Bon Vivant: (n) a person having cultivated, refined, and sociable tastes especially with respect to food and drink.

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Dîner en Blanc DC

Posted in: Bon Vivant, Diner en Blanc, Drink Well, Events

This time last week I was embarking on the dining experience of the year- part flash-mob, part gourmet picnic, Dîner en Blanc was a spectacular affair Washington has been ready for.  DC’s inaugural event has been 3 years in the making and took place during the 25th anniversary year of the storied French tradition.

On my way!

On my way!

Setting up our tablescape.  Photo courtesy of Justthebottle.

Setting up our tablescape. Photo courtesy of Justthebottle.

Originally a French affair among friends, the experience has morphed into an exclusive event held in over 50 cities world wide.  The basic premise: participants register through an exclusive system, don all white, and descend upon a secret location to dine on gourmet food and wine.

Having fun with friends in front of the Moët Ice Tower, official sponsor of the event.

Having fun with wine and food blogging friends in front of the Moët Ice Tower, official sponsor of the event.

These ladies are a lot of fun and all have great wine and food blogs! From left to right: Lisa, Christina, Laetitia, (DeB group leader), Katie, (DeB Table Leader).

The rules are strict- diners must adhere to guidelines regarding attire, table size, and more.  The event is not without some major effort on the part of participants (just try schlepping a table, 2 chairs, a 4 course gourmet picnic and table setting on the metro during rush hour!)

However, the end result is a one of a kind evening that balances food, wine, music, dancing, and camaraderie among friends.

Our tablescape

Our table

A toast with a friend, Jackie, from Bookalokal DC

A toast with a friend, Jackie, from Bookalokal DC

Sparklers at dusk, a 25 year old tradition!

Sparklers at dusk, a 25 year old tradition!

The menu:

  • Cheese Plate (from Sona Creamery)- this was great to share with friends!
  • Chilled Gazpacho topped with feta
  • Baby Arugula topped with seared sirloin, Parmesan, aged Balsamic Vinegar and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Macarons (from Sweet Lobby)
La Tur- an outstanding blend of cow, sheep and goat’s milk.   “Rachel” Semi-soft Goat’s milk cheese “Zamorano”- a hard sheep’s milk cheese produced in Virginia.  Similar to Manchengo, but a bit zestier

La Tur- an outstanding blend of cow, sheep and goat’s milk.
“Rachel” Semi-soft Goat’s milk cheese.
“Zamorano”- a hard sheep’s milk cheese produced in Virginia. Similar to Manchengo, but a bit zestier.
Marcona Almonds

(If you’re counting, yes, that’s five types of cheese;)

Bon Vivant Tips for Enjoying Dîner en Blanc:

  • Bring a container to keep your wine chilled
  • Bring ICE and lots of it.  The wines that were supposed to be chilled were not even remotely at serving temperature. Most of my ice had melted by the time I arrived.
  • Bring shoes for walking- I changed into heels after arriving
  • Once you’ve signed up with your “group”, there’s no changing it!
  • If you have a request or an accommodation, be NICE to the organizers.  They receive dozens of emails a day with people making various requests or even complaining.  I’ve heard that many of these emails were not so nice. Remember the old adage about honey catching more flies than vinegar!
  • Do a set up dry run.  Once I figured out how to assemble my table it was a breeze, but it took a while to initially figure out and I saw others struggling the evening of.  I also downsized to smaller plates and a lighter vase after my dry run. I cannot emphasize this tip enough!
  • Consider purchasing or renting a luggage carrier.  Although my trolley toppled a few times due to escalator bumps or curbs, it was collapsible and fit under the table, per DeB regulations.
  • While keeping things light and compact is key to successful schlepping, I was happy I packed a few of my favorite pieces to make my table a bit more elegant.  I compromised by renting lighter chairs, and chose to bring a silver champagne bucket and marble cheese board.
  • Things not to forget: hand sanitizer, bug spray, shout wipes or a tide pen, wine key, water, trash bag for clean up, portable cell phone charging device.
  • Depending on where you’re coming from, getting there can be a hassle.  Keep a positive attitude and relax.  The schlepping was more than a bit of a nuisance, but the pay off upon arrival was outstanding.
  • It’s great to sit with friends and be able to share food and wine, but remember to branch out and meet new people as well!
  • If you’re unable to register during the initial stage, reach out to an organizer to get on the official waiting list and monitor the message boards.  There are always cancellations and if you are vigilant, you will be able to purchase tickets from someone who is unable to attend.

champagne bucket chilling wine

Things I wish I’d done differently:

  • Prepared earlier.  This event happened to take place during a very busy period of work for me.  Day of, I was rushing around like a mad woman!  I definitely brought some of this on myself by not ordering a catered food basket.
  • Purchased a larger table.  I went with the Coleman Compact camping table, and at 27.5 inches square, I was wishing I had splurged on a 32 inch version (the max size allowed) to better accommodate my spread.

Vendors:

While I already owned most of the table decor, I did spend a considerable amount of time and money purchasing items from various vendors.  All told, I visited 8 brick and mortar establishments and made 2 online purchases to assemble everything I would need for the evening.  Although I likely could have rented or borrowed many of these items, it made sense for me to purchase items I plan on re-using since I plan on attending in future years.  When possible I took advantage of sales, but definitely splurged in other areas (namely: that cheese plate!). When possible, I purchased from local small businesses.

While some don’t understand the concept of paying to attend an event where you bring all your own supplies, food and wine, I feel that the $70 registration fee is quite reasonable given the permits, lighting, and particularly the entertainment.

Supplies & Decor:
Table Cloth, Rolling Luggage Cart: Amazon
Flame less Candles: Target
Coleman Camp Table: Walmart
Chairs: Fragers Rental
Flowers: Safeway

Our picnic basket- How lucky that my sister already had this on hand!?

Our picnic basket- How lucky that my sister already had this on hand!?

Attire:
Dress: Pinktini Fashion Boutique
Shoes, Purse: DSW
Fascinator: Amazon
Jewelry: already owned

The accessories for the evening. The event is as much about fashion as it is food and wine!

The accessories for the evening. The event is as much about fashion as it is food and wine!

Picture courtesy of Lisa Comento.

Picture courtesy of Lisa Comento.

Have you attended Dîner en Blanc? What are your favorite tips and tricks?

cheers

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Charlottesville Food and Winery Getaway

Posted in: Bon Vivant, Drink Well, Guest Posts, Restaurant Reviews, Virginia Wine, Weekend Getaways, Wineries and Vineyards

I recently guest blogged over at Virginia Wine in my Pocket’s new “Go!” feature about my restaurant and winery picks for a quick Charlottesville, VA getaway.  If you’re planning a weekend getaway this fall, check out my recommendations here!

Taking in the view at Trump Winery with a glass of blanc de blanc

Taking in the view at Trump Winery with a glass of blanc de blanc

I’ve included 2 stand out wineries including Pippin Hill, Trump, a great local company that offers private vans so you can sip safely, and some amazing restaurant options!

Head on over to VAWIMP  GO! for more details, and enjoy some eye candy below!

Grape vines at Pippin Hill Winery

 

Cheese and Charcuterie at Pippin Hill Winery

 

Cheese and Charcuterie at Pippin Hill Winery

The view of the vineyards at Trump Winery

Are you planning any weekend getaways this fall?  What are some of your favorite Charlottesville wineries and restaurants?

cheers

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Dog Days of Summer Wine Recommendations

Posted in: Bang for Your Buck, Bon Vivant, Drink Well, Porch wine, Rosé, Seasonal Sips, Tried and Trues, Wine Pairing, Wine Recommendations, Wine Reviews

Although we’re coming up on Labor Day weekend, the weather will continue to be warm for the next month or so.  Here in DC, we’re looking at a heat wave!  Here’s what I’ll be drinking:

Sun setting over grape vines, Malibu AVA

Muscadet

A summer favorite, this budget friendly wine from the South of France is light and intensely refreshing.  It’s well-known as a great pairing for seafood and is enjoyable for casual patio sipping as well.

Bon Vivant DC’s Pick: 2011 Domaine De La Fruitière Petit M ($13)

The tangy acidity and minerality in this Muscadet will make you a convert to this oft-overlooked variety.

Dry Rosé

Although many drink rosé year round (yours truly, included!), it’s often best enjoyed during warmer months. The most popular region for this type of wine is Provence, although they are increasingly being produced in almost every wine region.  They often have red fruit flavors and a bone dry finish.

Bon Vivant DC’s Pick: Montfaucon Domaine Les Gardettes Rosé ($12)

This has been one of my go to summer rosés to enjoy al fresco this summer.  This rosé from the Loire Valley has a wonderful bouquet of peach blossom and raspberry.

Bubbly

I know this is a common recommendation on the Bon Vivant Blog, but if you’re anything like me, any excuse will do to enjoy a festive glass of bubbly!  It’s refreshing, pairs well with a variety of foods, and is perfectly acceptable to drink before noon on your Monday off!

Bon Vivant DC’s Pick: Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs ($40) & Biutiful Rosé Brut Cava ($13)

In the wake of the recent earthquake, show Napa some love with this superb bottle of bubbly.  I’m partial to the Blanc de Noirs, but this established bubbly house produces outstanding bubblies from a variety of grapes.

For a more budget friendly option, look to Cava from Spain- equally delicious and usually lighter on the wallet! I like Biutiful’s brut rosé.  Made from 100% Garnacha, this easy drinking bubbly has lovely red fruit notes and a bone dry finish.

Spanish Reds

For those who will be grilling out this weekend, Spanish reds are a great pairing with Barbeque and other grilled meats.  They are slightly spicy, fruit forward, and balanced out with an old world, earthy quality.

Bon Vivant DC’s Pick: Ladrón de Guevara ($12-$30)

A spicy Tempranillo from Rioja fits the bill!  Their cosecha will set you back a mere $12, while their Reserva can run about $30.  The younger the wine, the lighter and more fruit forward it will be.  I generally like to drink their middle ground- Crianza, which runs about $17.

California Zinfandel 

This is another classic pairing for those who will be manning the grill this Labor Day weekend.  California comes through again with this fruit forward and zesty red wine. (Just steer clear of the much maligned white Zinfandel!)

Bon Vivant DC’s Pick: 2012 F. Stephen Millier Angel’s Reserve Zinfandel ($20)

This classic producer from Lodi consistently puts out quality Zinfandel with jammy fruit and a hint of smokiness that will pair great with anything char-grilled.

What are your Labor Day Weekend Plans?

cheers

 

 

 

 

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Joining the Bandwagon

Posted in: Bon Vivant, Drink Well, Tried and Trues, Wine apps, Wine Reviews

I am not what you would call an “early adopter”.  Recovering technophobe might actually be a more appropriate term.

But wine apps are all the rage these days, and enough of my readers and clients use them that I thought it was high time I finally took the plunge to see what all the fuss was about.

As of last week, I became a featured user on Vivino wine app- the largest in the world.  I’m still getting the hang of all of the advanced features, but so far I’ve found it to be really user friendly (a must!).  It’s been a great tool to track wines that I enjoy with some simple tasting notes in a matter of minutes.

bottlessIf you are  looking to keep track of the wines you enjoy, I’ve found it to be far more efficient than my old “snap a label shot” method since they are all kept tidily in one spot…not so with my photo stream since I can get a little snap happy!

Oh yes, and it’s FREE to join.

Follow me on Vivino at “Bon Vivant” to see what I’m currently sipping!

Do you use a wine app?  If so, which one?

cheers

 

*This post was NOT sponsored by Vivino.

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Pink Party

Posted in: Bon Vivant, Charity, Events, Pink Party, Rosé, Wine Recommendations, Wine Reviews

Stage Four.  Those aren’t words anyone wants to hear when it comes to breast cancer.

My Mom and sisters on Mother's Day last May.

My Mom and sisters on Mother’s Day. May, 2014.

My mom grew up Westchester County, New York, born to South Carolinian parents.  She attended boarding school at Madeira, where she was an equestrian.  She made her debut at the International Ball at the Waldorf-Astoria, joined Tri-Delta and later the Junior League of Atlanta.

In short, this is not a woman you would expect to shave a faux hawk.  And it’s definitely not a woman you would expect to dye said faux hawk pink.

So when she decided that’s what she wanted to do, my sisters dubbed it “The Pink Party” and like proper southerners, we ran with it.

Because when life throws you “The C word”,  sometimes you’ve got to throw a little sparkling rosé and joie de vivre back at it.

A family silver tray was polished to present a flight of rosé wine, which was generously donated by Andrew Stover, of Vino 50 wines.

rose flight of wine

Hillinger makes a delicious sparkling wine, a portion of the proceeds benefiting Breast Cancer Research.  For the past 5 years, they have donated 10,000 Euros a year with proceeds from their pink ribbon label- a refreshing secco made from 100% pinot noir.  When menu planning and selecting wines, it was the obvious choice.

When cancer strikes, you either accept the diagnosis lying down, or you carpe your diem.  My Mom has done the latter.

Since her diagnosis 4+ years ago she has traveled to Italy, Greece, Turkey, Croatia, France, Montreal, Scotland, the Grand Canyon.  She made the move to Maryland with her service animal and companion, Maggie, a rescue Doberman Pinscher from the Dawson County Humane Society in Georgia.

Maggie

Maggie

The affair was civilized as these things go- we all wore pink.  A family member, also a breast cancer survivor, sent a mass of hot pink roses. The luncheon was comprised of pink food and drink as we listened to a sound track of Frank Sinatra, Bon Iver and Norah Jones. The hair dye was applied as we sipped Hillinger in my bathroom, and “set” as the tomato flat bread bubbled in the oven.  As one does.

Multi-tasting.

Multi-tasting.

So if life has thrown you a curve ball lately, remember that it’s possible to celebrate even in the midst of dark and scary times.  In fact, it is perhaps even more important to do so.  So pop a cork, support a good cause while doing so, and live the good life.  It’s what wine is all about.

bubbly

The wines:

Hillinger Sparkling Rosé, Pink Ribbon Label

Made from 100% pinot noir, this Austrian secco is lightly refreshing with notes of red fruit and strawberry.  Enjoy as an aperitif at your own pink party!

Stone Hill Sparkling Rosé

This Methode Champenoise bubbly from Missouri (yes, Missouri!) is a blend of Vidal Blanc and Chambourcin.  Its slightly more fruit forward style and dry finish paired well with our luncheon, and even better with the strawberry compote. Only 200 cases produced.

Boe Brookly Oenology Cabernet Franc Rosé

This rosé is comprised of 100% Cabernet Franc.  Slightly tart with cranberry and raspberry on the palette, this dry, still wine hails from the finger lakes region of New York.  Delicious on its own or paired with light appetizers.

Our chemo friendly menu (no raw fruits or veggies allowed!):

  • Sparkling pink grapefruit juice
  • Shrimp Cocktail
  • Genoa Salami & Cheese (the only non-pink item served, but it’s not a party without a cheese plate!)
  • Tomato and feta flat bread
  • Strawberry Lemon cake served with stewed strawberry compote

pink party food

To purchase the Hillinger wine we enjoyed, visit Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, DCanter, or Sherry’s in DC.

To donate to Breast Cancer Research, click here.

To donate to the shelter where Maggie was adopted, click here.

Before

Before.

After

After.

cheers

 

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