After Hosting The Row’s Fashion Show, Paris Boutique Market Montaigne Catches the International Eye

One evening during fashion week, I asked Liliane Jossua, owner of the fashion boutique Montaigne Market in Paris, if her store was like Colette, perhaps the most famous contemporary store in Paris. “I wouldn’t say that,” she said. “We don’t carry objects except for our jewelry lines, and we don’t have a bar!” While she doesn’t have plans to install one, either, the frequent parties the boutique hosts with star European DJs like Martin Solveig still make it one of Paris’s chicest boutiques — and sometimes watering holes. Over the just-wrapped Fashion Week in the French capital, Liliane hosted the Row’s Spring/Summer 2012 collection show, where Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen were on hand to toast themselves along with the rest of the fashion elite.

The Paris boutique was the first to carry the Row, and Liliane describes her relationship with the Olsens as a “kind of a partnership.” In other words, she won’t show just anyone’s new collection in her Market.

“Market Montaigne is a bull’s eye into the fashion world of Paris,” says Myrene de Premonville, Market Montaigne’s public relations representative. The Row’s SS12 collection was taken down the day after the show, leaving only the current winter collection in store, but the entire range of creamy, ivory whites in diverse textures and materials was memorable. Particularly alluring is the buttery-soft suede drape skirt paired with a silk blouse — luxurious, comfortable, and feminine.

The Row’s Olsens teamed up with Tom’s Shoes for their collection, so the do-good shoe company’s casual loafer-style kicks, based out of Santa Monica, can now be bought in the hottest shop on Avenue Montaigne.

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The Market opened six years ago. It remains unique in its multi-brand approach to stocking its shelves on an avenue that’s world-famous for its designer boutiques like Chanel, Dior, and Nina Ricci. In other words, it’s one-stop shopping to dress yourself head-to-toe in the most coveted, trendsetting, in-demand looks. “This is one of Paris’s most exclusive boutiques. It’s very edgy, very Right Bank with international clients. And they always take the fashion trend just a bit further,” commented Gregoire Marot, one of the principals at communications agency Favori.

Hottest sellers during Paris’ SS12 Fashion Week: Bouchra Jarrar, Maxime Simoens, Sophie Theallet, Alaia, Carven, the Row, and Thakoon, which is exclusive in Paris to Market Montaigne. For jewelry, you’ll find cuffs and one-of-a-kinds by Prive, Pristine, Shambhala, and Aaron Jah Stone, among others. Montaigne Market carries over 600 brands, and on a good shopping week can see upwards of 700 clients come through their doors. Price points? If you have to ask…

Fashion Week SS’12 Paris also saw the opening of the new DSquared2 Boutique on rue St. Honoré. It was one of the hot tickets over the weekend, though the “VIP Party” that followed was rather a disappointment. The boutique is at 247-251 rue St. Honoré, just down from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and practically across the street from the Tara Jarmon boutique.

Tara Jarmon’s new SS’12 collection, shown in boutique, is a fun, playful and colorfully daring tribute to Monte Carlo and Caracas. “Mademoiselle Tara” is a line designed for the mischievous jetsetter who packs her bags for days spent beach-side in Monte Carlo, and nights spent at gala parties. Color palette is creams, night blues and rays of sunshine yellow. Several outfits come with matching leather driving gloves…very Princess Grace!

For the Caracas theme, Tara Jarmon’s inspiration was drawn from David Hockney paintings with a color tone that combines soft tones and acid flashes: Zesty lemon, water green. Particularly enticing is a little tennis ensemble that adds sequins to the V neckline of the traditional tennis sweater and pairs with a mid-thigh lemon yellow skirt. French Open and Wimbledon, here we come!

Guerlain and the Westin Hotel, rue Castiglione, paired up to offer complimentary makeup during breaks in the relentless fashion week schedule. Makeup retouches are offered to those quick enough to call in with their name and requested appointment time. Even if you’re not a professional model, the artist’s skilled hands and Guerlain’s makeup will make you look ready to walk a runway!

Valentin Yudashkin Shows at Paris Fashion Week

Yesterday, as part of Paris Fashion Week, Russian designer Valentin Yudashkin showed his SS12 collection, a tribute to Russia’s short but jubilant summers. “Of course the polar capital is more closely associated with winter,” says the diminutive designer. “I wanted to show summer in its soft, pastel colors.”

Reminiscent of the Russian Empire’s treasure trove of jewels, Yudashkin showed off designs featuring cascades of tourmaline in glacial blue, rock crystal, and green mountain emeralds and rubies. His prints of moonstone on organza and silk muslin seemed to float down the runway. The collection’s leather jackets added a sportiness to the looks, and the shorts, skirts, and pantsuits were designed with a hectic urban lifestyle in mind. As for footwear, models for the most part wore pastel-colored leather high heels.

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The Best Champagne Bars in Paris

Champagne is the “drink of kings,” a reputation it gained during the centuries when French kings were crowned in Reims, the capital city of Champagne province. The festive bubbly was served for the coronation ceremonies. One could easily assume, then, that since Paris is a mere 45-minute train ride from Reims, that there would be champagne bars on every street corner. Not quite. We tasked ourselves exploring Paris’ winding roads in search of the best places to enjoy a flute, whether during fashion week or New Years or a Tuesday. Here’s what we came up with.

The Newest Bar 8 (pictured top) at the Mandarin Oriental is sleek, elegant and inviting. A 9 ton, taupe-colored whole piece of Spanish marble is the first piece that greets you as you enter the bar. The leather bar stools that look out onto the enchanting garden offer a perfect perch from which to study the 70-plus bottles of champagne on the menu. David Biraud, who is known as one of France’s best sommeliers, crafted not just an exquisite by-the-bottle champagne menu, but an impressive by-the-glass menu to go along with it. If you are feeling especially light, a flute of Inflorescence by Cedric Bouchard, a blanc de noirs, will have you feeling like you’re drinking a champagne cloud. There’s also Dom Perignon 2002 for the traditionalists with good taste. And try the J’Aime Paris, a champagne cocktail made with a splash of St. Germain liqueur.

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For Connoisseurs Only Le Dokhan’s is what several friends who are brand ambassadors for champagne houses recommended. Le Dokhan’s and its head sommelier Mikaël Rodriguez have such a loyal following that he’s credited with not just educating champagne enthusiasts, but also igniting the passion of a growing crowd of young champagne devotees. In addition to the 70 or so bottles of champagne, many from smaller producers, you will also find a dignified selection by the glass. And if the occasion merits, you can order a Magnum such as Henriot’s Cuvée des Enchanteleurs 1990, for 950 Euros. Once a week, Dokhan’s has a special selection for their 3 Champagne Tasting, where they offer a Brut, a Rose’ and a Millesime (Vintage). These are selected by Rodriguez, who is pleased to teach you about the five different champagne glasses you can choose from. A jazz band plays once a month.

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The Sexiest Just across the river from the Eiffel Tower is the Hotel Sezz champagne bar, La Grande Dame. Yes, this is the same Sezz as the legendary St. Tropez outpost, and for his Paris property, owner Shahé Kalaidjian has sexed things up a bit. Veuve Clicquot is the exclusive reigning diva at this bar. And the bar is named after their top Cuvée, La Grande Dame. (It’s also the Parisian nickname for the Eiffel Tower.) The hotel is a favorite among Parisians celebrating a romantic weekend or an amorous tête-á-tête, and the discreet “zen” bar and its Christophe Pillet decor cocoons you in noir and hot pink, while offering a generous menu of 10 different champagne cocktails, like the mojito champagne cocktail. Small bites include sushi and salmon skewers.

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The Most Authentic This must be the oldest champagne bar in Paris. Although it might not be altogether accurate to call it a champagne bar, the Paris Museum of Wine’s 14th century walls were once used as cellars by the Abby that stood above it when the area, Passy, was covered in vineyards. In the mid-1900s, it was used as the cellars for the Eiffel Tower. The Museum offers tastings and even lunch, regardless of whether you decide to take the tour or not. The Musée du Vin offers the opportunity to taste 5 rotating champagnes, but when you buy a bottle from their museum store—to drink there or on the Champ de Mars, naturally—they will throw in a complimentary guided tour of the museum, which includes one exhibit devoted entirely to la méthode Champenoise. October 15th is their next scheduled champagne tasting, but you can always request one specifically for yourself or a small group by calling or emailing ahead.

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The Ritziest The Ritz Bar in the Ritz Hotel has a sincere following of young and trendy Parisians. Its versatility is astounding, as it can flip to the Ritz Bar Terrasse, weather permitting, which has a collection of chic and comfortable outdoor lounge chairs that overlook the grassy enclave of the interior courtyard of this legendary hotel. Or, when the weather gets nippy, the bar is indoors, with red interiors and plush upholstered coziness. When you’ve made this kind of mark on the world of luxury, there’s really no other option but to have your own champagne label. So the Ritz Bar serves Ritz Brut and Ritz Brut Rose, and their Millisime’ and Tête de Cuvée. And dince the terrasse is a lovely setting to spend a whole evening with your significant other, nibbling on fresh strawberries, they do offer Cristal (995 Euro), Perrier Jouët Belle Epoque (500 Euro) and Dom Ruinart Brut Rosé (600 Euro) by the bottle. They are probably most famous, however, for their champagne cocktails which include the Ms. Bond, a brut champagne served with raspberry essence and a perfect red raspberry garnish, and world-renowned head barman Colin Field’s other concoction, Le Serendipiti: Mint, Calvados, apple juice, champagne.

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The Clubbiest Before a night at the clubs, young (and famous) Paris heads to Le Bar at the Plaza Athénée on Avenue Montaigne. Its trademark blue lighting turns fire-red at 10pm on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. The resident DJ, Adrien Villanova, starts jamming with his entourage between 11 and 11:30. Here, you can get glasses of Ducasse signature champagne (made by Lanson Champagne), Roederer Brut, or Bollinger Rosé, and you can chase all those down with head barman Thierry Hernandez’s Bailey’s, Grand Marnier, and Kahlua jelly shots, served like pieces of candy on ice. Bottles include the Lanson Noble Cuvée 1998 and Laurent Perrier. Big spenders can opt for their special My Private Boat excursion, which will have you sipping champagne on the Seine while cruising in the Plaza’s signature mahogany and chrome craft. (1,100 Euro for 2 hours, available to Hotel Guests.) Le Bar du Plaza Athénée is party central during Paris Fashion Week, and it’s also the main watering hole on Vogue’s Fashion Night Out.

The Men of Vinexpo, France’s Biannual Wine Bonanza

A biannual affair, France’s monumental, just-wrapped Vinexpo Bordeaux has, once again, firmly established itself as the world’s leading exhibition for the wine industry. A few numbers: there were approximately 50,000 attendees at the Bordeaux Convention Center; overall wine consumption between now and 2014 will reach a whopping 2.729 billion cases of wine, most of that light and sparkling; the US, China, and Russia are the countries primarily fueling this growth; in 2009 alone, this retail market already represented $389 billion. Indeed, people really enjoy knocking back a glass of the good stuff.

While women buy more than half of the wine that ends up on your table, according to Wine Enthusiast, men still dominate the somewhat fusty, very-serious-despite-the-intoxication Vinexpo, which isn’t to say that there aren’t a slew of younger, more internationally-minded budding sommeliers to enliven the crowd. We spoke with 10 of the expos most insider-y insiders – from Baron Philippe de Rothschild to the Mayor of Bordeaux – to get the scoop on what’s new in the world of the vine.

Adrien Laurent, Baron Philippe de Rothschild Nevermind that three bottles of Château Lafite Rothschild sold not too long ago at Hong Kong’s Sotheby’s auction house for a record $232,692 – each! Adrien Laurent, Baron Philippe de Rothschild’s U.S. and Mexico Export Manager, doesn’t rely on pretention when discussing his house’s eminent wines. In fact, if you can get him to talk about the history of the Rothschild family and how Baron Philippe turned Bordeaux’s wine world upside down back in the 1920s, when he was a mere 20 years old, you’ll really see the Oeno-lover take off his gloves. I’m just praying that the taste of ‘98 Château Mouton Rothschild that he poured me (and that I spit out) won’t be something he remembers me by. “I never spit out Mouton Rothschild,” he confides. I must add, in the interest of full-disclosure, that he did graciously pour me another splash of this legendary cuvée, which I fully savored.

Pascal Boyé, Nicolas Feuillatte Boyé can be authentically described as a kind of dashing figure in a romantic novel. The French champagne executive lives in NYC, spends his weekends in Aspen, and takes business meetings in Epernay and Bordeaux. “We are the youngest of the big champagne houses,” he explains. Started a mere 36 years ago in Epernay, France, the heart of AOC Champagne, the house prides itself on its modernity. “We are the pyramid of the Louvre,” says Boyé. The number one champagne house in France is number 5 in the U.S. Within the next year, according to Mr. Pascal Boyé, Feuillatte’s North and South America Export Manager, the world’s third largest champagne house will move to the number four position in the U.S.’ 22 million bottle-a-year market.

Alain Juppé, Mayor of Bordeaux There isn’t a resident in Bordeaux and its environs who doesn’t sing Mr. Juppe’s praises. He took over as Mayor of Bordeaux in 2006, and has since carried out remarkable beautification and restoration projects. The modern, efficient tram system that whisks you around the mid-sized city is another thing to write home about. In his opening remarks at Vinexpo 2011, Mr. Juppé emphasized the crucial role that Bordeaux plays in the world of wine, and how vital wine is to the French culture and economy. He also proudly mentioned the city’s ambitious plans to open the Centre Culturel et Touristique Du Vin, which will “serve as a platform to discover Bordeaux wineries” and be an “immersive experience into the world of wine.” Any dirt? Only that since being named French Minister of Foreign and European Affairs six months ago, Juppé can no longer devote all his time to Bordeaux.

Jacques Dupont, Wine Writer Jacques Dupont, French journalist for Le Point, was the first to start “special wine issues” in the French press. His annual September wine issue for Le Point ranks number one of all such French publications. In September 2011, his newest book, Le Guide Des Vins De Bordeaux hits bookshelves. Dupont is more than a wine journalist. He is a keeper of traditions, teller of wine stories, and caretaker of French heritage. His first chapter in his new book starts off with an homage to Figeac and its proprietor, Thierry Manoncourt, who passed away last August. For now the book is only in French. The author plans to have it translated into English, “But first in Chinese. And that might take some time,” he says. If you are lucky enough to get your hands on the new Grands Crus Classés: The Great Wines of Bordeaux, with Recipes From Top Chefs Of The World, you can read his foreword there, in English.

Enguerrand Baijot, Lanson International Champagne’s most eligible bachelor is named Enguerrand Baijot. This young scion doesn’t just read like a hero in a romantic novel, he looks like one too. Ladies, tie your ribbons and fasten your bonnets, because this young and dashing Frenchman is just about to give up Old London Town for the Big Apple. Brand Ambassador for Lanson Champagne, this handsome man has been charged with representing the family business in the U.S., so be prepared to see much more of Lanson Champagnes Stateside in the coming months. And even I wouldn’t be surprised if a Hollywood casting agent snapped up Enguerrand for the first season of Who Wants to Marry a Champagne Mogul? Stay tuned.

Philippe Massol, Centre Culturel et Touristique du Vin When we acknowledge that Bordeaux is the world capital of wine, then it’s only fitting that the Wine Cultural and Tourism Center should sit right on the Garonne River waterfront, in the Chartrons district of Bordeaux, where so much of the modern-day wine trade has its roots in history. Massol is the tall, blond Director of this ambitious oenological project, a project that will be a cultural gift from Bordeaux and France and an homage to the importance of wine to world civilizations. “Wine is an intercultural dialogue,” says Massol. To liken it to other ambitious projects such as the Eiffel Tower, the Musee d’Orsay and the Louvre’s Glass Pyramid is to be not too far off the mark. “The building will be fluid-like. It will be a full sensorial experience of wine,” adds Massol. Its archives and informational databases will include the world’s wine regions, and won’t be exclusive to Bordeaux or French wines. Book your oeno-tours now for 2014, when the Center is scheduled to open.

Kelly McAuliffe, Master Sommelier Kelly McAuliffe enjoys the distinction of being the only American Master Sommelier in France. He also exudes warmth and charm and a real enthusiasm for French wines, especially wines of the Rhône region, a place he and his French wife and children call home. Fluent in français, and with a fondness for saying things like, “That wine is Super Bon!” (perfect franglais), McAuliffe still sometimes reminisces about his 20 years, on-again, off-again spent with Alain Ducasse. For now he is content to open up the world of French wine to oenotourists who take his wine tours, visiting châteaux in and around Avignon and the Rhône region including Château-neuf-du-Pape, Hermitage and Tavel.

Thomas Thiou, St. Émilion One of the only Tastings By Vinexpo that I actually had time to make was Le Cercle Rive Droite, Grands Vins de Bordeaux. On offer were nearly 200 wineries many of whom were from St.- Émilion and Montagne St.-Émilion. The French can be supremely gracious when they open up and especially when you can get them talking about their wines. Thomas Thiou, proprietor and winemaker of Reclos de la Couronne as well as Château La Couronne, was just this sort. It probably helped, too, that he once was the Communications Director for the Conseils des Vins de St.-Émilion. Before I could say, may I taste your 2010? he was already on the phone to the St.-Émilion Tourism Office and the Wine Council, organizing a guided tour for me of this UNESCO World Heritage town. St. Émilion became truly one of the top highlights of my Vinexpo 2011, the town is a true gem and every bit worth the pilgrimage!

Stephan Asseo, L’Aventure Stephan is the Superstar of Paso Robles vines. This Bordeaux man gave up his native country and its rigorous AOC rules for greener pastures in California. That was 15 years ago, and today, Asseo’s Central Valley wines are counted as some of California’s best. Asseo’s “renegade” cultivation and blends of syrah, petit verdot, and viognier, are what has gotten him attention in Robb Report and Wine Spectator. “Blending is what increases the authenticity and the complexity of the creation as a whole,” he says. For Asseo, embarking on the new territory was an adventure, hence the name of his winery, “L’Aventure.” “I slept in a trailer on the property for the first few years,” says this California blond and man-of-the-terroir.

Dan Snook, Joann “I’ve got a scoop for you,” is how my conversation with Englishman and Bordeaux-resident Dan Snook began. This guy obviously knows the right pickup line for a reporter. Turns out, the scoop was for real. Joann U.S. has just now made it possible for restaurants to buy their 1855 Grand Crus Classés wholesale from Joann’s Jersey warehouse. Same goes for hotels, too. Joanne is one of Bordeaux’s biggest négociants with over 150 prestige châteaux (over six million bottles) in stock. Their complete catalogue is now warehoused in the U.S. Gone are the days when a Michelin star U.S. restaurant would have to run down to the liquor store to buy their Haut-Brion for the evening’s discerning clientele.

Paris’ Best Amateur Cooking Schools for the Hungry Tourist

Now that French Cuisine has been declared a World Cultural Heritage Listing by UNESCO, how could you dream of planning a trip to Paris and not penciling in time for an amateur cooking class? (Trust us: They’re not all like the onion-chopping nightmare in Julie & Julia.) Here’s a sampling of a few of the city’s top kitchen destinations to consider on you next journey to the City of Light — and Food.

Ecole Ritz Escoffier – 15 Place Vendôme, 75001 If you have a lunch hour to spend at a cooking school in Paris, Ecole Ritz Escoffier is your gig. First of all, it’s effortlessly easy to find, at 15 Place Vendôme. It’s posh, it’s excellent and the classes are given in both English and French.

Ecole Ritz Escoffier kitchens are located in the basement of Ritz Paris Vendôme Hotel, right next to the hotel’s working kitchens where they create all of the meals for the entire hotel. It is also, as legend goes, the inspiration for the kitchens seen in the celebrated Pixar film, Ratatouille.

But in spite of all the international outreach and friendliness (the school is also partnered with the Tokyo School, Vantana) it remains very much an iconic bastion of French Culinary Tradition. Executive Head Chef is the larger-than-life Michel Roth, the ninth Executive Chef the hotel has known in its 110 years of existence. His teaching team at the Escoffier Ecole is both accomplished and easygoing.

My class was scheduled for a Thursday afternoon from 1:00 – 2:00 pm. On the menu was: Suprême de volaille, lard fumé, patates douces aux noisettes (Poultry breast, smoked bacon and sweet potatoes with hazelnuts). Our instructor, Chef Adeline Robert, had spent time working in NY and in San Francisco so she would give the instructions in French and then once more in English. On this day, I happened to be the only English-speaking student in the class of 10. The others were all French and three of them were celebrating their birthdays, having received the cooking lesson as a birthday gift. Lucky for the rest of us, because after the meal – with which a fine bottle of Sancerre was served – the Ritz Staff brought 2 bottles of champagne and a plate of divine cream and raspberry-filled puffs which we all shared.

The hour-long class whizzed by. The Chef-instructor wasn’t shy about laying down the basics, including the proper way to hold a knife. I learned yet again a thing or two: hold the knife enclosed in your full palm, not with your index finger “guiding” the back of the blade. This allows for greater control of the slicing. I also learned a couple things about Auguste Escoffier: The French regard him as the “King of Chefs and Chef of Kings.” He was France’s reigning pre-eminent chef in the early part of the 20th century and his cookbook is the “Bible,” of French cuisine.

Back to class…The best thing about this chicken dish is that now I can re-create it for guests when I want to throw a dinner party at home. As a handout we were given the recipes and a Ritz pencil with which to take notes. Chef Robert gave us a few tricks to remember. 1) Always brown your meat before you cook it in the oven. When you brown it, the less you mess with it the better. In other words, place your chicken breast wrapped in bacon in the hot, oiled skillet and let it sit there and brown. Don’t touch it. Then after about 5 minutes, flip it over and allow it to brown on the other side. This is the browning that both seals in the juices and flavors and provides a nice crisped outer layer. Only then do you pop the meat into the oven, in this case for 12 minutes. This technique is especially true for scallops. 2) If you want to brown onions without coloration, start with a cold pan. Add a pinch of salt, this helps to absorb the water trapped in the vegetable. If you are adding garlic, crush the garlic with the skin on and throw it into the pan. The skin prevents the garlic from burning and the flavors readily permeate into the onions and the juice.

The room at the Ritz where you enjoy your meal is just off to the side of the Patisserie Kitchen and is a little dining room decorated with a pretty tablecloth and a full bookcase of all the best cookbooks in the world. On prominent display was Thomas Keller’s French Laundry cookbook. I asked Chef Robert if she had ever eaten there and she said, yes, it was magnificent! She added, however, that when she worked in NY – for two years – she didn’t have any time up until the very last day to make it to Per Se. The lunch conversation then veered toward a discussion of the long hours Chefs maintain and meandered onto what it takes to become a Meilleur Ouvrier de France, or MOF for short.

Ecole Ritz Escoffier also offers professional courses. You can sign up for a three month class that meets four times a week, all day long. The patisserie courses are separate from the cooking courses and you must choose which specialty you will pursue. The kitchens were recently refurbished with all Molteni equipment which is a professional grade of kitchen stovetops and other heavy appliances. You can’t ask for a better setting. You are, you must remember, cooking underneath the Pl. Vendôme in Paris! And if the Ritz is somewhere you choose to stay, you’ll want to note that in their Prestige Suites, they offer fully-equipped Poggenpohl kitchens, the first luxury hotel in Paris to do so. The Ritz Paris was also the first luxury hotel in the world to be equipped with electricity on each floor and with a telephone and bathroom in each guest room. They’ve come a long way, baby! image

Ecole de Cuisine Alain Ducasse – 64, rue de Ranelagh, 75016 It might be best to save Ecole de Cuisine Alain Ducasse for last. If not, you risk being spoiled for everything else. The friendliness of the school and its kitchens, the warmth of the staff who greet you upon your arrival, these are all ingredients you might not expect from the Cooking School of one of the world’s most famous chefs. A quick walk from Metro La Muette in the16th Arrondissement, 64 rue de Ranelagh is a mixed-use building that has a preschool-kindergarten in its courtyard – children’s toys are what first greet your sight-line upon arrival.

This sense of play – though the two schools have no affiliation! – is what awaits you in the kitchens of the Alain Ducasse Paris Cooking School. Opened just about a year ago, it is already a hit and its Thursday evening wine tasting courses are the really tough ones to get into. French companies have discovered how bonding a shared cooking experience can be among employees, so the Miele-equipped kitchens are often booked by private companies looking to offer their employees “team building experiences.”

I reserved the “Poissons et Crustaces” class for a Saturday morning, figuring that this is not the obvious choice for a cooking class and that I was sure to learn a thing or two about fish and shrimp. Class began at 9 a.m. sharp and lasted until 1:00 with the noon hour reserved for “degustation” or the enjoying of the meal you have just cooked. The meal, I might add, was served with a couple bottles of Crozes-Hermitage wine.

The affability of the 6’6” French chef was infectious. The class was cosy, shared with a mother and daughter, an older woman, a man who sold photovoltaic panels and myself. The Chef, Franck Loquet, speaks perfect American but chose to speak French throughout the class – thank goodness! – except for the occasional translation when he saw I wasn’t familiar with a specific word. He also welcomed questions throughout the class.

The joy of learning and working alongside someone who is fully confident in their competence is that there is easy effortlessness. Chef Loquet exhibited this in quantity: he had the techniques down, was excellent at demonstrating and teaching, and wasn’t afraid to add some creative flair as well. The kitchens are large and elegantly appointed with all state-of-the-art Miele equipment, which, Chef pointed out, can be used and had at home. In other words, you are not learning on equipment that is reserved for professionals, so everything you use and learn on at the Alain Ducasse Cooking School is similar to what you might have at home.

I learned: How to filet a mackerel, Check. How to de-vein jumbo shrimp, Check. I learned, most importantly, that one of the very basic elements of a Top French Chef’s technique is that they throw nothing away. Everything is used. Case in point: After we removed the heads and the carcasses of the jumbo shrimp, he tossed all of it into a hot pan sizzling with cooking grade olive oil, added some spices and sauteed it all up until the skins and heads and all had turned that bright shrimp pink. He then added several ladles-full of home made “Fond Blanc de Volaille” (chicken stock) and let it simmer for a good hour. [We later used this shrimp carcass broth – strained through a fine-mesh chinois – to coax the risotto-pasta to cooked tenderness.]

Meanwhile, he kept us busy shaving lacy tendrils of fennel with a grater for the salad, finely chopping the blanched skins of lemons and oranges for the citrus-zest garnish and frying up the de-boned pieces of mackerel. Interestingly, this chef noted that even when you use organic lemons and oranges for the zest, after the fruit is picked, often they add a polish to it so that it’s more appealing to the consumer. So his technique was to soak the skins in cold water, then blanch once, rinse in cold water and blanch again. Only then were we allowed to trim and finely cut the orange and lemon skins into zest for the sauce.

Takeaway: So many culinary nuggets! And also a new discovery: Vinaigre Xeres, a Spanish vinegar that is deliciously aromatic.

Yes, Ecole de Cuisine Alain Ducasse is more expensive than most of the others. But it is an experience you will be able to share with hearth and home and they give you a personalized Certificate of Completion of Course, signed by Alain Ducasse himself, at the end of your morning class. image

La Cornue, Ateliers des Saveurs – Galerie La Cornue, 18, rue Mabillon, 75006 Just this side St. Germaine des Pres and right in front of St. Sulpice is La Cornue’s cooking school, Ateliers des Saveurs. If you are the type of person who pastes posters of these exquisite oven/stove tops over your bed so that you fall asleep with visions of sugar plums dancing through your head, this is your dream-come-true-cooking school.

Yes, you get to use the absolutely beautiful La Cornue stove tops and ovens during your two-hour-long midday class or three-hour evening course. The attendant La Cornue representative will even show off the newest color: Ice Blue, a sort of slate grey-blue that is designed to match with any décor. But I digress…

Arrive promptly at noon for your class to get the full experience. The Ateliers des Saveurs is deliciously easy to find and the glass front is open to the street-level entrance. Classes are designed for up to 9 people which absolutely affords the chance to talk to the chef, interact with the other participants and fundamentally immerse in the aromas and sizzles of the cooking meats, the boiling sauces, the fragrant spices.

During a recent class – they’re scheduled about two weeks apart – the menu featured: Magret de canard aux poivres, sauce bigarade; Mousseline de Saint-Jacques, sauce cressonnette; and New York Cheese Cake. The “sauce bigarade” for he plump, juicy and lovely duck was a sauce made from fresh oranges and grapefruit and zest of lemon. The Chef, Stephane Bossard, made a point of instructing that it’s best to use organic lemons and oranges when doing a zest. If otherwise, scrub the skins thoroughly to remove any residual pesticides before grating the skins.

The last-minute substitution on the menu was: the vegetable, “topinanbourg” which was used instead of the mousseline de st. Jacques. In fashion now in France is the resurgence of these “old vegetables.” Both I and the other American present had never seen this vegetable before. The older French woman and the older German lady in the class both knew the vegetable and remembered it from war time. During WWII, when potatoes were expensive and hard to come by, French people bought “topinanbourg,” instead. The two young French girls explained to me that it is currently very “a la mode” to resuscitate the use of these traditional, and nearly forgotten, vegetables.

Topinanbourg looked something like a turnip. Chef Bossard emphasized adding thin slices of lemon to the water you boil the vegetable in. Once they are soft, sort of the consistency of boiled potatoes, you mash them up with a blender – by hand might require some effort. If they are slightly watery, you can add breadcrumbs to thicken the consistency. The taste is silky and satisfying and they look like a dollop of mashed potatoes on your plate.

The New York Cheese Cake, made with French St. Moret cheese – the French version of Philadelphia cream cheese was, well, nearly as good as cheesecake you get in NYC. This is a great class for observing as there was not much opportunity for hands-on participation. image

L’atelier des Sens, Bastille – 10 rue du Bourg l’Abbe, 75003 Located a 5-minute walk from the Pl. Bastille is the comfortable, funky yet professional kitchens of L’atelier des Sens. Classes average at about 10 people but can accommodate up to 12. They have two professional kitchens in their enclosed courtyard Atelier and often classes are conducted side-by-side.

The theme of a recent Friday evening class was “Grand Cuisine Aphrodisiaque.” That needs no translation. The Chef, Mssr. Fabrice Seigner, was the Head Chef at Le Jules Verne from 1997 until 2007. Where else but in France can you sign up to take a class with a chef who once commanded one of Paris’s most famous restaurants?

And like any true -to-form commander, he had all of us chopping, peeling, stirring, whipping and washing in no time. These courses are hands-on and immersive. Wallflowers need not apply. For once I was the only American participating in something (we seem to be everywhere!) and actually got to practice my French. The entire course was in French, but even with my less-than-perfect Français (that’s an exaggeration!) I had no problem following the cooking instructions.

The menu was inspired by Cupid himself. Our chocolate mousse dessert, topped with cream of passion fruit, had a good dose of Maca as the added ingredient. Maca, as Chef Seigner delightedly explained, is “natural viagra.” It’s tasteless; It comes in powder form; and had I not, myself, witnessed the dosage, I never would have tasted it in my crème de fruits de passion. How does the saying go… A spoonful of honey…?

For our scallops appetizer, he presented a bag of Goji berries to the assembled class: 2 young couples and 5 single ladies of varying ages with one pregnant young woman whose husband had gifted her a 20-hour subscription of L’ateliers des Sens cooking classes. My French classmates had never seen Goji berries! So I explained to them that in California we eat Goji berries with our almond and walnut trail mix. That impressed Chef Seigner. And he wasn’t an easy guy to win points with. It also gave him the opportunity to wax eloquent about the goji’s anti-oxidant properties and to show us a container of Aloe Vera jelly that he was using for a special recipe the next day. He’s “into organic,” he explained.

Besides the food, the great thing about the class is that Chef Seigner took the time to actually teach you how to julienne a snow pea. You learned how to dice a carrot (the orange ones). Which was altogether different from mincing a carrot (the yellow ones). Chopping parsley, he was quick to catch you out if you didn’t maneuver the knife just as he showed you – the proper way, of course. All too often us home enthusiasts never get the chance to learn these basics. Another plus, all the recipes for your reserved class are available for download from their website 48 hours before the class.

Class began at 6:50 and ended at 9:00 p.m. And then we all set the table and sat down to eat. The meal was immense. With the scallops appetizer in a reduction goji berry and ginger sauce tantalizing our senses and then followed by the main course of chicken (Fricassée de Sot l’y Laisse au gingembre confit et petits légumes) we were ready to stretch out for the night right there. And the dessert: the chocolate mousse, made from scratch, layered with that laced passion fruit cream and then all enrobed in a chocolate cup. My takeaway: To julienne is not to dice! image

Alain Cirelli – Événements Culinaires – 24 rue Condorcet, 75009 Even though most tourists and travelers to Paris make the inevitable excursion to the 9th arrondissement, home to the Moulin Rouge and the Sacre Coeur, the Funicular of Montmarte and its Butte, I still have never spent much time exploring the quarter, despite its alluring charms.

So hopping off at the Anvers Metro stop one dark, Winter evening, I had to consult my pocket map several times before I found 24 rue Condorcet, the kitchens of Chef Alain Cirelli and Chef Yannick Leclerc. The evening’s theme was “Grand Amour de Menu,” in keeping with February’s St. Valentine calendar. The setting couldn’t have been more perfect: a Bold Lipstick Red kitchen, with state of the art appliances, a waist-level chandelier, at once chic and kitsch, that marked the winding stairway to the coatroom in the basement.

Couples dominated the class of ten with only a few of us stragglers there for professional learning- the other guy was a restaurateur. The atmosphere was genial: Chef Jérôme Thiers, 29 years old, was at home in his kitchen. His at-ease demeanor soon put the class in a relaxed attentive state and after a few potato peelings and appetizer preps, we were a friendly group participating in a culinary class.

Chef Alain Cirelli is known as the Italian French chef. He is well-known for his Italian cuisine and also for being the Chef-Director of three of the Printemps Haussmann – Paris’s luxury department store – dining establishments: Brasserie du Printemps, Deli-cieux and World Bar. His kitchen’s Italian Cuisine nights fill up fast, so best to reserve and book in advance.

For this February evening’s cours de cuisine, we had on the menu: Veal Filet Mignon with a honey-gravy reduction sauce and Sweet Potato caramelized Tarte-Tatin. The appetizer was a ginger-braised scallop carpaccio served with savory whipped cream and a balsamic reduction sauce with home-made breadsticks as accent; For dessert we indulged in a made-from-scratch molten-lava cake with passion fruit filling, graced with a lychee-liqueur infused lychee fruit. This wasn’t just an amour de menu but a menu made for culinary seduction. Unfortunately, the recipes were not readily available on their website or even provided as handouts, though Chef Jérôme was continually ever-ready to discuss ingredients, how much to use and where to get them. He made a point of mentioning rue Etienne Marcel in the 2nd arrondissement as the place to go to find professional culinary equipment for the trade, and added that the shops will sell to private individuals, as well.

My takeaways from the class are two things in particular: 1) It is unbelievably easy to make caramel sauce! Just heat a pan really hot, add sugar and wait for it to start to melt until it’s brown. Then shake it around a bit once it becomes the brown liquid so it doesn’t burn. Voila’! Caramel sauce. 2) It is very important to trim even the best cuts of meat. Trim, trim, trim all the fat and gristle. Then take the cooking string and wrap it all up into a neat piece of roast. Brown the meat first in a pan, all sides, even the ends. Then deliver it into the hot oven until it’s cooked to your taste.

The chocolate molten cake made-from-scratch seemed easy enough to do but I’d have to try it a few more times under Chef Jérôme’s tutelage before I’d dare it at home myself.