Shepherd’s pie, a wonderful Chinon, and a baby on the way in San Diego!

Doesn’t Jayne look great? (Jon doesn’t look bad either!) Their baby will be arriving sometime next month and Tracie P and I are sending them lots of love and good wishes! We are so excited! :-)

We caught up with them last Saturday at Jaynes Gastropub in San Diego where everybody knows your name.

The weather was actually kinda cold last week in not-so-sunny Southern California and so Tracie P ordered the shepherd’s pie. Delicious…

Jon turned us on to the 2008 Pensées du Pallus Chinon, very focused, classic expression of Cabernet Franc. Great pairing on a chilly eve… (Paired well, too, with can’t-live-without-him Yele, whom you can see between the bottle and the glass.) Although I’d love to revisit this excellent wine, slightly chilled, this summer with the legendary Jaynes burger (voted top San Diego burger by a panel of judges on one of my favorite SD food blogs, Food Is My Favorite).

Jayne is a gorgeous mother-to-be and, man, this baby fever sure is contagious, ain’t it? ;-)

Tracie B and Jeremy P au naturel

Above: Did I mention the girl can cook? Tracie B’s “Potato, tomato, mozzarella Napoleon.” We paired with Laurent Tribut Chablis 2007.

Tracie B and I have been on a bit of an au naturel bender this week after we attended a highly classified and thoroughly delicious dinner the other night in East Austin at an undisclosed location.

Above: Tracie B’s stuffed braised zucchine. She moved on to a glass of awesome Langhe Nebbiolo 2007 by Produttori del Barbaresco (that I had in my wine bag from a tasting I did earlier in the day in San Antonio) but I thought the Chablis — with its tongue-splitting acidity, as Tracie B likes to say — paired beautifully with this dish as well.

One of the guests at the “underground dinner” we attended over the weekend turned us on to Farm House Delivery, a locally based website that brings a small farmer’s market to your doorstep.

Above: Tracie B returned from work yesterday to find the this crate full of yummy stuff at her doorstep.

We had actually missed the cutoff for ordering this week but Tracie B managed to place an order anyway: seems the ladies who run Farmhouse Delivery are from Beaumont, a stone’s throw from Orange, Texas where Tracie B grew up. “We’re everywhere, aren’t we?” they joked with her.

Above: Miso Risotto, Rhubarb, Bok Choy, and Red Chard at the “anti-restaurant” the other night. I had brought a bottle of 2006 Touraine Cabernet Franc by Clos Roche Blanche to the BYOB event (always such a great value and such a great wine).

I first read about “underground dinners” or “anti-restaurants” last summer in the Times: the vegetarian menu last Saturday night featured locally and organically grown produce (including the excellent dish above). Thanks, again, JP and RdB, for including us! Your secret’s safe with me!

Read Tracie B’s reflections on bread crumbs and the secret to her excellent fried chicken here. Did I mention that the girl can cook?

Summer 07 Ends, Eating Raoul’s and Drinking 1990 Chinon


The summer of 2007 will be remembered — in my mind at least — as the summer that I quit my full-time day gig (September 7 was my last day as Marketing Director at the group that runs Centovini, I Trulli, and Vino), the summer that Nous Non Plus went back to France for the second glorious time, the summer that I turned 40, the summer of my official mid-life crisis, and the summer that I fell in love with Cabernet Franc and Chinon.

The seemingly endless and at-times-painful summer of 07 (for there was a promise that unraveled sadly, as well) came to an end on Sunday, September 23 at 5:51 a.m. (or so they say), the day after Yom Kippur and the day after my mother’s birthday.

The night before I left for California (to spend Yom Kippur and my mom’s birthday with the family) was a summery evening in New York and the city was bustling with the last notes of warm-weather partying. I found myself downtown with a wine biz bud and we couldn’t get a table anywhere: Blue Ribbon was packed to the gills, Balthazar was as bustling as Belshazzar’s Babylonia, and a Bellini sludge sparkled and shimmered as it oozed over the sidewalk at Cipriani into the gutter.

The solution? Raoul’s… where the colorful characters and the Negronis (with maraschino garnish) took the edge off a thirty-minute wait for a table. Our reward? The best seat in the house — the deuce in the corner of the dimly lit garden — and a wine list that included a 1999 Lopez de Heredia Viña Bosconia (“the best Burgundy in Rioja,” our skilled and sharp-witted sommelier noted), and a 1990 Domaine Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses, both at very reasonable prices.

I had never been to Raoul’s, a true downtown New York experience where locals with thick eastcoast accents and full heads of hair (some real, some faux) gather, an authentic 1970s scene, too upscale for Scorsese’s Mean Streets but not mundane enough for Allen’s Manhattan.

The Viña Bosconia was light and fresh and went well with my frisée salad (laden with lardoons and topped with a runny egg).

The 1990 Chinon was simply sublime. I’d been drinking Chinon all summer (in Paris and New York) but had never had the chance to drink any older vintages. The 1990 single-vineyard Raffault teemed with the wonderful vegetal flavors that Robert Parker seems to despise — he once wrote infamously, “I have found the majority of these wines (made from 100% Cabernet Franc) to be entirely too vegetal and compact for my tastes” — and it paired beautifully with my steak au poivre, the house specialty at Raoul’s. The wine had a delightful freshness — impressive for a seventeen-year-old wine — and we enjoyed every drop.

By June of 1990, I had finished my first year of post-grad studies at the Università di Padova (where I met my friend, cineaste and novelist Mauro Gasparini, whose excellent blog, I recently discovered). I spent the rest of the summer in San Diego living at home and working as a bike messenger, preparing for the doctoral program at the UCLA Italian Department where, in September, I began teaching Italian language.

I never could have imagined that the summer of 2007 would find me working as a writer and a copywriter on the New York food and wine scene. But stranger things have happened. Hopefully, even stranger things will happen yet.


Above: Eating Raoul, 1982. Isn’t funny that the male lead works in a wine store? Well, it seems funny now.