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!

Eataly founder Oscar Farinetti bans racist politician

July 18, 2013

oscar farinetti

Above: Eataly founder and Italian entrepreneur Oscar Farinetti with Uman foundation president and environmental activist Giovanna Melandri in Rome, October 2012 (image via the Uman Foundation Flickr).

“Entry to Eataly is forbidden to people like [Italian senior parliamentarian] Calderoli,” said the food emporium’s founder Oscar Farinetti to a radio interviewer this week in Italy, adding that the ban was “for hygienic reasons.”

He was referring to Roberto Calderoli, Northern League (Separatist) party member and vice-president of the Italian senate, whose recent racist comments have been the subject of controversy this week in Italy.

At a political rally on Saturday in Treviglio (Lombardy province), Calderoli used a racial slur in reference to Italy’s first African-born minister, Italo-Congolese politician and opthamologist Cécile Kyenge.

Calderoli and his racist cohorts, suggests Farinetti in the interview, “shouldn’t just resign from politics… They should resign from the human race… They lack the conscience that distinguishes humans from chimpanzees.”

Click here for an updated English-language report on the episode and steps Italian officials are taking to censure Calderoli.

You can listen to the interview here.

As an Italian wine and food historian and an observer of Italy’s wine and food trade, I applaud Farinetti for his “no racists allowed” policy.

His statements came in response to the interviewer’s question: As someone who works abroad, are you ever embarrassed by the attitudes of Italian politicians?

While many international ambassadors of Italian wine and food avoid the sticky, unsavory issues of politics and racial tensions in Italy today, Oscar Farinetti’s decisive stand on this issue — zero tolerance for the manifest racism expressed by Italy’s separatist movement leaders — deserves our attention and commands our respect.

Enogastronomy is one of the greatest expressions of the Italian soul — no matter what the political affiliation. As the highest-profile representative of Italian wine and food throughout the world, Farinetti’s example should be a model for us all.

At my favorite trattoria in Florence #FoodPorn #MimeticDesire

July 17, 2013

orafo pappardelle

No, I’m not at my favorite trattoria in Florence, Buca dell’Orafo. But Cousin Marty and the Levy clan were there last night and these are the photos they sent.

Has the mimetic desire kicked in yet?

Today is Marty’s birthday: happy birthday, Marty! We love you so much!

orafo ravioli

Cousins Marty and Joanne are currently touring Italy with their son (my cousin) Jonathan and his girlfriend Chiara who is from Viterbo.

And Marty asked me for some dining recommendations.

orafo macaroni

When I moved to Texas five years ago to be with Tracie P, I never imagined that I would reconnect on such a deep level with my cousins from the “estranged” side of my family (my father and Marty are first cousins).

But we’ve all grown really close and they have been so supportive of me and our new family here in Austin.

And now that things are getting so serious between Jon and Chiara (Marty and Joanne met her parents for the first time on this trip), our Italian connection is even stronger!

chiara cordelli

Chiara, who, like Jon, is an academic superstar, loves to tease me about my Veneto accent and we all had a great time visiting when they came out to see my band’s show in San Francisco earlier this year.

Chiara, Jon, Joanne, and Marty: thanks for sending the pics! As we wait patiently at home for Baby P 2013 to arrive (no developments), it’s great to live vicariously through your enogastronomic adventures! I love it…

baci e abbracci

Al pomodoro please: red, white & Nebbiolo for the 4th

July 5, 2013

pasta al pomodoro

Mommy and daddy had hotdogs and burgers with all the trimmings for a quiet Fourth of July celebration at home as we continued to wait for the big day to arrive.

We’re now nine days away from Baby P 2013′s expected due date.

Georgia P came nine days early. So mutatis mutandis… Our bags are packed and ready to go.

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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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Lasagne from Corleone, mimetic desire, & @TonyVallone

June 27, 2013

lasagna corleone

Above: One side of my friend Tony Vallone’s family is from Corleone, Sicily. All of last night’s dishes were “alla corleonese”.

Last night, I made one last trip to Houston before the arrival of Baby P 2013 (I drove in and back the same day).

How could I not?

My good friend and client Tony Vallone was hosting a sold-out dinner featuring cucina casereccia siciliana (homestyle Sicilian cooking) at his casual restaurant Ciao Bello. And I should be more precise: the official theme was cucina casereccia corleonese, the cuisine of his mother’s family’s hometown, Corleone. And he had asked me to speak to the guests about the Sicilian wines chosen for the meal.

In case the mimetic desire has not yet taken hold, here’s a photo of the wine we paired with the lasagna casalinga (homemade lasagne, with mini meatballs and peas) above:

tami grillo

That’s négociant Arianna Occhipinti’s Grillo: salty and jumping with acidity, the wine tasted SO good on a sultry Houstonian evening.

As I left the dinner, everyone wished me and Tracie P well for the arrival of Baby P 2013.

Tony handed me a couple of boxes of his gallina mollicata (chicken baked with mollicata, Sicilian Corleonese-style seasoned breadcrumbs).

Mi raccomando… I’m serious,” he said. “I want you to call me when the baby arrives.”

Man, I love this guy… We’re so lucky to have him in our lives.

And here’s a little video (below) I put together this morning with scenes from the event (does anyone recognize the song I’m playing?).

Best meals in Italy: Day 2 at the Dispensa Pani e Vini #Franciacorta

June 18, 2013

italian grissini

Above: Grissini — bread sticks — are one of Italy’s great gifts to humankind. I’m not talking about the hydrogenated oil-charged grissini that come in a plastic wrapper. I’m talking about the ones that chefs like the amazing Vittorio Fusari bake in-house. Georgia P couldn’t get enough!

Franciacorta Chef Vittorio Fusari and his Dispensa Pani e Vini have become a happy Parzen family obsession. Last week I wrote about the first of two meals we had there earlier this year.

Vittorio’s ability to match brilliant technique and precision with his uncanny knack for sourcing wholesome materia prima have fascinated and thrilled me. Bringing Tracie P and Georgia P to lunch there was one of the highlights of our family trip to Italy in the spring.

Here’s what we ate on the second day.

32 via dei birrai

There is so much great beer being made in Italy right now. We loved the richness of aroma and flavor in the Oppale by 32 Via dei Birrai.

raw salmon italy

The salmon wasn’t cured. It was served raw, expertly sliced and dressed with a gentle drizzle of olive oil. So simply yet ethereally satisfying.

pasta asparagus

Vittorio made these penne with green beans especially for Georgia P. Mommy and daddy couldn’t help stealing a bite.

risotto asparagi asparagus

Vittorio’s risotto agli asparagi was a masterpiece. This dish left me speechless.

italian chicken salad

Poached chicken salad. That’s a lightly breaded, fried egg in the middle. It’s yolk was perfectly runny.

italian hamburger

The Bresciani (ethnonym for natives of Brescia, Lombardy, the province that claims Franciacorta) love beef. This was Vittorio’s take on the hamburger. All the bread is baked in-house at the Dispensa.

manzo olio brescia lombardy

Manzo all’olio — literally beef with olive oil — is a classic dish of Bresciana cuisine. Slowly braised beef usually served with polenta and/or potatoes.

giovanni arcari eugenio signoroni

If I’m in Franciacorta, you’ll usually find me in the company of my bromance Giovanni Arcari (left), winemaker extraordinaire and grand personage of Italian wine. He met us for lunch and we bumped into Eugenio Signoroni, editor of the Slow Food beer and osteria guides. That’s the kind of place the Dispensa is. You always run into food and wine professionals and personalities there.

happy italian baby

What a joy to watch our sweet baby girl enjoy her meals at the Dispensa. Our family life is centered around eating well (and by “well,” I mean deliciously and wholesomely) and there is no chef I know who devotes more attention and passion to the wholesomeness of what he serves his guests.

Thank you, Vittorio! The Parzen family is your unabashedly and eternally devoted and grateful fan!

Of men, mice, olive oil tacos & news from La Calle del Taco (Reynosa, Mexico)

June 17, 2013

olive oil taco best mexican

Above: At the Austin Ale House, Chef Emilio Oliva is making tortillas and refried beans using extra-virgin olive oil instead of lard. Currently, the pulled pork tacos are a speciality item. If he made them a regular item, I might have to eat there once a day.

To hear Chef Emilio Oliva tell the story, the taqueros who work on the famous Calle del Taco — where taquerías line the street — in his native Reynosa, Mexico, risk their lives daily.

“I come from a town of men and mice,” he told me.

The patrons of the calle, he said, are often armed and if they don’t like your cooking, they might decide to end your career right then and there.

His advice for the taqueros of this rough border town (on the Texan frontier)?

“If you can’t cook a good greasy taco, you might as well go to Wisconsin and pick cotton.”

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98.9% natural? Either you is or either you ain’t

June 15, 2013

natural wine controversy

When I saw this claim, “98.9% natural,” on a bottle of baby liquid bath soap, I couldn’t help but think of the 1955 single by one of my favorite R&B singers Big Joe Turner: “Lipstick, Powder, and Paint” written by Jesse Stone, who also wrote “Shake Rattle & Roll” (also recorded for the first time by Big Joe Turner).

The song is about a transgender person: lipstick, powder, and paint/either you is or either you ain’t.

It’s kind of like being pregnant: you can’t be a little bit pregnant.

I think that one of the reasons why the expression natural wine stirs such controversy and can evoke such vitriol is how the precious word natural is so often abused in marketing today.

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