Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sailing America’s Cup Final with Moet & Chandon

It was an exciting day for many as the America’s Cup final was about to take place in Newport, Rhode Island. I had come along with a few other select journalists as the guest of Moet & Chandon Champagne, a sponsor of the event. It had been a whirlwind trip and that was not about to change.

I slept until 8:00 and took a walk downtown on the unusually warm New England day. I was back in time to meet the group in the lobby of the Hotel Viking to head to 41 North for a champagne brunch with the Moet & Chandon executives. It was a beautiful scene and I enjoyed my quiche with the bubbly, while others raved at the Lobster Eggs Benedict.

We talked about the boat we were going to get on to watch the races and I had to admit I was a bit nervous. The words “small vessel” and “strong waves” did not exactly get me motivated. My fears dissipated when I saw the actual boat – or should I say, yacht.

It was a beautiful boat that had plenty of room and comfy couches. We also had lots of champagne, cheese, crackers, salads and bottled water. They even had sea sickness bands and sunblock to make our four hours as comfortable as possible.

I have to say it was one of the most exciting experiences of my life. We were the official Mark boat and the finish line for the catamarans so they had to come very close. We watched them all come by the boat and cheered them all on. In the end, it was Oracle Team USA Spithill that took the top prize.

When we got off the boat we were in the America’s Cup Village and we went to celebrate with the racers in Club 45. The outside awards ceremony was moved inside when a strong thunder storm came in. It was actually quite fun with all the cheering and champagne flowing (and sprouting) everywhere.

We were back at the hotel by 6:15 and I was the only one who wasn’t returning to New York City so I bid the rest of the group farewell. I had the evening to meet a friend for dinner before my morning flight home. It was an experience I’ll never forget and I have the champagne bottle to prove it. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Moet & Chandon Champagne Welcome to America’s Cup

When it comes to sports, I’ve covered tennis and a little gymnastics. My knowledge of yacht racing was non-existent, but what’s a gal to say when she’s invited to play (and drink champagne) with Moet & Chandon at the America’s Cup Finals in Newport, Rhode Island? Yes, of course.

I was due to arrive at Boston airport late afternoon, but weather problems (a threat of storms, not actual rain) kept my flight grounded a bit longer than expected. By the time the car service got me to Newport, the rest of my group had already left for the America’s Cup Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Dinner.

This was not just a “dinner,” it was in the back of the Marble House Mansion, built in the late 19th century for the Vanderbilts. The evening was being hosted by Louis Vuitton and the tables were flowing with Moet & Chandon Champagne. Everyone who had ever participated in the world of boat racing was there and the ceremony for this year’s inductees had already started by the time I took my place with Stephane Baschiera, CEO of Moët & Chandon, Ludovic du Plessis, Vice President of Moët Chandon USA and Graham Boyes, CMO of Moët Hennessy USA.

Also at my table were the five fellow journalists I was sharing this adventure with, as well as public relations representatives of the champagne company. We enjoyed the food (especially the decadent Red Velvet Molten Cake) and bubbly and then stuck around a bit to dance to an unexpectedly incredible band.

Back at The Hotel Viking, I found a commemorative America’s Cup Moet & Chandon bottle of champagne, along with an ice bucket and two glasses. I smiled at it as I dozed off to sleep, dreaming about our itinerary for the next day.

Morning came too soon, but it was a beautiful day in Newport. I ordered breakfast from room service as I had a bit of time before we were taking off for our sail. I had been excited to hear we would be on Moet & Chandon America II, sailing through Newport Harbor on this yacht that participated in the 1987 America’s Cup Race off the Australian Coast.

I was not disappointed with the ride. The sun was shining as we helped sail the boat (I took the wheel for awhile) between boats both participating in and watching the morning practice. We finished the sail with champagne in gold goblets, a fitting send off before we headed down to the main venue.

After lunch we went to Fort Adams to the America’s Cup Village to watch the semifinal races from Club 45, the VIP restaurant that was overflowing with food and Champagne. We stayed until the end, happy to see the Americans had made the final, and headed back to the hotel to get ready for the evening festivities.

We began the night at yet another famed mansion, The Breakers. It was here that we were poured Moet & Chandon Grand Vintage 1983, in celebration of the last time this event was in Newport. Among those toasting with us were the city’s Mayor Stephen Waluk, Ludovic du Plessis, sailing icons Russell Coutts and Jimmy Spithill, and U.S. Sailing President Gary Jobson.

The cocktail hour was followed by dinner at the Mansion, which consisted of various stations and passed hors d'oeuvres around the incredible grounds. We were introduced to all of the racing teams and even got to mingle with some of them, before calling it an early night. Everyone needed to get ready for the morning finals of the race.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Touring and Tasting Telluride

It was our first visit to Telluride, Colorado, and my friend Lisa and I were blown away by its beauty. Fortunately, we had a full day to explore it all.

We started with a fresh and healthy breakfast at LumiereTelluride of yogurt, fruit and just baked bread. We enjoyed it out on the patio, admiring the mountains in the background.

We were up early waiting for our guide from San Juan OutdoorSchool to take us on a hike. I’m definitely not as experienced a hiker as Lisa and was in fact having a bit of trouble with the altitude, out our guide Lexi said it wasn’t a problem as there was plenty to see without getting into difficult territory.

It turned out she was telling the truth and we enjoyed the river, mountains and even the butterflies along a path just outside of downtown. We could see Mount Wilson, best known as the mountain in the Coors logo, and Lisa took off a little further for a look at Bridal Veil Falls.

After the hike, we were starving. We found a Mediterranean food truck downtown and ordered a Greek salad and a Vegetarian Sampler Plate with hummus, tabouli, baba ganouch, spanakota and falafel. Everything was delicious and we finished it all.

We enjoyed walking in and out of the interesting shops in downtown Telluride, where we picked up a few things, including a cowboy hat.  We then took the gondola back to the Lumiere resort to complete our afternoon of relaxation.

The Lumiere Telluride is an intimate getaway and has an area in the middle of the hotel for guests with plunge pools and lounge chairs. We relaxed for hours in the warm soaking pool and nibbled on a cheese platter with a very good Colorado wine, a Viognier from Sutcliffe Vineyards.

Lisa stayed at the pool while I took the relaxation one step further into the spa area. I had originally been scheduled for a facial, but my body was more than thrilled to hear a mix-up was leading me to a massage instead. By the time I was done, a steam shower in my master bath and a nap completed a perfect day.

We dressed and took a short walk down to La Piazza DelViaggio for dinner.  I loved this quaint Italian restaurant in the middle of what looked like an Italian Piazza. There were tables inside and out, and we decided to compromise by one inside by the window.

The wine list was quite thorough here and we toasted our final night in Colorado over a Caprese salad for me and Brescola (thinly sliced beef with mushrooms and walnuts) for Lisa. The pasta courses all looked delicious and it was hard to narrow it down, but I finally made the wise choice of getting the Parpadelle ai Funghi (pasta sautéed with oyster shitake and wild porcini mushrooms) and Lisa had the Spinach Ravioli in a cream sauce, which she also enjoyed.

We decided to share a main course and after much thought picked the Vitello ai Capperi e Carciofini, a veal scaloppini with artichokes and capers in a white wine and lemon sauce. It was delicious. We didn’t have much room for dessert and decided to go with Affogato, an Italian specialty that I had actually discovered in Australia. It is simply espresso poured on top of vanilla ice cream, but it tasted like something even more delectable in this perfect setting.

It was an early night as we had a very long drive home ahead of us. It had been a great week discovering two new places in Colorado – Aspen and Telluride – but it was time to head home and get ready for the next adventure.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Warm Welcome in Telluride

Aspen was a lot of fun, but I was ready for a bit more rest and relaxation.  It was about to come my way on my very first trip to Telluride, Colorado.

Lisa and I took the scenic drive late morning to Mountain Village, the area we were staying in at the Lumiere Telluride. I had heard nothing but good things about this boutique property and I was more than ready to check it out.

Lumiere Telluride is a hideaway among the ski resorts. With only 11 rooms (there are also 18 residences), its intimate yet includes all that you would need, such as a restaurant; bar; three outdoor soaking pools; a Jacuzzi and sauna; and spa. The staff is also knowledgeable and helpful when it comes to anything you might need in Telluride.

We settled into our two bedroom suite, which had a spacious living room, a kitchen and perfect views from the balcony, and kicked back a bit. (Isn’t that what you are supposed to do in the Colorado Mountains?)

Dinner was set up with Emily from the Telluride Tourism Board. We were meeting downtown at Cosmopolitan Restaurant and when we asked how to get there, I was in for quite a surprise at the answer. It seems that in Telluride you get around by Gondola – even when you aren’t skiing.

We took the short walk from the Lumiere to the Gondola Station and hopped aboard. I have to admit I was a bit nervous at first, but Lisa and I grew calm quickly when we were blown away with the views. It was certainly better than driving (and walking up and down mountains isn’t an option).

When the Gondola arrived downtown, we were just a block away from the restaurant. Emily was waiting to meet us at this popular restaurant, known for its seasonal menus. I started with The Classic Cosmo, made with Telluride Vodka, Cointreau and cranberry juice, while Lisa had a local beer.

The menu was very interesting and quite international. I began with the Heirloom Tomato with goat cheese burrata and a well-matched balsamic dressing. Lisa chose the goat cheese salad with fresh oranges and was quite happy with it. We also nibbled on freshly baked bread, something the restaurant does daily.

For dinner, the Grilled Pork Tenderloin with a port reduction was very good, but the accompanying macaroni and cheese was just incredible. Lisa had the Kobe Beef and said it was excellent, melting right in her mouth.

Emily told us a bit about Telluride, including popular events like the Bluegrass Festival and Telluride Food & Wine. She also explained how people don’t realize there is year round activity here, which I have to admit I was guilty of not knowing too.

We finished the meal with dessert. For Lisa, it was a dish of triple chocolate, Kahlua and caramel sorbets. I went for the Lingonberry Pie and it was one of the best pies I’ve ever had.  We thought about hitting a bar downtown, but decided to take the Gondola back to the hotel instead.

When we got back to the suite we briefly extended the night a bit with a glass of wine in the hot tub on our deck. It was a beautiful night and the water was just perfect.  I settled into my bedroom for a good night’s sleep and a full relaxing day in Telluride ahead. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Aspen Farewell Ends With Inspirato and Eight K

It was the final day of the Aspen Food & Wine Classic. My friend Lisa and I headed down to the Grand Market for one last run of tasting, and then were off to a most unusual brunch.

Inspirato invited us to one of their Aspen condos for a Sommelier Brunch. Many don’t realize how hard these wine experts work all weekend and it was a chance for them to unwind a bit. Capture Wine Ben Shapiro brought some of his wines (including the delicious Sauvignon Blanc) and grilled cheese egg sandwiches permeated the air.

It was a beautiful day and the views of Aspen from the duplex we great. We enjoyed the wine, food and company for a few hours before taking off with the last swag bag of the trip.

Inspirato definitely out did themselves with beautiful tote bags, NIKE Jackets and hats, as well as a water bottle, though the entire week had been filled with gifts from sponsors like I had never seen before. Among the treats we went home with were Godiva Chocolates, Riedel Wine Glasses, Wusthof Kitchen Shears, an AT&T Adapter, a Kitchenaid Blender, shirts, bar utensils and assorted bottles of wine, spirits.

We took an afternoon break before riding up to Snowmass for dinner at Eight K. The restaurant is just magnificent, with a fireplace and glass bar, and breathtaking views from the mountain at 8,000 feet.

One of the reasons I had chosen this place for our only Aspen dinner out was the cocktail menu and I wasn’t disappointed. From a Pineapple Caipirnha to a Blue Moon (Leopold Brothers Gin, Crème Yvette, lemon juice, simple syrup and Charle de Fere Floater), it all sounded great. I settled on a Ginger Peach Mojito (Cruzan Rum, peach puree, house made mint syrup, house made ginger syrup and lime) and was not disappointed.

At the end of the cocktail menu was something that caught my eye. It was in a box by itself under the heading “Viceroy Margarita.” I’m always intrigued by original drinks, so I read the ingredients… Casa Dragones Tequila, Cuvee du Cent Cinquentenaire-Grand Marnier and Peach Street Distillers Eau de Peach. As I began to think about that delicious combination of expensive liquor, I realized that thought was not lost on 8K. The margarita was $75!

I’m sure many are wondering if a margarita can possibly be worth that much money. All I can say is it was the smoothest, most unusual and tasty margarita I ever had. The food proved to be just as interesting, starting with a creative bread basket that we nibbled on with our cocktails.

The chef brought us Gran’s Deviled Egg with country ham, truffle, tarragon and prosciutto to taste before the Crispy Stuffed Squash Blossom arrived. They were both great and we chatted a bit about the fresh ingredients he uses and unusual touch, like the Lamb Ribs (excellent) which are smoked by the pool using fruitwood and then served with Tszatziki sauce.

I really enjoyed the Potato Gnocchi with mushroom consommé, spring onion, truffled crème fraiche and black, while Lisa liked her first taste of Elk. Dessert was just phenomenal as it combined two of my loves – sweets and cocktails. Eight K actually put together a dessert and cocktail menu that cannot be beat. Our favorite was the Peanut Butter Chocolate, a chocolate and peanut butter semifreddo with salted peanut butter caramel, fluffernutter, pretzel peanut crunch and malted vanilla ice cream, served with The Jelly, blackberry whiskey, Chambord and Drunken Blackberry.

The other combination Lisa and I really enjoyed was the Honey Lavender Cheesecake, made from Avalanche Chevre with roasted vanilla peaches, hazelnut brittle and sweet cream, accompanied by Lemonsicle, a house-made Meyer lemoncello with cream.

It was nice to end our final night in Aspen celebrating the food of this beautiful Colorado city. In the morning we would be off to discover another place I had never been – Lumiere Telluride