasting menu with only veggies prepared into truly sublime creations yet he has recently changed his menu and has started to offer guests the choice of meat or fish. While I appreciate the choice I dont think it's necessary as his masterful skills in my book are centered on creating undeniable scrumptious creations out of veggies!   

This risotto is made of not rice but celery root which is one of my favorite hearty and under-used veggies. This dish (which I made while in a gorgeous cozy little home in the beautiful Ile de Yeu,  France with a dear friend) is oh so savory and smooth. I promise you that you will have NO IDEA that this is not rice but a veggie that oh so closely resembles rice. 

84 Rue de Varenne 75007 Paris
01 47 05 09 06
Lunch 120€, Dinner 360€


RISOTTO "le celeririsotto" Brunoise celery root-Milk-Marscapone-Paramesean-Moutarde a l'ancienne 

Makes 4 Servings
  • 1 celery root
  • 3/4 cup organic whole milk
  • Few spoonfuls of Straus or high quality European butter
  • 1 tablespoon of mascarpone
  • 1 teaspoon of ancien or dijon Mustard
  • olive oil
  • 1 black truffle if you want to indulge-shaved just before serving

  1. Set aside a large cutting board and a sharp knife. The precise chopping of the celery root is important as you want gorgeous little cubes which will be quite small and resemble rice.
  2. Peel the celery root. Next cut it in half and then into fourths so it's more manageable. Now cut each forth into 1/2 inch pieces lengthwise making a julienne cut. Cut the julienne into squares creating the brunoise. Watch a video here if you need help!
  3. Melt the butter and add the celery root 
  4. Keep the flame low. Do not attack the product and do not change color.
  5. After a few minutes add 1/4 cup of milk.
  6. Make sure to constantly turn the celery with a wooden spoon, like the classic risotto.
  7. Add spoonful of butter and a dash of parmesan and lastly a Tbls of mascarpone.
  8. Then add a tablespoon of mascarpone to smooth.
  9. Add a touch of mustard for seasoning, a little milk to create an extra creaminess and a dash of olive oil before serving
  10. The chef's advice: this dish is perfect as an appetizer or side dish beautiful poultry, fish or shellfish. Can be served with an artichoke foam and fresh shaven truffles

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Travel Wish List for 2013

Here are some places I CAN NOT wait to visit

Norway-Preachers Rock, Preikestolen and Norway-Alesund, India for Holi- The Festival of Colors, and Taiwan for the Sky Latern Festival

Preachers Rock, Preikestolen Norway- A massive Cliff 82 feet by 82 feet where over 130,000 people hike to Preikestolen. I want to do this hike!

Holi- The Festival of Colors- India. This Festival around mid March is where people in India and countries with Hindu origin celebrate Holi or the triumph of good over evil. The festival involves the loss of inhibitions as people chase each other around and playfully splash paint and water on each other while lighting bonfires to celebrate Pralada. 

Taiwan for the Sky Lantern Festival- During this time of year oiled rice paper attached to a bamboo frame is filled with a small candle and is airborne for as long as the candle stays lit! They were first used back in the 3rd century as a signaling balloon and go back to the Han Dynasty which existed some 2000 years ago. It is on the 15th day of the first lunar month in the Chinese calendar or the last day of the Chinese New Year Festivals (Feb 24 2013)

Alesund, Norway- This place just looks gorgeous, no?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Summer Essentials

I have five recent obsessions for Spring/ Summer.

1) Tea infused with saffron

Krocus Kozanis Products Tea from Greece

Surprisingly Greek saffron is considered to be some of the best quality saffron in the world. Ok, this might be according to the greeks and I think they might have a battle to fight with Kashmir as I know that Saffron from Kashmir is exquisite as well. Yet, the Greeks have enough things on their plates so I'll give this one to them.

Over 20 species of saffron are native to Greek flora. Saffron has significant antioxidant properties which protect against free radicals and contribute to good health and well being. It is supposed to help with digestion and improve brain function and memory. My Indian friend just told me her new thing is to add a few strands of saffron to her tea. The same week I found a tea that already had a few strands in it. Voila! This tea, Krocus Kozanis, is in Paris health food stores and can be found at my favorite Pousse Pousse in the 9eme, Paris or off Rue de Buci at the health food store there. It's 6.50€ for a box of about 12. The one i like is orange, honey, and  saffron. http://www.biodiet.eu/prod-Infusion-Safran-Bio-Miel-KROCUS-KOZANIS-refKROMIE.html

2) Beet Ricotta Ravioli's

I tried these for the first time at Le Bon Marche- the very upscale super market in Paris. I loved them. The ricotta is creamy and rich yet not overly heavy and the beet adds a touch of sweetness and a beautiful summer color. I have yet to re-create them at home but I can't wait to experiment. I just discovered a great blog http://lisaiscooking.blogspot.fr and she has a fabulous recipe for Beet Ravioli's as well as one for Lemon and Goat Cheese Ravioli's which sound delicious as well.

Le Bon Marche
24 Rue De Sevres, Paris 76006
01 44 39 80 00

3) Fruit Flavored Water

What is better than being in a spa, outside by the pool, feet up on the lounge chair relaxing with your eyes closed waiting to be tapped on the shoulder by your masseuse and sipping slowly on water with few slices of cucumber in it? It's my favorite. It's refreshing, different and fresh. I remember the first time I served cucumber slices in water at a dinner party and the shocked look I got when I placed the glass in front of some of my Intl friends. This summer, per the advice of my favorite blog (A Cup of Joe) why not add a few slices of watermelon, strawberries, pineapple or clementine to your water to make it even more delicious and refreshing. Sounds delicious on a hot summer day or at a BBQ no?

4) Wild Flower Ice Cubes

If you read my blog then you know I am pretty much in love with edible flowers. Edible flowers and white truffle oil. I guess you could say I use a bit toooo much of both of these in my cooking but they both are amazing in my book. Reading about wild flower ice cubes on A Cup of Joe via Martha Stewarts tips got me thinking and I can't wait to try them. I also can't wait to send this tip to my sister as she told me last week while we were having dinner on her terrace that she needs to take cooking classes to perfect her transformation into Martha. She has a slight obsession to say the least :) I have a heart shaped ice tray that would work perfectly with this idea. Here is the "how to" from Martha Stewart http://www.marthastewart.com/348299/floral-ice-cubes

5) Rose water

Rosewater is my new thing for sure. A friend of mine from Chennai spoke very highly of it and after a trip to Morocco I decided to bring back a few bottles as it was certainly going to be cheaper there than in Paris. Rose water is quite fragrant and gives a floral, bright and luxurious flavoring to Indian and Middle Eastern Cuisines. I adore Iranian cuisine and they use it quite frequently. My new obsession is making ricotta beet ravioli's and adding rosewater to the butter sage sauce. Yummm.. Rose water is also a great product to use for ski cleansing as well and it has been thought since the middle centuries to have various health benefits as well. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Grilled Ahi-Julienned Sugar Snap Pea Slaw- Fennel- Almonds-Summer Squash- Ginger- Lemon zest

GRILLED AHI julienned sugar snap pea slaw- fennel- almonds-summer squash- ginger- lemon zest.

A healthy, bright and quick dinner. Julienning the veggies transforms them, changing their texture. The peas and blanched almonds create a nice crunch- complemented by the sweetness of the fennel and the acidity of the lemon. This recipe was inspired by one of my favorite vegetarian restaurants in Paris- Pousse, Pousse in the 9eme which is owned by Lawrence Aboucaya. Her food was featured on Alain Ducasse's Plaza Athénée Summer Menu.
Makes 6 Servings
  • 1 pound  of Ahi Tuna (Sushi grade if you can find it)
  • Pinch of Sea Salt
  • 1 small package of Sugar Snap Peas
  • 1 head of Fennel
  • 2 handfuls of blanched and peeled almonds- sliced thin or bought sliced
  • 2 small yellow summer squash
  • 1 small piece of fresh ginger- 1/4 cup minced for coating the fish
  • 1 clove of garlic finely diced (remove the green inner sprout of the garlic)
  • 2-3 lemons (1 zested)
  • 1 tbls cracked black pepper- for coating the ahi
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • Ginger-Soy-Lime Vinaigrette for marinating the Tuna
  • 2 shallots
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  1. In a small bowl combine the finely diced shallot, ginger, pepper, soy sauce and lime juice. Use a hand immersion blender to mix (this is a nice restaurant trick that most restaurants use to get a perfect sauce). Whisking constantly slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Use half of this marinade for the Tuna and the other half reserve for later to season the cooked ahi or even season the vegetables. Set aside until ready to use and whisk dressing before serving. 
  2. Next make a lemon oil oil. Squeeze 1.5 lemons and slowly whisk in 1/2 cup of olive oil and a pinch of salt to make your own lemon olive oil. Add zest of 1/2 lemon.
  3. Season the tuna with salt, pepper and let marinate in the sauce for a 10-15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile with a sharp large knife get to work with your veggies. Remember just to cook the veggies for a total of 5-10 minutes. You want them crunchy! You could even eat them all raw if you wish. Cut the sharp ends off the snap peas and then julienne them into strips that resemble small match sticks. Repeat this process with the fennel, almonds and summer squash. Heat a sauce pan over medium heat and toast the almonds for a 2 minutes in a few tbls of olive oil until they release a gorgeous fragrant smell. Add the minced garlic and ginger and cook for a 2-3 minutes. Next add the fennel and cook for  4 minutes or so. Add a dash of the lemon olive oil and a tbls of lemon zest. Now add the squash and snap peas to the pan, and cook for a few minutes (not too long as you want the veggies to stay crunchy). Immediately remove from the heat to stop the cooking process. Add salt and a few nice squeezes of a lemon (if needed). Reserve.
  5. Heat the same saute pan over high heat. Add the oil and when its is very hot sear the tuna on all sides, 30 secs per side to 1 minute per side. You want a raw center and browned outer edges. Add some lime juice to the pan to deglaze and quickly shake the pan and stir around the pan deposits. Quickly remove from the pan. 
  6. Make sure the veggie slaw is well seasoned. If needed add a nice few tbls of the lemon olive oil and a bit more salt to veggies. Slice the tuna into 1-2 inch long pieces and drizzle the reserved marinade over the tuna (there should be 1/2 left from the earlier marinade you made. If not make more). Serve the tuna on top of the slaw. Voila!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Tokyo Yudofu Lunch- Tofu turned into Haute Cuisine

The entrance of Ume no Hana

Oh Tokyo.. how I love thee. Flower blossoms in spring, temples, giant buddhas in the middle of the mountains, the most confusing metro system with kanji I don't understand and the most incredible food in the world. I love being in Japan and having an American-esque experience of being able to literally eat a different type of cuisine each night. The variety is just amazing. I'm not talking about being able to eat cuisine from different areas around the world (even though this is indeed possible) but I am talking about the possibility to eat a different type of Japanese cuisine itself, each evening.

In Japan, quite honestly the most incredible culinary aspect of the country is that you can choose among over 20 different micro cuisines of the larger grouping of Japanese. The cuisine varies from sushi, shabu shabby, Kaiseki, Raisu (Curry), Soba (handmade), Udon, Ramen, Yakisoba, Sukiyaki, Yakitori, Yudofu, to Tempura and various others.

The two that I was dying to experiment with before heading back to my home away from home Paris was Yodufo and Sukiyaki. Two foreign terms to most Westerns and the more foreign the better in my book :) Essentially I was choosing between meat slowly simmered at the table alongside vegetables and before eaten, dipped in raw egg OR a tofu lunch. Quite a difference, I know, but I had never had either and was ridiculously excited to try both. Yudufo I decided for lunch and Sukiyaki for dinner.

I was lucky enough to have a Japanese friend in Tokyo who knew the perfect Yudofu place which all of her friends had raved about but she had never been to. Ume no Hana was the restaurant and it literally means plum flower. It was a perfect name and perfect restaurant for the season we were experiencing during my April trip to Japan (cherry blossom season).

Ume no Hana is an old school establishment and focused on tofu. It's prepared in more ways than you can even begin to imagine-boiled, served in custard, steam, wrapped in layers around fish, etc. The beauty is that you certainly do not need to be a passionate tofu lover per se to enjoy this experience. The chefs glorious creations are subtle transformations of tofu leaving it recognizable but oh so tasty, flavorful and rich. Their sublime creations I think could turn even a tofu hater into a quick believer. Tofu is typically regarded as the perfect high-protein dish yet Ume no Hana brings the dish to a level of haute cuisine. The decor is minimalist and you quickly are led into your own small room to enjoy your lunch. The server presses a botton and there opens your bamboo sliding doors to your little private space for the afternoon, a tranquil little room where you will enjoy a nice relaxing lunch. You have the option to pick various menus and we chose a 42 euro or 42,000 Yen option for lunch which came with about 9 or so courses.

The full menu 

To the left: Okara A japanese mountain vegetable grated and cooked with the tofu. This is a dish which usually is made with leftovers from the night before and tofu. The blue covered dish was a soft boiled tofu or yuba skin in broth  and the dish on the right is small fish and a green bitter japanese vegetable called a gomae salad. We also started with a pomegranate and vinegar sparkling juice which was supposed to be very good for your health
Chawanmushi or an egg custard which is not sweet but is usually made with chicken and carrots. Here it is made with pumpkin and seasonal ingredients which is big in Japan. The Japanese try and cook with seasonal ingredients whenever possible. The dish is topped with a cherry blossom flower and a small leaf. This dish was delicious, creamy and light and the cherry blossom added a nice hint of acidity 
This is the Yudofu which we ordered separately form the menu. It is pieces of tofu which are boiled in a clear mild soup and dipped into a soya based sauce before you eat it. It is pretty mild and not too flavorful but really nice and bright and healthy.

Yudofu served into our dishes
Various veggies- snap peas and squash cooked in a vegetable broth
The various mountain vegetables (Nemagaridake (bamboo shoots), fuki-no-to-(flower shoots of butter bur), etc are shown in the basket and the fried veggie tofu. 

Shu Mai with a nice spicy mustard sauce
A nice bright salad of seasonal greens and a vinegar and peanut based sauce
Strawberry ice cream and a azuki jelly based dessert with raspberries

Our beautiful little private room. The guest always sits furthest from the door

Location: Several in Tokyo but we went to the one in Aoyama/ Gaienmae located in Aoyama M's Tower

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)
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