Diner en Blanc: A dinner party like no other

What originally started nearly thirty years ago as a handful of friends gathering for dinner dressed to the nines in all white in Paris, has exploded to the famed Diner en Blanc celebration of food, friends, fun and all things fabulous.  Recently I had the opportunity to attend the Houston edition, however this traveling dinner party has stops all over the world including previous locations at the Eiffel Tower and Champs-Elysees.  But utilizing the elements of surprise and the host city’s natural beauty the event draws crowds of the city’s movers and shakers all with a have fun while “you see and be seen kind” of attitude.

As much of the event is hazed in mystery that quickly intrigues you and pulls you in I walked into the experience still in the fog.  And by experience I do mean the entire process as it is more than just one night.  It starts with registering, or trying to register, and if you have not been before waiting to see if you are pulled off the waitlist.  Then quickly moving to buy your tickets and as a newbie finding out that they supply the place and the party but it is your job to bring everything else.  And when I say everything else I do mean the whole shebang.  From chairs and tables to linens and plates the work is on your end to get things done within the all-white guidelines provided to you by your section leader.  As I opted to bring my own food I spent the day of the dinner in full panic mode.  From finding plates to putting together a dinner menu that would work on the move to my dinner date making table arrangement plans for the entire week.  After all of this and the huff and puff of moving yourself, your settings and your food to your space you are left with your heart and mind pumping with the following question: Is it worth it?????

Fortunately for the Diner en Blanc brand the answer to that questions is a resounding YES!!! As people began to pull out their table settings I knew I was in for a treat.  The average park we arrived to was transformed to all the elegance and glamour you would imagine on a beautiful night on the River Seine. With everyone pulling out all the stops from their outfits to their table décor the ability to just sit and peek the scene is absolutely thrilling.  The added bonus surprise is that all the work and hassle that it takes to get people prepared for Diner en Blanc has an amazing effect on the crowd.  I think its easiest to describe as the work makes attendees humble and hungry.  Not just hungry for food but for experiences, for laugher, for the opportunity to check into their friends and check out of social media, for the break  in their life where in a room full of other grown and sexy folks they can kick their shoes off and just enjoy life.  At the end of the day I believe this attitude is what the Diner en Blanc brand is built upon and without question after attending this reputation is on solid footing.  If you hear of Diner en Blanc coming to your city start doing the work to get in the know, it is well worth the work!

Martell Cognac H.O.M.E. making libations an experience

Martell Cognac has gone on tour over the US and is reminding those who were not in the know how they became a Cognac Powerhouse.  Yes the master crafting began over three centuries ago in 1715 but Martell has proven they have a product that is not just timeless but actually connects an amazing range of demographics and cultures.  With the foundation being in a smooth cognac the passion for the Martell products is indeed contagious and the Home event was no exception to this legacy.

Set in a sleek, modern, luxury home the Martell Home event was a perfect clean slate to paint beautiful palettes of cognac. Every room housed a different way to enjoy Martell.  So you can could start smoothly at the door and enjoy a Huncho Punch and then let it flow as the night and vibe takes you from rooms busy with beautiful peoples or rooms pulsing with fun.  With exciting rooms featuring dry iced concoctions and bustling rooms full of the city’s movers and shakers not only were guest enjoying the cognac but the elegant, one of kind atmosphere the cognac produces.

My favorites without questions were the rooms where I got a chance to really explore the Martell brand. First up was a chance to get in the driver wheel of my nights libations.  Yes we were put in charge and taught by master bartenders to become your own mixologist.  With our choice of fruit selection, freshly made sour mix, and of course a heavy or light pour of Martell you could really allow your taste preference to meet Martell in the middle.  Definitely on the best drinks of the night if I do say so myself.  Last but not least, tucked away in a closet of your dreams, you had a chance to get intimate with the pure cognacs without the mixers and extras taking away from the smooth flavorful Martell Cognac.  Straight up or with ice you not only got to sip the Martell of your choosing you had an opportunity to chat with brand ambassador who already know and love the Cognacs and who could share this passion with guests..  To top off an already memorable night the guest of honor Quavo from Migos insure guest had a night as unforgettable as the cognac.

Wine on the move with Premesi Wines

When a seasoned, serial and successful entrepreneur invests tons of money and time in something you have a pretty good bet its going to be outstanding and with my introduction to Premesi wines that is definitely true for Al Rucker.  Al Rucker has built a name and brand in the Houston area for his undeniable business savvy, creating brands throughout the city from bail bonds to comedy clubs to radio shows.  Now he is investing these same gifts into a new avenue, the wine business.

Now the jump from his previous ventures to wine may seem like a bit of a leap, however, when it comes to wines there is always one overriding vote…Taste!! To make sure we not only got a chance to experience the wines but the lifestyle that the wine should embody we were treated to a wine tasting extravaganza.  Meeting for a mobile happy hour traveling from the Galleria are to Dolce Ultra Lounge in Cypress guest were able to network, nosh on some superb treats by the Chef to the Stars and of course sample the goods!  Not one minute of the night backed away from the claim of a phenomenal experience.  To first wet our pallets Chef Tiffany spoiled us with a unique box for eating on the go.  With treats like chilled shrimp, chicken salad and waffles, and cornbread and black eyed peas it seems like we had gotten to the main course, but the true super star of the night was the wines.  Chef Tiffany carefully curated two cocktails that had everyone on the bus smiling and deserves a place on everyone’s holiday drink list.  Best of all each recipe gave an opportunity to really explore the depth and flavor of both the Brachetto and Moscato d”Asti.

Even with all of the fun and delicious food on the bus, the party did not stop as we experienced the Premesi lifestyle for a day. As we arrived at Dolce Ultra Lounge the excellence continued with samplings of both their white and red wine and a full blown comedy show that pulled out heavy hitter Michael Colyar.  There is nothing like enjoying a night full of laughter, vibrant ambiance, amazing food, and of course unforgettable wine.  Make sure to get in on the lifestyle and amazing wines that Premesi has to offer!

Girls Trip Fun: Reclaiming our time

Sometimes you just have to getaway and using your escape to reconnect with girl friends who reflect some of the best of you is a great way to reclaim your time, your life, and dare I say your groove? Whoever encouraged me to take the leap into adulthood and failed to mention all the unfun things that get in the way clearly wanted to mislead me. In what I thought would be a glamorous life of an attorney and entrepreneur is instead long days of running around, often in circles, for people I may not like.  It is definitely the life I choose so this is not a complaint just a note that what I want to do is often placed waaaayyyyyy behind all the things I need to do.  So that rare weekend when the stars align and I can get 7 of my friends away from their busy lives to enjoy some fun in beautiful southern California is one of the best ways to tap into the young, carefree Cori often hidden under the driven hard working Eleanor.

So how and why can a girl’s trip help you reclaim your time? Well the most important part is all the things you leave behind.  Yep the best trips are ones where you leave the laptop, pre-warn everyone you will be unavailable and tap into the present.  You only have one life to live and often we forget this message behind all the other things that seem to get priority.  Make money, find love, raise kids! All of these important life requirements but sometimes a little pearl is forgotten along the way… you are as important as all of the things on your to do list.

You

When you believe that and take occasions, even if they are rare to feed into that amazing things happen. Your step peps up, your smile gets a little more genuine, you remember to have fun and love with power. And for me there are few better people to tap into this part of myself than my good friends.  There is influence in perception and when you surround yourself by those who in the glimpses of you they get see you as smart and beautiful and powerful and competent, you can catch the same feelings about yourself.  As we set out to cheers in LA I laughed and smiled and even was a tad bit bossy, but with women who see all of those qualities as benefits to me and my friendship with them. A weekend with these kinds of reflections of yourself is a great reminder of how strong the best of you is when you untie the teeter and let the balloon soar. If only for the weekend.

Veuve Polo Classic: New York

Vueve Clicquot Champagne and Polo are already a certified classic with scenes from Pretty Woman dancing through my head at the mere mention. With the combo already being a tempting combination for me a text from one of my fav road trip divas about the Veuve Polo Classic and before I knew it I was booked to New Jersey with ticket to this uber posh event.

With gorgeous city views, great vibes and flowing Veuve Chicquot champagne this event made sure to get a special marks on my calendar as it not only met but exceeded my already high expectations. Nothing beats the opportunity to step outside the regularly scheduled program of your life, get all dolled up and do something both different and absolutely fabulous.  As soon as I hopped off the shuttle and headed towards the location I felt the vibrations of fun and fancy from walking in the door.  Set in Liberty State Park you have a jaw dropping view of the impressive Manhattan skyline.  My immediate first move…head straight for the champs!! Even that very easy decision though was difficult just because of the sheer beauty of the venue and the people that inhabited it.  With special Veuve photo opts sprinkled throughout the park it is hard to stay focused in heading in one direction.  Despite the struggle I made it and quickly decided on getting a bottle of Veuve, which came with a classic Veuve carrying case, to get the show on the road.  With the champagne moving your feet and probably your mouth too, the feeling of getting all dressed up with your friends as you feeling on top of the world and ready to slay only to realize you weren’t the only one who caught the vibes.  Chic dresses and distinguished gentlemen abounded offer a sea of eye candy with the champs easily opening the doors of conversation.

So of course on top of all the eye spy fun there is the Polo Match. Admittedly I was a little late for some of the fun and when we finally made it over to the field we found a sea of blankets and picnic baskets checking out the action of the game.  While on my first go round I opted for general tickets if floor seating is not up your alley you can also upgrade to VIP for more formal seating (and of course easier access to the champagne).  To top off a full day of day drinking the fun climaxed as Alicia Keys performed to cap off what was a great day enjoying some beautiful weather with even more fabulous friends.

Next up is the Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic Los Angeles on October 14th!  Mix in the Classic Fun with the easy flow and beautiful scenery of Southern California and you are sure to have a fabulous combination on your hands.

The Texas Black Expo delivered on Texas size fun!

The Texas Black Expo is just what you may expect, but sooo much more.  The expo is a great opportunity not only to support black owned businesses, but also offers some great showcases and seminars from everything from entertainment, to health and wellness to real talk from successful professionals.  Last weekend I had the opportunity to not only check out some of the great vendors at the expo but also get a little insight in the age old question, what are the differences between men and women?  In the Diva Dialogues Entertainment Attorney Jalene Mack brought together a power packed panel to take on the challenge of “The Great Divide” and see just how different do many and women feel about things from business to love and relationships.

This Texas Black Expo seminar was a great look into the differences, sometimes subtle, sometime distinct, between how men and women see the world. This type of conversation can either be lots of fun or down right argumentative so it was an extra bonus that Jalene was not just an entertainment attorney but an actor as well, and able to keep everyone both on task and having fun.  With a feisty panel of professionals you who are enjoying themselves and openly sharing you almost cannot help yourself but get wrapped up in the fun.  The panelists ranging from philanthropist, to attorneys, to radio station owners, to successful entrepreneurs and even a special guest Golden Brooks, a successful actress and business owner most known for her role on Girlfriends.

So what is the take on the great divide? Actually in listening to the responses you begin to understand women and men are looking at the same side of the different coin.  Although initially it may seem like two completely different approaches, the more you communicate and open your mind the more clarity you see on the differences.  Whether big or small, however, the panel offered some great insight on how they take on the challenges of being a business owner.  Here are a couple of pearls that most of us know, but often forget to apply and use in the way to approach both business and life:

  • Jalene Mack – Entertainment Attorney and founder of MPAC: On networking Jalene recommends entering into it with purpose. When you are focused in on finding opportunities you make sure networking actually enhances your business.
  • Golden Brooks – Actress and Entrepreneur: When faced with the challenge of being an African American woman in business Golden found strength by walking in her own light. By knowing herself she is not diminished by others but can use it as a basis of celebration for the unique person she is and the distinctive gifts she brings to the table
  • CleRenda McGrady – Author and Philanthropist – in referencing her favorite movie scene in The Wizard of Oz CleRenda draws strength from the idea that the power is within you all along, you just have to believe it for yourself.
  • Velma Trayham – PR Expert recommends business owners really invest the time and energy to know their market. When you don’t waste time and money focusing on being everything to everyone you can focus on making real connections with your target audience
  • Keisha Nicole – DJ for 97.9 The Box: In speaking to purpose Keisha is inspired by knowing that if God gave her a purpose, he also blesses with the gifts and capacity to carry it out if you are willing to put in the work.
  • Al Rucker – owner of Midtown Bail Bonds – For those who do not network Al recommends using the energy to focus on building their brand. After time a strong enough brand gets people searching for them instead of the other way around.
  • Danny Norris – Attorney with Norris & Norris Attorneys Essential tips for starting a business are to work out a business plan, a mentor, and the capital needed to get the business off the ground
  • Marcus Bowers – Owner of She’s Happy Hair – In his journey to hair mogul Marcus made a commitment to himself to just try to be better every day than he was the day before
  • Oscar Hines – Owner of KYND Radio shared his favorite quote that captured his life philosophy – “It’s not the number of breaths you have in life, it is the number or moments that take your breath away”

All in all the Texas Black Expo is a great way to support your community with businesses you love and others you have yet to fall in love with. Most importantly it is a great opportunity to have more breath taking moments and learn something along the way.

Big eats and even bigger charity at Big Taste of Houston

If you are looking for a party with a purpose infused with great drinks and food then look no further than the Big Brothers Big Sisters Big Taste of Houston.  Big Brothers Big Sisters has always been a charity that inspired me.  With a strong commitment to providing diverse mentorship to area youth the non-profit is based off the principals that giving back does not have to be ordinary.  The Big Taste of Houston is another nod to this idea as you have the opportunity to taste some of the best bites Houston has to offer while raising money for this worthy cause.

The premise is just as it sounds, fabulous local restaurants and chefs dig deep in putting together big bites of some of their best or newly created dishes. From braised short ribs to oysters shucked to order there were bites big enough to satisfy even the hungriest Texan.  It always brings a smile to my face when I see some of my favorite local restaurants participating as I know the competition will really get their creative juices flowing.  Restaurants like Uchi and North Italia really outdid themselves on coming up with delectable treats that you just could not say no to.

No question the party was great, but there is no forgetting the great purpose behind it all as some of the cities shining stars turned out to support. Although the tastes were definitely big, the auction prizes were arguably bigger.  From a silent auction full of goodies to an Audi A3 giveaway there were so many ways to support the Big Brothers Big Sisters while coming away with something amazing for yourself in the process.  With the panel of celebrity judges and beautiful people enjoying the night the event was hard to beat.  The perfect balance of drinks flowing and music bumping and charitable giving made the big Taste of Houston a must do on any foodie’s annual calendar.

Tampa Girls Weekend Fun

Birthdays are a perfect excuse to visit long distance friends so I recently hopped to Tampa for the weekend to get a taste of this South Florida destination and celebrate with friends. A weekend trip for a purpose is great as you get to wash away some of the excuses that normally plague a short trip.  Instead of worrying about ticket prices or how to work time off in your hectic schedule it becomes a lot easier to just bite the bullet and commit.  When you are visiting a new city the choice is even more tempting as you can get some of the highlights of a city in a very fun weekend with friends.

For this trip as I have amazingly chic friends I got some of the best food and drinks that the city of Tampa had to over. Fresh off the plane, thanks to a prime airport location, I quickly started my Tampa tour and the super sophisticated Ocean Prime.  This was my first time trying this is a national restaurant chain and I was definitely not disappointed.  The lounge and bar area have a cool kids vibe flowing from the staff to the guests.  The smoking Berries and Bubbles cocktail caught my eye as soon as I walked in and with first sip I was in love.  The food and service combined with this intoxicating cocktail started my night off on a high note.  To keep the party going in Tampa is easy as pie as they have several bar areas which making something you like a breeze.  As bar hopping is a serious past time of mine it was easy to go from grunge, to bar, to hookah, and even to live music so finding something up your alley is almost guaranteed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a long night of fun and a nice day of taking advantage of some of the great shopping Tampa had to offer it was time for a birthday dinner. Where else should you celebrate one of your most fabulous friends than the world renowned Bern’s Steak House.  To say the restaurant is a culinary experience is an understatement.  From the ornate decorations to the completely separate dessert restaurant the experience at Bern’s is top of the line.  While I am not a big steak person, I could not resist as you look at the giant menu of options.  Even more exciting is that you come in with the expectations you are about to give away your first born for your meal and I was pleasantly surprised with the cost of the food considering we got course after course of exquisite dishes.  For some extra bonus points you have the opportunity after your meal to tour the kitchen, including in house butcher, and wine cellar.  A great way to appreciate your gastronomic adventure at Bern’s even more.

 

Now of course everything I did in Tampa did not consist of food and drink but those were definitely some highlights. All in all Tampa was a cool city that had a mix of small town closeness with stylish city flare.  With their closeness to the water and constant festival city one thing is for certain, Tampa and its residents know how to have fun!

The Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair 2017

While the Houston area may boast several events for wine and food enthusiast, the ultimate food and wine celebration in Houston is the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair.  Over the past 6 years Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair has been raising the bar on the culinary standards in the city with a decadent celebration of food, wine and spirits in a collaboration that is truly unforgettable.  This year the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair is making some exciting changes to the mix to not only showcase some of the best food Houston has to offers and the top tier of wine and spirits from around the world.  Attendees win as the festival gives you an insider’s glimpse that will take your knowledge and appreciation to the next level.

In lieu of some of introductory events the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair will take on the road as teacher as it showcases food and wine in a more intimate setting.  In order to provide the perfect setting the On the Rocks Bartender Challenge has been replaced with private dinners to kick off the weekend festivities.  Choosing either the Boiling Point seafood boil or The Italian Invasion Dinner guests can mix great food and wine with intimate company and some great insight as they enjoy their favorites or try something new.  Additionally the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair has added several learning experiences that guest can attend Friday and Saturday.  There is nothing like identifying the why of your love for some of your favorite flavor profiles.  Taking the time to get deeper into the educational side only strengthens your appreciation for your favs and gives you clues on how to find other top picks based on your own palette.

The Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair made sure not to mess with the best, with their program changes, and Friday nights Grand Tasting is sure to be one for the books.  The Sugar Land Marriott Town Square serves as the perfect location to meet food and wine nirvana.  With everything from inventive culinary creations (I still dream about the upscale Frito pie) and tried and true favorites from HEB and local restaurant superstars the event provides a something for everyone in an unforgettable night.

Other favorites, such as Saturdays Sip and Stroll will keep more recent location changes, now done at Constellation Field but enhanced it with a two day option so you have all of Saturday and Sunday to get a chance to grab your favorite bites and beverages while enjoying some of the great performers who always deliver during the event. As the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair promises more of the core that has built its following as well as some great new opportunities to appreciate the food and wine on a different level this event is going to be a must on any food and wine lover’s schedule.

Closing out Tokyo by honoring history

Japan is a very eclectic mix of old and new, but on my last day I had to dive into some of the history that makes Japan unforgettable with a visit to their Imperial Gardens and Samurai Museum. A last day on any trip can feel a little overwhelming as you sort through things missed and those you can’t miss.  My last day I decided to split between something important to me and something important to my daughter.  Frist stop was the Imperial Gardens as they were within walking distance from my hotel.

One of my main priorities in choosing Tokyo as a destination was just to relax and find a space to clear my head after dealing with a personal loss. While Japan overflows with beautiful gardens, something about the regal nature of the Imperial Gardens called to me and we off set to explore the grounds.  With several entrances to the Gardens make sure to get a clear idea on where you want your access point to me.  The Gardens are divided into a ground level portion and a different section on a steep incline.  If you go to the wrong entrance you have a steep hick ahead of you.

The Gardens offered me just what I was looking for, a serene place where you can sit back and enjoy nature.  Part of why this is such a tourist destination is how the Japanese make serenity an art, carefully plotting out waterfalls, coy ponds, bridges and monuments to give you an opportunity to carefully observe and appreciate the thoughtfulness of design.  Serving a delicate balance of nature and how human artistry can work to enhance, not take away from the beauty of nature.  With my mind feeling calm it was time to hop to my daughter’s top pick, the Samurai Museum.

Just as it sounds the Samurai Museum is an ode to the discipline, culture, and exquisiteness of the Samurai culture. The museum offers English tours of everything from the dress to a history of their battle skills and rise and fall of the samurai culture.  There is something quite special about an interactive museum as it gets you a chance to not only learn more about a culture you admire but to take a small step in their footsteps to see just how amazing their life and devotion to their craft were.  Perhaps it was all the karate movies my daughter watched her whole life but this tour gave her life.  Add in the opportunity to try on a Samurai outfit and hold a sword and this was one of the highlights of her trip.  Make sure to plan extra time for the tour as they have daily Samurai fighting exhibition that we had to miss to make a break for the airport.  All of the fun new culture Japan offers have a distinct line to their proud and innovative past that demands some reverence to their beautiful history.

 

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