Perché New York? (and a dispatch from Ziliani)

Perché New York?, a collection of essays on what makes New York a unique and interesting place to live (Piacenza, Edizioni Scrittura, 2007, €14), including contributions by an architect, an artist, a Lacanian psychoanalyst, a photographer, and yours truly.

Hot off the presses: I just received my copy of Perché New York? (Why New York?), a collection of essays to which I contributed “Why New York? A gastronome’s point of view.”

In my piece, I recount the heady years of the late 1990s when Italian cuisine, Italian regional cuisine, and — most significantly — Italian wine took the city by storm (I was then writing for The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana). I don’t want to reveal the ending but my somewhat salacious account reveals some of the less savory elements of the NYC restaurant world and includes a show-down between one of NYC’s most famous and notorious restaurateurs and one of my favorite wine directors… and it ain’t so pretty… The book won’t be available in the U.S. (and it’s in Italian) but you can probably order by emailing the publisher at

In other news:

I couldn’t resist translating the below passage from a post by top Italian wine blogger (and friend) Franco Ziliani, his notes from a blind tasting of 48 bottlings of Barbaresco from the 2004 vintage. The good news is that 2004 appears to have been a great vintage and the even better news (see below) is that many producers are abandoning their modern approach to winemaking in favor of a more natural and traditional style. The tasting was hosted by The World of Wine Fine in London on December 13 and was attended by some of Britain’s top wine writers and reviewers. One of the surprises — Franco concedes — was that he liked the Gaja. “That’s the rule of blind tastings,” wrote Franco. If you like it (even when you have famously written how much you didn’t like previous vintages), you must say as much. Check out Franco’s notes on the 04 Gaja Barbaresco (notes are in English).

The following translation is drawn from Franco’s notes on the tasting. I love Franco’s writing style and his acerbic wit.

In the flawless 2004 vintage — perfect for the ideal, gradual, slow aging of Nebbiolo –- greatness has returned to show itself again without hesitation or trepidation.

Except for a few indomitable Taliban and Japanese rhinoceros warriors from the jungle who still haven’t heard that “the war” has ended (I call it a “war,” this childhood page in this history of Langhe Nebbiolo), the overwhelming majority of producers has accepted the notion that the era of muscular, hyper-concentrated Barbarescos redolent with wood is over (despite guidebooks editors who continue witlessly to keep it alive using artificial respiration).

For the magical 2004 vintage (and just wait for Barolo next year!!!), these winemakers have chosen the golden path of balance, pleasure, and moderation by simply accommodating what the vine has given them: splendid grapes, with a natural balance of fruit, acidity, and tannin (and let me tell you, mister, these are some fine tannins!). Only fools or wine mujahideen would think of ruining this balance with excessive concentration, concentrators (oh yes!), and the shameless, base use of new wood…

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