Date night Houston with Tracie P, fantastic conch ceviche & groovy Bourgogne blanc

best ceviche recipe houstonIt’s not easy finding “alone” time for parents with small children like us.

But now that we’re settled into our new lives in Houston, the stars occasionally align for a baby sitter and a date night.

On Saturday, I took Tracie P to Caracol, a chic and smart Mexican seafood restaurant here in Houston and one of my favorite restaurants in the U.S. right now.

Chef Hugo Ortega’s cooking is always fantastic but the thing that takes it over the top is wine director Sean Beck’s excellent, value-driven wine list.

We drank a delightful Oregon Pinot Gris by the glass with the tender conch ceviche above.

camerones en escabeche recetta houstonThe camarones en escabeche were also great.

The escabeche was delicately seasoned and not overly sour, the shrimp perfect salted and grilled.

One of the things I love about Caracol is how cosmopolitan the crowd is there. You always see lots of sharply dressed young south American professionals at the bar (where we love to eat).

But that night, I only had eyes for Tracie P.

correct way to slice prosciuttoNext we headed over the Camerata, the city’s hippest wine bar these days (and the place where all the visiting international wine celebs hang).

We love chef Felipe Riccio’s affettati and cheese selection.

Not just one but two orders were placed for his expertly sliced prosciutto, which accompanied a super tasty bottle of Bourgogne Blanc Le Petit Têtu 2012 by négociant Jean-Marie Berrux.

petit tetu burgundy chardonnayWhen the wine opened with some apple cider notes, I was worried that it might go south.

But it quickly snapped into focus and white and white stone fruit aromas and flavors emerged along with good balance in alcohol and acidity.

I didn’t know the wine but Monday morning googling revealed that it’s pretty hard to come by. The fact that you can drink it here is another example of how Houston, in my view, is swiftly becoming one of America’s top wine cities (more on that later).

By the time we left to turn back into pumpkins (around 9:30), we were surrounded by young blue bloods, finance and energy managers who swirled and sniffed their glasses with an earnestness that would rival that of their counterparts in lower Manhattan.

Tracie P and I have been married now for nearly five years. With two little girls now and a move to Houston earlier this year, our lives have changed a lot since we first drank beer and danced at the Continental Club in Austin back in 2008.

But “eating at the bar” is still our favorite thing to do together. And we’re happy to live in a city that always seems to have a spot and a bottle to accommodate us.

I love sipping with you, beautiful Tracie P… What a fun night! I love you.

L’shanah tovah, yall…

May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a good year…

apple honey recipe jewish new yearIt was the best of years, it was the worst of years. It was a year of wisdom, it was a year of foolishness, it was a year of belief, it was a year of incredulity…

Looking back on the year gone by, I can’t help but think of the dichotomy of emotions that have pulsed through us.

This summer, we finally settled into our new home in Houston, where proximity to parents and cousins has made life so much simpler and fun.

We celebrated Lila Jane’s first birthday and she’s getting ready to start walking. Georgia P began talking and has started to express her interest in music.

Business is good and I’ve finally landed my first wine consortium client — a big career goal for me. I even sold a couple of songs this year.

At home, it couldn’t have been a better year.

Outside our home, we see a world in tumultu. Six years have passed since I first came to Texas to start a family with Tracie P and so many wonderful things have happened for us in that time. But we also worry about the world that our children will inherit and inhabit.

My work in the restaurant world has shown me some of the darker sides of modern life this year.

And in Italy, despite the brave face that many growers are wearing, harvest is proving to be immensely challenging.

For everyone who visits here, I wish a happy and healthy year ahead. May your hearts be filled with joy. And may G-d bless us all.

L’shanah tovah. Happy new year. I’ll see you on Friday.

Image via Rachel’s Flickr.

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!