A Gastronomical Journey Through the “Garden of France” with Insight Vacations

Do you love French food and have time to go on a foodie journey in the Loire Valley this fall?  If so, you may want to consider signing up for this guided trip.  I came across it and it looks fabulous.  I’ve toured the Loire Valley on my own before, and loved the food and wine.  I’d love to take this trip myself.

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TORONTO – May 28, 2015 – Insight Vacations (www.insightvacations.com), the leader in premium and luxury escorted journeys, has introduced The Loire Valley (www.insightvacations.com/ca/special-offers/expert-hosted-collection/the-loire-valley) – a limited one-time departure that leads guests on a 13-day magical journey of food, wine and history through the villages and vineyards of the famed region. Designed to satisfy even the most discerning of food connoisseurs, The Loire Valley has been curated by Barbara Barde, an Insight Vacations Tour Director, and private certified sommelier Tom LeRoy.

Loire Valley tour

Loire Valley tour

“We are excited to launch our newest special interest trip in our Expert Hosted Collection, catered specifically to foodies and wine aficionados,” said Cris David, president, Insight Vacations Canada. “Insight Vacations is renowned for creating lasting experiences and memories with our guests, and with the help of Barbara Barde and Tom LeRoy, The Loire Valley culinary odyssey will offer our travellers an experience their palates will not soon forget.”

Departing September 26, 2015, this exclusive gastronomical adventure begins in Paris, one of the great culinary capitals of the world. Synonymous with wine production dating back to the 1st century, the region offers guests an incomparable cultural landscape of great beauty comprised of ancient towns and family owned vineyards. Guests will eat and drink their way through the “Garden of France”, all the while experiencing the Loire Valley through the eyes of a true gastronome with the help of local experts.

Each Insight Vacations escorted journey offers unique Signature Experiences where guests discover more than just the highlights other travel experiences provide. Travellers are introduced to local guides who immerse them in regional culture and unlock doors for them they simply cannot arrange on their own. Signature Experiences found on The Loire Valley include the following:

– Visit to the Maison Louis de Grenelle, the last remaining family-owned property of the major Saumur sparkling producers, where guests will learn the art of sustainable viticulture while 12 metres beneath the cobblestone streets of this historic town.

– Discover the fascinating secret world of mushrooms at the Musée du Champignon in the village of St. Hilaure, touring the underground cave exhibiting the many cultivation methods of the species indigenous to the region.

– Dine at the Cathédrales de la Saulaie, a 19th century subterranean restaurant located in a cathedral-sized Troglodyte cave specializing in local Pays de la Loire dishes.way to Chinon, learn the art of perfecting the balance of tradition and modernity in wine-making at the family-owned Frederic Mobileau Vigneron winery, known for offering multi-faceted wines from the Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil, Bourgueil, Saumur and Anjou appellations, whilst visiting the 2,000 hectares of the Couly-Duthier winery.

– At Sancerre, guests will sample the stunning varietals of this region long revered for specializing in 100 per cent Sauvignon Blanc wines while sampling sumptuous goat cheese at Chèveries de Chamons.

“Food and wine have long been passions of mine and I am proud to be personally hosting The Loire Valley. I have handpicked each experience to reflect my love of French gastronomy and look forward to welcoming guests to the ‘Garden of France’,” says Barbara Barde, Insight Vacations Tour Director.

Click on the following link to watch Barbara Barde explaining the Loire Valley itinerary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0O2E54xk0g

“It is an honour to be hosting with Barbara on this trip,” adds Tom LeRoy, wine sommelier. “I can think of no better way to share my passion for wine than to be the personal sommelier to guests on this special curated experience.”

To book this escorted journey or for more information, please visit www.insightvacations.com, contact Insight’s Sale Centre at 1-800-387-8490 or speak with your local travel agent.

About Barbara Barde

Barbara is an award winning television producer, with over 600 titles to her credit. She began appreciating and collecting wine almost 20 years ago and is known for her impressive cellar. She is also a “foodie”, always on the lookout for an amazing recipe, new ingredients, or a restaurant that no one has heard of. Barbara is also a passionate traveler and has spent the last several summers leading tours with Insight Vacations and other companies. She will be the Tour Director.

About Tom LeRoy

Wine Sommelier Tom LeRoy is a criminal lawyer in Toronto who began collecting and appreciating wine fifteen years ago. A true aficionado of wine, he has recently obtained a wine specialist certificate from George Brown College and was also certified as a Wine Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers. Tom is also a member of the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers.

About Insight Vacations

For more than 35 years, Insight Vacations (www.insightvacations.com) has been designing the world’s finest escorted travel itineraries. Insight offers 113 journeys to more countries across Europe than any other operator and provides the same legendary service across North America, India, Bhutan, Nepal, Morocco, Egypt and Israel.

Insight guests enjoy The Art of Touring in Style with business-class legroom aboard customized luxury coaches, intimate groups of just 40 travellers and the services of an experienced Tour Director who acts as ‘travelling concierge.’ Each expertly planned itinerary includes a range of Signature Events for a unique and authentic look into the history and culture of each destination. Throughout their trip, guests will stay in handpicked hotels that are centrally or scenically located and have the perfect balance of guided and independent exploration.

For more information, visit us at http://www.insightvacations.com, on social media at http://www.facebook.com/InsightVacations, http://twitter.com/InsightVacation, and join the conversation using the hashtag #InsightMoments.

About TreadRight

Created as a joint initiative between The Travel Corporation’s family of brands, the TreadRight Foundation is a not-for-profit working to ensure the environment and communities we visit remain vibrant for generations to come. To date, TreadRight has supported more than 35 sustainable tourism projects worldwide. The Foundation’s guiding principle is to encourage sustainable tourism development through conservation, leadership and support for communities. Foundation priorities are set by the Steering Committee, which includes sustainability leaders like Céline Cousteau and Costas Christ.

TreadRight’s past project partners include WWF, Conservation International and The National Trust in the UK. Current initiatives include sponsoring the National Geographic Society’s inaugural “World Legacy Awards,” and inspiring wildlife advocates like Terri Irwin.

To learn more about our past and current work at TreadRight, please visit us at treadright.org.

 

My New Year’s Resolution for 2013 – C’est le français

Moules au camembert

Moules au camembert

I’m pretty good at keeping New Year’s resolutions.  Some that I have made that I’ve kept have been to exercise regularly, and to have a glass of wine a day if possible.  Both are good for your health.

For 2013, my resolution, or maybe better described as a “goal” is to visit monthly at least 1 French restaurant  located here in the Vancouver lower mainland that I can in 2013, and to blog about it.

Why French Restaurants?

I’ve travelled twice to France and have fallen in love with their food.  Probably the best meal in my life was in a small restaurant in Chenonceau located in the Loire Valley. In addition, I have been a lover of French wine, in particular Burgundy and Loire wines.  So visiting French restaurants and enjoying my meal with French wine, seems like a perfect pairing to me! How does that sound to you?

 

Coq au vin served with a glass of Bordeaux wine

Coq au vin served with a glass of Bordeaux wine

The restaurants that are currently on my to visit list are:

  • Le Gavroche
  • Le Bistro Chez Michel
  • The French Table
  • Les Faux Bourgeois
  • Jules Bistro
  • Bistro Pastis
  • Le Crocodile
  • Le Parisien

As you can see I have 8 listed.  That leaves room for 4 restaurants which you can suggest for me to visit.  Please post your comment as to which additional French restuarant I should visit and what is your favourite dish from that restaurant.  Merci Beaucoup and Bonne Année et Bonne Santé!

Remembering Rememberance Day on November 11

Rows of headstones in a soldiers cemetery in France

This past summer, I visited WWI and WWII memorial sites in France and Belgium.  It was a very moving experience to read about the trials that each soldier went through on a daily basis.  Living in the trenches, above and below ground, was not very pleasant.  Seeing the display of gas masks that soldiers used to protect themselves from mustard and other gasses was very haunting.  And seeing the rows and rows of headstones in all the graves, and thinking about everything they gave up for us.  Visiting them was the least I could do. I will be at a cenotaph this Friday as well, remembering those brave souls.

I wrote a few articles about the memorials as I travelled in France and Belgium and I thought I’d repost the links to them here for you to read.

Chateau de Chenonceau

On part of my trip I visited the Chateau de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley in France.  This famous castle spans the Cher River. During WWII, one side was on the allied side and the other on the German occupied territory.  The owners of the castle would help the French underground send people across from one side to the other, risking the castle.  I had read that the German soldiers had guns aimed at the castle and if the word was given, the castle would have been destroyed.  I’m glad the order was never given.  If you have a chance to visit the Loire Valley, visit Chenonceau castle.  It is very beautiful.  Maybe you would like to raise a glass of Loire Valley wine, a Vouvray or other Chenin Blanc on November 11 and toast our fallen soldiers, and those people who helped them, and those that survived.  Lest we forget.

In Flanders Fields

A field of poppies in Belgium

by John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Favorite Wines from My France Trip

As I blogged across France, you would have seen my reviews of different wines I enjoyed. I thought that instead of leaving the reviews scattered, it might be nice for you to see my top France trip wine picks in one place. Hopefully some, or all, of these wines are available where you live. Enjoy!

M. Chapoutier Les Arènes, Cornas, 2007. This is another wonderful Syrah from the tiny Cornas appellation. I read on Wikipedia that Cornas is Celtic for “burnt earth”, so similar to the “roasted slope” of Côte-Rôtie. Medium to dark ruby in the glass. A very nice nose with mint, crushed herbs, olives and dark fruit. Full body with blueberry and dark fruit flavours.  Medium acidity and tannins.  Long soft finish.  I really like this wine, and bought a bottle to take home.

Chapoutier Deschants and Petite Ruche wines

M. Chapoutier De l’Orée, Hermitage, 2008. This wine is made from Marsanne grapes grown by 60-70 year old vines. The actual plot for this wine is called “Les Murets” and is composed of very old fluvioglacial alluvial deposits that face east, getting the morning sun. The grapes for this wine are hand harvested. About half the grapes are vinified in large wooden barrels with regular lees stirring and the rest fermented in vats. The wine matures on lees with stirrings for 6 months. Maturation is between 10 and 12 months. Very deep golden honey in colour.  Lemon and honey aromas in the glass. Full body, round mouth feel, with medium acidity and lemon and honey flavours.  Long length. A very elegant wine. This is another wine that can age 30 to 60 years!

M. Chapoutier Deschants (Marsanne), Saint-Joseph, 2009. Deep golden, beautiful colour in the nice.  Very nice nose with peaches and flowers.  Medium plus body and good acidity, and flavours of peaches, orange and citrus.  Also a vein of minerality in this wine.  Very refreshing.  Medium length. I liked this wine a lot.

M. Chapoutier Petite Ruche (Syrah), Crozes-Hermitage, 2009. Deep purple in the glass with lots of cassis aromas.  Medium acidity and body.  Lots of ripe cassis and blueberry flavours.  Dry finish.  Very nice!

Domaine Huet Le Haut-Lieu and Clos du Bourg 2010 Sec wine

Domaine Huet Le Haut-Lieu Sec

2010 (€14). Sec means dry so these and the next two wines are dry. This wine was light straw in colour with small bubbles.  Nice lemon and honeycomb aromas with a hint of minty herbal.  Round nice mouthfeel.  Very fruity.  Citrus, flowers, and minerality.  Good acidity.  I really liked this wine.

Domaine Huet Clos du Bourg Sec 2010 (€16). Medium lemon colour.  Light citrus and apple aromas. Medium body, small bubbles, round in the mouth but with medium acidity to keep it refreshing.  Some honey, apple, citrus and spice flavours.  A very elegant wine.

A Galette to Remember at Restaurant la Sarrazine

Restaurant la Sarrazine in Blere

I love finding out of the way tiny cafes and restaurants that only the locals go to when I am on trips. You get unpretentious food served the way the locals enjoy it. Thus after visiting the Chenonceau castle in the Loire Valley, I drove to Restaurant la Sarrazine, a short drive away in the small French town of Blere. I found out about this restaurant as I had stumbled across a blogger who writes about the Loire Valley and his experiences living here. Sorry I don’t have the link to his blog at the moment, but hopefully I will find it upon arriving back home. He talked about how friendly the people were and how tasty his meal was. I was sold.

So here I am sitting in Restaurant la Sarrazine checking the menu.  The restaurant is filling up fast.  A few big tables are put together, so maybe there is an office lunch happening.  Everyone is very friendly.  Great atmosphere.

As always, the best deal is a Formule, where you get an entree (appetizer) and a plat principal (main course) or plat principal and dessert for a nice price. Sometimes the Formule also comes with a drink. Fortunately I did get a glass of brut apple cidre (from Normandy) with my Formule of plat principal and dessert. You can get apple cidre moelleux or brut (sweet or dry). It is a nice break from drinking beer or wine.

Galette with ham cheese egg and salad

My meal consisted of a galette followed by a dark chocolate crepe.

What is a galette?

It is a savory crepe made with buckwheat flour.  Mine had a filling of ham, an egg, cheese and cream.  Served with salad.  I had tried a gallete a few days ago at Le St. Romain in Rouen and enjoyed it so was looking forward to this one.  I was shocked though as to how much better this galette was!  The galette is quite thin and very crispy. Very easy to cut and enjoy.  The Le St. Romain galette was very hard to cut.  The crispiness of the galette went nicely with the creaminess of the galette and the acidity of the salad.  It is hard to describe so many wonderful flavours and textures coming together.  A bit of a symphony on the plate and in your mouth.

The crepe was also done with simplicity but great quality.  The crepe was soft, not crispy, and drizzled with hot, dark chocolate.  I savoured each bite, and left the restaurant not overstuffed, and ready for my next adventure down the street in the Loire.

Crepe with hot dark chocolate sauce

Take a chance on small restaurants when you are on your trip.  Talk to locals, or do some research on the web before you go.  I did and am so happy I tried Restaurant la Sarrazine.  Enjoy!

Some Loire Valley Wines Sans Review

As I passed through different towns in the Loire there would be one or more caves (places to taste wine). I would stop at some to try the wines for the area, but would not have my notebook at the ready, so no notes. The photos below are of the wines that I did try, but did not make any notes.

The wines will be primarily from the Chenin Blanc grape for the white wines, and the Cabernet Franc grape for the red. There may be a few wines that are Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Cot, or Gamay, which are also grown in the Loire Valley.

See if you have maybe tried these wines in your travels, or you have seen these wines in your local wine shop. Let me know if you have. I still have some mental impressions of each wine, so email or comment about a wine, and I’ll reply. Enjoy!

I also threw in a French word in the title.  Did you figure out it’s meaning?

Cave des Producteurs De Chanceny Brut Excellence Vouvray 2008

 

Cave des Producteurs La Javeline Vouvray 2009

Cave des Producteurs Vouvray Petillant Brut

Domaine de la Gabilliere, Sancerre Rouge, Pierre Sordais Chinon Tradition 2009

Domaine de la Grande Foucaudiere Touraine Sauvignon 2010

Domaine de la Prevole Touraine Amboise Cuvee de la Prevole 2008

Domaine Frissant Touraine Amboise Chenin

A Traditional French Dinner in the Loire Valley

Upon arriving in Chenonceau in the Loire Valley, France, it was near dinner time. The hotel owner asked me if he can book a restaurant, as Chenonceau is very small, all the restaurants book fast. He gave me a few choices, one of which was “traditional” Loire Valley food. I love to taste the food of a region, so picked the “traditional” option.

Two hours later, I am seated in a restaurant, with mounted heads of animals on the wall. The best deal at any French restaurant is the Formula, which typically comes with an appetizer, main course, and dessert.  My choice was the scalloped potatoes with cream, egg, bacon, and cheese for appetizer; grilled pork chop with salad and French fries for main course; and lemon tart for dessert.  To the appetizer and main course, I paired with two Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley.

With the very rich and creamy, bacon scalloped potatoes appetizer, I went with a sparkling Vouvray sec (dry).  No winery was listed on the menu, but the wine went perfectly.  The bubble and high acidity of this sparkling wine cut through the creaminess of the scalloped potatoes.  It was a work of art on the plate.

The pork chop was grilled perfectly. Just a tiny hint of pinkness in the meat.  Very tender.  To this I paired a Bel Air Chenin Blanc.  This wine is heavier in body than the sparkling Vouvray, but also had the high acidity which was a perfect foil for the pork chop.  It also went well with the salad that have a mustard dressing.

The lemon tart had no wine to pair with, but was sublime on it’s own.  Full of lemony flavour and enhanced with the raspberry sauce.  There was also some chopped nuts to accompany this dish.  A great way to end the meal.

A truly memorable dinner. Stay tuned for my lunch in Blere.  Cheers!

Pairing a Loire Valley Red with a Petit Camembert in France

You know that you are having a great day when you have a chance to wander through French shops, looking for wine and cheese to pair together. My trek lead me to select a Pierre Chanau Saumur Champigny 2009 with a Petit Camembert au Lait Cru from E. Graindorge.

Getting to my room, the smell of the camembert filled the room, like freshly baked bread, but this time with a more earthy aroma.  Hunting in the kitchenette for a corkscrew, I feel like a child waiting to open his Christmas presents… And with the corkscrew being found, on to my review.

The Pierre Chanau Saumur Champigny 2009 is produced in the Loire Valley.  This wine is produced from the Cabernet Franc grape. Nice medium reddish purple in the glass.  Some leather, sour cherry, raspberry and oak aromas.  Medium body, dry with oft tannins.  Sour cherry and raspberry flavours up front, with cedar notes showing up mid palate and cherry on the finish.  Medium acidity to make the wine lively.  After letting the wine breathe in my glass, violet aroma and flavours opened up with this wine.  A nice wine to sip.  Not super complex, but not all wines need to be.

The Petit Camembert au Lait Cru by E. Graindorge came in a 150 gram round. Unwrapping the camembert there was a nice white rind.  Cutting into the cheese there were small holes in the cheese. It had a light creamy yellow interior. Quite aromati with an earthy aroma.  Taking a bite it was smooth, with earthy, mushroom, cooked corn, and nutty flavours.  Many different flavours happening at the same time.

The cheese went well with the wine.  Neither overpowered the other. The wine toned down the earthy, mushroom flavours, leaving the nuttiness and creaminess on the palate.

Here is the link if you would like to read more about E. Graindorge and their cheeses. Cheers.