Hello I must be going #NewYorkStories

January 30, 2013

From the department of “so much to post and so little time”…

doug cook nicolas contenta

Still one more day to go and one more night before I get back to my girls in Texas.

My time here in the city has been wall-to-wall, back-to-back, and otherwise chiasmatic meetings, tastings, and meals.

I’ve got so much to post but it will all have to wait until I get back to the place where I belong.

One of the highlights of this trip was tasting with Doug Cook (above, left) and Nicolas Contenta (right), my friends, countrymen, and fellow sufferers of Italo- and oenophilia.

Thanks to everyone who came to the show on Saturday and thanks to everyone who’s taken time to taste and chat with me.

And in the meantime, hello I must be going…


At I Trulli, meatballs and the whole mishpucha #NewYorkStories

January 28, 2013

marzovilla family

When I arrived last night at I Trulli in Manhattan for an aperitivo before dinner, the whole Marzovilla mispucha was just sitting down for dinner.

From 3-6 p.m., family matriarch Dora and her son Nicola had served guests the same menu that they serve at Dora’s house for Sunday dinner: all the classic antipasti, like homemade gardiniera and sottaceti, housemade cavatelli and orecchiette, braciole and meatballs…

I wish I would have known!

valentini trebbiano 2007

I couldn’t resist 2007 Valentini Trebbiano by the glass at a great price (Nicola imports it so he has the best pricing I’ve ever seen on these wines, among my all-time favorites).

panzerotti

Paired brilliantly with Dora’s panzerotto, stuffed with chard and anchovies. So good…

cavatelli new york

And of course, for dinner, I couldn’t have just one of the pastas so I asked the waiter to prepare a tris of cavatelli with broccoli raab, orecchiette with rabbit ragù, and malloreddus with classic ragù.

I love and have always loved the restaurant and for my money, it’s the best housemade pasta in the City (and great Nebbiolo list).


Reynard in Williamsburg pretty freakin groovy #NewYorkStories

January 28, 2013

reynards brooklyn wine list

The brunch crowd had only just begun to roll in on Sunday when I arrived at Reynard at the Wythe Hotel, the much talked-about Natural wine junkie hangout (that set into motion a series of posts last year on wine lists that silver-haired dudes can’t understand).

The clientele grew more cosmopolitan as the room filled up with hotel guests and a hip Williamsburg eisteddfod.

But when I got there, there were just three ironically bearded,* heavily tattooed men sitting at my corner of the bar. They were reading books. In the case of the man sitting next to me, he was reading Orwell (and although he did tell me that his omelette was “good” when I inquired, he was otherwise uninterested in engaging in conversation). Two of the men wore knit caps.

puzelat cot we trust

I ordered a glass of the In Côt We Trust by Puzelat and the burger (rare), as I marveled at what is a dream list for people like me and my crowd, folks who love and seek out Natural wines from France and grower Champagnes. If I still lived in New York, I’d probably move to Williamsburg just so I could hang out there regularly: the space is Parisian bistro, the food was fairly priced and well prepared, and my server was professional, polite, and informed (he also had an ironic beard and a lot of tattoos).

reynards burger brooklyn

My only lament would be the list’s Francophilia. I only spotted two Italians (the Coste Piane Prosecco [Colfondo] in magnum would be a great bottle for a party of four or more).

And I wonder if the people who dine there truly appreciate the extraordinary list. Does Côt pair well with Orwell? I guess I’ll never know.

wythe hotel brooklyn

When I stepped outside and I headed back to the train, I found myself in Lena Dunham’s gaze, as she looked down on me from a oversized billboard for her show “Girls.”

As I aimlessly wandered the streets of Williamsburg, amid tourists who followed maps in guides to the hippest locales, I couldn’t help but wonder, does life imitiate art or art imitiate life?

Aaaa, it doesn’t really matter, does it? As long as the Côt is crunchy and the burger juicy.

More New York stories coming… Heading to the Slow Wine Tasting later today at the old Fernet Branca building…

* What’s an “ironic beard”? It’s a beard that was not grown and groomed in earnest. Rabbis, for example, have “earnest beards.”


Scenes from a rock show on the Lower East Side

January 27, 2013

celine dijon

Merci bien to everyone who came out to the Nous Non Plus show last night in NYC!

Wasn’t Céline (above) amazing?

from the stage

It was great to see so many old friends and play to a packed house. Great to feel the electricity of my telecaster turned up loud through a Fender Twin.

nous non plus best french rock band ever

Special thanks to talent buyer Jasper, who used to book us back in the heyday of our Lower East Side days. Man, when I saw you at sound check, so many crazy memories flooded my mind… Thanks for still believing in our music.

If you missed the show, please check us out in Austin Feb. 9, Los Angeles Feb. 14, or San Francisco Feb. 15.

Buona domenica, yall…


Alice’s restaurant & Natural salsa (?), gig 2nite in NYC on LES

January 26, 2013

The Nous Non Plus (my band) gig tonight at Fontana’s on the Lower Eastside NYC starts early tonight. We take the stage at 9 p.m. Please come to the show!

ostertag riesling

Carrying on a tradition that stretches back to my years living in the City (1997-2007), I spent the first evening of my NYC sojourn at Alice’s restaurant, where she prepared what will be the most wholesome meal of my trip (a good way to start a week of eating and tasting my way through the city; a lot of crazy restaurants lined up).

Alice gave the Ostertag Riesling the thumbs up. I thought it was pretty nifty, too.

alice soup

The main event was a vegetable-stock based soup (Alice doesn’t eat meat). The food at her house is always great but I really go for the kibitz.

amazona salsa roja aji

She recommended raising the heat with some salsa. Natural salsa? Probably not but delicious nonetheless.

clos roche blanche

Main course was accompanied by an old favorite, a wine that Alice turned me on to many, many years ago…

Stay tuned for NYC stories and please come see the show tonight if you’re in the city!


The Whaling Bar, temple to political incorrectness & backdrop of my childhood, to close

January 26, 2013

whaling bar la valencia

Above: Friend Jayne Battle of Jayne’s Gastropub in San Diego shares our pain in saying goodbye to the beloved Whaling Bar at La Valencia hotel in La Jolla, where I grew up.

With the thought of its closing burning it my mind, it’s painful for me to explain the role that the Whaling Bar played in my life.

It was the setting of my childhood, the place where we went to eat with my grandparents who lived in La Jolla and my grandparents who came from Indiana to visit with us.

It’s the one restaurant where my grandma Jean (my mother’s mother) loved to go. And it was the restaurant where, as a six-year-old, I watched in amazement as my zaidi, Rabbi Parzen (my father’s adoptive father), ordered every dessert on the menu, including “Baked Alaska” and “Napoleon.”

whaling bar mural

Above: The theme of the Whaling Bar is — you guessed it — is whaling. Click the image (take from the hotel’s website) to enlarge. The entrance is decorated with a handsome collection of carved and engraved whale tusks. Can you think of anything more politically incorrect? Well, yes, I know, you can. But they sure don’t make them like this anymore.

It’s where Mrs. Lipschitz — grandmother of Marc Lipschitz, a Hebrew school friend of mine — eats dinner every night (she lives in the hotel).

And it’s one of the first places where I took Tracie P the first time I brought her to La Jolla.

It’s also where Raymond Chandler drank during one of his most productive periods (I grew up in the house next door to the house where he lived, although he was long gone by the time my family moved to San Diego).

Here’s what my friend David Klowden, a San Diego-based writer, posted on his Facebook the other day:

    Dear Friends–Please join me on Saturday, Feb. 2nd for cocktails at 8pm at the venerable Whaling Bar in the Hotel La Valencia in La Jolla on the last night of its existence. This bar is where the greatest hard-boiled noir writer of them all, Raymond Chandler, hung out a lot during the 1940s & 50s during the time he wrote The Long Goodbye, Little Sister & Playback. Famous folks like Gregory Peck & Dr. Seuss liked drinking in here. Its well-preserved & always empty dining room has been one of my favorite secret writing spots for years. I hope you can be there to help me give the gorgeous little bar a proper send-off before it heads to oblivion so Ray Chandler can have a gimlet there once again.

And here’s one of the many photos he’s posted recently:

whaling bar la jolla

If you happen to make your way to La Jolla before it closes, be sure to pop in and see the room for yourself and have a cocktail.

It’s one of those wonderful rooms, a trace of another era in Americana…


Why @NousNonPlus is huge in Slovenia (warning: contains nudity, profanity & rock ‘n’ roll)

January 24, 2013

A song I co-wrote, one of my favorites, from our 2005 self-titled album was used for a 2007 Mobitel campaign. When we performed in Ljubljana, the kids literally ate us up. It was fantastic.

In the fall of 2005, the album was a top 10 college radio record for four weeks, peaking at #6.

One of the things that gives me the greatest reward in life is when kids make videos to our songs. This is one of my favorites (and it is REALLY raunchy so be advised).

Come see my band play in NYC (Jan. 26), Austin (Feb. 9), LA (Feb. 14), or SF (Feb. 15). Click here for details.

brigitte bardot


Dolcetto and Brigitte Bardot’s lover

January 24, 2013

docletto color wine grape

Above: Note the bright purple hue of the wine in the glass, a classic expression of traditional style Dolcetto. Click image for a higher resolution version of the photo.

Conversation yesterday afternoon with Einaudi scion Matteo Sardagna began with a tasting of his family’s wines but ended with topics of much loftier import.

As it turns out, before he became a family man, Matteo spent some years living in Buenos Aires with Gigi Rizzi, the legendary Italian 1960s playboy who became tabloid fodder after he had a much publicized liaison with Brigitte Bardot.

gigi rizzi brigitte bardot

Image via Gigi Rizzi’s MySpace.

How did we get from Dolcetto di Dogliani to Brigitte Bardot and Gigi Rizzi?

When I learned that Matteo would be in NYC this weekend, I invited him — of course — to see our show there (my band Nous Non Plus is playing at Fontana’s on the Lower East Side this Saturday, Jan. 26).

He asked me what kind of music we play. And when I told him yé-yé pop and indy rock inspired by 1960s France, he proudly announced that he was an intimiate friend of Gigi (and I have to confess that I was captivated by his tales of Gigi; Céline Dijon and I are already working on a song about Gigi, whom, according to Matteo, also slept with Alain Delon’s wife during the — ahem — peak of his fame).

mark sayre sommelier

Above: My buddy and top Austin sommelier Mark Sayre (left) and Matteo yesterday at Trio where Mark runs one of our favorite local wine programs.

Matteo was in town to promote his wines (and was nearly devoured by the Austin ladies who received him the night before at a dinner in his honor; “they were a little aggressive,” he said with a modestly wry smile).

As we tasted his wines (and before I discovered his association with Gigi Rizzi, whose name alone could be the subject of a doctoral thesis on 1960s sexuality), I grilled Matteo with questions about his great-grandfather, Luigi Einaudi, the second president of the Italian Republic, iconic twentieth century economist, anti-fascist, and winemaker.

His interest in winemaking, said Matteo of Luigi, was borne out of a childhood of poverty.

“My great-grandfather wanted to own land,” he told me. When he was in his twenties, “you were no one if you did not own land.”

In the years that followed the second world war, Luigi fulfilled his dream and started a farm and winery on his estate.

But he never managed to obtain a parcel in the famed Cannubi vineyard in Langa that he so coveted.

“He tried to buy [a parcel] in Cannubi,” recounted Matteo, “but when they found out that a president was behind this purchase, they raised the price.”

Ultimately, in the late 1990s, the family did purchase a substantial holding in Cannubi (and produces a vineyard-designated Barolo made from Cannubi).

(Einaudi is one of the wineries who are battling the Marchesi di Barolo’s misguided attempt to expand the designation.)

Matteo concurred when I noted that Einaudi’s wines fall somewhere in the middle of the modern-traditional spectrum.

My favorite in the flight was the entry-level Dolcetto (above), classic in style, low in alcohol and with bright fruit and acidity, juicy and food friendly (such a great hamburger and fries wine).

You never know what to expect when you meet someone like Matteo, a winery CEO from one of Italy’s most famous families (whose fortune comes from the industrial piping business his grandfather founded).

Dolcetto and Brigitte Bardot? I’ll drink to that any day of the week…

Come see my band play in NYC (Jan. 26), Austin (Feb. 9), LA (Feb. 14), or SF (Feb. 15). Click here for details.

brigitte bardot


A DOC/G resource and fascinating historic document on Prosecco @ItalianWineGuy @Bele_Casel

January 23, 2013

italian wines 1960sAlfonso’s English-language posts on the evolving state of Italian DOCGs remain the top resource for the most up-to-date list of officially sanctioned and guaranteed appellations in Italy.

I highly recommend it to you (and his excellent blog in general).

This morning I came across a DOC/G resource that I’d never seen before and wanted to share it here.

It’s called QuattroCalici.it (Four Chalices). Although it’s cumbersome and a bit clunky, it is a fantastic Italian-language resource for the DOC/G system and includes dates of creation and amendments as well as links to overviews for each disciplinare (appellation regulation). I’m not sure if it’s as up-to-date as Alfonso’s list but I’ve found it to be really useful.

Here’s the link.

It appeared in a Google search this morning as I was looking for historic information on the Prosecco DOC/G.

I was working on a post for winemaker Luca Ferraro’s blog, where I have posted my transcription of an excerpt from a wonderful and fascinating document entitled “A Description of Venetian Wines Given by Professor Italio [sic] Cosmo at a Cafe Royal Italian Tasting, 1959.”

This delicious nugget has been gleaned from T.A. Layton’s Wines of Italy (1961).

Here’s the link.

Buona lettura!


i know it’s only orange wine but i like it

January 23, 2013

best orange wine

Man, I had the shittiest day yesterday. People can be so fucked up sometimes.

There are moments when you’re on the road for a client, missing your wife and your daughter so damned much, and you’re like, wtf, I’m busting my ass for this shit?

By the time I got back to Austin from Houston, I was tired and depressed (AND I had to go out again to cover an event for another client).

Luckily, I made it home in time to kiss Georgia P goodnight: one smile and one kiss from her made it all worthwhile.

And when I finally got home around 9 p.m. and could finally take off my jacket and dress shoes and wash Houston’s swamp off of my skin, all I wanted was a groovy glass of wine.

And so we opened the 2011 Roussanne Stone Crusher by Donkey & Goat: Natural, orange, oxidized, crunchy, salty, and tannic (paired with roast chicken).

I couldn’t help but think of all the people who have been hating on orange wines over the last few weeks. (Richard Betts writing for Forbes.com quoting the Hose Master? Give me a fucking break.)

Why people get so freaked out about Natural wine, about orange wine, about wine that the rest of us like to drink… I’ll never understand.

I don’t go about telling the rich people how much their wine sucks.

Yesterday, someone tried to impress me with a bottle of The Prisoner and I simply replied, “well, it’s not really my speed.”

To the haters, I say, I know, it’s only orange wine, but I like it.

If I could win ya, if I could sing ya
A love song so divine
Would it be enough for your cheating heart
If I broke down and cried? If I cried?


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