Monday, July 29, 2013

Patrick Dennis: An Extraordinary Butler!

Miss Helen brought something to my attention I want to share with you tonight. Did you ever read the novel Auntie Mame? Or perhaps see the Broadway stage adaptation Mame, starring Rosalind Russell?

Later there was a Broadway musical starring Angela Lansbury, widely known on TV for Murder She Wrote. Or maybe you've seen the film adaptation and its many reruns on television, starring Lucille Ball, known on TV for I love Lucy. (Hollywood gossip has it that Ball got the part because of her wider fame at the time, not because of her voice, and the film didn't do well at the box office.)

In any case, the book was written by Patrick Dennis, and it was one of the best-selling novels of the 20th Century. On the New York Times bestseller list for two years, it sold over two million copies in five different languages - sometimes a thousand copies a day flying off book shelves.

But something happened to Patrick Dennis (which was his pen name, by the way) and he stopped writing altogether. No one really knows why for sure.

Then he started to use his real name, Edward Everett Tanner, and decided to become a butler. He took a job with Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald's, and Kroc would later say he and his family had no idea their butler was the world famous author.

Patrick Dennis/ Edward Tanner died in 1976, and his secrets went along with him.

His original manuscripts reside to this day with both Yale and Boston Universities.

Truly extraordinary, is all I can say.

Thank you for stopping by this evening.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Champagne Glasses: Coupes, Flutes and Tulips

While I think you'll agree that my trashy friends serving champagne in a Styrofoam cup is better than no champagne at all, you're probably aware that serving it in this manner might be considered gauche in some circles - which of course could expose you to gossip and possibly even scandal.

To avoid this potential ostracism you might want to consider having some proper stemware on hand for those occasions when Styrofoam just won't do. But even so, you still may not be able to please everyone. You see, there's three main types of stemware designed to enhance the sensory experience that champagne has to offer - not just taste and aroma but also visual.

The Champagne Coupe, popular back in the 1930's thru the 70's is the traditional style seen in old movies and sometimes modern-day weddings. While many people are fond of this broad-bowl style and wouldn't give it up for anything, the main objection is the wide surface area which allows the carbonation and all the bubbles to dissipate much too quickly. Nowadays you mostly see this type of glass being used for Margaritas and daiquiris.

The Champagne Flute, on the other hand, is tall and thin compared to the coupe. The smaller surface area keeps the bubbles and flavor from escaping too quickly, not to mention the pleasing sight of watching the bubbles rise all the way from the bottom of the glass to the top. By far this style has become the most popular for the past few decades, not just in private homes but in bars and restaurants as well. No doubt the easier storage has something to do with it.

The Champagne Tulip is also fairly popular. Tall like the flute, it too keeps the bubbles from evaporating too quickly, but it's larger at the top than the flutes. Some aficionados prefer this, since it allows more space for the nose to get closer to the aroma. Shaped like a tulip with a bit of a belly, this glass resembles a white wine glass, to the point where some homes and restaurants use them interchangeably - champagne being a white wine in origin, after all.

Once you've decided which style suits you best, or at least which one would bring the least criticism, then Wedgwood, Waterford, Riedel and Baccarat are good places to get started. In this house there's enough Baccarat flutes to serve a decent-size party. At roughly a hundred-and-fifty dollars per glass you don't want to drop a tray of these when getting them out of storage.

But you need not spend a fortune, by the way. My own flutes are from Pottery Barn - a set of six for about twelve dollars per glass. Maybe they're not crystal, but you'll have to admit it's a step up from Styrofoam.

Hope you're having a nice summer, and thanks for stopping by.