REALLY slow food at Michele and Charles Scicolone’s table

Above: Good friend Frank (not pictured) brought a 3-liter bottle of 1971 Chianti Classico by Ruffino to our “very slow” and excellent dinner the other night in the home of my long-time friends, the delightful Michele and Charles Scicolone — authors, bloggers, and legendary New York hosts. That’s me wielding the 3-liter with Charles in the background.

Michele and Charles Scicolone have a lot to celebrate these days.

Charles (check out his blog) was recently made a knight in the order of the Imperial Castellania di Suavia: a week ago Sunday, the “dames” of the confraternity presented him with his honorary sword and sash, in a ceremony replete with medieval pageantry and garb, at the historical Soave castle.

And New York Times best-seller author Michele (check out her blog) is basking (rightfully) in the glow of more than 50,000 copies printed of her latest book The Italian Slow Cooker (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010). (You may remember Tracie P’s post inspired by Michele’s book.)

Above: On Saturday, Michele was testing recipes for her forthcoming The French Slow Cooker recipe book. Slow-cooked veal shank was served with slow-cooked risotto (and oven-roasted asparagus).

Tracie P and I had the good fortune to be invited to Michele and Charles’s home for dinner on Saturday night, where we got to sample some of the dishes that Michele is testing for the forthcoming French version of her slow-cooker success, like this chocolate cake:

Above: Yes, made with a slow-cooker!

We also got to taste a champagne-method wine, a DOC from Italy I’d never seen before, a sparkling Lessini (place name) Durello (grape name).

Above: Anyone else have notes on this wine or other wines made from Durello grapes?

I was impressed by its richness, freshness, and unctuous mouthfeel, and it was a great accompaniment to Michele’s turkey, pork, and fig slow-cooker pâte. Charles had brought the wine back from his recent trip to Soave.

O, and the 1971 Chianti Classico? Old and dusty, earthy and grapey, crunchy and delicious… perfect with the veal and the ripened cheeses that followed…

Thanks so much, Michele and Charles, from both of us, Tracie P and me. Such success couldn’t have happened to more lovely people. You’ll always be the “first couple” of Italian food and wine in my book!

Scenes from a Saturday in Brooklyn

Yesterday, I took Tracie P on a tour of “my” Brooklyn…

That’s me with Francesco Buffa owner of Ferdinando’s in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, one of my favorite restaurants in the world.

Tracie P often teases me that when I’m around New Yorkers I start to talk with a New York accent. When I’m Brooklyn? Fuhgeddaboudit (I even found myself saying “you twos”).

That the vasteddu, the Palermitan spleen sandwich served at Ferdinando’s.

I’ve got a special post planned for next week on Francesco and the culinary legacy that his excellent restaurant represents.

grower champagne

Can anyone guess where we took this photo of this superb bottle of Champagne by Lassaigne? I’ve got one hint for you: the owner of that table likes Champagne (and he’s got one of the palates, to borrow Cory’s phrase, I admire most in this here enoblogospher).

More on our lovely visit and the wines we tasted together coming up…

Tracie P and I visited Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope (where I used to live way back when), and, de riguer, the Brooklyn Bridge.

It was such a beautiful Saturday afternoon in May and I just felt like I fell in love with her all over again…

Thanks, Tracie P, for let me share “my Brooklyn” with you… I love you.

From Le Bernardin to Barney Greengrass, there’s nothing like a good piece of fish

Above: White fish salad appetizer, Barney Greengrass.

From Le Bernardin to Barney Greengrass: there’s nothing like a “good piece of fish.” Tracie P and I are staying on the Upper Westside this time around and NO visit to the west side is complete without some smoked fish at one of my favorite delicatessens, Barney Greengrass — an American classic and one of Woody Allen’s favorite “establishing shots.”

Above: You just gotta have the potato latkes.

Thanks, Greg and Eileen, for breakfast! And mazel tov!

Heading to Brooklyn now for some panelle…

Dreams do come true: 1971 Produttori del Barbaresco

Anyone who knows Tracie P and me can imagine the flutter in our hearts when we were surprised last night at dinner with this bottle of wine.

In the next few days, I’ll post on this and the other truly amazing wines that were opened for us (you’re not going to believe the flight of wines we enjoyed…). But right now a stroll in the park with my lovely lady on a beautiful New York spring day and whitefish salad are calling my name…

jeremy parzen

Stay tuned…

Awesome vertical of Santorini by Boutari

Tracie P and I tasted a vertical (09 classic Kallisti, 09 classic Santorini, 05 Kallisti reserve, 93 Kallisti reserve, 89 Kallisti reserve) of Boutari Santorini this morning with winemaker Yannis Voyatzis (who made all of the wines himself). The 2005 and 1993 in particular blew me away with their freshness and bright acidity and salty minerality. Managing the Boutari social media project does have its perks! Killer wines. I’m beginning to think that I may have finally found the perfect sushi wine.

Lunch at Bar Boulud wasn’t bad (photo by Tracie P).

Especially when paired with…

The 1993 Naoussa was friggin’ amazing…

Tracie P and I are getting ready for our Friday night out on the town. Stay tuned!

Pair this! Dinner with the best sommelier (2008) in the world Aldo Sohm

You may remember him from my post some years back now: Austrian-born Aldo Sohm, one of the nicest guys in the biz, one of its brightest stars, and the apotheosis of hospitality and wine and food knowledge. Last night, I was treated to dinner by my friend, photographer Lyn Hughes, who recently “shot” the new website for Le Beranardin, one of New York’s top 5 dining destinations (IMHO), where Aldo holds court. Here are a few images from dinner… Enjoy!

Sea urchin… paired with…

Gaia Santorini Thalassitis. The “sea water” flavors of the Assyrtico were superb with the raw urchin.

Zucchine flowers stuffed with crab… paired with…

Trimbach Pinot Gris. The richness of this wine also went well with the bacalao.

Snapper (shot by Lyn!)… paired with two wines…

Neumeister Sauvignon Blanc. This wine was the quintessence, Aldo explained, of the Austrian interpretation of the grape variety, somewhere between the intensity of New Zealand’s take and the angularity of Sancerre. A simply stunning wine.

Château Simone 1986. One word tasting note: wow. (Check out Wine Doctor’s profile of this incredible estate.)

Here’s one to keep you guessing!

Thanks again, Aldo and Lyn! (Can you believe that? One of NYC’s top celebrity photographers shooting with my camera!)

Stay tuned… Tracie P arrived JFK last night after dinner and our first tasting today is scheduled for 11 a.m. Man, it’s tough job but someone’s got to do it!

“Xinomavro is a punch in the face to globalisation. We don’t need Cabernet in Greece!”

No, it’s not a crown of grape vines. It’s a sample of basket-trained vines from Santorini that was passed around at the New Wines of Greece seminar I attended this morning in New York.

The highlight of the tasting came for me at the end of the morning seminar when Master of Wine Kostantinos Lazarkis (below, left) told the crowd of wine professionals, referring to the “diva” indigenous red grape of Greece, as he called it, “”Xinomavro is a punch in the face to globalisation. We don’t need Cabernet in Greece!”


Getting to chat and taste with Kostantinos was a wonderful treat and it’s always great to taste with two of my favorite people in the wine writing world — who make ANY room feel glamorous — Master of Wine Mary Ewing-Mulligan and the inimitable Ed McCarthy (with Kostantinos, above). In the Xinomavro flight, Ed picked the two ringers blind: Nebbiolo from Piedmont and Sangiovese from Montalcino. There’s no two ways about it: the dude is a stud.

I’ve only been in New York for a morning and I’ve already tasted some amazing wines and met some amazingly interesting people. And the day is young!

Stay tuned…

Mountains of polenta and a sea of grappa: Los Angeles circa 1994

Late last year, when I was asked to contribute to a collection of essays dedicated to and inspired by my UCLA dissertation advisor, mentor, and friend, poet, scholar, gourmet, and gourmand, Luigi Ballerini (above), I decided to chronicle the Italian food scene in Los Angeles circa 1994. The Italian regional cuisine phenomenon had yet to explode in the U.S. but the City of the Angels was already awash in a sea of grappa: with Bloomian anxiety of influence, Angelino restaurateurs had embraced two of Italy’s most humble (however beloved) food stuffs — polenta and grappa — and anointed them as queen mother and queen (respectively) of Italian cuisine.

At the time, Luigi and I were working on a wonderful translation of his poetry that would become Cadence of a Neighboring Tribe. And Luigi was just beginning to shift his focus to gastronomy. Among many other articles, translations, and essays, our collaboration led to an English-language annotated edition of The Art of Cooking by fifteenth-century Italian celebrity chef Maestro Martino (UC Press 2005) — one of my most proud moments as a scholar and translator.

    Three of the most powerful and enduring memories of my years working closely with Luigi Ballerini involve food (and/or the lack thereof).

    The one is an image in his mind’s eye, a scene he often spoke of: Milan, 1945, the then five-year-old Ballerini watches a defiant Nazi soldier atop an armored car, part of a phalanx in retreat from the Lombard capital, leaving it an “open city”; the muscle-bound German bares his chest in the winter cold, as if impervious to pain even in the moment of ultimate defeat. The Nazis left behind a broken city and people, who had already known hunger for quite some time and would not know prosperity and plenty for many years to come. At five years old, Luigi knew hunger all too well.

Click here to download a PDF of the essay.

“La tovaglia che sazia: Luigi Ballerini the gastronome and his ‘tablecloth of plenty,'” by Jeremy Parzen, in Balleriniana, edited by Giuseppe Cavatorta and Elena Coda, Ravenna, Danilo Montanari Editore, 2010.

O, Luigi, you can be the king and you most certainly are in my cook book. But may we wear your crown?

Thanks for reading!

Manufacturing consent (again) in Montalcino

Above: Could the results of elections in Montalcino yesterday lead to changes in appellation regulations for Brunello? For many years, the now elected advisory council member and front-runner for association president has advocated a change that would allow up to 15% of grapes other than Sangiovese (above).

The results of much-talked-about Brunello advisory council election came my way early this morning via my friend Ale’s feed. But as soon as they hit the Brunello producers association website, they were immediately blasted across the internets by observers of the Italian wine industry. I have posted the results at VinoWire together with the newly elected members’s professional affiliations (I cannot but applaud the Brunello producers association for posting the highly anticipated news promptly… for once!).

Above: Has a metaphorical hail storm crippled the sacred primacy of Sangiovese? Many, like top Italian wine blogger Mr. Franco Ziliani fear it has.

ezio rivellaMany believe that ex-director and eno-architect of behemoth Banfi, Ezio Rivella (left), will be the next president of the body (to be announced in the next three weeks).

For years, Rivella has advocated a change in appellation regulations that would allow up to 15% of grapes other than Sangiovese in Brunello di Montalcino.

In a genuine act of sixteenth-century “self fashioning,” ex-director of behemoth producer Banfi and the self-proclaimed architect of the Montalcino renaissance is about to publish an English translation of his memoir: Montalcino, Brunello, and I: the Prince of Wines’ True Story [sic and sick].

noam chomskyI’ll take the lead from my colleague Mr. Ziliani (who posted “no comment” this morning on his blog) and will leave you instead with the words of one of my linguistic and ideologic heroes, Noam Chomsky (left):

“The most effective way to restrict democracy is to transfer decision-making from the public arena to unaccountable institutions: kings and princes, priestly castes, military juntas, party dictatorships, or modern corporations.”

More Italian winery designation notes and a clarification from Banfi

declassified sagrantino

Above: I tasted Paolo Bea’s 2006 declassified Sagrantino the other night in Houston. Winemaker Giampiero Bea was not allowed to label the wine as “Sagrantino,” he told me, because the tasting committee said that the wine “lacked color” and had undergone “slight oxidation.” It was fantastic. Giampiero’s labels are among the most information and most difficult to understand for someone who doesn’t speak and/or read Italian.

This morning, I added the following terms to the May 5 post
A note on Italian winery designations: azienda, cascina, fattoria, podere, et cetera
. I thank everyone for the generous support and I hope people will continue to make suggestions/comments/clarifications etc. (special thanks to one of my favorite wine writers, Mitch Frank, for reminding me, via Facebook, about ca’ and casa!).

cantina, literally cellar or cool place to store perishable goods and by extension tavern (probably from the Italian canto meaning angle or corner from the Greek kampthos, bend or angle).

The word cantina has a wide variety of applications in Italy (often used for restaurants and food stores, as well as wineries) and can be found across Italy to denote wine cellar.

casa, literally, a building, house, or habitation (from the Latin casa, a small house, cottage, hut, cabin, shed).

The term casa is used throughout Italy as a winery designation and is often abbreviated as ca’, as in Ca’ del Bosco (it is important to note that it’s often erroneously abbreviated as [using the accent grave diacritic], when in fact the inverted comma [‘] denotes the elision of the final two letters, often derived from a dialectal locution). A casa vinicola (pronounced KAH-sah vee-NEE-koh-lah) is a winery/négociant.

vignaiolo (plural vignaioli), vine tender or grape grower (derived from the Italian vigna, meaning vine, from the Latin vinea, vineyard [from the Latin vinum, wine]).

Pronounced VEEN-y’eye-OH-loh (plural VEEN-y’eye-OH-lee), vignaiolo is used to denote a winery that uses estate-grown fruit in the production of its wines.

I’d also like to draw attention to a important clarification made, in the comment thread, by Fred and Ken Vastola.

An azienda agricola (ah-zee-EHN-dah ah-GREE-koh-lah) is a farming estate, where grapes may or may not be grown for wine production. An azienda vinicola is a winery (or wine business) where grapes are purchased from other farms for wine production. An azienda vinicola (ah-zee-EHN-dah vee-NEE-koh-lah) can also denote a business where wine is purchased and then bottled. As such, the latter designation can be used for a wide range of business models, from the artisanal to the purely commercial.

In other news…

As the world anxiously awaits the results of today’s election of the new advisory committee for the Brunello producers association, a spokesperson from Banfi wrote me yesterday asking me to make this clarification at VinoWire.