As I may have mentioned once or twice in this space, I love champagne. It’s one of my all-time favorite things on Earth. Now that my kids are off to school (hallelujah!) I have plenty of time to wax poetic about my favorite drink. I could drink champagne every day; contrary to popular opinion, a special occasion is not necessary. But there’s nothing more festive and celebratory than the pop of a cork. and I don’t hesitate to find a reason to drink some bubbly.
National Pancake Day? Bring it on. Armistice Day? Don’t mind if I do. Birthdays & major holidays? Duh. International Margarita Day? I’m not afraid to mix my liquors.
Not only is La Grande Dame a superb champagne, it also has a great story behind it. Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin married Francois Clicquot and was widowed after 7 years during the late 1700s. Francois left his family’s business — champagne-making — to her. At age 27 and knowing little of the fledgling business, she took the reins of the company and never looked back. She invented champagne-making techniques that are still in use today, and those greatly reduced production time, which means less time for the bubbly to get in my glass. She became one of the shrewdest — and wealthiest — businesswomen in France, and IMHO she deserves a place in history.
There’s a book about her called The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It. I’m a sucker for girl-power stories, so I bought the book, but had trouble reading it because it made me so dadgum thirsty. There are a few things I was able to glean, though, that are worth sharing about the widow who was “a young witness to the dramatic events of the French Revolution and a new widow during the chaotic years of the Napoleonic Wars.” Sounds exciting even without the bubbly.
Barbe-Nicole rebelled against convention by taking over the Clicquot family wine business. She was brave and ballsy, and through “dizzying political and financial reversals” she became one of the world’s first great businesswomen. By her late 30s, she was one of the richest women in France. Clicquot sales are estimated to have been $30 million a year under her command. One of her lasting legacies was to portray champagne drinking as a lifestyle. She “took champagne from marginal to mainstream and made it synonymous with style,” according to the book about her.
I’m not a big French Revolution history buff, and I won’t bore anyone with the details on the first day of school (hooray!!!), but suffice to say that Barbe-Nicole was smart enough to realize that if she could get the Russians hooked on her bubbly, she’s have it made. She “arranged clandestine and perilous champagne deliveries to Russia one day and entertained Napoleon and Josephine Bonaparte on another.” Toward the end of the Napoleonic Wars, she cornered the Russian market by gambling 10,000 bottles of her best vintage. The Russians took the bait, and she became the queen of the bubbly.
The occasion for my enormous treat surprisingly had nothing at all to do with cancer. It wasn’t the marking of a milestone or the celebration of a clear scan or other good news. It wasn’t a drowning of sorrows, which is a very good thing, because all the drinking that’s been required since cancer came to town would make a very deep river.
No, the occasion was a reward for a little party-planning provided for my runnin’ buddy Staci’s 40th birthday fete. I helped her hubby, my buddy The Rajah, plan her soiree and he was kind enough to show his appreciation by flashing the beloved yellow bottle. He’d been teasing me with it for weeks while I was out of town, texting to tell me he was making mimosas with it — oh the horror! The humanity! The thought of mixing such a fine wine made me nearly weep. He’s soooooo funny.
The moment just before the lovely lady was opened, at La Vista (which is such a great restaurant. If you live anywhere near Houston and haven’t eaten there — go there tonight!!). It was a beautiful moment, ripe with anticipation. The bottle glistened with condensation after being chilled in an ice bucket table-side. I kept it as close to me as possible while it chilled. I fretted over it like it was a newborn baby fussing in a Moses basket — was it cold enough? too cold? just right?
As soon as I heard the pop of the cork, I knew — it was indeed just right.
Tiny, tiny bubbles that hit the bottom of the glass and skyrocketed upward in an elegant trip to the open mouth of the glass. Beautiful amber color, like the last rays of the sunset after a most-perfect day. Teensy hint of fruit and even teensier hint of yeast. The delicate scent of bubbles and dry-but-not-bitter loveliness. From the first sip, it was apparent that this was vintage. This was the good stuff.
That’s my version. Here’s another:
“Known among connoisseurs as one of the finest champagnes in the world, it’s the pride and joy of the Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin. Ethereal, free and original, the Grande Dame teases aficionados with its rarity, making an appearance only when nature offers a concordance of perfect conditions.” — eat, love, savor magazine
Well, nature certainly did offer a concordance of perfect conditions, when a group of friends gathered at the end of the summer to celebrate the passage of time, the newest member of the “over-40 club,” and the savoring of the finer things in life. Cheers to the good life! And thanks, Rajah!
Yes, I’m still celebrating my birthday. When I showed up for my scar-tissue-management appointment to see Tammy, my favorite lymphedema specialist, she and Janice had decorated the office for me! I saw the Happy Birthday banner on the front door and wondered if my timing was out of whack, because Janice had her birthday in February and Tammy’s is at the end of the summer. Imagine my surprise when the decorations were for me!
Tammy insisted she get a picture of me lying on the confetti. I love that you can see her, in her white top, in the mirror behind me. She’s something else.
One of the pleasant things to come from this “cancer journey” is the relationships formed with health-care providers. Tammy & Janice fall into the category. Hell, they define this category. When I first met them post-mastectomy, minus some lymph nodes and worried about how their absence would affect my tennis game, these two ladies took me under their wing and provided the balm to my battered soul that comes from pure human kindness. We’ve gotten to know each other very well over the last year, and they’ve become not only providers but also friends. So yes, the birthday celebration continues, and I will continue to ride the b-day train as long as humanly possible. Once my liver says “uncle,” I’m out. But until then, rock on.
Even with all the birthday revelry, I didn’t want to get too far away from my latest visit to Dr S. I’ve been so busy celebrating my birthday that I almost forgot to report on my visit to my all-time favorite surgeon in the Entire World. I saw him the day before the celebrating began, so I’d better tell ya about it now before the details become entirely too fuzzy to relate.
Well, the details of the visit aren’t as important as the fact that he and I have made some major, major break-through progress. As you loyal readers know, Dr S & I have gone round & round on a few things in the past, and we’ve had some pretty good arguments. The Turf Wars continue to amuse me. But at the end of the appointment, with the exception of one hellacious visit last summer involving Sucky during which he almost saw me cry, we part on friendly terms and hold a lot of fondness for each other in our hearts.
So what was the progress, you may ask? When he told me to pull my pants down, so he could look at my belly scar, he said please.
Yes, you read that right: he said please. All of his own volition. Without being prompted. Without the Mexican stand-off that usually occurs when he wants me to comply but I refuse until he shows me some manners. A little wining & dining before we get down to it, if you will.
That is some major progress. You may remember the time in which I asked him to say please and he replied that he doesn’t have to say please because he is the doctor (cue the fanfare music here). I pretty much laughed in his face and said he may be the doctor, but I am the patient (cue the even louder fanfare music here) and I will not do what he’s asked until he asks nicely.
I reminded him of one of the tenets of my growing-up years: It’s nice to be important, but it’s important to be nice.
I’m pretty sure he really liked that one, a lot.
Next stop for the birthday train: happy hour — my favorite time of day.
A gathering of dear friends, some yummy food, and a well-stocked ice bucket makes for one happy birthday girl. Thad & Yvonne always throw a great party, and last night was no exception. We toasted with a Mumm rose, and broke out the beautiful orange box so the Widow could join the party. She’s always the star of the show.
Quite a nice grouping for the birthday happy hour. The food was delish, as it always is at Chez McLemore. Yvonne’s tableside guacamole would be at home at any of the finer Mexican restaurants in our neck of the woods. Keith & Jill’s deconstructed Greek salad crostini made my heart happy and made my tummy say “thank you!” The hand-made tortillas and grilled shrimp added the last dash of supreme bliss that enveloped our patio happy hour. The fruit crostada was bursting with blueberries and anchored with peaches, all the while surrounded by a buttery, flakey, turbinado-sugared crust.
But the very best part of an overall-exceptional evening was this: being surrounded by friends who make every meal a feast.
The day after one’s birthday can be a let-down, but I’ve got enough festive spirit to carry me right on through. Needless to say, yesterday was one of the best days ever. Big kudos to Trevor for orchestrating a fantastic day. This one is going down in the record-books as the most festive birthday celebration ever.
I’m laughing so hard here because the first cork that popped hit the ceiling and scared the nail techs. I guess they don’t have a lot of champagne corks being popped as they prepare to buff & polish clients’ nails.
I’m sad to say that not one photo was taken at my birthday lunch, but picture this: a group of smiling, laughing ladies gathered around a festive table while pitchers (plural) of frozen margaritas are passed. Glasses clink, some with salt and some without, in a toast to great friends, good food, and enduring health.
Meanwhile, a kind senorita whips up a batch of fresh guacamole tableside, adding just the right amount of cilantro, jalapenos, lime juice and kosher salt (but no onions–don’t like em). Custom-made, tableside guac is one of the finer things in life. A big thank you to Mr Reyes, GM at Escalante’s, for the complimentary guac and queso for my party. Abundio knows how to treat the ladies!
Handmade Mexican food just kept coming as the conversation (and margaritas) flowed. Get a group of women together to eat, drink, talk & laugh and you know it’s going to get a little wild. We kept it in check but certainly had a stellar time.
Meanwhile, on the penultimate day of school, Macy received the classroom award for “Most Helpful,” which doesn’t surprise me one bit. School’s out today, which means my kids are now 4th and 7th graders. Let the summer fun begin!
So is the task of this blogger. It’s been called to my attention that some people consider themselves “blog-worthy” and are not getting the press they deserve. I hope you’re reading this from Malaysia, Pete Keating. As Elaine said on the infamous sponge-worthy episode, “Run down your case for me again.”
As much as I like the idea of a gladiator-type battle to determine who among my circle of friends gets mentioned in this little blog, it’s not very practical. I am, however, open to bribes and prefer my Piper Sonoma to be brut.
The Rajah knows how that system works. In his invitation to Sunday Funday at the Martinez casa, he texted me this photo:
A little something for me, and a little something for Trevor. The Rajah knows what his guests like. He’s hospitable like that.
So Pete, you don’t have to spring for the Veuve Clicquot to be considered blog-worthy. (But I wouldn’t complain if you did.)
I’m so glad the reverend Howard Camping’s prophesy was wrong. If the world had ended on Saturday, May 21st, as Camping predicted, I would not have had a chance to sip that lovely bubbly on Sunday, and that would have been a crying shame. Seems Camping made a mathematical error again, as he did in his 1994 prophesy. He says he didn’t have the dates “worked out as accurately as I could have” on the most recent prediction. Whew.
Yep, that’s a halved coconut serving as a soup bowl. It contained the most delectable concoction of Thai-spiced soup with a lobster dumpling, seen peeking out of the bottom edge of the soup. There was much debate at our table about what the wagon-wheel looking garnish was. Zucchini and cucumber were thrown out as possibilities, although I was suspicious of being able to fry a cucumber. Too much water, I’d think; the oil would sizzle and splatter all over the place. I can’t recall if it was Raymond or Marissa who suggested zucchini, and I think it was Trevor who threw out the cucumber. Keith had it right, as usual, with the winning answer: lotus root. Go figure.
I’m so glad Camping had his dates mixed up again and I lived long enough to eat that soup. Seems the real date for the apocalypse is October 21st. So get your affairs in order, people. You’ve got 5 months to prove whether you’re blog- worthy. And here’s a little note for Howard Camping: