On our first date, I brought Lieve a box of Godiva chocolates. I had the feeling I would be buying more in the future, so I picked up a “Chocolates Rewards Club” card. It is the only card I have ever worn out. And I’ve worn it out twice.
One benefit is that I receive emails for special offers and events. A few weeks ago I received an email for an event in Manhattan, at the Godiva store in Rockefeller Plaza. Sommelier Marc Stroobandt would be hosting a beer and chocolate tasting featuring Stella Artois, a beer brewed in Lieve’s hometown of Leuven. I forwarded the email to her, but really didn’t think we had the time to go up to Manhattan on a weeknight. It was funny, because there was a special gift of two Stella Chalices, and I’ve been trying to get the free chalices through Stella, but every time I try I miss the offer.
The other day, when I was mapping out my schedule for the week, Lieve said I had an appointment Thursday night. I couldn’t recall what it was, and all she would say was “It’s a surprise”. I didn’t press, I like surprises. Sometimes she’ll get tickets to a concert or make reservations for a dinner, we’ve both surprised each other. When I was timing out the evening on Thursday she mentioned “We’re going to Rockefeller Plaza”, at which point I was fairly sure that we were going to the tasting.
The key to this story is Belgium. With a population of just over eleven million, it is half as populous as the New York Metropolitan area. running into other Belgians is not quite as rare as you might guess. Lieve met one of her friends in England, where a mutual friend had done the “Oh, this is Lieve from Belgium, you must know her” bit. The friend then moved to the states, and was able to help Lieve locate a place to live when she moved here because she had already settled in Princeton.
“Sir” Stroobandt, (holding an honorary knighthood by the Chevalerie du Fourquet des Brasseurs of the Confederation of Belgian Brewers and the title of Commander in the Order of De Roze Olifant(Pink Elephant)) took an immediate fondness to Lieve (she introduced herself in Flemish), and spent a good deal of time with us through the evening. He asked if I spoke Flemish, and when I said I was learning he replied with the deadpan humour of Belgium with “Don’t Bother”. He gave us a special Stella bottle opener and a bottle of Leffe “for later”, then introduced Lieve to the crowd as a “Special Guest”. He signed our booklet “Making Belgium Proud in NYC”.
After introducing herself, which is something a little out of character for Lieve, she said to me “We’re (I love the way she includes me) probably the only Belgians here”. Not so. We met another couple, Elisabeth, from Brugge, and Go, from Japan. We spent most of the evening together, talking about our various travels and cultural experiences. Sommelier Marc joined us between presentations.
We picked up some interesting information. The new Stella Cidre isn’t available in Belgium, but we might find it here in the states, the apples used come from Washington State. The most interesting thing to look forward to is a multimedia event that will provide the sights, sounds, and smells of Belgium during a special dinner. It will be premiering in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, and is still in the production phase. Sommelier Marc took my card and promised to keep us up to date on the progress and dates for the event, expect to hear more once it takes place. And, we may be featured in the Godiva events section, we had a photograph taken very carefully by the Godiva rep, similar to the one at the top but with all our glasses facing the right way.
It was a wonderful evening on several levels. It’s always nice when Lieve does something spontaneous, it was a great event, the chocolate and beer were nice and I always enjoy meeting new people. In a week that wasn’t too sunny, this was a high point.