Wednesday, October 15, 2014

blog 26 Larry Ruvo is a Champagne Hero

LARRY RUVO, is Mr. Las Vegas!  And, definitely a Champagne man!

Someone who well-knows that we create our own luck is
Mr. Modern-Day Las Vegas.   After all, his is the extraordinary talent
which created the gastronomy and architecture of what is known,
world-wide, as Vegas.   Larry Ruvo is the founder and senior managing director of Southern Wines and Spirits of Nevada.  
Larry is a man who acts on his visions to make the best possible future happen.   And the results
are not Lady Luck; they are because of the dedication and hard work
of such a visionary as Larry.

One of Larry’s initial lucky-spins was the result of years of preparation
and of fortuitous convergences.  Larry, highly regarded for his wine
and cuisine appreciation and knowledge,  surrounded himself with the
best of Chefs from around the globe; then the computer came into its own;
and next The Wine Spectator was cutting-edge ready to spread the word
about what was happening in Las Vegas.

All factors converged, and Larry took that lucky-spin, and Las Vegas
came out the winner.  First among the star Chefs to heed his call
and saunter the gold-brick road into Las Vegas was Mark Miller,
chef and creator of Santa  Fe’s Coyote Café, where
“the food is so good it makes you howl.”  
Next, Larry’s good friend, Wolfgang Puck put his hand to the wheel
and won, bringing Spago to Caesar’s Palace, as well as his Santa Monica,
California-fusion restaurant, “Chinois."

Today’s roster of famous starred restaurants serving the lucky millions, who now flood into Las Vegas has resulted in world-recognition for gastronomic excellence, all converged upon those
few miles of constant light in the Nevada desert.          

Las Vegas has a lot to thank Larry Ruvo for.  Not the least is for growth
so rapid that a whole airport expansion had to happen.  And look at the
architectural wonders, hotels growing and daily dreaming up new
and more extravagant luxury lifestyles within each; like those of Steve
Wynn with his world-class museum collections, which works of art are
often reinterpreted by Chefs into signature dishes of gastronomic art, and by
Master Sommeliers in wine collections worthy of traveling long lengths of
miles to experience.  

This brings up the Master Sommelier Club.   Vegas’s explosion
of Master Sommeliers is another wonder to thanks Larry for.  I recently
experienced a meeting of one group of more than fifty women, most
Master Sommeliers, “Women Gone Wine.”   It is an ebullient, effervescent
and talented group of women celebrating the wonders of great wines. 
Without the vision of Larry Ruvo such a unique group would not exist.
Spearheaded by Kristi Smith, Director of Southern Wines and Spirits
Rare Liquid Assets division – (an idea Larry encouraged and promotes proudly)
this group of women certainly epitomizes a zest for knowledge and life.  
I was thrilled to be a guest at their recent meeting, which began with Champagne
Perrier Jouet Blanc de Blanc on the Bellagio hotel’s gallery before a tour
of the art gallery’s feature of Women Artists such as Mary Cassatt (first American,
first woman invited to exhibit with the Impressionists) and Marie Louise Vigee leBrun, (portraitist of her friend, Marie Antoinette in happy days), before adjourning  to the hotel’s gourmet kitchen for discussion of wine and gastronomy.

I  was privileged to speak about my wine book, The Night Julius Caesar Invented
Champagne, as well as the great blanc de blanc we enjoyed from Perrier-Jouet.

Not all of Las Vegas is found in or around the hotels and casinos
of Vegas’s “Strip”.  Not far away, Las Vegas actually has a real downtown.
And, OMG, has it changed in the last decade, springing up renewed,
with a professional theatre complex and restaurants, and charming, well-maintained and planted streets for family strolling.   

And, there, within this charming urban setting, Larry Ruvo’s foresight
and love for his father, Lou, has once again created a marvel that
might very-well change our whole world:  his joint-venture with renown
Cleveland Clinic hospital is today the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center
For Brain Health, specializing in the cornerstones of the Cleveland Clinic -  patient care, research, and medical education.     To make it noticeable
so that this important vision of his garners the attention it deserves,
Larry has housed this Brain Health Center in a remarkable Frank Gehry building that incorporates  the multi-facets of this center for brain health. 
The “motto” of this medical facility is “Keeping the Memory Alive.” 
Not only for the cure and care of Alzheimers, Parkinsons, Multiple System Atrophy, Multiple Sclerosis, is cutting-edge research happening.
Lou Ruovo Center for Brain Health.jpg

Research results are translated to specially-designed
facilities for diagnosis and patient care all housed in this facility.
Beyond diagnosis and therapy for Alzheimers, there are facilities for
treatment and rehabilitative physical therapy care for those with brain
disorders, often caused by trauma of sports.  An interactive and productive
source of care for degenerative memory loss happens between those
recovering from sports-related disorders and older patients who are
stimulated working with former sports’ legends, sparring with world-class
 boxers or line-backers.

 Larry’s Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center’s medical staff is led by Dr. Jeffrey
Cummings and his team of researchers and physicians and technicians.  Jeffrey_Cummings

 What would such a magnificent center be without the needed stimulus that
  gastronomy and activity bring to all involved?  Larry’s dear friend, Wolfgang
  Puck, designed the professional kitchen from which great events begin, well
  and professionally staffed by Las Vegas’s finest chefs.   

   The events center in Frank Gehry’s domed immensity is truly alive with
   activities meant to focus on the positive: lights, music, action – a magnificent
   facility to create and celebrate life within.
  To me, the icing on such a fabulous cake is the Executive Health Program,  designed for leaders in all fields who are daily under stress.  Here at the
Lou Ruvo Center the Wellness Institute’s Preventative medicine  examination
is specially designed to really keep the memory alive. 

Larry has thought of everyone in this magnificent center celebrating brain health.

 It is eminently obvious that Larry Ruvo is a Champagne guy, bubbly with the gas of

life, Co2.  Sante!  To you, Larry.  Bravo! 



Tuesday, April 29, 2014

25B I hate flutes continues with Walter's great --

25B I hate flutes continues with Walter's great comments...

Dear Madeleine preference when consuming Champagne depends on the occasion (wedding/toasts or for an intimate evening) my preference would with a "Maria Antoinette's"c champagne
coupe ! However enjoying a glass at the bar with friends or by myself I prefer the champagne flute !

I don't think it is a black or white decision when it comes to choose the proper glassware for this significant nectar.

Enjoy your day with a glass of your favored champagne !!



Champagne flute[edit]

Champagne flute and bottle
The champagne flûte (fr. Flûte à Champagne) is a stem glass with a tall, narrow bowl. The bowl of a flute may resemble a narrow wine glass as seen in the illustration; or a trumpet shape; or be very narrow and straight-sided.
As with other stemware, the stem allows the drinker to hold the glass without affecting the temperature of the drink. The bowl is designed to retain champagne's signaturecarbonation, by reducing the surface area at the opening of the bowl. The flute has largely replaced the champagne coupe or saucer, the shape of which allowed carbonation to dissipate even more rapidly than from a standard wine glass. Its smaller diameter also allows more flutes to be carried on a tray.
Nucleation in a champagne glass helps form the bubbles seen in champagne. Too much nucleation will cause the carbonation to fizzle out quickly. A smoother surface area will produce fewer bubbles in the glass, and more bubble texture in the taster's mouth.
While most commonly used for sparkling wines, flutes are also used for certain beers, especially Belgian lambic and gueuze, which are brewed with wild yeast and often fruited. The tart flavor of these beers, coupled with their carbonation, makes them similar to sparkling white wines, and the champagne flute an ideal choice of glassware.

Champagne coupe
The champagne coupe or champagne saucer

25A I Hate Flutes

25A I Hate Flutes continued.  Look what Rita Petler found for her Champagne.  Gorgeous.   Magnificent. Yum. Wishing I had some. 
If you have a particular Champagne glass please send a photo.
Bubbly day to all of you.  Madam Champagne. 

Caesar is off on Zephyros looking for some of these.  RITA where did you find this?

Monday, April 28, 2014

25 I hate flutes

25.  I hate flutes.  How about You?


Have you ever tried to drink Champagne from one of those tall, narrow things called “flute”?   Perhaps your nose got stuck; or tossing your head so far back so as to get a taste from that prison you choke as the bubbles rush down your throat?  A real joy, the flute.    Yes?

NO!    Nice for flowers, but horrid to drink from.

I hate flutes.  There I have said it.  And maybe am shouting it, but thankfully you cannot hear my rant.  I know, I know:  I have often proselytized restaurants into setting their tables with Champagne glasses, so as to suggest to guests their Champagne-by-the-glass choices.  But I never meant for them to set their tables with flutes.  They are unsteady, they are ungraceful, they are mean to Champagne’s bubbles and mean to you and me when we try to drink from them.  I hate flutes. 
How about a real wine glass?  Hasn’t it occurred to you when opening that wonderful bottle filled with six atmospheres of pressure, filled with flavors of flowers, of brioche, of toast, of minerals, of lime and other citrus, of cherries and strawberries, that such a wine should be received into something generous and capable of offering all that is captive in that sturdy bottle to you and your guests? 

I wonder what sort of person, surely one with the mentality of a jailer, thought up the ever taller and narrower flute?  That person must be guilty of hating Champagne, and Champagne’s divine deliverer of its essence, all those bubbles.   
I hate flutes.
But give me the tall stemmed kylix. 
Give me the return of the Bronze Age kylix, such as what King Nestor enjoyed all his local and imported wines in.    (Check out the tall-stemmed, open coupe "kylix".  Love the "ears" for a good grip.) Only make it in crystal, not pottery.   A crystal kylix.  That’s what I dream of.  But close to perfection is the tall, so-called open-tulip that offers sufficient room for a generous whiff of the aromas buoyed on bubbles rising and breaking over the surface.    It is deep enough and round enough so a good swirl does achieve what it should, an opening up of flavors and aromas.  It is deep enough and round enough so the customer does not expect an overflowing glass; a good pour leaves room for expansion of the wine.  But then there’s another favorite, the grandly theatrical Coupe.   I have a friend who adores serving Champagne in her Lalique coupes.   The bubbles break and break on the larger surface like a starry night.  I know; I know:  complainers always state how a coupe dissipates the bubbles and makes the champagne flat. 

I challenge anyone to stay around looking at the bubbles as they grow flat and the Champagne warm in the coupe.  Who would do such a barbaric thing?  The coupe is so inviting most people slurp and slurp and soon it is as empty as when new, until it’s filled anew with stars full of flavors.  Bon Appetit!  And Sante to the coupe, the kylix, the open-tulip:  to all generous proportioned elegant glasses from which to enjoy the greatest of drinks, Champagne.

I hate flutes.  And CO2 hates flutes too.   Bye bye flutes.

Do I hear the sound of millions of flutes being shattered?

Madam Champagne@

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

24Norbert Wabnig and Cheese Store of BH are defintely CO2!

24. Norbert Wabnig and his Cheese Store Beverly Hills are definitely C02!

Early each morning in Beverly Hills when most neighbors on the grand 90210 Drives are sipping their lattes and reading the morning papers, behind a not very large but very well-known store-front, cheeses are getting ready for their day.    A cacophony of languages comes from the Cheese Store Beverly Hills; it’s a new day with exciting places for cheeses and their friends, wines, to go.

Probably on Canon at Spago Wolfgang has his ovens stoking, and his chefs chopping; and around the corner in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel silent feet push gliding gueridons with morning coffee room-service.  But at Tiffany, at Dior, at Gucci and Chanel, in the vaults of Barakat’s ancient worlds’ antiquities, and even at Galerie Michael, silence reigns as precious objects still sleep dreaming of their worth.

But over there at 419 North Beverly things are fast and furious, where they know exactly how much each moment is worth: getting all those cheeses perky, accepting delivery of crisp just baked Dolce Forno baguettes and ciabattas;
 weighing and putting away for further aging new-arrivee cheeses from the far corners of the globe, preparing catering trays for the day’s events, and creating cheesy gift-baskets for country-wide shipping or local delivery, all conducted in numerous languages.  (a total of nine languages are spoken by the staff of The Cheese Store Beverly Hills, five by Raffi.) 

It is good Norbert Wabnig and his crew are there so early.  Norbert Wabnig and general manager and food and wine expert Toni Princiotta’s deliveries must come first thing after dawn every day in this 90210 emporium of cheese, the finest for sure in the United States and the oldest in continual existence:  cheese will not wait when it is ready.  
  Soon wine merchants are waiting downstairs for Tony and Norbert and Erik to taste and assess wines for Tony’s Wine Corner. 
Dominic is busy making his fresh pastas and sun-dried tomatoes,
his stuffed peppers, and finding the finest and most delicious of Sicilian oils and olives to import. 
Erik is deciding which wine to pair with which cheese this week.  And Shivon is on the computer taking and sending orders.  
Then there are the wine and cheese seminars to prepare.  Oh this is a busy place and all that cheesy busy leaves little time for Norbert to play his piano which presides grandly over the whole establishment.

In the olden days when Norbert Wabnig, musician from New Orleans arrived in Beverly Hills in need of another job to pay the rent, way back there in 1974, he happened upon Colonel Ross and his Cheese Shop.  N’Awlins boy Norbert must have been giddy working for a Colonel.  And soon he became Colonel, buying out Ross in 1978. 

In those days the Kingdom of Cheese was grand, but much smaller than today’s.  Norbert and Tony search and travel the globe to find the best and most exotic.  And today there are 300 cheeses to choose among.

Because Norbert’s personality matches in rareness his talents, Norbert is like Champagne, filled with life and sparkle.    And when the moment strikes the right chord, Norbert drops the cheeses and sprints upstairs to his baby grand.  Recently he and Ruthie Grahm, mother of that wine scalawag Randall, composed the theme song for friend and neighbor down on Canon Drive, Wolfgang Puck and his Meals on Wheels celebration which raises millions annually for feeding those in need.

“Beyond Cheese” some areas of the store could read.  Here is where you will find Imperial Golden Osetra caviar, and white honey from Hawaii; truffles, black and white, in season; and the finest of olive oils from every olive region.    A morning at Cheese Store Beverly Hills is a veritable feast of gastronomic richness.   Beatle Fan and look-alike, Norbert Wabnig, is truly Champagne-like, filling the world with more star-dust. 
Julius Caesar agrees with me: 
nunc bibendum est, Norbert.  A true Champagne personality!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

23 The real Cobb Salad is like Champagne

23.  The real Cobb Salad was like Champagne


Back in the olden days when I worked in “The Theatre” in Los Angeles, one of my jobs was as Assistant (The Girl) to Theatre Impresario, Jimmy A. Doolittle.  Mr. D. was a larger than life character, and though I have read a description calling him “soft-spoken” I never heard Mr. D. speak softly when he could as well shout. 

“Morning, Girl,” would greet me as I opened the door at 8:30 AM to his wonderful mid-century house perched to overlook Hollywood with another view featuring the Ocean.  “If you’d arrived a little later,” he continued booming, “they’d be closing up shop out there in New York.”  When I suggested that I could arrive at any time, like even 5 AM, he would chuckle and hit the dining room table where he was having coffee with enough force to spill his cup, “do it and we’ll show those lily-livered Theatre producers how it’s really done.”  Of course he did not mean it, and would no more have been ready to get on with it at 5 AM than I would have.  But soft-spoken was not how I would describe the Jimmy A. Doolittle I worked for in those long-ago days. 

We’d commence the mornings with him booming into one or two phones in the dining room while I sat and chatted up various theatres across the USA on one or two other phones in the office down the hall.  We had exciting visitors; producers and agents coming to pitch their newest finds.   Sometimes a person who said he was Jessie Lasky would arrive and perch on my desk to describe one or another of his thousands of humming birds he said he’d brought in by the plane load from the Amazon.   Or Mr. D. would gesture me in on calls to the French to take notes about the next production he’d be bringing in.  

Always around 12:30 PM he’d come striding in, all dapper and ready to “hit the road.”  And he meant it.  We’d stride out into the gorgeous Hollywood day and over to Mr. D’s large Cadillac.  Tossing me the keys with “you drive, Girl,” he’d jump into the passenger seat.  My first time was almost my last.  That car was huge.  And I am not very.  I could not see over the steering wheel and had to look through it to see where we were heading.  If traffic was particularly packed he’d start getting antsy.  “Don’t stop, Girl, for anything.  Just don’t do it.”

“But, Mr. D., there’s a red light.”  Or, “But Mr. D., there’s a person crossing the street.”

“Run the damn fool over, Girl, just run him over.”

“Mr. Doolittle, you know I cannot run over that person.”

“Some driver is not going to see you stop, Girl, and will run into the back of us.  Then where would we be?”  He’d chew on that one a while as I continued up and over to The Greek Theatre where we’d start the outing. 
File:Greek Theater 2007.JPG
 We’d check on the current productions, and discuss with the box office the returns and then get to the business office to see what was coming in and discuss where the various performers were staying and when they were arriving.  When Mr. D. was satisfied that The Greek was doing its job keeping Los Angeles entertained with the best in Dance and Music during the warm summer nights, we were off hitting the road again.  This time was a little easier, as it was practically down- hill, over to the Huntington Hartford Theatre on Vine Street.  There we checked on rehearsals and into that box office to check receipts and then backstage to chat with the stage hands and the cast if there was a show in rehearsals. 

And now Mr. D. would look at his watch.   Pretty soon I knew that this meant we were about to hit the road once more.  But this time we just crossed it.  We’d cross Vine Street to the Brown Derby restaurant, getting there just as lunch was winding down. 
File:Hollywood Brown Derby 1952.jpg
Mr. D. loved this time of day maybe most of all.  He loved that restaurant, and he really enjoyed Mrs. Cobb.  As soon as we’d enter and he’d shout, “Here we are!”  Mrs. Cobb would appear to greet him, her friend, Jimmy.  Soon we’d be seated with her at her special table and the menus arrived.  The first time there for me, Mr. D. grabbed the menu out of my hand. “The Girl does not need a menu,” he announced to Mrs. Cobb.  I wondered if that meant The Girl did not get to eat, just drive the impresario about.  But of course not:  Mr. D. was a most delightful, though loud, and thoughtful person.  He was just showing The Girl all about what one did at the Brown Derby.  So the Girl surrendered the menu which was snatched by the waiter.  And Mrs. Cobb began to hold forth making the order for our lunch.  She said I had to have The Cobb Salad, and Mr. D. beamed. He too was having one he announced.  And Mrs. Cobb told the waiter to make it Cobb Salads all around. 

We talked and perhaps had a glass of wine while we waited.  Mrs. Cobb showed me about and talked about Hollywood history and pointed out some famous producers just ending their lunches.  Of course soon they were over at the table to say hello and good-bye and see your tomorrow.  And our Cobb Salad arrived.

Today Cobb Salads are served in restaurants from Portland, Maine to Honolulu.  They are all made up of chopped and similar ingredients.  But please believe me none of these is a real Cobb Salad.  When the long white platter arrived I was visually stunned.  It looked like an arrangement of gems all set in rows next to each other down the length of the platter.   Each ingredient had been shopped so finely and into such perfect squares that what I really wanted to see were the tiny hands and sharp knives that had made such enchantment.  The tomatoes had been peeled and seeded and cut into the tiniest of rubies; the eggs, yokes and white presented separately for color variation, were again cut into crisp squares. How?  Do not ask me.  But there the individual tiny morsels lay, white and orangey-yellow; the various lettuces also were chopped into tiny bits which  crispy were defined from each other while all being together.  It was an amazing production, and one which made Mr. D. beam.  The head waiter arrived with a large bowl into which he mixed the ingredients he had at hand for the special creamy vinaigrette.  As he did he had a sort of running incantation praying the ingredients into perfection.  “The Coleman Mustard,” he tossed into the bowl golden dust, “juice of a real California lemon,” he squeezed, “olive oil all the way from Italy, like me,” he poured and swirled, “salt from the sea.”  Into this perfection he would crumble some Roquefort cheese which was also in tiny dice on the platter.  This ingredient, he told me, made the sauce perfect once he got it to the right consistency.  This he did vigorously as he talked.  And voila! The sauce was done.  Mrs. Cobb put in a delicate finger and licked.  “Yes, perfect,” she approved.  And so the ingredients were added from the platter. “Each must go in at the right moment for that perfect salad,” she explained, “the egg-yokes last.”  And the golden  pieces were added to the whole wonder, with the crumbled Roquefort just on top, “like snow”, the waiter began to serve.    I know there were small dices of purple black olives “from Santa Barbara up the coast,”  though I do not see them anymore in the list of ingredients.  And, “avocado from Mrs. Cobb’s garden”.

Mr. D was ready; his napkin on his chest.  Large spoonsful of this lovely salad were put into our plates. “Let the lunch begin,” Mr. Doolittle sounded a little chastened in the presence of true gastronomic delight. 


On the way home, “back to work”, Mr. Doolittle was quiet, thinking about I guess that wonderful salad Mrs. Cobb had invented late one night for a hungry husband, made up, she said, of things they used all day in the restaurant.  She herself had chopped that first salad and her husband said it was perfection.  At first, she remembered, it was not on the menu.  But her husband liked it so much that he had one almost every day.  His guests would see this vision arrive, but they could not find on the menu.  So the rest is part of gastronomic – and Hollywood – history. 

As is Jimmy A. Doolittle, the great and booming and charming Theatre impresario.

Strangely I could not find one photo of Mr. Doolittle to add to this blog, though his office was filled with them of him with his many stars and discoveries.  Nor one of Mrs. Cobb, though her restaurants will also filled with those of her and her husband and their famous clients and guests.  I could find some of the Huntington Hartford Theatre, renamed The Jimmy Doolittle not many years before Mr. D’s death in 1997.  And naturally, some of the famous Hollywood Brown Derby.  I did search too for photos of a real Cobb Salad but that has gone the way of the DoDo bird, never more to be seen.

I call the real Cobb salad like Champagne.  All the ingredients were so perfectly prepared, “composed” as the French would say, and so delicately joined together that the taste of the whole was seamless, not one ingredient standing out from the other, the whole a deliciousness;  as is a great Champagne. The Pinot Noir does not stand apart from the Chardonnay, nor the Pinot Meunier from the rest of the trio:  a perfect blend of flavors.  While in Champagne the gas of life, CO2 streams into the consumer’s system elevating one’s mood to ethereal, in a real Cobb Salad the delights of such scrumptiousness elevate the mood too, as I can remember in a more tranquil Jimmy Doolittle after his Cobb Salad “fix”.    So I do proclaim the real Cobb Salad to be like Champagne.  And Jimmy Doolittle too, a character so bubbly he truly can be called Champagne-like.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

22 Gary Plumley and the Kevans are the Champagne of Aspen's Food and Wine Classic

22  Gary Plumley and Ruth and Bob Kevan are the Champagne of Aspen's Food and Wine Classic

Long before I served Champagne at my first Aspen Classic there was a Classic.
As Aspen's Gary Plumley, co-founder with Ruth and Bob Kevan of Snowmass, tells it, "We were looking for a 'shoulder season', one to shoulder Aspen's business from the skiing season to the skiing season."  He met with mayor of Snowmass and social activist, Bob Kevan and his enterprising wife, Ruth, in their home in Snowmass.  The first Classics were about to be born:  two classics; one in Aspen and one in Snowmass.   Both were aided by the two Chambers of Commerce and the first years grew into such a success that soon the founders were in debt and in need of help keeping up with the growth.  Gary and Ruth and Bob had hoped, as a non-profit, to give the proceeds to the Deaf Camp for children and the Aspen Music festival.  Instead the two Chambers of Commerce had to  bail them out and purchase the festival.  Then the Chambers found a partner in American Express Publishing, which publishes"Food and Wine" magazine, and the rest falls into thirty years of historic success of American gastronomy, and Gary's 'shoulder season' in Aspen was taking off like a rocket.  Or shall I say it:  like a Champagne cork?  POW!

The first years I participated, first with Veuve Clicquot Champagne and then John Scharffenberger's Mendocino Sparkling wines, witnessed such rapid growth that Gary Plumley's Of Grapes and Grain wine shop's back room was burgeoning with cases sent by distributors.   Next Of Grapes and Grain's parking lot had to be fenced off with a night patrol keeping all the cases safe for the Food and Wine Classic tastings in the tents in the center of town.  It was great fun like a hockey scrimmage all the coming and going and popping of corks and shouting to friends not seen since the last year's Classic.  Yes indeed a real Classic was growing.  And Food and Wine was partnering with style with the Aspen community.

When Julia Child gave her support and entered the scene, the Young Chefs of America competition was born with Julia as the Queen of those kitchens.  The Young Chefs were all thrilled meeting Julia. I have those annual receptions pictures in my mind:  Julia surrounded like the rose she was by all those white toques and jackets of the Young Chefs.

The photos below are from my annual picnic given for Julia at the Jerome Hotel at the end of the Food and Wine Classic.  I will describe the participants in the photos and the picnic in detail in my next book, "Julia's Last Letter."

So I name Gary Plumley a true Champagne person, and the Aspen Food and Wine Classic he spearheaded into existence for Aspen's 'shoulder season' a veritable profusion of Champagne's gas of life CO2, stimulating and giving life to Gastronomy and to Aspen and to all who visit and participate in this elegant and wonderful event.

Meanwhile Julius Caesar is asking for his own blog, and so I will begin Julius's blog tomorrow.
For today, Nunc bibendum est, and sign up to go to Aspen's shoulder season - The Food and Wine Classic.

Madeleine, Madam Champagne

Monday, February 24, 2014

21 Tina Packer and Shakespeare are like Champagne

21 Tina Packer and Shakespeare and Company are definitely like Champagne

San Miguel Writers' Conference
At San Miguel de Allende Writers' conference I met up with Tina Packer, a some-time-ago classmate from London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and her Shakespeare and Company production of "Women of Will", breathtakingly performed by Tina and Nigel Gore to a standing-room audience.  

Before, sitting in her acting workshop, I learned so much about William Shakespeare, whose advent upon the great stage in London was, some say, heralded by the comet of 1590.   Tina spoke of the Elizabethan age ending that of closed, Church-bound Mediaeval Europe, and opening the age of the Individual.  For the fist time individuals were allowed books; printers and presses flourished;  and especially attendance at London's fourteen Theatres.  In 1589 reading in silence was something unknown.  Gloriana herself had a "Reading Room" to which she retired in private to read aloud to herself her important documents of State, understanding what they contained by hearing the words:  it was an age where reading still meant "sounding out loud."   

Surely those lucky theatre audience members who sat and listened, and perhaps spoke aloud with the actors in the great theatre, were made more alive by words soaringly painting love, war, hate, envy, lust, mercy, mountains turned into clouds,  within that little "O", the great Globe, the words sounded out loud of William Shakespeare; lucky attendees made more alive, like Champagne.
File:Hollar Long View detail.png
The work that Tina and Nigel do to enlighten, like comets, the lives of those of us who hear the words of the Bard, acts like Champagne on our souls and illuminates our minds like "...some meteor that the sun exhales, to be to thee this night a torch-bearer, And light thee on thy way...".
(words first spoken by the boy-actor playing Juliet in 1591, so it is likely William himself had arrived in London some years earlier like 1588 or '89, and by the time the Comet of 1590 flared over London it was underlining the knowledge that a great poet was illuminating the lives of Londoners and soon would all of the world.) 
If you are lucky to catch a performance of Women of Will, or any other of Shakespeare and Co.  in Lenox, Massachusetts or anywhere in the world (like in Prague this late Spring), don't walk, run to get tickets.  And buy a bottle of Champagne to celebrate with afterwards their performances that bring illumination.

Before you go please read Shakespeare and Company's Mission Statement and find the answers to these important questions:
What does it mean to be alive?
How should I act?
What must I do?
Shakespeare and Co believes that the creative impulse is essential to the human soul and the arts are the realized expression, creating in the creator and observer alike compassion and humanity.  Read more at the site please.
Go to see how what Tina and Shakespeare and Company are doing to create life and understanding, buoyed on the gas of life, like Champagne.
Sante!  and praise for the work of Tina Packer and her work in theatre art.
Madam Champagne
Post Script:  in 1969 I took my little daughter to see the great French actor, Louis Seigner perform le Malade Imaginaire at the Comedie Francaise.  That afternoon was Maitre Seigner's 180th performance, an iconic role for him.  The audience spoke the lines, at first softly, and finally sounding, some shouting, the words with the great actor.  Such a tribute: they had memorized the whole play.
My daughter was transfixed during listening to and somewhat participating in so  dramatic an afternoon. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

20 Steven Spurrier's Third Judgment of Paris

20.  Steven Spurrier’s Third Judgment of Paris

We all know that Steven Spurrier, MW, founder of wine emporium Caves de la Madeleine in Paris, off Place de la Madeleine, showed his business-savvy and wine-knowledge confidence when he introduced taste-before-you-buy in that Paris wine shop in the 1970s.  

Steven and I first met at the Heublein wine auctions, and later in his wonderful Caves which diversified into a bistro as well.  Our mutual friend Georges Lepre also took me there when he was Chef Sommelier at the Hotel Ritz just up from Madeleine in Place Vendome.

Steven’s wine shop-bistro became a natural meeting place for wine lovers.  And among them in those early 1970 years was the real Charles F. Shaw.  Chuck at that time was working in the banking profession in Paris.  He frequented Caves de la Madeleine, and became inspired to visit Georges Duboeuf in Beaujolais.  The rest is history.  Chuck returned to the USA from banking with some vine cuttings in his socks of Duboeuf’s Gamay Noir au Jus Blanc and planted them in rolling vineyard acreage outside of St. Helena and created the fine Charles Shaw Winery.   
(Chuck Shaw today at his new winery in Michigan.)

By the mid 1970s Steven Spurrier had travelled to the USA and its vineyards in the west, and knew that there were splendid wines being produced.   Knowing the French intransigence when it came to the superiority of their wines, he created a blind wine competition with the wine-makers as judges in which there were representatives from the same grape varieties from both USA and French wineries.  When the blindfolds were removed he startling results are considered the “Judgment of Paris” because they turned the wine world on its ears:  many Napa wines toppled the French varieties, causing quite a stir and thankfully not a war.

The phrase “Judgment of Paris” takes us back all the way in Greek Bronze Age history and mythology to the son of King Priam of Troy who was called Paris.  And because he was so beautiful in more modern times the great city of Light on the Seine took his name.  But way back around 1250 BC three Greek goddesses knew that each herself was the most beautiful goddess in the world.  And a beauty pageant was held.  The contestants were goddess Athena, goddess Hera, and goddess Aphrodite.    Things were going just fine in the competitions, singing, dancing, story telling, just like at Miss America’s events today.  But the goddess of discord, Eris, had to arrive and stir things up.  She challenged Paris to say right out who was the fairest of them all.  Poor Paris. He hemmed and hawed.  But Discord was bristling for a judgment.  And Paris gave his judgment; the winner was Aphrodite. 

This was therefore the First Judgment of Paris.  And it caused a war.  The Trojan War.

The 1900 Paris Exposition’s wine competition in which Prince Golitsyn’s sparkling Novy Svet from the Crimea topped Champagnes from Champagne and won the honor of putting the word Champagne on the bottle can rightly therefore be called the Second Judgment of Paris.  It did not lead to anything but more understanding and broadening of friendships.

And the cleverly-named wine-competition Steven Spurrier organized is rightly the Third Judgment of Paris.

These competitions keep wines and wine-makers striving for the very best. 

And while beauty pageants often are hard contested thankfully since 1250 B.C. no more wars have been caused over the results.    So far.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

19 Prince Golitsyn's Champagne

19.. Prince Golitsyn's Champagne:
Novy Svet Winery's "Coronation" Sparkling Wine

In 1900 at Paris’s World Exhibition, an unusual bottle was included in the Champagne-tasting competition.  Russian Prince Lev Golitsyn entered his Novy Svet, method champenoise, full-mousse wine into the prestigious competition for Champagnes.
The envelope please:
Prince Golitsyn’s Crimean sparkling wine, in a blind-tasting, - the Premier Judgment of Paris – came in first: overturning; mind-blowing; upsetting all the esteemed judges’ taste-buds.  And thus today, the only vineyard in the world outside of the DOAC of Champagne, France, whose wines can legally be called Champagne is in the Ukraine, Crimean Novy Svet. 
The Prince was a not only a member of the Russian Royal Family, but an experienced oenologist who understood that his Crimean land was on the golden parallel, between which the finest of wines can be produced.  In 1896 his sparkling wines were served at the festivities for the coronation of the newest Tzar.  It was from one of these wines produced for that evening that came the bottles entered at the Paris exhibition of 1900.
As a result of this startling Judgment the Prince’s sparkling wines were deemed worthy of bearing the word Champagne, making them today the only sparkling wines in the world outside of Champagne to be so blessed.  Quiet an official honor the Exhibition’s Judges bestowed.
The winery has been restored, as well as the underground caves.  Visitors to the Crimea should seek out and visit this world-class Champagne producing winery.
Let the Games begin!
Caesar would be proud of how his invention has spread.
The Night Julius Caesar Invented Champagne

Friday, January 31, 2014

18 Julius Caesar Veneris Happy Julius Caesar Friday

18.  JULIUS CAESAR VENERIS:  Happy Julius Caesar Friday!


From: Military Tribune, Gaius Volusenus
                To:  The Empire

TIDINGS, citizens.  Ave Socii.
                Today Imperial General CAIUS JULIUS CAESAR rides again. 

His history, as told in
                The Night Julius Caesar Invented Champagne
                is now published and available to all within the Empire, and those without too,

SIGNED: Gaius Volusenus, IV, Commander of Caesar’s cavalry.
Ave, et vale.

Below a synopsis of The Night Julius Caesar Invented Champagne:
Rebecca, modern-day wine-expert and ‘nose’, never dreamed she’d become a wine-detective too. But when Doctor ‘47 and his dark forces continue saturating the market with chemically made copy-wines, ready to decimate anyone in their way, especially Rebecca, she travels across time and space—escorted by Julius Caesar, Wolfgang Puck and Julia Child—to find the first vine. Will Rebecca prevail and save wine for Pharaoh Narmer to sign peace treaties with it in 3000 B.C.; for King Nestor to inherit wine and with it postpone the Trojan War in 1250 B.C.? Indeed will Rebecca with Caesar invent Champagne in 50 B.C. and foil Doctor ‘47?
The Night Julius Caesar Invented Champagne takes you on a dramatic adventure over eleven thousand years to the birth of Dionysos.
Praise for Madeleine de Jean’s The Night Julius Caesar Invented Champagne
“Through the lens of a Champagne flute Madeleine broadens the scope of our culture’s history and the roots of our taste for great wines.” John Scharffenberger, Scharffenberger Sparkling and
Scharffen Berger Chocolates.
When Madeleine de Jean opened the first wine bar in the US in New Orleans with Chef Paul Prudhomme and became the first woman sommelier in the world, she was expanding her dramatic talents from stage and screen which had been honed at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and Paris’s Comedie Francaise Conservatoire. Her detecting and tasting in archives and vineyards for decades results in The Night Julius Caesar Invented Champagne, in which ‘Madam Champagne’ continues sharing her beliefs in the civilizing effects of wine and Champagne.
Nunc bibendum est.
Please find more on Madeleine de Jean's Author's page
The Night Julius Caesar Invented Champagne
now released on:
Hail Caesar!