Scenes from the Houston BBQ Festival 2017

Congrats to the organizers of the Houston BBQ Festival on another sold-out show.

A money shot for the Pit Room.

As a pit master once told, there are no smiles in bbq. That’s one of Ray’s BBQ Shack’s smokers.

The Houston bbq A-lister, Killen’s. I’ve never been. The line for this was insane as soon as the fair opened.

Didn’t get to taste but they let me photograph it at Killen’s stand.

Louie Mueller was my own personal money shot. That’s some Texas brisket beef rib right there, folks, let me tell you.

BBQ on a croissant, it’s what’s for breakfast in Houston.

Great show!

Texas Wine Freedom: how Texans and all Americans can help end anti-competitive, un-American shipping policies

Above: the statue of Stephen Austin, founder and “father” of Texas, in the Texas state capitol. Below: the cupola as seen from below. I took both photos in February when I visited the state capital to interview representative Matt Rinaldi in February.

For years, here on my blog and in the Houston Press, I have written about the Texas government’s anti-competitive and un-American retail wine shipping policies. Despite our nation’s Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, Texas still prohibits the shipment of wines to consumers from out of state.

It took a redder-than-red Texas state representative, Matt Rinaldi, Republican from the Dallas area, to have the courage to stand up to the Texas wholesalers lobby and propose a bill in the current legislative session that would right this wrong.

In an interview I did with him for the Houston Press, he called the current policies “ridiculously anti-competitive.”

“We value our freedom first and foremost,” he said. “Government shouldn’t be interfering with that. [Texans] should be given the freedom to do what makes them happy as long as it doesn’t interfere with the rights of anyone else.”

The following message was penned by wine retailer Daniel Posner of New York and shared with me by my good friend and Manhattan wine retailer Jamie Wolff. Wine industry consultant and advocate Tom Wark is the creator of Wine Freedom, a grass-roots initiative devoted to raising awareness of anti-competitive shipping policies currently in place across the U.S.

Thanks for reading. G-d bless Texas and G-d bless America!


Dear Texas Wine Lover,

We need your help to bring Wine Freedom to Texas. 

A bill, HB 2291, would formally allow Texans to receive shipments from out-of-state wine stores and Internet wine retailers.

To help this bill succeed, we MUST get a hearing on the bill scheduled. You can help by emailing or calling:

• Representative John Kuempel – Chairman of the House Licensing and
Administrative Procedures Committee

Ask him to schedule a hearing on HB 2291

The best way to do this is by visiting the TEXAS WINE FREEDOM page:

Information is on this site allowing you to easily:

• Email or call Representative Kuempel
• Sign up for Alerts and news on the bill
• Sign a petition supporting the bill.

You only need to tell Representative Kuempel the following:

“I live in (name of city) and I support HB 2291, the Wine Shipping Bill in your committee. I urge you to schedule a committee hearing on the bill.”

Taking action now is critical since the Texas legislature will not meet for another two years and this is your only chance to change the laws on wine shipping in Texas.

Passover 5th Question: why on this night do we drink Manischewitz wine coolers?

When it comes to the Passover’s “Four Questions,” I’d like to propose a new and fifth one:

On all nights we drink organically farmed, spontaneously fermented, additive- and enzyme-free wines made from grapes harvested under a full moon in a vineyard along the Slovenian-Italian border, and on this night Manischewitz?

After all, and with all due respect, Manischewitz is really a wine cooler, a wine to which sugar — a lot of sugar — has been added.

And btw, that sugar has the potential to make the wine more palatable to children. Sadly, I speak from personal experience when I write this: someone whom I know and love dearly told me that his path toward severe alcoholism started with those thimble-sized cups of wine that he used to throw back when we were kids at shul.

Click here for my post today for the Houston Press on “What Makes Wines Kosher for Passover and Where to Find Them.”

“We [Italians] need to tell the stories of our wines ourselves,” says celeb sommelier Luca Gardini

One of the highlights of the Corriere della Sera food and wine festival in Milan over the weekend was the presentation of the newly released Corriere guide to “Italy’s top 100 wines and grape growers.”

Those are the guide’s editors (above, from left), Luciano Ferraro, the paper’s managing editor and its wine columnist, and celebrity sommelier Luca Gardini.

A who’s who of the Italian wine trade was there, including Arturo Ziliani, Leonardo Raspini, Angelo Gaja, and Elda Felluga, who was named the new guide’s “woman of the year.”

Luciano spoke at length about what sets the Corriere guide apart from the other mainstream almanacs of Italian wine. The editors don’t score or review the wines, he said. Instead, they “tell the stories” of 100 wineries and winemakers whose work shapes the Italian wine world today.

Where other editors, including some of their higher profile American counterparts, inform the reader “about what’s inside the bottle,” he explained, he and Luca strive to tell you about what goes into making that bottle.

I was really impressed by Luca’s short but well-honed message.

“We can’t just let other people tell the stories of our wines,” said the popular critic and editor (who scores wines in his own books). “We [Italians] need to tell the stories of our wines ourselves.”

I couldn’t help but think to myself: our bottles, ourselves. It’s a facile analogy based more in assonance than in symmetry. But there’s a wonderful nugget of wisdom in what Luca shared yesterday at the event.

Over the years, as the Italian wine renaissance has taken off in the U.S., the voice of American critics has sometimes driven perceptions of Italian wines in unexpected — although not always unwelcome — ways. I’m with Luca in believing that we all need to listen to each other, on both sides of the Atlantic.

Writing on the fly this afternoon from a very windy, somewhat cloudy, but stunningly beautiful spring day in Montalcino. Stay tuned…

Congratulations Talia Kleinplatz, author of Two for the Bar and winner of #CucinaBlogAward

Fun times last night at the Corriere della Sera Cucina Blog Awards in Milan where Talia Kleinplatz, author of the awesome Two for the Bar, took home the award for Best Wine and Spirits blog.

My good friend Talia Baiocchi, editor and founder of PUNCH, was as disappointed as me not to win but it was great to connect in Milan and to get to know the other Talia. We had a blast sitting with her and another lovely friend, Elizabeth Minchilli, who was also in attendance.

From left in the photo above, that’s Luciano Ferraro, wine critic for Corriere della Sera (a writer I admire greatly); Angela Frenda, food editor for the paper; Talia, who won the award; and Francesco Zonin, scion of the Zonin winery group and underwriter of the awards (man, that Francesco is one tall glass of water!).

Thanks to everyone for all the support and kind words in the days leading up to the award ceremony. It was a bummer not to win but it was so much fun to come to Milan and see so many friends, including folks from Texas, from my NYC days, my school days in Italy, and so many more. I even got to have lunch with the celebrated Milanese writer, editor, and provocateur Pietro Cheli, who was as hilarious as he was thought-provoking.

Thanks especially to my great friend Giovanni Contrada, who dressed me for the occasion, and my bromance Giovanni Arcari, who always stands by me like a brother, in all things.

It’s a rainy, cloudy Sunday today in Milan but I’m looking forward to a date with the city and dinner with some old friends tonight.

Buona domenica a tutti! Happy Sunday, yall!