Updated: Sep 28
Andrea & I are homebodies, rarely interested in
going out. We made an exception for a
special concert in Boston.
My #1 rule for wine? If it tastes good, it IS good. Duke Ellington once said pretty much the
same thing about music. And to me and Andrea, André Rieu sounds really good.
Six months ago I was driving south on I-93 in Boston. The giant marquee of the TD Boston Garden is, by design, readily visible to the voluminous traffic as it announces upcoming Bruins and Celtics games as well as concerts. When I saw the announcement for André Rieu, I immediately called Andrea and set our plans in motion.
I have a peculiar relationship with music. I am devoid of any sense of rhythm, I cannot make my voice generate particular notes on command, and I cannot begin to read sheet music. And yet not only do I love all kinds of music from vintage country to baroque to blues to Euro-pop, I can also replay songs in my head so clearly that I pick up new details as I "listen." And I recently took an on-line test that pegged me a "near musical genius." (Pro-tip: never trust an online test.) Whatever the case, I know what I like as soon as I hear it.
André Rieu draws the kind of withering criticism that lifestyle snobs reserve for food, wine, and especially music that enjoy mass popularity... even if it is actually very good. He has been called, for instance, this generation's Lawrence Welk. It must be excruciatingly galling for elite classical musicians to know that André Rieu's Johann Strauss Orchestra is the only sitting orchestra in the world that pays its own way with ticket revenues unsupplemented by donations, tax dollars, and/or endowments. Furthermore, along with the occasional Taylor Swift tour and latest edition of Rolling Stones' seemingly endless farewell, André Rieu & Company consistently ranks among the highest grossing musical acts in the world every year. They do this by making their concerts fun and entertaining... I can't believe that this even needs to be said.
So... how did our big night play out?
On the day of the concert we drove two cars from Rochester to Amsterdam, where my work week would begin the next day. We dropped my vehicle off at my truck lot and continued toward Boston. A major accident delay on the Massachusetts Turnpike lengthened the trip to about ten hours, but we enjoyed each other's company on the way, knowing that we would still be well on time for the show.
Andrea and I never spend our own money on dinner out, and accordingly I had prepared a proper pre-concert feast to bring along in a cooler–
The recipe and technique for the Shrimp Cocktail is worth sharing. Simply put, purchase really good RAW shrimp (please do NOT buy them pre-cooked.) Cook them properly, and make your own cocktail sauce. I recommend wild-caught, USA-processed RAW white shrimp, which you might need to peel and de-vein yourself. If such shrimp are unavailable, at least try to find ethically-farmed RAW shrimp from a reputable store. Size 21-25 (that's the number of shrimp per pound) is perfect, especially for a large group. Go bigger, and the price gets exponentially higher; go smaller, and people will think you're a cheapskate. Since shrimp cocktail is often something of an indulgence for a festive occasion, I tend to err in the direction of larger when necessary.
It takes a bag of ice to properly cook shrimp. Bring a big pot of water to a furious boil, with a large pot of ice-water ready nearby. Boil the shrimp until they noticeably firm up, count to ten, and then quickly strain and immediately plunge them into the ice-water. You'll need to test one to make sure it's cooked through; if the shrimp meat is visibly underdone in the center, simply repeat the process, boiling for 10-15 seconds and re-using the ice-water. For the cocktail sauce, I mixed 1 part organic ketchup with 2 parts chili sauce (a variant of ketchup, really) and added hot sauce, lemon juice, and horseradish to taste.
We enjoyed the shrimp with a little prosciutto and salami and cheese, all washed down with nose-tingling and delicious Chandon Brut Rosé. And then we walked the across the street to the steps of the TD Boston Garden, where a crowd of excited people were making their way through the security and check-in procedure.
Like many of the attendees, these lovely ladies dressed to the nines for the concert.
An André Rieu concert begins with a parade and includes everything from bagpipers to operatic arias to gospel singers to up-and-coming child prodigies, all supported by Maestro Rieu's constant showmanship. A brief intermission halved the two full hours of entertainment, which was followed by SEVEN encores. The sellout crowd didn't want the evening to end.
Our conveniently-located hotel had a small bar-café on the first floor. Justifying the price of bar drinks with the savings on our pre-concert feast, we stopped in for a couple. A lone young woman was bartending as well as serving the entire busy room, obviously doing the job of at least two people. We communicated our awareness of the situation, which she greatly appreciated. She gave us terrific service under the circumstances and even took a moment to chat with us after most of the customers had left.
She is ten years older than she looks, athletic-looking like maybe a serious tennis player, and she works primarily as an aesthetician. She fills in at the café once a week or so, and often makes $600 in tips for a busy night's work. Her rent, however, is $3,000/month for a tiny studio apartment. Such are the trade-offs of city living.
Andrea and I agreed that we could never live like that... never live in a busy city with so much traffic and stress. Even though we've both lived in big cities (she in Manhattan, I in Boston) we're decidedly country folk.
But we had a wonderful time... in addition to the concert itself, everything was perfect... the hotel, the food, and the after-concert café time. We'll be watching for André Rieu's 2024 tour announcements. This might well become an annual tradition for us.