due angioletti and a favorite under-$20 Bordeaux Blanc

July 31, 2013

lila jane one week one day

That’s Lila Jane, one week and one day old, one of our little angels.

She and Tracie P are both doing well and other than some soreness, nursing has been relatively easy. We expect her to regain her birthweight by Monday, when she will be two weeks old, without any problem.

She’s starting to open her eyes and have a look around.

Isn’t she beautiful? :)

rock star

Georgia P had a fun visit with Aunt B and Niece B yesterday.

She loves to dig through my percussion bin in the office/studio. Her current favorite instrument is the wood blocks but the tambourine remains a trusty standby (even if just to stand on).

chateau ducasse

Last night, we paired a bottle of Château Ducasse 2012 Bordeaux Blanc with chicken tacos last night.

The fruit in the 2012 was a bit brighter than last year (perhaps because of a greater percentage of Sauvignon Blanc in the blend with Sémillon?).

But, man, this wine is always a winner at our house: fresh, clean, focused, with low alcohol and balanced acidity, under-$20 in our market. Great wine and the label looks cool to boot.

All in all, I gotta say, life could be worse…


Serious buttload of wine @Texsom preview @EatingOurWords @HoustonPress

July 30, 2013

courtney perry

Image by Courtney Perry.

This morning, the Houston Press posted my preview of Texsom, the annual Texas Sommelier Conference, held in Dallas, now in its ninth year.

Reviewing my notes and composing the post, I remembered the first time I learned about Texsom: five years ago, before I’d ever been to Texas, Alfonso suggested that I attend so that I could connect with him and Tracie P.

It was held in Austin that year (the only year, I believe). And I didn’t attend, although I did come that month to Texas to take Tracie P on a dinner and dancing honkytonking date (we went to Polvo’s for dinner and the Continental Club to see Redd Voelkaert and Hey Bale… and I never looked back).

It’s been remarkable to follow Texsom’s evolution.

In 2008, when I first came here, it was still a homegrown, locally focused event that gave young wine professionals the chance to attend seminars and tastings with top sommeliers.

Today, it’s a major, nationally-recognized event that attracts the best and the brightest from across the U.S.

It’s the “little sommelier conference that could” and I wrote about it today for the Houston Press.


Nero d’Avola icon, best NYC pizza in ATX, & shoutout from @ItalianWineGuy 4 @SottoLA

July 29, 2013

best nero d'avola

Time is ever so precious these days as we juggle life at home with a newborn and a toddler.

Wine isn’t much of a focus at home right now and when it is, it’s poured from a bottle that’s been sitting in our literally overflowing sample bin.

On Saturday night, we opened this superb bottle of Feudo Montoni 2008 Nero d’Avola Vrucara (vineyard designation) that my friend and LA-based importer Ramin had sent me (this wine has been a great lot for us at Sotto in Los Angeles where I curate the wine program with my colleague Rory).

The wine was rich and unctuous in its mouthfeel and its acidity danced atop its woodsy, earthy flavors and ripe red fruit aromas.

Montoni’s wines are among the greatest expressions of Nero d’Avola, a grape variety much misunderstood in this country in my view.

With so much inexpensive, easy-drinking Nero d’Avola coming from Vittoria and from the northern coast of the island (a wonderful trend that I applaud), we forget that historically, inland-raised mountain Nero d’Avola, like this iconic wine from Cammarata, represents the variety’s aristocratic heritage.

We loved it and drank it over the course of two nights. At the second tasting, the fruit had really begun to emerge, more forcefully but without dominating the savory flavors of the wine, and the acidity was still popping.

Btw, you can read about Vrucara’s pedigree and Montoni’s vinification process in a Google books preview of Bill Nesto MW and Frances Di Savino’s excellent monograph The World of Sicilian Wine (UC Press 2013).

And I wrote about the ubiquitous however erroneous Bacci attribution here.

What did we pair it with?

best new york pizza austin

To my knowledge, there’s only one restaurant in greater Austin that makes real New York-style pizza.

It’s called Reale’s Café and it’s about thirty minutes north of where we live.

On Saturday, I took Georgia P up that way to visit a splash pad and so I stopped on our way back to pick up a pie.

The pairing was as decadent as it was delicious. And while Georgia P is a little young for NYC-style pizza (she had wholewheat pasta elbows tossed with chopped spinach, butter, and Parmigiano Reggiano), mommy and daddy treated themselves to an affordable indulgence on Saturday night with a great bottle of wine.

In other news…

sotto

Our wine list at Sotto got a shout-out yesterday from the Italian Wine Guy aka On the Wine Trail in Italy aka Alfonso Cevola in a post entitled “Italian Restaurants in America with Great Italian Wine Lists.”

We didn’t make his “top three” list but what a thrill be mentioned together with wine professionals who have inspired and informed me and my career! Friends Shelley Lindgren, Bobby Stuckey, and Roberto Paris, are each pioneers in their own right and taste-makers in our world of Italian wine.

Tracie P and I don’t see or hear much from Alfonso these days. Between winning international awards, traveling the “wine trail,” and his myriad speaking engagements, he doesn’t seem to make it to Austin as much as he used to.

That makes us sad but we know it can’t be easy to balance all the great stuff he’s got going on. We’re really happy for him and his much deserved success.

And I was thrilled that Sotto made his “short list” of Italian wine list in the U.S.

Thanks, Alfonso! And many wishes for your continued success!


Lila Jane’s first weekend at home

July 29, 2013

lila jane july 28

At 7:23 this evening, our beautiful, precious Lila Jane will be one week old.

All things considered, we’ve had a relatively serene first week at home with her.

Nursing is going really well and she should easily regain her birth weight by next Monday (an important milestone in gauging the success of breast feeding).

little toes

Tracie P has been doing a great job of nourishing her: at this point, she feeds “on demand” and Tracie P is a 24-hour latteria (dairy bar).

Daddy can’t do much but try to keep the two of them as comfortable as possible and so these days I’m on kitchen duty (last night’s dinner: carne asada, eggplant rounds fried in extra-virgin olive oil, romaine and radicchio chioggiotto salad, and white rice cooked in chicken stock with Parmigiano Reggiano folded in) and I’m in charge of Georgia P’s recreation schedule.

Yesterday morning found us at Central Market park, climbing up and down (and up and down) the stairs.

And yesterday afternoon after lunch, we visited the Austin Children’s Museum, which really isn’t a museum at all. But it is a wonderful video-free haven for parents: its many rooms/spaces are filled with child-safe toys and activities that engage the children and encourage them to interact with one another.

We had a blast (and I highly recommend it)…

Understandably, Georgia P is still having some trouble adjusting to our new family dynamic and the attention we need to devote to Lila Jane during this tender, delicate period in her life, when all she does is nurse, poop/pee, and sleep.

But Friday morning, when she and I got back from our visit to the playground, she ran up to Lila Jane’s swing and said “hi.”

Then she paused and said, “baby” (which she pronounces bébé).

And then came an “I love you” that brought tears to our eyes as we watched on.

I’m so proud of Georgia P and even in the wake of some tough emotional moments, she never loses her ability to bounce back with her signature sparkle that makes me fall in love over and over again.

love of my life

Thanks everyone for all the texts, emails, cards, and wishes on social media. It’s so wonderful to know that your rooting for us and that you share our joy.


One poopy, one peepee, and please pass the Bollinger

July 25, 2013

lila jane

“That’s some really good Champagne,” said my father-in-law Rev. B aka pawpaw as we sat down for a dinner of crock-pot pork loin, potatoes, and salad prepared for us by Mrs. B aka nanna last night, our first at home from the hospital with Lila Jane (above).

“Man, that’s a stinky toot!” were the next words out of his mouth.

seton hospital maternity

The hospital discharged us just after noon yesterday and as you can imagine, we were eager to get home.

Seton Healthcare Family, where Georgia P was born in 2011, took great care of us and the nurses were fantastic.

But there’s nothing like the prodding and poking of newborn care to make you long for the comforts of home.

texas bbq comfort food

Georgia P is doing great as she adjusts to her new family life.

But when watching mommy nurse Lila P became a little too much to bear, pawpaw and I took her out to Stiles Switch BBQ (around the corner from our house) for her favorite meal of chopped beef and macaroni and cheese (Texas style).

The folks behind the counter treated her to a little Blue Bell ice cream for dessert. And by the time we took her home for her bath, she was smiling and laughing again.

bollinger champagne

After we bathed and put Georgia P to bed, we paired our homecoming dinner (thanks again, nanna!) with a bottle of Bollinger Special Cuvée that I’d been saving especially for the occasion of celebrating the Parzen family expansion.

Although we generally reserve Bollinger for special occasions, we nearly always serve it with a meal.

It showed beautifully with the salty/sweet soy sauce/honey jus of Mrs. B’s slow-cooked pork loin.

Brooklyn Guy, who often reminds us of Champagne’s wonderful food-friendliness, would surely approve.

pawpaw and lila

Caring for a newborn is always a challenge. And having a busy toddler in the house adds to the mayhem.

But we’ve been so lucky to have Mrs. B and Rev. B (above) here to help us. Beyond Tracie P and me, they’re the only family members that Georgia P feels at home with. They stayed at home with Georgia P while we were at the hospital.

We’re truly blessed to have such loving grandparents in our lives.

Thanks again to everyone for all the thoughts and wishes. Childbirth is such an intense and emotional experience. To know that you’re all rooting for us means so much and it really makes a difference! :)

Today we’re also thinking of and sending lots of Texas love to friends Gabriella and Ryan Opaz who just had their baby a few hours ago in Porto, Portugal.

With the memories of our childbirth fresh in our minds, we are with you, Gabriella and Ryan! Mazel tov!


Natural wine, natural childbirth? (thanks for all the wishes; here are some photos)

July 24, 2013

georgia meets lila

Above: Yesterday — the day after Tracie P’s narcotic-free labor — Georgia P (right) met her sister Lila (left) for the first time at the hospital where both girls were delivered. That’s pawpaw (my father-in-law, Rev. B) in the middle.

“The word natural,” when paired with wine, “is nebulous and ill defined. Nobody knows exactly what it means,” wrote Eric the Red (a friend and writer I admire greatly) in the Times last year.

“The only thing many natural-wine partisans agree on,” he observed, “is that they abhor industrial practices in agriculture and the technological and chemical manipulations of wine.”

No matter where you stand on the issue (and for the record, my wife Tracie P and I are unapologetic and unabashed “natural-wine partisans”), it’s hard to argue with Eric’s point: a clear-cut, widely embraced Natural wine manifesto or creed has yet to emerge, even though writers like our beloved friend Alice Feiring have delivered brilliant and thrilling essays and monographs on the ethos of “Natural wine.”

It is a movement in fieri. I know that it exists and that I like it. But I can’t quite tell you exactly what it is (yet).

first contact birth

Above: Watching Tracie P deliver our second daughter without the use of narcotics was one of the most intense and terrifying experiences of my life. It was terrible, awful, and literally gut-wrenching. By the time it was over, I was trembling and sobbing. I love her so much — so very much — for giving our family this gift.

Natural childbirth, on the other hand, is a historical movement that emerged in the 1930s thanks to British obstetrician Grantly Dick-Read, who coined the term.

Here’s the definition, with attribution, according to the Oxford English Dictionary:

    natural childbirth n. childbirth in which the mother-to-be uses methods of relaxation and physical cooperation with the natural process of childbirth (advocated by G. D. Read in 1933); (now also) childbirth with minimal medical or technological intervention; a birth of this kind.

(On an unrelated note, while researching this post, I discovered an early appearance of “natural wine” in print. In the 1888 Encyclopaedia Britannica, the editors used the expression natural wine as a counterpoint to “gallisized wine,” where gallisized denotes a wine that has been produced “by the infusion of sugar, acid and water” with grape must [Oxford English Dictionary]: “Science affords a means of distinguishing a gallisized from a natural wine,” they wrote. The term gallisization comes from French Chemist Louis Gall who invented the method.)

relief joy

Above: Lila P’s delivery wasn’t achieved entirely without the aid of contemporary medicine. But Tracie P did manage to give birth without the use of narcotics — our primary goal.

When we became pregnant with Lila Jane Parzen, our second daughter (born on Monday of this week), Tracie P began to research natural childbirth because she wanted — above all — to increase her chances of successfully breastfeeding.

Although Tracie P did successfully breastfeed Georgia P, our first daughter (now nineteen months old), it was initially challenging and Tracie P ascribed the issue, in part, to the epidural anesthesia applied in our first delivery.

Together, we decided to have childbirth that was as natural as possible. Ultimately, our doctor did employ medical techniques to induce our labor (because we were one week past our due date and induction reduced certain risks to both child and mother). And all the while, had something gone wrong, we would have had the support and aid of the hospital at our disposal to improve our chances for the delivery of a healthy baby girl.

But in the end, Tracie P — whom I now consider a super human — did manage to give birth without any narcotics. And I’m happy to report that nursing — on day two — is already moving along smoothly with a healthy latch and numerous poopy diapers.

congratulations

Above: We couldn’t be more pleased with the results. And we’ll be taking beautiful Lila Jane Parzen home later today. Yesterday, Georgia P and Lila P TANDEM NURSED! And even though Georgia P isn’t exactly “thrilled” by the arrival of her younger sibling, she gently and lovingly patted Lila on the head yesterday when they nursed together. It was magical.

In the sleep-deprived wake of our miracle, I couldn’t help but think about what Alice Feiring once told me when I asked her to define Natural wine.

Natural wine, she said, was “an intention,” a goal to which a winemaker may aspire.

We certainly didn’t achieve an absolute “natural childbirth.” But we employed elements of its “intention” to arrive closer to our achieved goal of narcotic-free delivery.

What epistemological implications may we infer from all of this?

Honestly, I am so tired and emotionally drained at this point that I really couldn’t tell you.

What I can tell you is that my beautiful wife and my beautiful daughters have given me the greatest gift that any person could ever dream of: a life made whole by love and warmth, joy and laughter…

Lila, Georgia, Tracie, and I are so grateful for all the notes of support, congratulations, and love from all of our friends and family on social media. They mean the world to us. We’re so happy to be part of this community and our joy is only made greater by the fact that you share it with us. Now it’s time to let nanna and pawpaw make us some dinner and try to catch up on our sleep…


Lila Jane Parzen 6 lbs 12 oz 7:23 pm

July 22, 2013

lila jane parzen


Heading to the hospital! #BabyP2013

July 22, 2013

shop sign naples


Bufalina! GREAT pizza and Cornelissen FINALLY make it to Austin, new era for city’s food scene

July 22, 2013

vera pizza napoletana

Above: Italian-American owner and pizzaiolo Steven Dilley studied pizza baking in Naples and is a perfectionist when it comes to delivering the classic Margherita. Tracie P and I were both duly impressed and I do not hesitate to say that this is one of the best pizzas in the U.S. today (and I eat a lot of pizza in a lot of different American cities).

On Saturday night, thinking that a bottle of Natural wine, a great Neapolitan-style pizza, and a “date night” might be just the thing to tempt fate and bring on Tracie P’s labor, we went out for an early dinner at Austin’s new Bufalina.

Our friend Steven Dilley — an Italian and Natural wine lover and a brilliant collector of fine wine — has been talking about his dream to bring authentic Italian food to Austin for nearly two years. And he’s finally succeeded in opening his small, cozy restaurant.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Bufalina will be remembered as a watershed in this Italian-hungry town.

stephen dilley

Above: As with a Gibson Custom Shop Gold Top Les Paul guitar, the instrument is only as good as the person who uses it to perform. Steven not only brings his professional training as a pizzaiolo to the table but he also delivers his experience as an Italian-American and a connoisseur of Italian gastronomy. That’s him [hu]manning the oven.

Steven’s menu is simple: a handful of fresh appetizers, salads, cheese and charcuterie plates and — on the night we visited — five classic pizzas.

Even the “Fresca,” which some might view as falling outside the rigidly traditionalist canon, is a ubiquitous dressing in Naples today and is among the most popular pizzas among young people (Tracie P noted drawing from experiences of living in Ischia and Naples for nearly five years).

But what will really make Bufalina stand apart from the small crowd of Italians in Austin is Steven’s deft hand, his verve with peal, and his sensibility and experience as someone who has traveled and lived in Italy and who dines regularly in major U.S. markets (where the pizza wars, however quiet these days, still continue to inform our nation’s pizzaioli).

There’s no question that he’s raised the bar for his peers and his colleagues. Just look at the pizza above: perfectly undercooked in the middle, burned but not too much so on the edges, not too thick, and topped with classic wholesome ingredients. The apotheosis of the Margherita.

cornelissen

Above: I never thought I’d live to see the day that Cornellisen would be available in Texas! Regrettably, I’ve ruffled more than one feather by writing about the hard-to-crack wine distribution system here in Texas (and I feel really shitty about that). But with so many young, adventurous distributors and importers popping up lately, I have to concede that I was wrong. The system is working great and it’s working wonders. As Steven wrote to me the other day in an email, “it’s hard to complain these days.”

But the thing that the opening of Steven’s pizzeria will be remembered for, perhaps more than anything else, is his truly extraordinary wine list (see his menu and list here).

It’s a small, tightly focused list and it’s dominated by Natural wine, biodynamic wine, and acidity-driven, food-friendly, lip-smackingly delicious wine.

We drank the rosato by Cornelissen, arguably the world’s most radical Natural winemaker) and it showed beautifully (click here for a thread of posts on the wines of Frank Cornelissen).

At 41-weeks pregnant, Tracie P is extremely attentive about the foods she eats and the wines she tastes. I can’t think of a better wine to pour for her: Frank’s wines have nothing added to them whatsoever (not even sulfur) and they are raised in growing sites on the slopes of Mt. Etna (as he explained to me last year in Los Angeles) where chemical farming was never employed. Like Soldera, he told me, he sought out vineyards where he could achieve his vision unfettered by the yoke of herbicide and pesticide. And his wines have an unmistakable clarity and Technicolor quality in their aroma and flavor.

But there were so many other wines on the list that would have fit the bill: Roagna, Foradori, Occhipinti. And beyond Italy: Pépière (yes, it’s in Texas, I learned from Steven’s list!), Jean Paul Brun, Lioco.

The wine scene in Austin has changed significantly significantly since I moved here nearly five years ago. And Steven’s list wouldn’t have been possible when I first arrived.

His carta dei vini is a bold statement in a city where most Italian wine comes from country’s great négociant producers.

tracie and jeremy p

Above: Tracie P and I had a fantasy that her water would break at the restaurant. But, alas, we’re now officially 41-weeks pregnant. We’re headed to the doctor shortly and we’ll make a decision about whether and when to induce her labor. We’re so grateful for all the thoughts and wishes we’ve received here on the blog, Facebook, and the Twitter.

There are many new restaurants opening in Austin this summer and this fall. As Austin’s food scene continues to evolve and expand, more and more wine directors and sommeliers are making a shift from wine lists dominated by the usual suspects to wine lists that challenge and hopefully broaden their guests’ sensorial horizons.

Once things settle down at the Parzen household, we’re looking forward to trying (and writing about) all of them.

In the meantime, a wholesome Margherita for daddy and a glass of Cornelissen rosé for mommy really hit the spot…


An American in Paris and Parzen family expansion update

July 21, 2013

love scene

Man, Friday was a really bad day.

41-weeks-pregnant mommy slept in and I got up with Georgia P.

I made her breakfast of scrambled Parmgiano Reggiano eggs and wholewheat quesadillas and we went through all of our regular morning rituals.

Then suddenly, as Georgia P was rolling around with couch cushions (as she loves to do), something — we don’t know what — scratched her cornea.

Corneal abrasions are extremely painful and this was our first episode of having to rush to the doctor with a child who was literally writhing in pain.

I softly wept and wept as I held her in my arms and sang to her her favorite song (Nadia) at our pediatrician’s office.

Georgia P’s eye bandaged to protect it from light (the only remedy), we returned home and she went down for a long nap.

We spent the rest of the day at home, eating ice cream and watching a double dose of Sesame Street, the only show she is allowed to watch (Elmo and Abby are her favorites).

After her dinner, she went down to sleep.

And voilà! The next day it was as if nothing had happened.

Saturday turned out to be a super fun day, with a visit to the park and lunch of Thai noodles that she slurped up with gusto (see the video below).

In the late afternoon, when it was too hot to go outside, we watched the 1951 musical An American in Paris.

Georgia P really loved the final dream-dance sequence (one of the most brilliant moments in American cinema imho).

And when the lovers embraced at its climax, she threw her arms up in the air in joy (above).

And I softly wept and wept…

In other Parzen family news…

There’s really not much news to report. We are now 41 weeks pregnant, one week past our official due date.

We have a ob/gyn appointment first thing tomorrow and it’s likely that we’ll set a time to induce Baby P 2013 and get Tracie P’s labor started.

Thanks for all the wishes and thoughts. They mean the world to us.

This pregnancy has been a healthy and relatively easy one. But little Baby P 2013 is being a bit stubborn about coming into this world.

These last few weeks have been pretty tough. But we’re almost there…


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