Monday, February 27, 2012
I got back from a trip to Italy a couple of weeks ago and in looking back, I can say that I had a blast living a mini version of my fantasy fashion life. This may sound silly, I know, but deep down (or maybe not that deep down at all) I have always dreamed of being involved in fashion. I adore looking at designer clothing, photos of fashion and red carpet arrivals and dream of having the opportunity to wear things that I have no reason to ever wear. Now, anyone who knows me well, knows that in reality, I am a bit of a clothes horse. And to be completely truthful, I use the words "a bit" in order to make myself feel better and more balanced. In truth, I'm an enormous hoarder of clothing, someone who probably needs a clothing intervention, and look at the contents of my closet as the container of my "collection". That's it, I'm a collector...of clothes.
So, when I was invited to the Marni fall fashion show in Milan, I jumped at the chance to do something so incredibly indulgent and frivolous and fly to Italy to be a part of the world that I am so obsessed with. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that I am dying to change careers and leave the restaurant world. I'm just saying that I love all of the glamor and beauty of the fashion world and am fascinated by the way the business of it all works. So why not go and get a brief insider view of the whole thing? And in Milan no less.
Now because most sensible people will not, on a whim, plan a trip to fly across the globe for a total of four days (including travel), it was hard to find a compatriot to join me on my fashion adventure. Most of my friends have better things to do, like work. Even my husband, who is usually up for travel and who can often find business to do in almost any city in the world, had to turn down my offer of Italian travel. I really didn't want to go on this ridiculous trip alone, and at long last, my assistant Christy signed up to join me, as she too loves this kind of stuff. We rationalized that travel to Italy is an excellent opportunity to do some culinary and wine research, to hone our Italian wine palates, and basically kill two birds with one semi-professional stone.
After flying for a total of 17 hours, including layovers, we checked into what is now my new favorite hotel, The Bulgari in Milan. It is a sleek and modern hotel with beautiful indoor and outdoor spaces, friendly and helpful staff and uber-comfy rooms. They also leave all sorts of yummy treats in your room for you throughout the day, something that kept us excited to return to the hotel each afternoon. I mean, who doesn't love a tasty surprise treat when returning from a hard day of shopping. And most important of all, they have a fantastic bar that is clubby and chic, where the people watching is unparalleled and the experience unbeatable. This of all places in Milan became our nightly stop. In fact, on two of our nights we didn't even leave the bar! If I was still in Milan, I'd be there right now.
The bar at the Bulgari was the kind of spot that would make me say to myself, "I wish this place was mine." I do that sometimes. I fall so in love with a restaurant or bar that I literally wish that I had created it. This bar was no exception. The gentlemen working behind the bar were sweet, friendly and accommodating as only Italian men can be. The room was chic and not overbearingly loud and the general feeling of the place was active and bustling without feeling harried. When having drinks there, snacks and nibbles were paraded out to us, along with small plates and tastes of dishes that the chef conjured up each evening. It was like an incredibly civilized and generous happy hour. And the genius of it all was that even though they basically fed us a dinner of free snacks and nibbles, it kept us there spending our money on pricy drinks. What they donated to us in food, they made back in cocktails.
The irony of the whole Milan cocktail experience was that every time I sat at that bar, I could only bring myself to order one thing: Billecart Salmon Rosé Champagne. That's right. Of the hundreds of Italian wines and cocktails that I could have ordered, I decided to stick with one of my favorite Champagnes. I was sleeping in Italy, but drinking like I was in France which some people would call pathetic and unadventurous. I just couldn't help myself. I love the stuff. The moment I see it on a wine list offered by the glass, I'm there.
The thing about Billecart is that it has a particularly dry, clean, chalkiness and extreme elegance that is like no other. It has an exotic spice character alongside soft berry notes and earthy backbone. It is one of the few rosé Champagnes that doesn't rely on sweet fruitiness, but instead is distinguished by it's savory qualities. One sip of this, and I want nothing else. I think that I could actually drink this Champagne every single day, whether in Italy, France or here at home. And the beauty of it for me is that since returning home from Italy, drinking a glass of that pink sparkling elixir takes me right back to that bar in Milan and my frivolous fashion escape.
Fortunately for me, I've started pouring Billecart rosé by the glass at Lucques and Tavern, so I can take the trip back to that fashionable bar any time I want.