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Tasty Side to Life Tours Website

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Travel Guide-Best Wifi Cafe & Pizza in Toyko

While on my last trip to Tokyo I stopped at a great little cafe for lunch one day, Good Morning Cafe- in Shibuja.

I jotted it down as a Shibuja jem! If you're feeling a bit jetlagged and looking for a cozy Western food spot with free wifi, foamy matcha tea lattes, an open, light and airy interior and vegetarian options this is your place.

Check out their awesome juices, acai bowls, veggie burgers, umami burgers, japanese curry, great salads and yummy pizza. All for $10-$20.
Daily Fresh Side Salad

Healthy Miso

Green juice

Fresh Vegetable Salad

Margarita Pizza for $9

Good Morning Cafe
Shibuya - close to Sendagaya JR Station. Cross the rd and go straight down
151-0051 and 1-20-3
Adresse : 東京都渋谷区千駄ヶ谷1‐20‐3 バルビゾン11号館 1F Japon
Téléphone :+81 3-5775-4800

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Harvest Party in Champagne- Le Gallais Fête des Vendanges

Credit: almaphotos.com

It's almost that special time of year in Champagne where the Autumn air becomes heavy with the scent of grapes being gently pressed. It's a special time in be in France-a time when 4th generation champagne families who have been producing elegant bubbly since the 1820's get to work picking the gorgeous Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. It's a time full of harvest events and activities celebrating this time of year. Make sure to not miss it! For more info look at the event website here :  http://tastysidetolifetours.com/Tasty_Side_to_Life_Tours/Harvest_Party.html

The past few harvests yielded quality wine, but the tumultuous weather conditions hampered fruit quantity and dampened some celebrations. This year, Mother Nature dealt the Champagne country a fantastic hand, so even with a late harvest there is plenty to celebrate. Shhhh.. don't tell but this just might be the best harvest in the last 17 years similar to the 1996 harvest which was the best in the last 30 years! That is something to celebrate! 

Credit: almaphotos.com

In champagne there aren't many parties to choose from but one that you should definitely mark on your calendar is at the Champagne Le Gallais winery, which is rarely open to the public.  Champagne Le Gallais is hosting a bash not to be missed (in partnership with Tasty Side To Life Tours champagne tasting tours). This will be a grand 'ol feast and requires reservations!  To reserve your seat send an email here or to tastysidetolifetours@gmail.com with your Name, # in party and title it "Fete de la vendange"! Or leave a vm or text @ +33(0) 688151255.
Credit: almaphotos.com

If you've ever romanticized about getting involved in the harvest then the Tasty Side to Life Tours and Le Gallais's party is the place to be. You will get a behind the scenes look at what happens during the harvest, you'll also have the opportunity to get involved, hands on. On Saturday Oct 5th 2013  you'll be able to come to Le Gallais in Boursault, France to pick grapes for 45mins to 1hr, sample pressed grape juice, and understand how champagne is made and even possibly taste it when it is fermenting.  If you can't make this event then you can participate in other activities Oct 2nd-13th 2013.

You'll learn how to read a refractometer and gain a deeper understanding about the importance of the balance between sugar, PH and acid levels in wine grapes. You'll meet the Le Gallais family, sample their various cuvees (Extra Brut, Brut, Rosé) and enjoy a family style lunch on the property surrounded by gorgeous vineyards, a 183o's gorgeous Chateau and an old green house.

We will be roasting a pig and serve it with a nice salad all prepared by the Michelin star chef Michael Nizzero from the regional 1 Michelin star La Briqueterie. A couple glasses of top notch grower Le Gallais champagne will be accompanied by the food and there will be music from a DJ to top it off.

Credit: http://www.dianeabroad.com/

In  2014 watch out for a Spring Blending Session and a Fall Harvest Session where both consumers and professionals will get to experience sparkling wine from an educational point of view (which will require a lot of tasting and hanging around gorgeous champagne villages). Champagne is known for it's history, incredible underground world of caves and world-class quality so it’s a great place to learn and explore!
Harvest Party is Saturday, October 5th| 10h – 14h30 | 150€

Additional events October 2nd-13 if you can't make October 5th. Please email to check availability.

To reserve your seat send an email here or to tastysidetolifetours@gmail.com with your Name, # in party and title it "Fete de la vendange"! Or leave a vm @ +33(0) 688151255.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Countdown to the harvest-Champagne Le Gallais

Champagne Le Gallais has been whispering my name for the past few years. It began sometime in 2010 when I tasted their champagne in a wine fair "Salons des vins des Vignerons Indépendants" in Reims. The owner of the champagne house Herve immediately caught my eye, as did his champagne. 

Credit: almaphotos.com

Herve was timeless- a quirky, gregarious man who was far from the pretentious champagne owner I would have imagined. Herve filled up my flute to the brim with his family's gorgeous bubbly and explained the finesse of the brut I was about to taste. Taste I did and I stored the image of the welcoming owner Herve and the delicious Champagne Le Gallais brut in my memory- tiny bubbles, notes of crisp green apple and a complex long finish. I knew I had to visit the property soon and luckily the village of Boursault, France was only a 1h20 ride from Paris!

Credit: almaphotos.com

On my first visit I was in awe. There’s just something about Champagne Le Gallais. The property has the most amazing feel- softly swaying trees, the sound of the breeze & birds, huge open country land, an ancient 150 yr old wall, vine after vine of beautiful pinot noir and meunier (which make up 90% of his 4 walled hectares) and of course the forever view of a huge 100 bedroom gorgeous ancient "Hunting Lodge" Chateau which was previously part of Madame Clicquots family in the 1830's and is covered in carved stone wild boars, deer and the Greek goddess Diana the Huntress. 

This tiny Champagne house produces not more than 30,000 bottles a year.  Madame Clicquot (of Veuve Clicquot) had built her hunting lodge on the vineyard grounds (calling it a lodge is a bit of an understatement, as it's a gorgeous chateau), which the family is now carefully restoring. What is most amazing is that the vines are hand pruned by just two men, Herver Gallais, and Dominique, his right hand man. 

Champagne le Gallais is a place where you can’t help but lose track of time and delight in the fact that you’ve done so. Then the champagne, oh the champagne. An Extra Brut- crisp and bright with just the right amount of acidity, a Brut with notes of bright green apple, a Rosé aged 7 years with just a touch of caramel and a Millésime 2004 vintage with beautiful notes of aged ripe fruits. This is somewhere not to be missed on a visit to champagne! 

Credit: almaphotos.com

End of September/ early October is the time to pull the trigger and make a visit happen! After the patient wait for the right temperatures and perfect maturity champagne houses have predicted their harvest /vendange for 2013 (around Sept 25th-October 7th 2013). It's an exciting time! Luckily for wine lovers Champagne Le Gallais is inviting you to share in on the job during this special season. 

Champagne Le Gallais is partnering with my tour company-Tasty Side To Life Tours and welcoming everyone to their estate in Boursault sometime the last week of September or early October (estimated harvest party for Oct 6th). Visitors will spend a few hours picking grapes, taste fresh pressed wines, enjoy a meal prepared from a Michelin star chef-huge roasted pig, a nice gourmet salad and a few glasses of Champagne Le Gallais's current release champagnes. 

There is no doubt everything will be delicious. Groups of all ages are welcome. Bring a blanket if you would like to stretch out on the lawn.

For those who love superb wine, gourmet food tastings, and breathtaking views of a 150 year old Chateau, this is a fabulous opportunity to gather with friends old and new to celebrate the harvest in Champagne!

To reserve your seat send an email here with your Name, # in party and title it "Fete de la vendange"! Or leave a vm @ +33(0) 688151255.

150€ per person (grape picking, Michelin star rustic roasted whole pig lunch + champagne). 

Monday, July 22, 2013

The visitor's guide to Champagne

photo credit Matt Bites www.mattbites.com
 It's so easy for travels to get sucked into that evil vortex of guidebook "must see" experiences. A day champagne tasting in Reims is no exception. 

Drink some bubbly at your favorite houses ie Veuve Clicquot and Moet and Chandon, hang in Reims all day, hit the Cathedral, eat some mediocre/rather touristy french food (steak and frites) drink wine from a non impressive wine list  (inclusive of ONLY large producer corporate champagnes), and jump on the train back to Paris before 6pm. 

Been there, done that. Or maybe never been there, never done that but certainly not your cup of tea! You want new experiences. Hidden innovative restaurants deep in champagne villages, funky small producers, and flowing bubbly.  
Here is a quick guide which will help you spend your time with innovative french restaurants, touring and tasting with rad champagne houses deep in the countryside, exploring old school french villages and tasting from producers which don't breed the usual mass produced corporate style champagne.

Photo credit tastysidetolifetours      

In my world a real visit to champagne would entail feeling the soil in my hands, touching 50 year old vines, visiting a small champagne champagne producer owned by a french man w/ a little belly (the albeit result of too much delicious pate en croute or foie gras) with a a bustling passion for his champagne and his land. A champagne day trip would entail touring his families pinky chalky cellars from the 1800's and end with a visit and tasting of 3-4 different types of his champagne with his family sitting around you pointing out the flavors you should be tasting! 

If that kind of experience is what you're after then we compiled a list for you on how to avoid the cookie cutter champagne tasting experience and do something unique while in the Champagne region! 

Champagne Houses to Visit

Veuve Cliquot, Moet, Pommery, Taittinger, Mumm, Ruinart, Mercier, Perrier Joeut, Krug just to name a few. Only visit 1 of these large champagne producers. Really, REALLY I know you drink Veuve and Dom all the time at home (bravo by the way because those bottles aren't cheap!) but the tours at each of these large champagne producers are almost identical and once you've seen one you DONT need to see another. Trust me. Get out of the city of Reims and into the countryside STAT! Before you do, visit one because the 3rd/4th century caves are amazing!

Our favorite large producer tours are :

Champagne Pommery (5 Ave General Giraud, Reims)- If you only visit one large producer during your stay make it Pommery. They are fortunate to have some of the most impressive chalk caves of all the "Grand" houses. Gorgeous caves mixed with interesting installation artwork and an awesome story of a women widowed in the 1800's who brought the brand to what it is today!  A daunting 116 step stairway leads you 100 feet down to a 18k maze of underground caves which date back to the Gallo-Roman 3rd/4th century. The caves are filled with engravings of Roman wine gods, purples hues and installation artwork. While on the visit you'll be taught the process of elaborate champagne creation and see the millions upon millions of fermenting bottles of champagne which are aging in their cellars. Get there 15 minutes early and until 2014 walk around their reception and check out the elephant by upcoming french artist, the giant 100,000 bottle barrel and the adorable little BMW champagne mobile. Appointment only

Champagne Ruinart (4 Rue des Crayeres, Reims)- Ok ok so the giant LVMH owns this brand. While I wish that the Ruinart was still family owned  AND while I don't like huge corporate experiences- this house is still fabulous! Only kicker? They are unfortunately closed until 2014 for construction :( Ruinart is the oldest house in Reims with some of the most impressive caves dating back to 1729. These caves are so gorgeous they are designated a national monument. There is just something special here. Special formations, special light and gorgeous colors. 

Champagne Dom Perignon (20 Ave de Champagne, Epernay)- Another LVMH giant Dom Perignon is the haut gamme label of Moet and Chandon. Sneaky right? They try and keep that a little secret :) The private Dom Perignon tour gives you access to some of the oldest Moet cellars which are rarely seen by the public. Founded in 1743 and with over 2500 acres of land this brand owns the largest amount of space in Champagne and produces 26 million bottles/ year. They sponsor Formula 1 racing and the Oscars. Here you walk through the tunnels which Napoleon used to frequent and you'll be treated to an oh so private tasting in the private dining room or in the garden. 


Small Producer Champagne Houses to Visit

Some of our favorites in the Mountain of Reims- Vilmart, Pehu Simonet, Paul Clouet, Bereche et Fils, Roger Manceaux, Emmanuel Pithois. Cote de Blanc-Bernard Pertois, Agrapart, Driant Valentin, Paul Lebrun, Corbon, Chartogne-Taillent, Larmandier-Bernier Valley of Marne- George Laval, Tarlant, Le Gallais, Didier Ducos, Christophe Mignon. Also the Champagne Tree House which carries one of my favorite small producer champagnes Pehu Simonet. 

Christophe of Christophe Mignon Champagne explaining his Bio-Dynamic approach to Tasty Side To Life Tours clients
Bad news is I would say 85% of these won't speak any English :( Sad I know but you are deep in the french countryside.  Best idea is to hire a guide and translator from Tasty Side To Life Tours.

The gorgeous Anne Marie Huot of Champagne Huot et Fils walking Tasty Side To Life Tours clients out to the vines

Also, surprisingly unlike many other wine regions of the world- ie Napa, Australia, S Africa, Champagne itself does not have the greatest tourism set up. Tasting rooms for small producers are not huge built out systems and there is not a normal menu of tastings to choose amongst. Exactly why you most likely want a guide to figure out which houses DO welcome tourists.

Herve Le Gallais of Champagne Le Gallais in the Valley of Marne meeting clients (Insead MBA) and explaining his passion during a tour of his land and a tasting of his gorgeous Pinot Meunier heavy champagne
Vincent Laval of Champagne George Laval showing Napa wine makers his organic land. Never has he used herbicides or pesticides and his vines are 50 years old. Photo credit of Tasty Side To Life Tours
If you do decide to hire a company they can tackle the language barrier for you and make all necessary appointments a few days before your champagne tastings. 

Champagne Le Gallais- Madame Clicquots Old Hunting Chateau
On the other hand if you choose to attempt to do the tastings on your own keep in mind that each tasting is 1-1.5 hours, private, and the drive between producers is about 30-45 minutes most of the time. Remember that when champagne tasting you ALWAYS, ALWAYS  need to make a prior appointment and you should plan your trip at least 24 hours before the desired tasting day (or 3-4 weeks before if at all possible). There is always the chance that a small champagne producer might say "no" to welcoming you if you don't somehow know the brand or know a family member. So, no brainer- prob best to hire a chauffeur/guide/translator. 

For more info on Tasty Side To Life Tours and to champagne taste in France check out our website orcontact us here.

The Arts and Culture

Top things to squeeze into your day would be the Cathedral of Reims where the Kings of France were crowned, The Porte de Mars-some of the oldest Roman ruins in town, The military museum where the Germans surrendered in WWII (Salle de Reddition 12 rue Franklin Roosevelt 0326478419. Closed Tues)

Reims Cathedral where 25 Kings of France were served champagne during their coronation ceremonies

Inside Reims Cathedral. Stained glass by Marc Chegal
Where to eat 

Champagne's dining scene has some new trends and new restaurants popping up across the villages which the locals love. Michelin star restaurants have also recently made their menu's more affordable. It's almost a no-brainer to eat at one of these Michelin star gems as their prices are 50-75% less expensive than the same level food you will find in Paris! Les Crayeres, La Briqueterie, La Grand Cerf are our 3 favorite yet Le Foch and Les Millenaire are on that list as well. 

From 1 and 2 star Michelin chefs with new affordable 30-40€ menus to Thai/french fusion and even dining at a champagne tree house while perched in the trees in the forest of Verzy, here are 7 top Champagne restaurants that are locals frequent which are adding even more charm and uniqueness to the capital of bubbly.

1) La Briqueterie (4 Route de Sezanne, Vinay)- has reduced their menu from 49€ to 40€ in order to celebrate their 40 year anniversary! They offer lunch which is 3 courses (more like 9 or 10 with pre and apres courses) which is set in the countryside in an old brick laying building. It is farm to table and the chef has a passion for fresh ingredients and the freshest of seafood after having travelled and worked all over the world. The youngest chef in champagne and a restaurant surrounded by 1000's of roses. Not to miss! Dinner at 110€

2) Les Avises (59 Rue de Cramant, Avize)- Attached to the champagne house Jacques Selosse. Enough said :) A neobistro with great food and a charming ambiance. The cuisine: traditional french with modern touches from here to there and innovative, gorgeous plating. Menu is 37€ for lunch and 58€ for dinner. Reserve early! Closed Tues and Wed. Recently loved the light cepe mushroom soup w/ pink lentils, oven roasted quail, toast with lard and a soft poached egg. 

3) Les Crayeres (64 Blvd Henry Vasnier, Reims) Les Crayeres "Le Parc" has recently earned 2 Michelin stars (the highest in the region) and their brasserie "Le Jardin" has a 2 course menu for 28€. Their food is refined and oh so tasty with dishes like foie gras a la plancha with lentils, truffled french fries and pistachio millefeuille. The brasserie Le jardin is literally set in a garden just meters away from the impressive Les Crayeres Chateau which Madame Pommery used to call her home and where the troops in WWI used to dance the night away. Les Crayeres is just a stone throw away from Champagne Pommery.

4) La Boulingrin (29-31 rue de Mars, Reims 0326409622)- A huge platter of seafood, bone marrow that melts in your mouth, sole with butter and capers, pigs feet, foie gras and their famous potato gratin. This restaurant is the top local joint. It has such charm and an energy you can't describe. They are in the process of moving so closed until September 2013 but this is one of my favorite hidden local gems in all of Reims. Located 10 minutes of Pommery, Veuve Clicquot and Ruinart in the center of Reims. 

5) La Cave a Champagne (16 Rue Gambetta 51200 Epernay 0326555070)- Oysters cooked in champagne, foie gras slowly simmered in ratafia (champagne liquor) and butter, lots of butter. This is a traditional restaurant not to miss. Also a stones throw away from Moet et Chandon and a locals secret with a 19€ 3 course lunch menu.

6) Cook'In (18 Rue Porte Lucas, 51200 Epernay 0326548980)Just outside the center of Epernay off the grand "Avenue de Champagne" not far from Moet et Chandon, Perrier Joeut, etc is the relatively newly opened Cook'in which has grabbed the attention of local champagne makers. If you are tired of French food and want a little fusion then Cookin is the place to go. It is modern, creative and spot on thai.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Where to stay in Champagne-Hôtel restaurant les Avisés

Hotel Les Avisés -Avize, France
Should you ever find yourself in Champagne the Hotel Les Avisés  should be on your list of places to stay (along with La Briqueterie in Vinay, Chateau Les Crayeres in Reims, Chateau Les Aulnois in Pierry, Chateau de Fere, Les Courcelles or B & B Maison des Vignes in Verzenay). 
The Details: Les Avisés  is owned by the ever so famous Jacques Selosse. The man, the champagne maker, the legend! Mr. Selosse is a guy with BRILLIANT ideas who has inspired an entire generation of wine growers in champagne with his passions ie-low yields, no chemicals, Grand Cru land, healthy-living soil, indigenous yeasts for fermentation, minimizing So2, aging in 20% new oak, wine left on lees for long periods, absolute minimum dosage, single vineyard cuvees, wine that expresses the character of the year. I could go on and on about Monsieur Selosse but I will stop there! All in all his passion has led him to make profound groundbreaking unique, exotic, intriguing champagnes which are delicious and perfectly complex. He is admired across the world as Jean-Francois Coche in Burgundy and Marcel Guigal in Cote-Rotie and has a cult like following (so much so that bandits broke in and stole $350,000 worth of champagne this April 2013 as well as hundreds of wine labels creating the possibility and fear of counterfeit Selosse in the market!). For some tourists, just being around this man, around his "terroir", hotel, restaurant is enough.

The Les Avisés hotel consists of 10 rooms in the middle of the champagne countryside surrounded by vines (the way a hotel in a wine making region should be, right?). Prices range from 230-380€ per night. The Best Rooms are Skol and Gamei which are the largest with the best views. Cheers and Salute have private terraces. Breakfast- 20€, Animals accepted. Closed August 6th-21st 2013.

The charming hotel is located in the little village of Avize near Epernay, in the Cote de Blanc or land of Chardonnay. Jack Selosse produces the famous champagne Jacques Selosse Champagne (unbeatable quality and very low production) on site. The one downside? It is NOT possible to do a tour or tasting. 
The Hotel is open, light and breezy and housed in a rather modern building and is fully renovated. The restaurant attached is lovely, with high quality ingredients, simple, gorgeous food and a fantastic wine list showcasing wines from around the world (described by Lefooding as "wine list for the gods!". The chef, Stéphane Rossillon is from Le Pic of Valence a 3 Michelin stars restaurant.

The cuisine: is traditional French with modern touches from here to there and innovative, gorgeous plating. Menu is 3 courses for 37€ lunch and 58€ dinner. Reserve early! 
My lunch started with a fantastic light cepe mushroom soup with small pink lentils from champagne, oven roasted quail and was finished with a soft poached egg. The dish was light with a good amount of savory richness derived from the ever so softly poached egg and the lentils. This was plated with a crostini with lardo
The next course was filet mignon with a sauce a l'ancienne alongside a carrot and potato puree and roasted asparagus. This main plate was simple, bright and flavorful. The filet was cooked to a perfect precision (which is the constant you should find in all french cuisine).

A simple and gorgeous traditional french clafoutis was for dessert 

Food was of course paired with a bottle of champagne and for the afternoon we chose the ever so appropriate Jacques Selosse 110€ champagne (VO cuvee- 100% Chardonnay, 0 dosage).

The champagne swept across the palate with a long finish and layer upon layer of deep yet lively intense fruit, organ peel, creme brulee, toasted grains and orange marmalade
This hotel would be the perfect end to a day of small producer champagne tasting in the region. If interested, this our affiliate company provides chauffeur driven excursions in champagne Tasty Side To Life Tours
Resturant Les Avises
59 Rue de Cramant
Avize 51190, France
ESSENTIALS- Has a terrace, open on Sundays, Mondays (Usually restaurants are closed these days in France)
PRICE: 36-50€
HOURS: 12-14h et 19h30-21h30. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday. 

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