Boston Globe, Tony’s amazing Passover brisket, and dinosaurs for grandma

jewish brisket recipeHow is your Passover? Today, on the third day of the Passover, we ask not how was your Passover? but how is your Passover?

We don’t Kosher our house for Passover (and we don’t keep Kosher in general) but we do retell the story of the Exodus through our Passover seder on the first night of the festival.

This year, we were joined by my in-laws, Rev. and Mrs. Branch, and my mom, Judy (below).

For our haggadah (the book that you read during the seder), we used this one from Chabad. It was excellent. And I really enjoyed leading the seder for our family.

And our seder meal was extra special thanks to my friend and client, Tony Vallone.

Tony caters some of his clients’ Passover meals and being the mensch that he is, he always sends me home on Erev Pesach (the first night of the Passover) with a complete meal that includes haroset (for the seder plate), homemade gelfite fish (the best!), and Jewish-style braised brisket and vegetables (above).

Not only is Tony’s classic brisket delicious but it also evokes a memory of Jewish cookery in my grandparents day. Today, brisket is an expensive cut of meat. In the era of the great twentieth-century migrations (like that of my great grandparents who came from Russia and Poland in the first decade of the last century), it was an affordable cut that would be patiently transformed into cultural icons like pastrami, corned beef, and even Texas bbq (thanks to the German immigrants who landed in central Texas).

It would be enough to be surrounded by my loving family on Erev Pesach! Dayenu!

But Tony’s Passover meal made our seder extra special this year.

In other news…

Also making this Pesach a sweet one, Boston Globe wine critic Ellen Bhang generously devoted a column to me and my Franciacorta project in Sunday’s paper.

Working with the Franciacorta consortium has been one of the most rewarding campaigns of my career. I love the wines and believe they deserve the attention of the fine community.

Ellen’s article even made my Jewish mother proud!

That’s my mom Judy (below, left) with Tracie P, Georgia P (left) and Lila Jane. The girls had a blast taking her to see the butterflies and dinosaurs this weekend at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

All in all, it will be a wonderful Passover that we’ll never forget.

Had G-d not liberated our people from bondage, had He not given us the Torah, had he not delivered us to Jerusalem… none of us would be here today to enjoy more blessings that I can count. Lest we ever forget…

judy parzen judith tad micah

Bitter herb and salty tears for Prince… wishing everyone a good Passover #hagsameach

passover foodsThe bitter herb and salted water will be especially acidic and savory this year.

Tracie P and I are both reeling from the news that Prince has left this world for a better one.

Just a few weeks ago, Michael Z., a friend from Australia who works in the music industry, sent me a video from a private performance by Prince he had attended. What an electric, magical entertainer he was, a triple threat as they used to say…

After everyone else went to bed last night (my mom is in Houston for the holiday), we stayed up and sipped some Venica Pinot Grigio as we watched all the remembrances on CNN and listened to our favorite Prince tracks on our phones.

He gave us so much through his music, energy, activism, and charity. Now he’s gone. It makes both of us so sad.

Tonight we’ll be celebrating the Passover with my mom and Tracie’s parents, Rev. and Mrs. B.

And when we dip our parsley into the water and remember the bitterness and salty tears of the Hebrews enslaved in Egypt, I will also remember how Prince brought us so much joy and light and sweetness in the daily toil of life. The world isn’t the same without him.

Wishing everyone a happy Passover… hag sameach, yall…

Two new books on Italian cocktail culture, one of them coming to Houston next week

From the department of “it’s good to have friends in highball places”…

baiocchi spritz huff aperitivoTwenty years ago, before there were a Babbo or an Eataly, you would have been hard-pressed to convince me that the world would see monographs devoted to the Italian traditions of aperitivo and spritz, enogastronomic phenomena that I discovered as a student in Italy and largely took for granted.

But, o, how the world has changed since then!

Two friends of mine and two wine-and-food writers whom I admire greatly, Marisa Huff and Talia Baiocchi, have recently and respectively published Aperitivo: The Cocktail Culture of Italy (Rizzoli) and Spritz: Italy’s Most Iconic Aperitivo Cocktail (Ten Speed).

Both of them are currently on tour in the U.S. promoting the books and I’m happy to report that Talia will be coming to Houston and Austin next week.

I previewed her Houston event (Wednesday, April 27) yesterday for the Houston Press and I’ll be attending as well. Houstonians, I hope to see you there!

And as far as the rest of you are concerned, I will join one of my favorite wine bloggers in wishing you bottoms up!

All safe in Houston and thanks to everyone who came out for Franciacorta yesterday in NYC

new york wine tasting singlesWriting in a hurry this morning before heading out for another long day of tastings and business meetings but just wanted to give a shout-out and send thanks to everyone who came out for my Franciacorta seminar and tasting yesterday.

Our morning event (above) was packed with some of the best and brightest from the NYC Italian wine scene. And we poured 24 skus from 20 different wineries at the afternoon gathering.

I can’t thank you all enough for coming out to support Franciacorta and me.

Special thanks also to Emily Corso from L’Apicio who did a fantastic job of hosting. Super nice, super pro.

Thanks also to everyone who reached out to check in with the Parzen family after yesterday’s extreme flooding in Houston.

Luckily, the house we rent in southwest Houston is outside the city’s flood plain.

Our thoughts and prayers to out to our neighbors who weren’t so fortunate, including the folks who live on the bayou just north of us. They’re still reeling from the flooding last May.

I’m happy to report that Tracie P and the girls spent the day at home and then went out puddle jumping once the storm passed.

Di fretta…

houston flooding april

Tromboncino squash purée with cuttle fish was fantastic and so was the ViniVeri fair

Please come taste Franciacorta with with me on Monday, April 18 at L’Apicio in lower Manhattan (4-6 p.m.). All are welcome and RSVP not required. Click here for details.

pascaline lepeltierThe first time, you go for the wines. But then you keep going back for the people.

One of the most fun things about the ViniVeri fair is all the super cool people you connect with there — from Italy and America and Georgia and France…

I’ve been giving the ViniVeri consortium a hand raising awareness of their cause this year. Today, I posted my schmooze-fest photos on its Facebook. Check it out here.

flavio costa chefAnother one of the highlights from my trip this week was dinner with a group of American colleagues at my client Tenuta Carretta’s new restaurant 21.9.

Chef Flavio Costa from Liguria has already earned his first Michelin star cooking on the coast. Now, he’s going for gold in Piedmont wine country.

I was blown away by his cooking. That’s his tromboncino squash purée with cuttlefish in their ink and candied lemon zest, one of his signature dishes. Friggin’ brilliant!

Click here for some more of my favorite dishes from the evening.

I had never had “semi dry” salt cod (also know as the “3/4 cure”). Flavio served it with wild Piedmontese salsify. That was also amazing.

Posting in a hurry this morning as I battle jetlag catch up on work. Thanks for being here, everyone. Buon weekend and hope to see you on Monday in NYC!

New Yorkers, I need you!

New Yorkers, I need you (to taste Franciacorta with me)!

Still catching my breath after a whirlwind trip to Italy for the fairs this and last week. And in just a few days, I’ll be heading to NYC for this tasting. Any and all are welcome and please share the invite with whomever you like. Any way you can support the event would be greatly appreciated. I hope to see you on Monday in NYC!

new york city skylineNew Yorkers, please join me and Franciacorta consortium Vice President Silvano Brescianini on Monday, April 18 at L’Apicio in lower Manhattan for an exclusive tasting of Franciacorta wines. All are welcome to join. And please feel free to share this invite with whomever you like.

I regret that our morning seminar and guided tasting is completely booked. But if you’d like to get in on that, please shoot me an email at and I’ll try to fit you in (no promises).

Thank you and see you next week in New York!

Tasting: “Franciacorta, a walk-around tasting
with Silvano Brescianini, Franciacorta Consortium VP”

Monday, April 18, 2016
4 p.m. – 6 p.m.
13 East 1st St.
(212) 533-7400

franciacorta tasting new york

Arrivederci, Vinitaly. Let’s do it again sometime…

Join me Monday, April 18, 4-6 p.m. in New York
for a walk-around tasting of wines from Franciacorta
with Franciacorta consortium vice president Silvano Brescianini.
Click here for details.

vinitaly 2016 50 yearsAbout to board a flight in Frankfurt back to Houston today.

But wanted to send a shout-out and thanks to all the people who took time out to taste, chat, and break bread with me while I was in Italy this last week for the fairs.

So much to tell but it will have to wait until I’m back stateside.

Stay tuned…

Vinitaly, you’re too sexy for this fair! VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED

adua villaJust when I was feeling down-in-the-dumps on the first day of the Vinitaly fair (after a wine writer friend of mine told me that I looked “terrible”), my good friend Adua Villa (above, left) and my new friend Alejandro Mazzo (right) lifted my spirits.

“Don’t be ridiculous!” they cried. “You look FABULOUS!”

They reminded me of that wonderful Italian spirit whereby sexiness comes from within.

Not only is she the sweetest lady, Adua is one of Italy’s leading wine writers and television personalities and a novelist to boot.

Alejandro is the man behind the brilliant “Men and Wine” Instagram (which may be a little too sexy for some readers; viewer discretion advised; not kidding).

Sitting next to someone who has 74k+ followers made me feel pretty sexy myself!

stefano cinelli colombiniSex was in the air at the annual meeting of contributors to Intravino, Italy’s sexiest wine blog.

Those are two of my clients and two of the winemakers I admire most, Stefano Cinelli Colombini (left) and Luca Ferraro (right).

Even Pietro Stara (center), one of the Italian wine writers I admire most, made me feel sexy.

Some of us bitch about Intravino’s click-on-me!-inspired content. But the lovely community of writers and winemakers that this blog brings together washes away any and all lamentations.

giorgio graiAnd yesterday ended with a sexy celebrity encounter when I had the fantastic opportunity to chat and taste with legendary Italian winemaker Giorgio Grai (left) and one of my best friends, Francesco Bonfio (right), who had graciously included me to be part of a seminar panel on native Collio grapes for Vinarius, the association of Italian wine shop owners.

Today is day 3 of my Vinitaly and the bags under my eyes are rivaled only by the blisters on my feet (from walking too much) and hoarse voice (from talking too much).

Wish me speed and wish me luck!

Alfonso, we miss you!

Biondi-Santi rumored to be focus of bidding war reports Sole 24 Ore

biondi santi auctionAbove: Franco Biondi Santi died on the eve of Vinitaly 2013. This year’s fair is overshadowed by rumors that his legacy winery will be sold to the highest bidder.

According to a report published over the weekend by Il Sole 24 Ore (Italy’s Financial Times), the European financial markets are awash in rumors that the Biondi-Santi winery, a blue chip producer of Brunello di Montalcino, is the focus of a bidding war and may be acquired by one of Europe’s leading luxury groups.

Quoting anonymous sources, financial reporter Nicola Borzi writes that an unnamed law firm in Rome is currently taking bids for the property and its holdings. Initially valued at €55 million, the estate could be sold for us much as €110 million or more, he reports.

The European luxury brand groups LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Prada are cited as interested parties. A third potential bidder is not named by the report.

In a statement issued by its lawyer, the winery claims that the rumors are unfounded. And LVMH and Prada both declined to comment, writes Borzi.

Franco Biondi Santi’s son Jacopo Biondi Santi also declined to comment on the report according to a statement issued by his lawyer.

Click here for the Sole 24 Ore report.

A great day at ViniVeri in Cerea and now on to the main event in Verona…

vini veri jeremy parzenSuper fun day yesterday at ViniVeri in Cerea where I tasted, caught up with lots of winemakers, and co-presented a Barbacarlo vertical with Sandro Sangiorgi, one of Italy’s leading tasters and one of the most revered intellectuals working in wine writing today (as Martin Short once said to me when I was playing guitar at a show-biz event in Hollywood, “no pressure, right?”).

That’s me, after the tasting, with ViniVeri consortium president Giampiero Bea in the center and my good buddy Michael Zaccaria on the right.

Michael is a wine importer working in Australia and he and I only knew each other virtually until he braved a delayed and ultimately 40-hour flight from his home to Verona to make it to our event just in time.

I love how our wine-writing community connects us to people all over the world and hugging Michael for the first time was like embracing an old friend. I’m looking forward to catching up with him later this week in Verona.

That’s all there’s time to report today… About to head to Verona for the opening day of Vinitaly. Wish me speed and a nimble palate!

Thank you Matteo Gallello for the photo!