Monday, December 8, 2014

A Rendezvous in Reims

Earlier this year (let's go way back to April), Mr. Chat and I set out on a 10-day sojourn that included not only stops in London and Paris (as mentioned briefly here), but Reims as well. It was our first rendezvous in the world's Champagne mecca, but it certainly wasn't our last. For some reason, I feel compelled to share a glimpse of the beauty we experienced in that rural, well-manicured sanctum that haunts me so. I guess you could say today, I have Champagne on the brain.

Located in the provincial and ever-so-pictorial Champagne-Ardenne region, Reims' baroque 600-year-old cathedral (Notre-Dame de Reims), darling storefront windows and block-after-block of pristine pavement left us longing for more. A lot more. So much more, in fact, that we thought about forfeiting the hustle and bustle that is Boston in favor of finding our very own slice of heaven. Or as the French say un petit coin de paradis.

We would open a Champagne and cheese boutique and we could call it what else but, Rue Le Chat. It would be a cozy corner in our world brimming with bubbles; and the likes of bleu, brie and burrata…just a few of our favorite cheeses.We nodded in agreement while sampling a glass of Vranken Demoiselle Brut Rosé at one of the many shops we envied in town. Oh...and if you're wondering about Manolo…he would be coming too.

When in Reims, you must visit Chateau des Crayères. The chateau is home to Michelin-starred phenomena, Le Parc les Crayères. The cuisine at Le Parc (I'm told) is haute…very haute, but still classically French. The hotel (and I hate to even call it that because it's beyond the realm of an ordinary place to rest your head) has a second restaurant, Brasserie Le Jardin. Hidden among the greenery of a lush garden, the look and feel at this sister eatery is casual and chic with its brick walls and slate floors.

Mr. Chat and I lunched at Le Jardin and our 3-course meal was phenomenal. I'm not a huge "take pictures of food" kind of blogger (unless I'm covering an event), but I did manage to sneak in a snapshot of our dessert. The melt-in-your-mouth mango crème was nestled between two puff pastry shells and devouring the dish was an experience in itself. Très magnifique!

Saving the best for last, we toured the crayères of Veuve Clicquot -- another must when you're in Reims. Our guide was fantastic and offered vivd details about the infamous Madame Clicquot, La Grande Dame de la Champagne. Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin was a visionary who transformed her husband's wine business into a Champagne empire after becoming a widow at only 27-years-old. I had been looking forward to this visit since reading her story in The Widow Clicquot.

Our guide's historically-rich storytelling transported me back in time as we descended deep into the bowels of bubbly. The chalk quarry caves (or crayères as they're formally known) are where each and every bottle is aged to perfection. The crayères not only served as chalk mines during the Galo-Roman era, but also housed make-shift hospitals, secret passageways and bomb shelters during both world wars. Each crayère was dressed with plaques bearing the names of Clicquot employees. Individuals who have vested at least four decades receive the honor and are also showered with un grande fête in the crayères.

The tour ended with a steady climb of stairs and each step marked a vintage year for the luxury brand. Clicquot created the first vintage Champagne using three different grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) all from the same year. The house is also responsible for developing the riddling table to produce clear, sediment-free liquid.

Steps leading down to the crayères.

The chalk walls.

The riddling table produces clear, sediment-free liquid.

Employees who have worked at Clicquot for at least 40 years are honored in the crayères.

Clicquot's vintage years are displayed on each step leading up to the tasting salon.

Once in the tasting salon, Mr. Chat and I enjoyed a glass of the yellow label -- one of many elixirs of choice when we entertain. In true Rue style, we took things to the next level and sampled the pride of the house, La Grande Dame 1996. It was exquisite, noble and sweet with a balanced and aromatic finish. Santé!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Opening Night at Boston Ballet's The Nutcracker

Diana Albrecht, Kathryn Boren and Lauren Herfindahl 

As the dazzling month of December descends upon us today, I'm thrilled to share a few stunning images from Boston Ballet's The Nutcracker. I've written about this particular holiday performance (and ballet in general) numerous times on the blog. I've been drawn to the prestige of ballet since I was young girl. Although I never grew up to be a famed performer, part of me wishes I had in fact become a world-class dancer. I mean, don't all little girls dream of becoming a ballerina?

Mr. Chat and I kicked-off our Christmas season at opening night on November 28. This year's performance (like last year) was set in the early 1800s -- think Jane Austen colors, costumes and culture. It was a treat to step out of tech-driven 2014 for a mere two hours and immerse myself into the Georgian era (1714 to 1830) of British society. Mr. Chat was equally mesmerized, but I'm sure that was from the layer of legs leaping across the stage.

Following the breathtaking sets Robert Perdziola crafted for Boston Ballet's Sawn Lake in October, the designer took his talents to the stage once again. Perdziola's discerning eye laid a blueprint for beauty with ornate details, hand painted frescos and lavish finishes. Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen took a page from The Tale of the Nutcracker, a libretto by Alexandre Dumas. Nissinen fine tuned much of the show's choreography including the reveal of an all-new ending. Luckily, serval sections including my favorite-ever, the Arabian Dance, remained the same -- such a gorgeous piece of art and athleticism!

If you don't know this enchanting story, it follows the wondrous journey of Clara, a young girl who receives a nutcracker as a gift at her family's Christmas Eve party. Later that evening, Clara's nutcracker transforms into a handsome prince and leads her through an enchanted forest and to the kingdom of the Nutcracker Prince. Truly an allegory for all ages.

The Nutcracker saunters across the Boston Opera House stage through December 31. Click here to purchase tickets.

My admission was courtesy of Boston Ballet. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Boston Ballet's Swan Lake

Boston Ballet will mark the world premiere of Mikko Nissinen’s interpretation of Swan Lake this Thursday, October 30. The classic story of Odette, a princess-turned-swan, was originally composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1875. Through his intricate, yet dramatic touch, Nissinen will resurrect the famed ballet through spellbinding moves, enchanting sets and mystical costumes by designer Robert Perdziola.

“Swan Lake is one of the greatest ballets of all time, set to a score that is celebrated throughout the world,” said Nissinen in a press release. “After a six year hiatus, I am so excited to bring this exquisite classic back to Boston with a fresh look.”

This will be my first time experiencing Swan Lake on stage; and if you’re a lover of art, sound and style like I am, you know this magic is not to be missed. I've been waiting for this ballet's debut since August when company ballerinas sauntered into the Boston Public Garden wearing Swan Lake costumes. In an effort to promote Nissinen’s new production, the team re-created a photo shoot from the 1970s where dancers first posed on swan boats in costume.

Photo courtesy of the Harvard Archives featuring former Boston Ballet dancers
Durine Alinova and Clyde Nantais from the 1970s

Photo courtesy of the Harvard Archives featuring former Boston Ballet dancers
Durine Alinova and Clyde Nantais from the 1970s

Boston Public Garden :: August 2014
Todd Lee Photography 

Boston Public Garden :: August 2014
Todd Lee Photography 

Boston Ballet is also celebrating Halloween with a masquerade night this Friday. Guests are invited to wear chic black and white attire and don a complimentary Swan Lake mask (available at the theatre) to complete their masquerade look. Guests are also encouraged to snap festive photos (in the lobby) and post their images on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #BBSwanLake for a chance to win tickets to a performance in spring 2015. 

Swan Lake runs through Sunday, November 16 at the Boston Opera House. Click here to purchase tickets. See you at the theatre, darling!

Admission to Swan Lake is courtesy of Boston Ballet.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Cat Town Cafe :: First Permanent Cat Cafe in the United States

Le Café des Chats, Paris

Last Sunday, the Boston Globe published two beautiful pieces about cat cafes. I was one of the writers asked to contribute a story about my visit to one of the most purrfect places in Paris (well, at least in my opinion), Le Café des Chats. If you follow me on Twitter and Facebook, you know just how much I adored my visit in April. An afternoon sitting with cats and savoring Champagne is all an American girl in Paris could ask for. Well, perhaps some Chanel and Hermès wouldn't hurt either. You can read all about Le Café des Chats here.

Cat cafes first took flight in Asia more than a decade ago. Today, the excitement can be found in European cities such as Madrid, Munich and Vienna. With restaurant health and safety codes more stringent in this country, the feline and food concept hasn't fully clawed its way to completion – although the craze could be coming to a city near you. And if you happen to live in Oakland, CA this tailspinning theory is set to come true tomorrow (October 25) with the grand opening of Cat Town Café – the first permanent cat cafe in the United States. 

Ann Dunn, founder of Cat Town – an Oakland non-profit that has been rescuing at-risk shelter cats since 2011, has been committed to finding both foster and forever homes for felines who don’t necessarily fare well in a caged environment. Together with her business partner, Adam Myatt, the duo transformed a 2,200 square foot space into a cafe and isolated “cat zone.” Visitors can purchase food from the cafe and then enter the "cat zone" where they'll be able to interact with the cats available for adoption.

"We’re not trying to be a regular cafe or restaurant. We’re an adoption center with cafe elements," Dunn said. "These cats would otherwise be sitting in tiny cages, but now they can roam freely while waiting for a permanent home."

Cat Town Café will brew beverages from Bicycle Coffee Company and sell bagels, sandwiches and cat shaped macaroons from other local purveyors. And for those of you looking for an extra pep in your step, there's catnip tea for people and for cats. Meow! Once in the designated "cat zone," patrons can purchase dry treats for their new feline friends. Meow! Meow! 

Cat Town Café is located at 2869 Broadway (at 29th Street) in Oakland. The cafe will be open from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday. The "cat zone" will be open from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday. Now, more importantlywhen will Mr. Chat and I be traveling to California???

Cat Town Café, Oakland
{photo credit}

Monday, August 25, 2014

BOSatoga :: A Love Story

Photo by Alexis Kletjian

Those of you who are avid readers of Rue, know just how much I love cats. I'm crazy about them to be honest -- truly smitten with their fluff and purrfection. Well, that same love and affection (only toned down a tad) burns for horses. My father had a connection to these majestic beings. He loved all creatures to tell you the truth, especially his parrot, but held a special place in his heart for horses. I wrote about this briefly in 2012 when I attended Newport Polo.

Naturally when America's Best Racing invited me out to Saratoga Springs for a day at the race track, I said yes. I hadn't been around horses since the polo match and was longing to be around their spirit and energy. I extended my invitation to a slew of my savviest friends. You didn't think I'd travel three hours to Saratoga Springs without my style sisters from the big city, did you?!

So, on Saturday, August 9 at the crack of dawn, Troupe BOSatoga boarded a luxury coach from Boston with a videographer in tow. Why the cameraman, you ask? Well, Jordan Craig was sent to film our entire experience for a Jockey Club Racing Tour segment that aired the following evening on Fox Sports One. He also produced a video exclusively for America's Best Racing. Brushing off my television skills and acting as a reporter of sorts, I was happy to help.

Photo by Alexis Kletjian

Jordan Craig

Photo by Georgina Castellucci

Our luxe coach was stocked with pastries fresh from Mrs. London's in Saratoga Springs, juice, water and of course fuel in the form of fermented grapes. That's right, wine courtesy of Boston-based Richer Pour. It's never too early for an elixir, so we started the morning off like champs with rosé and chardonnay. Our journey called for a "powder room" pit stop and of course I  couldn't help but ask Georgina to snap some pics of me in my chic navy jumpsuit…or is it a romper?!

 Getting "ambulance-y" - a new term coined by Georgina

Upon arrival, we were welcomed with a gourmet brunch at Fasig-Tipton, North America's oldest thoroughbred auction company. Our private dinning room overlooked the stables and had a darling mimosa and Bloody Mary bar on the outdoor balcony. Cocktails were made-to-order and brunch was a light and refreshing concoction of salads, fruits and petite sandwiches. Don Little, Jr., president of Centennial Farms, and Jimmy Jerkens, trainer for Boston-bred Wicked Strong, spoke to us about our hometown hero and their efforts to support Boston Marathon bombing victims through the One Fund.

After a brief betting tutorial, the troupe took to the track. Onlookers were in awe as the fashion-focused females of Boston (clad in vibrant dresses, grandiose hats and eye-catching fascinators) seamlessly bridged the gap between style and sports in Saratoga Springs. Holly, the beauty and brains behind Holly Dolly, and I even won on our first bet.

 Jean of Extra Petite and Khatu of I am Khatu // Photo by Holly Darling

Heather of Glamorous Baggage

Mama needs a brand new bag...

My bet was on #9 King of New York

#Winning with Holly

I had so many memorable moments during BOSatoga so it's difficult to name my favorite, but if I had to name only one, it was definitely meeting a three-year-old thoroughbred named Black Jack. The dark stallion never made it to the races due to an unfortunate injury, but had an aura about him that is hard to put into words. I know I'm going to sound like a mushy animal lover, but our connection brought me back to my horseback riding days with my father at Canton Equestrian Center. I swear, I'll have to return for a ride one of these days. My moments with Black Jack were luckily caught on film, so I'll have them forever.

My new friend, Black Jack

Laura of LoSo Fancy

Katherine of Style Tab

Amy of Cupcakes & Couture

Christine of Rules for the Modern Girl

The beauties behind Glamorous Baggage, Style by Tiffani and Notes on Lifestyle by Georgina

Photo by Dan Tordjman

A special thank you goes to Dan Tordjman and Victoria Garofalo of America's Best Racing and Don Little, Jr. of Centennial Farms in Beverly, MA.