Frito pie, impossible wine pairing?!?

chili frito pie

Above: The other night an excellent Frito Pie prompted me and my dining companions to contemplate the moisture retention quotient of the humble Frito, which, I learn via the Wiki, originated in San Antonio, Texas (where else?).

I think I might have Dr. V stumped. Chips and salsa may be tough, but Frito Pie?

If you’ve never had Frito Pie, it’s essentially a heap of Fritos drowning in Texas chili and then topped with cheese and sour cream.

I had never had Frito Pie before moving to the south. Since my life Texana began nearly 3 years ago, I eat Frito Pie — a true Texan delicacy — whenever afforded the opportunity.

The other day outside of Houston, Cousin Marty and I had what we both agreed was the BEST FRITO PIE EVER.

What did our sommelier pair with it?

As BrooklynGuy occasionally asks of his readers, you be the sommelier!

Please add your recommendations in the comment thread and I’ll provide the answer (it was brilliant, btw) on Friday along with a story about the amazing place where we were served the pie above…

Frank Bruni please call me: recent pizza (and panna cotta) porn here in Texas

Above: Doug Horn at Dough in San Antonio consistently delivers what I think is the most authentic Neapolitan pizza in the U.S. (Photos by Tracie B).

Pizza is hot. No pun intended: for the last few months, pizza has been one of the hottest topics in the food and wine media — from Dr V’s post on the forbidden pizza-wine pairing earlier this year to Eric’s astute observations on the “wine and pizza debate” in May, from Alan Richman’s controversial list of his top 25 pizzerias in the U.S., also published in May, to Frank Bruni’s article in The Times yesterday about the “cult” of artisanal pizza in this country.

Above: Skewered mozzarella at Dough, wrapped in prosciutto and grilled at Dough. Has the mimetic desire kicked in yet?

I recently took Tracie B to try the pizza at Doug Horn’s Dough in San Antonio. I had eaten there a few times and was consistently and repeatedly impressed by the authenticity of the pies. It was time to call in the expert: after all, Tracie B lived in Ischia outside of Naples for nearly five years. She KNOWS her authentic Neapolitan pizza. She was duly impressed and suffice it say that we will soon be back.

Above: Self-Portrait in a Convex Spoon? I think I just gave myself an idea for this week’s Sunday Poetry. Doug’s panna cotta is as good as it gets. I told Doug that his panna cotta was one of the best I’d tasted outside of Italy and one of the best ever tasted, really. “I know,” he responded dryly. This guy doesn’t kid around.

As American writers, bloggers, foodies, celebrity restaurateurs, and food pundits and critics continue to argue the finer points of authentic Neapolitan pizza, few have taken note of Naples’s recent celebration of the 120th anniversary of the birth of the Pizza Margherita, which was created using the three colors of the Italian flag to commemorate Queen Margherita of Savoy’s visit to Naples in 1889. For the occasion, the city of Naples reenacted the parade held to welcome the queen to the once Parthenopaean Republic.

I found this YouTube of the event, worth watching if just for the costumes. Enjoy! And Frank, please call me! There’s great pizza in Texas, too!

Pizza, an Italian sine qua non (Alan Richman, please call me!)

Above: Doug Horn’s pizza at the aptly named Dough in San Antonio is among the best I’ve ever had — in Italy and the U.S. That’s his margherita: there is a lot of great Stateside pizza but Doug’s is the most authentically Neapolitan I’ve tasted.

Did it all began back in January when Dr. V asked me what vino I’d pair with pizza?

The tenor of the debate seemed to have reached fever pitch by the time I weighed in with my post Pizza, pairing, and Pasolini.

A Solomon of pizza lovers, Eric, the sage among us observed rightly that we don’t have to do it the way they do it Rome.

Above: Doug’s mushroom and caramelized red onion pizza is not the most traditional among his offering but, damn, is it good! I have deep respect for Alan Richman (who also happens to be one of the nicest food writers you’ll ever meet) but his omission of Dough in the top 25 pizzas in the U.S. is a glaring oversight.

But now one of our nation’s greatest food writers, Alan Richman, tells us that “Italians are wrong about pizza… Pizza isn’t as fundamental to Italy as it is to America. Over there, it plays a secondary role to pasta, risotto, and polenta. To be candid, I think they could do without it.” (Here’s the link to the GQ article on the top 25 pizzas in the U.S. but it is a major pain in the ass to navigate.)

Above: Doug also does a wonderful, traditional Neapolitan flatbread. This is probably a trace of the origins of pizza as we know it today. I’ve never met anyone as passionate about traditionalism in pizza as Doug.

Alan has impeccable and unquestionable taste and I agree with almost all of his top-25 selections (at least those I have tasted myself). Anyone who reads Do Bianchi knows that I — like most Italophile oenophiles — have an obsession with pizza and that Lucali in Brooklyn is one of my all-time favorites (a preference that Alan shares).

I know that Alan is just having fun when he says that Italians are “wrong about pizza.” And I agree that Americanized pizza is a wonderful and spontaneous mutation of the ingenious simplicity that the Italians have created — like so many things they’ve given the world.

Above: Doug also does some incredible fresh cheese and traditional Neapolitan cheese antipasti that he learned to make while studying to be a pizzaiolo in Naples.

But to say that “Pizza isn’t as fundamental to Italy as it is to America” is egregious hyperbolism. Pizza — like pasta, like the Italian national football team — is one of the few notions that truly binds the Italians together as a nation — nation in the etymological sense, i.e., a shared birth from the Latin natio. (I have a great deal to say on this but I’m literally running out the door to San Antonio as I write this.)

Alan, Eric, and Tyler, please come to San Antonio anytime: we have much to discuss and the pizza (and the Brunello) will be on me. I promise that the trip will be well worth it.

How Sweet It Is: Lini finally lands in San Diego

Above: Lini Lambrusco “Labrusca” red paired well with the Jaynes Burger over the weekend at Jaynes Gastropub in San Diego.

It’s actually not sweet… It’s dry and earthly with just a flourish of sweetness… It’s meaty in the mouth and bright on the palate… it cuts through the fat of my cheeseburger like a gorgeous housewife in the Emilian countryside cuts through her pasta dough with a serrated raviolo wheel. Yes, it’s voluptuous and sexy. It’s Lini Lambrusco — one of those “I could drink this every day wines” over here at Do Bianchi.

It’s my obligation to reveal that when it comes to Lini, I’m biased: I had a hand in bringing Lini into this country and Alicia (left) and I became good friends when I worked (pre-mid-life-crisis) with the company that brings her wines in.

Alicia and I shared a truly magical mystery experience when I accompanied her to a radio appearance on the Leonard Lopate show (WNYC) and we ran into “Wonderful Tonight” Patti Boyd in the hallway of the studio. (My post on our encounter is the all-time most-viewed at Do Bianchi.)

Lambrusco remains a greatly misunderstood wine in this country. The association with cheap, sweet quaffing wines, so popular in the late 70s and early 80s, continues to pervade even the informed wine enthusiast’s perception.

In Emilia — one of Italy’s food meccas, rivaled only by Piedmont — farmers like to drink Lambrusco, too. But Lambrusco is not just a wine for field hands. In Modena, Reggio Emilia, and Parma, Lambrusco is served with Emilia’s finest dishes and no other wine pairs better with the region’s famed foods: Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, Culatello, Zampone, Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale (di Modena and di Reggio Emilia), Lasagne and Tagliatelle alla Bolognese, and on and on… In Emilia — one of Italy’s most affluent regions — everyone drinks Lambrusco at dinner, from the village barber to the Ferrari corporate executive (they say there are more Ferraris and pigs pro capite in Emilia than anywhere else in the world).

When I lived — many moons ago — in Modena, I once brought some friends a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino. Their response? “Please pass the Lambrusco.”

Which brings me to an important point about wine, wine writing, and wine appreciation: subjectivity is essential to wine appreciation. And I don’t just mean subjectivity as “consciousness of one’s perceived states” but rather in the (Jacques) Lacnian sense, whereby language (the sign or signifier) precedes meaning (signfication). But I’ll reserve that rigmarolery for another post. Just consider this: in Reggio Emilia, I would open a $20 (retail) bottle of 2007 Lini with my bollito misto as my ideal pairing; in Alba (if I could afford it), I’d open a $450 (retail) bottle of Giacosa Barolo Falletto Riserva (Red Label) 1996 with my bollito misto — also an ideal pairing. It’s all in the words of the subject as relates to the object and the other.

On the subject of subjectivity in wine writing, check out this interesting post at Alder Yarrow’s excellent blog Vinography.

In other news…

Today is Bastille Day, an important day for my (pseudo-French) band Nous Non Plus and a personal anniversary of sorts (last year I was in Burgundy on this date, whence my personal revolution began).

In other other news…

Just for kicks, check out this vintage Riunite commercial (which Dr. Vino pointed out to me a few years ago):