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6 Feb

Make Valentine’s Day Sparkle with Ruinart Champagne

Nothing says love quite like Champagne.

To commemorate Valentine’s Day, I am devoting my entire post to the best of the bubbly stuff. And y’all, when I say Champagne, I mean real Champagne. No Prosecco, Cava or “headache in a bottle” for this girl. It might bubble and fizz like a Champagne, but it’s only a Champagne if it’s from Champagne, France. And one of the shining jewels of Champagne is Ruinart.

A couple of months ago, Chester Cox reached out to me and asked if I was interested in learning more about Ruinart. You might recognize Chester from his five-year run as Fort Worth Magazine’s best wine expert, but he’s also the sommelier and retail wine specialist at Ellerbe Fine Foods. Chester invited me to bring a group of my most favorite peeps to experience a tresspecial, tresexclusive Ruinart Champagne tasting lunch.

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Let me just stop this story and give you some advice: If someone offers you and your crew an exclusive lunch featuring one of the world’s most exclusive wines, say yes.

So y’all, that’s exactly what I did! I said yes! So I am going to stop again and say, if this sounds like something you would love to do, you totally can. As you know, Ellerbe is owned by sommelier Richard King and executive chef Molly McCook, but Richard has teamed up with Chester on an amazing wine pairing event venture called White Gloves, Purple Teeth. Molly remains the mastermind behind the food and flavors in the kitchen, but Richard and Chester stand at the ready to direct a decadent evening of oenophilia for groups large and small.

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OK, now back to our wine lunch. Jason and I arrived at Ellerbe with eight of our most connoisseur-y friends. This group has literally seen it all, and our jaws all dropped when we saw our elegantly appointed table. Like, Carol, queen of tablescapes,  would have been proud.

One more thing I know y’all want to know – how do you pronounce Ruinart? OK, repeat after me: Rwree narrr. And again, but this time pretend you have a stuffed up nose: Rwree narrr. Tres bien!

Once we were seated, Chester introduced us to Jeridan, our tasting guide for our champagne-paired course and the official U.S. Ambassador for Ruinart Champagne.

30 seconds later, the white gold began to flow!

In between bites and sips, I soaked up the back story behind the Ruinart Maison and everything beautiful about the bubbles.

The History of the House

Ruinart, located in the town of Reims, is the oldest established Champagne house in France. Nicolas Ruinart founded it in 1728 right after the King of France decided to allow Champagne to be transported in bottles rather than barrels.

Reims Map
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Ruinart was the first Champagne house to cellar its wine in the region’s famous chalk caves, which were dug out by Roman prisoners over 2000 years ago. They’re 125 feet underground and span over five miles – big enough to house Ruinart’s entire production.

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Fun fact: It’s not just Arkansas where everything is relative. Nicolas’s uncle, Dom Ruinart, was a Benedictine monk and equal contemporaries with another wine lover, Dom “Donny P” Perignon. They were monks together in the same church, and they are also buried in the same abbey.

Also, Nicholas was the great grandfather of Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin, better known as the Widow Clicquot, or Veuve Clicquot.

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Today, Ruinart is owned by LVMH, which also owns Louis Vuitton. (I knew there was a reason I loved this Champagne!)

We drank a range of wines, including a Blanc de Blanc with our salad and soup course. A Blanc de Blanc is 100 percent pure Chardonnay. (And it’s also 100 percent pure vegan! Win!)

Their Chardonnay is the finest in the region sourcing Premier and Grand Cru fruit from our estate own vineyard in Sillery in the Montagne de Reims along with the vineyards in the Côte des Blancs.

 

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We also sampled the Tête de cuvee Ruinarts Vintage Champagne while dining on our main courses.

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Another fun fact: Ruinart was not just the first Champagne house, they were also the first to make rose, way back in 1764. We sipped Dom Ruinart Rosé, which is an amazing balance of Chardonnay & Pinot Noir while we enjoyed Chef Molly’s amazing third course.

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You may be thinking, Christy, it’s great that you were drinking the good stuff, but what in the wine cork could you eat? Turns out, a lot! Chef Molly and her staff were so amazing, the kitchen coordinated a selection of special vegan dishes just for me to enjoy.

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Tasting Notes

  • Our group loved all three wines, especially since they were all specially blended to pair perfectly with food. Champagne was actually made for food – its acids breakthrough meat fats and cream sauces. It’s great with charcuterie, chicken and duck. The rose is great with steak, pasta, cheese and pizzas. It’s especially great with fried foods like French fries and fried chicken. Not that I know, but I’ve been told!
  • Now here’s a fun fact that’s actually crazy: The only thing that doesn’t taste good with Champagne is chocolate. For reals! The tannins in the Champagne are too big a taste and too bitter for the chocolate. Better bet is to go with a port. You’re welcome.
  • Want me to keep going? Here goes: Ruinart uses just under 8 grams of fruit and beet sugar per liter of alcohol, which is equivalent to about a sugar packet. Champagne also is the least caloric of all wines. Just 74 calories per glass! Just be careful if you decided to indulge in the bubbly while exercising.

And at the very end of our experience, our group had the opportunity to purchase the champagne we tasted, including rare specialty bottles we didn’t get to taste, at below wholesale cost! You can just imagine how many cases of champagne this group took home. I have to officially say, my wine refrigerator is filled with Ruinart!

Thanks to Ellerbe’s wine program, White Glove, Purple Teeth.

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Ruinart GIVEAWAY!!!

Who wants to win more fabulous freebies compliments of yours truly and Ellerbe?

We’re giving away a bottle of Ruinart Blanc de Blanc and a Champagne-fueled lunch for 2 at Ellerbe. $300 VALUE

15 Jan

How to Throw a Stellar Lunar New Year Party

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Are you getting ready for a New Year’s celebration?

I know what you’re thinking — your girl here has finally lost it. All that vegan food is affecting her brain! Her hair extensions are clearly too tight! Nope! I’m talking about the LUNAR NEW YEAR! It’s a thing, people.

Actually, you have probably heard this referred to as “Chinese New Year”, both are similar to one another and have become interchangeable over the years.  The Lunar New Year is the celebration of the start of a new year in a lunar calendar in most Asian countries.  Because it’s tied to the moon, it falls on a different date each year. In 2020, the Lunar New Year begins on January 25. So post up, people, and get ready for what the Chinese zodiac has deemed the Year of the Rat.

China is known for its epic New Years celebrations. Also called the Spring Festival, it’s the country’s most important holiday, and the parties last for 15 days. Here in Fort Worth, my mother is also known for her epic celebrations, so last year, she decided to throw the most amazing Chinese New Year celebration ever seen in the Fort.

 

With the big lunar date looming, I thought it was the perfect time to share with you how Carol & Jim ushered in last year’s Year of the Pig for their supper club.

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I’ve posted party pics and tips below — I hope they inspire you to host your own Lunar New Year celebration and that you gain new insight into the cultural significance surrounding this magical and meaningful occasion. As they say in China, “Gong Xi Fa Cai”, wishing you great happiness and prosperity. And as I say in Fort Worth, “Pass the Champagne!” It’s gonna be our best year yet!

Jaw-dropping Décor

Chinese New Year is all about red. Red, red, red and more red. As long as it’s red, you’ve got a party. Of course, my mother is known for next-level entertaining (example), so she incorporated every single popular element into her décor scheme, including Chinese lanterns (to drive away bad luck), cut paper decorations (symbolizing luck and happiness) and “fu” characters hung upside-down (to ensure prosperity). “Fu”, which means good fortune, was inspired by a jar, so when it’s upside-down, it’s like good fortune is pouring down on your family. I say, bring it on!

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My mother certainly knows how to do “extra” when it comes to tablescaping. Her motto has alwasy been “more the merrier”! So when it came to designing the perfect tabletop for this event, she scoured the entire metroplex and Amazon for everything she needed.

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Exciting Extras

Red Envelopes, called hong boas, are also a Chinese New Year standard. Elders put money into these adorable little packets and give them to kids to pass on hope for a year of good fortune and blessings. My mom totally slip her friends envelopes of cash, but she also incorporated the hong boas into her festive party favors for guests to take home. Are these chocolate dipped fortune cookies not presh?

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Are these precious cookies from Cookies Plz not adorable? Each guest got to take a pair home when they were leaving the party.

Lion Dance is a traditional dance among China and other Asian countries, that’s performed during New Year celebrations to bring good fortune and to ward off evil spirits. Did my mother’s party have a lion dance? You bet!

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Fireworks and New Years are the perfect pairing across the globe, so my mother made them a part of her party, too. In China, it’s customary to set them off at midnight on New Year’s Day to scare off monsters and bad luck, and the person who launches the first firework of the New Year will experience good luck. Except this geriatric group couldn’t wait till midnight to do fireworks, so the minute the sun set, the sparks started flying. A special thanks to TNT Fireworks Supercenter for helping us almost blowup the hood!

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Finding the Food

Food is the heart of Chinese New Year celebrations, especially what’s known as the “Reunion Dinner”, a big family dinner typically held on New Year’s Eve. My parents have been dining with their supper club since I was seven years old, so I think that pretty much makes them family.

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Of course, any successful dinner party relies on both company and quality. My mother knew that she needed to bring on the absolute best caterer to make her party unforgettable, and for us, that meant asking the dynamic duo of Mary and Jarry Ho to share their Chinese culture with us.

Our family is straitjacket crazy for this couple, who are known for their catering as well as for owning Shinjuku Station, Cannon Chinese Kitchen and our favorite neighborhood place, Tokyo Café. It was a total clear and obvious choice that she would want none other than to work with the Hos and Tokyo Café’s Chef Kevin Martinez to set up in her catering kitchen and work their magic.

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Meaningful Munchies

At Chinese New Year dinners, the menu is super important. Mary Ho describes it this way:

“Food is one thing that we take a lot of pride in — there’s a lot of thought put into all the dishes, and each has a symbolic meaning of luck, prosperity, happiness and auspiciousness.”

Here’s the menu that Mary, Jarry, and Chef Kevin created for mother’s party. As you can see, there were no pork dishes. Year of the pig, indeed!

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Fortune, prosperity and family reunion
Wild Mushroom Dumplings pan seared and truffle oil

The dumpling shape resembles ancient Chinese money and signifies family reunion

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Prosperity
Chicken & Shrimp Spring Rolls
The shape symbolizes gold bars

Abundance of food and wealth
Steamed Cod & Broccoli
The fish is usually cooked whole, leaving the head and tail attached to symbolize a good beginning and ending for the coming year.

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Loyalty
Duck Consumme & Peking Duck
These dishes symbolize a good marriage between families. Mandarin ducks pick a mate for life and are considered loyal and devoted to their partner.

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Success and Family Unity 

Chinese desserts are typically not very sweet nor rich and usually comes with an unfamiliar texture because of the ingredients used.  For our dinner party, the chef took a different spin on two of the traditional desserts.

5 Spice Bread Pudding in place of Nian Gao (New Year’s Cake)

Its name is a wish to be successful and higher each year, that each year will be better than the last.

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And here’s my favorite: Family togetherness

Lychee Martini in place of Tangyuan (Sweet Rice Balls in a sweet soup)

Because of the fruit’s round shape, it symbolizes family togetherness. Saying: “Tuan Tuan Yuan Yuan” means “Happy Family Reunion!”

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SoFortWorthIt GIVEAWAY!!!!

So, let’s get ready to raise a glass to 2020 – a new year so bright, so full of promise and prosperity that it’s definitely worth celebrating twice!

Now tell me, who doesn’t love a good Asian food dish?! In honor of the Lunar New Year I am giving away an Omakase dinner for FOUR people at Tokyo Cafe, a SIX course dinner with wine and sake pairings, value of $400. Enter at the Rafflecopter link below.

24 Oct

How to Design an Elaborate Halloween Tablescape

Flash back to 2013 when I first wrote about this elaborate Halloween tablescape article on my blog with Fort Worth Magazine! I’m bringing it back from the grave for your reading and viewing pleasures! Enjoy, and happy Halloween!

Here, in my parents home, an elaborately decorated dining table with seating for 14 guest was whipped up in true Carol Dunaway fashion.  Enjoy these inspirations for your own Halloween table design.

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Elaborate Halloween Tablescape

Six skulls from Katherine’s Collection were the main focal point of this table.

Mom got crafty when she made these homemade stone-crusted Elizabethan Collars to compliment the decorative skulls.

These large Katherine’s Collection skulls didn’t come with those darling tophat headbands with their own jewel-toned glittered mini-me’s.  But they were the perfect addition to this ensemble or to any outfit for the upcoming Halloween festivities.

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Glittered candles from Pier 1 (similar) and decorative butterflies along with black and white ribbon from Amazon add to the decor.

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Arranged white Hydrangeas in mirrored containers add that garden touch I alwasy enjoy incorporating in my own tablescapes.

The perfect addition, bone encrusted ornaments hanging from the chandelier.

Complimenting the theme of the table are two different sizes of black goblets.

Several layers of alabaster & silver rimmed plates are stacked upon these fabulous chargers that burst with silver, along with one of my very favorite flatware.

And don’t forget to do name cards! Individually wrapped custom made bone cookies were the finishing touch.

Silver-lined plates and chargers

Having a wreath on the front door gets the party started before your guest walk in.

Halloween Door Wreath

Recreate this elaborate Halloween tablescape HERE!

If you are anything like me and already planning for the Christmas holiday then don’t miss this Christmas Tablescape!

Happy holiday planning!

 

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