Archive for December, 2014

je suis désolé

December 28, 2014 @ 2:15 pm
posted by Sandra Sheridan
Le Grand Colbert, Paris

Belle Epoque decor and armloads of flowers!

I open with a sincere apology, in that I am pressed to repeat myself with a mention of hot chocolate. Oui – chocolat chaud. It’s cold nearly everywhere in the Northern hemisphere right now, and that includes Florida; so naturally my mind wanders back to an especially cold day in Paris. We were wandering around the Vivienne passage, when our friend suggested we duck into Le Grand Colbert.

Now we know. Then we didn’t. One doesn’t merely ‘duck in’ to this surreally beautiful brasserie. One inches through the door into an inner sanctum that is warm and elegant and breathtaking. Oui, the banquette to our right is perfect. We simply hoped to warm ourselves a bit over coffee, before venturing once again along the chilled streets of our favorite city. Our experience exceeded our expectations … by far.

After reviewing the menu, we chose chocolat chaud – a nice change from café au lait, we thought. And then we had time to gaze over the Grand (indeed) Colbert.

Le Grand Colbert Paris

Globes and ornate ceilings

A flurry of Belle Epoque impressions descended. Of golden globe lamps and ornate ceilings. Of hushed warmth and shared birthday celebrations. Of etched glass screens and rich velvet curtains, that seemed to embrace and seal the brasserie from the brisk cold. Of a handsomely elegant business ‘couple’ engaged in quiet, serious conversation. Of soaring floral arrangements and the quiet glide of our ‘garcon’, as he delivered – hot chocolate? THIS is hot chocolate?

Yes, the photo tells the story best. A story of luscious, velvety chocolate and warmed milk, slender sugar packets and whipped cream and an entirely welcoming aroma. I have searched out recipes for European-style hot chocolate and found that an essential is chocolate with no less than 70 percent cocoa solids. I will try my hand at this marvelous creation, yet I know at the outset that I could never reproduce that moment, that taste, that scene.

Paris brasserie Vivienne Passage

Chocolat Chaud a Le Grand Colbert

So we look to add a repeat visit to Le Grand Colbert. We’ve heard their roasted chicken is unparalleled – golden, tender, juicy, browned and crispy with few herbs, save the earthy addition of thyme. Sounds almost as heavenly as the chocolat!

Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris – now available!
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Copyright © 2005-2015, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.



December 21, 2014 @ 10:15 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan
Galeries Lafayette celebrates 100 years Swarovski style!  Paris

Galeries Lafayette celebrates 100 years Swarovski style!

During the holidays, it seems the entire city of Paris pays an elegant tribute to the spirit of the season.  Beloved avenues, squares and boulevards sparkle with themed decorations.  Department stores vie to out-spectacularize one another (How’s that for a new word?!)  Artistic villages suspend magical stars, and – as always – Disney marches forth with enticing family Christmas scenes.

True to tradition and form, Galeries Layfayette entertains and entices with a monster Christmas for 2014.   In a theatrical stage set, a band of mischievous monsters shake up Christmas traditions in the windows, with actor-monsters roaming in the store area… those rascals even put the Christmas tree upside down!  The Monster Christmas at Galeries Lafayette surprises and celebrates for the holiday period.

Whether BHV (the Bazar de l’Hotel de Ville), Printemps or Le Bon Marche, the grand department stores present a magnificent backdrop for yuletide shopping.

Mistletoe moments in paris

Mistletoe moments along Avenue Montaigne

And let us not forget that shopping paradise along Avenue Montaigne!  As one might suspect, this prestigious venue has a romantic feature in store.  Balls of champagne-colored mistletoe beckon shoppers to share kisses and gift-giving,  in deference to the traditional ‘kiss beneath a branch of mistletoe”.

Our experience was a bit different on the famed avenue.  A rather elegant Asian couple approached us, asking that we enter one of the haut designer shops to purchase handbags for them.  It seems they had reached their shopping ‘quota’ customs-wise, and we were invited to conspire with them to complete their desired purchases in our name.  We passed, but the event made the evening memorable!

Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris – now available!
Autographed copies with notecard gift (through PayPal)
Amazon direct order

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2015, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.


Paris Christmas – Top 4 Things to Do

December 20, 2014 @ 2:20 pm
posted by Sandra Sheridan
Opera Garnier's Grand Staircase

Palais Garnier – one of Paris’ most elegant sites

Each of us approaches trip planning in a different way.  Some need the security of detailed plans; others prefer a more devil-may-care approach, allowing moments to unfold.  While the latter ‘plan’ carries a certain degree of risk, the loosely-knit itinerary allows for plenty of entertainment and a few surprises.  Regular readers know, of course, that I fall into the latter group!

This Top 4 Things to Do in Paris for the Christmas season allows for some magnificent experiences, while keeping your agenda open for that spontaneous glass of wine in the Marais or ducking into that little Librarie in search of old etchings or books.  Not in any particular order, I recommend a mix of culture, couture and fantastic flea market shopping.

First, I would hasten to purchase tickets on line for a performance at the Opéra Garnier.  During the holidays a ballet production is presented in one of the most elegant venues in all of Paris.  You can easily purchase tickets on line.  You will enjoy the luxury and luminosity of innovative ballet in the refined setting of Opéra Garnier.  This particular production blends the electronic music of Thom Willems with the dynamic choreography of William Forsythe and the modern dance of Trisha Brown.  The location is central to everything – near Galeries Lafayette – so you can find an ideal spot for a little aprés Opera drink.

Also on a sophisticated but so approachable note, plan to visit the Jacquemart-Andre Museum.  One of Paris’ ‘beauty marks’, the museum welcomes you home to the refined world of the former owners.  Canaletto – Guardi – “The two masters of Venice” is the current special exhibition devoted to the Venetian veduta paintings of the 18th Century.   If possible, try to go for the Saturday or Sunday brunch – quite an elegant affair held from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in The Café Jacquemart-André.  You also have the option of late-night openings during the holidays, but be sure to check the museum website for specific nights and times.

Flea markets in Paris France

Antique finds at Les Puces!

Remember now that I am just offering you a few specific recommendations, but I fully expect you to wander the city.  Bundle up for walks along the Seine and duck into a fabulous Brasserie for an unparalleled chocolat chaud.

One of our favorite streets for reeling in the grandeur of Paris is the fashion world of Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.  Shall we drop a few names?  Hermès, Lanvin, Givenchy, Dior … only the world’s most exclusive designers set in sparkling shops amid five-star hotels.  We stopped for a carafe of wine on the street overlooking Estée Lauder – a perfect spot for watching distinctly upscale shoppers sating their appetites for finery.  You will be just around the corner from Place Concorde and the Palais de l’Élysée – official home to the French president – so you won’t lack for sightseeing opportunities.  Our most notable experience was stopping at a sidewalk cafe and looking up to see the handsome, fully-outfitted French Republican Guard marching down the street – quite a sight!

Now, we’ll dive down into the most famous of all flea markets in Paris – Les Puces (The Fleas), more formally known as Les Puces de Saint-Ouen.  Dress warmly and comfortably, as you will literally comb through acres of treasures in the world’s largest antique market.  Naturally, such adventurous shopping will stimulate your appetite; so stop in at one of the flea market cafes for a breather and an excellent tureen of soup (that happened to be our lucky find on a very chilly day!)  The market’s best hours are on Saturday and Sunday from 9 or 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

And circling back to the December chill, don’t underestimate the weather.  While it could be unseasonably mild, we experienced piercing cold and a rather surprising dust of snow on New Year’s Day.  Be prepared, plan a bit but not too much, and look forward to perhaps the most memorable holiday season of your life!

As a side note, today is our anniversary – 11 years now, begun with the best of all lune de miels … in Paris, bien sur!  A wonderful beginning and so many lovely moments in Paris and beyond!

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.


French Wine Gifts Part III

December 16, 2014 @ 1:01 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan
White wines Vouvray and Sancerre

Champalou Vouvray Brut NV

Today we offer a special recommendation for an exceptional French champagne. Honestly, when you are searching for that ‘perfect gift’, isn’t it nice to have a personal recommendation?

This extraordinary French gift is a bisou from Vouvray – the bubbly kiss from the Gods we especially enjoy during celebratory holidays. I’ve already confessed to lacking the nose and palate required for exacting examinations of wines and Champagnes, but that’s no problem. I rely on the experts – like renowned importer Kermit Lynch. And to back that esteemed recommendation, how about Le Wall Street Journal?

Earlier this year, WSJ profiled our recommended Champagne – Champalou Vouvray Brut NV, noting “…a very gentle character quite typical of the domaine. A nice palate, quite full in the mouth, with lots of foaming mousse. A good clean style, with a powerful acid backbone. There is plenty of appealing character here.” Now, that’s from experts in the realm of wine descriptions!

I enjoy exploring the who, where and what of wine production; and in this case, the origin is the Loire River Valley wine region. In that lovely, rolling landscape, two famous white wines dominate – Chenin Blanc and Sancerre. We have been fortunate enough to enjoy tastings in Vouvray and Sancerre, experiences we would recommend to all travelers and wine aficionados.

Our perfect Champagne – Champalou Vouvray Brut NV – comes from a small, specialty producer (Catherine and Didier Champalou) of the highest quality, one with a history of delivering reasonably-priced whites that are bright, clean, vibrant and almost pear-inflected.

The Land

The Champalou label is one of the most highly-acclaimed in the Vouvray appellation, where the Chenin Blanc draws from the exceptional soil and ideal climate to yield – well, something quite different from the California Chenin! In the region of the Touraine, Vouvray enjoys warm summers and slowly cooling temperatures in autumn, allowing an extended ripening season. The vineyards’ gravel and chalk soil absorbs the sun’s rays and perfects the ripeness of the grapes.

Chenin grapes in the Loire Valley, France

Grappe de Chenin a Vouvray

The Champalou family farms twenty-one hectares (about 50 acres) of vineyards, where the acclaimed vignerons even integrate the lunar calendar with their eco-balanced farming. Between the vineyard rows, cover crops are planted to absorb excess water and encourage microbitoic activity in the soil. Wine experts applaud their elegant, balanced results, “No one comes close to copying their distinct style.”

The Methods

Early in the morning, the Champalou ‘team’ picks the grapes at the peak of maturity and immediately presses the fruit. Fermenting in stainless steel cuvees follows, and the wine is aged on fine lees (yeast and other solid deposits) to enhance flavor. The effervescence develops during a second natural fermentation that takes place once the wine is in bottle – then various periods of aging, according to the wine to be produced. (Come now – you know we won’t get the exact recipe!)

The Chenin

I love the fact that Champalou specializes in one grape – Chenin – that is native to the Loire Valley region. Interestingly, the grape is mentioned by Rabelais in his Gargantua (1534), so no need to question its’ pedigree! Depending on its terroir and the vinification, the Chenin ranges from bone-dry and sparkling, through dry and still, to semi-sweet dessert wines. Their annual 120,000-bottle production is enjoyed in over twenty countries around the world.

The Rhythm of the Season

Each season in the vineyards heralds new tasks: pruning in winter; de-budding and removal of unwanted shoots in spring; and trimming and thinning of the leaves in summer. No, we haven’t forgotten the big moment in September! That’s when they taste the berries for maturity and continue that tasting, until they decide the grapes are perfect for harvest.

We hope you decide to ‘gift’ Champalou, but don’t forget to keep a bottle or two for your own holiday pleasure.

We’d love to hear from you!
Copyright © 2005-2015, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.