scenes from the recording studio (rock ‘n’ roll baby)


A rock and roll band invaded our house this weekend…

Loved this gorgeous photo by Tracie P

It’s always so amazing to work with Céline in the studio… incredible voice, incredible chops…

Rock ‘n’ roll is a very serious business or so says Jean-Luc

And the best part of having the band record its new album at our house? There’s always someone around to entertain little Georgia P. I wish yall could hear her laugh… it’s the SWEETEST thing…

Vagina Panic (post tenebras lux)

From the department of “from darkness comes light”…

Above: Girls is a new show on HBO.

As the title reveals, “Les Damnés” was a track that I wrote for my band Nous Non Plus during a dark time in my life when I was living in New York and working in the restaurant industry by day and the music industry by night. It was an extremely productive time for me but a very unhappy one…

When I brought it to my dear friend and writing partner Verena (aka Céline Dijon), she brought her own darkness to the song, writing about traitorous lovers “damned” to an unhappy existence.

Her performance on the recording, superbly produced by Dan (aka Jean-Luc Retard) who forms the troika of our writing équipe, is as stirring to me now as it was that day, many moons ago, in an Eagle Rock recording studio.

For its pathos, it’s one of the songs that I’m the most proud of and it also features an amazing drum solo by our friend Joachim Cooder (who played on the entire album, Ménagerie, Aeronaut, 2009).

To listen to it now still brings chills to my marrow but it also reminds me that from darkness can come light… post tenebras lux

“Les Damnés” will be featured on the new HBO show Girls on Sunday, April 22, episode 2, “Vagina Panic.”


“Les Damnés” from the Nous Non Plus 2009 release Ménagerie (Aeronaut) will be featured on the new HBO series Girls on April 22 (“Vagina Panic,” episode 2).

“HBO’s ‘Girls’ Is the Best New TV Show of 2012.”
—Daily Beast

Stunning Pallagrello Nero from Nanni Copè

A thrilling, brilliant day and evening yesterday at Sotto in Los Angeles — my first day back on the job after paternity leave — with all the wine [sales] reps coming in to taste us on new wines for our spring 2012 list.

Wine captain Rory Harrington (below) and I tasted an exhilarating flight of wines (and the occasional clunker from an old fart who always manages to weasel his way in). So many great wines come from southern Italy right now, especially from Campania and Sicily.

But the wine that sticks out in my mind this morning is the 2008 Nanni Copè created by revered “taster” Giovanni Ascione from Caserta (Campania).

The wine — as I learned reading this excellent post by colleague Monica Piscitelli — is named after Giovanni’s preferred appellation as a youngster: Nanni (diminutive of his Christian name) and Copè (an infantile corruption of his mother’s maiden name, Cioppa).

It’s made primarily from Pallagrello Nero, with smaller amounts of Aglianico and Casavecchia, raised on 2.5 hectares of semi-pergola-trained (yes!), meticulously curated vines in Caserta.

Tongue-splitting acidity, fresh bright red fruit, and earth, earth, earth… Gorgeous black earth…

We tasted a lot of great wines yesterday but this one — its first vintage on the market — stands out in my memory this morning as an original wine, a wine that surprised me and taught me something new about the grape variety.

I’ve got a very busy dance card today with my regular blogging duties and a show tonight in San Diego with my band Nous Non Plus.

But I wanted to give a big shout out to my friend and colleague Rory Harrington (above, left, with my high school friend Mike Andrews, photo by my bandmate Dan Crane).

I’m the curator of the wine list at Sotto but Rory is the guy who makes it hum and sing. We taste all the wines together and then decide what’s going to make the cut. I greatly admire his palate and cherish his friendship. If you ever visit Sotto, please check in with him and ask him what’s drinking well… he’ll never steer you wrong. His aim is true and his heart is pure…

Ok, gotta go make some rock ‘n’ roll! As we say, in French, wish me merde! (Yes, I just had to talk about poop…)

Tony Coturri, groovy cocktails, friends, and awesome pizza at Sotto

Before I started my shift at Sotto’s last night, I asked the “father of Natural winemaking in California,” Tony Coturri, to talk to the staff about Natural wine and the differences between “organic” and “biodynamic” farming (he was in town for a wine dinner and we feature one of his wines at the restaurant). Perhaps more than any other winemaker I know personally, he is the most passionate about Natural wine and chemical-free farming and he sees his mission as vital to our race and our future — I believe that he is right and thank goodness for him. (Thanks again, Tony, for taking the time to talk to us.)

Über hipster mixologist Kate Grutman was doing her magic at the bar last night. She hooked me up with her concoction, “Il Cattivo,” equal parts of Carpano Antica Formula, Branca Menta, and Genever. That soup is hot!

At the end of my shift, I got to sit down with some of my best friends, who came in to support me in this new project. That’s (from left) Heather and Mike Andrews, Gary Jules, and bandmate Dan and Kate Crane (Dan’s band Quick Hellos just released a super cool record and his release party is next week in LA, btw). I just can’t believe how sweet and supportive everyone in LA has been. It’s really meant the world to me.

I finally got to dig into Chefs Steve and Zach’s Pizza Margarita. Rating: RUN DON’T WALK. This is the good shit, people. I’ve eaten pizza cities all over the U.S. and Italy (including Naples). Sotto’s is in my top 5 and definitely the most authentic Neapolitan this side of the Atlantic.

It’s been super fun to launch my wine program at Sotto and the owners and staff and patrons have been so generous and supportive. We’ve tasted some great wines together over the last few days and the food at Sotto rocks. But now it’s time for me to get back to Texas and my beautiful Tracie P where I belong. Can’t wait to hold her tight and taste her sweet lips! A taste of honey, tasting much sweeter than wine…

Sam’s bbq, Champagne, and band practice (video taste)

Texas is home to some of the greatest (some would say the greatest) barbecue in the country (world). Unfortunately, as with any great world cuisine, commercialization to often rears its scurfy head and colonizes what was once honest and pure.

That’s one of the reasons that you need to move outside the major urban centers to find the truly great expressions of barbecue in the Lone Star State.

On a tight schedule with writing, rehearsing, and recording, I didn’t have time to take the band to Llano or Lockhart, Texas, and so I took the “lads and lass” to the only bbq joint where I spend my money in the town of Austin, Sam’s. That’s simpatico owner Willie Mays and his son in the photo with Morris, Céline, and Jean-Luc (from left).

What to pair with smoked brisket, pork ribs, chicken, and Sam’s specialty, smoked mutton?

Champagne, the breakfast of champions and the ideal food-friendly wine. In this case, some NV 100% Chardonnay by Henriot.

It’s so exciting to be writing and recording again with my band and it’s such a joy to hear music played in our home.

Here’s a little taste of a song that won’t appear on the album but is part of a special and dear-to-my-heart project that you’ll hear about later this year. Video by Tracie P, who wins the award for the greatest, most patient, most loving, and most beautiful wife that any man could wish for (and the girl can cook!). Thank you, Picci Wicci, I love you so much and you make me the best man I could ever be…

Cooking for the band: Tracie P’ulled pork with chocolate and chiles

Yes, hell has frozen over and the band is getting back together.

Céline Dijon and Jean-Luc Retard and I (Cal d’Hommage) have begun recording our new album in the Groovers Paradise (otherwise known as Austin).

And Tracie P has been cooking up a storm.

Yesterday, she cooked a pork shoulder for seven hours in our Crock-Pot with chiles and chocolate. They were served topped with homemade slaw, avocados, and fresh salsa and wrapped in corn tortillas from a local tortilleria. The 06 Montbourgeau made for a fantastic pairing.

Chip and dip, anyone? Please pass the grooves…

Welcome back trotter and other idioblogs

Folks often send me images of what they’re eating, cooking, or drinking. I call them idioblogs, “blogs intended for one reader and one reader alone.” Here are a few recent notables.

Welcome back trotter, from SnackBoyJr aka Jean-Luc Retard Björn Türoque aka Dan Crane.

Brother Tad’s killer chili. “first batch was a little bland. Enhanced the recipe with some ortega chiles, green pepper, extra chili powder, a bay leaf, a little Cholula hot sauce and a little garlic. taste test is tomorrow. it is pretty good!”

Alfonso’s “Killer Lambrusco.” Hopefully Alfonso will start posting about his recent and most amazing trip to Emilia.

Must love wine (music and video games) in San Jose

Above: They crowd last night was like putty in our jazz hands.

It’s still not clear to me why our manager booked us at an all-ages show at a video arcade in San Jose but he did. The other one of life’s little ironies last night was the fact that technically we were in “wine country” California (a stone’s throw from Santa Clara and Santa Cruz) and despite the abundance of wine bars revealed in a google maps search, there was very little wine I could find to drink. The venues closest to the video arcade where we played (who knew video arcades still existed?) were Barra di Vino (a would-be Italianate temple of Cabernet Sauvignon) and UnWined, a cleverly if perhaps inaptly named but clean and smart operation nonetheless.

Above: The domestic charcuterie plate at UnWined wasn’t bad and the very reasonably priced Vocoret 2006 Forêt really hit the spot.

Somehow we ended up at UnWined (don’t trust Google maps to get you there, btw) where I found an impressive list of big, bold barriqued California wines and two bottlings I could actually drink: the Vocoret 2006 Forêt Premier Cru and the Venica 2006 Collio. We opted for the former because it was already chilled since they are also currently serving it by the glass. (Check out Eric’s article on Chablis. I wish Raul at UnWined would take Eric’s advice: “Because good Chablis is subtle, it is crucial not to serve it too cold, which will mask the flavors. Barely cool is just about right.”)

Feeling compelled to drink something local, I also asked for the “least barriqued” Pinot Noir by the glass on the list and was served a Candela 2006. The staff at UnWined was very friendly and knowledgeable about the list (they told me they decant nearly every red wine served by the bottle, the “Cabs” and “Zins” needing extra time to open up, said our server).

Above: Céline Dijon (aka Verena Wiesendanger) did the dance of the Momie last night. For a change, I played Jean-Luc Retard’s (aka Dan Crane’s aka Björn Türoque’s) killer 70s-era SG instead of my John Carruthers custom Sunburst Tele with mint-green pickguard.

It was just one of those nights: the gig was strange but fun and we ended up back at the hotel drinking beers and laughing too loudly. I’m lucky to be in a band with folks whose company I really enjoy sharing. Ryan (aka Morris “Mars” Chevrolet) reminded me that — on stage and off — the music is ALWAYS fun.

You might have heard I run with a dangerous crowd
We ain’t too pretty we ain’t too proud
We might be laughing a bit too loud
But that never hurt no one

Tonight at Spaceland in LA is sure to be a fun one, too. I can’t wait to see all my old friends and be reunited with that gorgeous lady of mine.

Ending on a high note: a swig of Bolly to wash it all down


Above: Bonnie Day (Emily Welsch) and Jean-Luc Retard (Dan Crane) at the end of our sold-out show in New York on Monday night. Official Sponsor Bollinger (our only endorsement… no Ibanez guitars here!) provided us with a few bottles to end NN+’s “tourette” on a high note.

Touring is never easy and we were all pretty beat by the time we got to NYC for the final show of our tourette, as it was dubbed.


Above: Me (Cal d’Hommage) and Maurice Chevrolet (Ryan Williams) in the green room before the show. Ben Shapiro, seated between us.

Yesterday our new record Ménagerie hit number 22 on the college radio charts. We’ve never debuted so strongly and I can’t conceal that I am thrilled at the response to the record.


Above: A view from the stage at the show. Thanks everyone for coming out on a Monday night.

A hearty thanks to everyone who came out. Check out JT’s take on the show (thanks for the shout-out, man!).


Above: Cavatelli with broccoli raab at Centovini in SoHo.

Tracie B, Prof. Harry Covert (Greg Wawro) and his lady Eileen, and Ben Shapiro and I convened at Centovini in SoHo for a light dinner (much needed after saucisson lyonnais!) and 2006 Pelaverga by Castello di Verduno before the show. Times may be tough in the NYC restaurant world these days but Nicola Marzovilla’s mother Dora’s cavatelli are always a winner in my book. The 06 Pelaverga had a richer mouthfeel (more corposo, you would say in Italian) than in previous vintages I’ve tasted. I like the way that winemaker Mario Andrion is making it even more rustic in style. A great food-friendly wine that will pair well with a variety of dishes.

Thanks everyone for visiting Do Bianchi, all the well wishes and the kind words about the tourette. Tracie B and I are back in Austin and tomorrow I’ll start posting about our enogastronomic adventures.

On deck for tomorrow: “The Best Pork Store in New York City.”

Stay tuned…

I may not be a rock star part II and a killer Rosso di Montepulciano

From the “I may not be a rock star but sometimes I get to hang out with rock stars” department…

Above: Michael Andrews has become one of Hollywood’s hippest producers and film composers. He recently produced Inara George’s An Invitation, a collaboration with legendary arranger, songwriter, and producer Van Dyke Parks. That’s boogaloo and jazz master Robert Walter behind Mike.

Living in Los Angeles has been really fun. I’ve been catching up with so many of my old places, checking out new ones, digging the city where I lived for so many years, and reconnecting with old friends.

Last week Dan Crane (aka Jean-Luc Retard, vox and bass, Nous Non Plus) threw a little party for our friend Inara George, whose An Invitation was just released by Everloving Records. The album is fascinating and the tracks, arranged by the legendary Van Dyke Parks, were produced at the historic Sunset Sound studios by my childhood friend Mike Andrews. Check out the liner notes at Inara’s myspace. I have to say, I’m a fan: it’s thrilling to hear contemporary music with orchestral arrangements and Inara’s writing has never been better. My favorite track is “Don’t Let It Get You” but the album is really a cohesive arc of characters, moods, and musical colors draped in a gorgeous orchestral score. Listen to it in one sitting.

Dan (above, center) prepared a great menu:

  • Pierre Robert and Petit Basque cheeses
  • Arugula salad with grilled figs, goat cheese, toasted almonds and fresh mint lemon vinaigrette
  • Five-spice rubbed pork chops with orange marmalade glaze
  • Couscous with pine nuts, cinnamon, raisins and parsley
  • Grilled fennel, zucchini and italian yellow squash with fresh thyme
  • Fresh berries with limoncello mascarpone cream
  • And he had asked me to do the wines. Standouts were a 2007 Tocai Friulano by Venica and Venica,* with great acidity and fresh fruit flavors to pair with arugula salad, and a 2006 Rosso di Montepulciano by Sanguineto, which went great with Dan’s killer pork chops. My buddy Lance at Wine House recently turned me on to Sanguineto and it has catapulted to the top of the list of my current favorite red wines. It’s made from Prugnolo Gentile (the name of the Sangiovese clone used in Montepulciano) with smaller amounts of Canaiolo and Mammolo grapes (the Rosso di Montepulciano appellation was created in 1989 and appellation regulations for both Rosso and Vino Nobile allow for the blending of Cannaiolo and other varieties in the wine). The wine is brilliantly traditional in style (aged in large, old oak barrels), with great acidity, beautiful red fruit flavors, and just the right amount of tannin to give it some backbone. Both the Tocai and the Rosso di Montepulciano retail for about $20. ($20 is the new $10, btw.)

    In our high-school days, Mike and I used to enjoy playing Beatles songs. I had to pinch myself: there I was singing and strumming, “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party” and “Here, There, and Everywhere,” accompanied by Inara, Mike, Dan, and Robert Walter (probably best known for his work with Greyboy Allstars but also an amazing avant-garde jazz cat).

    Life could be worse…

    Hauling all the stuff you have from one place to the other side
    Humming all the notes you heard in no particular order

    You’re coming out, you bought the ticket

    Don’t let it get you…

    * Producers of Tocai Friulano are no longer allowed to label their Tocai Friulano as such and so they write “Friulano” these days. Some years ago, the Hungarian government petitioned the EC (European Commission), asking it to disallow the use of “Tocai Friulano”: the homonymous Tocai created confusion in the marketplace with regard to their Tokaj (a toponym and appellation name), claimed the Hungarians, who ultimately prevailed. I continue to say “Tocai Friulano” and the Hungarians can kiss my ass.

    Click here to read the EU press release on the court’s ruling and then click on the second release, “Opinion of the Advocate General in the case C-347/03” for a PDF.