It’s the Most Boozytiful Time of The Year

Mad props to my good friend Colleen who made this awesome wine advent calendar for her office. OK, yes, it helps that she works in the wine industry… but still, I think we all agree this is THE best way to countdown to Christmas day!

Picture courtsey of Colleen V. for International Cellars Inc.

Picture courtesy of Colleen V. for International Cellars Inc.

I’ve seen a lot of super original and cute advent calendar inspiration online this season, but this one is by far my favourite!! Every day until the 25th, International Cellars will be highlighting a different wine and region with a bottle from their advent calendar so make sure to follow them. And if you’re looking to make your own wine advent calendar (it’s not too late right?) World Market has a great tutorial (and sells the wine rack you need to make it, of course!)  Make sure the last bottle is champagne that you’ll toast Christmas with!! Cheers! 

Third Annual Craft Spirit of Poe Cocktail Fundraiser

Last Thursday, I got a sneak peek of Craft Spirit of Poe, a gothic cocktail fundraiser that challenges local mixologists to author bespoke cocktails inspired by Edgar Allen Poe stories. Proceeds from the event benefit Les Dames d’Escoffier DC’s scholarship and grant programs for women in the food, beverage and hospitality industries. 

Craft Spirit of Poe

On Thursday, judges Chantal Tseng (Red Eye Menu), Derek Brown (Drink Co.), Kelly Magyarics (Craft Spirit Exchange) and Emily Heil (Washington Post) had the difficult task of tasting and evaluating 12 different concoctions and interpreations of Poe. The main event will take October 6th, the day before the anniversary of Poe’s death, at The Loft at 600F, and you can still purchase tickets here ($45). There, attendees will find out who the juries picked for the Poe prize for best interpretative cocktail. They’ll also get their say by voting in the People’s Choice Poe-letariate Award by putting dollar bills in the tip jars of each mixologist. The one will the most tips will win, though all of the tips will be donated back to Les Dames d’Escofier. 

My personal favourite cocktail from the friendly competition was one of two inspired by My Heart Tell Tale Heart, which also happened to be the only Edgar Allen Poe inspiration story that I actually remember reading. Both Erin Goodman of Roofers Union and Meghan Coyle of Twisted Horn  (the upcoming new bar from the Hank’s Oyster Bar team) crafted cocktails based on the story and I loved them both though Erin’s version with green hat gin, spiced chai, pomegranate seeds and grenadine bitters acting as the heart beating thru floor edge the other one out in my books. In addition to all the cocktails, Tuesday’s event will also feature a game of JeoPOEdy and very own Haiku POE-m with the help of Haiku masters. How fun!

You can learn more about the event, and buy tickets here.

 

 

Wine Wednesday – Washington Nationals Cabernet

Even though you can buy little individual bottles of wine at Nationals Park, I really can’t say that I would ever associate baseball with wine. And yet, Major League Baseball just got into the wine business with the launch of its own line-up of baseball teams branded wine. According to Fast Company, MLB couldn’t get into the beer business because of its exclusivity deal with Budweiser. But wine was fair game and so in 2014, the Giants, Yankees, Mariners, Red Sox, Rangers, Phillies, and Cubs got their own custom blends and branded bottles.

Obviously, there are baseball fans who are also wine fans because the program was successful enough to be extended to 13 additional teams this year, including the Baltimore Orioles and the Washington NationalsAll of the bottles are available for purchase on MLB’s website though I also spotted a few bottles of the Washington Nationals™  Club Series 2013 Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon at one of my fave wine store, Fork & Cork, over the weekend ($25.99 each.)

Nationals Wine

MLB partnered with Wine By Design, a lifestyle marketing agency.The wines are supposed to be “tailored to each individual team for fans to enjoy all season long” which for DC (and Baltimore actually… the teams’ vinos are actually the same) means Central Coast cabernet grapes. The New York Yankees, which sold 6,000 bottles out of the 11,000 produced the first year of the partnership, actually have a wine with more local ties: a Finger Lakes Riesling from Anthony Road Winery. The Phillies and the Mariners also get wines made with some local grapes, from Pennsylvania’s Chaddsford winery and Washington state’s Columbia Valley respectively. The Nationals just get California grapes and a pretty lame blurb with overused puns about gridlock. Womp womp. Looks like this wine isn’t about to turn me into a Nats fan anytime soon 😉 

 

 

 

Cheer on These Three Frenchies at DC’s Citi Open Tournament

CitiOpenToday is the first day of the new Citi Open tennis tournament in Washington, D.C.! Formerly known as the Washington Open and, more recently, the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, the tournament still takes place at Rock Creek Park Tennis Center. It’s an official ATP and WATP event like the US Open in New York, though it’s not considered a Grand Slam so it doesn’t typically doesn’t attract top players. Nonetheless, Andy Murray and Marin Cilic have made the trip to Washington, as have 4 French players: Richard Gasquet, who recently upset Stan Wawrinka in an epic five sets battle to join Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray in the semi-finals at Wimbledon; Alizé Cornet and Kristina MladenovicAdrian Mannarino was slated to compete as well, but had to withdraw due to a wrist injury 😦

Alizé Cornet posted this pic on her instagram feed. The caption: "Early bird practice for this first day in Washington! But already 30 degres at 8:30am!!!" Yep, sounds about right.

Alizé Cornet posted this pic on her instagram feed. The caption: “Early bird practice for this first day in DC! But already 30 degres at 8:30am!!!” Yep, sounds about right.

The tournament goes until August 9th and you can still purchase single tickets to games on the Citi Open’s website. Price range from $10 for qualifying games to $45-55 for the rest of the tournament. 

 

Dîner en Blanc – New York Edition

Last night, I joined 5,000 revelers at Pier 26 in Tribeca for the fifth edition of New York’s Dîner en Blanc. Being involved with the DC event, which this year will take place on August 29th and involve 2,500 guests, I can appreciate the sheer logistics of getting all of us, carrying our own tables, chairs, tableware, centerpieces and food, there!

Diner en blanc New YorkWashington Square Park

Diner en blanc Washington Square Park

 

Our evening started at Washington Square Park, one of 24 meeting spots throughout the city. Well, really it started on a bus to New York… but let’s not go there 😉 Following a quick glass of rosé on tap at Claudette (no it wasn’t weird at all to show up there with 2 chairs, I swear…), my friend Caitlin and I met Katie, our very organized table leader, as well our 48 diner mates.

Part of the concept of Dîner en Blanc, which originated in Paris (I mean where else??) is that the location of the diner is kept secret until the very last minute so we had no idea where we were headed. Previously, Dîner en Blanc New York has popped up at Bryant Park, the Lincoln Center and, more recently, Nelson A. Rockefeller Park at Battery Park. It took a good hour and a half to get from Washington Square Park to being set up in our designated area on Pier 26. With only two entry points to get 5,000 people in and out of the site, it was definitely a challenge to get everyone there and ready for diner, but the end result was worth all the sweating and slugging of white chairs in the metro and 33 degree heat!

Diner en blanc new york

Diner en blanc new York

Diner en blanc at Pier 26Despite being so close to last year’s location, which was a little disappointing, the backdrop of this year Dîner en Blanc – the Hudson River, New Jersey City Skyline and the new One World Trade Center – was absolutely stunning! You could even see a small  Statue of Liberty in the background! The site will be converted into a mixed-use recreational facility soon so this was the very last event held on the empty Pier.

Diner en blanc New YorkDiner en blanc New York

Caitlin and I opted to skip the picnic baskets provided by Chef Todd English and brought in our food, sushi from Beyond Sushi and macarons from Mille-Feuille.  Per New York regulations, we did pre-purchase a bottle of champagne to pick up on-site, from Dîner en Blanc New York sponsor Perrier Jouet.

Diner en Blanc New YorkDiner en blanc new York

One of my favourite element of the diner, which I hope we will have in DC too, was the Celebrity Cruises volunteers who not only had the cutest outfits as they held signs indicating the different rows of tables but also handed out white chocolate dipped macarons to all of the guests toward the end of the dinner. I cannot wait to see what they have planned for the event here in Washington, which they are also sponsoring!! 

Celebrity Cruises at diner en blanc new york

Have you ever attended a Dîner en Blanc event before? When? Where? Are you planning on attending one this year? I’d love to hear!!

Postcard from the Twin Cities: Peanuts Statues in Rice Park

I probably own one of the world’s most traveled Snoopy. First, he made his way from China to France in my mother’s suitcase. Then, I dragged him on all my trips as a kid, from Greece to Senegal… he even got to head back to China and see the great wall 😉 Many years later, as I visited Minneapolis-Saint Paul for the 2008 Republican National Convention I was stoked to be welcomed into the city by these two statues of my childhood bestie and travel buddy at the airport:

Snoopy The World Traveler by Keith Krone at Lindbergh Terminal at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul airport

The North Star Flying Ace by Patricia Owen at Lindbergh Terminal at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul airport

These Snoopies, I learned, were part of Peanuts On Parade, a tribute to Minneapolis native Charles M. Schulz, that ran shortly after his death in 2000. 101 5-foot tall fiberglass statues of Snoopy were created, sponsored by local businesses and decorated accordingly by local artists. Most were auctioned off to raise money for charity and to fund a more permanent tribute to the Peanuts and their creator at Landmark Park. But more on that later. In 2001, additional statues were created and displayed at the Mall of America for a summer exhibit called Charlie Brown Around Town. Other exhibits followed including Looking for Lucy in 2002 and Linus Blankets St. Paul in 2004. Those were also auctioned off for charity, but when I visited the Twin Cities in 2008, you could still spot a few of them across the two towns. 

Snoopy on Parade Statue

Posing with Dog Gone Green by Marla Gamble

Parade of Snoopy statue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charlie Brown statue in MinneapolisUnfortunately, when I went back to Minneapolis-St. Paul a few weeks ago with my parents, most of the statues were gone 😦 What’s left, however, is the permanent tribune to the cartoonist and the beloved characters he created at Landmark Plaza and Rice Park in downtown St. Paul. The pictures below are a mix from 2008 and 2015.

Linus and Sally Statue at Landmark park

Linus and Sally

Patty, Marcie and Woodstock are on the east side of Rice Park, Marcie reading a book of course, while Patty is playing with her football. Charlie Brown and his best friend, Schroeder, Lucy, Linus, and Sally are across the street in Landmark Park.

Laetitia Brock and Marcie at Landmark Park

Statue of Snoopy and Charlie Brown at Landmark Park

Schroeder and Lucy statue at Landmark ParkThe statues share the park with another literary icon from St. Paul, Scott F. Fitzgerald who also has a bronze likeness at Landmark Park. 

Cat-Ladying at Crumbs & Whiskers

This isn’t my first cat café post – cue in my previous posts on New York’s Meow Parlour and Paris’ Café des Chats. It’s not even my first post about Crumbs and Whiskers – see post on the launch of its kickstarter campaign. But it is my first post on DC’s eagerly anticipated cat café since it opened. And it’s my first post since actually going there!! My friend Cecile who writes The Worldly Bites has Gentlemeow Club member status so we snagged 2 weeknight spots during opening month and went to go play with the kittiens last night. Let me take you through our experience at Crumbs and Whiskers

Crumbs and Whiskers House Rules

 

Cat café is actually a bit of a misnomer when it comes to Crumbs and Whiskers. Yes, there’s cats. Plenty of them actually. But it’s not really a café at all. It’s more of a space to hang out with cats. The 2-story Georgetown house on O Street is actually quite narrow. The foyer, despite the best effort of the resident cat-greeter and of the café’s bubbly owner Kanchan Singh, is not really the most welcoming area. Upon checking in for your appointed time slot, you’ll be asked to sign a waiver if you haven’t already done so online and shown a quick menu of drink items, like coffee, that can be ordered and delivered from the place across the street. Unlike at Meow Parlour, you’re not required to disinfect your hands or take off your shoes, which is good because I’m not sure where you’d be able to store them at Crumbs and Whiskers. I’ll be curious to see how they handle coats this winter… After glancing at the house rules that are stated on the entrance wall, cat-lovers can make their way through the first floor or up the stairs to find a spot to settle at. Which is easier said than done. By the time Cecile and I arrived, at 6PM on the dot, and checked it, all the seats at the café were occupied by either a sleeping cat or a lady desperately waiting for a cat, any cat, to wake up. 

Crumbs & Whiskers

 

Quite frankly, Crumbs and Whiskers felt crowded. The cats looked peaceful and relaxed. Most were sleeping, which is what cats do, and that seemed amazing given how and busy everyone was around them. The minute a cat would wake up or show any willingness to play it would be surrounded by 5 girls all trying to get its attention. At Meow Parlour, in New York, my friend Caitlin and I sat and chatted peacefully while sipping the cups of coffee we had brought in from the Parlour’s coffee and macaron shop around the corner. A handful of other people were doing the same, playing with the occasional awake kitty that would deign pay attention to them for a few minutes before hopping off to a higher spot. Same in Paris’ Café des Chats, which actually is more of a tea-house than a ca and serves a full menu of food items since, you know, the French aren’t as uptight about food regulations 😉  At both, patrons seemed to be enjoying each other’s company, in a nice place that just happened to have a lot of cats. At Crumbs and Whiskers it felt more like people were only there to see (and play with) cats. 

Crumbs & Whiskers

All in all, I’m glad I checked out Crumbs and Whiskers but I probably won’t be back until the hype dies down a little. And when I do go back, I’ll pick a time slot that will be less busy, like the middle of the day on a Tuesday for example. But I’ll definitely encourage you to visit if you’re looking to adopt a cat (or more), though, again, not on evenings or weekends. All of the resident-kitties at Crumbs and Whiskers are available for adoptions through the Washington Humane Society and 9 of them have already moved on to forever home, which is really great given that the café has only been open for a month. As for me, if I want to get ignored by a black cat, I might save $10 and stay at home for now 😉 

Crumbs & Whiskers

Hermione & the Spirit of Lafayette Back in the US


Nope, I’m not talking about a Hermione Granger, the Harry Potter character, but Hermione, the Frigate of Freedom, a ship. The replica of the ship that brought the Marquis de Lafayette to the United State some 235 years ago to carry the message from King Louis XVI that France was going to aid the colonies. In 1997, a group of people came up with the idea of reconstructing the frigate using the same building methods applied in the original. Some 17 years later, on April 18, 2015, she left Rochefort in France to set sail for Virginia and retrace a journey through American history. For the past month, L’Hermione plied across the Atlantic, retracing Lafayette’s journey. She’s set to arrive in Yorktown, Virginia, this week and then sail up the Coast to 11 additional ports. If you’re hoping to catch the ship, here’s her schedule:

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  • Yorktown, Virginia (June 5-7)
  • Mount Vernon, Virginia (June 9 – not docking)
  • Alexandria, Virginia (June 10-12)
  • Annapolis, Maryland (June 16-17)
  • Baltimore, Maryland (June 19-21)
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (June 25-28)
  • New York, New York (July 1-4)
  • Greenport, New York (July 6-7)
  • Newport, Rhode Island (July 8-9)
  • Boston, Massachusetts (July 11-12)
  • Castine, Maine (July 14-15)
  • Lunenburg, Nova Scotia (July 18)

At each stops, there will be a traveling photography exhibit covering the 17 years of the ship’s reconstruction and visitors will be able to tour the ship and enjoy other pier-side cultural activities. As always, New York gets the best stop of all, the one on July 4th, with a whole parade of boats that will accompany the Hermione as she sails from the Verrazano Bridge to the Statue of Liberty. Then of course, there’ll be fireworks, but I think those would have happened regardless 😉 I wish I could make it to that, but I’m hoping to catch the ship in Philadelphia since I’ll be out of town on a work trip pretty much the entire time it’s going to be in the DC-area. 

For more information on L’Hermione and her transatlantic trip, check out the website Hermione Voyage or follow her journey on instagram and twitter. The photograph used in this post was courtesy of L’Hermione.

Discover the Wines of the Languedoc Region

Is it August yet? I’ll be traveling to Montpellier, Bezier and Carcassonne in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in a few weeks and I can’t wait!! The Languedoc isn’t as famous when it comes to wine as say Burgundy or Champagne, but the Southwestern French region is one of the largest and oldest wine-producing area in France. Two wines that I personally love from the Languedoc are Corbière reds and rosés. The Languedoc, which spans the Mediterranean coastline from Provence to the France’s border with Spain, enjoys a warm and sunny weather, with 320 days of sunshine Languedoc Day infographica year, and produces some wonderful rosés. 

Since today is #LanguedocDay, an occasion for wine lovers around the world to celebrate and share their appreciation for the AOPs from the regions on social media event, here are the wines that Languedoc is famous for: 

LIMOUX

The sparkling wines from the region around the town of Limoux, south of the Medieval walled city of Carcassonne, claim to be the bubbly with the oldest mention in official records. Take that Champagne 😉 

Picpoul de pinetPICPOUL DE PINET

The production of the world famous Picpoul de Pinet white wine is centered around a few small villages close to the Bassin de Thau, a large saltwater lake that also produces some of the country’s best oysters. This very affordable wine is the south of France’s answer to northern French Muscadet, with a similar lemony zing but sometimes also with a subtle floral whiff.

 

IMG_8411CORBIERES AOC

Corbières is the largest appelation in Languedoc, and one of the better known. You’ll easily spot a bottle of Corbières in most wine stores in town. 95% of the wines produced in that part of the Languedoc are herb scented reds made from Carignan, Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache, but you can also find a few rosés. All are typically reasonably priced too, though there are more expensive “grande cuvée.   

 

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ROSÉ

Right now, I cannot get enough rosés and the Languedoc produces beautiful pale pink wines that pair especially well with a hot summer day! Try the Chateau de Lascaux rosé cuvée Garrigue 2014 (available at Eye Street Cellars for $12.99,) Domaines Paul Mas (found at Cork & Fork on 14th street,) or a Corbières rosés like Domaine Sainte Eugenie (from Continental Wines).

 

The wines of Languedoc

I hope I’ve inspired you to pick up a bottle of wine from Languedoc today and join the conversation. Follow @languedocwines and use the hashtag #LanguedocDay to chime in!! And, if you want to take it a step further, Bistro d’Oc near metro center is an adorable little restaurant (it’s easy to spot with its purple facade!) that specializes in the food of the Languedoc region. Happy #LanguedocDay! 

 

 

Happy St. Honoré to all the bakers & pastry chefs

The Catholic Church has a long tradition of assigning saints as special guardians and protectors of different trades and professions, and bakers and pastry chefs are no exception! Saint Honoré, the former Bishop of Amiens in the North of France, is revered by bakers as their patron saint, in part due to a church that was built in his honor in 1202 that became the site of the bakers’ guilt. Technically, the patron saint of pastry chefs is St. Michel. But the line between boulangers (bakers) and pâtissiers (pastry chefs) is often blurred in France, with most boulangeries selling pastries in addition to bread. 

Saint Honoré Rose Framboise from Ladurée Soho

Saint Honoré Rose Framboise from Ladurée Soho – picture Laetitia-Laure Brock

The St. Honoré also happens to be a delicious dessert made of cream puffs, puff pastry, pastry cream and caramelized sugar. It’s not named after the saint, but after the Parisian street where the bakery that invented it was located. So not only do all boulangers and pâtissiers have a holiday to celebrate, they also have the perfect treat to celebrate it with!

Check out this great story in NPR to learn more about the holiday and its signature pastry, the St. Honoré pastry.