any day now (Parzen family expansion update)

any day now

Any day now…

Georgia P arrived nine days before her “official” due date.

Baby P 2013’s due date is July 15 but the doctor says second-time mothers generally deliver early.

So mutatis mutandis, Parzen family expansion could happen any day now.

Little Georgia P doesn’t know how our lives are about to change and we’re really enjoying these last few days as a family of three. She’s such a sweet girl and she sure knows how to make her daddy melt with her smile…

cutest little girl ever

Best meals in Italy: Day 2 at the Dispensa Pani e Vini #Franciacorta

italian grissini

Above: Grissini — bread sticks — are one of Italy’s great gifts to humankind. I’m not talking about the hydrogenated oil-charged grissini that come in a plastic wrapper. I’m talking about the ones that chefs like the amazing Vittorio Fusari bake in-house. Georgia P couldn’t get enough!

Franciacorta Chef Vittorio Fusari and his Dispensa Pani e Vini have become a happy Parzen family obsession. Last week I wrote about the first of two meals we had there earlier this year.

Vittorio’s ability to match brilliant technique and precision with his uncanny knack for sourcing wholesome materia prima have fascinated and thrilled me. Bringing Tracie P and Georgia P to lunch there was one of the highlights of our family trip to Italy in the spring.

Here’s what we ate on the second day.

32 via dei birrai

There is so much great beer being made in Italy right now. We loved the richness of aroma and flavor in the Oppale by 32 Via dei Birrai.

raw salmon italy

The salmon wasn’t cured. It was served raw, expertly sliced and dressed with a gentle drizzle of olive oil. So simply yet ethereally satisfying.

pasta asparagus

Vittorio made these penne with green beans especially for Georgia P. Mommy and daddy couldn’t help stealing a bite.

risotto asparagi asparagus

Vittorio’s risotto agli asparagi was a masterpiece. This dish left me speechless.

italian chicken salad

Poached chicken salad. That’s a lightly breaded, fried egg in the middle. It’s yolk was perfectly runny.

italian hamburger

The Bresciani (ethnonym for natives of Brescia, Lombardy, the province that claims Franciacorta) love beef. This was Vittorio’s take on the hamburger. All the bread is baked in-house at the Dispensa.

manzo olio brescia lombardy

Manzo all’olio — literally beef with olive oil — is a classic dish of Bresciana cuisine. Slowly braised beef usually served with polenta and/or potatoes.

giovanni arcari eugenio signoroni

If I’m in Franciacorta, you’ll usually find me in the company of my bromance Giovanni Arcari (left), winemaker extraordinaire and grand personage of Italian wine. He met us for lunch and we bumped into Eugenio Signoroni, editor of the Slow Food beer and osteria guides. That’s the kind of place the Dispensa is. You always run into food and wine professionals and personalities there.

happy italian baby

What a joy to watch our sweet baby girl enjoy her meals at the Dispensa. Our family life is centered around eating well (and by “well,” I mean deliciously and wholesomely) and there is no chef I know who devotes more attention and passion to the wholesomeness of what he serves his guests.

Thank you, Vittorio! The Parzen family is your unabashedly and eternally devoted and grateful fan!

Of men, mice, olive oil tacos & news from La Calle del Taco (Reynosa, Mexico)

olive oil taco best mexican

Above: At the Austin Ale House, Chef Emilio Oliva is making tortillas and refried beans using extra-virgin olive oil instead of lard. Currently, the pulled pork tacos are a speciality item. If he made them a regular item, I might have to eat there once a day.

To hear Chef Emilio Oliva tell the story, the taqueros who work on the famous Calle del Taco — where taquerías line the street — in his native Reynosa, Mexico, risk their lives daily.

“I come from a town of men and mice,” he told me.

The patrons of the calle, he said, are often armed and if they don’t like your cooking, they might decide to end your career right then and there.

His advice for the taqueros of this rough border town (on the Texan frontier)?

“If you can’t cook a good greasy taco, you might as well go to Wisconsin and pick cotton.”

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Selvapiana Chianti Rufina good to the last drop

color sangiovese

MAN, I love this wine! Look at the color (no Photoshopping here, just a raw photo snapped with a white backdrop). THAT’s the color of Sangiovese.

I paired last night with a thinly cut, bone-in pork chop, slowly roasted Yukon Golds, dripping in extra-virgin olive oil, on the side. It was a beautiful thing…

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98.9% natural? Either you is or either you ain’t

natural wine controversy

When I saw this claim, “98.9% natural,” on a bottle of baby liquid bath soap, I couldn’t help but think of the 1955 single by one of my favorite R&B singers Big Joe Turner: “Lipstick, Powder, and Paint” written by Jesse Stone, who also wrote “Shake Rattle & Roll” (also recorded for the first time by Big Joe Turner).

The song is about a transgender person: lipstick, powder, and paint/either you is or either you ain’t.

It’s kind of like being pregnant: you can’t be a little bit pregnant.

I think that one of the reasons why the expression natural wine stirs such controversy and can evoke such vitriol is how the precious word natural is so often abused in marketing today.

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Why I went to Italy & why I still go back (thank you Sir Roy)

roy strong italy

Above: Sir Roy Strong was the person who suggested I go to Italy and study Italian (image via the London Evening Standard).

Samantha’s heart-wrenching post this morning, “In the name of the father,” got me thinking of my own fatherless teenage years and a man who played a very important — however brief — role in my life, Sir Roy Strong.

People often ask me why I’ve devoted my life to the study of Italian language, history, and culture (before enogastronomy, I spent nearly more than ten years studying Italian prosody, narrative, and cinema, and lived and worked in Italy for most of that time).

The answer is Sir Roy.

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Fabrizio Bindocci re-elected Brunello consortium president

fabrizio bindocci

I just received a press release issued by the Brunello di Montalcino bottlers association announcing that my friend Fabrizio Bindocci (above) has been re-elected as the body’s president.

I’ve had the great fortune to interview (and dine with) Fabrizio on many occasions and I have great admiration for him and his devotion to traditional-style Brunello di Montalcino.

According to the statement, he was elected unanimously by the body’s technical advisory board.

In my view, his stewardship of the appellation has delivered renewed confidence, cohesion, and stability to the growers and bottlers he represents.

And while other events on the ground in Montalcino may have drawn more attention in the last six months, his work in asking the Italian agriculture ministry to clarify its position on emergency irrigation has been invaluable — in my view — for the appellation.

It’s just one of the many things he’s done, without fanfare or pomposity, to ensure a better and brighter future for Brunello di Montalcino and the people who make it. And that’s a good thing for the rest of us Brunello lovers as well.

Congratulations, Fabrizio!

Italian celebrity Joe Bastianich calls Italian diners “idiots”

joe bastianich deficiente

Above: Joe Bastianich is an even bigger celebrity in Italy than in the U.S.

One of the first things that Lidia Bastianich told me when she cooked lunch for me and a group of wine bloggers at the family’s farmhouse in Friuli was how her son Joe has eclipsed her fame in Italy.

“We were in Piazza San Marco [in Venice] and a group of teenagers came up to us and wanted Joe’s autograph — not mine,” she said.

As a star of one of Italy’s most popular TV shows (“Master Chef”), Joe has achieved a level of celebrity in Italy that few in the U.S. are aware of.

His name was hurled across the Italophone enogastronomic blogosphere this week when, in a video interview posted online by the national daily newspaper Corriere della Sera, he called Italian diners “idiotic,” using the Italian term deficiente.

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