LOVING the list at Fonda San Miguel…

The list at one of me and Tracie P’s FAVORITE restaurants in the world, Fonda San Miguel (Austin), is OFF THE CHARTS ROCKING right now. Earlier this week, a close friend treated us to dinner and a bottle of the 2000 Gravonia white by López de Heredia. Man, that wine is INSANE right now. Wonderful fruit, great acidity, and the oxidative note that takes those wines over the top. Great pairing with the queso and the sopecitos.

Next we paired the 09 Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo with our entrées. I had the carne asada tampiqueña… A match made in heaven (I wrote about it today over at the Houston Press for my “Odd Pair” rubric).

Produttori’s 09 Langhe Nebbiolo is one of the more light-bodied vintages in recent years and its bright fruit and acidity were fantastic with the dish and stood up beautifully to its intense flavors and spiciness. Seriously, one of the best meals of the year so far…

How cool is that? The best Mexican restaurant in the U.S. and they have Produttori del Barbaresco on their list! Love it…

Buon weekend yall…

Our night on the town with Lettie

One of the more remarkable things that happened between Christmas and New Year’s was our night on the town in Austin with Lettie Teague. Lettie was in Dallas celebrating the holiday with family when Nature, by means of the east coast blizzard, decided not to let her fly back to New York. So, she decided to hit the road and come visit us in Austin, where we took her to some of our favorite spots, like Fonda San Miguel, where we had some huitlacoche tamales (de rigueur). Oddly enough, they were out of our fav Tondonia Rosado by López de Heridia and so Lettie proposed that we drink Gimmonet Champagne instead. The pairing was BRILLIANT!

Later, we took her to another one of our favorite nightspots, Vino Vino, where Jeff disgorged some Puro for her.

And, of course, no night on the town with Tracie P and me is complete without some late-night honkytonking at Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon.

Lettie wrote about our evening here. And I don’t care how much ya’ll holler: I ain’t givin’ you the number to the speakeasy we visited! Ya’ll will just have to come down and pay us a proper visit if you want to check it out!

Corn porn: the best kind of smut (huitlacoche)

fonda san miguel

Above: The huitlacoche (corn smut tamales) at Fonda San Miguel are UNBELIEVABLY good. Pair that with 1998 Tondonia Rosado by López de Heredia (at a more than reasonable price) and you’ll see why I love living in Austin, Texas.

Tracie P and I love eating at the bar. We love talking to bartenders and sharing wines with our neighbors.

Lately, our guilty pleasure has been the bar at one of our favorite restaurants in the world: Fonda San Miguel in Austin. Especially because they’ve recently added López de Heredia to their wine list (at more-than reasonable prices, one of the weird anomalies of living in Texas where most wine is more expensive than elsewhere but certain otherwise-unknown-to-Texans wines are sold for less).

Believe me when I tell you that the huitlacoche corn smut tamales alone would be worth the trip to Austin.

fonda san miguel

Above: To our palate, López de Heredia wines are among the greatest food-friendly wines on the planet. They’re not for everyone (with their highly oxidative style and to-some off-putting nose). To us, they are near perfection in a glass. Paired above with the excellent tortilla soup at Fonda.

Thanks again, bartender James (below) and wine director Brad for keeping those wines in stock! WE LOVE IT!

fonda san miguel

In other news…

I had a really crummy day yesterday but my Facebook friends and family got me through it with a flood of thoughtful messages. I can’t say how much I appreciate it. THANKS SO MUCH TO EVERYONE FOR YOUR SUPPORT. IT MEANS THE WORLD TO ME.

Jason, you know what’s playing on my jukebox today as I type away? Yep, you got it: DOUG SAHM.

I really cannot begin to explain how addicted I’ve become to the music of Doug Sahm. At first listen, the music may seem a little rough around the edges but once you scratch through its surface, you’ll find some real Texas soul and groove (“where the Cosmic Cowgirls play”).

My band The Grapes will be performing his ode to Austin, “Groover’s Paradise,” next Wednesday in La Jolla.

98 López de Heredia rosé and a gordita at Fonda San Miguel, anyone?

fonda san miguel

As much as Tracie P and I LOVE Austin’s Fonda San Miguel (a restaurant considered by many, and rightly so, one of the best Mexican restaurants in the U.S.), it would be untrue for me to say that we are fans of its wine list (dominated by new world Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay). But when we cozied up at the bar the other night for one of our favorite guilty-pleasure dinners, we were thrilled to find the 1999 López de Heredia Viña Gravonia (white) on the by-the-glass list and the 1998 Viña Tondonia Rosado Gran Reserva by the bottle. That gordita paired brilliantly with the acidity and fruit in this gently oxidative wine.

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I couldn’t resist posting this photo Tracie P snapped that night. You can see the beautiful stained glass in the ceiling reflecting in the wine.

And on the subject of the 1998 Rosado, you can also find it by the bottle at a happy-hour price (too obscene to report here!) over on Josh Loving’s list at Fino, from 5-7 p.m. My advice? Run don’t walk…

In other Spanish-speaking news…


Tracie P and I attended a fascinating lecture and presentation by our friend George O. Jackson Jr. at the University of Texas Ransom Center the other night.

George O. (as he is known) has been traveling in and photographing folk culture in Guerrero, Mexico for 20 years. These images are from the jaguar dances and competitions performed by Indian tribes there as an offering to G-d.


The pain the participants endure in the dances, George O. explained, is one of the ways they offer sacrifice to their vision of the Judeo-Christian G-d in return for their bountiful rain.

His photos are not yet entirely available for viewing online, but you can see some of them here, from a previous exhibition. Truly fascinating stuff and simply thrilling images…

Happy Friday, ya’ll… I sure am ready to get my weekend on!

The best Mexican restaurant in the world?

Above: Fonda San Miguel’s owner Miguel Ravago told me that the restaurant’s name was inspired by a Mexican fonda or inn and the fact that he and his family used to own a house in San Miguel Allende.

California friends Robin Stark and David Schacter were in town for the weekend for a visit and so it was finally time for me to check out the legendary brunch at Fonda San Miguel in Austin. We went today, joined by Robin’s friend John Balistreri who also lives nearby.

Tracie B and I will often go there for a nice dinner on a weekday night, if we have something to celebrate or just want to do something special. We always eat at the bar and we LOVE the antojitos: the sopes topped with salpicon de pescado and cochinita pibil are our favorites. But I had still never been for brunch. The night before, Robin and David had paid a visit to a celebrity west Texas gourmet Hill Rylander who, when asked about the restaurant, responded by saying, “Fonda San Miguel is not the best Mexican restaurant in Austin… It’s the best Mexican restaurant in the world!” He might just be right.

Above: Corn pudding and chilaquiles, migas, marinated green chiles stuffed with cheese, and beans. Miguel told me that the corn pudding is used to sooth the tastebuds after you’ve eaten something too spicy. I tried it and he was right.

I’ve eaten great Mexican food throughout California and Mexico: from my family’s home in La Jolla (San Diego, CA), it takes only 30 minutes to reach the border and I have traveled extensively through Baja California and lived a summer in Mexico City when I was a teenager. In my experience, the moles (green and brown) at Fonda San Miguel are among the best I’ve ever had.

Above: The salad section of the buffet includes guacamole, ceviche, and Tracie B’s favorite, the spinach salad.

David — one of the most demanding palates and gourmets I’ve ever met — agreed, noting that the guacamole, a deceptively simple dish, was outstanding. Tracie B needed no convincing: she’s known all along! She always says that the cochinita pibil was one of the things she missed most (after her family, of course) when she lived in Ischia.

Above: Miguel told me that George W. Bush proposed to Laura at this table. The European travelers at the table were gracious enough to let me photograph it (I didn’t tell them why!).

The brunch is an all-you-can eat buffet and although not cheap, is a great value for the quality of the food (and all the chefs are very knowledgeable and talkative about the dishes; Miguel spends his time between Spain and Texas and we were lucky to find him there). I highly recommend it but be sure to make reservations because it is always packed and people understandably linger.

From left to right, counter clockwise: John Balistreri, Robin Stark, David Schacter, and Tracie B.

The great Brunello debate and please keep Austin weird

Above: sopecitos at Fonda San Miguel, one of the many excellent Mexican restaurants in Austin, Texas.

Just a quick reminder: Franco and Ezio Rivella will face off tomorrow in the great Brunello debate in Siena, 3 p.m. local time. You can watch the debate live at http://www.vinarius.it/. I’ll be watching, of course, and will most certainly post about it here and at VinoWire. Franco will be presenting the case for Brunello di Montalcino to remain 100% Sangiovese while Rivella will argue that appellation regulations should be changed, allowing for other grapes to be used as well.

Above: Dale Watson did an awesome show at the Broken Spoke the other night in Austin.

In other news…

Tracie B. and me did us some more honky-tonkin in Austin this week. I’ve really been impressed by how Austin still has many family-owned and run music venues and restaurants. Especially coming from Southern California, where the landscape is dominated by fast food chains and strip malls, I’m happy to know that there is an America where folks are still keeping it real. Keep Austin Weird is a grass-roots movement that promotes general “weirdness,” as they put it.

I’ve been enjoying some of that weirdness and I really dug Dale Watson’s version of Pop a Top the other night at the Broken Spoke (my second-favorite honky tonk after Ginny’s Little Longhorn).

Pop a top again
I just got time for one more round
Sit em up my friends
Then I’ll be gone
Then you can let some other fool sit down

I’d like for you’d to listen to a joke I heard today
From a woman who said she was through and calmly walked away
I’d tried to smile and did a while it felt so outta place
Did you ever hear of a clown with tears drops streamming down his face.

Pop a top again
I think I’ll have another round
Sit em up my friend
Then I’ll be gone and you can let some other fool sit down.

Home for me is misery and here I am wasting time
Cause a row of fools on a row of stools is not what’s on my mind
But then you see her leaving me it’s not what I perfer
So it’s either here just drinking beer or at home remembering her.

Pop a top again
I think I’ll have another round
Sit em up my friend
Then I’ll be gone and you can let some other fool sit down
Pop a top again.