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Like me, do you dread long flights? I’ve flown my share of overnight flights wedged into a middle seat or cramped in the last row next to the toilets.  Recently I had the very best experience I’ve had in years; a non-stop 10 ½ hour flight from California to Paris.  Why? I flew Air France business class.

Ready for bed?

Ready for bed?

It wasn’t my first time in business class. I’ve flown upper class on multiple airlines to Asia, South America and Europe.  But Air France tops my list for the very best service, food, wines, champagne and comfort.

France’s culinary traditions are part of the Air France gourmet experience.  A great French Chef adds his personal touch to all the menus. The chef, Michel Roth, is a Michelin-starred chef and winner of the coveted “Bocuse d’Or” award. He worked in the best restaurants in France, including the Ritz in Paris and he’s passionate about regional French cooking.

I began salivating from the moment when the friendly, yes friendly, stewardess handed me the five-page menu.  The first page is a warm welcome from the chef and the next four pages describe the wine, champagne, and meal selections.

Second course. Fresh salad, smoked salmon and Grand Cru Bordeau wine.

Second course. Fresh salad, fish pate, smoked salmon with salmon mousse and Grand Cru Bordeau wine.

The hardest part of my flight was selecting the main course — one of five courses — for dinner.  What will it be tonight? Leg of lamb filet, scallops with tartuffon sauce, guinea hen with morel mushroom sauce or risotto?  The before dinner amuse-bouche was prawns with a chili pepper cream. The cheese selection included Camembert and Chevre and the tray of desserts was irresistibly tempting. I ate the entire trio; peach shortbread, raspberry-pistachio parfait, and chocolate lava cake. 

Divine desserts.

Divine desserts.

And add to that a selection of sorbet, ice cream and fresh fruit.  On the return flight, a few hours before landing,  the second meal included foie gras with mango and ginger, salmon, risotto and more desserts. The impeccable wines earned my respect and attention.  What a surprise to find a Grand Cru Classe Haut-Medoc Chateau Cantemerle 2008.  

After a deep sleep, in my favorite position on a plane –prone – I landed in San Francisco and with regret, I left business class and the dreamy experience of France behind.  Was it worth it? Oui. Absolutely.