A Year In Champagne at the Angelika Film Center

Angelika Pop-Up at Union Market With its reserved seating, gourmet concessions and interesting mix of blockbuster and special interest films, the Angelika Film Center & Cafe at the Mosaic District is one of my absolute favourite movie theater in the Washington area. Keyword: Washington area. It’s nowhere near the city and pretty inconvenient to get to if you don’t have a car. So I was thrilled when a smaller, albeit temporary version, of the art-house movie theater popped up behind Union Market. It became pretty handy when I was trying to catch up on my Oscar nominated films, showing Whiplash, Still Alice and a couple of other nominated flicks. Eventually, the pop-up Angelika Film theater at Union Market will transform into a full scale permanent location but until then, its three screens currently offers around 4-6 different indie and art-house films at various times throughout the day. You can reserve your seat in advance, meaning you can hang out in the lounge area or at Union Market until right about the time your film starts. The only downside is that the theater has NO incline, meaning you’re kinda screwed if someone tall sits in front of you…But on the plus side, there’s free drip coffee during matinee shows and you can purchase wine and beer to bring inside the movie.

Speaking of wine and beer… both Angelika theaters in the D.C. area are showing a great documentary on champagne on Wednesday March 4 2015. The film, A Year in Champagne, is part of a wine trilogy led by renowned wine importer Martine Saunier. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can catch the first chapter, A Year in Burgundy,  on Netflix where it’s streaming. The third chapter, a Year in Porto, will be released later. About the film: A Year in Champagne gives viewers a rare glimpse behind the scenes into the real Champagne by spending time with six houses, from a small independent maker like Champagne Saint-Chamant, where each and every bottle is still turned by hand in the cellars to the illustrious houses of Gosset and Bollinger, which have been instrumental in shaping the image of Champagne around the world.

Both Angelika theaters are throwing a champagne tasting party to go along the film screening on March 4, 2015!
At the Angelika Film Center & Cafe in Fairfax, happy hour will start at 6PM in the lounge with wine, beer and snacks available for purchase. Experts from nearby wine shop Swirl & Sip will also be on hand to talk about Champagne before the movie screening at 7pm (movie tickets available here.) In Washington, the screening will also take place on the 4th and start with a tasting at Cordial Fine Wines & Spirits from 4:30-6:30PM (advance movie tickets available here.)


Melt for Raclette: Throw a Raclette Dinner Party

Raclette is a hearty dish, meant to be enjoyed after a day on the Alps slopes. Even without the skiing, it’s a fun meal to share with friends and requires very little actual cooking. That makes it ideal for the busy hostess, so I love hosting raclette dinner parties in the winter.

raclette, raclette cheese, cheese,

If you don’t already know raclette, let me introduce you to one of Switzerland’s signature dish.

Raclette is four things really:

  • A pungent washed rind cows milk cheese.
  • The dish you make with that cheese.
  • The grill you use to melt the raclette (cheese) for the raclette (dish).
  • The dinner party where people get together to eat the raclette (dish) made by melting raclette (cheese) on the raclette (grill).

Are you still following me? lol

It’s actually a very simple dish with humble origins. Like its melted cheese cousin fondue, raclette came about as a way to finish dried old cheese and already opened wine. In fondue, the cheese is melted in a pot (fondue comes from the French word fondre which means to melt) and eaten with bread. In Raclette, slices of cheese are melted in a little pan under a table side grill then scraped (raclette gets its name from the French word for scrape: racler) over warm potatoes and cold cut meats. In the United States, raclette isn’t so popular. It’s a lot easier to find the cheese and pot for fondue than the grill for raclette. I got my raclette grill off our Williams and Sonoma wedding registry though you can find more affordable options on Amazon (this 4 person grill is pretty convenient for your every day raclette needs). As for the cheese, you can occasionally find some at Righteous Cheese, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

Raclette is traditionally served with a simple tossed salad, boiled potatoes, cornichons, cured meats and dry white wine. For starch adverse guests, you can substitute the potatoes with artichoke hearts. Raclette is a communal dish and all the host or hostess really needs to do ahead of time is boil the potatoes and prepare the salad. The cold cuts (getting a variety gives your guests more options) and slices of cheese should be arranged on serving plates too. After that, each dinner party guest just melts his or her own slices of cheese using the small coupelles of the raclette grill then scrapes the runny raclette over a boiled potato topped with prosciutto (my fave!) or turkey meat.

Scrape the melted cheese from the grilled and brown surface of the cheese that’s been exposed to heat and eat this melting bit of cheese with a bite of the potatoes.

For pairing, dry white wine is typically what you would serve with Raclette, like an Alsatian pinot gris or a Sauvignon Blanc. At the recommendation of the folks at Modern Liquor, I recently tried a light Austrian red with my Raclette and it worked out really well. Dry sparkling wine works really well too.

A version of this post appeared in Borderstan back in February 2013.

French Movies at the 2014 AFI-EU Film Showcase

2014 AFI-EU Film Showcase The 2014 AFI-EU Film Showcase opens today at AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, Maryland. Presented by the American Film Institute (AFI) in collaboration with the Delegation of the European Union to the United States and EU Member States, the festival showcases the best in current European filmmaking and this year’s selection includes more than 50 films shown throughout the month of December (the 27th edition of the festival runs from December 3-21, 2014.)

French and French-language films are well represented, as always:

  • The Dardenne brothers’ “Two days, one night” (showing Fri, Dec 12, 7:30 and Sun, Dec 14, 3:40), Belgium’s official selection for the Oscars
  • Girlhood (Thu, Dec 4, 9:45pm and Sat, Dec 6, 10pm)
  • Marie’s Story (Sun, Dec 7, 5:30pm and Mon, Dec 8, 9:15pm)
  • If you don’t I will (Sun, Dec 14, 1:30pm and Tue, Dec 16, 7:30pm)
  • Anne Fontaine’s Gemma Bovery which is premiering on the festival’s closing night and is a clever nod on Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (Dec 20, 8pm.) The screening will be following by a reception sponsored by the European Union Delegation to the United States.
  • Jackie in the Kingdom of Women (Sat, Dec 20, 10:10pm and Sun, Dec 21, 7:45pm)
Gemma Bovery, with Fabrice Luchini and Gemma Arterton

Gemma Bovery, with Fabrice Luchini and Gemma Arterton

On Saturdays December 6, 13 and 20, from 5-7pm, the theater is also offering wine samples from the countries showcased that particular day. That means French wine on the 20th! On the 14th, don’t miss a special free screening of 3 short films on December 14 at 5:45pm. The films include Castello Cavalcanti by Wes Anderson and a French language movie called Les Lézards.

Click here for more information on the 2014 AFI-EU Film Showcase and to view a full schedule.

Wine Wednesday: A Special Screening of American Wine Story on November 13

A couple of years ago, my husband and I ran the Lawyers Have Heart 10K through Georgetown to benefit the American Heart Association. That was fun. But you know what sounds like an even more fun way to benefit that same association? Not running, and watching a documentary on American winemakers followed by Q&A and tasting reception instead. Definitely.

American Wine Story Screening

You’ve heard the claims before… drinking red wine (in moderation) may lower the risk of heart disease, and every year the American Heart Association hosts an amazing 4-days wine auction event in Washington, DC, called Heart’s Delight. The fundraiser celebrates exceptional food and wine and has raised more than 13 million dollars for the American Heart Association over the past 15 years. This year’s auction will be held April 22-25, 2015 (so save the date for that too!) but until then, you can celebrate wine AND benefit the American Heart Association by attending a special screening of “American Wine Story” on November 13 at E Street Cinema. The film celebrates the men and women at the heart (pun intended) of the American wine industry, including Jimi Brooks, a young Oregon wine maker who died of a heart attack at the age of 38. When he passed away, just before harvest, his fellow winemakers banded together to make his wine. The film also profiles a number of passionate local winemakers like who put aside their initial careers to start over and follow their dreams of making wine. Among the winemakers highlighted in the documentary are Al and Cindy Schornberg of Keswick Vineyards in Virginia or Luca Paschina of Barboursville, also in Virginia. All three will be present, along with David Baker, who wrote, directed and narrated the film (which he funded through Kickstarter,) at a wine tasting reception and Q&A session following the screening.

For more information and ticket sales (tickets are $50) click here. Or, you know, you can start training for the Lawyers Have Heart 10K. It’ll be on June 13 next year 😉



A Taste of Provence: Miraval Rosé

Looking for a good rosé to sip this summer? Here are a few words I thought I’d never say: try Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s Château Miraval Cotes de Provence rosé. Last year, the famous pair released the first vintage of rosé from their South of France estate (read more about the Château here), made in partnership with the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel. The wine comes from a blend of Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah and Rolle. And it’s pretty good.

 2013 Miraval Cotes de Provence Rose, brad pitt wine,

Clearly, Brad and Angelina bought  a good vineyard 😉 The rosé is light pale pink and has a lovely floral nose. It retails between $18 to $22 (I found my bottle at Whole Foods), which is a little pricey for this type of rosé. You can definitely find rosé of similar quality at a lower price point, but you’re also paying a premier for the Brandgelina nose…

Do you have a favourite summer rosé? Cheers!

Put a Cork In It ~ Part Deux

I have my little tradition every Earth Day. Since all natural cork is 100% renewable, recyclable and biodegradable, I save all the natural corks from the bottles of wine I drink at my house throughout the year. Then, on April 22nd, I raise a glass to small steps like cork recycling and bring my corks to a drop box.

Interested in recycling your corks as well? There are two leading cork recycling organizations here in the US: Cork Reharvest, which has partnered with Whole Foods stores, and ReCork, which is sponsored by Amorim of Portugal, the world’s largest producer of natural cork wine closures. You can easily find a ReCork drop off location near you on their website but in D.C., the public collection partners include hotels like Topaz, restaurants like Bistro Lepic (one of my favourite French restaurant in the city!), wine shops (Weygandt WineWide World of Wines and Schneider of Capitol Hill) or businesses like Living Social (7th street location).
Of course, you can also get some inspiration on pinterest for some crafty do-it-yourself cork projects. Either way, just don’t drop your corks in the garbage can. They can be re-used or recycled. On that note, let’s raise a glass (of wine preferably) to Earth Day! 


Put a Cork in It: 10 Cork DIY Projects Inspiration

If you’re like me and you enjoy the odd (or not so odd) bottle of wine at the end of a long workday, you probably end up with a lot of corks. Unless you’re drinking that cheap twist off stuff of course 😉  I hope you’re also like me and that you drop off your empty bottles of Bordeaux and Sancerre in the recycling bin. But what do you do with the corks? Did you know you can recycle them too?  

Cork comes from trees and while it cannot actually be reused as a wine cork (something about bacterial concerns…), it can be recycled into lots of useful products from floors to shoes (how awesome are these Burberry Stour Suede Cork Wedge sandals? *want*). It can also be used in lots of DIY projects. Here are a few fun ones I found on Pinterest:

wine cork herb markers

Wine Cork Herb Markers from Tim Vidra on the blog AfterTaste.

Whip out some fun herbs markers for your planter or garden using Tim Vidra’s quick DIY guide. It seems pretty simple too, you basically just need some dowel rods, wine corks, a drill and a marker. Works for indoor planters or outdoor herb gardens too.


Creme de la Craft made a cute placement using her extra corks. Seems pretty simple too!

Do you really love wine? Let your house show that! Use champagne or wine cork stoppers as cabinet knobs.

cork cabinet knobs, cork craft, cork DIY prjects

Photo: Tria Giovan for Southern Living



If you are a more ambitious homemaker, and you have a *lot* of corks to use, try a cork backsplash

cork backsplash, cork home DIY projects, do it yourself, corks

Cork Backsplash from Houzz Cool House Tour by CG&S Design-Build


Cork is naturally waterproof so why not turn them into a bathmat? Craftynest shows you all the steps.


Wine cork bath mat from CraftyNest.


Spread some holiday spirit with a DIY wine cork Christmas wreath. WineFolly has a version that seems a little bit easier to make here. PS: I could totally see my DIY-wreath-genius-friend Bianca do this with her corks!

Also, you can easily make a non-Christmas wreath to keep on your door year-round:


I think personally I will settle for something a little less ambitious…like keeping corks as mementos. Write down when you had that bottle of wine or have the person you enjoyed it with sign it for prosperity.

wine cork journaling, wedding guest book idea, cork wedding guest book, cork craft,

Wine Cork Journaling, from the blog Mintage Home

These would actually make a cute alternative to a guest book for a wedding too, with corks from bottles the bride and groom have enjoyed throughout their travels or lives together 😉


Speaking of weddings… I had a really hard time committing to a theme for my own wedding. One of them was champagne. Yes, one of *them.* I had a couple… and I got married WAY before Pinterest came to life… I can’t imagine what kind of pressure the site puts on ADD brides like I was 😉 We used large “silver” champagne buckets as vases for our purple roses and dark blue berries centerpieces as well as mini champagne buckets with candle votives on the tables. We didn’t manage to drink enough champagne to have individual champagne place setting cards for each of our 98 guests (though we tried very hard….) So we named each of the table after a French champagne house and made our own Champagne cork wedding place cards.

Details from my August 11, 2006 wedding at DAR in Washington, D.C.

Details from my August 11, 2006 wedding at DAR in Washington, D.C.

I hope the one take-away from this post is that you shouldn’t toss you corks in the trash can. Hold on to them. You, or someone you know might put them to good use. And of course, the last option is to recycle your corks! But that’s not as much fun now is it? [For more information on recycling your corks in DC, check out this related post.)
{This post first appeared in Borderstan on July 30, 2012.}

Flexing my (Belgian) culinary mussels

Perhaps I was inspired by the tasty Classic Mussels that my friend Olga of Mango Tomato ordered as a starter at Brabo when we dropped by last week to try their new spring menu. Perhaps it was my Belgian heritage kicking in. My grandmother, after all, did grow up in the suburbs of Brussels and my father and I were both born in the Northern French city of Lille, a mere 20 kilometers from the Belgian border. Or perhaps it was the $4.99 bag of mussels I stumbled upon by chance at Whole Foods… whatever the reason was, I decided to have some classic moules-frites for dinner the other night.



Ingredients for 2-3 peoples
1 bag of mussels (approx. 2lbs), rinsed, scrubbed and bearded
2 tbsp butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Fresh thyme sprigs (4 or 5 is good)
Chopped parsley (2 to 3 tbsp)
1 cup of dry wine (Sancerre works best but Muscadet is very good too or even Pinot Grigio)
Sea salt to taste.

Mussels are pretty much the simplest dish to make. Basically, you place all the ingredients minus the parsley in a large stockpot, cover and cook over high heat for approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Throughout this cooking time, you should shake the pot occasionally to allow all the mussels a chance to soak up the flavours from the herbs and the wine. When the mussels have opened up, remove the pot from heat and discard the unopened shells as well as the thyme sprigs. Sprinkle with parsley, toss gently and divide between your bowls with all of the cooking liquid. Serve with fries and mayonnaise. I personally like Alexia Yukon Gold julienne fries with sea salt or Alexia Oven Fries with olive oil and sea salt, available at Whole Foods for around $2.50. 

Bon appétit!