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Tasty Side to Life Tours Website

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Paris Champagne Tasting Class

It's no secret that the French love their wine and in Paris a glass at 5-7€ can be cheaper than water! Wine is a fundamental part of life in France. To me it embodies all the things I ADORE about this country-their relentless standards of quality, tradition and joie de vivre!

It's not surprising that foreigners around the world admire the gorgeous, elegant, perfectly balanced and sophisticated wines of France. Yet, for many of these visitors french wine can be rather intimidating as it's marketed so differently. 

In France you can't order via "cepage" ie Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cab. You have to trust the french and their blends while at the same time understanding region, grape, vintage and of course the magical "terroir"! If you want a Pinot you need to know to order a gorgeous glass from Burgundy. If you're in the mood for a Merlot you can get a nice glass of Saint Emilion Bordeaux, etc. The same is true for Champagnes. If you want something rather complex and well aged you should order a Millesime (2004 and 2006 are GREAT right now in 2014 as they've aged 8-10 years). If you want something bright and fresh to go with oysters or shellfish choose a Blanc de Blanc. The act of navigating through a french wine list without knowing these various factors can be rather dauntingLuckily we are here to help. Our team specializes in champagnes and we teach you how to choose a bottle, analyze bubbles, color and complexity and of course the correct and easy way to open a bottle. We essentially demystify champagne! 

We regularly welcome guest for a Paris champagne tasting class and help you taste large and small producers Champagne while pairing these with gorgeous cheeses, crackers, fruit and spreads! 

During our time together we teach you how small producer champagne is able to deliver so much more complexity, depth, and flavor than you would ever find in the champagne of large producers of the world (such as Moet, Pommery, Veuve Clicquot, etc) which produce 10-30 million bottles a year! 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! We teach you how to drink it and how to find it!

Tasting in a gorgeous Parisian flat or cave

We either taste 3 cuvees from 1 producer or 1 Large producer, 1 Small and 1 Rose
Relaxing before the tasting
Analyzing the cheeses and champagenes!
Check it out! 
Here is a little snapshot below of what we will offer. 

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 used in champagne. You will also be able to purchase the champagne you tried for 20-35€ a bottle. If you are a cheese lover than we offer a champagne class with cheese for 85€ and with lunch for 100€. 

Below are more details or contact Tasty Side To Life Tours Here at http://tastysidetolifetours.com/Tasty_Side_to_Life_Tours/Contact.html.

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)

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Authentic Experiences in Paris & an Authentic Cyling Tour in Champagne

Who wants to feel like a tourist when you're traveling? Not me! I always try and sneakily hide my map or fold it up as quick as humanely possible inevitably destroying it's perfect folds and scrunching it into a ball in my purse. Coming back from a trip to Paris with pictures of the Mona Lisa and an Eiffel Tower replica in your suitcase and actually believing that you have captured the essence of the city of lights is a pretty big faux pas in my book. As is thinking that you actually ARE going to bump into a real deal Parisian with a mustache outfitted in a beret and a striped shirt holding a baguette under his arm. Chances of that are low. Very low. What you should and hopefully WILL do is wander off the beaten paths to discover!

Marché d'Aligre is the BEST Parisian activity (before 13h) at Place d'Aligre 75012, Paris 
Touch, feel, experience things you didn't plan (like the Marche d'Aligre above with hundreds of 1500-1700 books or the cheese shop Barthelemy in the 6eme by Rue de Bac which you can actually SMELL 1 mile away before you even arrive)! One of the ways to experience something real is to hop on the 'ol train and come 45 minutes to Reims or 1h20 to Epernay in Champagne! Get outside of Paris just for 1 day and into the countryside where you can bike and taste with champagne producers!

Fabulous cheese shop in the Latin 6eme, Paris

Keep in mind that Paris and its neighboring regions such as champagne have MUCH more to offer and there is still authenticity to be found if you know where to look ;)

Traveling is so much more of an enriching experience and a personal one when you live and feel it while avoiding the row after row of souvenir vendors and clichés. Bike tours are a good example of this. They get you on the streets and allow you to cycle around a city.

Bike About Tours or Fat Tire Bike Tours are among those who make visiting Paris pretty fun. They give you an insider's look at the city and don't just show you what you're expecting to see. Paris is more than the Eiffel tower and Notre Dame, and don't get me wrong, they are marvels for sure, but there's so much life, so many smells, sights and small cobbled and winding streets filled with incredible little stores and cafés.

The same is true in champagne. The Champagne region is more than Veuve Clicquot, Dom Perignon and 200,000 person population of Reims. It's passionate growers, rows and rows of vines and bubbly flowing/ corks popping from house to house and village to village!

Instead of going straight to the capital of Champagne why not cycle around gorgeous vines and champagne taste with growers who supply to all the major brands ie Moet et Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Roederer?

Traveling is about discovery and adventure, it's about learning what a culture has to offer. Go ahead and throw your tour book out for the day. Wander, get lost and do something authentic! If you need help doing so Tasty Side To Life Tours helps you plan champagne tasting biking trips in and around Reims and Epernay just 45 mins or 1h20 from Paris. Contact here if interested in a champagne tour. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Langoustine tartar- citrus, melba toast, impérial Baéri caviar. Cooking class in Champagne

 This post is courtesy of one of our past champagne tour clients who wrote a fabulous article on her blog about her Michelin  star cooking class in Champagne with our favorite 1 star chef Michael Nizzero from La Briqueterie in Vinay!

We bring clients to eat lunch at their gorgeous property during our Champagne Tasting trips. We usually squeeze in a cooking class from 15h30-16h30 just after a tasting at Dom Perignon and just before a tasting with an award winning champagne grower! Pricing for the private cooking class with the head chef is 150€ per person for a 1 hour class or 75€ per person for a 30 minute class. I wanted to share with all our readers the recipe and notes from Annette Freeman. Booking for your own private cooking course can be done here. Enjoy the article and recipe below from our dear Australian client!

Michelin star Cooking Class in Champagne

An opportunity for a cooking lesson/demonstration from a Micheline-starred chef in France? The answer is, naturellement, 'oui, oui!' Our chef was the amazing Michael Nizzero, presently at L'Hostellerie la Briqueterie at Vinay, near Epernay in the champagne region. A snippet of his impressive resumé from their website:

Michael Nizzero is a 28yr old Belgian Chef who joins us from The Waterside Inn, Berkshire, UK. Chef Nizzero spent 4 years at the prestigious 3 Michelin starred Waterside Inn as First Sous-chef, under Grand-chefs Michel and Alain Roux. Previous to this he was Head Chef of Pisces Restaurant, Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai. Under his guardianship
 this restaurant was awarded best seafood restaurant in Dubai 3 years in a row.This already tells us that the food is likely to be pretty wonderful, but we had checked this out by dining at La Briqueterie the evening before: foie gras, delicate fish, and a cheese trolley straight from heaven. What would Chef Michael have to show us in his high-powered kitchen the next morning?

The recipe, he said, was a favorite of his which he had included on the menu ever since he had begun at La Briqueterie: Tartare de langoustines aux senteur d'agrumes , toast melba et caviar d’Aquitaine. After a brief kitchen tour, and some attention to the day's supply of foie gras, prepping it to be baked, Michael turned to his ingredients, laid out on the stainless steel bench.

"First," he said, "kill your langoustine." They like things fresh at La Briqueterie. But if you don't have any handy langoustine, you can use instead yabbies, or scallops.

I'll give you Michael's recipe  - then add a photo tour of the proceedings.

Easy to make at home! After you catch your langoustine, of course. Bon appétit.

Tartare de langoustines aux senteur d'agrumes , toast melba et caviar d’Aquitaine
4 personnes

24 langoustines live or Scampi, peeled and cut into large brunoise pieces

For garnish 
X 1 green chili, finely diced 
X 1 red chili, finely diced 
X 1 bunch chives chopped 
Lime zest 
Lemon zest 
Orange zest 
Salt / pepper 
Shoots beet x 12 
Shoots red chard x 12 
Caviar d'Aquitaine x 40 gr 
12 Melba toast 

For the citrus vinaigrette 
Squeeze and zest 2 limes, 2 lemons and 2 oranges and whisk in a steady stream of a couple tablespoons of olive oil of Papillon, salt and pepper. 


Bring water up to a nice boil. Add live langoustines for 10 seconds not more and immediately submerge in an ice bath. Now separate the head from the body. Use your fingers to crack the back bone. Now pinch the tail and pull very gently the vein out of the langoustine. Now add the langoustine to the vinaigrette with the brunois chili, chives, salt and pepper. Arrange on a plate as pictured. Top with caviar d'Aquitaine.

*These are live so we don't need to worry about how fresh they are! Yet do keep in mind some simple tips of how to check freshness: look at the eyes which should be black, the shell or color should be red and there should never be a strong fish smell!

Juice of three different citrus: lemon, lime & orange.
Zest of the three citrus.
Quality virgin olive oil.
Combine half-and-half citrus juice and olive oil and season.
Chop previously prepared langoustine into 1cm chunks.
Add zest to chopped langoustine.
Mild red and green jalapeño peppers
finely diced (with the skill of a professional chef, of course)
Add diced peppers to the langoustine.
Chives, chopped finely with similar skill.
Add chives to langoustine.
Michael adds the vinaigrette to the langoustine.
Finished langoustine and vinaigrette mixture.
Spoon mixture into a small circular mould to shape for serving.
Decorate with tiny melba toasts.
Garnish with some delicate  greenery.
Michael's suggested brand of caviar.
Top with a generous spoonful of caviar.
That went quickly....

In case you need help with technique in terms of the langoustine go ahead and watch this Youtube video from Pavillion France of how to prepare the live langoustine!

Champagne Wine Route: Tasting at Taittinger vs Pommery in the Champagne region

Rolling hills, art deco architecture, birds chirping, row after row of vines for as long as the eye can see and the echoing familiar sounds of corks popping-THIS is champagne!

Where to taste, eat, what to see/do on a champagne tasting trip is always a tough question! In my book the thing to do is to get lost in the gorgeous champagne countryside tasting with real deal "growers"as opposed to tasting with the names we know and love from home. I know sounds counter intuitive, right?

In champagne there 14,000 champagne growers who supply all the grapes to the large brands or "negotiants" we know and love-ie Veuve Clicquot, Louis Roederer, Krug, Ruinart, Dom Perignon, Pommery, etc. Just 15 minutes outside Reims you are literally surrounded by 19,000 growers and 14,000 of these vigneron independent sell their grapes to the big commercial houses. 5,000 of these small independent wine growers are left for you taste their splendors :) Speaking french is nearly mandatory so if you don't speak it than you better hire Tasty Side To Life Tours.

If you decide to stay in Reims we have some tips for you below!

Private tasting at Veuve Clicquot

If you're American naturally the first large champagne producer which most likely pops to mind is Veuve Clicquot. While Veuve Clicquot is centrally located in Reims and is quite gorgeous please do keep in mind that the French don't heavily drink Veuve as it is mass marketed to the USA. Veuve is great because they do own some of the best "Grand Cru land" ie terrific soil in champagne yet the downside is they can be quite hard to get into as they limit the size of their tastings.

Veuve Clicquot

Tasting of Champagne Veuve Clicquot

Recently this has changed and they offer many more tastings than previously! If you need help getting a reservation please contact us but it you decide to skip Veuve why not taste champagne at two houses which are more regional to France?

Two such fabulous alternative champagne houses which are nearby (5 minutes down the road) are Taittinger and Pommery. I'll give you a quick little pro and con list of both.

Caves of Champagne Taittinger

Pros- Fantastic history. A gorgeous 11th century church Sainte Nicaise was burned to the ground during the French revolution. On top of the barren ground Taittinger was built. Beneath it are caves dug out in the 3rd century by the Romans with engravings from the World wars. 

Champagne- for a large house it has fantastic minerality while giving you a great acidic bright and crisp long finish. Nice!

Details- This tasting and tour is 1 hour and includes 1 glass of Brut. Pricing is 16-22€. English tours are at 10h20, 11h, 11h50,14h20, 15h and last tasting at 16h. Visit is 1hr with tour and tastings. Tastings only not possible. Taittinger- 9 Rue Saint Nicaise, 51100 Reim +33 0326854535

Cons- Commercial Tour. Starts with a video which could put you to sleep ;) Only 1 glass of champagne for the tasting. Aesthetics of outside building- not special. Large tour with 10-30 people.

Reservations: Not necessary

Champagne Taittinger

Champagne Pommery


Pros- Certainly one of the most GORGEOUS champagne houses to visit with ancient caves and a never ending staircase down into the chalk caves. The light is beautiful reflecting off the ancient chalk walls and there is a fabulous history to this house as well.

Widowed Madame Pommery lost her husband and built Pommery to what it is today alone in the 1800's! I love their passion for art and installation artwork. They have one of the largest barrels in the world engraved and previously brought to the World Fair in the 1900's by 24 oxen. The caves here were dug out in the 3rd century by the Romans are gorgeous and engravings inside the caves are unique to the region and fabulous. I also love the installation artwork which varies seasonally from a carousel, a giant paper mache egg, self moving boots, etc.

Champagne- Traditional brut is quite boring and mainstream meant to please the masses. YET their vintage cuvee called "Cuvee Louise" is a tribute to the window Louise and is made from only Grand Cru vineyards in Ay, Avize and Cramant. This cuvee has a richness or rare complexity and aromas of quince and dried acacia with a gorgeous minerality and roundness. I'd compare this cuvee to Dom Perignon. It is certainly worth a visit to taste this cuvee!!

Cons- Boring traditional cuvee. Slight commercial feel. Large 10-30 person tour. The Cons here are overshadowed by the various positives in my book :) I LOVE Pommery and it along with Ruinart and Veuve are my favorite large producer tours!

Reservations: Yes. We (Tasty Side To Life Tours) can help if you contact us

Caves at Champagne Pommery

Pommery Different cuvees or blends of Champagne
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