Snow in Austin, Texas!

January 24, 2014

snow austin texas

Above: the view from our kitchen window this morning.

I never thought I’d live to see the day: snow in Austin, Texas!

Across the state, from Central Texas to East Texas, bridges and overpasses are closed and scores of motorists are stranded. Unbelievable…

Texans aren’t accustomed to wintry driving conditions and the Texas police don’t mess around when it comes to enforcing road closures.


@QUIAustin‎ @PQui @JuneRodil donate proceeds from Filipino dishes for Philippines relief

November 13, 2013

dinuguan pork blood

Above: Dinuguan, pork offal and pork blood braised until melt-in-your-mouth, a classic Filipino dish as prepared by Chef Paul Qui in Austin at Qui.

I just traded emails with our good friend June Rodil who writes from Argentina that her family back in the Philippines is doing fine despite the challenges of cleaning up in the wake of the recent typhoon there.

Tracie P and I were glad to hear that. We’ve been checking in with all of our Filipino friends here in Texas. Some of them still haven’t had word yet from their families. (June, a leading Austin wine professional and the wine director at Qui, happens to be on a wine trip in Argentina.)

June also let me know that Qui — one of our favorite restaurants in Austin — will be donating proceeds from its Filipino dishes (like the Dinuguan, above) to the Philippine Red Cross (its website is updated regularly with news on the situation there).

It’s tough to get a reservation at Qui during Formula 1 week here in Austin. But once things calm down again next week, I’ll take the girls back for my monthly craving of Dinuguan.

Here’s a link to my post on our recent dinner there.

And here, again, is the link to the Philippines Red Cross.

Please keep our Filipino sisters and brothers in your prayers and thoughts…


à la recherche d’objets perdus (thanks for the many notes, wishes, and solidarity)

October 14, 2013

jewelry thieves austin texas

Thanks to everyone for the tide of condolences, notes of courage!, solidarity, and warm wishes.

The thieves violated our home on Wednesday. Thanks to the support of our community, we had a new front door by dinnertime Thursday. By Saturday, the contractor had completed the finishing touches. And by dinnertime Saturday, our security system was back online.

On Sunday, we were still “discovering” stolen possessions and the talk of the burglary continued to dominate phone calls from loved ones and our conversation at the dinner table.

The photo of the pendant above comes from our jeweler, Monte Franzetti, whose office graciously sent it over with a bill of sale (for me to submit in our insurance claim).

It’s green agate and wasn’t terribly expensive. I gave it to Tracie P the day we came home after she gave birth to Lila Jane, our second daughter, in July.

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The new Texas wine scene is exploding. In fact, there is life beyond “Napa Cab.”

August 21, 2013

perfectly sliced prosciutto

Above: Prosciutto at the newly opened Camerata wine bar in Houston. FINALLY someone who can slice prosciutto correctly!

“It’s hard to complain these days,” wrote Austin wine collector and restaurateur Steven Dilley the other day in an email.

It seems like yesterday that many of us would moan and gripe about the wines we couldn’t get here in Texas.

But today, it’s as if a new sun has risen over the Lone Star State.

Master Sommelier candidate David Keck’s Camerata in Houston is my new favorite wine destination in the state. It’s a true wine salon where all the local wine hip folks are hanging out (it’s the place where I saw not just one but two copies of Wine Grapes being passed around).

And by day, it’s home to the newly formed Houston Sommelier Association (I wrote about the new group for the Houston Press here).

Super cool joint…

clos roche blanche austin

Above: Clos Roche Blanche by the glass on our friend Mark Sayre’s list at Trio at the Four Seasons in Austin. Hell yeah!

Back here in Austin, Tracie P and I had our first night out since the arrival of Lila Jane (now four weeks old; thanks again nanna and pawpaw!).

After we enjoyed a glass of Clos Roche Blanche at the Four Seasons (a wine that Alice turned me on to many years ago now, enabling my interest in and passion for Natural wine), we headed over to the newly opened Arro, where not just one but two Master Sommeliers — Craig Collins and Devon Broglie — write the list and work the floor.

I knew roughly half of the lots on the all French list but would have gladly tasted/opened anything: when you see such intelligence in a wine list, your trust level makes it easy to be led blindly. And that’s what we did.

saint damien cotes rhone

Above: Slightly chilled Grenache paired with roast chicken and steak frites was just right.

The wine I’m still thinking about this morning was the Saint Damien Côtes du Rhône. But Craig, who was working the floor last night, tasted us on so many great things.

There’s never been such a focused and brilliant list in Austin. It’s a list that makes a statement.

And along with Steven Dilley’s list at Bufalina (which we also loved), Craig and Devon’s program stands apart for its ability to thrill the finely tuned connoisseur and neophyte enthusiast alike.

chef drew andrew curren

Above: Arro’s chef Andrew (Drew) Curren’s roast chicken was spot on last night.

Isn’t that what a wine list should do? Shouldn’t it forge a level of trust that it takes you outside of your comfort zone? That’s what it did for us and I just couldn’t resist a second glass of the Grenache.

When I moved here nearly five years ago to be with Tracie P, it seemed next to impossible to find a wine list that we could really dig into like the lists we’re seeing today.

Nearly every fine dining restaurant was dominated by “Napa Cab” (I still shudder every time someone says “Cab”) and Chardonnay, with the occasional Malbec thrown in the mix.

Mark Sayre at Trio at the Four Seasons in Austin still jokes about how I called him and “interviewed” him about his wine list when I was looking for a special place to take Tracie P for a romantic evening. At the time, Mark’s list and the list at Vino Vino (today, my client) were the only places Tracie P and I would drink wine in Austin. (Mark, a Master Sommelier candidate, is also writing the list at the excellent and überhip Lenoir, which we love as well, btw).

Today, there is just so much more groovy wine available to restaurant buyers and the new wave of Master Sommelier and Society of Wine Educators candidates has upped the performance level considerably (Scott Ota, also of Arro, recently won the “best sommelier in Texas” title at Texsom, the annual Texas sommelier conference).

None of this was even on the horizon when I first got here.

As Devon wrote to me the other day in a tweet, “we’ve come a long way, baby!”

David, Devon, Craig, Mark, Scott, Steven… We’re with you all the way…


happiness is a poopy diaper: Lila Jane has regained her birthweight!

August 4, 2013

daddy and lila jane

Great news yesterday: Tracie P took Lila Jane to our local birthing store, Special Addition, and weighed Lila Jane, who has regained her birth weight two days before her two-week mark.

lila jane weight

Of all the gifts that we can give our children, none is more precious than mother’s milk.

I’m so proud of Tracie P and my love for her grows every day as I watch her suckle and nourish our beautiful little girls.

waffles bacon and berries

Naturally, at this point, Georgia P isn’t getting much sustenance from nursing. For her, it’s a comfort and a way to feel close to her mother.

She’s a healthy, if sometimes picky, eater.

As mommy and Lila Jane slumber this early Sunday morning, she’s enjoying a breakfast of wholewheat waffles with organic butter and organic maple syrup, organic berries, and good ol’ nothing-healthy-about-it American bacon.

We have a lot to be thankful for…

Buona domenica a tutti! Happy Sunday, yall!


An awesome Gavi and other grooviness @VinoVinoWine #ATX

August 2, 2013

best gavi cortese biodynamic

So much groovy wine is finding its way to Austin, Texas these days. And it seems that nearly every day, I get turned on to a label I’ve never come across before, like this stunning Gavi by Giordano Lombardo, which blew me away with its focus, its mineral and citrus flavors, and its gentle 12% alcohol. I really really love this wine.

It was poured for me last night by my Austin client Vino Vino, our go-to wine bar in town.

bisson glera

Last night, we also tasted the Bisson crown-cap reclassified Prosecco that the winery labels as Glera (thanks again to owner and friend Jeff, for celebrating the birth of our daughter with me!).

With so much banana-candy Prosecco in Texas these days, it’s wonderful to see a commercial Prosecco like this one that actually tastes like Prosecco. High acidity, the classic note of green bitterness, and citrus and white fruit aromas and flavors. (I imagine that Bisson reclassified because it wanted to use the crown cap — a much more intelligent closure in my view — which is not allowed by the Prosecco DOC).

Bisson’s been in the Texas market for some time now and we’re big fans of its Ligurian Ciliegiolo. But I had never had the chance to taste this one.

st magdalener schiava

A local sales rep tasted us on another wine that I’ve followed for some time but — I believe — is new to the Texas market, the St. Magdalener Classico Huck am Bach, bottled by the Cantina Bolzano cooperative.

The wine showed beautifully and I love how the Lagrein gives the more gentle Schiava some oom-pah-pah. Great wine and a great time to love Italian wine in Texas.

Buon weekend, yall!


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.


Texas Frito Pie and Schiava brilliant pairing @stilesswitchbbq

July 21, 2013

texas frito pie

Houston, we have a problem…

The bbq at Stiles Switch in Austin (around the corner from our house) is just too damned good to resist.

And our daughter has become addicted to their chopped beef.

The folks at Stiles Switch use chopped beef and beans to finish their Frito pie: a pan-Southern dish typically made with Fritos topped with chili and shredded cheese (in Texas, it’s generally made with classic Texan “chili con carne,” which doesn’t claim beans as one of its ingredients).

When I chided the pit master this week about why Stiles Switch adds the designation “Texas” to its “Frito pie,” he noted that it’s “Texas” because of the fact that they use chopped beef (instead of chili).

Well, I’m not one to split hairs about such things… ;)

laimburg schiava

We paired the Texas Frito pie (yes, there are Fritos underneath that mess of beans, chopped beef, pickled jalapeños, and cheese) with bright, fresh, slightly chilled Schiava by Laimburg.

The wine is so focused and pure, so refreshing and its alcohol so well balanced by the brilliant fruit and acidity, that the next day, even Mrs. B aka “nanna” (who doesn’t care much for red wine) couldn’t stop talking about how good it was.

It’s such a great metric for the quality of wine, no? When you’re still talking about it the day after, it must have been outstanding.

don't mess with texas bbq

Don’t mess with Texas bbq! And don’t get between a girl and her chopped beef!

Frito pie would be a bit overwhelming for little Georgia P. But a heaping helping of Stiles Switch chopped beef with a side of mac and cheese was just right.

Buona domenica (happy Sunday), yall!


Splash pad! Texas summer living (Baby P 2013 update)

July 8, 2013

splash pad austin

Not much news to report here at Camp Parzen other than the not-so-breaking news that we are very very pregnant and ready for Baby P 2013 to arrive.

Her due date is July 15 (next Monday) and so far, the many predictions that she would come early have not panned out.

At this point, especially with temperatures reaching the mid to high 90s every day, Tracie P needs to spend as much time as she can off her feet.

I’ve been doing all the shopping, cooking, and cleaning and Georgia P and I get out as much as we can.

Yesterday, we made our first visit to an Austin “splash pad,” an invention so ingenious that I’d like to kiss the person who thought it up.

In essence, it’s a playground with colorful fountains and it’s so much better than a pool (especially for a toddler like Georgia P). The water is reclaimed after ever cycle (assuaging its environmental impact), there is no danger of drowning, and the fountains create just enough cool air to keep it pleasant on the sidelines for the parents watching over their kids.

Georgia P LOVED IT!


harsh times for disenfranchised women but good tortillas in Texas capital

July 4, 2013

herdez salsa

Those crazy-assed Texan republicans have nearly prevailed in delivering some of the the most restrictive reproductive policies in the U.S. And when they’re done, they will have closed all but a handful of Planned Parenthood clinics through out the state (one of the richest in the U.S., home to its fourth-largest city, and the fastest growing in the nation). The few remaining will nearly all be in major urban centers. As a result, financially challenged families living in rural areas will have virtually no access to affordable women’s health services. And services in the big cities will be more limited.

But it’s hard to find a bad tortilla in this town, capital of the Lone Star State.

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