Last pesto in Houston as the dreadful summer of 2014 comes to an end

best pesto recipeAbove: our last pesto for the dreadful summer of 2014.

And so it’s coming to an end. The dreadful summer of 2014.

Wars in Europe and the Middle East. Ebola outbreak in Africa. Children (yes, children!!!) being shunned and scorned on our southern border by dehumanized politicians. A powder keg of racial tensions here in the U.S. News media that relish and exploit images of a decapitation as Americans sit down to dinner…

I was only eleven years and hardly world-wise in 1978 (the year my nuclear family fell apart). But I know I’m not the only one to make an analogy between the now and the late 1970s in the U.S., when the “oil crisis” arrived, the Russians and Americans were poised to annihilate each other, terror brought western Europe to a standstill, and Spielberg’s Close Encounters depicted a world in tumultu.

It seems petty to mention here the current, disastrous situation for Italian winemakers, who have experienced one of the rainiest growing cycles of our lifetimes. Their battles against hail, rot, and mildew are dwarfed by the myriad human crises that have taken shape this summer.

But they represent another thread in the fabric of the world’s ills.

And they’re not the only growers facing crisis. The decimation of Burgundy (and Barolo) vineyards by hail and the earthquake in Napa were bookends to the growing season.

As August came to a close, it seemed that the news couldn’t get any worse.

And then, here in the Houston wine and food community, the unthinkable happened when a rising star chef, charismatic and beloved by his peers, died at twenty-eight. A tragedy by any measure.

His wasn’t the only passing that punctuated our dreadful summer of 2014.

Stefano Bonilli, ousted founder of Gambero Rosso and champion of socio-politically enlightened food writing, left this earth in early August.

Indigenous grape pioneer Paolo Rapuzzi was another bright light extinguished in August 2014…

Last night, I made my girls one last pesto for the summer of 2014.

As my daughters, my wife, and I sat down to dinner, I couldn’t help but think of Boccaccio’s Lisabetta da Messina and the mournful tears that made her basil so rich in aroma and flavor.

Innocent and unaware of the problems of the world, our daughters (aged one and two-and-a-half) are healthy, happy, playful, and joyful. One day, Tracie P and I will have to tell them about the dreadful summer of 2014.

But for the time being, I’ll cherish the solace that I found in their smiles, laughter, and hugs. And I’m glad that the summer is over…

girl with a pearl earring

Resolution (?) to our October 2013 burglary

crestview austin brentwood burglary burglariesAbove: one of my Austin restaurant clients had his contractor board up our front door after the burglar broke it down.

The date was October 9, 2013, two days before Tracie P’s birthday, when two men burglarized our home in Austin in broad daylight.

I had left earlier in the morning for my weekly commute to Houston (where we now live) and Tracie had taken our daughters to the grocery store.

One of the men broke down our front door and searched through our belonging for valuables (here’s my post from the week of the burglary). The other waited outside with their getaway car.

The police were able to identify one of the burglars because he took a selfie with our family iPhone and we saw it in our iCloud. He also took a photo of a brand new pair of tennis shoes.

Both men left Texas and went to California. The driver had been pulled over by police in Austin and fled. He was ultimately apprehended in California.

From what we were told by the Austin detective who handled our case, the man who entered our home was killed in Los Angeles in June in a gangland shooting. He was twenty-four years old.

On Friday of last week, the driver accepted a plea bargain. He will spend the next ten years in jail.

In the end, the news of the one’s passing and the other’s guilty plea made me feel terribly sad.

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An East Texas high school reunion

in the poolJust had to share some pics and notes from our Saturday night: for the first time since Georgia P was born, we spent a night away from the girls and attended Tracie P’s twentieth high school reunion.

That’s Tracie in the photo above, far left.

She grew up in Orange, Texas, attending West Orange-Stark High School. But the event was held at L’Auberge Casino in Lake Charles, Louisiana, about forty minutes east of Orange by car from her hometown.

It was super fun…

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Parzen family snapshot & Lila Jane sits up

From the department of “I don’t know how I got here but I’m sure glad I made it”…

jeremy parzen wine blogThe Parzen family attended a cousin’s wedding over the weekend at Lake Travis outside of Austin (mazel tov, Katherine and Clark!) and uncle Terry snapped this photo of me and the girls.

But the big Parzen family news is that Lila Jane is starting to sit up on her own! She will be one year old in just over a week and she and I will be celebrating our birthdays together.

I love being a dad so much. And every day I love my gorgeous Tracie P more and more for giving us such beautiful, happy girls and for being such a great mom to them.

Thanks for sharing our joy.

happy father’s day

It’s my first father’s day as the dad to two happy, healthy, beautiful little girls. And it feels great.

Tracie P and I have so much to be thankful for…

Our girls have the best mommy ever. She takes such good care of them and works so hard to make sure that they have everything they need to grow up in a wholesome environment.

And we are so blessed to have the support of our loving family here in southeast Texas.

I love our girls and their mommy so much. Thanks for sharing our joy and happy father’s day!

Parzen girls update & an extravagantly delicious gumbo

the producersAbove: our girls love going to restaurants and Georgia P always wants to read the menu. On Saturday morning we took them to Kenny & Ziggy’s deli for white fish, salmon, eggs, and bagels. It’s such a great restaurant and as a former New Yorker and now Houstonian, I can tell you that it’s just as good (and as pricey) as any you’ll find in the city.

We’ve had a really lovely weekend here in Houston, with weather that reminds us all of the California where I grew up (and where they’re experiencing unseasonally high temperatures).

My mom came in from La Jolla for a four-day stay to visit Georgia P (above) and Lila Jane (below).

As any parent will tell you, raising babies and toddlers is never an easy task and our girls — like anybody’s kids — can be a handful. But they always have a smile, hug, and kiss for us and all it takes is a coo or an “I love you” to make the sleeplessness and headaches vanish…
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A very special Mother’s Day for the Parzen family

jeremy parzen familyDespite some runny noses, yesterday was a very special Mother’s Day for the Parzen family.

Its was our first Mother’s Day since Lila Jane (left) came into this world last July (Georgia P, right, was born in December 2011).

Being a parent has been such a wonderful experience for me. I have so much fun with both of our girls and they are both so sweet.

But it’s their beautiful mother, Tracie P, who deserves the credit for raising them so well.

Whether it’s researching potty training or sourcing organically grown fruits and vegetables for them to eat, she’s made parenting her full-time focus and she does an incredible job.

My joy in being a parent is rivaled only by that of watching Tracie P be a loving mother. Seeing her raise our girls has made me fall in love all over again with her.

best enchiladas houstonFor our Mother’s Day celebration, we went to Vallone’s on the west side of Houston. It’s my friend and client Tony Vallone’s new homage to americana gastronomy.

Tracie had tortellini stuffed with short ribs and gorgeous piece of grilled red snapper from the Gulf of Mexico. I couldn’t resist have the “Tex,” classic Tex Mex style enchiladas matched with an aged filet mignon.

It was a rich Sunday brunch for us (thanks again, Tony, for treating us!). As I looked out across the dining room, crowded with mothers and their families, I couldn’t help but reflect on how lucky I am to have made it to this place in life.

Our family still faces many financial challenges ahead but there could be no greater wealth than sitting at the table with the Parzen girls.

Tracie P, I love you so much: thank you for giving us Lila Jane and Georgia P and thank you for being such a fantastic mother. Every day, you teach me something new about what it means to be a good parent. Your tenderness knows no bounds and it shows in the sweetness of our daughters… I love you.