April 30, 2016
Rashmi Uday Singh gets a taste of Picardy
It was a pleasure to welcome Rashmi Uday Singh to the French region of Picardy. Rashmi is a celebrated food critic in India and I was keen to show her around Picardy.
We meet for a lavish breakfast in Paris — the only proper way to start the day in France — and set off for Château-Thierry, the Champagne area of Picardy. Everyone knows that Champagne is the beverage of celebration but maybe it’s not so well known that Champagne is a trademarked French drink that can only be called Champagne if it comes from the area that bears the same name. I wanted to show Rashmi where and how Champagne is made so we visit Champagne Pannier, a prestigious Champagne house. The drink produced here is served at the home of the French president and on some Air France business class flights.
At the house, medieval Champagne cellars are located under the hills. These cellars used to be a quarry and were later a shelter during wartime. Rashmi spends some time with the oenologist to understand the subtle attraction of Champagne. We learn more than the basics about this famed sparkling wine — we are showed how Indian food can be paired with it! We eat an Indian lunch and learn how to mix French bubbles with Indian masalas. Not too many people know the finer points of this alchemy and I can’t wait to show off my newfound knowledge to Indian friends.
After Château-Thierry, we head to the imperial city of Compiègne where we meet our host Alix de Lauzanne at her beautiful Villa du Châtelet and look forward to an immersive French family experience. We venture out on a stroll, taking in the beautiful surroundings — dense forests, clear lakes and charming French villages. We return to the Villa for a cooking session with Alix, a true food lover, and enjoy a lovely evening and dinner by the fireplace, savouring the meal we cooked together.
We leave the Villa du Châtelet the next day with a heavy heart for Chantilly. The stunning Auberge du Jeu Paume quickly lifts our spirits. It’s a 5-star Relais & Château located in the Domaine de Chantilly. We have lunch at the Table du Connétable — a 2-star Michelin restaurant no less! — followed by a tête-a-tête with chef Arnaud Faye.
A Cinderella-like horse carriage whisks us after our magical meal to the Chantilly Castle. From the royal apartments to the painting galleries of the unique Condée museum, we take our time exploring the site.
No visit to the Domaine de Chantilly is complete without a stroll in the beautiful French garden created by Le Nôtre, the famous gardener of Louis the XIVth. It’s a lovely calming experience but I’m excited to show Rashmi a very unique local experience — the making of Chantilly cream, which as you can guess, gets its name from the area because it was first created here.
After a serene night at the beautiful Auberge du Jeu de Paume, Rashmi returns to Paris. But I think Picardy will be on her mind for a while!