From Walnut Grove to Winter Wonderland:
Our six-day culinary immersion at The Walnut Grove had left us graduates of gastronomic grandeur, bellies full and hearts overflowing. But France wouldn't let us rest on our laurels (or croissants)! The next chapter of our adventure beckoned: the storied Loire Valley, awaiting with chateaux, charming towns, and, of course, more food (always more food!).
Chenonceau's Christmas Extravaganza:
Our first stop, Château de Chenonceau, lived up to every fairytale expectation. Nestled gracefully on the Cher River, its festive finery outshone even the December sun. Exquisite floral displays, reminiscent of Monet's dreams, adorned every corner, intoxicating our senses with Christmas cheer. We wandered through labyrinthine gardens and marveled at the chateau's rich history, whispered by every stone and every bloom. This wasn't just a chateau; it was a symphony of festive magic.
Leonardo's Legacy in Amboise:
Next, we journeyed to Amboise, a quaint town with a Renaissance pulse. As an art history devotee, I couldn't wait to stand where Leonardo da Vinci himself once did, at the Château of Clos Lucé. Goosebumps danced across my skin as I walked the halls, imagining the genius pacing these very floors. His spirit whispered through the air while his notebooks and inventions presented themselves to us.
A DIY Dinner & Divine Discoveries:
After days of gourmet indulgence at Walnut Grove, our palates craved a simpler rhythm. In Amboise, we found it in a humble picnic: baguette, cheese, charcuterie, dark chocolate, a velvety bottle of white Burgundy and Netflix for the final season of The Crown. It was girl Heaven, a perfect pajama clad way to unwind after a day of historical immersion.
Christoph Hay: A Michelin Maestro:
Before leaving the States, I devoured articles on The Loire Valley's Michelin-starred gems. One, Christoph Hay, caught my eye thanks to a glowing New York Times article. Let me tell you, the Gray Lady got it oh-so-right. Christoph Hay does not disappoint!
Hidden away in Blois (another charming Loire Valley gem), Christoph Hay's eponymous restaurant is a temple of culinary artistry. We snagged the coveted Chef's Table and embarked on a six-course odyssey of black truffle-infused magic. Each plate was a crescendo of flavor and imagination, building into a symphony that left us speechless (and maybe a little lightheaded). It was a dining experience that transcended Michelin stars and touched our souls. It is simply a must when you are in Blois!
Chateaux: A Promise to Return
The Loire Valley, like any epicurean adventure, demands more than a weekend. So, like seasoned travelers, we embraced the "what ifs" and crafted a list for our inevitable return. Château de Chambord, with its Da Vinci-designed double helix staircase and wartime secrets, sits atop our must-see throne. And then there's Château de Villandry, whispered to us by Chef Eric Duvin at Walnut Grove. He spoke of its herb and vegetable gardens, more mesmerizing than Versailles itself! Another reason to add to our ever-growing list of French returns.
Wine Country Wanderings (for Next Time):
Confession time: I'm a health enthusiast, though I never shy away from pushing a glass forward when the occasion calls. This trip, however, was about mastering French cuisine, not French winemaking. We paired each gourmet meal at Walnut Grove with Eric's expertly chosen bottles, but a true Loire Valley wine tasting will have to wait for the next chapter. The weather, while perfect for exploring, wasn't quite conducive to lingering vineyard picnics. But hey, that's just another reason to add "Loire Valley Summer" to my bucket list!
Next Stop: The Magic of Normandie & Bretagne!
Our Loire Valley adventure may be ending, but our French feast continues! Mont Saint-Michel, Cancale, and Saint Malo await, promising their own blend of culinary and cultural enchantments. Stay tuned for the next chapter, where we'll trade chateaux for charming towns and canapés for crêpes!
P.S. A small spoiler alert: this is how you clear your plate in Cancale! Can you call this composting when it's this much fun?!
P.PS. Every delicious meal, from breakfast to gourmet dinners, is included in your stay! The only extras? The wine you choose to savor with each bite. Trust me, it makes the final bill a breeze, leaving you free to focus on what truly matters: indulging in the French art de vivre, one decadent dish at a time.
If you want to sign up for Eric's news, you can do so here. He just launched The Copper Kitchen Collective - bringing recipes and goodies to all gourmands who visit or just dream of doing so.
He also just launched a Special Offers section on his website. Right now, if you reserve a class by March 31, 2024 and travel by December 31, 2024, you could save up to 20%. Click here for more details.