The Blind Pelican, New Orleans

Chargrilled Oysters

Chargrilled Oysters

The Blind Pelican- New Orleans

The Blind Pelican- New Orleans

We hopped on the St. Charles streetcar and headed for the Garden District. After touring the beautiful estates, we discovered The Blind Pelican while in search of oysters! The Blind Pelican is located at 1628 St Charles Avenue. Walk up the steps into a lively environment with a large bar in the middle of the restaurant and patio seating with a view of St. Charles Avenue. We opted for the open-air patio seating, partly because we are a loud group. Stopping in just for a snack before dinner, we got a little excited about the menu. Never before have I seen alligator hash on a menu! We ordered truffle fries, fried green tomatoes, chargrilled oysters and raw oysters. For some in our group, it was the first time eating a raw oyster. My advice, put lots of sauces on it to ensure it slides down!

Truffle fries

Truffle fries

The Blind Pelican has Happy Hour from 4-8 p.m. where you can find $7.50 chargrilled oysters and $3 raw oysters. Nothing goes better with oysters than a beer! The Blind Pelican offers over 30 beers on tap. I recommend the local brew, Abita.

How to eat an oyster~ Oysters should always be served on crushed FullSizeRender(2)ice. Hold the shell level so that the juices remain inside and face the smooth part of the shell towards you. You don’t want to put the sharp end in your mouth. Tip the shell and let the oyster and juices slide into your mouth.  Some prefer to chew the oysters while others like to let it slide right down.

Raw oysters

Raw oysters

Why eat oysters? Oysters are consumed all over the world. They are organic and super healthy, loaded with minerals, vitamins and nutrients! The benefits of eating oysters are endless. To name a few, oysters can assist with weight loss, boost metabolic activity, increase tissue repair and growth, lower cholesterol levels, reduce blood pressure, improve immune functions, aid in wound healing, improve blood circulation, and increase bone strength to reduce osteoporosis. Did you know that some minerals varieties are in their highest content in oysters?  This is true for zinc, iron, copper, manganese, and selenium. Oysters contain 1500% of the daily requirements of zinc in a single serving. Oysters also have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are good forms of cholesterol. Oysters are also a powerful aphrodisiac, but we won’t go into that….

The face right before they go down

The face right before they go down

The Mausoleums at Lafayette Cemetery

Lafayette Cemetery

Lafayette Cemetery

IMG_9879A cemetery is not usually top of your list for sight seeing while on vacation. However, we stumbled upon Lafayette Cemetery while strolling through the Garden District in New Orleans and found it to be quite fascinating. Named after what was once known as the City of Lafayette, the cemetery dates back to 1833. 613 of the people buried at Lafayette passed from yellow fever in 1847. In 1853 yellow fever took the lives of 8000 people and many of their bodies were left at the front gates of Lafayette Cemetery. Located in the heart of the Garden District at 1416-1498 Washington Avenue, some of the mausoleums date back to the 19th century. This will go down on my list of “firsts”. I had never seen a mausoleum in person. Mausoleums are above-ground graves in areas which typically flood or are below sea level.

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The cemetery consist of 500 wall vaults which have been sealed.

Entrance to Lafayette

Entrance to Lafayette

Since we stumbled upon the cemetery, we toured it ourselves without a guide. There are guides within the cemetery for a fee of $5.00. They walk around announcing when the tour will begin. There were also several organized tour groups within the cemetery. It was very interesting to walk around and look at the dates on the tombstones. I was astonished at how many people are buried in the same tomb. There are quite a few which are crumbling and decrepit, while others are robust, made of granite and marble. Use caution as the walkways are broken, raised and very easy to trip over.

Many of the tombs list the cause of death such as yellow fever, apoplexy, and even rare instances of being struck by lightening. The cemetery includes veterans from the Civil War and French Foreign Legion.  Brigadier General Harry T. Hays of the Confederate Army is buried at Lafayette. One of the tombs features Judge Ferguson of the Plessy vs. Ferguson “separate-but-equal” case. The cemetery represents immigrants from 25 different countries and natives of 26 states.

You may have seen some of the Lafayette mausoleums in movies filmed in New Orleans such as The Witching Hour, Memnoch the Devil, Interview with a Vampire, Double Jeopardy in 1999 and Dracula 2000. LeAnn Rimes and the New Kids on the Block filmed music videos in the cemetery.

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Sadly, many of the tombs were destroyed by vandalism and have since been restored and preserved.

There are about 1,100 family tombs and more than 7,000 people buried in Lafayette I, a single city block.

Hours:
Monday – Friday: 8:00 am – 2:30 pm
Saturday closes at noon
Closed most major holidays

It’s All About the Hurricane…

Big East Daiquiris

Big East Daiquiris

In planning a trip to New Orleans, I had a list of things to do, foods to eat and sights to see. Of course, everyone mentioned the hurricane! Hurricanes are a sweet, popular alcoholic drink served in New Orleans. You can walk down any street in the French Quarter and see people roaming around with a tall plastic hurricane cup in hand filled with a bright colored slushy drink. Hurricanes are similar to daiquiris and made with rum, fruit juice, and syrup or grenadine. In New Orleans is it legal to walk around with a drink in hand as long as you have a plastic cup or container. The hurricane was created by Pat O’Briens tavern owner in New Orleans back in the 1940’s and became popular with sailors. The name came about from serving the drink in a hurricane-lamp shaped glass.

Big Easy Daiquiris~ The Big Easy Daiquiris have 6 locations in the French Quarter with multiple locations on Canal, Bourbon and Decatur.  Offering 14 flavors, choose from 190 Antifreeze, Margarita, Hurricane, Appletini, Banana, Grape, Jungle Juice, Peach Bellini, Pina Colada, Virgin Peach Bellini, Strawberry, Virgin Strawberry, White Russian, and Sangria. For those of you who aren’t up for the extra sweet drink, The Big Easy Daiquiris also offers a local beer called Abita which is brewed in Abita Springs, Louisiana located 30 minutes outside of New Orleans.

Remember to take fun photos and watch out for the photobombers!

Big Easy Daiquiris

Big Easy Daiquiris

The Streetcars of New Orleans

Canal Street Line

Canal Street Line

Cable cars are synonymous with San Francisco, as red buses are with London, so what exactly is the New Orleans streetcar? New Orleanians will be sure to tell you that the streetcar is a vintage electric rail vehicle and not a trolley. Hopping on a streetcar is a great way to ride around and view the historic city. We rented a car but didn’t want to bother with driving around and parking. The iconic streetcars, also known as W-2 cars, came about 60 years prior to the trolley during the early 19th century. Streetcars were originally operated in Melbourne, Australia. While visiting New Orleans in April, we had the pleasure, or shall I say experience, of riding down St. Charles Avenue on the St. Charles Line. The St. Charles Line is the longest of New Orleans’ streetcar lines. A little known fact, the St. Charles Line is also the oldest continuously operating street railway system in the world! Basically, this means you can’t get lost because it goes up and down one street.

There are a total of four operating streetcar lines in New Orleans consisting of the St. Charles Avenue Line, the Riverfront Line, the Canal Street Line, and the Loyola Avenue Line. We only had time to ride he St. Charles Line; however, this post will provide information on all 4 lines. Tickets are available for 1, 3, and 31-day unlimited ride for just $3, $9 and $55.

The Canal Street Line~ The Canal Street Line discontinued service in 1944 and then a new Canal streetcar was reinvented in 2004. The Canal Street Line route spans 5.5 miles along Canal Street from the French Market into the mid-city filled with museums, art and farmer’s markets and finally ending at City Park for just $1.25 each way. The streetcar is air-conditioned and wheelchair accessible. City goers can connect on the additional lines along North Carrollton Avenue where tourists can visit City Park, botanical gardens and villages. Popular attractions along the Canal Street Line include the New Orleans Museum of Art, Sydney and Walda Bestoff Sculpture Garden, Fairgrounds Race Track, Jazz Festival and the Pitot Plantation Home built in 1799.

St. Charles Line

St. Charles Line

The St. Charles Line~ We walked a couple of blocks from our hotel, The Sheraton New Orleans, to St. Charles Avenue and hopped on the olive-green streetcar which runs approximately every 13 minutes up and down the avenue. Purchase an all day, round trip ticket for just $3.00 per person! Be sure to bring exact change, as the driver will not provide change. Walk up the steps and enter the streetcar to be greeted by the nostalgic decor of mahogany seats, brass fittings and exposed ceiling light bulbs. The iconic streetcar has been rolling up and down the avenue for over 150 years. We were able to find open seats in the morning, but in the afternoon it was standing room only. Be sure to hang on tight to those brass poles as the streetcar stops and starts up again pretty abruptly. We stopped off to visit the Garden District, where you will find multi-million dollar estates which are more than 100 years old.

Commander's Palace

Commander’s Palace

Hop off the streetcar at the Garden District, cross the street and head straight until you run into the Commander’s Palace on your left hand side where you can pick up a map of the Garden District. Don’t miss the home from the movie Benjamin Button! The Garden District is also home to the Lafayette Cemetery with above-ground tombs.

The St. Charles streetcar takes passengers through the central Business District, uptown New Orleans, fine dining, Audubon Zoological Gardens, historic monuments and Loyola and Tulane Universities. Enjoy the scenic view around the river bend and through a tunnel of oak trees. After touring the Garden District, we were on a quest to find oysters and ended up at The Blind Pelican located at 1628 St. Charles Avenue. It was the perfect place to stop and grab oysters on the half shell and local beers on tap. They are famously known for their 25 cent oysters at happy hour. Upon walking out of the Blind Pelican, we noticed the St. Charles streetcar stop. Perfect!

Loyola Avenue Line~ The Loyola Avenue Line, which opened in 2013, is the newest line of the four streetcars rolling through New Orleans. The purpose of the new streetcar was to provide transportation for those who arrive or depart via Greyhound bus or Amtrak trains. The Loyola Avenue Line conveniently transports passengers from the station straight to Canal Street and the French Quarter. The Loyola Line differs from the other lines, as it is air-conditioned and has wider doors. If you aren’t commuting to a bus or train station but would like to take advantage of the sightseeing stops along the Loyola Line, stop off at Julia Street which takes you right to the Art District. City Hall and the Financial District are located at the Poydras Street stop and the Medical District and library can be found at the Tulane Avenue stop.

The Riverfront Line~ The first streetcar on the Riverfront Line was introduced in 1988, as New Orleans first large capital project. Take a ride along the French Market, RiverWalk Marketplace, Shops at Canal Place, Aquariums of the Americas and try your luck and Harrah’s Casino. Riding one of the four streetcars is a great way to see the city and snap pictures without having to worry about directions, GPS, getting lost, one way streets or driving.

Fun times on the St. Charles Line

Fun times on the St. Charles Line

Cafe Du Monde, New Orleans

Beignets

Beignets

It’s all about the beignets!!!! Get yours at Cafe Du Monde which is open 24/7! They are located in the French Quarter at 800 Decatur Street. Cafe Du Monde started out as a coffee stand in 1862 in the New Orleans French Market serving just four items: coffee, beignets, orange juice and chocolate milk. At the coffee stand, customers could order coffee one of two ways, black or au lait. Today, Cafe Du Monde is known for their world-renowned beignets covered in powered sugar.

Cafe Du Monde Beignet mix

Cafe Du Monde Beignet mix

I was surprised that the beignets don’t taste greasy at all. Warning, your face and clothing will be covered in powdered sugar. There are two separate lines at Cafe DuMonde, one for to-go orders and the other to sit down and enjoy your hot, fresh beignets. The line is very long at all times but moves along surprisingly fast. The line closest to the street is the dine-in line and the line along the backside of the restaurant is the to-go line. We thought that we were in the to-go line and discovered that we were actually in the dine-in line. So, we took a seat and ordered our beignets! I am glad we were able to take in the full dining experience of watching everyone cover themselves in powdered sugar.

Beignets~ the word “beignet” also know as “boules de Berlinis” or “fritelli”, is a French term which translates to fritter. Usually made from dough (choux or yeast), deep-fried and dusted with powdered sugar, beignets are most commonly consumed as a breakfast food. Beignets must be eaten fresh and hot. In New Orleans, beignets have become a big part of the creole cuisine. Beignets are often made with fruit or jam fillings. At Cafe Du Monde, beignets are served in an order of 3. In 1986, beignets were declared the official state doughnut of Louisiana. Pick up a box of Cafe Du Monde beignet mix at any souvenir shop in New Orleans.

Make your own beignets!!!!

1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 envelope active dry yeast
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup evaporated milk
7 cups bread flour
1/4 cup shortening
Nonstick spray
Oil, for deep-frying
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
Directions
Mix water, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl and let sit for 10 minutes.

In another bowl, beat the eggs, salt and evaporated milk together. Mix egg mixture to the yeast mixture. In a separate bowl, measure out the bread flour. Add 3 cups of the flour to the yeast mixture and stir to combine. Add the shortening and continue to stir while adding the remaining flour. Remove dough from the bowl, place onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray. Put dough into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Let rise in a warm place for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oil in a deep-fryer to 350 degrees F.

Add the confectioners’ sugar to a paper or plastic bag and set aside.

Roll the dough out to about 1/4-inch thickness and cut into 1-inch squares. Deep-fry, flipping constantly, until they become a golden color. After beignets are fried, drain them for a few seconds on paper towels, and then toss them into the bag of confectioners’ sugar. Hold bag closed and shake to coat evenly.

~ Recipe courtesy Paula Deen

Chicory~ What exactly is chicory? Chicory has a chocolate flavor to the coffee, but actually is made from roasting and grinding the root of the endive plant (lettuce). Chicory not only adds a greatly chocolate flavor, it also reduces the bitterness of dark roast coffee. Chicory was discovered by the French during their civil war. Since coffee was not abundantly available during that time, the French creatively added chicory to supplement their coffee. The Acadians are credited for bringing chicory to Louisiana in the 1700’s.

Line at Cafe Du Monde

Line at Cafe Du Monde

Tableau~ Our best meal in New Orleans!!

Tableau

Tableau

Tableau

Tableau

Easily our best meal in New Orleans, Dickie Brennan’s Tableau is a fine dining experience with 5 Star food while filled with lively, New Orleans piano music. It is fancy but fun at the same time. Expect to take the conversation up a few notches, possibly even shouting if you sit right next to the piano as we did. It was a real New Orleans experience on our first night together. Located on picturesque Jackson Square at Le Petit Theatre, Tableau is Dickie Brennan’s newest restaurant. Enjoy a stroll through the French Quarter on your way to a marvelous evening. At the time of making the reservation, every place I called was booked solid. One restaurant referred me to Tableau and sure enough they had availability for a party of 12.

The hostess led us up the grand staircase which wraps around three levels. The restaurant has private dining rooms and balconies where guests can dine with a view of Jackson Square as well as courtyard seating. Guests seated in the main dining room can take part in the culinary experience of viewing the open kitchen.

Chicken Tableau

Chicken Tableau

Blue Cheese Salad

Bleu Cheese Salad

Tableau menu features classic French Creole cuisine. We started off the evening with the Creole French Onion Soup which is spiked with local beer, caramelized sweet onions and topped with a Gruyère crouton. The Bleu Cheese Salad is served with a square of mild and creamy St. Agur bleu cheese atop a sliced baguette along side spinach, celery, pecans, shaved red onions and seasonal fruit tossed with a sherry-cane vinaigrette.  The Chicken Tableau was the popular entree of the evening for our table. The entree was succulent, flavored with fresh herbs to perfection and a to-die-for sauce béarnaise and chicken demi-glace. The sauce always makes the dish.

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St. Roch with stone ground grits

Additional French Creole selections include fried eggplant fingers, shrimp remoulade, oysters en brochette, truffled crab fingers, oysters maison (masa fried), crepe de jour, roasted duck, St. Roch (Gulf shrimp), cabildo (poached oysters), and Trist (jumbo lump crab meat).

Tableau is open 7 days per week for lunch and dinner and serves brunch on weekends.

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$$ Saving Tips: Tableau’s dishes are very rich and perfect to split! We started out with a bowl of French Onion soup, shared the blue cheese salad and then the fabulous Chicken Tableau. Perfect meal for two.

Don’t miss the daily Happy Hour from 3-7 p.m. where you can find $6.00 small plates, wine & beer specials and $5.00 cocktails. I highly recommend reservations as this is Dickie Brennan’s newest restaurant and located right in Jackson Square. It was one of our first meals and the entire group was still talking about it at the end of our trip. Dread splitting up the bill after a long evening? Tableau has the most efficient way to pay your bill in a group. An electronic notepad is sent around from guest to guest and you simply mark off your meal/drinks, slide your credit card and the receipt it emailed to you. Excellent dining experience!!

The Old Coffee Pot, New Orleans

The Old Coffee Pot

The Old Coffee Pot

Menu

Menu

When I heard that The Old Coffee Pot in New Orleans was featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins & Dives, I knew I had to stop there for a bite. Guy Fieri stopped in for Fleur de lis chicken, which is a chicken breast topped with a crab cake and shrimp served with a green bean casserole and jambalaya. Located at 714 Saint Peter Street in the famous French Quarter, The Old Coffee Pot sits on a corner right next to Pat O’Briens. It is a cozy feel the minute you walk up the steps to the wood, French doors, followed by dark wood tables, frames pictures about and ornate chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. The “Old” Coffee Pot is more than 100 years old serving classic New Orleans French Quarter cuisine.

Eggs Creole

Eggs Creole

We were so excited to try the restaurant, that we stopped in first thing to grab breakfast. They are famous for their Callas Cakes which originated in the late 1800’s. Callas Cakes are similar to a doughnut, made with long rice rather than dough and mixed with spices then deep fried (of course- it’s New Orleans!)  and sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Other items you will find on the breakfast menu are Eggs Creole, Eggs Conti (poached in a wine sauce with chicken livers), Eggs Jonathan, Lost Bread (creole french toast), Omelettes, Creole Pancakes and Blintzes. The Eggs Creole was delicious!

Eggs Sardou

Eggs Sardou

The creole sauce is house made and not spicy at all, made from cooked down vegetables. “Cooking down” is a common practice in Louisiana, resulting in the perfect vegetable color and consistency. The Eggs Sardou, a New Orleans spin on Eggs Benedict, is made with creamed spinach and artichoke bottoms. Each dish was moderately portioned and priced between $8.95-13.50. The food is simple while packed with a ton of flavor.

Eggs Jonathan

Eggs Jonathan

Thick sliced tomatoes are everywhere in New Orleans, especially green tomatoes. Eggs Jonathan is is made with poached eggs, honey ham, vine ripened tomato, and Gulf shrimp.

When you are in New Orleans and want an inexpensive, flavorful, quick bite to eat… be sure to stop at The Old Coffee Pot. My only regret is not trying the Callas Cakes!

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Bourbon House, New Orleans

Bourbon House

Bourbon House

Frozen Milk Punch

Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House is located on famous Bourbon Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans. They specialize in local, seasonally fresh items. Bourbon House features a premier oyster bar and a wide range of seafood items. The dining room displays chandeliers, handcrafted wrought iron and custom millwork. Stroll on down Bourbon Street and you can view the gorgeous interior from the window.

Bourbon House

Bourbon House

If you are looking to sample the classics of New Orleans cuisine, this is the place! Menu items include Creole dishes, Redfish snapper, Louisiana oysters on the half shell, eggs Benedict, Gulf shrimp, seafood salad and crab fingers. We dined there for breakfast and sat at a table with a view of Bourbon Street.

You must try the Frozen Milk Punch at breakfast time!!! Milk Punch is common in New Orleans and served during the holidays in the Deep South. Similar to eggnog, the Frozen Milk Punch is made with bourbon, dark rum, milk, vanilla extract, simple syrup, and topped with a dash of nutmeg. Yummy!! It is a dessert in a glass! In Ireland Milk Punch is called scáiltín, which is served as a hot beverage, made with whiskey. Where did it originate from? Milk Punch dates back to the 17th Century and has recently made a revival, popping up on bar menus all over the U.S. It is also known as the “hangover beverage” using the nutmeg and cream to heal that headache of yours.

BANANAS FOSTER PAIN PERDUE

Bananas Foster Pain Perdue

Now for the food….you will find items such as creole hash browns, shrimp & grits, Benedict, fried oysters, andouille sausage, buttermilk biscuits, and bananas foster french toast with bourbon sauce. Reasonably priced, most items range from $10-13. Don’t forget to add a Mimosa, Bloody Mary, Sparkling Honey or Frozen Milk Punch for an authentic New Orleans experience!

BOURBON HOUSE BENEDICT

Bourbon House Benedict

NEW ORLEANS BOURBON SOCIETY

Bourbon House is the official home of the New Orleans Bourbon Society!!! What is a Bourbon Society?? It’s similiar to that of a beer or wine club. They have events, bourbon study halls, crafting cocktail lessons and tastings of fine bourbon. Master Distillers from Jim Beam, Jack Daniel’s, Woodford Reserve, Buffalo Trace, Wild Turkey, Maker’s Mark & Bulleit occasionally host dinners at the Bourbon House. Best part of the society is once you have sampled the entire bourbon list, you will receive a Master Taster Recognition engraved plaque.

Bourbon House

Bourbon House

Bourbon House

Off to Champagne Region- Reims, France

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Reims

“In Success you deserve it and in defeat, you need it,”
Winston Churchill understood the true value of Champagne

My bucket list is long, so I thought I’d start tackling some of the items when I turned 40! Why not? On my 40th birthday I wanted to experience Champagne tasting in France!! So off we went to Paris and planned a day trip to Reims. Reims, Épernay and Ay, are the center of Champagne production and home to some of the largest Champagne-producing houses headquarters in the world such as Mumm, Moet, Pommery, Taittinger and Chandon. It was time to book a day of Champagne tasting and tours. Unbeknownst to a tourist driving through the town, Champagne ages in the many caves and tunnels carved from chalk, spanning 250km under the city forming a maze. People come from all over to press grapes after harvest to get vin de cuvee, the first press. The second press is called vin de taille which is a lower quality but richer in tannins, so depends what your preference is.

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Champagne A. Bergere

Champagne A. Bergere

We booked a tour to Reims, located approximately 2 hours outside of Paris. It was supposed to include a visit to three tasting houses but one of them was closed. It is very interesting how it works. You really don’t know which tasting house you will end up at until you actually get there because it is all regulated.  The tour also included a fabulous lunch with wine, of course. Who knew that Champagne had so many regulations? Champagne is a type of white wine made from only one type of grape- the black grape (AKA red grape). Not just any black grape, the two grapes which are permitted are Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier. 

Champagne Michel Gonet

Champagne Michel Gonet

Dauby

Dauby

It was snowing the day that we went to the town of Champagne which made the drive through the hills, plains, trees and vineyards even more breathtaking. As you drive through the town, you will see Champagne house after Champagne house. I tried to take pictures of as many as I could, especially on Avenue de Champagne. Champagne differs from wine in more ways than the bubbly. To be considered “champagne” it must meet the  French law which states that all champagne must spend at least 15 months aging in cellars, post bottling. At least 12 of the 15 months is spent maturing and this is when the dead yeast cells break apart adding flavor to the wine. Vintage champagnes means that it has been aging in the cellar for at least three years. It is not uncommon to find Champagnes that have been aged nine years or longer. Why do they age the Champagne? Aging causes the Champagne to have a golden color and the bubbles become softer.

Champagne Dauber

Cheers~ Champagne Dauber

 “If life brings you troubles, drink some Champagne, then your problems will just become bubbles…”~ author unknown

 

Dauby

Dauby

 

First stop, family owned Champagne Dauby!! Family owned wineries are night and day from commercial producers. Typically, at a family owned champagne house, the owner is present and is excited to share their family story with the visitors. They share what their most popular wines are and the meanings behind each name. At Dauby, some of the wines were named after their daughter. The family was very welcoming and communicated quite well in English; however, our guide was present to interpret as needed. We started out by heading down into the cellar. The cellars are naturally cool year round but not freezing. In fact, I was warmer down there than in the house! The owner stopped at each crate of champagne and explained the maturation process from first fermentation to recorking. The bottles are face down to the let the sediments settle in the neck.

Dauby

Dauby

Dauby

Dauby

After all of the sediments have settled Champagne goes through a process called disgorgement where they freeze the neck and a machine removes the particles which have formed a type of solid, frozen cylinder. Then, sugars are added and it is recorked. Absolutely fascinating! We learned that rosé Champagne is pink in color from extracting juice from the grape skins. I have to say the tour was highly educational. I am thankful we went to this winery first because I retained much more information at the beginning of the wine tasting tour than at the end of the day.  

Down she goes

Down she goes

La Cloche Hotel & Restaurant

La Cloche Hotel & Restaurant

Lunch time!!! After all those sips of Champagne, you will be ready for a bite to eat.

Mozzarella Salad

Mozzarella Salad

Not just any bite to eat though, amazing French cuisine at La Cloche Hotel & Restaurant located in Épernay. La Cloche is a modest 3-story inn located near the historic buildings of Avenue de Champagne! It the first time I have ever had fresh mozzarella with herbs on toast salad. Visit with the other guests on the tour from around the world. We were in Reims in December, which is a very cold time of year. It felt beyond cozy ducking into this warm restaurant where we were served hot, fresh bread and baked chicken with a French sauce along with vegetables.

 

 

Mercier

Mercier

Mercier

Mercier

Final stop, Mercier! Mercier is commercial-scale Champagne house. Of course, we had topose for pictures outside upon arrival. Then we were guided into a small theater viewing room where we watched a short film about the history of Mercier. Next we were in an elevator going 30 meters down to an underground cellar. Once we stepped outside of the elevator, we were boarding a train ride through the cellar and caves. It is pretty over the top! It is a cross between Disneyland and Champagne tasting. The guides tell about the story of the giant barrel that took over 10 years to build abd holds 200,000 bottles of wine. The barrel was transported to the Paris Exposition in 1899 and was one of the biggest highlights, with the exception of Gustave Eiffel’s Tower.

All aboard

All aboard

After the champagne tasting, there is an opportunity to purchase champagne and gift sets. They will ship to your destination. Great experience, but very commercial.