Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Merci et Au Revior

Photo // Snap! Photography

As I bid adieu to an opulent and romantic year, I wanted to reflect on the beauty and blessings I have been fortunate enough to experience in what was a fabulous and all too fleeting period in time.

Mr. Chat and I traveled across the pond where we experienced the posh history and demure elegance of the English and the French. Our 10-day sojourn was pure magic and included an excursion to the Champagne region -- a place I had been longing to experience. I visited (and fell madly in love with) a cat cafe...and in Paris of all places! I wrote about Le Café des Chats in the Boston Globe. Who would have thought I'd get paid to write about cats and Paris in the same story?!

I embarked on a fantastic day-trip to Saratoga Springs, NY with 19 of my most fashionable friends for an afternoon of brunch and betting. I met Black Jack, the sweetest and most photogenic horse, and our entire experience was covered on Fox Sports 1.

I wrote my first piece for South Shore Living magazine. And later, dipped my toe into the world of wedding writing with a story for the 2015 edition of Southern New England Weddings magazine (on newsstands now).

Lastly, I married the most darling man in the world, the charming and ever-elusive Mr. Chat. And this evening, I will toast to it all as I mark these moments. Thank you and farewell, 2014. You have been good to me.

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.