Cooper’s Hawk Winery

Scallops2-2383The restaurant and winery might be a chain, but it is too good not to share with everyone.  Going to Cooper’s Hawk Winery will hit the wallet a little harder than places such as Olive Garden or Chile’s, but the food and wine leave unforgettable flavors in your mouth.

One option to help save a little money and savor a variety of wines is the Wine Flight.  They have some pre-made selections, or you can create your own.  It is a great way to try 3 ozs of different wines and try something different with each course (they even have an ice wine!).

My favorite dish that I have tried so far is the Gnocchi Carbonara.  Every meal I have tried has wowed me, but if I had to a choose a favorite, this is it.  The panchetta creates a rich sauce that the gnocchi absorbs.  The roasted chicken continues that pow of flavor to create a divine experience.

If you are interested in checking out a restaurant, you can look at their website.  The restaurants can be found in:







Champagne Region in France

Glasses 2I’m sorry about only posting photos last night, but I was beat.  I even fell asleep while my pictures were loading.  Now that I am more rested, I’d like to share my day.

I was a lemming yesterday.  I signed up for a tour through Paris Webservices who booked my Reims and Champagne tour through Cityrama.  Some people have gone on many tours with this company, but I don’t think I will again.  I’ll explain why as I go.

We followed in line to the bus which resides under the Louvre.  How odd to think that under the Louvre is a big parking garage for tourist buses.  The three guides (one spoke in English, another in French, and the other in Japanese) encouraged us to go upstairs as we handed over our tickets.  We sat in the dark parking lot a few minutes after departure to wait for some late arrivals.  Then we were off to the Champagne region.

I thought it was interesting that the guides all sat on the bottom floor of the bus while all the tourists sat at the top.  I understand that the best views are on top, but it really takes away a personal connection when you can’t even see the person talking.  The scripted speeches of the three guides also takes away from the experience a little bit.

The ride was beautiful and quiet.  It seems that the air conditioning vents release sleeping gas because most of the bus was snoozing with necks bent in uncomfortable positions and mouths open.  I resisted the urge to sleep because I really wanted to see the countryside.

Our first stop was at Mumm (pronounced like mooom).  We went on a one hour tour of the cellars and tasted one champagne.  The tour of the cellar was okay, but it was challenging to understand the man, and he talked in a way that sounded as if we were boring him with our presence.  The cellar seemed very fabricated for a tour, and not authentic.  The tasting at the end was quite good.  I would have loved to try other cuvets.  Unfortunately, the price deterred me from purchasing a bottle.

From there we went into the town of Reims (pronounced Rance, like France without the F).  We had two hours to eat, and tour the city.  They offered a walking tour of the cathedral (you know the kind with a big flashy umbrella to visualize where the guide was located), but I was afraid that would take an hour, and then I’d only have an hour for lunch and exploration.  I picked up a guide in the cathedral and walked around.  I found the ornate facade and Chagall windows to be my favorite part of the church.  It really is a massive cathedral.  I tried to capture that in some of my photos, but I’m not sure if you can feel the scale of the building.

After that I started walking around the town.  I wanted to go to the Carnegie Library because I’m obsessed with libraries, but it was closed until 14:00 and we left at 13:40.  So, I started walking towards lunch and the main shopping area.  I read about a brasserie in Rick Steves that I wanted to find, and I finally did find it, but there were so many people.  I feared 45 minutes for lunch would not be enough.  I’m really getting used to my two hour lunches.  Instead I just picked up a sandwich and walked around the town more.  I’m a pretty anxious person, so I was eyeing my watch carefully to avoid being left in Reims.

After boarding the bus again, we drove through Champagne country to Epernay where we would have a tour and tasting at Moet & Chandon.  The tour was much more engaging even though similar information was presented.  The cave also felt very real with spider webs (yuck!) and water dripping onto the floor.  The tasting was good, but I preferred Mumm’s Cordon Rouge.

I knew I wasn’t going to buy anything, so I sneaked out to view the town of Epernay.  This is a town I think I would like to spend more time in.  When we were driving through I could see a small town atmosphere with lush gardens, and many cafes.  Next to Moet & Chandon is the Hotel de Ville with a sprawling garden space.  I would have liked more time, but we needed to get back to Paris.

Our Paris ride was supposed to take 2-2.5 hours.  With Paris traffic, it took more like 3.5 hours.  Some people were getting anxious to get off the bus, so they asked if they could hop off.  I quickly followed them, but was turned down.  I am just as bad as my students because when exceptions are made for some, I get upset.  I wouldn’t expect them to let people off, but when they let a few and not others, that is not fair.  I suppose I should stop pouting about that…

So, to summarize my day, I enjoyed the sights and the champagne tasting, but I wish I would have spent some time setting it up for myself rather than going with a tour company.  Or, I wish I would have spent more money for a smaller group experience.  I appreciated the convenience at the time, but sometimes a little more work proves to be worthwhile in the end.  I also have to admit I had an amazing tour and tasting of sparkling wine in Napa Valley, so it is kind of hard to top that experience.  At least now I can say I’ve had true champagne.

Top Things Learned:

-Champagne is an appellation (region where grapes are grown), and a sparkling wine can only legally be called champagne if it is from this region.

-Champagne goes through a double fermentation which creates the effervescence.

-Dom Perignon was a monk, and he made the first Champagne.

-Limestone is crucial for making champagne.  First, it creates the right soil conditions.  Second, the caves are made of limestone which keep the temperature at about 10-12 degrees Celsius all year round, and keep the humidity high.

-Champagne is the northern most wine growing region in France.  It has a mixture of continental and oceanic climates which creates 200 days of rain with cold winters and hot summers.

-Champagne is made with three grapes: Pinot Noir, Chardonay, and Pinot Meunier.

-Pinot Noir and Minot Meunier are called black grapes because of their dark exterior.

-Chardonay is called a white grape because of its light exterior.

-Champagne is light in color because even dark grapes have light juices.

Have you had champagne?  Do you have any thoughts on Champagne vs. US sparkling wines?

I added a few new photos from yesterday to my previous album.  There were so many to go through…

If you are wondering why there are pictures of the Louvre in here, it is because I arrived for the tour early, so I walked around a bit.  The Louvre is even more beautiful when you can experience it by yourself.

Champagne Region in Photos

BottlesSorry for the laziness tonight, but I’m afraid this will just be a photo post for now.  I’ll add a post with information tomorrow.  Happy 4th of July to my American friends and family!

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

–Declaration of Independence (Thomas Jefferson)

I hope you are pursuing your right to happiness.  I am, but it is exhausting, so I need to rest up to continue my pursuit.  Bonne nuit!

Cook’n With Class in Paris Part 2

The-ChefI think I was suffering from the tryptophan of the amazing meal we prepared last night because all I wanted to do when I got home was go to sleep.  Now that I have recovered from the food trance, I’m ready to talk about what an amazing experience I had.  There were several classes offered, but I knew the Evening Market Class was right for me.

First, let’s start with who should sign up for a class.  I know it may be a little scary to look at the price, but this class will be worthwhile for you if at least one of the following is true. You:

-Like food

-Like wine

-Like dessert

-Like cheese

-Like markets

-Like going on field trips

-Like spending time with small groups

-Like learning from an expert

-Like practicing what you learn

-Like kind teachers that are patient

-Like experimenting with food

-Like the French culture

-Or you just want to improve your skill

So, basically if you are a human, this class is for you.  Now that we know who this is for, let’s get to the good parts.  What do we do?

Part 1: Shopping

The trip begins with shopping for dinner’s ingredients.  The menu evolves as we browse the selection and get to know each other.  Patrick did not skimp on quality or quantity.

We began at the boulangerie where we picked up the necessary baguettes.  We even saw the man baking as we walked by the window.

From there, we headed to the butcher.  Fish would be the main course, but we agreed on veal for the entree (which is an appetizer in France).

Next, it was time for cheese.  I think I probably learned the most in this store.  I’m even acquiring an appreciation for the stinkiness of a fromagerie.  Patrick selected five cheeses with us.

Then, we walked to the fishmonger.  Patrick took the opportunity to teach us about farm raised vs. ocean fish.  He also shared techniques for how to determine fish freshness.  He was originally going to pick out one fish, but the fishmonger told us that a different one would be the best because it was caught today.  I think he was right because it was phenomenal (and I don’t care for fish much).

Finally, we needed the produce to tie all of the ingredients together.  A local market housed some of the freshest fruits and veggies that we would later chow down on.

Main Lessons Learned:

-Some boulangeries don’t make the dough there, try to find one where they make the dough and bake the bread.

-Cheeses are grouped together by kind.

-They put the stinkiest cheeses by the door to help with ventilation.

-Cheeses have signs with a wealth of information (pasteurized, not pasteurized,animal it came from, and seals).

-Typically not pasteurized cheese is the best, except with Roquefort.

-Common brie in America is not brie.

-Comte cheese is the most famous in France right now (and my favorite of what we tasted).

-Some rinds of the cheese is eaten by mites, but that is okay.

-Some mold is good (especially for digestion).

-When you go to a fish stand, typically the outermost part is either the fish they are trying to get rid of or it is farm raised.  The best fish is usually inside.

-If you see a small portion of tuna left, don’t buy any.  Tuna is a huge fish and if there is only a little left, it is probably not as fresh.

-Milkiness on the scales of the fish indicates freshness.

-Looking under the gills for a deep red also indicates freshness.

-Fish is expensive and you only get a percentage of the fish close to half of what you pay for.

-Celery root can be substituted with potatoes.

-Look for light green and yellow in the center when buying celery.

Part 2: Cooking

Now that we have the ingredients, it is time to start putting the masterpiece together.  I’m not going to list every detail of how we made our dishes because that is the joy of taking the class.  Here is the menu though:

Entree (Appetizer)

Veal on top of a celery salad with Dijon and Roquefort blue cheese vinaigrette.  Garnish: Candied orange peel


Fish with celery root gratin, haricot verts, red onions in wine, and tomato/butter sauce.  Garnish: basil and julienne tomato peel


Goat, Brie, Roquefort, a stinky one, and one that was my favorite (and the favorite of France, similar to Swiss), but the name is escaping me


Cherry cake with improvised sauce

Main Lessons Learned:

-Candied fruits are easy and great as a garnish or addition to dishes.

-Celery makes a great salad with orange and vinaigrette.

-Add cold butter to make sauces to avoid oily sauce.

-To remove the smell of garlic on your hands, rub them on something made of stainless steel.

-I really need to stop touching my meat so much when it is the pan.  Cook, flip, cook.  That is it.

-Celery root is awesome and will now be added to my grocery lists.

-I think I am a fish person after all.

-Blanching vegetables stops the cooking and preserves vitamins.

Part 3: Eating

After slaving away in the kitchen (yeah right), we put together our plates.  We spend some time on garnishing and presentation.  When I looked at my plates, I thought about the couple of extra minutes it took to take a meal from just delicious to beautiful and delicious.  Each dish was a fusion of sweet, savory, crunch, smoothness, and every wonderful combination imaginable.  I will make these dishes again.  In fact, I am eating candied cherries on bread with goat cheese right now.  Not only can I reproduce what we did, but also incorporate twists based on the foundation of skills taught.

Part 4: Rolling Home

After the abundance of wine and food, it was time to roll down to the metro.  This night will probably be the highlight of my trip because of the people I met, food I ate, and experiences I had.  If you are considering a cooking class in Paris, I highly recommend Cook’n with Class.

I’ve shared these pictures in a previous post, but I’d like to throw them up here again now that there is more context behind them.

Cook’n With Class in Paris

AppetizerTaking a cooking class in Paris is a good idea.  Taking a market cooking class in Paris is a great idea.  I browsed the different selections for cooking classes, and Cook’n with Class seemed to fit my personality best.  Hands on learning, “field trips,” eating, drinking, and good company.  We went with the chef to select the freshest food for the day.  From there, he creates a four course menu: appetizer, main dish, cheese plate, and dessert.  I learned so much about food and cooking that will have to be shared in a separate post, later.  They are very generous with their wine, and the hour is late, so I am going to keep this post short because sleep is calling.


Entree (Appetizer)

Veal on top of a celery salad with Dijon and Roquefort blue cheese vinaigrette.  Garnish: Candied orange peel


Fish with celery root gratin, haricot verts, red onions in wine, and tomato/butter sauce.  Garnish: basil and julienne tomato peel


Goat, Brie, Roquefort, a stinky one, and one that was my favorite (and the favorite of France, similar to Swiss), but the name is escaping me


Cherry cake with improvised sauce

The chef will e-mail the recipes within a week.  I think I may have to take another class…  Let the pictures do the talking for tonight.

Life is Good in Canal St. Martin

“Life is good” hasRose Life been my mantra ever since last summer.  I search for treasures in each day where I can feel this saying.  Today’s was along Canal St. Martin.  People young and old (mostly young) gather in their canal living rooms to enjoy the company of others as they talk, eat, and drink.  We did this tonight.  For less than 5 Euros you can have a snack with a bottle of wine.  This is a true, “life is good” moment.Lining the Canal

Beaune, France

Wine-Tasting-2Beaune is a great home base if you want to stay in the Burgundy region.  With a mixture of history, food, wine, and night art, you can keep yourself busy or relax.  Here are some things to do in Beaune.

Hotel Dieu

Not actually a hotel, but a former hospital.  Beaune was hit hard by the Hundred Years War and the plague.  Those that came through these doors most likely did not leave.  The hospice was funded by the chancellor as a form of redemption.

Notre Dame

The church is free to enter, and a quiet oasis for thought and prayer.  I love the gray scale stained glass.

Night Art

As the sun goes down, lights are displayed on the buildings of Beaune.  Some are elegant while others are playful.  One of my favorites was a cat climbing a tower.

Wine Tasting

Burgundy is famous for their wine, so visiting a cave is a must.  We sipped below ground at Bouchard Aine & Fils.  The cellar was an experience for the senses because each one was engaged.  The various rooms focus on the descriptions of wine.  Aromas, textures, and tastes are all elements of the wine, and learning more about how the wine is described is an educational experience.  Tasting the wine is also pretty fantastic.


Beaune is a walkable city with cute shops and markets.

Explore by Bike or Foot

The city is surrounded by ramparts.  For an elevated view of the city, walk the wall.  There is also a ring road great for biking.  Perhaps you could even take a bike ride out to the vineyards.


There are many famous dishes attributed to Beaune.  Savor the escargot as you dip your bread in the garlic, buttery pockets.  If you are looking for a hearty meal, order the beouf bourguignon.  Don’t forget to end your main course with a cheese plate.  The French sure know how to live.