Tag Archives: France

Pierre Herme Crowned Best Pastry Chef 2016

The next time you bite into one of Pierre Herme’s macarons, remember that it is a creation of the world’s Best Pastry Chef, a title bestowed on him by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

Born into a family of master bakers from the Alsace region of eastern France, Herme’s dedication to macarons has elevated it into an art form. It is very surprising then that he started out not being a fan of the French dessert because they were too sweet. “What prompted me to work on macarons was that before there were just coffee, chocolate and vanilla flavors,” he added. “So it gave me great latitude for creativity.”

His inventiveness and creativity made his signature macarons a household name. Steering away from typical flavors, he married ingredients such as olive oil and vanilla, wild rose hip, fig and foie gras to his menu, using sugar “as a seasoning and not a principal ingredient.” Some of his most sought-after flavors include “Ispahan” – a refreshing mix of raspberries, lychee and rosewater – and “Mogador” – a decadent combination of passion fruit and milk chocolate.

It wasn’t an overnight success story; Herme had to undergo constant experimentation and a decade of apprenticeship with Parisian patissier Gaston Lenotre before his debut in 1997. He obtains inspiration from everywhere – “something I have tasted, something I have read or maybe an image,” he said. But with success also comes failure. “We worked on a pear and chestnut macaron. But after three attempts, we had to admit that we were never going to make one that had both the true taste of pear and of chestnut at the same time,” Herme reflected.

Now 54, Herme still keeps his experimental notes safely archived. His patisserie has expanded to include tarts, cakes, chocolates and jams, though the core of his business still revolves around macarons. Collaborations with artists such as Nicolas Buffe, who designed his chocolate boxes, and perfumier Jean-Michel Duriez has helped spread the word about his desserts internationally. “There are more and more talented patissiers out there opening shops and doing great things in hotels and restaurants. The profession is very much alive and there are lots of people eager to learn, which is wonderful,” he said.

French Vineyards Win War of Roses

As with jewelry and products made in rose gold, the wine market has been opening up in the 21st century to Rose wine. This is very good news for France which, despite losing to Italy in global production rankings last year (based on data by the International Organisation of Vine and Wine), has seen worldwide sales of Rose grow by nearly a third in 10 years. Worldwide rose production grew just 15 percent between 2002 and 2013 – but French winegrowers spotted the trend, and rode the wave by boosting their output 31 percent in the same period.

Much of this growth comes from demand in the US where Rose is starting to be seen as an accessible (read not pretentious) wine. Oliver Brun who runs a family vineyard at Chateau Brigue, at Le Luc-en-Provence in the southeastern Var region, noted that part of the appeal is the fact that “there’s no need to be an expert to enjoy it”. 70% of the sales from the Brun family vineyard comes from exports, and half of of that business is in the US. Florida, California, New York and, latterly, Chicago who lead the way.

The region French Rose is most associated with is the southern Provence region, where the climate, grapes and soil are just right. It is home to 600 producers with 39% of the coveted “registered designation of origin” certificates. Some of the popularity of Provencal Rose can also be attributed to marketing, such as British writer Peter Mayle’s best-seller “A Year in Provence” that describes life in the region. A bit of it is also the celebrity shock that occurred when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie purchased the Chateau de Miraval, complete with a vineyard – where they came up with their own “Pink Floyd” Rose.

Despite its accessibility though in terms of consumption, things aren’t so easy on the production side. The process is a precise art-form, and in 1999 a Rose research center was opened at Vidaudan in the Var to seek out the best quality. Roses are made when red grape varieties are harvested via a short maceration (soaking) period, while the technique of direct pressing may also be used once grape skins have been stripped or punctured before the juice is sent for fermentation. There’s also a saignee or “bled” method that sees juice bled off from nascent reds and placed in a separate vat.

“You have to be able to get up at the dead of night (to check on the brew’s progress) — it’s a little like the ultra-precise cooking of a grand chef,” said Philippe Faure-Brac, who was voted the world’s best sommelier in 1992. Thanks to that technical dedication and the seductive image, as well as the accessibility, it looks like it’s time for Rose to shine in the wine market.

Find the best Rose information and options with Epicurio. Download the app on iTunes or Google Play now.

Cité du Vin Celebrates Bordeaux Wine

With the French city all geared up to open its new cultural center dedicated to wine, many expect the city of Bordeaux to become a new tourist hot-spot (more than it already is). On June 1, the Cité du Vin will open its doors after a three-year construction period, in time to be the summer destination for visitors.

Situated in the center of the Bassins à Flot district, the cultural center is part of the plan to regenerate the area. The design of the building is a nod to the rites and rituals of wine drinking, with its curved structure reflecting the moment when wine is swirled in a glass. Yes, that is what the shape means!

Measuring 13,350 sqm and spanning 10 floors, the futuristic design also features the colors of the Garonne river. On the second floor, sits the center’s permanent exhibition that takes wine lovers on a multi-dimensional journey. With the help of 3D images, aromas and various interactive features, guests can explore the history, properties and cultural aspects of Bordeaux.Bordeaux-wine-festival-article

The tour can also be enjoyed with the help of an audio guide — available in eight languages — and will also bring visitors to other vineyards around the world. While there is a replica of a genuine wine cellar created to elaborate on the various stages of wine making, the Belvedere viewing gallery on eighth floor of the center allows visitors to sample a glass of Bordeaux’s finest.

Following the opening, the city will kick off the 10th Bordeaux Wine Festival on June 23. The weekend will see the riverbanks of Bordeaux transformed for the wine-tasting event while trips to vineyards are also organized to help tourists understand the wine making process. Visitors can also get a special pass to sample the region’s famous “1855” grand cru wines, the real stars of the region. Held on alternate years with the Vinexpo wine industry trade fair, the “Bordeaux Wine Festival” has become a popular event that brings together locals and wine fans from further afield.

Find out which Bordeaux wines are on Epicurio now. Download the app on iTunes or Google Play now.

Focus: Artist Leiko Ikemura

Japanese artist Leiko Ikemura was born in Tsu, Japan, and currently lives and works in both Cologne and Berlin. After getting her degree at the University of Osaka in language studies, she went on to study art in Spain, where she stayed for six years. Ikemura then moved to Switzerland and has stayed in various countries in Western Europe ever since.

In 2014, Ikemura was awarded the Cologne Fine Art Prize 2014 and her public collections are everywhere in Europe, from France to Switzerland, to Germany, Austria and also in her homeland, Japan. Her solo exhibitions span a history of 37 years, dating back to 1979 and she has had a strong presence on the world stage of visual art.

Ikemura uses a combination of paintings and sculptures as a creative tool. She uses a variety of media: bronze, terracotta, pastel on paper and oil on burlap for example. The playing around with different media mirrors the different landscapes and characters of mountains. Ikemura’s nature works are mostly an expression of the Japanese countryside. Typically, when Ikemura uses canvas, she offers contemplation, and when she uses sculptures, she offers intimacy and religion. Ikemura’s works are always poetic, iconographic, imaginary and impressionistic – we get the idea of what she is trying to say, and the lack of minute details shows how she avoids realistic representation of art so that the viewer is left with space for imagination.

In many of Ikemura’s nature works, the mountain is a recurring motif, a central subject. For her, mountains symbolise victory of life over death. Her latest exhibition, ‘Mountains in Exile’, which showed at Galerie Karsten Greve, France, have works that were created between 2013 and 2015. Two works in this collection are ‘Genesis I’ and ‘Tree’, in which she uses tempera on burlap; the main colors of these works are red, grey and ochre, showing how she brings colour contrast, as compared to her other works that tend to border on the meditative side.

In ‘Hawks’, however, she uses pastel on paper to portray mountains and water. The appeal of ‘Hawks’ lies in its simplicity, she uses only pastel on paper and the image is not one with elaborate sensory detail, in fact, it seems almost rudimentary. But Ikemura is more concerned with “the play of light and shadow… than to depict so called ‘reality’”.

Ikemura’s enigmatic style is expressed in her philosophy as an artist for, “In [her] mind, being an artist means a constant search for something that combines your own identity with something universal. This search requires time.” Mixing Eastern Asian and Western approaches to art, Ikemura exemplifies what it means to truly be an international artist in the globalised world.

*For more information, please visit www.galerie-karsten-greve.com

Story Credits

Text by Megan Chua

This story was first published in Art Republik.

Fancy a One Night Stay Under the Eiffel Tower?

What’s more romantic than visiting the Eiffel Tower with your loved one? Spending the night under it, of course. In a lead-up to the highly-anticipated UEFA Euro 2016 games, short-term vacation rental site HomeAway has launched a contest offering up to 24 people a chance to spend the night on the first floor of the iconic landmark, reimagined by a Paris designer.

This contest is not all luck though. The four best answers to the question “What would you do if the HomeAway Eiffel Tower was all yours for a night?” will be awarded the opportunity to bring along five guests each for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Winners can also expect three additional nights in a Paris HomeAway vacation rental, round-trip transportation and a gourmet dinner – as if the Eiffel Tower stay wasn’t a sweet enough deal.


This isn’t the first contest of its kind – short-term vacation rental companies have been trying to outdo one another with wacky and exclusive properties. ‘Sleeping with sharks’ may have seemed like a ridiculous proposition but Airbnb made the impossible happen for three brave couples with its custom-built underwater chamber at the Paris aquarium last month. Denmark’s Kronborg Castle also threw open its doors for the first time in a century to mark Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary in April, allowing two guests to live as Hamlet did (if he wasn’t fictional).

The contest runs May 19 – 31, 2016 in the United States, May 20 – June 5, 2016 in Asia and May 19 – June 5, 2016 in Europe. The four lucky groups selected will be hosted June 23, June 28, July 4 and July 8, 2016 during the UEFA Euro 2016 games period, and winners will be announced June 10.

Click here to find out more about this contest and to participate.

Focus: Artist Hom Nguyen

Vietnamese-born artist Hom Nguyen (b. 1972) immigrated to France in the 1960s where he has since led a fulfilling and colorful artistic career. The hallmark of his style is the human form – Hom is concerned with capturing the human emotions in all its diversity, every emotion on the spectrum from happiness to despair, he encapsulates the essence of every look, every pair of eyes, and every stare within the frames of the canvas. Using brash sketch lines and paint strokes, his works seem to embody a certain impatience and ruggedness. Perhaps that is the background of the artist speaking, as Hom used to be an autodidact craftsman, making patina on leather before it sparked his deep and life-long interest in painting and drawing.

Hom is not so much concerned with refinement than he is for truth – he wants to express what is real, instead of the polished, high-art forms of the classical style. Nguyen has been compared to Warhol, or to figurative art of Lucian Freud, but his works seem to be an antithesis to the straightforward, direct images of him. Hom’s expressiveness presents the opposite – he does not seem to want to present pop art, nor to impress with any pompous and provocative images and colors. His is an organic, down-to-earth capturing of the ordinary: human faces, young and old, joyful and devastated. Hom wants his viewers to think twice about the ordinary, and to raise the awareness of the socio-political context of immigration: What is in a face? Why do we take to some and not others? How are these faces speaking to us? These are questions that immigrants would have identified with.

His recent works focus on Asian children without mouths that present an important issue of child welfare and rights: has the modern world stripped every child of their voice? From a more philosophical standpoint, Hom wants to express in the face the expression of their inner landscapes even if the mouth, the mechanism for expression, has been taken away from them. What the viewer then focuses on is everything else: the ears, eyes, nose and gaze that seem to be staring piercingly back at us – are we really looking at what he wants us to see? Are we really ‘seeing’ the children for what they are? Hom claims that his role as an artist is to “probe the mirror of the soul” through the eyes of his subjects, where he believes are the windows to their true inner feelings.

Perhaps Hom’s obsession with the face is reflective of his experiences as an immigrant in France. Hom’s comments on the attitudes towards Asians as being people who “do not speak, do not listen, do not see” shows the difficulty of being an outsider. What is in a face? This question is at the heart of his works and Hom comments on the life of hardship he lived when he first moved to France.

Hom’s next appearance is going to be with A2Z Art Gallery at Palais de Tokyo in Paris. Here he will present works based on the look of Isabelle Adjani, French actress, artist, and second generation immigrant in France. He hopes to merge the immigrant identity with the human condition through this explosive collaboration.

*For more information, please visit www.a2z-art.com.

Story Credits

Text by Megan Chua

This article was originally published in Art Republik.

French Trains Receive Palace of Versailles Makeover

The next time you happen to be on a train in Paris, don’t look out. Direct your gaze, instead, to its interior, because you’re in for a very pleasant surprise. The usually unassuming décor of the trains running along the suburban RER C train lines have been ditched for a more sophisticated rendition of the Palace of Versailles.

France_train_Palace of Versailles

Available on board five trains under the SNCF, France’s national rail network, the cabins have been plastered with trompe-l’oeil images of the royal chateau. The refurbishments are designed to evoke memories of the palace and its grounds. Famous sites such as the Hall of Mirrors, the Gallery of Battles and Louis XVI’s royal library have been layered on with a high-tech plastic film. Such a project isn’t a first for the SNCF though. The rail company had a similar initiative in 2012 with Art in Transit, a collaboration with 3M that transformed train cars with Impressionist art and a train station with stain glass inspired by the Musée d’Orsay.

France_train_Palace of Versailles

Taken by about 500,000 passenger a day (of which 10 percent are tourists) the train is en route to 36 stations along the RER C line, which runs through five departments: Paris, Hauts-de-Seine, Val-de-Marne, Essonne and Yvelines. The makeover was no mean feat – 10 full-time employees, including an engineer, quality control supervisor and eight technical specialists were required to apply a staggering 941 panels of film to the train’s interiors with utmost precision. A small price to pay though, for a travelling experience you’ll never forget.

Focus: Villa Clairefontaine, France

This magnificent villa is located in the Mougins village, close to all daily amenities and only 25 minutes from Nice Côte d’Azur Airport, France. Situated near a prestigious golf course and international school, this Provencal style villa of approximately 600 sqm is set in a landscaped garden of more than five hectares with a large rectangular swimming pool and pool house. The villa has its interior designed and dressed by an Italian designer with modern fittings and designer furniture; it comprises two living rooms, an office, a large kitchen with dining room plus seven en suite bedrooms.Villa-Clairefontaine-interior


One Fullerton

1 Fullerton Road, #02-01, Singapore 049213

Tel: +65 9168 6888

[email protected]



Story Credits

This story was first published in Palace.

Tour Auto Optic 2000: Classic Cars, Zenith Watches

What better way to spend a day than racing through the most beautiful regions of France in a refined ride? It was this mindset that got the Tour Auto Optic 2000 race off the blocks; the historic car race is in its 25th iteration this year and ran from April 18 to 23. The 240 contestants tested their mettle on closed roads, with the full circuit running from Paris to Cannes. For this year, though, the even more historic luxury watch brand Zenith chose to step up as the race’s official timepiece, releasing a limited series of the El Primero Chronomaster 1969 Tour Auto Edition as a tribute to the stately competition.


Limited to just 500 pieces, the El Primero Tour Auto runs at a speed of 36,000 vibrations per hour with impeccable precision due to the legendary El Primero movement. The 5Hz escapement is a key feature of the El Primero since its debut in 1969. The current design features a sporty look, with a long three-colored (the old red, white and blue) stripe down the dial and strap, very fitting for the renowned race.

Aldo Magada, Michel Rostang, Jean-Paul Lacombe, and Michel Chabran

Aldo Magada, Michel Rostang, Jean-Paul Lacombe, and Michel Chabran

Aldo Magada, CEO & President of Zenith, commented: “We serve as official timekeeper for Tour Auto and Peter Auto events around Europe. We share a passion for fine mechanisms, timeless aesthetics as well as history. And most of all, a passion for competition, great escapes and travel. We want to be far more than a sponsor and instead a real partner.”

tourauto (13)

The race itself ended in a final night-time stage, specially organized for the 25th anniversary of the event, with a win by the Parisian driving team of Jean-Pierre Lajournade and Christophe Bouchet, in their trusty E-type Jaguar. Overall, the participants unanimously voted it a success due to the quality of the itinerary, the choices and standards of the meals, and the overall organization.



In the meantime, Zenith welcomed Hong Kong actor Francis Ng, and Michelin starred chefs –Michel Rostang, Michel Chabran and Jean-Paul Lacombe – as well as the firm’s other ambassadors and friends for the grand opening of the race. A watchmaking ‘class’ focused on the El Primero Tour Auto limited edition was also held.

Francis Ng

Francis Ng

With the end of a fantastic event, you can bet that the participants are already looking forward to next year’s run. Who knows how much better that will be? We can’t wait to find out.

Focus: Napoleon III House, La Muette, Paris

A house with a garden near rue de Passy, this 3,230sf family house is in pristine condition and arranged over three floors. Greff International lists the former owner as Napoleon III so the pedigree is assured! There is an elegant central staircase, hallway, living room and a rotunda dining room with direct access to a 1,507sf garden. On the top two floors, there are four bedrooms, two bathrooms and walk-in wardrobe. In the basement, there is also a 538sf bedroom with shower. This generously proportioned property is south-facing and has ample space for parking. La-Muette-Paris-Palace-2

Price: €3.6 million ($4.07 million)


Greff International
Esplanade des Invalides
36, rue Fabert
F-75007 PARIS

Story Credits

This story was first published in Palace.


Review: Villa Poiret, Yvelines, France

Located approximately 40 kilometers from Paris in Yvelines and on a hillside by the Seine, the listed Villa Poiret was started by architect Robert-Mallet-Stevens in the 1920’s before architect Paul Boyer took over on the unfinished building in 1934. The villa is one of the three villas of this size built in France by Mallet-Stevens and is classified as 20th century historic heritage.

The villa adopted the appearance of a cruise liner, inspired by transatlantic steamers which were popular during the 1930s. Today, the building resembles a chateau from early modern times. It was restored and renovated in 2006.

With about 800m² (8,611sf) of living space, the main building is surrounded by approximately 1,000m² (10,764sf) of wide terraces and spacious roof terraces.Yvelines, France: Villa Poiret

On the left of the entrance hall is a south-east facing, right-angle lounge which boasts 7.1-meter-high (23-foot-high) ceiling and is flanked by floor-to-ceiling picture windows with black metal frames. Double glass doors in the corner of this full-length window, on the east side, lead out to large outdoor terraces and open up to nature views. There is an ornamental fireplace against one of the lounge walls. Two stairways lead down in a V-shape from the terrace to the south-east part of the parklands. Following on from the lounge, in the east wing of the villa, a long corridor leads to a study, a home cinema lounge, a bathroom, a toilet, two bedrooms, a dressing room and a bathroom with toilet. All the east-facing rooms have access to the terrace running along this side of the building. Two adjoining dining rooms face the entrance hall—the bigger of the two has large, south-facing picture windows that open out to one of the terraces; the second room has a stairway which leads down to the basement and provides access to the west-facing kitchen and pantry. The pantry has a French window opening on to another terrace. The kitchen also leads to a laundry room or storeroom. There is also a study, games room and billiards room.Plaquette-Villa-Poiret-stairway

There is a roof terrace on the west wing. A corridor on this floor also leads to a bathroom with a west-facing picture window, a toilet, two south-facing bedrooms with windows that open out to the south terrace, and an inner balcony that overlooks the main lounge. A wide stairway leads up to the second floor which comprises a terrace, from which a last stairway leads to the belvedere. This lookout platform provides an unobstructed panoramic view of the Seine valley as well as a 360-degree view of the surroundings.

The approximately 800 m² (8,611sf) basement comprises cellars and an area suitable for spa; fixtures and fittings are yet to be completed.

Buyer Information
Property: Villa Poiret
Location: Yvelines, France
Design resembles a chateau
The lounge opens out to large outdoor terraces and open up to nature views
Ornamental fireplace
All the east-facing rooms and a large dining room have access to the terrace
Games room and billiards room
Cellars and spa area in the basement
Price: €3,970,000 (US$4,463,530)
Nicholas Michelon
+33 (0)6 35 25 45 98 (France)
+852 9236 1456 (Hong Kong)

Story Credits
Text by Domenica Tan

This article was originally published in PALACE Magazine

Mercedes-Benz Introduces Luxury Motor Yacht

Mercedes-Benz may not be the first to have been the first to unveil the first-ever luxury motor yacht — we’re looking at you Aston Martin and Bugatti — but the German automaker is making a splash nevertheless. The Arrow460-Granturismo was presented to the world in Côte d’Azur, France.

The 14-meter long ‘silver arrow of the seas’ is the perfect blend of what motor and boating fans look for. With a 960 horsepower (706 kW), the yacht brings the performance of Mercedes-Benz sports cars with the unique innovations of the boating industry. This move to areas outside the automotive industry is another chapter in the brand’s expansion.

Commenting on the debut of the “Arrow460–Granturismo,” Silver Arrows Marine Chairman Ron Gibbs said: “Almost everything about Arrow460-Granturismo is unique, from its concept to the smallest bespoke detail. It is a motor yacht with a personality that truly embraces life, combining the best marine engineering with the inspired innovations and elegance that the world associates with the Mercedes-Benz name. By merging marine and automotive worlds, with their respective design language, technologies and ideas, we have created a new standard of motor yacht, unlike all others.”

Caravaggio Find Confirmed, Maybe

With all of the Caravaggio experts coming down to lay their judgment on whether Judith Beheading Holofernes (v.2) is the real deal, this may be the artistic world’s equivalent of a Kendrick Lamar or a Beyoncé surprise album drop. Well, except of course Caravaggio is quite dead and he never had a Top 40 hit or played the Superbowl Half Time show. From our own unprofessional vantage point though, the best we can say is that it definitely looks like a Caravaggio. If the painting that was discovered in a small attic in France happens to be a piece by the Italian Renaissance master, then its worth could go up to 120 million euros. Not that we would value a Caravaggio solely or even primarily by its dollar value of course but we digress.

Specialist impressions seem to be pointing towards confirming the painting’s authenticity and, if so, then the owners who scored the discovery from their own attic must be in a state of unbridled joy. Currently the adjudicants list that the work is in remarkably good condition, and that it is believed to come from 1600 to 1610. Expert Eric Turquin voiced that “the light, the energy typical of Caravaggio, without mistakes, done with a sure hand and a pictorial style that makes it authentic”.

To back this up, Turquin brought in top Caravaggio specialist Nicola Spinoza – the former director of the Naples Museum. Spinoza assessed (in an assessment witnessed by AFP) that: “One has to recognize the canvas in question as a true original of the Lombard master, almost certainly identifiable, even if we do not have any tangible or irrefutable proof”. To those who find the name of the painting familiar, this is actually the second version of the work. The first one was discovered in 1950 and is currently in the collection of the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica in Rome;  it features a different interpretation of the same scene.

Despite the endorsement of Spinoza and others, some continue to doubt the veracity of the painting. French art newspaper Le Quotidien de l’Art has just such a naysayer in Mina Gregori, another expert, who said that it was “not an original” although she recognized the “undeniable quality of the work”. She and others have suggested that the work is by a student of Caravaggio, possibly because it is the second known representation of the same scene, as we noted earlier. There is also this rather amusing story from The Guardian.

Needless to say the French government decided that it was better not to agree with the naysayers for now, and promptly slapped an export ban on the work to keep in on French soil “as a very important Caravaggian marker, whose history and attribution are still to be fully investigated”.

Either way, the news has probably stimulated the salivary glands of art collectors and connoisseurs out there enough such that it’ll still fetch a hefty sum in the end. If it at least leads to more people learning about Caravaggio then we and art lovers everywhere will be gratified.

Michelin Chef Undertakes Gluten-Free Challenge

Reine Sammut, the French chef with one Michelin star for her restaurant in Provence, has decided to try gluten-free cuisine to accommodate people taking on the diet. With help and inspiration from her daughter Nadia, a trained chemist with coeliac disease, the chef is offering a special 55 euro ($60) menu, half the usual price, to encourage guests to sample the best of gluten-free dining in L’Auberge de la Feniere

The gluten-free diet has been endorsed by various celebrities such as Miley Cyrus and Gwyneth Paltrow, as well as several athletes. Yet there has been ongoing debate as to whether the diet is actually helpful for people in improving their health. Several have opined that, other than those suffering from coeliac disease, which causes an intolerance to gluten, merely deciding without medical advice to switch to a gluten-free diet may not be the best choice for one’s health. Taking on the diet plan haphazardly may deny one of the necessary nutrients required for the body to function.

Nadia has the other side of the story to offer though. She was hospitalized at age 29, where she spent the next two years bedridden until she was diagnosed with the disease. It is now known to affect about one in 100 people in Europe and the United States. “Thirty-five years ago, doctors didn’t know about coeliac disease,” Nadia says. “The doctors told me that I had destroyed my immune system, I was at the height of the illness.”

She and her mother admit that gluten-free cooking may be faddish in France, but stresses “active awareness”. “We should know what we are eating,” says Nadia, who trains top chefs around the world in gluten-free cuisine. She easily persuaded her mother to drop traditional ingredients in favor of gluten-free alternatives “so that everyone could eat at the same table”.

Other than the Auberge de la Feniere, there aren’t really any Michelin starred restaurants in France who have such a menu, but that doesn’t prevent them from trying. Many top restaurants such as Le Castellaras in the southern resort city of Cannes are prepared for gluten-free requests.

“For Valentine’s Day, one couple never imagined we could offer a gluten-free menu,” said Le Castellaras’s Hermance Joplet, who served up a nutty risotto of locally grown spelt with sauteed baby vegetables for them.

The mother-daughter duo have had quite a few challenges in adapting the restaurant’s house specialties in a gluten-free way though, but they seem to get by. One such dish was truffles in puff pastry. Nadia came up with a blend of chestnut and quinoa flour as an innovative fix. Another signature desert, the Paris-Lourmarin (a reimagination of the traditional Paris-Brest desert) was done up with squash flour and almond extract.

In order to guarantee the absolute absence of gluten, Reine and Nadia have to select the ingredients extremely carefully, ensuring traceability. The restaurant’s pork meat comes from a farmer in the nearby Luberon mountains who feeds his pigs on chickpeas. The fish comes from Martigues, near Marseille. Their rice comes from a farmer in the Camargue who uses weed-loving ducks instead of herbicides. They also grow some of their own ingredients in their own organic garden.

And the bread, also gluten-free of course, is made in clay pots, reviving a baking method used by the ancient Egyptians. “Back then the flour was low in gluten,” Nadia says.

With a wider awareness of symptoms like coeliac disease and other food-intolerance causing illnesses, new ingredients and menus will be created to cater to these kinds of symptoms. Hopefully other higher tier restaurants will learn to follow suit and allow these diners to join the table as well.

French Wines Find Favor in China Again

For a wine-grower, precision and luck are elements of the utmost importance to ensure that the best harvest is reaped for a full-bodied and hearty glass of wine. Right now, French wines face the twin perils and opportunities of climate change and China, both of which offer strong challenges. Bordeaux was one such region flanked on both sides by various new developments, both good and bad, from both science and the marketplace.

China Profits

After reaping a meagre harvest in 2013, Bordeaux wines faced depressed sales in 2013 and 2014 to China because of a frugality drive that made officials wary of opening high-end bottles of wine.

But Saint-Emilion wine merchant Philippe Casteja said last month that the Chinese market was stabilizing. Exports were up 3.0 percent to 1.83 billion euros ($2.05 billion), according to the Comite Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux (CIVB). After two years of dropping, sales jumped 37%.

Overall turnover was 3.8 billion euros last year, up 1.0% over 2014 with 640 million bottles sold.

“The Chinese speak of a ‘new normal’ – and now instead of proposing exceptional wines we are targeting a consumer market.” Casteja noted, speaking of the Bordeaux region in general.

Climate Pressures

Yet, with the release of a new and somewhat alarming study by Nature Climate Change, Bordeaux’s current short-term sales may be the least of their worries.

Grapes are extremely temperature sensitive fruits. Exceptional vintages are generally produced when an early harvest develops from a rise in heat due to things like hot summers or a late-season drought. “For much of France, local climates have been relatively stable for hundreds or thousands of years,” said Elizabeth Wolkovich, an assistant professor of evolutionary biology at Harvard University and co-author of the study. Looking back through records dating all the way to 1600, it was found that harvest dates have moved up by two full weeks since 1980 compared with the average for the preceding 400 years.

Droughts helped heighten temperatures just enough to bring in the harvest a few weeks early, said lead author Benjamin Cook, a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York City and lead author of the study. These were uncommon circumstances in the past. “Now, it’s become so warm thanks to climate change, grape growers don’t need drought to get these very warm temperatures,” Cook added.

In the short term, the resulting growth in temperature has caused some beneficial effects through certain stand-out years. For Bordeaux, 1990, 2005 and 2010 have all been described as once-a-century vintages, while in Burgundy 2005 and 2009 are said to hold exceptional promise.

Yet, in the long term, the result may be unsustainable. In 2003, the same year where a deadly heat wave hit Europe leading to thousands of deaths, grapes were picked a full month ahead of their time but did not produce particularly exceptional wines. “If we keep warming, the globe will reach a tipping point,” said Wolkovich, pointing to what happened in 2003.

“That may be a good indicator of where we are headed,” she added. “If we keep pushing the heat up, vineyards can’t maintain that forever.”

The result could be an identity crisis for French wines. While other wine producing regions like California and Australia can head for a new ‘terroir’ better suited to these grapes, France has an elaborate structure of rules and special areas dictating which grape varieties are to be grown in what proportion. French wines such as Champagne, Sauternes, Margaux or Saint-Emilion are grown only in such authorised areas. For many wine-makers, changing these rules is tantamount to changing the core aspects of the wine. Among the grapes that may no longer be well-adapted in the future includes signature grape varietals — Pinot Noir in Burgundy, and Merlot in Bordeaux.

The ability to adapt to such revelations gained from information sources, whether about the market or the climate, will be the key decider in which wine producers can ride the market with the best possible produce and the best possible profits.

This report was compiled by in-house writers, in combination with a wire report and image from the AFP. Find out if any of these winning wines are on Epicurio now. Download the app on iTunes or Google Play now.


Lost and Found: La Tour’s Madrid Exhibition

The works of Georges de la Tour (1593 – 1652) will be on display at Madrid’s Museo del Prado in a new exhibition. Of his 40 surviving paintings, 31 will showcase the progression of the artist with his use of realist treatment of figures and refined religious scenes.

While the French artist was a celebrated in his day, he was forgotten by the art world till an art historian Hermon Voss rediscovered his work. With only four of his paintings being dated and 18 signed, many of La Tour’s works were credited to other artists such as Zurbaran, Ribera and Velazquez.

"The Fortune Teller"

“The Fortune Teller”

The Prado exhibition, which features many pieces on loan from international institutions such as Paris’s Musée du Louvre, California’s J. Paul Getty museum and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, offers a chronological survey of La Tour’s career. He gained considerable fame when the Duke of Lorraine bought some of his works between 1623 and 1624. In 1639 he went to Paris where he was named Painter to the King. In addition to the governor of Lorraine, Richelieu, the architect Le Nôtre and Louis XIII were customers.

In his early career La Tour painted biblical and religious figures with humble appearances as can be seen in the Albi “Apostle” series, four of which are on show in Madrid. At this time he also depicted ragged beggars as in the work “The Pea Eaters.” The exhibition also features “The Money Lender”, which is more refined in character and the artist’s first-known nocturnal scene, which became more prevalent towards the end of his career, almost always lit by candle, with limited range in colors.

Hurdy-Gurdy Player with a Dog"

Hurdy-Gurdy Player with a Dog”

Later works on display in Madrid include “The Penitent Saint Jerome” or “The Cardsharps,” which, along with “The Fortune Teller,” are considered essential works by the artist.

The Georges de La Tour exhibition is on display at the Museo del Prado till June 12, 2016. For more information, click here.

Guide: Hermès Watch Straps

There are the typical parts of a watch where watchmakers show the world what they are made of (and capable of doing): the movement, complications and beyond, the case, be it jeweled or not, and the dial – the more artistic, the better. These days, in a bid to outperform each other, manufacturers are less prone to giving anything beyond the lugs of a ticker more attention than what is on or within. Not many brands would say as much about a bracelet as opposed to a retrograde hour, 600 snow-set diamonds on a pink gold case, or a dial decked out in sculpted gems. Our friends at L’Officiel Singapore take a look at one brand that does.

Every artisan at Hermes’ workshop in Bienne oversees the making of a strap from scratch to finish.

Every artisan at Hermes’ workshop in Bienne oversees the making of a strap from scratch to finish.

Hermès, on the other hand, has a lot to say about its straps. These are, of course, famous (see Apple, for example) which begs the question, why exactly is that?

The French house would credit its expertise with leather bracelets to its beginnings as a saddler, and as wristwatches progressively replaced pocket timepieces in the early 1900s, it would highlight its role as the brand with a know-how for making exquisite straps. Straps are what make saddles and stirrups work, as this Wikipedia entry illustrates.

In 2006, Hermès opened a workshop in Bienne, Switzerland dedicated to this craft (watch straps that is). Under this roof is an array of supple, precious leathers – spanning from goat and calf to ostrich and alligator – cut, stitched and finished by a team of skilful artisans (where consistency matters, Hermès shares that each employee works on an entire bracelet by himself or herself).

Indents on the strap indicate the exact position of each stitch and the distance between them.

Indents on the strap indicate the exact position of each stitch and the distance between them.

An Hermès watch strap goes through four stages of work. For starters, the leather selection process is rigorous, with scratches, wrinkles and veins strictly avoided. Using a single flaxen thread and two hand-held needles, an artisan creates the brand’s signature saddle stitch on the skins before applying a careful treatment process to ensure all areas on a single strap look perfectly uniform. A furrow is then pressed between the sewing line and the edge of the leather to make the strap suppler than it already is. After loops are meticulously fixed, a finishing stitch (with great attention to detail given despite being invisible to the wearer) forms Hermès’ iconic ‘H’.

As a finishing touch, each strap is authenticated using a letter that shows the year of the leather’s manufacture.

As a finishing touch, each strap is authenticated using a letter that shows the year of the leather’s manufacture.

Record Sales of Champagne in 2015: Report

Grape-growers can rejoice as champagne sales hit a new record thanks to growing overseas thirst and exploding exports of the French-bubbly. Well, growers in Champagne at least!

From a report on Wednesday, February 17, a total of 4.75 billion euros ($5.29 billion) worth of champagne was sold last year, a 5.6% increase from 2014. In terms of bottles, though, the volume was a 1.7% increase, as 312.5 million bottles were shipped compared with 307.2 million in 2014. 2007 was the record year for bottles shipped, but the total value was a mere 4.56 billion euros. We use the word ‘mere’ loosely, obviously.

Unsurprisingly, December was once again the bubbliest month of the year, with 42 million bottles sold.

It seems buyers are starting to hanker for a bit more class and refinement, as “rarer, more expensive” lots such as rose, prestige, and vintage champagnes rise in popularity. “These faraway markets are prepared to pay the right price for a product that represents the French Art of living to them,” Thibaut Le Mailloux of the Comite Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC), an organization involved in the champagne industry, commented.

Sales outside of the EU, notably, were up by 4.8%, reaching a record of 70.5 million bottles. In Europe itself, sales went up 3.3% to 80.2 million bottles, and within France, sales stayed level at 162 million bottles, after consecutive years of declining sales. The higher average price per bottle can be partially attributed to transportation costs.

CIVIC co-president Jean-Marie Barillere commented in December that the value was likely to grow faster than volume “in the decades to come”. Whatever the costs are, we can be sure that admirers of the sparkling fluid will be popping those corks still.

This story was written in-house, based on a report from the AFP. Stock image courtesy of the AFP


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Dior Granville Candy Colored Jewelry

From peridots, green beryls, aquamarines, tanzanites, tourmalines and rubellites come together in this 12-piece collection and draw inspiration from Christian Dior’s childhood home, Granville. Named after the home he spent his time in as a child, which is now a museum, the candy-colored gems that make up the collection are the brainchild of Victoire de Castellane.

The brand’s fine jewelry creative director explained that the pieces were created “as if putting stickers together spontaneously, without any preconceived constraints”. Although inspired by childhood joie de vivre, the pieces have been meticulously crafted with creativity and exceptional skill in Dior’s Parisian high-jewelry workshops.

A pink gold watch in the "D de Dior Granville" collection, with brilliant cut yellow sapphires on the bezel, a diamond studded crown, turquoise dial and pale pink patent leather bracelet.

A pink gold watch in the “D de Dior Granville” collection, with brilliant cut yellow sapphires on the bezel, a diamond studded crown, turquoise dial and pale pink patent leather bracelet.

Christian Dior’s Normandy childhood is channeled in rings, earrings and bracelets that pop with color. The collection is accompanied by a range of nine watches, crafted from white, yellow and rose gold, evoking the festive and colorful ambiance of the Granville carnival.

Flagship pieces in the “D de Dior Granville” collection include a pink gold watch with a bezel set with brilliant-cut yellow sapphires and a diamond-studded crown. This fresh bouquet of springtime color is topped with a turquoise dial and a pale pink patent leather bracelet.

5 Top Chefs Who Started in France

In its second year running, French cuisine will be celebrated the world over. It will bring over 1,500 chefs from five continents as they whip up some of France’s best cuisine while showcasing its gastronomic traditions. The chefs will be dishing up a traditional French menu with courses such as aperitif, starter, main course, cheese and dessert, accompanied by fine French wines. Before we join in the celebrations with the rest of the world on March 21, we thought we would take a look at five of the world’s top chefs who picked up the tools of the trade in France.

David Bouley

A big name in New York City’s French food scene, American chef Bouley is on of the most respected chefs in the city’s French food scene. Inspired by his visits to France and Europe, the chef has fashioned his own take on contemporary French food. His flagship restaurant Bouley, in the hip TriBeCa neighborhood of New York City (USA), has even been crowned with a Michelin star. The chef studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, and worked alongside legendary masters of French cuisine like Paul Bocuse and Gaston Lenôtre.

Gordon Ramsay

The Scottish chef and media personality has united age-old rivals Britain and France in his own culinary entente cordiale. It’s certainly no coincidence that the charismatic chef heads up some of the finest restaurants in the land of frogs’ legs and snails (the Trianon Palace in Versailles, Le Pressoir d’Argent in Bordeaux). After giving up an early career as a footballer, Gordon Ramsay set about learning the secrets of French cuisine under industry heavyweight Albert Roux at Le Gavroche in London. The Scottish chef then completed his training in France, working with Guy Savoy and Joël Robuchon.

Chef Gordon Ramsey

Chef Gordon Ramsey

Thomas Keller

This American chef has always been a Francophile foodie. He serves up fine fare at his flagship restaurant in California, called The French Laundry, and his New York restaurant Per Se is recognized as one of the best in the world, coming second in “La Liste,” the French Foreign Ministry’s response to the London-based “World’s 50 Best Restaurants” list, unveiled last December. He’s the only American chef to hold three-star Michelin ratings for different restaurants simultaneously, placing him in the same league as Alain Ducasse and Joël Robuchon. Keller went to work in France in 1983, learning his trade in various high-end establishments, including Guy Savoy and Taillevent. The chef was even awarded France’s Legion of Honor (Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur) and was chief consultant on Pixar’s animated movie “Ratatouille.”

Chef Thomas Keller

Chef Thomas Keller


André Chiang

This Taiwanese chef is on his way to becoming a global restauranteur, building the foundations of an international gastronomic empire. He has a particularly close relationship with France after learning his skills under the Pourcel twins – Jacques and Laurent – at their Michelin-starred Montpellier restaurant Le Jardin des Sens. André Chiang first learned to cook alongside his mother before heading to France to discover the secrets of the country’s cuisine. He ended up staying for 15 years, with stints working under Pierre Gagnaire and Joël Robuchon. Today, he’s considered one of the best chefs in the world, particularly for his André restaurant in Singapore.

Chef André Chiang

Chef André Chiang

Shuzo Kishida
Shuzo Kishida is one of a new generation of Japanese chefs learning their trade in France and keeping close ties with the country. Born in the region of Chubu, on the south coast of Honshu island, the chef learned the basics of French cuisine in 1993, working in French restaurant La Mer in a Japanese hotel. Before heading to France, he also did a stint at KM in Tokyo’s famous Shibuya district. After moving 10,000km away from his native Japan, Shuzo Kishida racked up experience in one Michelin-starred restaurant after another, before settling down to a longer spell at L’Astrance under Pascal Barbot. By 2004, he had worked his way up to sous-chef — the second in command — at the triple Michelin-starred establishment. In November 2005, he returned to Japan, maintaining the culinary skills and traditions picked up at L’Astrance to open Quintessence, a restaurant that would take him even further along the road to success with his own three-star Michelin rating.

Chef Shuzo Kishida

Chef Shuzo Kishida

The full list of restaurants participating in Goût de France/Good France on March 21 is available at www.goodfrance.com. To take part in the event, food lovers can simply make a booking directly at the restaurant of their choice.