My first wine list gets the thumbs up from LA Times

Photo by Ricardo DeAratanha, Los Angeles Times.

You can imagine that it gave me great joy to read that restaurant reviewer S. Irene Virbila gave my first wine list the thumbs up in today’s LA Times review of Sotto in Los Angeles.

Click here to read the review.

Daybreak in Crete, the almond tree, and the future of the Western World

The scene at the Santorini airport yesterday was maddening: Italian, Irish, French, Japanese, Korean tourists all trying to leave the island, as strikes and an uncertain future loomed. Somehow my handlers managed to usher me through the pandemonium on to a small propeller plane. And when I awoke with the Cretan sunrise this morning surrounded by vineyards, the stinking reality still hadn’t sunk in: as my New York Times mobile feed reports on this gorgeous Wednesday, which finds me a stone’s throw from the town where modern Greek philosopher Kazantzakis was born on the island of Crete, the future of the European Union — and perhaps the financial security of the entire Western World — rests upon Greek lawmakers’s tense negotiations and the outcome of their debate over deep-reaching austerity measures. As I slumbered last night, I dreamed of Kazantzakis’s Christ. And when I awoke with the daybreak, I wondered whether or not every Greek woman, man, and child must feel the same existential burden that Christ felt as he weighed the temporal and spiritual consequences of the mission entrusted to him by his G-d.

One man I spoke to in recent days — P the stoic — observed wryly that “the Germans are invading us once again with these imposed austerity measures,” pointing out that the northerners are essentially condemning the Greeks to indentured servitude for this and the generation to come.

Another man I spoke to — S the mystic — caressed his amber and mastic komboloi and told me of seeing water squeezed from stone, a miracle he witnessed when, as a younger man, his failed wine shop had left him with suffocating debt. His faith, he said, gave him the strength to rebuild his life and provide for his family.

Today, I wish I could write about the bitter herbs that balanced the sweetness of summer tomatoes and cucumbers in the salad prepared for me last night by Maria — the matron, who, together with her husband Yannis, looks after the estate where I spent the night. I wish I could tell you how the bones of the smoked lamb were so delicate that they crumbled easily, rewarding my palate with their marrow.

But I can’t. My thoughts and spirit are consumed with world — indeed, local — events.

I will go to Kazantzakis’s almond tree and ask her, “sister, please tell me, will the child that Tracie P are bringing into the world believe that humankind has a greater purpose on this earth beyond that of consumption?”

And hopefully she will blossom and show me G-d.

Thanks for reading…

A 1996 oxidative Assyrtiko, brilliant!

This 96 oxydative Assyrtiko blew me away yesterday in Megalochori, Santorini where I attended a horizontal and vertical tasting of Boutari’s Assyrtiko.

With limited internets access here on the island, I’m posting by phone but I did manage to cobble together some highlights over at the Boutari blog this morning.

Looks like our trip to Crete will be postponed because of strikes. Being stranded on Santorini wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all.

Lunch and swimming in Perivolos, Santorini

Great swimming in the Aegean and fantastic lunch at Notos in Perivolos, on the south shore of Santorini (hence the name Notos, south), with Stavros (Santorini sales manager), Petros (vineyard manager), and Marina (owner) of Boutari. Fascinating conversation ranged from Sophocles to the Venetian rule of Santorini, from the origins of the name Santorini to the relationship of Italian Vin Santo and Santorini’s Vinsanto.

Too much to relate now and so I’ll let the images tell the story. But one wonderful moment I cannot refrain from retelling.

At one point, Marina asked me about my relationship with Italy and what I studied there. I answered, “I studied philology” and was about to begin my spiel about what philology is (since most people in the U.S. aren’t familiar with this field of study). But then it dawned on me: I was speaking with Greeks and they know exactly what philology is because its name is Greek… ϕιλο (philo) λόγος (logos)… love of words. When, instead of explaining its meaning, I shared my thrill at speaking with fellow lovers of words, we raised a glass of Assyrtiko in celebration… :)

Here’s what we ate (the first photo is of bourekakia, btw).

The Caldera of Santorini breathtaking

This is the view from the hotel where we’re staying for the next two days. My Boutari colleagues explained to me that the “Caldera” of Santorini is the mouth of the ancient and still active volcano, which last erupted in 1952.

Life could be worse!

Btw, over the next 6 days, I’ll be posting as often as possible here and over at the Boutari Social Media Project blog. Stay tuned!

Avgotaraho — Greek bottarga with orange and fava bean fritter

In any other city in the world, you’d expect a restaurant named Dionysos to be another cookie-cutter tourist trap. But when the main dining terrace offers one of the world’s greatest views — the Acropolis! — I become the world’s most unabashed tourist.

You can imagine my thrill at finally viewing this magical place last night and my pleasant surprise in discovering that the food at the elegant Dionysos restaurant is excellent.

I LOVED the avgotaraho — the Greek bottarga, in this case a loaf of cured red mullet roe served over a fava bean fritter and topped with a delicate slice of orange and orange zest.

Our host, Cristina Boutari, insisted that we get the moussaka, saying that it was probably the best to be had in one of Athens’s many tourist restaurants and it was superb: the béchamel and ground lamb were light and delicately seasoned and the eggplant, while keeping its shape, literally melted in your mouth.

And with such a view, the food could have been terrible and I still would have loved it!

Today we leave by plane for Santorini… Another dream come true… Stay tuned!

On my way to Greece…

When I told Alfonso that I’d be heading to Greece this week, he shared this wonderful photo of his mother, probably taken in the 80s.

I’m heading back to the Mediterranean (not far from Apulia, where I visited earlier this month) for the Boutari Social Media Project — a virtual media program I have curated for the Boutari group of wineries for the last 14 months.

I’ll be covering the adventure here and on the Boutari blog.

It should be an interesting trip. Stay tuned and see you on the other side!