Song of mine on Guillermo del Toro’s new show “The Strain” this Sunday

les sans culottesWord from my agent in LA arrived yesterday afternoon: a song I co-wrote and co-produced, “Sa Sabine,” will appear this Sunday on the pilot for a new show, “The Strain,” written and directed by Guillermo del Toro for FX.

I wrote the music for the song (one of my favorites) back when I was living in Brooklyn and gigging with my then-band, Les Sans Culottes (above). It came out on our album, “Faux Realism,” in 2002 (Aeronaut).

At the time, our breakthrough song hadn’t happened yet. In 2003, we sold a song from an earlier recording to a major ad campaign by Hewlett Packard. The spot — played in primetime during the World Series that year and beyond — gave us the bandwidth and exposure that made us a nationally known act.

We were a Brooklyn favorite and we headlined regularly at venues like the Bowery Ballroom in Manhattan.

It was a crazy and crazy-fun time in my life: I had been working in New York as a freelance writer and copywriter for a few years by then and I was writing, playing, and recording music by night (and not just with the French band).

I can’t share the song here because of copyright issues. But if you want to check out the original recording (which was made on two-inch tape — yes! — in a studio in pre-gentrification Bushwick), you’ll find it on all the usual platforms (iTunes, Amazon, etc.).

When we mixed it, we used a technique developed by engineer Eddie Kramer on Jimi Hendrix’s “Axis: Bold as Love.”

After we made an initial mix of the track, we played part of it back slightly out of sync with the original, thus creating a “phaser” effect that gives that section of the song an otherworldly sound (otherwise known as the “spaceship” or “doobie” effect).

I make a decent living by writing about Italian gastronomy and culture and have nothing to complain about. Life’s been good to me so far (je suis j’étais un rock star).

But selling one of my songs and knowing that my music is still out there is one of the greatest rewards of my professional life.

Thanks for listening.

The pilot for “The Strain” airs Sunday night at 10 p.m. EST on FX.

Del Posto a night at the opera

del posto octopus new yorkAbove: Charred Octopus with Umbrian garbanzo, celery hearts, and 25-year Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale.

Paolo, Adam, Zachary, and I had an epic night Tuesday at Del Posto in Manhattan.

From Jewish boy stomach to A.J. Liebling, to Lady Chatterley’s Lover, the conversation was as wild as the food and wine.

I posted images and notes (including our celebrity sighting) today over at the Boulder Wine Merchant blog

Thanks again, Paolo!

It doesn’t get more orange than this #Georgia @AnforaNYC

georgian orange winePosting in a hurry this morning as I head out from the Upper West Side to yet another meeting and another tasting.

But wanted to share this glass of Our Wine 2010 Rkatsiteli (Georgia) that I had as an aperitif yesterday early evening at one of my favorite wine bars in the city, Anfora (conceived by one of the coolest dudes in our business, Joe Campanale).

There’s probably no better place to drink amphora-vinified wines than Joe’s place.

Although intense (and maybe not for everyone), the wine was delicious and its oxidative note made it reminiscent of a Sherry, a perfect aperitif.

So much to tell and so many wines to share…

Back to natural Vinos Ambiz gets me back in the groove

vinos ambiz

Just in case you were concerned that I had lost my way among the rich folk back in the big New York City, I’m happy to report that I found my way from James Suckling’s Wednesday night tasting in midtown to Alice’s place downtown where I recharged my sanity drinking some crunchy wine from Vinos Ambiz in Spain.

The folks there are an “organic vineyard, winery and natural wine company. We practice sustainable viticulture, and make natural, authentic, good quality wines that express the terroir. We improve the fertility of the soil, don’t use chemicals or additives and we recycle our bottles.”

The Suckling tasting was impressive but the carbonic maceration Airén, unfiltered, unclarified, and with no added sulfites by Vinos Ambiz — let’s just say — was a little more my speed.

pickled herring salad blau gans

And just to remind myself what I love about the borough of Man-atan, I met Brooklyn Guy the next day for lunch at the Blaue Gans in Tribeca where I thoroughly enjoyed the pickled herring salad.

The service there may not be what it once was at this Teutonic casual, but the food is always great, the wine list tidy and solid, the beers appropriately bitter, and I love the Zabriskie Point poster in the toilet (worth a visit to the head by any means).

My short visit to New York is about to come to an end but not before I go taste a buttload of old Nebbiolo (you are not going to believe the sick flight of wines that await me at lunch). Stay tuned…

In praise of James Suckling & 07 Giacosa Rocche del Falletto Red Label

james suckling

Last night in Manhattan, wine writer James Suckling spoke from the pulpit of St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal church at his Great Wines of Italy event.

I can’t say that his taste in wine always aligns with mine but I will say that the event he orchestrated and hosted was remarkable not only for its breadth and ambition but also for the marquee names that gathered for the two-day affair.

Bruna Giacosa, Giacomo Neri, Francesca Planeta, and Marco Caprai were just some of the celebrity Italian winemakers who came to New York to pour and talk about their wines. And there were many others…

st barts cathedral new york

I was in town to pour and speak about the wines of friend who couldn’t be there.

As a lover of Italian wines, I can only offer my greatest praise for James and this landmark event. The model is, of course, the Wine Spectator New York Wine Experience. And there are other annual NYC events, like the Gambero Rosso guide presentation, where scores of top Italian winemakers show their wines.

But, to my knowledge, there’s never been such an ambitious high-end, consumer event devoted exclusively to Italian wine: it cost roughly $200 to attend last night’s event and tickets to tonight’s dinner are $275.

I was also really impressed by the guests’ level of wine knowledge and many grilled me about vintage characteristics and growing sites.

Chapeau bas, James. The tasting set a new and higher bar for Italian wine in this country. An event like this would have been unimaginable in 1998, the year that the Italian wine renaissance began to take shape in this country.

rocche falletto

Bruno Giacosa 2007 Barolo Le Rocche del Falletto (red label) was the wine I was most thrilled by, poured by Bruna herself!

Wow, what a wine… no one can rival the elegance that Bruno Giacosa achieves in his Barolo. And where so many 2007s are dominated by the power of their tannin (in part due to the odd winterless vintage in Langa), his already shows gorgeous balance (even at this early stage of its evolution).

I had tasted the wine at the winery back in 2010 when Bruno hadn’t yet decided whether he would make a red label for this designation. Tracie P and I were on our honeymoon and we tasted the Rocche del Falletto out of cask.

Here are my notes from that tasting.

The other highlight was hearing Isabel Suckling, James’ daughter, rehearse for the performance she will give at tonight’s event.

She’s a truly electric performer and I’m looking forward to her main event at tonight’s dinner.

More New York Stories to come… Stay tuned…

For the love of matzo by @mgwine

An old friend from NYC is making a documentary about the Streit’s matzo factory on the Lower East Side. He asked me to share news of the film and I’m glad to do it.

During the years I spent in the city (97-07), I watched the Jewish culture of the Lower East Side be swallowed up by the neighborhood’s yuppification. The Streit’s factory is one of the last outposts of Yiddish life there.

War is over if you want it: my date with Ringo, 10 years later

ringo starr george harrison song

Above: Ringo Starr appeared at the Bottom Line in New York and the Tonight Show in Los Angeles the week the Iraq war began, ten years ago. My band opened for him in New York. Here’s a link to the NY Times article above, dated March 23, 2003 (the photo was taken at his LA show).

“Iraq War’s 10th Anniversary Is Barely Noted in Washington,” reported The New York Times this week.

On Wednesday, March 20, 2013, we marked ten years since the war began.

I remember that week in 2003 like it was yesterday.

On my way to sound check at the Bottom Line on West 4th St., I had to cross a protest parade on 5th Ave. A few days prior, my band’s manager had called to let me know that we would no longer be headlining the bill: Ringo Starr had replaced us and we’d be opening for him.

It was a surreal moment for me. At once, the world seemed to be falling apart (world war three was about to begin) as I was fulfilling a lifelong dream (to share a stage with a Beatle!).

As Ringo and his band rehearsed “Yellow Submarine” during sound check, nostalgia for the Summer of Love — when I was born and when youth culture embraced a utopic “imagine” vision of the future — was palpable in the room: outside you could hear the chants of the anti-war protesters as Ringo walked his band through tweaks to their set.

If only the Washington regime had given containment peace a chance…

Thanks for letting me share this memory with you and let’s hope and pray that Georgia P’s generation will know many decades brighter than the last…

Arlington Club steakhouse with a fabu friend #NewYorkStories

best new york steakhouse

Above: Dinner at Arlington Club opened with spare rib bánh mì and sashimi.

There’s been so much going on that I still haven’t had a chance to post about all the places I visited on my February visit to NYC.

Another one of the highlights of my trip was dinner at the city’s newest entry in the dick-wagging steakhouse category, Arlington Club on the Upper East Side, Laurent Tourondel’s most recent oeuvre.

best vouvray

Above: The still young 2011 Clos du Bourg by Huet showed nicely, although a little tight.

I could never have dreamed of getting a reservation at this immensely popular restaurant (when I arrived at 8 p.m. there was a three-person-deep wait at the bar). But I had the good fortune of being the guest of one of the top wine writers in the world, who has a little more pull than most. Let’s just say that his reservation streamlined our experience on an otherwise impossibly packed night.

steakhouse new york

Above: I love the New York steakhouse paradigm and just had to have the Caesar salad. It was solid but not exceptional. But that’s what a Caesar salad should be, n’est-ce pas?

The wine list was predictably Bordeaux- and Northern California-heavy. But there were also some interesting Italian entries beyond the healthy however youngish selection of Nebbiolo and Sangiovese lots. We went for an older Bordeaux but the 2006 Refosco by Ronchi di Cialla for $85 was inviting (I imagine its juiciness would have worked well with the steak).

arlington club new york

Above: The porterhouse for two, the ultimate expression — in my view — of the NYC steakhouse paradigm. I liked the panache of the mise en place.

My generous host was intent on drinking something with some age on it (and I wasn’t complaining).

He chose the Château Langoa-Barton 1998, which showed beautifully, especially as it opened up. I love drinking traditional-style Bordeaux when it’s in its prime like this (at more than fourteen years out), its acidity singing and its fruit vibrantly muscular. I know that some would prefer it with even more age (and I imagine that this bottling has many rewarding years ahead of it). But these wines, when vinified in the traditional style, pair so well with charred beef when adolescent.

best bordeaux steak

Above: If I remember correctly, the alcohol on this wine was reported as 12.5%. Now THAT’s my kind of Bordeaux! Gorgeous wine and a real treat for me to get to taste.

Laurent was at the restaurant that night and it was great to receive the royal treatment as the guest of such an illustrious dinner companion.

In my experience, New York is the only U.S. city that rivals London and Paris in the field of competitive, see-and-be-seen dining. And that cold, misty night on the East Side was one for the books. I’ll never forget tumbling back into anonymity as I hailed a cab on Lexington, my belly full and my spirit fortified.

Thanks again, fabu friend, for such a superb evening!