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!

New west coast food and wine blogs for a new year

Breaking news: For all you wedding watchers out there, Tracie B has just posted on our wedding cake! Yes, WEDDING CAKE!


Above: While in Los Angeles in early December, I had lunch at Mozza with my friends Howard Rodman and Lou Amdur. Owner of my favorite natural wine bar, Lou has a wonderful food and wine blog (not so new), where he writes about his wine selection and whatever else makes him culinarily curious. Comrade Howard is my number 1 candidate for “someone who outta have a food and wine blog.”

The oughts are noughts and 2010 has arrived and at least a couple of friends of mine took time during the December wind-down to launch new food and wine blogs.


Above: For desert, Howard, Lou, and I shared olive oil ice cream. Penelope and Javier sat at the table next to us. I had no idea who they were (as I was hoping to run into Mel and Carl, who purportedly dine there and are a much more sexy couple!).

This month saw the launch of a food and wine (and music) blog by my friend Anthony Wilson (click on “blog” in the left-hand nav bar). You see, Anthony’s primary mission in life is not to be one of the greatest jazz guitar players of our time. His true calling is “to seek out — every day — fresh, delicious, typical food, prepared with love by like-minded obsessives, along with real, authentic, natural wine, served whenever possible in non-aristocratic, sometimes downright quirky, environments where it’s possible to roll up one’s sleeves and really get down to the business of eating and drinking.”


Above: While in LA, I also dined at Palate (in Glendale), which, despite the swagger, is my favorite restaurant in the U.S. right now. I really dig their vintage decanters (we decanted a bottle of Domaine de Montille 2006 Pommard Les Rugiens, thank you very much).

I’m also excited about a new blog, Gourmale, authored by my bandmate and air guitar superstar, Dan Crane (aka Jean-Luc Retard, aka Björn Türoque). Dan’s well-earned nickname on the road is “Snackboy Jr.” or “Snack,” and the Nous Non Plus tour bus has often been forced to stop abruptly for “snack attacks.” Enough said… (now, if we could just get Dan to add a blogroll!).


Above: At Palate, chef Octavio Becerra treated us to an amazing roast side of goat.

I’ve also been recently hipped to two very cool wine blogs by Los Angeles-based wine professionals, My Daily Wine by Amy Atwood, now at the top of my Google reader feed for news from the world of natural wine, and Brunellos Have More Fun, by Whitney Adams, whose mostly Italocentric blog I would read if only for the title! And lastly, but by no means least, my new guide to Bay Area restaurants is called Wine Book Girl, by my colleague UC Press publicist Amy Cleary.

In other news…


Above: A collaborative NYE meal, dill and chive roast potatoes (by Tracie B) and pan-roasted, boneless rib-eyes (by me). Langhe Nebbiolo 2008 by Produttori del Barbaresco and Beatles Anthology on DVD. Is this what heaven is like? ;-)

At the last minute, Tracie B and I decided to spend our New Year’s eve at home, alone, just the two of us. :-) We’ll have a lifetime of NYE celebrations ahead of us and so we thought we’d spend this last one, before we get married later this month, by ourselves.

Our bubbly beverage? A champagne of Champagnes (ha!): a bottle of Pierre Gimmonet Cuis 1er Cru Sans Année. We opened it at the beginning of the evening for an apertif and re-corked it. By the end of the night, it had opened up into a wonderful toastiness complemented by fresh white fruit and bright acidity. The perfect wine to pair with my true love’s sweet first kiss of the new year…

Happy 2010, everyone! So far, so good!

BrooklynGuy’s best value Champagne

Above: This and the images below were all captured in September 2008, when Franco and I visited the truly marvelous and amazing Ca’ del Bosco in Franciacorta. That’s Anna Caprini, director of media relations, who gave us an excellent tour of the winery.

In the case you don’t know or read BrooklynGuy’s blog, you don’t know what you’re missing! His blog is everything a great wine blog should be: open, honest, with no hidden agenda other than sharing his impressions and knowledge and entertaining us with his wry and dry (pun intended) humor.

BrooklynGuy has one of the purest palates in the blogosphere and even though he doesn’t work in the wine industry, he is often asked to take part in tasting panels — by both major magazines and high-profile trade personalities who want to get his impressions.

Above: Ca’ del Bosco produces a wide range of superb champagne-method wines. And while technology prevails there (after all, Champagne and champagne-method wines are, perhaps more than any other, the fruit of technology), works of art also punctuate the winery tour experience, like this rhino suspended, seemingly precariously, from the facility’s ceiling.

But the greatest thing about his blog, for those of us who have been following it for a while now, is BrooklynGuy’s (and I mean this in the most complimentary way) “Rain Man” approach to tasting and wine writing. He’s never lost that sense of innocence that sets his blog apart from the pack (otherwise dominated by folks who think they’re doing the world a favor by sharing their informed and informative palates).

BrooklynGuy loves him some bubbles (as evidenced by his nearly weekly series Friday Night Bubbles).

Above: The remuage or riddling process was the leap in technology that made Champagne and champagne-method wines like those produced in Franciacorta possible. The bottles are stored in these racks and then “riddled”: every day they are turned, gently, by hand, so that the lees of the wine will settle in the neck.

I asked him to cull his blog for some great-value Champagnes and otherwise bubbly wines and he graciously obliged.

As the Latins used to say, ubi maior, minor cessat


I am not someone who sees Champagne as a seasonal beverage. I drink it the way I drink any other wine — as often as I can. That said, there are many people who will buy champagne in the coming week who do not ordinarily do so, and the variety and prices can get a bit overwhelming. Here are some of my favorite sparkling wines at a few different price points (NYC prices, anyway). These are wines that I are available now, that I would confidently purchase for myself or to share with others at a celebration. There are loads of other great choices too, and these are all rather small production wines, so if you don’t find these, ask your friendly knowledgeable wine clerk, or leave Dr. J [editor’s note: that would be me] a comment and he’ll try to get back to you.


Under $20

Domaine de Montbourgeau Cremant du Jura NV
$20, Neal Rosenthal Imports.

A delicious Blanc de Blancs made from Jura Chardonnay. Refreshing and balanced, very earthy.

Under $30

Huet Vouvray Petillant Brut 2002
$28, Robert Chadderdon Selections.

The finest of the sparkling wines from Vouvray, from one of the finest producers in Vouvray. This is incredibly high quality wine, and at this price it’s a steal.

Above: A detail of the lees (the dead yeast cells) that will be disgorged before the wine is bottled and released.

Under $40

Pierre Brigandat Champagne Brut Reserve NV
$32, Bonhomie Wine Imports.

A lively and expressive Blanc de Noirs that offers ripe and clean fruit, but also a definite sense of soil and mineral.

Chartogne-Taillet Cuvée Sainte-Anne Brut NV
$38, Terry Theise Selections, Michael Skurnik Imports.

This to me is a classic Champagne — floral and biscuit aromas, great acidity and tension, a chalky finish, just delicious. A blend of equal parts Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Pierre Gimmonet Champagne Selection Belles Années Blanc de Blancs Brut NV
$35, Terry Theise Selections, Michael Skurnik Imports.

A new cuvée from Gimmonet made of a blend of two vintages of the Cuvée Gastronome, the wine bottled at lower pressure so as to be more harmonious with food. A lithe and tasty wine.

Thanks, again, BrooklynGuy! You ROCK! And happy new year, everyone!