No smear campaign is going to stop our protests of the Confederate Memorial in Orange, Texas

This week, my wife Tracie’s 97-year-old grandmother received an anonymous letter defaming her granddaughter and me. The author claimed to have gone to school at the same California university where I received my doctorate. She/he evidently felt compelled to share slanderous, false information about our lives, including our sex lives and our children.

Known affectionately by everyone in our family as “memaw,” my grandmother-in-law was unfazed by the letter. She didn’t even bother reading it, she said, once she realized what it was.

There’s no doubt in any of our minds that this crude and anemic attempt to bully us was inspired by our efforts to repurpose the newly erected Confederate memorial in Orange, Texas where memaw and Tracie’s parents live.

Thats the “Confederate Memorial of the Wind” above. Here’s a Houstonia article, published last week, about our campaign and its origins.

As Tracie’s father, Reverend Randy Branch put it, “someone who would send this to your 97-year-old grandmother can’t be all there.”

I’m not going to reveal the contents of the letter but it’s clear that the author is rabidly homophobic, probably impotent (there are graphic references to dildos and fertility issues), and clearly uneducated.

Why are white supremacists so dumb? The answer begs the question.

Since we began our campaign to repurpose the site (we don’t want to tear it down or demolish it; we want to repurpose it to reflect community values in a city that is nearly 50 percent black), our detractors have threatened to “kick your ass” and to “send snipers” to our next protest.

But as anyone who lives in Southeast Texas knows, the Sons of Confederate Veterans (who erected the site) and their supporters are generally a bunch of cowards whose bullying comes in the form of epithets hurled from a passing pickup truck, social media posts, and — now — an anonymous letter.

Given the many phallic references in the missive, I imagine the author is a male. Here’s my message to him: be a man and come meet me face to face, man to man, and human to human at our next protest on Saturday, April 7. No threat or smear campaign is going to stop me or us. So be a man, be a human being, and show your face and real colors.

Are you man enough? No, I didn’t think so. That’s the kind of sheep you are, isn’t it? The fact that you send anonymous “poison pen” letters to our memaw is clear indication that we are getting through to you and making you uncomfortable. That’s exactly what we want. Get ready for more, pilgrim. And in the meantime, shame on you.

Click here for April 7 protest details and please like our cause on Facebook and signup for our email newsletter.

From Vidor, Texas to San Francisco, Slow Wine tour comes to an end today

From the department of “if it sounds country, well, then, it is” (Kris Kristofferson)…

When Slow Wine editor-in-chief Giancarlo Gariglio asked me if there was something he shouldn’t miss on the touring team’s drive from New Orleans to Houston, I told him to drive straight through to my adoptive city where I knew he and the group of traveling Slows would enjoy dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in the city, Caracol. They did btw.

It was only the next day that I learned that they had stopped for lunch in a town not far from where my wife Tracie grew up on the Louisiana border: Vidor. It’s pronounced VAY-dohr, not to be confused with Vidor in Treviso province, pronounced vee-DOHR and home to a Slow Wine Prosecco producer.

Evidently, Giancarlo’s GPS had informed him of an accident on Interstate 10 and so he took their van off the freeway at the first exit, which just happened to be Vidor.

There are actually a lot of very good places to eat along the highway between Lake Charles (Louisiana) and the Golden Triangle, which includes Orange, Vidor, and Beaumont. My favorite is Steam Boat Bill’s. But there are a ton of little holes-in-the-wall places like Paul’s.

Vidor isn’t exactly known for its welcoming spirit. And I wasn’t surprised when I read this Facebook review, posted yesterday and still published on the Paul’s page (despite the fact that it doesn’t adhere to Facebook community standards). It’s probably because Paul doesn’t check his Facebook much. Or may be he does.

Giancarlo and his team enjoyed the fried shrimp and frogs’ legs. And they said everyone was really nice to them (despite their broken English).

One thing is certain: they definitely happened upon some truly “slow” food in the corner of Texas that Tracie and I call home. They made it to Houston that day without incident and we had a fantastic turn-out for the Taste of Italy and Slow Wine fair on Monday.

Last night, their team flew from Texas to San Francisco where we’ll be hosting the last event of the tour here today in the city. I’ll be there from 1 p.m. until closing time (and those of you have ever had a drink with me in SF know where I will be after the tasting).

Here’s the info. I hope to see you there!

Thanks, Giancarlo, for bringing Slow Wine to Vidor, Houston, and San Francisco. America is a big, big place, full of many culinary wonders (including the bbq we ate on Monday night). I’m glad that you discovered another one of them in Southeast Texas.

Top image via the Paul’s Seafood Facebook.

Taste of Italy/Slow Wine in Houston TODAY! Thanks to everyone who made it possible…

What a thrill for me to share the stage last night here in Houston with Italian wine industry great Brian Larky (foreground), US Foods Corporate Chef Joe Vargyas, and my good friend J.C. Reid, Houston Chronicle food columnist and bbq expert.

Together, we led a discussion for 50+ Italian food and wine professionals on “how to create demand for your products where there is none.”

Today, the guests from last night will be presenting their products at the Taste of Italy/Slow Wine fair. And I’ll be leading three seminars for consumers and trade members: top Piedmont wines, Lambrusco and bbq pairing, and traditional balsamic vinegars from Reggio Emilia and Modena.

But the highlight of today’s event for me will be the fact that we have brought the Slow Wine Guide grand tasting to Houston for the first time. As the newest member of the guide’s editorial team, I couldn’t be more proud that we are presenting the 2018 edition in my adoptive city.

We’re expecting more than 500 attendees today (fingers crossed!).

My heartfelt thanks go out to Italy-America Chamber of Commerce Texas director Alessia Paolicchi and deputy director Maurizio Gamberucci for believing in me and making this all possible.

More thanks, equally heartfelt, to chamber organizers Christina Truong, Sherri Segari, Federica Bove, and Alessandra Salvatori for the countless hours and indefatigable team spirit that have gone into every last details of our execution.

And thanks, also from my heart, to Slow Wine editor-in-chief Giancarlo Gariglio who recognized the value in bringing Slow Wine to our city, the fourth largest in America, its most diverse, and home to one of the most vibrant and dynamic wine communities in the nation.

Today, months and months of meticulous planning are coming together as we present one of the biggest food and wine events ever produced here in Texas. And it’s all centered around Italy, the inspiration for my intellectual life and the source of my livelihood.

Thanks to everyone who’s coming out to support us today. I hope we get a chance to taste something great together. I know we will…

Today’s grand tasting at the Hilton Post Oak, featuring both Slow Wine estates and Taste of Italy exhibitors (food and wine), is open to the public, free of charge, from 3-5 p.m. Click here for details.

“We Are The Bunnaroos,” NEW SINGLE from the Parzen Family Singers’ forthcoming album FREE DOWNLOAD (available fall 2018 on the Terrible Kids Music)

From the department of “play it loud”…

Here’s the title track from the Parzen Family Singers’ forthcoming studio album “We Are The Bunnnaroos” (available on the Terrible Kids Music label fall 2018). The band and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did recording it!


“Bunnaroos” is our name for each other here at Ca’ dei Parzen. Sonny (a tiger) and Pandy (a panda) are two of the girls’ favorite stuffed animals. Shirley is Lila Jane’s favorite doll (her baby girl). Zoboomafoo is their favorite (vintage) animal show and the series’ lead character (a sifaka lemur).

We are the Bunnaroos
Georga, Lila, Sonny, too
Shirley, Pandy, Zoboomafoo
Mommy-roo and daddy-roo too

We want to sing
We want to dance
All night long

We are the Bunnaroos
We wear cowgirl boots
We like pink and purple too
We like to jump like kangaroos

We want to sing
We want to dance
All night long

We are the Bunnaroos
We are the Bunnaroos
We are the Bunnaroos
We are the Bunnaroos

We can count to one we can count to twos
Cause you know we cannot lose
In case you haven’t heard the news
We are called The Bunnaroos

Biodynamic traditional balsamic vinegar from Modena! How friggin’ cool is that…

As I prepare my notes for the traditional balsamic vinegar seminar and tasting I’m leading on Monday at the Taste of Italy/Slow Wine fair in Houston, I rang up my good friend Silvia Rossi from Acetaia Guerzoni in Modena province this morning.

In the 1970s it became the first ABTM — aceto balsamico tradizionale di Modena — producer to farm its grapes organically and then biodynamically. How friggin’ cool is that?

Silvia is a great friend and she’s one of my go-to experts in the field: I wanted to dot my i’s and cross my t’s before our event on Monday (registration is still open for the Taste of Italy/Slow Wine Grand Tasting and there are still a few spots available for our balsamic seminar as well).

Did you know that most ABTM producers use five types of wood for their Solera aging of the vinegars?

At Guerzoni they actually use seven kinds: cherry, acacia, mulberry, ash, oak, chestnut, and juniper. Silvia shared the image above where you can see the cycles of the planets and sun that they use to determine when they rack the vinegars and transfer them to a new cask (in accordance with biodynamic precepts). Super cool, if you ask me.

Sadly, “balsamic vinegar” is one of the most misunderstood and abused categories in the world of food and wine today.

Did you know that the overwhelming majority of “balsamic vinegars” that you buy at the store (even high-end gourmet shops) is actually wine vinegar that’s been colored with a small amount of genuine balsamic vinegar? In some cases, caramel is used to color the wine vinegar. It’s a complete sham if you ask me. And btw, even in Italy colored wine vinegars are commonly sold and served as aceto balsamico.

I’m super psyched for Monday’s seminar and I hope you join me: Houston-based chef Danny Trace is doing the balsamic-inspired dishes that he’ll serve topped with the sticky icky gooey groovy delicious stuff.

A Freilichen Purim, everyone! Happy Purim! Chag sameach!