Ligurian wine and pasta aglio olio peperoncino, perfect summer supper

It’s pure coincidence that we happened to open a bottle of Bisson Ü Pastine last night with some penne aglio, olio, e peperoncino for a light supper — one of the most simple things and one of my most favorite dishes to prepare. This afternoon, Facebook friend Evan R sent me a link to Alan Tardi’s article on the Bisson winery, its owner Piero Lugano and his underwater-aged sparkling wines, which appeared today in The New York Times. (The article is great, btw.)

I always crave wines from Liguria during the summer. From the light-colored, nearly rosé Rossese to bright Pigato and Vermentino, the wines tend to be light and low in alcohol, fresh and spicey- and fish-friendly.

Frankly, before last night, I’d never had a wine made from 100% Bianchetta grapes from Liguria. In fact, Bianchetta is more famously grown in the Veneto and South Tyrol, where it is used to make an easy-drinking, food-friendly light white wine.

The Bisson was delicious, more unctuous than any other Bianchetta I’ve ever had, very salty and with nice white stone fruit. I was worried that the 2009 would be a little tired but it wasn’t. The acidity was kicking and happy (like little Baby P inside Mamma P’s belly!) and I saved a glass to taste tonight at dinner.

Of course, my philological curiosity got the better of me this morning, and so I did a little research on the name of this wine, ü pastine.

Regrettably, the importer’s website reports that the name is “local dialect indicating a very special product.”

And equally lamentable, a major U.S. retailer reports “‘U Pastine’ in the Ligurian dialect means, essentially ‘a gift that is specially crafted by someone for someone in particular in order to be an extra special present.'”

With all due respect, where do these people get this information? Beats me.

In fact, ü pastine is a Ligurian dialectal term that denotes the [a] field reserved for grape-growing. Used also in Tuscany and even as far south as Latium, pastine or pastene comes from the Latin pastinum, denoting a kind of two-pronged dibble, for preparing the ground and for setting plants with. In Ligurian dialect, pastinare means to till. In other words, ü pastine denotes the parcel of land chosen for grape growing because of its ideal conditions for raising wine.

I’m glad that we cleared this up!

And I plan to add pastene and pastine to my Italian winery and vineyard designation project, which I will revisit this fall.

Alfonso is coming over for dinner tonight and I’m not sure what we’re opening to pair with Tracie P’s pasta con i porri e la pancetta but I’m sure it will be good! Stay tuned… and thanks for reading!

Sunday poetry: For You, O Democracy (red, white, and rosé)

Above: We spent the Fourth of July in Orange, Texas, along the Louisiana border where Tracie B grew up.

Had you told me a year ago that I was going to fall in love with a gorgeous Texana and move to Austin, I would have told you you were crazy. But, then again, stranger things have happened. I can’t complain: for all of its surprises, life certainly has been good to me so far. Yesterday, Tracie B and I celebrated the birth of our nation with her beautiful family in Orange, Texas, along the Louisiana border (pronounced LUZ-ee-AH-nah), where Tracie B grew up.

Above: Tracie B’s Uncle Tim — an outstanding cook — used his grill as a smoker. He stuffs his bacon-wrapped jalapeños with cream cheese and chicken (or duck when he has it).

Living in the South has been an interesting experience for the San Diego Kid. There’s perhaps no other place I’ve lived in the U.S. where people feel such a strong tie to culinary place and culinary tradition. And I can’t imagine a warmer welcome anywhere in the world.

Above: “Low and slow.” That’s the mantra of Texas Barbecue. The centerpiece and litmus test of any Texas barbecue is the smoked, dry-rubbed brisket, smoked for 10-12 hours at 200-225° F. The “depth” and evenness of the pink “smoke ring” are two of the criteria used to judge Texas barbecue.

Yesterday, we were the guests of Tracie B’s Aunt Ida and Uncle Tim who were also celebrating their return to their home: flooding and storm damage following hurricane Ike had forced them out last September. What a difference a year makes…

Above: Tracie B’s Mee Maw’s deviled eggs paired beautifully with the Bisson Golfo del Tigullio Ciliegiolo, which has become my new favorite barbecue wine and probably my favorite rosé for the summer of 2009. It was the hit of the flight that Tracie B and I brought to the party.

Tim, an excellent cook (his gumbo is off-the-charts good), made barbecue and Tracie B and I opened a bottle of Inama Soave, Bisson Golfo del Tigullio Ciliegiolo, and Villa di Vetrice Chianti Rufina — a tricolor summertime triptych.

Above: Ida and Tim live on a bayou. They only recently moved back into their home. The backlog of reconstruction in the area kept some people out of their homes for nearly a year.

Yesterday’s celebration made me think of this poem by Walt Whitman.

from Leaves of Grass, 1855

For You, O Democracy

Come, I will make the continent indissoluble,
I will make the most splendid race the sun ever shone upon,
I will make divine magnetic lands,
With the love of comrades,
With the life-long love of comrades.

I will plant companionship thick as trees along all the rivers of America,
and along the shores of the great lakes, and all over the prairies,
I will make inseparable cities with their arms about each other’s necks,
By the love of comrades,
By the manly love of comrades.

For you these from me, O Democracy, to serve you ma femme!
For you, for you I am trilling these songs.

Above: At the end of the night, the glow of the DuPont plant down the road lit up Cow Bayou. The image reminded me of the first part of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at the original Disneyland in Anaheim.

Happy Fourth of July, y’all! Thanks Ida and Tim and thanks Mrs. B and Rev. B for having me!