by Paige Donner This Valentine’s Day why not indulge in a bit of self-love? Yes, I mean CHOCOLATE! The good thing about eating chocolate is that it’s actually included in the grouping of Nature’s Super Foods. Gotta love nature! If … Continue reading
for the most demanding clients ´pets : private jets, limos , hairdressers, five star hotels , dog psychology … Everything is possible for animal lovers… sponsored post Next Stop Spain is the benchmark for the VIP clients in arranging their … Continue reading
The Hôtel de Crillon invites you to celebrate love in the heart of Paris in its exceptional and romantic setting.Love is In the Air at the Winter Garden From Thursday 14 to Sunday 17 February, 2013 The historic and sumptuous … Continue reading
by Paige Donner
March 20th is Macaron Day in France where famed patissiers such as founder of Macaron Day, Pierre Hermé, are giving out samples of the flavorful crispy/soft cookie-dessert of choice of French gourmets all throughout the city and even in his Tokyo locations.
All the members of Relais Desserts participate in this joyous and delicious celebration of the arrival of Spring, hosting tastings and sample giveaways in their confectionaries and bakeries not just in France but also in Belgium, Luxembourg and even as far away as Japan and the U.S. The day benefits the rare disease charity dedicated to those who suffer from the Williams and Beuren syndrome.
Some flavors to try: passion fruit, rose, orange blossom, chocolate, foie gras with fig filling…and so many more!
Some addresses in Paris to get you started:
56, bd de Port Royal – 5e ardt – Tel : 01 45 35 36 80
35, rue de Vaugirard – 6e ardt – Tel : 01 45 44 48 90
2, rue Wurtz – 13e ardt- Tel : 01 45 65 00 77
238, rue de la Convention – 15e ardt- Tel : 01 45 33 85 09
Pierre Hermé (also in his boutiques in Japan)
4, rue Cambon – 1er ardt – Tel : 01 43 54 47 77
39, av de l’Opéra – 2nd ardt – Tel : 01 43 54 47 77
72, rue Bonaparte – 6e ardt – Tel : 01 43 54 47 77
Publicisdrugstore – 133, av des Champs Elysées – 8e ardt – Tel : 01 43 54 47 77
Galeries Lafayette (espace Luxe et espace Souliers) – 40, bd Haussmann – 9e ardt
185, rue de Vaugirard – 15e ardt – Tel : 01 47 83 89 96
58, av Paul Doumer – 16e ardt – Tel : 01 43 54 47 77
Jean-Paul Hévin ( 19 march)
3, rue Vavin – 6e ardt – Tel : 01 43 54 09 85
231, rue St Honoré – 1er ardt – Tel : 01 55 35 35 96
23 bis, av de la Motte Picquet – 7e ardt – Tel : 01 45 51 77 48
Lafayette Gourmet – 48, bd Haussmann – 9e ardt
53, rue Caulaincourt – 18e ardt – Tel : 01 42 57 68 08
57, rue Damrémont – 18e ardt – Tel : 01 42 55 57 97
For more addresses go to: Jour du Macaron
When: February 27, 2011 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM
2025 Avenue of the Stars
Los Angeles CA
The Beverly Hills Wine Festival is bringing the best wines from around the world to one location for Southern California’s tasting pleasure! Presented by ABM Medical, Tiffany & Co., Aston Martin, and Lamborghini of Beverly Hills. Over 100 wineries, breweries and spirits are participating to showcase their select varieties at the newly remodeled and ultra luxurious Hyatt Regency at Beverly Hills. Net proceeds benefit the Fran Drescher’s Cancer Schmancer Movement.
Cocktails in Paris at Le Royal Parc Monceau
Vintage spirits and forgotten cocktails are quaffed anew. In a nod to tradition and technology, AMC’s Mad Men Cocktail Culture smart phone app helps users master the forgotten art of cocktail mixing.
And in a campaign throwback, Mr. Peanut, the iconic Planters Peanuts character, has begun to talk (the voice of Robert Downey Jr.) for the first time in the 94 years since he was first introduced with the hope of “charming” consumers.
Vintage consumption is flourishing online and off. Call it the renaissance of retro, from once-passé décor aesthetics, to traditional barbershops for classic haircuts, to old fashioned sweets appealing to our inner child. Even the colors of yesteryear are back. Honeysuckle pink, specifically Pantone 18-2120 TCX, is the new-crowned hue of 2011. It recalls the lipstick our mothers wore, or maybe the tile in our ‘50s bathrooms. Crops of new restaurants pay homage to American culinary classics.
Tapping revived interest in forgotten fruits, veggies and animal breeds, “heirloom” businesses offer rare vintage produce. Lost Nation Orchard in New Hampshire offers orchard shares of Russian apples that arrived in the U.S. back in the 19th century. Chatham Marketplace, a food co-op in North Carolina, sells vintage varieties labeled with histories of their origins. Meanwhile, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello holds an annual Heritage Harvest Festival, bringing back old-fashioned gardening, local food and preservation of heritage plants.
Nostalgic travelers are ringing cash registers where happy memories were once made. Beset with budget cuts, the U.S. National Park Service hopes to inspire nostalgia with historic park brochures on its website, including a vintage 1913 one from Crater Lake National Park. Officials hope to evoke childhood memories of family vacations long past, when mom and dad might “see the USA in a Chevrolet” on a cross-country jaunt when gas was a quarter a gallon. Read MORE on KWE
By Paige Donner
The twelfth annual Coupe du monde de la Pâtisserie saw the Spanish team take home this year’s trophy. On January 24th in Lyon, France, Jordi Bordas Santacreu, Joseph Maria Guerola and Julien Alvare won first place as the world’s best patissiers. These new “virtuosos of dessert” succeed last year’s French Team as #1 in the world in the realm of Pâtisserie.
Coming in second place this year is the Italian team: Davide Comaschi, Domenico Longo and Emmanuele Forcon. In third place are the Belgian team of Dieter Charels, Marjin Coertjens and Pascal De Deyn.
Each team from the 19 countries competing for the title of World Champion de la Pâtisserie had to vie in the categories of chocolatier, ice cream and pastry. The professionals spent 10 hours to whip up three chocolate creations, three sugar-iced fruits and twelve additional desserts that were reflective of the team’s country’s traditions and customs. The showing had to include an artistic piece in sugar, one artistic chocolate presentation and one sculpted ice piece.
Under the Honorary Presidency of Mitsuo Hara and Kazuaki Takaï, each presidents of the two most important professional culinary associations in Japan, the jury judged the quality of the marriage between the textures and tastes as well as the work’s artistry and esthetique. Read More On Local Food And Wine.
by Paige Donner
Malbec from Cahors region in France has a history. Yes, it’s true, Malbec from Argentina has been getting all the attention of late, but there’s another region, the Cahors region in France,whose history with Malbec dates back millennium.
With the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine to England’s King Henry II in the 12th century, the vines of Cahors first won favor among Europe’s nobility. It was, even in those days, referred to as “Vin Noir” or “Black Wine” because of the deep, rich color its Malbec grapes give. It became so well-liked that by the 13th century Cahors Vin Noir represented nearly 50% of the wine exports out of Bordeaux.
Argentina’s most popular Malbec region, Mendoza, was, in fact, planted with Cahors Malbec vines during the 1800s. In 1971 France’s then President Georges Pompidou decreed that the wineries of Cahors would be classified as AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée).
Malbec is the emblematic grape of Cahors. The region hugs the River Lot, along 60 Km. and 30 km spanning either side. The regions’ nine distinct terroirs span from 100-300 meters high. The picturesque region just East of Bordeaux is equal distance from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean to the Pyrenees. The area is considered one of the best in the world to cultivate Le Grand Vins, or Grand Cru “statut de Falerne,” in particular from Malbec grapes. The region is the “Burgundy of Malbec.”
According to vintner Bernard Bouyssou of Château Armandière, it is also one of the prettiest little areas in France. And if it is somewhat overlooked due to its famous neighbor, Bordeaux, and Argentina’s comeuppance in Malbec wines, all the better for those who love the black wine from Cahors. There are definitely deals to be had!
The regions’ vineyard production averages out like this: Cuvees Tradition, round and structured, 70 – 85% malbec, about 7 Euros, can save for approximately 5 years. Cuvees Prestige is 85 – 100% malbec grapes and you’ll find this class of wine to be full-bodied and appealing to the gourmand palate. These bottles you can save 5 – 10 years and can find in the 7 Euro to 14 Euro price range. The Cuvees Speciales is 100% Malbec, is regarded as intense and complex. These wines can be kept for 10 years and more and often start at about 14 Euros.
The nose you’ll get with Cahors Malbec are:
Violet – this is the signature aroma of wines whose grapes were raised in “grands terroirs”
Menthol – this fresh note sets the Cahors Malbec apart from Argentina’s and also from the other South West wines from France. It borders on hints of eucalyptus.
Truffle – this bouquet is the height of the Cahors Malbec. The region has a strong truffle and foie gras culture during the late fall season. It stands to reason that the terroir would yield a mushroomy, woody nose to its wines. It enhances after 5, 10, 15 years.
Cassis – with notes of blackberries and blueberries
Cerise – cherry, dark red, that evolves into plummy notes
Licorice – more than an aroma, the licorice bouquet can at times be reminiscent of a nice savory piece of licorice floating around on your tongue
Vanilla – the signature note of the Cahors Malbec raised along the Lot
If you’d like to read up on the region before visiting, perhaps a novel is the way to delve into the culture: The Novel of The Black Wine, by Jean-Charles Chapuzet. You can find it on Feret.com.
For more information about Cahors AOC and French Malbec wines, Click Here.
2011 Confirmed Chef Line-Up
Friday, January 21 – Brian Malarkey, Season 3 Top Chef
Saturday, January 22 – Jared Van Camp, Quality Social in Chicago, James Beard Nominee
Sunday, January 23 – Kerry Simon, Palms Palace in Las Vegas
Monday, January 24 – Michael Chow, Mr. Chow (receiving ChefDance Legend Award 2011)
Tuesday, January 25 – Jared Young, Winner of Iron Chef
Chefdance was started in 2004 and coincides with the Sundance Film Festival every year to provide the perfect marriage of fine food with film for a culinary experience unlike any other. Chefdance’s acclaimed chefs bring their culinary expertise, passion, and life story to your table. I hope you are able to join us in this unique and memorable experience! For more information on Chefdance, please visit http://chefdance.com/.
by Paige Donner
The cutest, funnest, hippest cooking class in Paris is not easy to get into. Not easy at all. Which runs directly contrary to the vibe once you’re in. Amongst a citizenry that takes its food seriously (UNESCO! cultural heritage designation!) cooking classes among youngfolk have become the thing to do.
It’s almost replaced hanging out at cafes and smoking cigarettes all afternoon discussing the tortures of romantic love as the thing to do when you’re young, single (or in a couple) and looking for some social activity. Well, scratch that. It has replaced it.
There are increasingly more chef “ateliers” springing up and those that have always been around and are now being rediscovered. What the French have found is that a cooking class is 1) Fun 2) a great ice-breaker 3) a level playing field 4) a learning experience and 5) a great way to enjoy a meal or a dessert.
The Super Hip “concept” store, Colette, which is located at 213 rue St. Honoré is the location for Cooklette. The store has such a following that the cutest boys in Paris hang outside of it 5 minutes after closing pleading with the bouncer/doorman to let them in for just another 10 minutes so they can find a last-minute gift for their girlfriends. The 7 ft. tall bouncers invariably say, “No.” Explanation is that it happens every day. But that’s what Colette has become: The trendy Parisian club of concept stores.
Downstairs, in the Water Bar, on the first Friday evening each month, they stage “Cooklette” which is their free cooking class. How do you get in? You have to be one of the first twelve to sign up on their website as soon as they announce the date in their newsletter.
January’s class was devoted to making Galette des Rois. These are the flat round tarts filled with almond paste that the French eat for the New Year. Custom has it that the cake must be cut into as many parts as there are people present, plus one.
It is also always baked with a tiny feve which is a small porcelain figurine or button that designates the recipient the “King” or “Queen”for a day. Another custom, which Cooklette faithfully practiced, is that the youngest in the group sits under the table and chooses who gets the pieces of cake and when. This is so that the person who cooked the cake can’t choose who gets the feve. Égalité, Fraternité, Degousté!
The La Galette Colette class was taught by Catherine Kluger who is famous among Parisian gourmands for her Tartes. Her Tartes Klugerare at 6 rue du Forez in the 3rd. She does sweet and savory tartes: Zuchini, Tomato, Mozzarella; Ham, Parmesan, a touch of Bechamel with some Bacon Crispies on top. Sweet tartes include: Tarte au Cafe’ with grains of coffee and chocolate; Tarte a La Mousse au Chocolat Noire; Rhubarb and Milky Rice.
A very self-effacing chef, Catherine approached the class as if she were teaching a group of friends in her own kitchen. She used her own recipe which rendered a simple but flavorful frangipane galette that was moist, flavorful and flaky.
According to Anais Sidali, Cooklette is just something that Colette does because they want to offer a fun activity for their customers to participate in. The downstairs Water Bar is an ideal location. They just pushed some of the center tables together and Voila’ we had a cooking atelier. Diners were welcomed to stay and observe at the booths that hug the walls of the 20-cover or so blue and white simple diner. A Marseille-based blogger, So Food So Good, did just that
To my left was Stephane Bureaux, the author of Design Culinaire, a book full of fantastic photos and food ideas. Colette sells the book and still has a few copies left. You can’t miss it: It has a carrot and a fork on its cover. As far as culinary concepts go, Design Culinaire is to food what haute couture is to fashion.
To my right were a couple of young ladies who had, after three attempts, finally gotten lucky enough to get the reservation for the course. According to Sidali, they don’t take reservations months in advance, just the first ones to sign up that month get to come. It attracts the most passionate foodistas: The girls were raving about their intended brunch that Sunday at Chloe S.
Our advice: Subscribe to the Colette Newsletter; Sign up for Cooklette the second it’s announced; Get Ready for some Culinary Fun ‘cuz it’s a nice cooking class if you can get it.
by Paige Donner
“La Garde Robe,” is a closet. Which is about the size of this snuggly little wine bar just off the rue de Rivoli, a hop and a skip from the Louvre.
Wandering in late one night after a meal with friends, there were just enough stools at the bar to accommodate the few of us. The high tables and the low tables towards the back, were all full of revelers who had the appearance of having spent the entire night at the comfy little “closet” swilling vins naturel and chomping on made-to-order plates of cheeses and thinly sliced meats.
La Garde Robe ha a loyal following and locals will name it as one of Paris’s top wine bars. You can get a good glass of red for anywhere between Euro 3,50 and 7,00. Come with a sense of adventure, ready to try something you haven’t before. It might be within a recognizable apellation, but likely you’ll find producers you haven’t yet tried.
Or just come for the ambiance. It’s one of those exquisite central Paris hole-in-the-wall wine bars that you’d never know was there until you purposefully set out to look for it. And on these cold winter evenings when a lighted window friendly beckons you to come in from the cold, well, if there’s still room for you to squeeze inside, you’ll be glad you did especially once you’ve tried a few things you may not have before. This is Paris, after all! You can also buy your bottles to go.
La Garde Robe, 41, rue de l’Arbre-Sec (rue de Rivoli) 75001
By Paige Donner
There are 6360 restaurants in Paris. But there is only one that lays claim to the throne of the Trocadéro. There, seated at the right hand of arguably the most recognizable monument in the world, is the Café de l’Homme.
It would be easy to choose to stop in at the Cafe to warm up or cool down, depending on the season, after a session of sightseeing. But it’s not really that kind of cafe. Indeed, it’s not at all a cafe, not even in the French “brasserie” sort of way. It’s a full-on restaurant.
Just slightly at arm’s length, despite its famous address, it is a restaurant that is easily overlooked. You reach the Café de l’Homme by entering through the same monumentally sized doors as you do for the Musée de l’Homme. This is probably why it took me a bit of time to brave the experience.
But once inside, I realized that the Cafe’ is completely independent from the Museum and neither are places that are even remotely intimidating. The Café de l’Homme’s actual entrance is shielded by a floor length dark olive velvet curtain that the Butler/Coat Checker and the Maitre d’ keep firmly shut to keep in the warmth.
Once through the olive emerald veil, the red warmth with tones of leather couches and sparkling wine glasses, greets you. That’s if you can peel your eyes away from the straight-shot view of the Eiffel Tower.
It would be lovely to be able to order a drink at the bar as you await your dinner mates, but, alas, the Maitre d’ will fussily try to seat you straightaway or usher you back outside into the cold hallway to wait. Not exactly overabundant in the art of graciousness. There is a couch-loungey seated area off to the far left of the dining room where you can share drinks with friends. It seats one group. Only.
All snootiness is forgotten however once your meal is served. Appetizers include choices of Riquette salad with parmesan shavings and pine nut kernels; Tuna belly with Basque Country lettuce hearts; and even King Crab salad.
For the main dish the Grilled Iberico Pluma (pig) marinated in ginger is tender, sweet and spicy; the roast French Rack of Lamb with Terragon sauce is a classic; and if you want steak, they serve a 200 gr. Fillet. It’s not cheap: the main courses start at 23 Euros, and quickly average at around 32 Euros.
Remember, you are paying for the view. When you think about it, those across the river who are dining at Jules Verne and looking down at you don’t even have the view that you do. And you didn’t even have to take an elevator to get where you are.
Reservations are definitely recommended. The dining room might have some empty seats at 7:30 but by 8:00 they will all be filled. Leave room for dessert. They do the chocolate molten cake pretty well, but their Strawberry soup with Sichuan pepper and organic vanilla cream is interesting enough of a blend of flavors to have to try. They also serve a satisfying plate of A.O.C. cheeses.
Café de l’Homme. Come for the view. Stay for the food!
Restaurant Café de l’Homme – 17 Place du Trocadéro, Musée de l’Homme – Paris XVIe – Tel : +00 33 (0)1 44 05 30 15
by Paige Donner
Pol Roger, Perrier-Jouët, Piper-Heidsieck, Louis Roederer,Gosset,…these are some of the most exclusive names in the coveted appellation of France’s Champagne region. And now it’s their time to shine in the New Year spotlight.
Bubbly and New Year’s Eve. They go together like caviar and blinis, oysters and aphrodisiacs.
And, as we all know, champagne comes only from the well-designated, well-demarcated geographical area East of Paris. It claims the cities of Epernay and Reims as its own. Everything else might be bubbly, but it can never be champagne.
Of course what’s always fun is to learn the backstories of these gastronomic names of legend. When something becomes so lodged in our collective conscience as are certain brands of champagne, we forget that they started out as people who decided to build a business out of the grape. So, sit back, relax, pour yourself a flute or a “sacred cup” of the festive drink, and come with us on our succinct tour de force of Champagne and a Sauternes for a sweet finish:
La Maison Perrier-Jouët gets its names from a husband and a wife, respectively. Famous and easily recognizable as the bottle with the beautifully painted flowers – Japanese anemones – on its glass, the house was established first in 1811 when Pierre-Nicolas Perrier, estate owner, married Adèle Jouët. Their joined names went on the Champagne Estate’s marquee and now 200 years, and only seven Cellar Masters later, the exquisite champagne is world-reknowned.
If you are in the mood to celebrate with the best of the best, Perrier-Jouët’s Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs is the choice. It’s a vintage that is sourced from a singular terroir, a singular year and a singular varietal. Only two parcels of Grands Crus Chardonnay were harvested to create this champagne, “one of the most rare and exclusive in the world.”
Perrier-Jouët, 28 Avenue de Champagne, Epernay, France
You may be most familiar with Piper-Heidsieck as the champagne you drink from a lady’s shoe – especially designed for the champagne house by Christian Louboutin. Or perhaps you know them best as one of the first and still main supporters of the Cannes Film Festival. But what you might not have known, is that back in 1785, at Versailles, Florens-Louis Heidsieck presented Marie-Antoinette herself his special champagne vintage. A hundred years later, Fabergé decorated the bottle in gold, diamonds and lapis-lazuli.
And Marilyn Monroe? She said she went to sleep with a dab of Chanel No. 5 at her ear and awoke with a glass of Piper-Heidsieck champagne in her hand.
The house of Piper-Heidsieck just released their “Rare” 2002 Vintage only three months ago. “Le Rare” is aged seven years in the cellar and made primarily from Chardonnay grapes with some Pinot Noir. Its subtle minerality plays as an hommage to Mount Reims. The bottle is beautifully designed with a filligreed gold dress. Girls like to wear it as a Tiara. Champagne fit for a Princess, or a Queen. “Le Rare,” has only been made in the years 1988, 1998 and 2002 (just released.)
Piper-Heidsick, Reims, France www.piper-heidsieck.com
Bruno Paillard is a champagne that you have likely not yet had the chance to drink. Too bad for you. It is the youngest of the champagne houses, established in 1981 by then 27-year-old Bruno Paillard. In a region where champagne houses had existed for centuries already, Mssr. Paillard decided to sell his Jaguar MK2 and buy a vineyard with the capital he raised.
Today the Domain produces about 500,000 bottles (for comparison, Moët produces about 5 million) and he exports about 70% of his champagne to Asia, North America and the rest of Europe.
Blanc de Blancs Réserve Privée, 100 % Chardonnay, is a “fresh, bright sparkler,” says Parker who gives it 90 points. Its bouquet is grapefruit and white flowers, its mouth is white pepper, lemon, lime. Wonderful as an aperitif and also can be paired with food.
Bruno Paillard, Avenue de Champagne, 51100 Reims, France http://www.champagnebrunopaillard.com
Louis Roederer’s future was set when Tsar Alexander II, already a devotee of the champagne, ordered his personal sommelier one day in 1876 to see to it that the bottles served in his court should be markedly distinguished from all others. Hence the birth of “Cristal.” After the Russian Revolution of 1917, only then was Cristal allowed to be sold the world over.
The Louis Roederer house was first established in 1776 and has been in the same family since 1819. Today it can boast of being still one of the largest Champagne domains independently owned. They produce approximately 3 million bottles per year and sell in approximately 80 countries.
Champagne Louis Roederer, 51100 Reims, France http://www.champagne-roederer.com
Pol Roger has, for a long time, had friends in high places. During a dinner in Paris, the English Ambassador, Duff Cooper, introduced Sir Winston Churchill to Odette Pol-Roger. At that time, 1945, Sir Winston Churchill was already a man who had marked history. He was fond of saying that Pol Roger (Odette? the champagne?) incarnated all that was well and beautiful of France.
Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill; Its composition is a jealously guarded secret. It is a robust and mature champagne, one with characteristic power and refinement.
Pol Roger 1, rue Henri Le Large 51200 Epernay http://www.polroger.com
Since taking it over not too many years ago,brothers Henry and Emmanuel Fourny have transformed their family domain nestled in the traditional geographic are of Vertus in Champagne. They do something unusual with their Chardonnay, they cultivate it as if it were a Pinot Noir. Why? It has to do with their vineyards’ South-South East exposure.
Vve Fourny et Fils Champagne Rose Premier Cru Vertus Brut has notes of rose and delicate, soft notes of hyacinth. This vintage comes exclusively from the Domain’s terroir, “Les Gilottes 1er Cru.” Refined, velvety bubbles.
Champagne Veuve Fourny 5, rue du Mesnil, Vertus, France http://www.champagne-veuve-fourny.com
Gosset Champagne makes not just delicious champagne but also packages it in wonderful ready-to-gift packs. The Gosset Grand Reserve, 750 ml., is sold with a portable isothermic bottle keeper and a replaceable cork. The house also sells cognac, which they make in the cognac region of France. Another choice for their champagne is the “Excellence Brut” sold in 1500ml. bottles.
Champagne Gosset, 12 Rue Godart Roger, Epernay, 51200 http://www.champagne-gosset.com
Joseph Perrier makes a beautiful gift bottle called the Glamour Josephine. It comes packaged in a red velvet-lined box. The ornate bottle is sure to please any discerning Diva-Luxe in your life who also knows good champagne.
Joseph Perrier Champagne 69 Av. de Paris, 51016 Châlons-en-Champagne France http://www.josephperrier.com
Moët et Chandon. Who in the civilized world has not heard of Moët et Chandon? As noted earlier, producer of 5 million bottles per year, they can truthfully say they have a hold on a large portion of the world’s market of champagne. That’s a lot of New Year’s Toasts!
Still, if you ever get the chance to go to the Domain it is well worth it. Why? Not only will you get the chance to tour the cellars, but you might just get the opportunity to taste their Grand Cru 1975. Hint: it’s a champagne to drink on more occasions than just New Year’s Eve!
Now…as promised…A Sauternes. Chateau Bastor-LaMontagne. This Sauternes is a classic, class act. It is in fact a Grand Cru Classe’. Its pale, light acidity is a dessert in a drink, an aperitif that leads delightfully into the pop of a champagne cork. Delicate, refined, white blossom, pear and ginger.
I might even be tempted to create a champagne cocktail out of the two. Hello 2011!
BLAKE LIVELY AT LE CORDON BLEU PARIS
|Blake Lively, dynamic actress, and one of the young emerging Hollywood stars, is also passionate about gastronomy: recently a tailor-made workshop was held for her and her guests at Le Cordon Bleu Paris. Chef Franck Poupard demonstrated French culinary techniques by preparing the following dishes:
Guinea fowl baked in a sealed casserole, sautéed winter root vegetables Soft centered chocolate fondant, orange compote
Blake was delighted with her course, she tells us about her experience: “My dream as a passionate cook has been to go to Le Cordon Bleu. Never could my most incredible dream have lived up to the experience. The food, the lesson, the chef, the ingredients –all the best of the best. I see why Le Cordon Bleu is world renowned. Now I only dream to have more time to go back to Le Cordon Bleu and spend months learning from the gods of food!!”
Photos: Fabrice Danelle
By Paige Donner
On a recent weekend in Paris, I found myself underneath the glass pyramid of the Louvre, in the grand marble Agora Exhibit Hall, spitting out champagne. And not just any champagne, the best champagne in the world: Louis Roederer, Bollinger, Veuve Fourny et Fils, Piper Heidsieck, Perrier- Jouët, G. H. Mumm, Nicolas Feuillatte, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Moët et Chandon…When Moët poured me their 1975 Reserve Vintage, that’s when I started drinking. It would have been a sacrilege to spit that out.
If there is a metaphor for the Festival of Wines that Michel Bettane and Thierry Desseauve have organized for 5 years now, it is this: Your cup runneth over.
At the festival, named Le Grand Tasting, I found myself in an earthly paradise filled with many of the world’s best wines, from mythical vintages to ones barely known outside of their own appellations, and most all of them from France. This year, 2010, as an exception, there was a side exhibit of Italian wines also featured.
As a local explained to me, Bettane & Desseauve are more than just a couple of France’s most celebrated and respected wine journalists, they are even more than simply the authors of Le Grand Guide des Vins de France, they are the “Robert Parkers of France and French wines.”
This year’s event was held over the Friday and Saturday of December 10th and 11th at Paris’s Le Carrousel du Louvre, which is the underground shopping center/ exhibit hall that is right underneath the Louvre. For a mere 25 Euros you could taste your way through more than 2000 wines and 350 individual producers from France and a small representation from Italy.
“We have Festivals of Film, we have Festivals of Litterature, but until Le Grand Tasting we haven’t had a Festival of Wine…Every wine, like a book or a film, tells its own story. It is the story of the winemaker, of the creator, and sometimes, of genius…” said Thierry Desseauve who, with Michel Bettane, is the co-founder of Le Grand Tasting.
Desseauve and Bettane, according to Desseauve, have plans to take their show on the road to English-speaking countries. Their highly successful Hong Kong Festival of Wine earlier this year has injected them with enthusiasm and they are starting to eye the U.S. and Canada. Their Grand Guide des Vins de France will be published in English in 2011 by Abrams Books.
When asked how was it to take the Festival of Wines to Hong Kong, Desseauve replied that he enjoyed the Chinese habit of embracing fast-paced development and he also noted that as Europeans, they are accustomed to dealing with significantly different cultures and languages. He pointed out that Germany, Italy, Spain are just as different from French culture as is the Chinese culture, in many respects. Both Bettane and Desseauve invested many years as journalist and wine critic at La Revue du Vin de France until it was bought by the Marie Claire publishing group five years ago, which is the same time they founded Le Grand Tasting.
According to Bernadette Vizioz, press liaison for the event, 10,000 people attended Le Grand Tasting over the course of two days. It’s not hard for them to keep count, the price of admission includes a glass for the wine tastings, supplied by Riedel. The attendees on average were surprisingly young and very much the trendsetting crowd. I’ve heard mention a few times that the regional wine syndicates are actively promoting their wines particularly among the French whose consumption of their native juice is down significant percentage points in recent decades.
Le Grand Tasting does its part to elevate wine drinking to its proper podium among Gen Y in France. And the event is doing so in ways that present the people who make the wine as people who are just like you and me, except they spend their days in grape vineyards and in fermenting cellars. What sold out in advance were the special courses, such as the Master Class, that took place simultaneously in the rooms adjacent to the Hall Agora. The standout of these courses was, according to French site iDealwine « Le Génie du Vin ».
The ‘Genius of Wine’ class, included Cuvée René Lalou by Mumm (1998 Vintage), Chateau Angélus 2000, Chateau Gruaud Larose 2000, Clos de La Roche GC (2004) from Domaine Dujac, Châteauneuf du Pape (1998 Domaine duVieux Télégraphe, château Climens 1989, Ridge Monte Bello represents California and finally riesling Clos Ste Hune 2000 by Trimbach.
Another sold out course offering, of which there were 20 separate classes, was l’Ecole des Terroirs. I managed to bump into a few Americans while I roamed the airy, well-lit, elegant and wonderfully climatised hall – underneath the Louvre! – who were thrilled to have just accidentally happened upon the festival last year.
This husband and wife marvelled at the feast of wines they were getting to taste, all for a mere 25 Euro entrance fee. They loved last year’s event so much that they actually planned their trip around the Festival this year. We North Americans couldn’t help but compare Napa’s $25 average cost per wine tasting flight/ per winery to the 25 Euro entrance fee which put 2000 wines, including the best champagnes in the world, at your fingertips and lips. The only limitation to your wine tasting is the hours in a day and your stamina for how many tastings you can fit in.
Le Grand Tasting marked a few firsts this year, notably in the category of positioning themselves more internationally. To that effect their Italian space welcomed 2000 visitors in a relatively small area of 90sq. meters located towards the back of one of the main halls.
In addition, this was the first year that they invited notable European wine critics: José Penin (Espagne, Penin), Neil Beckett (Grande-Bretagne, World Of Fine Wine), Armin Diel (Allemagne), Marco Sabellico (Italie, Gambero Rosso), Enzo Vizzari (Italie,L’Espresso)!
An elegant, hip, affordable, culturally illuminating wine tasting event, Le Grand Tasting’s Festival of Wine is not to be missed.
by Paige Donner
After the opening private reception for BVLGARI at the Grand Palais, where else would one dine than at Caviar Kaspia, Pl. Madeleine?
The more wisdom (?) I accrue, the more I realize that the world is but one big treasure. The key is to intuit the map that allows you to decipher the secret passages that guide you to the soft, exquisite, and often delicious, hidden treasures.
For the most part, the “hidden” treasures are hidden in plain sight. Paris is full of these. One of the most famous is Caviar Kaspia.
Caviar Kaspia sits discreetly and prominently, on the Place de la Madeleine and has done since 1953. When he founded his business in Paris in 1927, Russian immigrant Arcady Fixon simply wanted to share the culinary best his country had to offer with the city’s glitterati. In those days, when Paris was comfortably settling into its own as the world capital of haute couture, of arts and letters, of the ballet and opera…Caviar Kaspia instantly appealed not just to the Russian artistocracy who were flocking to the city, but also to the elegant society as they retired from their evenings at the Opera or Comèdie Française, to the dancers from the visiting Russian Ballet of Monte Carlo…indeed Caviar Kaspar quickly became the place to dine for Paris’s privileged society.
Private Dining On Place de la Madeleine
Walking up the narrow wooden stairs on the left as you enter the 8eme’s Caviar shop, you begin to feel like you have just fallen down the rabbit hole. For the upstairs dining room is sumptuousness itself. On a cold wintry December night, sipping Cuvée Kaspia champagne, swallowing dollops of Beluga Caviar, and washing it all down with velvety, fiery, iced Russian vodka…well, does it get any better? Oh yes, imagine having the chance to talk to the Bulgari jewels exhibit designer for the Grand Palais Paris show during dinner. Ok, now, can it possibly get any better?
But it does. The service at Caviar Kaspar is the kind that is impossible to train for. Either a person understands graciousness and has the gift of anticipatory intuitiveness, or they don’t. At Caviar Kaspar, the waiters are not just handsome, they are gracious, discreet, present, and anticipate all your desires even if it’s simply to replace your slightly warmed glass of champagne with a fresh, exquisitely chilled one.
The iconic restaurant creates seasonal special menus. Click HERE kaspia_sylvestre for the Menu de la Saint-Sylvestre 2010.Their classic appetizer is the raw smoked salmon served with blinis. But if your palate is searching for lighter and flavorful, the crabe royal du Kamchatka salad is divinity expressed on a dinner plate.
Caviar served on a baked potato is one of the Kaspia signatures. Honestly, it is so easy to forget one’s good breeding when you see something like that in front of you. The impulse is to dive in. Thank the sea gods that they serve the dish with a small flat spoon that is perfectly designed to lift the caviar off the top of the potato and savor it all on its own.
They offer two categories of caviar: wild or “caviars sauvage” and cultivated or “caviars d’elevage.” Of the former category you can try these varieties: Beluga, Oscietre, Sevruga and caviar pressé.
Or you can try: Oscietre Tradition, Caviar d’Esturgeon Blanc, Caviar Impérial Baeri, Caviar de l’Empereur, Caviar de Printemps.
As the Parisian purveyors of caviar, they follow a few rules of etiquette for serving and tasting caviar. These are designed to release the fullest flavor and experience of caviar’s subtle tastes.
They allow the caviar to “decant,” or aerate for at least 15 minutes before serving on a small mountain of ice. Avoid allowing the tiny grains of caviar to have contact with anything metallic, which is why it is always served at Caviar Kaspar with the small spoon made of either porcelain, glass, or mother of pearl. Always allow yourself the time to roll the small eggs around in your mouth before biting into them to help release their fullest flavor. Always serve with neutral accompaniments such as blinis or baked potato. The drink to pair the meal with is champagne or chilled Russian vodka.
The small dining room that accommodates up to 18 people that is just off to the left of the main dining room has a hidden cache of pictures of top models dancing on its table tops. Which is a good reminder that although caviar is a serious gastronomic delight, we needn’t be so serious about it that we forget to delight in the sheer raw exquisite pleasure of the experience. Snow. Place Madeleine, Paris. Bulgari jewels. Grand Palais. Caviar Kaspia. Champagne. Delightful company. Gracious service.
The world is indeed full of treasures!
Dedicated Staff from Hôtel Fouquet’s Barrière at this year’s Vendanges in Bordeaux. Proceeds from the harvest, earned at auction, go toward reforestation and also biodiversity research.- Local Food And Wine Continue reading
Yesterday I had lunch at rue Lepic, with Grazia, an Italian friend of mine who lives in Paris and knows it like the back of her hand. When she asked “what’s going to be you PDP photo today?” I replied. “Er… I don’t know yet”. She said “follow me I have the perfect idea for you…” Then she dragged me into Denise’s A l’étoile d’or boutique, the chocolate lovers’ den, at rue Fontaine (a few feet away from the Moulin Rouge). Oh my! What a gas. Not only is Denise an extraordinary character, but on top of that she really knows what she’s talking about when it comes to chocolate. You HAVE to visit this place if you come to Paris. No wonder David Lebovitz (the Paris chocolate master, among other things) spotted her a long time ago already…
by Paige Donner
Stephane Girard was the first non-American president of the Wharton School of Business Wine Club. He’s come a long leap across “the pond” from when he organized tastings for that 700-member club to opening up his first, and a first- of-its-kind, Wine Bar, Wine Shop and Tasting Room in Paris, just off the Place Vendôme. This all-in-one -on-tap -bar and shop is called Wine by One.
“We offer a 100 different kind of wines by the glass. We are the only wine bar in the world to have so many different wines on offer at any given time,” explained Girard at a recent wine tasting.
The key to his success – and the wine bar, if measured by the number of people sipping wine and nibbling on appetizers on any given evening, is certainly already a success! – is the wine pouring/preservation machine that he uses to automate the pouring of the wine tastings.
Girard, a Frenchman, refers to his machine as caves á vins, which houses 8 bottles of wine each and keeps each wine at its ideal temperature and conditions of service and preservation. He didn’t invent this machine. In fact he saw it used by an entrepreneurial sommelier when he was still back in the States getting his MBA. What he did pioneer for Paris is the business model that allows him to offer wines to people in ways that are accessible, affordable and appealing.
“At Wine by One, people have the chance to taste a Grand Wine without ruining the wine or having to buy the whole bottle.”
The wines are set up in their groups of eight in their respective caves á vins for pouring a Tasting (Impression, 3cl), a Tentation (half a glass, 6cl) and a Sensation (a whole glass, 12 cl). What’s great about this is that you can commit to the wine a little or a lot, depending on how much you like it. It’s also a great playground for training your wine palate where you have 100 different bottles from all the world’s regions on hand. They add 5-10 new wines each month, on a rotation method. The machines are set up as self-serve as well, so you almost have the feeling of it being a 7-11 set up – for top-notch wine!
Wine by One promotes itself as being a very affordable way to try new wines and also great wines. This is true, for the most part. Some of the wine tastings do start at about 2 Euro or even a little less. But it’s altogether too easy to want to try the 5 and 6 Euro tastings. Also, the tastings give you slightly more than one sip. So you are more likely to go for the half glass which is easily in the 4 to 8 Euro range for some of the names that you’ve only ever read about. And, of course, when I saw that Wine By One had Les Sorcières du Clos des Fées d’Hervé Bizeul…on tap!…well, of course I had to go for the glass, (11 Euros).
The long and the short of it, then, is that, yes, you can do tastings for a few Euros but likely you will be tempted by other wines. Expect to spend at least 25 to 30 Euro per head, and that’s not even including any food or bottles of wine purchased to take home with you.
Two of the additionally seductive factors of Wine by One are that you can order food and you can buy the bottle you just tasted to take with you and enjoy for later.
Not many wine shops in Paris have the permitting required to be able to sell food. Girard has a unique position for his wine shop, then, in that people can order small bites and nibbles as they’re tasting. You can also stop in midday for lunch which is the French style sandwich, tartine, toasted and with a generous amount of gourmet spread, then finished off with a specialty coffee and all for about 10 Euro.
The leather lounge seats by the window, and the rue des Capucines location just off of Place Vendôme make it a great choice, and one that is slightly updated from the regular Bistro, while still being very French.
Anyone who knows anything about opening up a shop in Paris will quickly recognize that this rue des Capucines real estate is prime and strategic. Girard’s only comment was that he had a good friend who was doing the real estate scouting for an unnamed American coffee franchise who dominates the market with their green goddess icon and storefronts on every U.S. corner. When her client didn’t take the shop that morning, Girard was there with his pot of gold and a pen ready to sign by that afternoon…
Another appealing characteristic of the Wine by One biz model is that Girard has engineered a way to make Wine by One feel like a club. When you arrive, you must sign up for a card that you use to purchase your wine and tastings. Think along the lines of a Kinko’s card. Except that here, they ask you for 2 Euro before they give you the card and you have the option of it being personalized with your name.
More good things: There’s a Water Bar or Bar á Eaux which offers a dozen different kinds of water from all over the world. And they offer complimentary WiFi.
Wine by One, 9 rue des Capucines, 75001 Paris, www.WinebyOne.com
by Paige Donner
Five straight days’ celebrating nothing but chocolate and the only coherent thought left in my brain is that the people who thought of, and then carried out, the Salon du Chocolat are brilliance personified.
“Five days of chocolate madness,” is what they call it and they are absolutely right! That they graciously scheduled the chocolate extravorgasma over Halloween weekend, in France, a country that doesn’t celebrate our American sugar-and-ghouls-day, was just, well, awfully sweet of them! (okay…frightful pun!)
Their names are Sylvie Douce and François Jeantet and they dedicated this year’s Paris show to Fair Trade chocolate, naming it The Green Show.
In fact the 2010 Salon du Chocolat was the event for the
The event has historically represented a link between cocoa-producing countries and chocolate consumers. It has long provided a platform for people to meet and exchange views. Alter Eco, the Fair Trade chocolate brand and importer with offices all over Europe and also in the U.S., was a big sponsor this year, as was Max Havelaar, the French arm of the Fair Trade coalition.
The Paris Salon du Chocolat featured a daily chocolate fashion show where all garments were designed by prestige chocolatiers and made out of chocolate. It featured musical entertainment, the “chocolate trends” parade, photographic exhibitions, a chocolate sculpture competition and more to showcase all the event’s “green”initiatives, which were designed to raise awareness of sustainable development and ethical consumption.
Fair Trade Farmer, Max Havelaar France And Chocolatier Bonnat
One of the more interesting breakout seminars I sat in on was all about Fair Trade and direct from farmer sourcing of cacao. The speakers, a Fair Trade farmer from Peru who spoke in Spanish which was translated by the moderator, Marie-Amélie Ormières of Max Havelaar France, and 4th generation chocolatier Stéphane Bonnat featured a lively discussion about how cacao provides a healthy means of livelihood to farmers who are paid a fair trade wage.
“Cacao for Coca,” is a successful initiative in Peru where coca plantations are being replaced by Cacao plantations farmed under Fair Trade policies. Within five years of re-planting, said the Peruvian cacao farmer, families are able to replace what they earned from coca with their Cacao crops. He also pointed out that the cacao are all mixed with reforestation programs i.e. the cacao plantations are all mixed with tree plantations. Mexico has the oldest cacao plantations cultivated by man.
It was a lucky seminar to sit in on…Master Chocolatier Mssr. Bonnat passed out rounds of his trademark, pure grade cacao artisanal chocolates – several times! – and the Peruvian farmer broke open an actual cacao fruit and had those of us who would, take the cacao seeds from inside and chew on it. It’s the first time I had seen a cacao fruit up close and certainly the first time I’d eaten a raw cacao nut. Bonnat asked us if we could taste the pure essence of the chocolate in the nut. I must say that I did and could understand why it’s considered such a complete food, the “food of the Gods.”
“You can live on chocolate. Chocolate, a little bread and beer. All you’d be missing is calcium,” explained Stéphane Bonnat .
Encouraging the development of chocolate businesses, Entrepreneur Magazine tells us that chocolate consumption has gone from “sinful to unstoppable.” Joan Steuer, founder and president of Chocolate Marketing LLC, a Los Angeles consulting firm, notes a 40% increase in chocolate sales along with a strong interest in “dark, artisanal, organic, socially responsible and nutraceutically enhanced chocolates.” AIWF
Researching the field of sustainability, it is important to recognize that this area focuses on any environmental factor that sustains, maintains, or improves the quality of our life. While being an obvious component of the sustainable system, food nurtures our basic needs for survival and for remaining well. So, does eating chocolate fit into this sustainable explanation?
New York’s Salon du Chocolat is coming up!
What’s better than eating your way through Paris…while taking in the requisite tourist sites and scenery? (Ummm…we’re waiting…!)
You can get it all in, it’s just knowing your choices. The following two restaurant cafe’s each sit on some of the most prized, beautiful, famous real estate the world over. And though it might seem that they would be good for nothing than to see and be seen, each offers solid culinary choices that are sure to satisfy after taking in an afternoon of sites and national treasures.
Of course everyone heads to the Louvre when they first visit Paris, but I’ve long found the Musée d’Orsay to be the star attraction and not just because the waiting time to get in is much shorter. The building itself is a masterwork of reclaimed urban heritage sites and shows French design aesthetic off to its best light.
But after partaking of a full repast of Van Gogh, Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautrec, it’s easy to work up an appetite.
Le Restaurant Musée d’Orsay offers a Le Temps d’une Pause mid-afternoon light menu that perfectly hits the spot. It’s often misleading to think that museum cafes and restaurants will be overpriced. In the case of Restaurant Eliance (Le Restaurant) at the Musée d’Orsay, this isn’t at all the case. My total bill for a cup of carrot cream soup with a hint of orange and coriander served with a piece of carrot cake came to a total of 7 Euros.
It was just perfect to take that “piqued” feeling away that can descend on you after you’ve overgorged on a few too many national-treasure-quality pieces of art in one sitting. Other choices on the menu included Marbled Terrine of Foie Gras and Chicken served with Fig Jam, a slice of aubergine and Tomato Confiture Garnish.
I’m always a salmon fan and their Smoked Salmon tartine is served, in fact, on a pita bread, a change from the ubiquitous baguette, with a side of aioli; Twelve Euros. Also on offer is a Tartine Pôilane, or cured ham “sandwich” though of course their tartines/ sandwiches are openfaced.
You have choices, too, if you want to go in the direction of sweet. They make an American-sized icecream sundae with whipped cream. You can also go for the Pastry selection and hot drink, which includes Max Havelaar – Fair Trade – coffee and teas. Their Spice Cake is a must try. It tastes especially delightful as you dine and take in the sweeping views of the Seine, of the Concorde, the portrait of Napoleon outdoors and the waving French Flag over the courtyard.
by Paige Donner
Pinot noir is a very fickle grape, requiring the utmost attention and respect in every phase of the winemaking process. Winemakers are the first to testify to this, claiming that grapes that have been handled too much can end up making wines that lack flavor and harmony.
Clearly, Pinot noir is a risky (and more expensive) proposition for the winegrower, the winemaker, and the wine drinker. But it is precisely this high-stakes gamble that makes pinot noir all the more alluring and rewarding.
There is much debate as to the origins of the variety, although one currently popular theory is that the Pinot noir grape is an offspring of Pinot meunier and Gewurztraminer. This union helps explain the characteristics behind the beloved Pinot noir. As author Stuart Pigot notes in Planet Wine, “Pinot meunier gave Pinot noir its bright, berry aromas and initial charm, while Gewurztraminer its silkiness, extravagance, nobility, and fickleness.”
The name Pinot Noir is derived from the French words for “pine” and “black” in reference to the varietals’ tightly clustered dark purple cone-shaped bunches of grapes. Therefore, Pinot noir refers both to the grape varietal as well as the wine that it produces. The skin of the Pinot noir grape is relatively thin, making it a tricky, albeit rewarding, candidate for wine production.
As mentioned by Karen MacNeil in The Wine Bible, “Winemakers adopt a minimalist approach, and often a percentage of the grapes is not crushed. Instead, whole grapes are put directly into the fermenting tanks, which also helps maximize fruity flavors in the wine. To keep those fruit flavors dominant, many wine-makers are also extremely careful and sparing in their use of new oak for aging.”
Oregon, inspired by the similar climate characteristics of Burgundy, staked its reputation on Pinot noir with much success. Thanks to ocean fog, California has shown that it too has no shortage of spots cool enough to keep Pinot grapes on the vine as they develop fine fruity flavors and texture. Notable Pinot regions in California include Los Carneros, the Russian River Valley in Sonoma and Santa Maria north of Santa Barbara.
Pinot noir is what put Oregon on the map internationally, and is the most planted in the state by far. Wineries in Oregon tend to be small family affairs. Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot gris follow. Oregon has no such thing as cheap, bulk wine. The climate is distinctly cloudy and cool, especially in the Willamette Valley where most of the wineries are clustered. This gentle climate, which highly resembles that of Burgundy, allows for wines of good acidity and balance, moderate alcohol, and an ideal degree of flavor.
Summer Wine Reads: Johnson, Hugh. The World Atlas of Wine, Ed. 4. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994; MacNeil, Karen. The Wine Bible. New York: Workman Publishing, 2001; Pigott, Stuart. Planet Wine. London: Mitchell Beazley, 2004; Robinson, Jancis. Jancis Robinson’s Wine Course. London: BBC Books, 1995.
When you find yourself in short supply of ginger jelly, cowslip, calendula anti-aging cream, and fresh sprigs of chocolate mint…not to mention Fairy Meadow Tea, make your way to Hazelwood Herb Farm just outside of Ladysmith on Vancouver Island.
Recently purchased in February of this year by Barbara Stevens and her husband, Hazelwood Herb Farm is a swath of acreage that former proprietor of 23 years, Jacynthe Dugas and her husband, Richard White, cultivated into a thriving business of fresh herbs.
When you walk the carefully cultivated and manicured grounds, through the outdoor nurseries, and into the nascent/ sprouting nurseries, it is startling to remind yourself that the whole business is based on the cultivation of seeds. Each year, each season, seeds are planted, nurtured, sown, and with these raw stuffs the business owners furnish themselves with the necessary raw materials to produce their other products, the jams, the jellies and chutneys, the face creams, arthritis salves, body balms, teas and tinctures sold in the compact and packed-full Herbal Heaven Gift Shop located on the premises.
Fresh Herbal Gifts
“Come Christmas time we are always very busy,” admits Jacynthe, present one afternoon during a tour of the grounds by new owner Barbara and her enthusiastic remedy devotee and herbal novice niece, Sandra.
An uninitiated glance around the gardens as you enter and the grounds appear to be beautifully tidy and trim with planted areas of distinctively varied plants. A more careful and focused gaze and one quickly realizes that what you are seeing is a living encyclopedia of rare, and everyday, herbs, plants and latent remedies.
“What you see here is the best kind of functional beauty there is,” says Sandra, who, according to Barbara, helped talk her and her husband into purchasing the property and business. Barbara admits that she has been preserving her own food and cultivating her own herbal garden at home all her life but had “never thought of it as a business.” She, with the support of her husband, son and extended family acknowledge that it’s a demonstration of faith and courage to step out of their “bureaucratic jobs” and “city lives” and into the shoes that Jacynthe and Richard have fashioned out of soil and seeds for over two decades on this little patch of farmland just south of Nanaimo.
“There are 400-500 varieties of herbs here on Hazelwood Farm,” Jacynthe proudly tells you, “20-30% are culinary. The rest have medicinal or other properties.” Originally from Quebec, Jacynthe now does a variety of things, including teaching soap making to local students who come to the property from Vancouver Island University to learn the art of making soap using the plants picked from the garden.
“I like playing,” says Jacynthe, glancing around her on-site test kitchen as she pours a cup of Fairy Meadow tea, one of her proprietary blends she makes from Hazelwood plants, and pushes a plate of chocolate and mint scones towards you that is made from a mix sold in the Herbal Heaven gift shop in the room next door. She certainly has occupied her time productively “playing,” – the shop is filled to the brim with unique items that range from delicious ingredients for the gourmand, to sweet-smelling and purely natural body balms and body care products to remedies that have medicinal properties that keep people coming back…and ordering online from the farthest reaches of the globe.
In 2006 Hazelwood was nominated for a national business award, the Laureat de la Moyenne Entreprise. Jacynthe herself is all about the notion of “economuseum,” the phrase for learning artisanal ways of doing things, especially when traveling through a distinct region. Her husband, Richard, even shot a 13-part TV series, “At Home With Herbs,” some years ago.
Hopefully all of this inspires you to grow and make your own. As you walk the 5-acre property, Barbara joyfully tells you what every living thing is in her gardens: Greek Oregano (good for nerves or depression), St. John’s Wort (flowers are used for anti-inflammatory property), arnica (for bruising, popular with hockey moms), peppermint, English mint, orange mint and chocolate mint; four types of lavendar in the lavendar gardens including “twickle purple lavendar,” sea-holly everlasting, echinacea, Lily of the Valley, yarrow root (the original “band-aid”), Alpine ladies mantle (very rare)…and that’s just scratching the surface.
In the outdoor nurseries, each plant is carefully labeled by name and most also have their Latin name tagged as well, especially for the traditional medicinal varietals. Hazelwood is a popular shopping spot for naturopaths, many who come over to the Island just to stock up at Hazelwood on their living raw materials. The little plants are sold for a few dollars each. Even the final products sold at Herbal Heaven are extremely reasonable, with few products topping $10 CDN. Hazelwood soaps make especially good gifts and the packaging is so sweetly simple, just a piece of dyed paper, tied with a cord, accented with a dried flower, that you feel like you’ve tucked something even finer and rarer than the finest French-milled soap from Provence, into your own personal “gift and souvenir bag for friends and family” as you linger before leaving Hazelwood Herb Farm.
Plant availability changes with the season. Open year-round but double check during the months of January and February. Www.hazelwoodherbfarm.com 13576 Adshead Road, Ladysmith, B.C.
Anette’s Chocolates of Napa Valley used to make the chocolate sauces for the Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory. These are the sauces that are now made for over 100 different wineries across the US. Each winery’s particular wine is included in the making of the sauce, and then specially co-labeled.
When Anette took over this long-standing chocolate shop over 18 years ago, it was already a local anchor, having stood on the very same spot for some 40 years when it was previously called Patrick’s. The current owners, Anette and her brother Brent and his wife, Mary, recall stopping off at the candy store on their way home from school.
When they first took over the candy shop, master candy maker Ed Ratcliff stayed on to teach Anette and her partners his 40 year craft of candy and chocolate making. Most of their customers had been buying their candy from the shop since the 60s and 70s.
Brent and Anette made it a habit to ask their employees, most of whom they kept on when they took over the long-running business, what the assortment should be made up of. Brent explains that the long-time employees are the watchdogs for some of the older candy flavors.
The dark chocolate they use and make themselves, is approximately 62%. And Brent will readily tell you that their wine-infused sauces are actually made with a lot of wine. They count themselves blessed to be asked to participate in the many events around Napa and Sonoma including wine and chocolate pairings and wine auctions.
They focus mostly on truffles. Their boxed chocolates make elegantly beautiful gifts and memories for special occasions. They have over 120 different kinds of candies and chocolates on offer. Anette’s rich burgundy boxes can be filled with as many as 30 pieces and come with gold satin hinges, vellum liners, all finished with a gold taffeta ribbon.
Looking for something tantatalizing?…how about Caramel Brandy Sauce?…Chocolate Martini Ganache?…Dark Chocolate Merlot Fudge?…or how about their signature Chocolate Wine and Liqueur Sauces.
On First Street in Downtown Napa