Tag Archives: france

Dinner at La Cave a Champagne

So I have one more France post that I feel I must share.  While in Epernay (my new favorite place), the Englishman and I had an amazing anniversary dinner at La Cave a Champagne at an insanely affordable price.  In fact, our dinner at La Cave a Champagne may rank as one of my top meals in LIFE.

La Cave a Champagne is a small, nondescript restaurant tucked away off a side street in the heart of Epernay.  In fact, we walked by it twice because we weren’t even sure it was open!  We saw someone else go inside so we quickly followed suit into the cozy restaurant that only seats about 30 people.

anniversary dinnerOnce we were seated we were presented with a variety of prix fixe three course menus ranging in price.  The Englishman and I both decided on one of the cheaper menus, which was three courses for roughly 25 euros a person.  It was also at this point I realized we were dining in a Michelin-star restaurant which was pretty exciting.  I should also note that all the pictures were taken with my cell phone camera since taking pictures of your food isn’t exactly the most popular thing to do in France.

We started our evening off with a glass of champagne, because when in Epernay, you drink champagne.  And of course it was delicious.

la cave a champagne champagneFor our first course, I had ordered the foie salad, and for some reason in my head I spaced out that “foie” means liver, but I actually really liked it!  The salad had chicken liver, bacon, lettuce and tomatoes and was dressed in a balsamic vinaigrette.  It was also my first time ever having chicken liver and I am pleased to report it did not disappoint.

foie saladThe Englishman ordered a seafood flan, which is exactly what it sounds like: seafood prepared in the same consistency as flan.  I’m used to traditional Mexican flan so this was a little strange for me, but the flavor was really good.

seafood flanFor the entrée course, I had to go with boeuf bourguignon, which came with some parsnip puree and potato gratin and it was outstanding.  I’m pretty sure I used my spoon to lap up every last bit of sauce.

beef burgundyThe Englishman went with salmon in a creamy sauce with lentils and potatoes.  We both shared bites of each other’s dishes and agreed they were fantastic.  But salmon is always a winner in my book so I knew I would like it.

salmon and lentilsThen it was time for dessert.  You can’t go to France and not indulge in the fromage, so naturally we ordered 3 different cheeses for dessert.  I’m pretty sure I housed the camembert all on my own.

fromageWe also ordered a trio of fresh fruit sorbet to go with our cheese.  It ended up being the perfect sweet and salty pairing and we found ourselves having bites of cheese followed quickly by a bite of sorbet.  Perfection.

sorbetI was beyond impressed with our dinner at La Cave a Champagne.  The food was top-notch and there wasn’t one dish we didn’t like.  We dined there on a Monday evening and by the time we left it was packed, which is just a true testament to how great the food is.

If you ever find yourself in Epernay, you MUST dine at this restaurant.  The quality of food and price can’t be beat.

Where have you had your most memorable meal aka where do I need to eat next?

An Afternoon in Paris

When the Englishman and I first started planning our European adventure, we knew we wanted to visit places we hadn’t been before like Burgundy and Epernay.  But we also wanted to at least pop into Paris, because well, Paris.  We ended up spending about six hours total in the city of light, and here’s how I think you should spend an afternoon in Paris.

ParisSince we were flying out to London the next morning, we decided to stay out near the Charles de Gaulle airport and not in the heart of the city.  So once we arrived in Paris from Epernay we dropped off our rental car (because driving in Paris = no), checked into our hotel and then hopped on a train and found ourselves standing outside Notre Dame.  I should mention that both of us had been to Paris before, so the urgency to SEE ALL THE THINGS wasn’t as high on our end.

Paris windyWe started our afternoon as any good traveler would do and found a delicious creperie called Le Moliere to have lunch.  If you have a limited amount of time in Paris, I recommend popping into one of their many cafes rather than sitting down to a more formal meal that will take longer.

One of the things I had been dying to try during our trip was a galette, which is made with buckwheat flour instead of wheat, and is gluten-free.  This creperie did not disappoint and I got a delicious galette filled with ham, cheese and a fried egg on top.

Buckwheat galette in parisWhen it was first placed in front of me I declared there was no way I would be able to finish it, and then I proceeded to eat the entire thing.  And it was delicious.The Englishman had croque madame on the brain and was presented with a lovely grilled ham and cheese sandwich also topped with a fried egg.  He had a disappointing croque madame experience a few weeks prior in California, so this sandwich was definitely redemption.

croque madame parisSo if you are like us and only have a few hours to spare in Paris and want to hit up one of the famous landmarks, I recommend you choose wisely.  The Louvre is an obvious choice but it’s so large and there’s no way you could do it justice in a short amount of time.  If you’ve never seen the Eiffel Tower, definitely stop there, but if you are like the two of us and have seen most of the “big monuments,” then I recommend spending sometime at the Musee d’Orsay.

The Musee d’Orsay is the impressionist art museum located along the Seine river.  It has many of the impressionist greats such as Van Gogh, Monet, Cezanne, Manet and Degas; and it’s not SO big that you feel overwhelmed in the galleries.  Plus, the view of the river is pretty hard to beat.

orsay parisAfter exploring the Orsay a bit, we ended our quick Paris jaunt with a walk along the Seine before popping on a train back to the airport.  Again, if you only have a short time in Paris, skip the Champs-Elysees and spend some time along the river and enjoy a glass of wine and macaron or two.  There is definitely some magic in the air when you visit Paris and you don’t need to spend it in luxury shops you can likely find at home.

So now I gotta ask.  If you only had 6 hours to spend in Paris, what would you do?  Or more importantly, what would you EAT?

Champagne Tasting in Epernay

After spending a few days traipsing through Burgundy, the Englishman and I packed up our rental car and headed north to spend a couple of days Champagne Tasting in Epernay.  I thought Burgundy was tough to top, but I fell in LOVE with Epernay.  I’m already plotting my return because I loved this charming town so much.

champagne tasting in epernayEpernay is located about 2 hours north-east of Paris in the Marne region.  It’s known as France’s “champagne capital” as the majority of champagne producers are located in Epernay and nearby town Reims.  And a little fun fact:  only champagne produced in this region can truly be called champagne.  Champagne produced in other countries/cities is known as “sparkling wine.”

champagne houses epernayAs a big lover of the bubbly, I was quite excited to do some champagne tasting in Epernay, and the city definitely did not disappoint.  Right in the center of the city is the Avenue de Champagne, which is home to some of the world’s most famous champagne houses including Mercier, Moet et Chandon and Perrier Jouet.  The Englishman and i decided to start our champagne filled day with at tour at Mercier.

Mercier is one of the first champagne houses to be built in Epernay and one of the only to offer a tour of their working cellars.  After a brief overview of the history of Mercier, we were whisked down 30 meters underground to start the tour.

champagne tasting in epernay cellarsWe hopped on a little train and listened to an audio tour that explained the champagne making process from picking the grapes, to bottling and distribution.  It was really interesting to learn about the process from start to finish and I loved seeing the working cellar in action.

Champagne Tasting EpernayAt the end of the tour we were greeted with a glass of champagne which was a nice touch.  Nothing like starting off your morning with a glass of bubbly at 10:30am!

After our tour of Mercier, the Englishman and I started to pop in and out of various champagne houses along the Avenue de Champagne for tasting.  The crazy thing about champagne tasting in Epernay is that the prices are so cheap!  You can get a really high quality glass of champagne for roughly 4-6 Euro, which is about 6-8 US dollars (based on the current exchange rate).

Rose Tasting EpernayThe Englishman and I are both fans of champagnes that are more on the dry side and not very sweet at all, so we pretty much loved every glass that we tasted throughout the day.

The last house we visited was Janisson-Baradon, where we ended up having a lovely conversation with one of the owners, who is hoping to get distribution in the states one day.  His champagne was our favorite of the day, so we ended up buying a couple of bottles to smuggle home to the US.

janisson baradon epernayOf course no day of champagne tasting is complete without an amazing French meal after, but I’ll recap that in another post because it was THAT good.  I do have to give a little shout out to the creme brulee we had one night in Epernay, because it was probably the best creme brulee I’ve had in my life.

creme brulee epernayEven if you aren’t a big champagne drinker (like the Englishman), I feel like Epernay is a must-visit if you find yourself in France.  The food is fabulous, the people are super friendly and the champagne is GOOD.  Now if only I could get a job at one of the champagne houses….

Top Things to do in Burgundy

For our first wedding anniversary the Englishman and I decided there would be no better place to celebrate than in France.  We had both been to Paris before, so we decided to check out some other regions in France and our first stop was Burgundy, which is about 3 hours southeast of Paris, right in the middle of France. And while I am no expert on the region at all, here some top things to do in Burgundy.

nuits st georges wineBurgundy consists of three provinces with one of them being Cote-d-‘Or which is where we spent our time.  We stayed in the small town of Nuits St. Georges, which was about 22 miles south of Dijon and 15 miles north of Beaune.  Nuits St. Georges was great because it was right in the middle of everything, and was a small enough town to navigate quite easily by foot.  I highly recommend staying in Nuits St. Georges for a few nights if you find yourself in Burgundy.

les halles market dijonAnother must do is visit the Les Halles Market in Dijon.  It’s a large covered market that has food stalls selling everything from fresh produce to meat and cheese.  The Englishman and I had a kitchen in our place in Nuits St. Georges, so we took advantage of all the fresh food at our disposal in the market.  This was also the place where I bought the best goat cheese of my life (no joke) and proceeded to eat it with everything over the course of two days.  Dijon is also known for their mustard, so be sure to stock up on a few jars when you are in the city.

dijon mustardThe small town of Beaune is home to numerous wineries and the famous Hospices de Beaune.  To be honest, the Englishman and I weren’t sure if we would like the hospices, but they ended up being really interesting and the architecture was amazing.  My only regret is not taking more pictures.

BeauneCourtyardBeaune also hosts a weekend farmer’s market, and we spent a Saturday afternoon sampling some food before settling in for a picnic in one of their many gardens with baguettes and fruit.  It’s a perfect way to spend an afternoon in my opinion.

When you visit France, it’s pretty much a requirement that you hit up a boulangerie or two.  The French are definitely not afraid of carbs, and the croissants melt in your mouth like butter.  I was only able to indulge in boulangerie fun for one day before my stomach got other ideas, but having a freshly baked croissant was SO worth it.

boulangerieOf course, you can’t come to Burgundy and not go wine tasting.  Admittedly we didn’t get to taste as much wine as we would’ve liked (but made up for it in Epernay) largely due to the fact that many of the tasting rooms require that you purchase a bottle with your tasting, which is quite different than in the US.  The key is to look for the degustation rooms, where tastings are often complimentary, albeit the pours are pretty small.  Our favorite winery by far was Dufouler Pere & Fils in Nuits St. Georges.  The people who worked there were lovely and the wine was affordable and quite good!

wine tasting nuits st georgesIf you get a chance, bike through a vineyard or spend time hiking in some of the nearby hills.  We unfortunately ran out of time so we didn’t get to do either of these activities, but the countryside is so lovely that you need to take advantage!

Next up: Epernay.