Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Once Upon a Time...

Once upon a time there lived a girl. She was beautiful, elegant, and graceful. The girl grew to be a captivating woman who won not only the heart of a prince but love and admiration of the whole world.

Prince Charming didn’t pick her up on a white horse but for the past nine years the courtship between commoner, Kate Middleton, and His Royal Highness Prince William of Wales has been a storybook romance.

In less than a fortnight they’ll become man and wife and Kate Middleton will become Princess Catherine. The wedding will take place Friday 29 April at 11am BST (6am EDT and 4am MDT) at Westminster Abbey in London, England.

Unless you’re one of the 1900 people invited to the royal wedding you can celebrate with Catherine and William by joining the massive street parties are expected to go on throughout the weekend all around Britain.

Two billion people are expected to tune in to view the nuptials on telly. I for one plan on waking up very early with Earl Gray tea and a buttery crumpet to celebrate the fairy tale in my own home as the happy couple wed in front of the world.

I am a self-proclaimed anglophile, a hopeless romantic, and after having a girlhood crush on HRH, there's no way I'm going to miss this!

If watching the royal wedding on television isn’t good enough for you- book a ticket across the pond, take in a royal walking tour and put yourself in the shoes, quite literally, of the royal family.

1) Birthplace of Her Royal Highness The Queen
17 Bruton Street in Mayfair is the birthplace of The Queen. Elizabeth II was born to Prince Albert Duke of York (who later became King George VI) and Elizabeth Boews-Lyon in the apartments of her maternal grandparents on April 21, 1926.

2) Garrard Jewelers
Garrard has been the crown jeweler since 1843 and sells a wide range of jewelry and silverware items as well as china, fashion accessories and couture clothing.

Kate’s engagement ring, purchased here thirty years ago and worn by the late Princess Diana, is fourteen diamonds that encircle a sapphire and is estimated to cost $48,000!

3) Jigsaw
Visit the clothing chain’s Dover Street location and see where Kate worked briefly as an accessory buyer.

4) Mahiki Club
Mahiki Club boasts three miles of rare black bamboo that make up its chic, well-designed interior. This fantastic cocktail bar on Dover Street attracts a hip, fashionable crowd and is a favorite with the royals. Unless your Wills (affectionately dubbed by the British media) or Kate, arrive early and pop in line with the other commoners.

5) Ritz Calton London
The Ritz restaurant is one of the best restaurants in London and a favorite of Will and Kate’s. For £150 per person you can enjoy a Royal Wedding Brunch at the Ritz Restaurant on April 29th from 10:30am to 3:30pm. Large screens will bet set up around the dining room so you won’t miss a minute of the ‘I do’s’.

6) John Lobb Bootmaker
Put yourself in the shoes of royals. John Lobb specializes in the art of Victorian shoe making. John Lobb’s process is still hands-on, providing personal service and making lasts (wooden shoe molds) for the shop's many famous customers including Prince William. Prices start at £2,400 per pair at this exclusive shop.

7) Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace has been the royal residence since 1837 and is a must-see tourist spot. Buckingham Palace serves as both the office and London residence of Her Majesty The Queen. It is one of the few working royal palaces remaining in the world today. Don’t miss the Changing of the Guard which takes place daily at 11:30am.

8) Lock & Co., Royal Hatter
Need a silk opera hat or a traditional tweed flat cap? How about a Garden Party hat or a Bohemian Fedora? James Lock of St. James' has been making hats from this cozy little shop since 1676, and has dressed the heads of Admiral Lord Nelson, Jackie Onassis, Frank Sinatra, and, recently, hip young musicians and models.

9) St. James’ Palace
St James's Palace is one of London's oldest palaces. Although no sovereign has resided there for almost two centuries, it has remained the official residence of the Sovereign and the most senior royal palace in the UK. As of 2009 the staffs of Princes William and Harry moved into their own rooms at St. James Palace and began reporting directly to the royal princes, before 2009 they reported to Prince Charles at Clarence House.

10) The Queen’s Chapel
The Queen's Chapel is a Christian chapel next to St. James’ Palace, built between 1623 and 1625. It is one of the British monarch's personal religious establishments. Kate attended her first solo appearance at The Queen's Chapel for the wedding of The Queen’s cousin, Lady Rose Windsor, in 2008.

11) Westminster Abbey
A traditional coronation and burial sight for the English monarch, as well as a venue for royal weddings, 1900 wedding guests will fill this beautiful, 700 year-old gothic building on April 29th as Will and Kate say, ‘I do’.
Whether you watch the nuptials on the telly, crowd the London streets hoping for a glimpse of the happy couple or live vicariously through the many royal sights of my Will and Kate walking tour, enjoy the fairy tale.

The world has fallen in love with Miss Catherine and her love story. In this day and age of sensational tales of failed royal relationships, the masses hunger for a real life storybook romance. Let down any cynicism and truly believe that this prince and his soon-to-be princess will live happily ever after. I do.

Photo Credits: Top: Marino Testino, Official Engagement Portraits; Middle: heraldsun.com.au, Bottom: commons.wikimedia.org

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Poutine Dreams

It’s a complicated, ephemeral, sensory experience. It’s a fleeting succession of emotions…longing, excitement, bliss, confusion. Poutine is a savory reverie like nothing else I’ve tried.

Poutine is a beloved snack in Quebec and particularly popular throughout Montreal. The true beauty of the dish lies in cheese curds that don’t melt completely and remain squeaky when you bite into them. Legend has it that the dish’s name originated in 1957 when restaurateur Ferdinand LaChance received a request from a customer for French fries, gravy and cheese in a bag. He responded, ‘ca va faire un maudite poutine!’ Roughly translated; ‘that’s going to make a damn mess!’ A mess it may have been but also a culinary and cultural hit. Today, poutine is a fixture of the Quebec dining scene and a must-try!

I’m a believer that fries are merely a vehicle for sauce…and I don’t mean the sugary, vile, tomato-like substance that comes in a Heinz 57 jar. Fried potatoes should be crispy on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside. They should be covered with a flavorful sauce and eaten with a fork. Like in Europe, the Quebecois understand this concept. Poutine is a real treat and frankly, what dreams are made of.

My first experience with Montreal’s favorite fast food was at the ‘restoAu Pied du Cochon in the Plateau neighborhood. The meal began with a bottle of pinot noir, crispy pig’s feet salad, lamb shank confit, and then the pièce de résistancepoutine topped with fois gras. The potatoes were crispy, the gravy was creamy, the cheese curds were soft, and the fois gras melted in my mouth. ‘Oh Mon Dieu!’ I said to myself.

I had to have poutine again to repeat that empyreal, cholesterol induced, high. For a less haute cuisine version, my sources pointed me toward La Banquise in Parc La Fontaine’s north end. It’s a friendly, hippie-meets-hipster diner that specializes in poutine and serves two dozen variations. I entered the ‘resto’ and while inhaling the grease filled air I thought to myself, ‘how many calories is that breath going to cost me?’ I chose Poutine Rachel; fried potatoes, gravy, cheese curds, onions, peppers, and mushrooms. It was fattening, and satisfying. Even more, it provided me with extra padding for the chilly day.

Like the different layers of poutine, Montreal is complex, charming, and leaves me wanting plus en plus. An enormous joie de vivre pervades Montreal. It’s a place that embraces its rich history and looks forward to its bright future. It’s the largest city in Quebec province and the most French region in all of North America. It’s modern in every regard. As a UNESCO City of Design it’s got skyscrapers in unexpected shapes and colors, a beautifully preserved historic district, a large area of artist’s lofts, boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. Cold and snowy for nearly eight months every year, it’s a place where the weather is frigid but the people are warm and hospitable.

It’s a big city (nearly four million metro residents) but maintains a friendly and welcoming culture. Nearly everyone speaks French and English and effortlessly switches between the two languages for your convenience. Montreal feels like the lovable child of Paris and Denver. It’s chic and outdoorsy, big and intimate, serious and sweet, French and American.

Everything about Montreal is enchanting. From the calorific poutine sold around the city, the picturesque cobbled streets of old town, the boutique and café-lined sidewalks of Plateau Mont Royal, the silence and unearthly beauty in the Basilique Notre-Dame, the complicated mazes of the 21 mile underground city, the twang of the Quebecois accent, and the hum of daily life for Montreal residents; this city is has a captivating personality all its own.

Back home, after a fabulous trip to Montreal, I can’t help but daydream about the city and all of its complexities... most of all the satisfying and tasty mess, Poutine.

Note: Denverites- If you can't make it to Montreal and have a hankering to try Quebec's beloved snack, Euclid Hall serves three versions of Poutine.

Photo Credit: Top, courtesy of Joyocity, Flickr Creative Commons