Archive for March, 2011

Now, I love a good beer pub crawl, with the best of  ’em. In fact, when I first met the members of my writer’s group, they said they had an important question to ask me. OMG, I thought (OK, this was in the pre-texting era, and I actually thought, oh, my gosh), are they going to ask how many stories I’ve published? Or did I win any awards? Does an honorable mention count? I wondered.

“Do you,” the group leader asked, “like beer?”

Yeah, baby! These were my kind of people!

But there is another side to me. (Well, actually I have so many sides I should be a hectogon.)

I also love champagne and sparkling wine. And so do most of my writer buddies.

So, when I saw a discounted offer for a champagne and sparkling wine event, I had to go. Time to upgrade to a champagne crawl. No, that doesn’t sound right. Champagne connotes class, sophistication. How about champagne sashay? Yeah, that’s better.

One of my best gal pals and I attended the event. First, though, we had to get past the check-in desk. I gave my name to the cheerful woman reading through the list of attendees, who said, “Well, there you are at the very beginning of the list. We do it by first names.”

Then I gave my friend’s name and, simultaneously, another woman checking people in said they couldn’t find her on the list and the one who’d found me, announced she made a mistake. Excuse me? My name is not Ann Smith. I guarantee you there is only one Alexa deMonterice in NYC, and probably the world (not many of my family members left.) Clearly, this gal needed some reading glasses.

They asked us what discount service we had used. There were various check-in lists grouped by discounter. Who remembers? I use all of them; I love a bargain. They were starting to treat us as if we were trying to scam our way in. Puh-lease! If that were the case, we’re creative people; we would’ve thought up a better approach.

Finally, we remembered we had smart phones and could show our confirmation emails for the event. And they let us in as if they were doing us a favor. Now I really wanted a drink!

We were each handed a real wine class embossed by the NY Gourmet Society, which I then belatedly remembered was where I’d bought our tickets from online. Real glasses, not plastic cups – yup, definitely a step up from beer.

And then the fun really began as we were handed brochures with table numbers and a description of the wines offered at each. Picture it: a ballroom-sized room with 27 tables, each offering from one to four different wines, 65 in total. Fill ‘er up!

I immediately recognized one of my faves: Marquis de la Tour, less than nine bucks a pop. I grabbed my friend’s arm and told her she had to try it. The pourers filled our glasses half way. She and I looked at each other. We weren’t going to last very long at that rate. Oh, well. When in Rome …

Then we wised up and realized we should start with the most expensive wines. We may enjoy drinking, but we knew we weren’t going to be able to sample all 65 wines.

Yeah, I know what some of you wine connoisseurs are thinking: sip and spit. Well, I’m more a fan than a connoisseur. I think it was about an hour before we realized there were buckets at each table where you could dump out (I was so not going to spit out) the rest of the wine after a taste. But the more expensive selections poured much less than half a glass. Sometimes forcing (all right, no force involved, encouraging is perhaps a better word) us to have a taste of what else was offered at their table.

We sashayed from France (of course!) to Spain to the US to Italy, fortifying ourselves with free slices of bread in between countries.

I felt obligated by my Italian heritage to linger at the Italian table, where we discovered a sparkling red. Who knew? The only sparkling red I’d ever had, from my I’ll-drink-anything-cheap college days, was Andre Cold Duck, which isn’t quite as sweet as Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill, but pretty dang close. (Have I come a long way, or what?)

The Lini Lambrusco Rosso, was a little strange, almost a jarring combination, with a robust red mingling with bubbles. But not jarring enough for us to dump out our glasses. With red meat or a hearty lasagna, it might work, my friend proclaimed.

As the giddy glass refills continued, we came upon what would be our favorite (for that moment), Moet & Chandon Rose Imperial, and at $45, one of the more expensive. (Sadly, there was no Cristal at the event.) It was so good we were determined to buy a case at the one-time event discount price and split it.

But we’re fickle drinkers, and as we were ready to leave, we decided to try just one more. We ventured to a corner of the room we hadn’t yet explored. And stumbled, rather literally at that point, upon Lanson Black Label Brut, the official champagne of the royal family of England, we were told. Whatever. It rocked. In fact, we decided it was as good as the Moet or very nearly so, and a mere $29.99. My friend pointed out the price difference didn’t match the taste difference. The woman had a point. We had a new winner! We scratched the Moet off our order list.

As we donned our coats, we realized the wine glasses were ours to keep, so we licked them clean and shoved them in our bags. We gave a wistful glance to the ballroom as we left; new attendees were arriving and the party was set to go on for another hour without us. But we, hiccup, knew when it was time to go.

We happily waved goodnight to the check-in woman with the lousy eyesight, hugged our bags with their precious wine glass cargo and headed for our respective subways, visions of cases of champagne sashaying in our head all the way home. A fab, fab evening indeed!


Hello, my name is Alexa, and I’m a web-aholic. I can’t live without the Internet. Well, at least not happily. And I’m kinda shocked to admit it. I mean, I live in NYC. It’s a fab city; a happening city, full of fun and quirky stores and even more quirky characters.

I know I’m dating myself (which is probably illegal in many states) by saying this, but I remember typewriters, paper, pens and pencils. Yes, people, the rudimentary way of writing something that then had to be handed in person to someone or snail mailed. (I also remember not having to use “snail” to specify what type of mailing I meant.) But why deal with other human beings when you’ve got the web, right?

I was really sick and stuck home for weeks, which in a noncyber world would’ve sucked big time. Being in between bad relationships, how’s a NYC gal supposed to get medicine, food, pay bills? (My electric company wouldn’t care I was too sick to walk a few blocks to the post office.) But yay web and access to supermarkets, drugstores, restaurants and online bill pay! And, of course, girlie things like makeup and fancy undies to cheer me up, computer games to quell the boredom, patterns and fabric for sewing, books (the physical kind, still haven’t done the reader thing yet, that’ll be another column). Packages arrived on a daily basis – almost as good as Christmas.

Writing was not happening as I couldn’t concentrate well enough to string together coherent words. And I really missed blogging and my fiction writing. But at least I had emails with friends to keep me company.

When I finally ventured out into the real world again. I realized how much I had missed the most basic human contact (beyond delivery people), even just chatting with someone in line at a store. I decided not to order anything online for the next few weeks and do all my shopping in person: strolling supermarket isles, trolling bookstores, fingering fabric in person, trying on makeup samples, scouring hardware store shelves for just the right screw or hook. Plus, my computer had to go into the shop for days on end, so I really didn’t have a choice.

People, people and more people. Clerks and managers and fellow shoppers.

Cranky people, indifferent managers, rude staff, pushy-shovy customers.

Salespeople in small stores often pounced on me, while large stores often left me adrift without any help – huge, sprawling stores with sooooooo many choices it was dizzying. I needed a search function to narrow down my choices!

Yeah, it was nice to be out and about interacting with other humans, briefly. But, mainly, it was incredibly time-consuming and exhausting! And often fruitless – no, I don’t mean I had trouble finding fruit – I often couldn’t find what I was looking for or flat-out gave up in exasperation. And the prices were often way, way higher than online.

So, I learned an interesting lesson: Yes, it can be nice to interact with random strangers who have something in common with you by virtue of shopping at the same place. But the time I spent NOT finding what I was looking for, and the money I spent on subway fare was so not worth it. If I’m going to spend money and time to get somewhere, I want to end up meeting friends; going to a flea market; or some fab, funky store; seeing a band – not trolling through mega-stores and tiny boutiques with salivating salespeople.

So, don’t get between me and my computer or my brand-spanking new smart phone!