#BestMeals2013: Dispensa Pani e Vini (Franciacorta)

December 23, 2013

The Dispensa in Franciacorta is one of my all-time favorite restaurants. This spring, I took Tracie P and Georgia P (and Lila Jane in Tracie P’s belly) to eat there not once but twice…

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 cooked in 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!


Parzen Family Christmas Letter 2013: we’re moving to Houston

December 20, 2013

parzen family portrait

Above: Georgia P (right) just turned two and Lila Jane (left) is nearly five months old.

What an incredible year 2013 has been for us! We have too many blessings to count…

Lila Jane Parzen was born on Monday, July 22. She’s doing great, nursing like a pro and enjoying her big sister’s antics. She’s such an easy baby and such a joy to hold.

Georgia P is also doing great. She eats like a champ, now often using a fork, and just loves her pre-school, where she spends two mornings every week. She’s got SO MUCH personality and we’ve been having a blast teaching her new words (yogurt and bagel are recent additions to her vocabulary).

Both girls are super sweet and always have a coo, a smile, a laugh, and a hug to share.

best daughter ever

Above: This has got to be my favorite photo of Georgia P. She LOVES going to restaurants and she loves eating. “People let me tell you about her, she’s so much fun…” (sung to the tune of the “Courtship of Eddie’s Father”).

Our social media, editorial, and marketing consulting business has done well again this year. And while we’re not out of the woods yet, there is light at the end of our financial tunnel.

We are so fortunate that our business allows Tracie P to be a stay-at-home mom. And there’s no doubt in my mind that the girls get their sweetness from her.

not a fussy baby

Above: Lila Jane’s personality is really starting to show. She’s a very mellow, easy-going child. And, wow, what a head of hair! We know she didn’t get it from her father!

The big family news is that we will be moving to Houston in early 2014.

We have loved living in Austin but right now, with a toddler and a newborn in the house, we really need the support of Tracie P’s parents, Rev. and Mrs. B: “bawbaw and nanna” play such an important role in the girls’ lives and with our move, they’ll be just two hours away instead of five (Orange, Texas, where they live and where they raised Tracie P and her sister, lies to the east of Houston).

The move will also save me a lot of time and money. I’ve been commuting weekly to Houston for my top client in Texas and our new home there will allow me to spend more time with the girls instead of on the road.

And of course, I have family in Houston, too. Cousins Joanne and Marty and Dana and Neil have been so supportive of us in so many ways. We’re looking forward to spending more time with them, as well.

Thanks so much to everyone who’s shared our joy with us this year. It means so much to us that you do.

We have many challenges ahead of us. But knowing that you are with us makes the road ahead seem less daunting…

There’s so much more to tell about our work, our music, and our dreams and aspirations for the coming year.

But all that matters is Lila Jane and Georgia P. They are the light and love of our lives. And not a day goes by that I don’t love Tracie P all the more for giving them to us…

May G-d bless you all and may your new year be filled with health and happiness.

Happy holidays, yall!

baci e abbracci
(hugs and kisses)

Parzen Family


happy birthday Georgia P! You are the light and love of our lives

December 12, 2013

most beautiful little girl in the world

Above: Today is Georgia P’s second birthday! She’ll have a proper party with her family and friends on Saturday. But today she woke up to blueberry pancakes and two of her presents. One is a music box (see the video below) and the other is her “I’m a big girl now” chair. It’s hard to believe she’s already two! She LOVES brushing her teeth.

Dearest Georgia P,

Today is your second birthday! Happy birthday to you!

Your mommy and I love you so very much and want you to know how proud you make us. We could have never imagined the unending joy that you have brought into our lives with your hugs, kisses, laughter, and smiles.

Read the rest of this entry »


So much to be thankful for…

November 26, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Tracie P and I have so much to be thankful for this year.

And thank you for sharing our curiosity and our joy. We’ll see you next week…

best thanksgiving

best year of my life


@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…


Philippines, thoughts, prayers & solidarity for our sisters & brothers

November 12, 2013

Tracie P and I are heart-broken by the devastation in the Philippines (NY Times coverage).

And we are keeping our Filipino sisters and brothers in our hearts and prayers.

So far, our Filipino friends here in Texas have told us that with power and the network offline, there has been no communication from family members back home.

May G-d protect them.

Here’s the Red Cross donation link.


Georgia P’s first guitar

November 12, 2013

rock star

Over the weekend, while Georgia P and I were visiting an Austin music shop, she saw this pink ukulele and just had to have it.

I’m such a pushover!

How could I say no?

It doesn’t stay in tune and its tone isn’t the best.

But it’s her “first guitar” and she loves it.

I’ll never forget my first guitar, the one I got after trading in my cello.

I was 10 years old. And I would spend hours and hours trying to learn how to play Beatles songs, sometimes until my fingers would bleed.

When I was an early teen, that guitar was a best friend in some tough times (when my family was being broken apart). It’s been a trusted companion ever since.

As I watch her pluck and strum her “first guitar,” I can only dream of where it will accompany her someday…

I love her so much.


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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Another one of those lazy people who support Obamacare

October 7, 2013

Although I stayed offline this weekend (to spend much needed time with my family after a nearly two-week series of business trips), I did share Nicholas Kristof’s NY Times op/ed “Governing by Blackmail” on my Facebook. The post sparked a vibrant if not always civil discussion of the Affordable Care Act and the republicans’ current strategy to stymie it. Here’s the thread on my Facebook and the following is what I wrote in response.

obamacare children protection

Above: When our daughter Lila Jane was born ten weeks ago, no health care insurer in Texas (where we live) offered maternity care to small business owners like me who have to insure their families as private individuals. With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the health care insurers will be forced to offer maternity coverage. The ACA also protects my daughers’ health rights by forcing insurers to stop discriminating against women. One person’s “lazy” is another person’s “common sense.”

I’m glad to see and welcome discussion here (although it would be great if we could keep the tone civil, especially in the light of the fact that this is a place for family and friendship).

I shared the link to Kristof’s op/ed because I think it’s a cogent argument for why the shut down is counter productive.

And as much as it may be a bitter pill to swallow, I have to say that it’s simply wrong to say that President Obama is causing the shutdown. A small contingent of extremist Republicans are the ones who set the shutdown into motion. That’s a fact.

Read the rest of this entry »


Did I tell you that you are perfect? Perfect in every single way…

October 7, 2013

perfect in every way

It was so hard for me to be away from my girls over the last few weeks during the business trips that took me to California and Italy…

But this weekend, I logged off and spent our Saturday and Sunday just doing silly stuff and telling them how much I love them.

Georgia P is such a sweet girl and always has an “I love you” and a kiss for her mommy, daddy, and little sister Lila Jane (she already loves being a big sister!).

Georgia P, did I tell you that you are perfect? Perfect in every single way. I love you…


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