One of the things that I’ve loved about living in Texas for the last decade has been how good the food is here.
I’m not talking about the vibrant, überhip food scenes here in Houston and in Austin (the latter, the city where we lived for the first six years of my time here). The food in Houston and Austin is nothing less than amazing and it’s been fantastic to be part of these emerging and now firmly established capitals of U.S. fine dining, food trucks, and gastronomy.
No, what I’m talking about is classic Texas and Louisiana cookery. In Texas in general, and especially here in southeast Texas where Tracie grew up and where we have lived for nearly six years now, people are into food. And they are particularly proud of local and familial food traditions, making for some damn-good eating during the holidays.
So I always set aside some special bottles for our family holiday get-togethers.
This year, it was this truly extraordinary bottle of Specogna 2013 Picolit from the Colli Orientali del Friuli appellation in northeasternmost Italy.
Picolit is a white grape that is used almost exclusively to make a highly coveted dessert wine. Part of the reason why it’s almost always made into a dried-grape wine is that the finicky Picolit vine “aborts” some of its clusters during the vegetative cycle. It literally abandons certain bunches, which never fully form on the plant, and concentrates its vigor into berries that will be markedly rich in aroma and flavor.
Specogna, one of my favorite Friulian growers and winemakers, goes for extreme balance and restraint in their Picolit. This gorgeous wine — beautiful to look at and to taste — clocked in at a lithe 13 percent alcohol. Its vibrant acidity was present and popping on the palate but perfectly balanced. And its layers and layers of flavors were as nuanced as they were persistent in the finish. In many ways the rich finish was the highlight (as you followed it with a bite of pie).
My roommate from my junior year in college in Italy (my first year studying abroad) brought this wine to our home as gift when he came to visit earlier this year. I feel truly fortunate to have such a great friend, bearing such an extraordinary wine! Thanks again, Steve: it was the perfect wine to open at our Thanksgiving meal. What a wine!
Here’s some of what we ate as part of our southeast Texas Thanksgiving this year.
Boudin balls. Crumbled boudin, a rice and pork sausage, breaded and fried (very heavy but man, this is an amazing dish).
Memaw’s deviled eggs are one of my favorites (memaw means grandma in southeast Texan; Tra’s memaw, Violet Branch, is 98 years old!).
Seven layer salad that my mother-in-law Jane makes every year, another one of my favorites.
That was my first round of eating this year. In southeast Texas, they make cornbread stuffing (as opposed to the northern bread stuffing that I grew up eating in California via my parents’ midwestern upbringing).
Aunt Ida made the mashed potatoes this year (my sister-in-law Misty usually makes them but she had a shift at the hospital that evening and so Ida made them so Misty could sleep during the day; Ida’s were excellent and so are Misty’s for the record).
Jane also made her spiral ham, another highlight Thanksgiving every year. Daughter Georgia, nearly age 8, loved it, too, a new culinary discovery for her.
I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.
Wish yall a happy holiday season from southeast Texas!