Showing posts with label champagne. Show all posts
Showing posts with label champagne. Show all posts

Thursday, November 28, 2013

From Lido to Longboat on Sarasota Keys

It had been a fun and relaxing two days at Lido Beach Resort, but it was time for my friend Lynn and me to leave Lido Key and head to Longboat Key.
We left the resort first thing in the morning to head downtown to the Sarasota Opera House. Sam Lowry, Director of Audience Development, met us at the door for a private tour. 
We were lucky enough to get to see every corner of this historic building, which opened in 1984 and went through an extensive ($20 million) renovation in 2008.
The building had been kept its history in the renovation and Lynn and I were impressed with the special touches, from the detailed woodwork around the stage to the gold crest in the cream colored Grand Atrium.

I had never been to the opera and I fantasized about putting on a floor length evening gown and socializing in one of their well-appointed member lounges while waiting for the curtain call!

After the Opera House, we returned to the Lido Beach Resort to pack up. The clouds were beginning to form and we hoped that it was just one of those quick Florida rains coming in as we drove to Longboat Key.
The Resort at Longboat Key Club was very different from the one we had just left even though they are sister properties. It seemed a bit more luxurious, though certainly in an understated way. It was the service that was the most noticeable as we were welcomed in a way that made it clear the staff was there to fulfill the guests’ wishes.
Our suite was not yet ready so we went to Sands Pointe restaurant for lunch. The menu was quite extensive and we couldn’t decide what to order, so we shared the Smoked Turkey Club (turkey, provolone, tomato, arugula and avocado with herb aioli) and the Chicken Cabana (chicken breast with grilled pineapple, applewood bacon, pepperjack cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and barbecue sauce). 
They were both good, but we favored the chicken and really liked both side dishes – Sweet Potato Salad and Mango Cole Slaw.
We headed to our suite right after lunch and it was well worth the wait. We had two full bedrooms, a large kitchen, dining room and living room. We found some welcome and unique touches, like the cocktail mixing tray in our fully-equipped kitchen and books and games in the living room.
The only thing better than the suite was the views from the multiple balconies we had. I got to enjoy one of those views during a phenomenal in-room massage. We were there just before the hotel’s Island House Spa opened so we just missed touring and exploring that, but I hear it is beautiful.

As much as we were enjoying the The Resort at Longboat Key Club, the weather did not cooperate for our visit. It was pouring so hard in the evening that we were afraid to drive down to St. Armand’s Circle in Sarasota, where we were scheduled to check out the stores and have dinner. 
We stayed on the property instead and actually ate in the Point Lounge. It was a relaxing and casual meal while we sipped Chandon Champagne and enjoyed Arugula Goat Cheese Flatbread along with Truffle Mac N’ Cheese.
After dinner we called it a night, hoping Mother Nature would cooperate and let us explore the beach and pools of the Resort at Longboat Key Club.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Tasting US Open 2013

For more years than I’ll admit, I have spent weeks at the U.S. Open Tennis Championships covering tennis. It’s one of my favorite times of year. I catch up players and friends from the media. I also get to sample tons of delicious food and drinks, a task that has become more prevalent since I’ve focused on lifestyle writing.

I got started this year at the U.S. Open Food Tasting Preview. It was enough to convince anyone to come to the tournament whether or not they wanted to see tennis and the tournament is ready. The restaurants are prepared to serve 27,000 people during the tournament.

The tasting included appearances by chefs David Burke, Tony Mantunao and Masaharu Morimoto. They showed off their signature dishes and also told us about what’s new this year.  Here’s what was sampled (my friends Melanie and Meredith took care of the seafood sampling for me) from each restaurant:

Wine Bar
Burrata Cheese on French bread-light, tasty and a perfect wine accompaniment.
Salumi Antipasto with marinated artichokes and tomatoes and rosemary breadsticks-a nice selection of flavors mixing perfectly on this small plate.

Village Market
Kale Salad with yellow and green beans, tomato, carrots and cucumber in honey Dijon vinaigrette-fresh and light for a hot day at the National Tennis Center, but not very filling without added chicken.

Patio Café
Curried Crab and Watermelon Salad on a bed of baby lettuces with a curry aioli-large clumps of crab meat and sweet watermelon is a perfect match.

Hill Country Barbecue
Signature Brisket, pit-smoked over Texas oak-tender and tasty.
Pulled Pork Slider-one of the best I’ve had.
Maker’s Mark Bourbon Pecan Pie-save room for this one. Too bad they don’t make a full pie to go!

East Gage Grill
Pat Lafrieda Steak Sandwich topped with Monterey Jack cheese, caramelized onions and au jus on a French baguette-rare filet mignon with a bit of tangy sweetness.

Champions Bar & Grill
Grilled Portobello Burger stuffed with ratatouille, low-fat mozzarella and roasted pepper and served with chipotle mayo on brioche-an excellent combination that will be calling more than just vegetarians to the restaurant.

Morimoto Sushi-a selection of fish and vegetarian sushi that gets rave reviews.

Shrimp and Scallop Ceviche-large shrimp in a nice presentation, but not one of the top choices.

Even the Players Dining is getting an upgrade this year.  They have added gluten-free sandwiches; a Juice, Smoothie and Espresso Bar; and a Chocolate Milk Bar. I’m looking forward to sampling some of those offerings.

Grey Goose was on hand to sample their Signature Cocktail, the Honey Deuce, during the meal and then we went down to the Moet & Chandon Terrace, where I greeted some of my friends from Moet who I was at America’s Cup with and enjoyed some of their great bubbly.

In addition to the Grey Goose and Moet champagne bars, the U.S. Open also has a Wine Bar (which offers food pairings) and the Heineken Red Star Café.

While I enjoyed trying everything new and will certainly seek some of these dishes out over the next week or so, I am happy to say some of my U.S. Open “staples” are back, including the Caprese Panini in the South Plaza, the Potato Knish from the Glatt Kosher Cart and, of course, the Chocolate Peanut Butter from the Ben & Jerry’s, where they also have a great variety of low calorie smoothies to keep me cool in the hot sun. Then again, you can never go wrong with the Classic Burger and Waffle Fries. 

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.