Boudin balls and Brunello (and a Ringo Starr anecdote)

May 3, 2011

In case yall don’t know what boudin balls are, yall don’t know what you are missing!

Boudin balls are a specialty of Cajun cuisine: you form balls using uncased boudin (pork and rice sausage, commonly found in Louisiana and East Texas where Tracie P grew up) and then you dredge in flour and cornmeal and then you fry.

For Easter this year, Pam brought steaming-hot, freshly fried boudin balls over to Mrs. and Rev. B’s house (she lives just a few blocks away). I paired with an 06 Brunello di Montalcino by Il Poggione that I’d been saving for the occasion. I wrote about it over at the Houston Press, the Houston alternative rag, where I am now a regular contributor on wine. Here’s the link. Fun stuff…

Speaking of Easter, what Easter celebration would it be without memaw B’s deviled eggs?! Man, they’d be worth the drive to from Austin to Orange alone! Love that stuff! Also excellent with the Brunello, where the acidity and tannin the wine cut through the fattiness of the filling like a Bowie knife!

Speaking of balls, I am reminded of something I once heard Ringo Starr say. It was back in 2003 and the French band was asked to open for Ringo at the now defunct Bottom Line in the Village. (You can imagine how thrilled I was to get to do this! It was an amazing experience. Nora Jones — at the height of her fame — also appeared with Ringo that night. Incredible!)

After sound check, Ringo was totally cool and signed autographs for all the folks who managed to make it in through the extremely tight-security (I got to be there because we sound checked after Ringo’s band). At one point, this dude brought him a baseball and asked him to sign it. To which Ringo said, “I’ll sign just about anything, but I don’t sign balls.”

So, there you go…


My dinner with Étienne (in flyover country)

October 27, 2009

From the “life could be worse” department…

Above: Last week the gracious Étienne de Montille tasted and took time out to pose with members of the Texas “dream team” in Austin, Texas. From left, Master Sommelier candidate Devon Broglie, Étienne de Montille, Master Sommelier candidate Craig Collins, and Fabien Jacobs, sommelier at Andrew Weissman’s Le Rêve, considered by many the best restaurant in Texas.

Over the course of my life, I’ve been very fortunate to meet and get to interact with rock stars. And I don’t just mean music rock stars. (Even though the time my band opened for Ringo Starr at the Bottom Line in the West Village was probably the top pinch-me-because-I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening moments: me, sharing a stage with a Beatle!!! A childhood dream come true. Unbelievable.)

Ever the lovable Sicilian cynic, Italian Wine Guy often laments that people consider Texas “flyover country.” He tends to exaggerate (a trait owed to his Mediterranean roots) but I have to concede that, more than once, the more snooty among my friends have asked me if life out here in Texas is boring. But, folks, I’m here to testify: it sure ain’t!

Above: A home-cooked meal at Italian Wine Guy’s place in Dallas was a welcomed respite from a week of dining in restaurants. What did we drink? Étienne’s Volnay and Barbaresco, of course!

In all seriousness, getting to “ride with” and interact with Étienne was a true thrill for me. (See the image in the left hand corner of my banner above? Tracie B took that in Paris: that’s Étienne’s father’s 1991 Volnay Les Champans in my glass, a wine I will never forget.) I’m working these days with a small Dallas-based distributor of fine wines and I had to good fortune to travel, taste, and dine with Étienne last week.

His father Hubert, now retired, is one of the greatest producers in Burgundy, and Étienne began making wines at the family estate in the late 1990s. As his American importer John Winthrop likes to say, he is “a French aristocrat whose family was ennobled so long ago that the Bourbons are relative arrivistes.” But Étienne is also a really cool, down-to-earth guy, very generous in spirit and a wine “fanatic,” as he likes to say.

Italian wine will always be my first love but Burgundy is my mistress: it was fascinating to taste with Étienne and hear him share his thoughts on biodynamic and organic farming practices. In many ways, his wines could be considered — dare I say? — “natural wines”: he employs biodynamic farming practices and uses only ambient yeast in fermentation. No one would deny, however, that his wines are a supreme example of terroir expression. He doesn’t believe in “sexual confusion” in the vineyard, for example (organic growers often deploy pheromones in vineyard that confuse the insects’s sexual drive and stops them from procreating). “Sexual confusion upsets the ecologic balance of the vineyard,” he told me, “and so it is not true to the terroir.”

The thing that impresses me the most about his wines is their balance of tannic structure and lightness in color and body. “Only nature can give color to the wine,” I heard him say over and over. “I don’t want to extract [i.e., concentrate] the wine too much because it can bring out undesired flavors,” he said, referring to the time he allows his wines to macerate with skin contact. The 2006 Beaune 1er cru Les Sizies and Volnay 1er cru Les Mitans were great examples of this: the vintage has delivered healthy but not overwhelming tannin and the wines were a pure delight, with savory, classically Burgundian aromas and flavors.

Raj ParrWhen I took Étienne to the airport on Thursday in Dallas, he left for California where he did a wine dinner — a vertical tasting of his family’s celebrated wines — at one of our country’s most famous wine destintations, RN74 in San Francisco, with one of our country’s leading sommeliers, Raj Parr. That’s Raj (one of the nicest guys in the biz, btw) to Étienne’s left and collector Wilf Jaeger to his right (Wilf is one of co-owners of the restaurant).

I’m so glad that took time out to come visit us here in “fly-over country.” Life sure could be worse out here in Central Texas! ;-)

In other news…

I’m no rock star but she sure makes me feel like one! Tracie B and I had a great time at Liz and Matt’s wedding in Richmond over the weekend. Who would have ever thought that a schlub like me would end up with a cover girl like her? Gotta say, this whole Texas thing is growing on me! ;-)

In other other news…

More rock stars are coming! Kermit Lynch and Ricky Fataar are coming to Austin on November 9 to spin tracks from their new record, eat some barbecue, and drink some good wine. And yours truly is the MC for the night (I’ll be traveling to Nasvhille with Kermit, too, for a similar event). Click here for details (the event is almost sold out so please make your reservations asap).


Ramontalcinos say no to Merlot

April 30, 2009

Above: They say “no” to Merlot. Federico Marconi (left) handles marketing and Gianni Fabbri is the winemaker at the Fabbri family’s winery, Le Presi, one of my favorite Brunello producers. I tasted with them and snapped these photos at the Italian wine trade fair, Vinitaly, earlier this month.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against Merlot per se. I’ve tasted great Merlot from all over the world — Bordeaux, Trentino, Friuli, Tuscany, California. I can’t say that I’m a fan of most it but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it.

The problem, as Alice pointed out in her post today, is that Merlot is a grape Zelig: “Why does everyone has to grow merlot? Because it’s a grape Zelig? Merlot, like mint, takes to most places.”

Merlot has been grown in Tuscany for centuries, but it was during the 1980s and 90s that it became increasingly popular there, as the Super Tuscan craze began to emerge and Italy began to sell more wine in the Merlotophile American market. Behind his back (and with an acute dose of disdain), many Italian winemakers call Tuscany’s leading wine wizard “Mr. Merlot” — a distinction bestowed upon him because of the ubiquitous Merlot in his award-winning Chiantis and his alleged use of Merlot in Brunello di Montalcino, where appellation regulations require the wine be made with 100% Sangiovese grapes.

Yesterday, when I wrote “just say no to Merlot,” I was addressing and appealing to producers of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, who are considering an increase in the amount of international grape varieties allowed in their appellation.

My friend, artist, poet, musician, and marketing director for old school Brunello producer Le Presi, Federico “Ramontalcino” Marconi, had this to say:

    The Fred Man too says No to Merlot! Let’s defend a precious little thing called “heritage”… Why are they so short-sighted and unable to recall the nasty backlash of last year’s “Brunello-gate”? I don’t get it: what does these people have against a Good Ol’ Sangiovese!? And let me tell ya: I am a Sangiovese “fan to the bone”. Gabba Gabba Hey!

Above: Federico created this “Old School” t-shirt to reflect Le Presi’s traditional approach to winemaking. Even though the winemaker and his team are young, the wines are as old school as it gets — natural fermentation and aging in botti, large old, neutral oak barrels. Wolfgang was the first to post on this great marketing idea.

When I met Federico and we became friends, we decided we would start a band called the Ramontalcinos (we owe the name to Josh Loving of Vino Vino fame, an accomplished classical guitar player, who will also be part of the act).

I wish more Italian winemakers could be like Federico and Gianni: they marry a punk rock sensibility with a respect and passion for their heritage. They are wise to see that they can better market their wines not by changing their nature but rather by infusing their image and perception of their brand with youthful energy and verve.

Gabba gabba hey.

Ringo says no to Merlot, too. Check out this clip of Ringo singing the “No No Song” with the Smothers Brothers. The best part is the gag at the end (with Ben Einstein)!


Ménagerie (our new album is here!)

January 21, 2009

Over the years, I’ve written and recorded a lot of songs, with a lot of different bands and friends. Some of them have done well for me and our last record, …Nous Non Plus, was a top-10 college radio record for four weeks (a dream come true, right up there with opening for Ringo back in 2003).

Of all the tracks I’ve ever laid down, my favorites are on our new album Ménagerie.

Please help support independent music and our craft by purchasing our new album, asking your local indy radio station to spin it, and coming out to see us play at one of our upcoming shows (info and links below).

Thanks for your support: every drop makes a difference — it really does. I hope to see y’all at one of our upcoming shows!

Early press for Ménagerie

Zink Magazine — Ménagerie is “a musically diverse and ambitious mélange… like a good Bordeaux, rich and fulfilling, with every sip becoming even more delectable.” (Can you believe they compared our music to Bordeaux?)

Venus Zine — “Ménagerie is a glam pop gem.”

Nous Non Plus is happy to announce the release of our second album, MÉNAGERIE, feb 3 on Aeronaut Records.

Advance CDs now available for purchase online only.


Upcoming Shows:

4 feb, 2009
PARIS – Point Ephémère 8p
NNP (8p)
avec Louis de Lights & Film Noir

7 feb, 2009
LYON – Lyon in Rock festival

9 feb, 2009
NYC – Mercury Lounge 
10p; avec Lights (9p) & The Sharp Things (8p)
ADVANCE TIX RECOMMENDED


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,134 other followers

%d bloggers like this: