The grapes of Champagne are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. We went to a wine growing museum in Verzenay Champagne. It is important to understand viticulture or grape growing to further appreciate wine. The museum’s landmark is a lighthouse on top of a hill. It is a very unusual location as there is no ocean, only an astounding view of vineyards classified as Grand Cru. This edifice was converted to the Phare de Verzenay museum. After the tour, we had a small picnic by the vineyards and visited a nearby small and independent wine producer.
June 2014. Our class visits the large Champagne house of Vranken-Pommery in Reims. It was founded in 1858 and owes much of its success to the widow Madame Louise Pommery.
The cellars are 100 feet or exactly 116 steps below the earth. Our tour guide educates us on the Champagne making process, she explains that the cellar conditions are perfect for storing Champagne. It is cold and dark, we are reminded to stick to the group or we could get lost in this underground world that stretches as far as 18 kilometers underneath the city.
Madame Lousie was a patron of the arts and commissioned artists to carve murals on the walls of the limestone and chalk pits called crayères. This made the tour very interesting, various contemporary art exhibits were also found in the different sections of the cellars.
At the end we had a tasting of the fine, fruity and bubbly Pommery Brut Royal. Cheers!
Many come to Spain to try authentic paella. Barcelona is one giant food trip with rows of tapas bars and food establishments. Our foodie guide Victor Manuel brought us to the area of Barceloneta. Close to the ocean was a restaurant called Toc del Mar, the food was great and reasonably priced compared to touristy La Rambla or Plaça Reial. Their set menu offered a choice of primers (starter), segons a escollir (main course), and postre (dessert). We sampled three different kinds of paella: paella mixta (meat and seafood), negra (squid ink) and Fideua (paella noodles). We even had authentic crema Catalana (local version of creme brûlée) for dessert and a pitcher of sangria to complete the experience!
La Boqueria market along La Rambla street is pure bliss! I came in search of pimenton de la vera for making my paella. How could I resist a cone of Jamon Serrano and Manchego cheese in Barcelona? The best kind is Jamón Ibérico de Bellota Cinco Jotas. It is special free-range ‘pata negra’ black pigs that feed on sweet acorns and are aged for over two years. There are so many things to taste and buy in this wonderful market. Spices, chocolates, candied nuts, bacalao, and many kinds of tapas. This is a must and true gourmet experience !
At the beginning of class, our teacher Dr. Philippe Pouillart offered a minute of silence for the passing of his friend and collaborator Georges Pralus. French chef Georges Pralus is the inventor of vacuum cooking popularly known as sous-vide cooking. In honor of Chef Pralus, Dr. Pouillart showed us how to prepare foie gras using this method. Sous vide keeps the quality, original appearance and optimizes weight loss of the duck liver.
Is foie gras unhealthy? According to Dr. Pouillart of the Institut Polytechnique LaSalle Beauvais, it contains the good kind of monosaturated (omega 9) that protects the heart. The French paradox is low incidents of cardiovascular disease despite their love for this gourmet product.
Foie Sous Vide method:
Season foie gras with salt and pepper, vacuum seal and cook in a water bath at 58°C for 47 minutes. Then blast freeze or cold shock. Quickly sear before serving.
The French word for cheese is “fromage”. Cheese and dairy products are a novelty for us living in Asia. There was a vendor selling different types of cheese at the Beauvais market. He had a wonderful range of artisan and regional cheese. I wish I could have tried them all! The market is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Beauvais is known for their iconic Gothic Cathedral with an astronomical clock. It is an hour away from Paris. Low cost carriers like Rayaniar use the Paris-Beauvais airport. From the airport take Corolis Bus #12 to Gare SNFC train station in town, then take a connecting train to Paris Nord.