A Whimsical Night Under the Grand Chapiteau

Cirque du Soleil is not the circus experience most of us grew up with. For a few hours, it's a magical, almost surreal experience for all your senses. The Cirque's latest show, Kooza, has been in Houston since July, the expansive grounds of the Sam Houston Race Park once again playing host to the Grand Chapiteau. The final Kooza show is September 9.

I hadn't been to a show in years, and when I was offered the opportunity to go, the kid inside of me rejoiced in seeing the beautiful costumes, the high-flying acrobatics, and tricks and treats. This time my experience would be heightened by the invitation to indulge in the Tapis Rouge tent. From the outside, the plain white tent gave no hint of what was inside, but here Clos du Bois would be the gatekeeper to a whimsical night of food and drink.

The dark, romantic tent, a combination of Moulin Rouge and a Tim Burton film, was set up with food stations offering a range of hors d'œuvres from cheeses, to shrimp and crab cocktail served in tiny martini glasses, to roast beef sandwiches carved as you watch. The servers, in their own inspired costumes, came around with passed hors d'œuvres, each presented in a playful way. Crunchy, sweet and sour chicken, wrapped in cotton candy, stuck out from underneath a wooden chest, ahi tuna was offered in Chinese soup spoons, and skewers of shrimp jutted out from whole pineapples propped on sticks. It was a show in itself.

The real reason to be in the tent was to sample the Clos du Bois' Rouge Red Blend and to meet Katie Lee, the TV host, food critic, author and, that night, the brand ambassador. She worked the room with ease, taking time to speak with everyone about her involvement with Clos du Bois, her love for Cirque du Soleil and her new novel.

The wine itself was wonderful -- a red wine in the heat of summer is the last thing I want, but the Clos du Bois Rouge can be served slightly chilled and can be paired with just about everything. Fruity and aromatic, with an aftertaste that just hints of chocolate, it complemented all the food served that evening. Retailing at $15, it's a wine I would take to any occasion.

As I was getting lost in all the fun in the red tent, an announcement sounded that the show was starting. The fun had only just begun. The show was as fanciful as you'd expect but surprisingly raunchy and humorous. After being transported for an hour into the imagination of a child, we once again were able to delight in the tent, this time with chocolate fountains, cookies, caramel corn and, of course, more wine. At the end of the show, the audience was still buzzing, and excitement was still in the air as we all exited from the enchanting night under the big top.

If you ever get the opportunity to enjoy the Tapis Rouge tent, go.

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