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10 Best Restaurants in Paris for Wine lovers

Posted by gen On July - 12 - 2013

The Ten Best Restaurants in Paris for Wine lovers- Cellar Tours Selection

Paris is a city of over two million people, and is today the undisputed economic, political, artistic and gastronomic hub of France. Citizens of Lyon would undoubtedly disagree, but as far as we are concerned no other city in France offers as much variety of places to eat and drink: be it high-end haute-cuisine or brasseries off the beaten track. And of course, wine lists containing both country reds and the big names of Bordeaux and Burgundy have always been an honored part of at the Parisian high-end restaurant experience.

However, a revolution in the city’s gastronomic scene has been taking place over the last three years, as a new generation of bistros and bars are making the wines far more important than the food — which has to be up-to-scratch nonetheless, but now you choose the wine first and then the chef will match appropriate dishes.

So it’s a very exciting time to be a wine lover dining out in Paris. The classic Encyclopedia size wine lists at venues like La Tour d’Argent still exist for those who love freedom of choice, which is exactly what a top wine list provides for oenophiles. The other key factor, which elevates Paris above most cities is the sheer volume of educated sommeliers in Paris, who will help you navigate those giant-size lists with ease. These venues are joined by the new kids on the block, smaller restaurants that serve a wide section of good value wines by the glass, often specializing in one region or wine style, natural wines being currently in vogue. Their numbers are growing so we’ve done the hard work for you and selected the best below.

This was a hard list to make, but here are our ten favorite restaurants in Paris for wine lovers:

La Tour d’Argent

15-17 Quai de la Tournelle

Established in 1582, La Tour d’Argent has recovered its top-class status after a slightly shaky period following the death of Claude Terrail in 2006. The main event, other than Chef Laurent Delarbre’s exquisitely refined cooking is the 15,000 bin wine list, surely one of the largest in the world! Head Sommelier David Ridgway is a true professional and will guide you toward the perfect pairing as this list literally has a wine for every eventuality. A must visit for every wine lover once in their lifetime.

tour

Au Bourguignon du Marais

52 Rue Francois Miron,

Sip a superior wine with your excellent meal here at barely above retail prices, in a fantastic atmosphere! This venue is a dream for locals and tourists alike — great food, polite, attentive service (not always a given in Paris) and a wide selection of affordable wines. The owners generally stay away from the big names, so expect to find unexpected and hidden gems in their fantastic list.

marais

Spring

6 rue Bailleul

A wonderful restaurant — if you can get a table – Spring has been wowing the Parians food establishment since 2006 with American born Daniel Rose’s take on classic French cuisine. The wine list is a similar delight, carefully compiled by Joshua Adler and presented with aplomb by sommelier Sandra de Barros. Their selections are extensive without being unwieldy, well-chosen and include plenty of affordable options by the glass.

spring 5

Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée

25, Avenue Montaigne

One for the traditionalists, Alain Ducasse’s restaurant at the hotel Plaza Athénée serves 3 Starred Michelin cuisine as refined and mind-blowing as any you’ll find in Paris. The opulent, formal surroundings are complimented by a classically styled, elaborate wine list which is a Bordeaux lovers delight. Extensive selections of older Bordeaux vintages are on offer, as well as an impressive selection of vintage Champagnes. Sommelier Laurent Roucayrol can assist with your choices but make no mistake, this is a place for a wine splurge, not a place to go on a budget.

plaza

Frenchie

5-6 Rue de Nil

Blink and you’ll miss it, Frenchie is a tiny haven of great bistro style cooking and fantastic wine pairings from small domaines and family enterprises, no big names to be found here! Sommelier Laura Vidal likes to focus on non celebrities, so expect lots of natural wine choices and wines from regions you probably won’t have heard of. A great place to seek out the lesser known.

Frnch

Le Grand Vefour

17 Rue de Beaujolais

A monument to the importance of Paris as a capital of Gastronomy, Le Grand Vefour is a 3 Star Michelin restaurant founded in the 18th century. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful in Paris and has a very long, extensive wine list to match. The bias to French wines is understandable, considering that every major region in France produces long-lived classics. Burgundy lovers are in for a particular treat, but we would head to the Loire for the best value.

grand 4

Epicure at Hotel Le Bristol

112, Rue du Fauborg Saint-Honore

Undoubtedly one of the finest hotel dining experiences in Paris, Epicure is a hard act to follow with chef Eric Frechon’s impeccably executed take on the French classics. Locals wait months to get a table at this coveted restaurant, which also houses an extremely fine wine list with a good mix of French and international wine choices. The sommelier is one of the most helpful and obliging we’ve ever met in this city.

epicure

Epicure 2

Le Porte-Pot

14 rue Boutebrie

Rising star Guillaume Dupre is as far removed from the sommelier stereotype as can be: warm, friendly and not at all intimating! He has opened a fantastic bistro and wine bar in the heart of St Michel that serves delicious fusion cuisine and some more traditional favorites. His wine list is a delight, imaginatively put together and reasonably priced, he insists on promoting the lesser known and less celebrated. His selection of Beaujolais is second to none.

porte

Cafe Burq

6 Rue Burq

A real gem in Montmartre’s mass of touristy restaurants, Cafe Burq specializes in bringing you the best selection of organic wines available across France. The wine list isn’t massive, but every wine has been carefully chosen and offers exceptional value for money. Chef Laurent Cardillac creates superb dishes to accompany your wines and this venue is open to 2 am most nights. So there’s no rush to get a table!

cafe-burq

Le Garde-Robe

41 rue de l’Arbre Sec

Let the sommelier duo Nathalie and Robin pair your wines with your food choices and you can’t go far wrong at this delightful bistro near the Louvre. They offer over 200 different wines from around the world, but no list. Instead you simply ask for a recommendation and they will be happy to serve any wine they stock by the glass. Wines are complimented by the ever-changing Plats du Jour choices and a selection of charcuterie and fresh cheeses.

Garderobe

Wine Tours and Tastings in the Loire Valley Part 1

Posted by gen On March - 18 - 2011

Wine Tours and Tastings in the Loire Valley

By Simona Piccinelli

The Loire Valley is a sinuous strip of vineyards running along the mighty Loire river in the heart of France, from the Massif Central all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. This beautiful region was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000  thanks to its beautiful landscape, gripping history (since Charles VIII moved here, it has been home to the French aristocracy) and literature (Rabelais, Balzac and Alain Fournier were all born here), lavish chateaux, historic towns and villages. We recently had the chance to go visit the region on site inspection and herewith some notes and photos from our trip.

Loire Valley

We took a trip to the wine country to learn about the more than 60 wine appellations (AOC) of the Loire Valley, from Sancerre to Nantes: 7 days, 750 km, 21 wineries, 14 restaurants, from Michelin starred to cozy bistros, 10 chateaux: a tough job, but someone had to do it :)

Photo credit: theeuropeanwinetable.blogspot.com

Photo credit: theeuropeanwinetable.blogspot.com

First stop was Sancerre, home of the same named great white wine, the greatest expression of Sauvignon Blanc. The appellation was created in 1936 (for white wine; for reds and rosés then it was later in 1959) and there are fourteen communes eligible for the appellation. One of them is Chavignol, better known for its famed goat cheese (Crottin de Chavignol). Here you can find the Domaine Henri Bourgeois estate. The Bourgeois family has produced wine for 10 generations; today, it is managed and run by the exuberant Mr. Jean Marie Bourgeois, who increased the estate vineyards up to 65 hectares and also launched a new winery in Marlborough, New Zealand (another Sauvignon Blanc hotspot). His detailed attention to the different terroirs can be easily found in all of his Sancerres. One of our favourite wines was La Bourgeoise, made with 50 year old vines.

Loire Valley Wine TastingLoire Valley Wine Tasting
Another very interesting wines estate  in the area is Daniel Chotard , in Crazancy en Sancerre.

After a quick stop in Gien, famous for its ceramics – and in Orléans – liberated from the English by Jeanne d’Arc in 1429 – we arrived in Blois, home town of Louis XII. We enjoyed a nice walk through the mediaeval cobble stoned alleys and a visit to the Blois castle. It is one of the most important castles in Loire Valley and it features 3 different architecture styles, one for each wing built by different kings: gothic for Louis XII, renaissance for François I and baroque for Gaston d’Orléans.

Finally lunch time!!! At Michelin starred «Au Rendez- vous des pêcheurs» owner -chef Christophe Cosme impressed us with pike perch with potatoes, celery and foie gras, paired with Les Veilleurs Blanc produced  by Michel Quenioux at Domaine de Veilloux.

Loire Valley Wine Tour

Loire Valley Wine Tour

We walked thought many vineyards and visited several wineries in this part of the Touraine and Cheverny appellations and we felt in love with an ancient grape: Romorantin. It is a traditional French white grape, that legend says was introduced to the region by King François I.

We particularly loved Romorantin made by Domaine de Huards and by Henri Marrionet. Domaine de Huards started with 4 hectares in 1950 and now owns 35 hectares thanks to vigneron Michel Gendrier’s energy and obstinacy. He produces natural wines, with biodynamic viticulture. So no chemicals at all in the vineyards, no oenological products (except for small doses of sulfites) and the use of natural yeasts in the cellar. We particularly loved the Cuvée François Ier A.O.C. Cour-Cheverny, made with 100% Romorantin grapes, from 50 to 83 years old vines. It has a fresh bouquet, it is rich on the palate and has an excellent balance. Long and elegant after taste.

Loire Valley Wine ToursLoire Valley Wine Tours

Henri Marrionet at the is one of the leading wine maker of the region. He loves to work with indigenous grape; in his 47 hectares he planted Gamay (and also a lost variety such as Gamay de Bouze) and Cot (known also as Malbec) as the main red varieties; and then Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Romorantin for the white ones. He planted also some ungrafted vines. His wife and daughter-in-law were excellent hosts, we spent a very delightful and interesting afternoon, walking in the vineyards, talking about their vineyard management and wine making philosophy and tasting their wine range.  We were fascinated by Cepages Oubliés 2008 (100% Gamay de Bouze), Vinifera (ungrafted Cot) and Provignage 2005 (100% Romorantin from pre-philloxera vines).

Our home for these days was Domaine Hauts de Loire, a hunting lodge built in 1860, in the middle of a forest with a private lake. It has a 2 Michelin starred restaurant, run by chef Rémy Giraud, who pampered us with his amazing cuisine and his impressive wine list. We really enjoyed the Veille Vigne 1998 Chateau Gaillard.

Loire Valley Wine Tour

Loire Valley Wine Tour
Part 2 Coming Soon…

Chambord

Memorable Dishes of 2010in France, Spain, Italy, and Ireland

It’s become an annual tradition: we look back at the last year and consider what the best meals of the year were.  Last year we focused on Italy, and this year we are doing it across the board.

As we travel throughout the five countries where we offer our gourmet tours (France, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and France) throughout the year, between the whole team we get to try literally hundreds of restaurants throughout the year. These range from hole- in- the wall – family restaurants to gastro pubs to Michelin starred high end eateries.

We have selected some of our favorite dishes (as you can see we tended to favor simple preparations and top quality ingredients over complicated dishes)  this past year with links to where we were lucky enough to taste them.

May 2011 be a terrific year for all our readers, may you eat and drink very well!

1. Seafood platter, with delicious lobster and oysters, at Aherne’s in Youghal – county Cork, Ireland

Memorable Dishes 2010

2. Frog legs at Maison Lameloise in Burgundy

Memorable Dishes 2010

3. Pizzoccheri at Locanda Altavilla in Valtellina

Memorable Dishes 2010

4. Amazing Irish breakfast with wild smoked salmon and carragheen pudding at The Mill in Dunfanaghy – county Donegal

Memorable Dishes

5. Scallops at Le Coquillage of Chateau Richeaux and informal tasting of oysters (creuses and plates) in Cancale


Memorable Eating 2010

 

6. Pan fried eel and salad with shallot vinaigrette at 2 Michelin starred restaurant at Domaine des Hauts de Loire in the Loire Valley


Memorable Dishes 2010

7. Spring specialty with wild asparagus at La Subida in Friuli

Memorable Dishes 2010

8. Strawberry millefeuille at Venissa (owned by top Prosecco producer Bisol) in Venice

 

www.PassioneGourmet.it

 

9. Grilled Rodaballo (Turbot ) at Elkano in Getaria, Spanish Basque Country

Memorable Dishes 2010

10.  Sole with Fennel, Bergamot and Med Flavors at Celler de Can Roca in Catalunya, Spain

Memorable Dishes 2010


Parlez-Vous Fromage??

French Cheese- Brie de Meaux melting

by Martina Hemm

Navigating your way through a mélange of French cheeses can be a bit daunting and leave you speechless, not in the least because there are over 1000 varieties to choose from. But before you walk away from your local cheese monger overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of creamy, milky, and smelly goodness that is French cheese, let me give you just a few names you would not want missing from your vocabulary, or table. After all, as the wise and clearly French lawyer and gourmet Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin once said, “A meal without cheese is like a beautiful woman with a missing eye”.

Most of the following cheeses have been designated with the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée or AOC, which controls the production and origins of the cheeses affiliated with this status.

1.  Roquefort – AOC 1925

The oldest and maybe most famous cheese of France, Roquefort received its official designation of origin in 1925, but its patent dates back to 14th century.  This sheep’s milk cheese derives its signature taste and trademark green-blue veins from the mold that it forms while aging in the natural caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon. When it has reached its peak Roquefort will appear to melt— the semi-soft cheese becoming even softer in its prime. The French savor its strong, pungent flavor spread thickly on a slice of buttered bread. Now a bottle of Blanc de Blanc and you have yourself a meal.

2.  Bleu, de Bleu de Auvernia, de Bresse, de Sassenage, Bassignac…

As with Roquefort, blue and green veins of mold run through the semi-soft white cheese, marking it as a Bleu and lending a signature taste. However, since these cheeses are not aged in the caves of Roquefort, Bleu cheese neither has the same name nor flavor as a Roquefort, deriving their names from the individual villages they come from instead. Although Bleu cheese is usually made from cow’s milk, you can also find Bleu de Chevre, made from goat’s milk, or Bleu de Brebis, produced with sheep’s milk.

French Cheese Bleu d'Causses

3.   Camembert de Normandie – AOC 1983

Recreated throughout the world, the true Camembert traces its origin to 11 century Normandie, but only officially became known as Camembert in the 18th century. To best conserve the velvety soft cow cheese, it is sold in small wooden boxes. Keep an eye open for Camembert de Normandie; this is a ladle-molded Camembert that is usually made with unpasteurized milk, which helps the true, mild and creamy milk flavor of this cheese unfold.

4.  Brie de Meaux – AOC 1980; Brie de Melun – AOC 1990

Proclaimed “the king of all cheeses” during the Congress of Vienna in 1968, this soft cow’s milk cheese has proven its popularity as a mainstay on menus around the world. In its prime the white rind of fungus should smell like a fresh, damp forest in the springtime, while the cheese itself must be soft and yellow. The cheese must be yielding through and through, if you cannot easily glide through the cheese with a cheese or even butter knife, it is not yet ripe. Be wary of Brie that has a slight smell of ammonia, it is probably past its prime.

5. Reblochon- AOC 1958

The story as to why this softer than Brie cheese is made with the milk of three different breeds of cow attests to the ingenuity of Savoie farmers. In an effort to evade paying their landowners high taxes on milk, 13th century farmers would only partially milk their cows, only to return to milking once the inspectors had left. This act of re-blochaient, or re-milking, is an integral part of the cheese’s production, as it offers a creamier milk that affords Reblochon its extraordinary consistency. A true Reblochon is produced from the second milking of Abondance, Tarine, and Montbéliarde cows. To facilitate the aging process, Reblochon is washed in whey and turned every two days as it rests in caves or cellars. The nutty, musky, and slightly herbal taste of the cheese meshes well with a fruity Beaujolais-Villages. Be sure to try Rebolochon when it is just ripe, any longer and its flavor turns bitter.

6.  Munster-Géromé – AOC 1969

Munster’s origins lay behind the walls of Benedictine monasteries situated in the Munster valley.  To escape the dull drum of their vegetarian diet, the monks invented this cow’s milk cheese, best enjoyed by breaking through its soft rind and scooping out its gooey center with breadsticks.  During its maturation the cheese is continuously turned and washed with water from the Vosges, which develops the cheese’s signature red, furrowed rind. Follow in the monk’s footsteps and savor creamy threads of Munster with a glass of chilled Riesling.

French Cheese Munster

7. Époisses – 2004

Yet another spoonable French cheese, Epoisses is for the lovers of a truly smelly fromage. This cow’s milk cheese originated during the 18th century in the midst of Burgundy at the Abbey de Citeaux. The cows that produce the milk for a true Epoisses graze for three months in the meadows of Burgundy, after which their milk is coagulated, washed with brine, and finished with white wine or brandy. The dark orange rind hides a silky interior rich with a salty and pungent flavor, which is great with sweet bread like a buttery brioche or deep-flavored walnut bread.

8.  Comte

From the region of Franche-Comte, this cow’s milk cheese melts in your mouth dissolving into a nutty bite that pairs beautifully with a dry white wine. The texture is firm but soft to eat, and the buttery yellow color of the cheese contrasts beautifully with its dark rind.

9. Chevre
Chevre, meaning ‘goat’ in French, refers to all cheeses made of goat’s milk. Chevres are exclusively made from goat’s milk and may be enveloped in herbs or leaves of their region, bathed in white wine, or coated in vegetable ash. The texture ranges from fresh, soft, semi-soft, and cured.

10.  Crottin de Chavignol – AOC 1976

One of the most famous Chevres, Crottin de Chavignol is produced in the region of Berry and derives its name from the town of Chavignol where it was first crafted. The goat’s milk cheese is refined in a bath of Sancerre wine, which is also cultivated in the region.

11. Tome des Bauges – AOC 2002;  Tomme de Savoie

Tommes are traditionally named after the towns in which they are produced and generally low in fat since they are made from the skimmed milk left over after making butter. We differentiate between Tommes made with milk from the summer and those composed of winter milk.  In the summer cows graze in mountain pastures, while in the winter they feed on hay. The summer milk lends a fruitier taste to the cheese, resulting in very distinct flavors between seasonally produced Tommes.

12.  Neufchâtel – AOC 1969

Known to many as a flavor of cream cheese, Neufchatel has much more noble platforms than bagels. Made in the Normandie from unpasteurized whole milk, this cow’s milk cheese is handcrafted by letting the coagulated milk hang in cheese cloth for 12 hours, after which the bacteria in the milk will form a layer of snow white layer of mold around the cheese while it ages for at least three weeks in damp caves. One of the most curious and traditional shapes this cheese comes in is that of a heart. Supposedly this began during the 100-year war when a young French girl gifted her future husband with her heart made of Neufchatel.

French Cheese Comte Vieux

The southwest of France is a treasure trove of bijoux villages, spirit lifting landscapes and superb food and wine experience. The Dordogne and Perigord in particular are simply breathtaking and magical places which we cannot recommend highly enough. You can sleep in fairy tale Châteaux, meander through the region’s spectacular rivers, visit picturesque hamlets and taste some of the best traditional cuisine in France. Best of all, this is an exceptionally friendly area where you will receive a truly warm welcome.

Most beautiful villages Dordogne

Here are just a few of the many reasons why you should seriously start planning your next vacation in Dordogne/Perigord:

1. Sarlat

Most beautiful villages Dordogne

2. Perigord Truffles

Perigord Truffles

3. Domme

Perigord villages

4. Wines of Cahors

Cahors wine country

5. Brantome- Venice of Perigord

Brantome, Venice of Perigord

6. Rocamadour

Spiritual Dordogne

7. Monbazillac wine country

Monbazillac wine country

8. Monpazier

Beautiful Monpazier in Dordogne

9. Saint Cirq Lapopie

Beautiful Dordogne

10. Ancient man- Perigord is full of prehistoric sites and caves such as the Gouffre de Proumeyssac

Ancient caves in Perigord

Where to stay in Dordogne/Perigord.  We love the classic Vieux Logis in gorgeous Tremolat, the stylish and refreshingly contemporary Les Merles, the  Château de la Treyne for its Michelin starred dining and unbelievable position over the river, the Château Vigiers for golf lovers, Château les Baudry for cozy French hospitality and Le Moulin de l’ Abbaye for a romantic escapade.

What to do: Go river rafting on the Dordogne, truffle hunting, take a private cooking class, explore medieval villages, go wine tasting and vineyard hopping, enjoy long walks in the stunning countryside, take a river cruise on a traditional gabarre boat at Beynac, pop into the wine museum in Bergerac (home of the literary Cyrano de Bergerac) and riverside picnics with foie gras and local wines.

Private chauffeured tours of the Dordogne/Perigord- contact Cellar Tours for a custom designed luxurious gourmet itinerary including unique food and wine experiences.

Beautiful Dordogne

Ten Best Things about Bordeaux

Posted by gen On August - 7 - 2009

We just spent a week in Bordeaux on a fabulous site inspection and can´t praise this graceful and friendly city highly enough. Called the “Mini Paris”, Bordeaux is an absolute must for wine lovers and equally interesting for foodies, architectural buffs and history lovers.

Here is a quick list of the top ten things you can´t miss while visiting Bordeaux:

1. The Regent Hotel- hot, new, very glam

Best of Bordeaux Regent Hotel and Restaurant

2. The Châteaux of the Left Bank

Best of Bordeaux Left Bank Chateaux

3. Romantic Saint Emilion

Best of Bordeaux St Emilion

4. Lunch at cozy La Tupina

Best of Bordeaux La Tupina

5. Cap Ferret´s shabby chic oyster haunts

Best of Bordeaux Cap Ferret

6. Thierry Marx´s 2 * Restaurant at Cordeillan Bages

Best of Bordeaux thierry_marx

7. Biking through the vineyards at Franc Mayne

Best of Bordeaux Franc Mayne

8. Dinner at Le St James in charming Bouliac- what a view!

Best of Bordeaux le-saint-james

9. Sand Dunes near Arcachon

Best of Bordeaux Arcachon peninsula sand dunes

10.Chapon Fin- an institution

Best of Bordeaux Chapon Fin

The Ultimate Foodie Vacation Dream Destination?

Posted by gen On March - 6 - 2009

So, fellow foodies- here is the magic question:

You win the lottery and can travel to the dream destination of your choice, all of these gourmet meccas in their own right.

Which of the following would it be?

1. Tuscany, Italy

Tuscany Foodie Vacation

2. Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona Foodie Vacation

3. Provence, France

Provence Foodie Vacation

4. Langhe (Piedmont), Italy

Piedmont Foodie Vacation

5. San Sebastian

San Sebastian Foodie Vacation

Place your vote here!