It’s really not a question of where to begin when talking about our third Harney Holiday Desteanation, Paris, but a question of where to end? There’s so much to say about one of the most famous and talked-about cities in the world. Whether you call it the City of Lights or the City of Love or just Paris, it is an endlessly fascinating and beloved city.
My mom, Brigitte Guillot Harney, grew up just outside of Paris. When my dad, Mike, worked in wine in France for one year after college, well… let's say the City of Love worked its magic, and I am the happy result of that romance! I did some time in Paris while I “studied” at the American University. We have explored many parts of Paris over the decades.
Home to over two million residents, Paris is what most of us commonly refer to as an overachiever. The city has been one of Europe’s major centers of finance, diplomacy, commerce, science, art, fashion and, of course, haute cuisine. If you haven’t been lucky enough to experience Paris in person, who hasn’t imagined a day of sipping tea and enjoying a chocolate croissant at a café, snapping a photo in front of the Eiffel Tower, saying hello to the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, strolling (flané as the French say it) the Champs-Élysées, picking up an Hermés scarf (my mom has a lovely orange one) or Louis Vuitton bag, cruising down the Seine, having a world-class meal at a five-star restaurant and a lovely glass of French wine.
With an endless list of things to do and see, it’s no wonder tourism is big business in Paris. In 2019, Paris had 38 million visitors. It is the second most visited city in the world, bested by Bangkok. Whether you make like Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada and hit Paris for couture’s most important event, Fashion Week, or go for the history, art, food, nightlife, if you ever get to go to Paris during Christmas, it may be the best decision you’ll ever make.
While we obviously blended our eponymously named Paris tea with the city as inspiration, there are other teas that remind us of the City of Light -- and chocolate -- as well!
Paris. In homage to time spent in Paris tea shops, my dad created this black tea blend with vanilla and caramel with a hint of lemony Bergamot. C’est magnifique!
Decaf Paris. Same wonderful taste, just caffeine-free.
Paris Herbal. Because customers asked for it, we created an herbal version of this popular tea, using a rooibos base rather than black tea.
Paris Tea Gift Set. Want more Paris tea? You got it! This set includes a tin of 20 sachets, a tin of loose decaf tea, 20 individually wrapped sachets (perfect for traveling), an Eiffel Tower spoon and Paris towel.
Chocolate Tea. You can’t think Paris without thinking chocolate. A simple, delicious black tea with chocolate and vanilla flavors.
Decaf Chocolate. Same tea, no caffeine.
Chocolate Mint. A wonderful minty, chocolate cuppa -- dessert without the guilt.
Chocolate Chai Supreme. Chocolatey and spicy, try it made with milk for a wonderful treat.
Fruits d’Alsace. A dessert tea with flavors of the tree fruits from the Alsace region of France.
Brigitte’s Blend. Named for my French-born mother, it is an elegant blend of two black teas and is, as my dad says, perfect in many situations -- just like Brigitte.
The Holidays in Paris
Christmas in Paris is celebrated much like it is in the U.S. French families, however, routinely open their gifts and have their big celebration on Christmas Eve, although as families here also do, some choose to observe the big day on Christmas. No matter when they celebrate, there will likely be Le Réveillon, a large Christmas feast. Smoked salmon and oysters are typical appetizers, followed by the main course starring a sumptuous goose and ending with a Bûche de Noël cake, or what we call a Yule Log.
Before the big day arrives, however, many children in France will leave their shoes out on December 6, St. Nicholas Day, for Père Noël to fill with little treats, like oranges, candies or small toys. Watch out, however, for Father Christmas’ sidekick, Père Fouettard, which means “Father Whipper.” He hands out lumps of coal or, legend has it, spankings to children who did not make the nice list. Naughty kiddos, beware!
Another very French holiday tradition is La Galette des Rois, or King Cake. While the recipes may vary, the main point of the cake is the same: slice the cake, find the tiny hidden figure and become “king” for the day. This cake is created to celebrate Epiphany, which is January 6 and commemorates the day the three Magi came to visit the newborn Jesus. It is the inspiration for the King Cake that is made here in the U.S. to celebrate Fat Tuesday, the last day of Mardi Gras.
As a tourist in Paris during the holiday season, you can expect to see the City of Lights take that moniker to a whole new level. While many streets get the bedazzled treatment, the crown jewel is the Champs-Élysées. When the lights gracing the trees lining this mile-long street are switched on, it is a truly spectacular occasion. No cars are allowed on the street during the lighting, and it becomes a true wonderland.
Christmas marketplaces are rather commonplace in Europe, and Paris is certainly no exception. From impressively large markets in the heart of the city -- like La Défense and La Magie de Noël Tuileries Garden -- to smaller, quaint markets tucked away in quieter nooks, like Saint Germain des Prés, Christmas markets are ubiquitous in Paris.
While visiting the Champs-de-Mars Christmas Village, in addition to its 100+ chalets full of gifts and Christmas sundries, you’ll find another typical Paris holiday attraction: ice skating rinks. They are plentiful, and many offer spectacular views of the twinkling city along with hot mulled cider nearby. At Galleries Lafayette, one of Paris’ most famous department stores, they have an outdoor rooftop skating rink with a breathtaking backdrop of the Paris Opera and Eiffel Tower. Thank you, Santa!
Much like New York City, Paris’ department stores take this opportunity to get in on the seasonal spirit with lights, oversized trees and impressive window displays. Galeries Lafayette will blow your mind, as will Printemps Paris Haussmann, Le BHV Marais and Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche, just to name a few.
Of course, taking a break from all the Parisian holiday whirlwind is a must...and the perfect way to do that is with afternoon tea! Any number of cafès and fine hotels (like the 5-star Le Meurice, the landmark Four Seasons Hotel George V, the impressive Shangri-La with a vegan afternoon tea offering, and the legendary Ritz Paris) will offer afternoon tea from the affordable to the luxurious. If you’ve got kiddos in tow during your holiday trip, consider going to Plaza Athénée, a Paris hotel. If you book the Festive Afternoon Tea at the La Cour Jardin restaurant at Plaza Athénée, kids ages 5-12 can skate under the supervision of instructors on their holiday-themed ice rink while you enjoy tea and holiday cakes created by the restaurant’s chef… along with some peace and quiet.
Ready for a little French holiday cuisine? We thought so. (Psssst...don’t forget to stock up on great French wines. While we can almost live on tea alone, it would be a shame to miss out on some of the world’s finest fermented grapes!)
Marrons Glacés (Candied Chestnuts)
Lovely with a cuppa Paris tea or as a welcome hostess gift, these little nuts become a sweet and flavorful snack. Try to source larger, better quality chestnuts, and know in advance they take a few days to prepare.
- 8 ½ oz. fresh chestnuts
- 1 ⅔ C sugar
- ½ C + ⅓ C water
- Holding the chestnut by the thicker base, carefully make slight cuts in the tip of the chestnut skin to form a cross, trying not to cut into the chestnut itself.
- Place the chestnuts in a pan and cover with water to just a little over the level of the chestnuts. Warm over a medium-high heat to bring to a boil and boil for around 10 minutes. The ends of the chestnuts that you cut should fan open.
- Remove the pan from the heat and take a few chestnuts out of the water at a time and carefully peel them with a cloth, if it helps. It can be tricky as the chestnuts may be hot, but it is easiest when they are still warm and slightly moist (which is why just taking some out of the water at a time is suggested). Take care not to break them, if possible, and use the tip of a knife to get any bits of the skin that may be stuck in the crevasses. Discard the skins and cooking water.
- Place the sugar and water in a clean pan and warm them over a medium heat to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook for a minute or two, then add the peeled, cooked chestnuts. Simmer them for around 10 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat. If you like, you can transfer everything to a sealable container, or you can just set the pan aside, covered. Either way, let the chestnuts sit in the syrup at room temperature overnight.
- Around 24 hours later, remove the chestnuts from the syrup with a slotted spoon and set aside temporarily. Bring the syrup to a simmer again and add back the chestnuts. Simmer for 2-3 minutes, then remove from heat and allow to cool again, then leave overnight.
- Repeat this process two more times, bringing to a simmer 4 times in total, over 4 days. On the fourth day, after you have simmered and removed from the heat, take the chestnuts out of the syrup and set them on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Preheat the oven to 250°F and place the chestnuts in the oven for around 1 hour until they are relatively dry to look at and touch. Allow to cool, then either serve or save the chestnuts - they can be kept at room temperature but are best separated with parchment or in individual paper liners within a sealed container.
Canard à l’Orange (French Roast Duck with Orange Sauce)
Don’t you feel so Julia Child right now? Roasted duck is the centerpiece of a traditional French Christmas feast. Let’s get quacking!
- 1 5-lb. whole duck
- Salt & pepper for seasoning
- 2 medium-sized oranges
- ¼ C sugar
- 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 C duck or chicken stock
- ⅓ C white wine or port
- 2 tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot
- 3 tbsp Grand Marnier liqueur (optional)
- 2 tbsp butter, softened
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Remove the duck from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you put it in the oven and let it come to room temperature. Wash the duck with cold water, pat it dry with paper towels and then tuck the wings under the body to keep them from burning. Prick the duck skin all over with a skewer or toothpick. Trim any excess fat from the opening of the body cavity. Season the duck liberally inside and outside with salt and pepper.
Set the duck on a rack in a roasting pan. Place the roasting pan in the lowest rack of the oven and roast for about 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 350°F and continue to roast, basting with the pan juices every 15 to 20 minutes, until the duck is cooked through and the temperature in the thickest part of the thigh measures between 165°F and 175°F (use a meat thermometer). Depending on your oven and the size of your bird, this should take anywhere from 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
While your duck is roasting, prepare the sauce. Zest the oranges, taking care not to get any of the bitter white pith. You'll need about 1 tablespoon. Next squeeze the juice from the oranges. You should get around 1/2 cup. Set the zest and juice aside.
Add the sugar and vinegar to a medium-sized saucepan. Set the saucepan over medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture begins to boil. Let the sugar cook until most of the moisture evaporates and the sugar syrup begins to turn golden brown. Immediately remove the saucepan from heat and carefully stir in the reserved orange juice to stop the cooking. Take care, as the caramelized sugar is very hot and may splatter.
Return the saucepan to heat and add the chicken stock. Whisk the sauce until the caramelized sugar is completely dissolved. Stir in the reserved orange zest. At this point the sauce base can be set aside until the duck is finished roasting.
When the duck is finished, remove it from the oven, tent it loosely with foil and set it aside to rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove as much of the fat as you can from the roasting pan and add the wine or port. Place the roasting pan on the stovetop over medium flame and bring the wine and pan juices to a boil, scraping up any bits of drippings off the pan. Strain the pan juices through a sieve and into the saucepan with the sauce base.
Bring the sauce back to a simmer over low heat. Stir the cornstarch and Grand Marnier together in a small bowl to make a slurry until it is a smooth consistency. If you aren't using Grand Marnier, use white wine, chicken stock or water. Whisk the slurry into the simmering sauce to thicken it. Remove the sauce from heat and slowly whisk in the butter to enrich the sauce.
Carve the duck and place it on a serving platter. Serve the sauce in a sauceboat alongside the carved roast duck.
French Chocolate Bûche de Noël (Yule Log) Cake
The yule log cake was created hundreds of years ago or more and eventually came to symbolize the logs burned on Christmas Eve, thus “yule.” Leave it to French pastry chefs to take the originally simple cake up a notch. It’s now a French Christmas staple.
For the Sponge Cake:
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- ⅔ C sugar
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 C cake flour
For the Chocolate Buttercream:
- 7 large egg whites
- 1 ⅓ C granulated sugar
- 6 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
- ½ tsp instant espresso powder
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 ½ C unsalted butter, softened
- Confectioners’ sugar, and/or cocoa powder, optional
To Make the Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Use a 10x15-inch rimmed baking sheet or jelly roll pan and line it with parchment paper.
- Grease the parchment or spray it with cooking spray. Set the pan aside.
- Beat the eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until thick and foamy, for about 5 minutes.
- Add the sugar, vanilla extract and salt to the eggs and continue beating for 2 minutes.
- Carefully fold the flour, 2 to 3 tablespoons at a time, into the eggs. Once the flour is incorporated, stop mixing. Do not overmix or the cake will be tough.
- Gently spread the batter into the prepared pan. There will be peaks in the batter; gently smooth them with a spatula, but do not press the batter down.
- Bake the cake until the top springs back when gently pressed and the edges pull away from the pan, about 10 minutes.
- Flip over the baked cake onto a clean, dry kitchen towel and peel off the parchment paper.
- Let stand for 3 minutes and then lightly score the length of one short side of the cake, leaving a 1-inch border, taking care not to cut through the cake.
- Fold the scored end of the cake in toward the center and then gently continue to roll the cake wrapped in the towel.
- Transfer to a rack, seam-side down and cool completely in the towel.
- While the cake cools, make the buttercream.
To Make the Chocolate Buttercream:
- In a clean, dry mixing bowl with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. Set aside.
- In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and ⅔ cup water to a boil.
- Allow sugar-water mixture to boil until it has reduced to a thickened syrup consistency.
- Begin beating the egg whites on high speed again, and with the motor running, slowly pour the hot sugar syrup into the eggs in a steady stream.
- Pour the melted chocolate, espresso powder and vanilla extract into the egg whites and continue beating until the meringue has cooled completely, about 5 minutes.
- Add the softened butter to the meringue, 2 tablespoons at a time, while beating on high speed until all the butter is incorporated.
- If the buttercream becomes runny during this process, refrigerate the meringue until it has chilled through.
- Continue the process of beating the butter into the meringue.
Assemble the Yule Log
- Unroll the cake and set aside the towel.
- Evenly spread 2 cups (or your desired amount) of the chocolate buttercream on the inside of the cake, spreading in the direction of its natural curve, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges.
- Gently roll it back into a log.
- Trim the rough ends of the roll. Then cut off about ¼ of one end of the cake roll on the diagonal. Reattach it to the center of the cake with some buttercream to resemble a “branch” protruding from the yule log.
- Spread the remaining buttercream over the cake to cover it. Gently drag a butter knife or a small offset spatula through the frosting to give the appearance of rough tree bark.
- Chill the cake before serving it to allow the buttercream to set. Before serving, dust with confectioners’ sugar and/or cocoa powder, if you like. Refrigerate any leftovers.
- Serve and enjoy!
Chocolat Chaud (French Hot Chocolate)
We’ve subbed in some Chocolate Tea for plain water to this classic rich French recipe for some extra tealightfulness!
- 6 oz. premium chocolate (semisweet, chopped -- or use dark or white chocolate, if you prefer, for a twist on the classic)
- ¼ C hot water
- 3 tbsp steeped Chocolate Tea or Decaf Chocolate Tea, hot
- 3 C hot milk
- Sugar to taste
- Garnish: whipped cream, chocolate curls
- Using a double boiler or a heat-safe glass bowl over simmering water, melt the chopped chocolate into ¼ cup of the water.
- Stir in the 3 tablespoons hot Chocolate Tea and milk until the chocolate mixture is smooth.
- Pour the hot chocolate into cups and add sugar as desired.
- Garnish each cup with a spoonful of whipped cream and a few chocolate curls.
- Enjoy and be merry!