The best seared foie gras ever (and an interesting discussion of Boccioni)


Above: The best seared foie gras I’ve ever had, last night at Tesar’s in the Woodlands (Houston). Chef Tesar sears it so aggressively that the outside is charred while the inside becomes gelatinous. Before searing it, he studs it with a vanilla bean. Paired with Château Les Justices 2005 Sauternes, served by the glass by my friend Scott Barber, top sommelier AND art historian.

My line of work brings me into contact with some pretty interesting folks.

Yesterday afternoon, I headed down from Dallas toward Houston and met cousins Joanne and Marty at the relatively new and much-talked-about Tesar’s Modern Steak and Seafood in the Woodlands. Chef John Tesar is one of those young buck celebrity chefs who’s done it all: New York, Vegas, the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas (the most ostentatious city in the world)… And now he’s branched out on his own with a high-end namesake restaurant.

My friend sommelier Scott Barber had been raving about the food and man, I gotta say (and ya’ll know I don’t say this lightly), the food was kick-ass good.


Above: Mediterranean-style octopus can be harder to prepare than it looks. Scott agreed that the secret (after tenderization) is patience: it simply takes a long time to achieve the desired tenderness. It was off-the-charts good, I gotta say.

But the star of the evening last night was Umberto Boccioni. Before getting into wine, Scott studied art history in Italy. The funny thing: neither of us were into wine at the time, but we both lived and studied in Italy during the same period (literature and paleography in my case). He has seen my post the other day where I incorporated one of my favorite Boccioni paintings, “La rissa in galleria” (“The Riot in the Galleria”).


Above: The fetishization of beef. One of the signature dishes at Tesar’s is “side-by-side” where you taste grain-fed and grass-fed beef side-by-side. One could argue until one is black and blue in the face about which is better!

Boccioni is such an interesting painter and his work is fraught with tension — historical and aesthetic. I was THRILLED that someone appreciated the reference and why I made it. Our conversation drifted to the significance, cultural and sociological, of the painting’s backdrop, the Galleria of Milan, the famed 19th-century domed arcade of the Lombard capital. Marty pointed out that the Galleria lent its name and its arched dome to Houston’s consumerist mecca, the Houston Galleria.

But I digress… Food and wine are just a pretext to discuss aesthetics, no?

Tesar’s is not cheap but it really delivered: would you like a little Boccioni with your Fixin?


Above: The 2004 Fixin by Mortet showed gorgeous, unexpected acidity and paired swimmingly well with house-made garganelli tossed with Parmigiano Reggiano and grated black truffles.

Thanks again, Joanne and Marty, for a wonderful dinner. And thanks again, Scott, for the Boccioni and the Fixin!

In other news…

The best news is that today I’m headed home to that super fine lady of mine… This lonely heart’s been away two days too long!

Yesterday, driving in the rain from Dallas to Houston, “Heard it in a Love Song” by Marshall Tucker Band came on. Man, what an awesome song. Can’t be wrong…

Un sabato da leoni (Big Saturday)

Does anyone remember the film Big Wednesday? Arguably, one of the greatest surf movies ever made. In Italian the title was translated as Un mercoledì da leoni, literally, a Wednesday for lions.

This weekend I had a Saturday for lions of sorts: I was invited to take part in a birthday celebration for a friend, an Angeleno wine collector.

Here’s a little photo essay and some notes and highlights: a window into a rarefied world of raw hamachi flown in from Tokyo, served as sashimi and tartare, dressed with colatura di alici (the juice of white anchovy), and paired with R.D. 1975 Dom Perignon and 1982 Krug; Nova Scotia lobster soufflé paired with Grand Cru white Burgundy; and creamy risotto and semolina gnocchi topped with shaved white truffles from Piedmont and old Nebbiolo — 13 dishes in all and a flight of 20 wines.

The celebrant’s mother, who lives in New York, hand-polished the family silver and had it sent it to him for the occasion.

In Los Angeles, it’s even harder than in NYC to get great truffles. These were among the best I’ve ever had, with aromatics comparable to those I’ve eaten in situ. Look at the size of that sucka!

Not every course was as photogenic as the garganelli but each dish (and only one serving was allowed per Bacchanalian) inspired orgasmic oohs and aahs among the all-male crowd. Chef Angelo Auriana’s ragù was ethereal and the pasta sublimely light yet firm and rich (my camera didn’t do justice to its egg-yolk color). But the risotto mantecato alla fonduta di cipolla bianca (onion fondue risotto) topped with shaved white truffles was my personal favorite.

My top wines (but, then again, I’m pretty predictable) were: Krug 1982, Lafon 1989 Mersault-Charmes, Giovannini Moresco 1979 Barbaresco, Robert Arnoux 1993 Romanée-Saint Vivant, Giacosa 1989 Santo Stefano Riserva, Giuseppe Rinaldi 1989 Barolo Riserva (magnum).

Some found this 1979 Barbaresco by Giovannini Moresco tired but I thought it was drinking great. The vineyard where the fruit for this wine was grown now belongs to another winemaker who blends Nebbiolo from this famed growing site with Merlot and Cabernet. Quel dommage! (If you don’t get the joke, click here.) This was the wine that intrigued me the most.

I was blown away by the youth and power of this 1989 Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano Riserva. Barbaresco at its best — and this was one of the greatest expressions I’ve ever tasted — combines grace and strength. Diana never pleased her lover more…*

At the end of the night, I felt like Rubens’ Bacchus. It’s kinda like the old joke about the Rabbi, the Priest, and the ham sandwich: the 1992 Krug was one of the greatest wines I’ve ever tasted but I don’t need to drink it — well, at least not every day!

Click the image to read a label on the painting, which resides at the Hermitage. Note the color of the wine — white not red.

* Petrarch, RVF, madrigal 52 (translation by Mark Musa)

Diana never pleased her lover more,
when just by chance all of her naked body
he saw bathing within the chilly waters,

than did the simple mountain shepherdess
please me, the while she bathed the pretty veil
that holds her lovely blonde hair in the breeze.

So that even now in the hot sunlight she makes me
tremble all over with the chill of love.