The City of Lights. The Most Beautiful City in the world. The City of Lovers. Fashion and Gourmet Capital of the world - Paris is all this and yet so much more. Elegant boulevards crisscrossing with magnificent architecture, tiny bistros and charming cafes rubbing shoulders with the grandest Michelin starred restaurants, the expansive sweep of the Louvre with its priceless treasures and exhibits, the glittering magic of the Eiffel Tower and walking through the historic avenues of the Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysees - every step through Paris embraces you with its history and culture, with its artistic extravagances and the sheer poetry of a city that throbs with the glitz of modern life while remaining enmeshed in the history of the two revolutions it has witnessed and a culture that seeps into your soul and makes you fall in love not just with the city but with the Parisienne way of life.
As morning blushes pink the Paris sky, a walk through the food markets of Paris is possibly the most invigorating way to awaken the senses. While the Fromageries and Charcuteries begin rolling up their shutters, the street stalls spill forth with every kind of fruit, seafood and produce, imaginable.
Stroll leisurely down cobbled streets and let the divine aroma of freshly baking bread and meringues, take you into one of the many iconic patisseries such as Maison Kayser. The breads at Kayser are legendary - golden brioches, rows of elegantly crusty baguettes, fluffy, buttery croissants, lush loaves, flaky ethereal cakes and tarts. Right next door is the chandeliered splendour of the Aux Merveilleux, with its rows of lighter-than-air meringues and pastries, swirls of Chantilly cream, dainty boxes filled with daintier delights and pastel prettiness in the form of baked artwork.
From sugary delights, step into one of the Fromageries such as Meilleur Ouvrier de France, to sample the best French cheeses. Cheese and wine being a marriage made in French heaven, walk across the street and quench your thirst at one of the delightful little wine bars/shops, like 'Le Vin Que Parle'.
Paris is synonymous with macaroons but even here, one name stands above the rest - Pierre Herme. Known as "the Picasso of Pastry", the long queues to get inside this elegant shop are testament to Herme's legend. Let the colours and flavours blow your mind, as the magic of Herme envelops you in a heady heaven of taste and sweet, sinful perfection.
Considered to be the Mecca of Culinary Training, Le Cordon Bleu is hallowed grounds for all things related to gastronomy. Founded in 1895, Le Cordon Bleu has for the past 120 years, been committed to teaching and elevating the techniques and expertise inherited from the great names of French cooking. In this quest, they offer a wide range of culinary workshops in both French and English, either as demonstrations (visual) or hands-on workshops (practical).
So when Masterchef Shipra Khanna visited Le Cordon Bleu, this iconic institute brought out its biggest names and greatest talents, to showcase exactly why it is considered to be the pinnacle of everything gastronomic. Chef Olivier Boudot (European Baking Champion d'Or 2011), demonstrated to Shipra the intricate layering, kneading and rolling that go into making the finest croissants and the most exotic and decadent of breads and loaves. Dusted with cinnamon, sprinkled with seeds, delicate filigrees of cocoa powder shaken onto chocolate-filled delights - as Chef Boudot demonstrated the finesse and detailing involved in every step of the baking process, one could only soak in the knowledge and expertise and marvel at the level of creativity and passion.
The most posh and iconic of Paris's cabaret shows, the Lido experience is an explosion of lights, colours, pyrotechnics, acrobatic wizardry and showmanship. Sit in elegant red leather booths sipping on champagne and dining on the finest French cuisine including lobster, foie gras and caviar, even as exotically beautiful dancers in all their shimmering glory mesmerise you.
Galeries Lafayette was envisioned as a "luxury bazaar" and to this day, the sheer abundance and luxury of the merchandise on offer, wows every visitor! Its food and wine section in particular, are a connoisseur's dream.
La Cave at Lafayette Gourmet is the destination of choice for Parisian and international wine connoisseurs alike. With 2500 labels, it houses an exceptional range of grands vins from Bordeaux, Champagne and other French regions, world wines and spirits. Besides stocking rare and prestigious labels, La Cave also offers the opportunity to discover smaller producers with all of its wines being purchased directly from the estates. Experienced sommeliers are present to help consumers select the perfect wine for any occasion. Over 1200 labels from Bordeaux have also been brought together in a dedicated space - the BORDEAUXTHEQUE- the most beautiful selection of Bordeaux wines in the world.
A feast for the eyes and the taste buds, Lafayette Gourmet also has a wide range of mouth-watering delis and food stops, offering up simple and gourmet food delights, delicious French produce and specialities from the best food brands globally. Foodies will be in heaven here as they get to sample different cuisines and flavours from across the globe at the different tasting bars as well as being able to shop for the finest gourmet foods and groceries.
Paris and wine are synonymous with each other and while there are hundreds of charming wine cellars and shops, there are few wine experiences as memorable and exclusive as a visit to De Vinis Illustribus. Housed in a gorgeous 17th Century wine cellar in the heart of old Paris, De Vinis Illustribus is a unique place dedicated to wine and run by the charming Lionel and Dominique Michelin.
As you troop down the stone stairs, your nostrils assailed by the mingling aroma of the finest wines, you are greeted by the sight of gleaming rows of the most premium Riesling, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Chablis and Champagne - each, a glorious representation of France's varied and globally renowned, wine-growing regions. Housing thousands of bottles of the rarest and finest wines, the large golden stones encasing the two levels that this cellar is spread across, breathes history and magic. There is even a part of an ancient Roman arch, set into one of the stone walls downstairs. Little wonder then that this was said to be one of the favourite watering holes of the famed writer, Ernest Hemingway.
De Vinis Illustribus literally means 'About Famous Wines' and the Michelins offer Wine Tasting lunches at this special cellar-cum-shop that take you through the history of wine while having you taste a sip from each specially paired bottle. It also offers something unique in the form of 'Birthday Wines', whereby you can pick up a bottle of exclusive wine belonging to the same year as your own birthday, or one belonging to the same birth year as someone you're gifting it to.
Our Wine Tasting Lunch or the 'Tour de France of Vineyards' went as follows :
Amidst the crowded Michelin starred restaurants scene that Paris boasts of, La Grand Cascade still stands apart. Classically elegant interiors with soaring ceilings and a glasshouse effect, La Grande Cascade sits amidst the lush forests of the Bois de Boulogne and gets its name from the picturesque waterfall nearby. In a historic setting dating back to the 19th century, Chef Frederic Robert executes with simplicity and finesse the refined dishes that have earned this place its reputation. The Grande Cascade has not always been a restaurant, which explains its atypical and exceptional decor. The pavilion was originally a stop for Napoleon III, who came to the Bois de Boulogne to hunt. Over the years, the Grande Cascade has evolved, while maintaining its "retro-modern" style with its gildings, chandeliers and mirrors. With an idyllic patio seating also available outside, this is a romantic setting ideal for a memorable lunch or dinner for two, as you feast on exquisitely plated Michelin starred culinary creations while looking out over pastoral elegance.
The 3 Dishes presented to Shipra were as follows :
1st Dish - Tourteau (a Caviar dish) - De-shelled soft crab with a sea-scented fine Jelly, cauliflower caviar and Oscietre Royal (caviar)
2nd Dish - Saint Pierre (a Fish dish) - Delicately moist John Dory adorned with thinly sliced Cep Mushrooms and Flamed Leeks
3rd Dish - Mille Gaufre Creme Legere A La Vanille De Tahiti (Dessert) - Layered, light-as-air Mille Feuille layered with Vanilla Tahiti Cream)
Imagine discovering Paris while also savouring the finest in French gastronomy. The Bustronome or Voyage Gourmand, offers the opportunity to do just that - in the form of the most exclusive moving terrace across Paris while feasting on a 6 course gourmet dinner, washed down with champagne. A state-of-the-art luxury double-decker bus, the Bustronome offers a chic, cosy atmosphere with exceptional 360 degree views of the city, through its panoramic windows.
While the bubbly tickles your nose, watch the magnificence of Paris, slowly roll on by - the towering grandeur of the Arc de Triomphe, the gigantic, never-ending facade of the Louvre and the mesmerising sight of the Eiffel Tower. When feasting on sights so heady, the gastronomic feast too must adequately match up and in that sense, the gourmet dinner on the Bustronome does not disappoint.
The Crowne Plaza Republique is housed in a grand old 19th century building, overlooking the magnificent Place de la Republique, which is one of the major squares in Paris between the 3rd, 10th and 11th Arrondissements. Centrally and conveniently located and with plush rooms and outstanding service, this modern hotel in a classic vintage building, makes for a charming and opulent stay in the very heart of Paris.
The Crowne Plaza Republique has a gorgeous contemporary restaurant with an elegant bar and adjoining lounge, that serves classic French cuisine. The breakfast buffet is generous and bountiful and an utter pleasure to wake up to, offering guests an endless selection of fragrant, freshly baked brioches, croissants, baguettes and other breads, fresh fruits and juices, cold cuts, French cheeses, eggs to order and live counters with expert chefs stirring up delectable delights.