@QUIAustin‎ @PQui @JuneRodil donate proceeds from Filipino dishes for Philippines relief

dinuguan pork blood

Above: Dinuguan, pork offal and pork blood braised until melt-in-your-mouth, a classic Filipino dish as prepared by Chef Paul Qui in Austin at Qui.

I just traded emails with our good friend June Rodil who writes from Argentina that her family back in the Philippines is doing fine despite the challenges of cleaning up in the wake of the recent typhoon there.

Tracie P and I were glad to hear that. We’ve been checking in with all of our Filipino friends here in Texas. Some of them still haven’t had word yet from their families. (June, a leading Austin wine professional and the wine director at Qui, happens to be on a wine trip in Argentina.)

June also let me know that Qui — one of our favorite restaurants in Austin — will be donating proceeds from its Filipino dishes (like the Dinuguan, above) to the Philippine Red Cross (its website is updated regularly with news on the situation there).

It’s tough to get a reservation at Qui during Formula 1 week here in Austin. But once things calm down again next week, I’ll take the girls back for my monthly craving of Dinuguan.

Here’s a link to my post on our recent dinner there.

And here, again, is the link to the Philippines Red Cross.

Please keep our Filipino sisters and brothers in your prayers and thoughts…

The other Fiorano & the voice of the prince himself

fiorano white

Above: The 2010 Fiorano Bianco is made mostly from Viognier, which dominates its aromatic profile. I thought the wine was stunning, with great balance, acidity, and nuanced stone fruit flavor. The wines are not yet available in the U.S. but I recently tasted a bottle that had been brought here by Philadelphia-based wine professional Jason Malumed, who had bought them in Rome.

Few members of the New York fine wine scene — myself included — will forget Eric “the Red” Asimov’s excellent 2004 article “An Italian Prince and His Magic Cellar” for the New York Times.

The piece described the long-lived white wines of Roman prince Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi and Eric’s visit to his mysterious and magical cellar with its large-format casks covered by foamy mold.

It was such an important moment for Italian wine in New York and the nation. The Italian wine renaissance was just beginning to take shape here and Eric’s essay was one of the first to be devoted exclusively to one of Italy’s great white wines.

In those years, when Friuli was just beginning to emerge as a leading producer of fine white wine and you could still find Verdicchio in a fish-shaped bottle at the super market, most looked to Italy only for reds.

But Eric’s tale — and the subsequent arrival of the wines in the U.S. — spoke loudly to many of us, especially because it took note of Italian whites. Eric was already a champion of Italian wine (he often writes about his passion for the category today) and the story bolstered our belief that Italian wine would be delivered from the dusty obscurity rendered by its 1970s marketing blunders.

fiorano red

Above: The 2006 red, a Bordeaux blend in which Cabernet Franc dominated the tasting profile, was also excellent, with earthy and goudron notes on the nose and vibrant acidity and austere red fruit in the mouth. I’d love to revisit this still youthful wine in another 5-10 years. I can’t thank Jason enough for sharing them with me.

A few weeks ago, Eric wrote about the wines again in an article entitled “Fiorano Wine Estate in Italy Making a Comeback.”

Have a look at his piece for the background on the estate but to sum it up briefly here, it’s an Italian story as classic as it is tragic: after the prince died, some of the historic vineyards became the property of his son-in-law Piero Antinori and the winery, trademark, and other vineyards went to a biological heir, “Alessandrojacopo Boncompagni Ludovisi, a cousin of the prince, who had been living on the property and who had bought several parcels on the estate from the prince.”

Again, see Eric’s piece for background and see also Charles Scicolone’s excellent post on his recent visit with Alessia Antinori (the prince’s granddaughter) who now manages the vineyards and is planning to relaunch the wines under a new Fiorano label.

I had the good fortune to taste the wines made by Alessandrojacopo on my recent trip to the east coast (thank you, again, Jason!). And I thought they were excellent.

They had been purchased at Trimani, the famous wine shop in Rome.

I was told that the owners of Trimani believe that Alessandrojacopo’s wines represent the prince’s true legacy.

Many in the Italian wine trade believe that the prince attempted to destroy his vines before his passing because he feared that Antinori would use them to make a modern-style wine.

It’s probably true (see the translation below) but does it really matter anymore? When the prince — a pioneer of chemical-free farming in Italy — died in 2005, Italian wine was at a crossroads and it appeared that modernism (note the -ism) would prevail over the classic. But today, that trend has been reversed.

The only thing I know for certain is that it makes for a great story.

Here’s my translation of Luigi Veronelli’s 2001 interview with the prince…

Since 1934, when I [Prince Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi] was sixteen years old, the use of industrially produced chemicals in land management has never seemed wise to me.

The Fiorano estate began to produce wine around 1930 using local grape varieties. In 1946, when I received the property from my father, I judged the wine to be inferior and consulted with Dr. Giuseppe Palieri who was producing wine on the Maccarese estate about 20 kilometers southwest of Rome. Dr. Palieri suggested that I graft Cabernet and Merlot to my vines for the reds, 50% of the one and the other, and Malvasia di Candia and Semillon for the whites. I continued to rely on Dr. Palieri for the rest of his life. Dr. Tancredi Biondi Santi subsequently became my enologist and continued to work with me until his passing.

I pulled out almost all of my vines because of advanced age and poor health and the advanced age of the vines. But I still produce a small amount of wine from Cabernet and Merlot grapes, blended in equal amounts.

My three granddaughters [Albiera, Allegra, and Alessia] have inherited their interest in wine not from me but from their father Piero [Antinori], an eminent producer of fine wine.

Philippines, thoughts, prayers & solidarity for our sisters & brothers

Tracie P and I are heart-broken by the devastation in the Philippines (NY Times coverage).

And we are keeping our Filipino sisters and brothers in our hearts and prayers.

So far, our Filipino friends here in Texas have told us that with power and the network offline, there has been no communication from family members back home.

May G-d protect them.

Here’s the Red Cross donation link.

Georgia P’s first guitar

rock star

Over the weekend, while Georgia P and I were visiting an Austin music shop, she saw this pink ukulele and just had to have it.

I’m such a pushover!

How could I say no?

It doesn’t stay in tune and its tone isn’t the best.

But it’s her “first guitar” and she loves it.

I’ll never forget my first guitar, the one I got after trading in my cello.

I was 10 years old. And I would spend hours and hours trying to learn how to play Beatles songs, sometimes until my fingers would bleed.

When I was an early teen, that guitar was a best friend in some tough times (when my family was being broken apart). It’s been a trusted companion ever since.

As I watch her pluck and strum her “first guitar,” I can only dream of where it will accompany her someday…

I love her so much.

Mother shucker: sweet oysters & salty bartenders in Seattle WA

shuckers oyster seattle

Above: Oysters on the half shell at Shuckers at the Fairmont hotel in Seattle. As the name would suggest, Shuckers is an old and crusty oyster bar, just the way I like it.

Oysters have been on my mind all morning: I just filed a story on pairing wines with Gulf oysters for a Houston lifestyle magazine.

I like Gulf oysters a lot and I love the way that Gulf coast culinary culture calls for them to be grilled, roasted, smoked, fried, and prepared in any which way but loose.

But nothing comes close to the oyster culture that they have up there in the wild northwest of the United States and Canada.

best oysters seattle

Above: I was blown away by the bartender’s expertise on the oysters. A salty old dude with a pony tail, he’d been working there for more than 20 years he said.

When Paolo and I were in Seattle a week ago today, I slipped into our hotel’s oyster bar, Shuckers, for a glass and few oyster before heading out for dinner.

The restaurant was a classic old west coast saloon, where tourists mixed with a “get your drink on” crowd at the bar who seemed to be on a first-name basis with the staff.

I loved the range of oysters I tasted (a half dozen in all) and I loved that they were all from the northwest.

washington state sauvignon blanc

Above: If I remember correctly, I paid $9 by-the-glass for this stainless-steel Washington Sauvignon Blanc. It was fresh and clean and varietally correct. With its cool weather and maritime influence, Washington is one of the few places in America where it actually makes sense to grow wine.

“It’s pretty rare that we need to bring oysters from somewhere else,” said the bartender, a salty dude with pony tail and sideburns almost as long as mine. “That only happens when the water’s not clean. And that hasn’t happened for a long time now.”

He blew me away with his knowledge of the oysters and his nuanced tasting notes. He never cracked a smile but he was as friendly and as helpful as a bartender could be.

If you ever make to that part of the world, be sure to go see him…

Does “blush” wine still exist? Was that a Nagel on the wall?

blush wine san francisco

I’m sorry, Houston. You may have some great restaurants and an evolving wine scene… and you certainly have the braggadaccio. But in my view of the world, San Francisco is the hippest enogastronmic destination in the U.S. these days.

Between the “new California wine,” the vibrant restaurant scene there (Tosca? St. Vincent’s? RN74? And all of Shelley Lindgren’s restaurants?); the accessibility of the best produce in the country; the availability of great Italian (Vinity is one of my favorite portfolios), Spanish, and French wines; and a host of great wine writers and wine media platforms, the bottom line is that San Francisco leads the nation in its fine food and wine awareness.

So is it possible that blush wine still exists there?

Last Sunday night, Paolo and I stayed at the Hilton in the Financial District on Kearny.

Before we headed to dinner (more on that later), I stopped at the hotel’s restaurant (“East Meets West with a Northern California Twist!”) for a glass before our evening’s main event.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw “blush wine” on the list (above).

I texted the image to Tracie P who replied swiftly: “that’s so 1982!”

As I sipped an insipid glass of sparkling white, I felt like I was living in a Nagel painting.


8 cities 9 days a few lbs heavier & many tall tales to tell


Above: Potatoes that had been simmered for eight hours and then fried at Genoa in Portland where I spoke at a wine dinner on Tuesday night. They were delicate and creamy in the middle, gently crunch on the outside and the caviar gave just the right amount of saltiness.

By the time I got to Oregon on Tuesday, I had been in eight cities in nine days: New York, Philadelphia, Houston, Austin, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland. The lines from the Simon & Garfunkel song never rang more true: everyday’s an endless stream/of cigarettes and magazines/and each town looks the same to me/the movies and the factories…

Back in the “day,” when my band Nous Non Plus and the band that came before it used to tour aggressively, I was accustomed to the intense travel and a different hotel room every night, often waking up without remembering what town we were in.

But back then I was in my mid-thirties. Now I’m in my mid-forties.

Back then it was cheap beer and crappy food. Today, it’s fine wine and haute cuisine.

Back then I didn’t have anyone to go home to. Now I have a loving family more beautiful than I could ever have dreamed of.


Above: I loved the way the chefs at Genoa used color in their dishes. I had been invited by the restaurant’s wine director, Michael Garofola, to co-present his second annual Orange Wine dinner. It turned out I had to be in Seattle the day before so it worked out nicely.

On each night of the trip (except the last), my friend and client Paolo Cantele and I ate in a fabulous restaurant and met with local media to talk up his family’s wines and his new cooking school iSensi.

I’ve been documenting and will continue to post about our trip over on his CanteleUSA blog.

We called it the “Rolling Thunder Cantele USA 2013 Tour” and although the food was a lot better, it reminded me of my rock ‘n’ roll days, especially for the camaraderie between the two of us in the face of prolonged fatigue, weight-gain, and the disorientation that comes with such a heavy travel schedule.


Above: The pappardelle at Genoa were light in body but firm to the bite. I was so impressed by their food and it was wonderful to see what a vibrant food scene they have in Portland. It was also a thrilled to meet wine writers Allison Jones of Portland Monthly and Katherine Cole (whose newest book is called Complete Wine Selector), both such gracious ambassadors of Oregon wine and Portland’s gastronomy.

The last night I was on my own in Portland with a great group of wine and food lovers, who were so welcoming and so hospitable.

As much as a missed home and my girls, as much as my digestion took a beating (for the fatigue and over-indulgence, not the high caliber of the food), as much as I missed my own bed and my good-night kisses and good-morning hugs, I know that I am very fortunate to have the work that I do and to be living in the U.S.A. during this unrivaled renaissance of enogastronomy.

In eight cities, I saw, tasted, conversed, traded notes, and learned, learned, learned so much about what’s going on in our country culinarily speaking.

And in eight cities, I connected with people whom I know through our food and wine blogging community. This was a trip of hugs and “so great to finally meet you,” not handshakes and “thanks for your time.”

keber collio wine

Above: I’d never met Genoa’s wine director Michael before. But thanks to social media, he and I knew that our palates align nearly seamlessly. Case in point was the Keber Collio that we drank at the end of the night after the dinner guests went home.

Still in a daze as I catch my breath and catch up on hugs, kisses, burps, diapers, and meals with my beautiful girls and my beautiful Tracie P, I find myself thinking about another song from the 60s, not as well known but one of my favorites.

Without going out of my door
I can know all things on Earth
Without looking out of my window
I could know the ways of Heaven

The farther one travels
The less one knows
The less one really knows

The meals were nearly all excellent and some truly superb. And I love the excitement of travel and meeting new people.

But I know that all these experiences are all the richer because of the virtual community that we’ve created over the last five years or so.

The experiences would mean so much but they mean even more because we’ve all connected through our computer screens and smart devices long before we ever met in person. And we’ll stay connected after our goodbyes.

Thanks for reading and keeping up with it all. I’ll begin posting more trip highlights next week.

Please check out bromance 1WineDude’s post on our dinner at Vetri, a highlight of highlights.

Now it’s time to catch up on some spit up, a burp, a poopy diaper… and many, many, many overdue I-love-yous…

A perfect bottle of Brunello by Argiano 1971 TY @WineGuru @JaynesGastropub

argiano brunello

As Merle Haggard sang it…

I wish Coke was still Cola
And a joint was a bad place to be
It was back before Nixon lied to us all on TV

And Brunello di Montalcino was still brightly colored, transparent Sangiovese…

What a thrill to taste this perfect bottle of 1971 Brunello di Montalcino by Argiano, shared with us on Saturday night at Jaynes Gastropub by San Diego wine writer and friend Robert Whitley (aka @WineGuru).

The wine was fresh and brilliant, with the classic Sangiovese flavors and balance that you expect from pre-climate change Montalcino. Unforgettable…

Thank you again, Robert!

Posting in a hurry on the last day of the ROLLING THUNDER CANTELE USA 2013 TOUR. Last night we were in San Francisco and today we’re on our way to Seattle.

So much to tell and so little time… Stay tuned…