Is it spring yet? Rosso di Montalcino, tuna bruschette, and rock ‘n’ roll

Friday brought the spring equinox and so Sunday night, Tracie B decided to lift her yearly moratorium on fresh tomatoes and made us bruschette topped with chopped yellow and red tomatoes, cannellini beans, olive-oil-packed tuna, kosher salt, and extra-virgin olive oil (the oil courtesy of our friend Ginevra Pesciolini of the Ghizzano winery in the Colline Pisane).

A bruschetta (pronounced broo-SKEHT-tah, plural bruschette, broo-SKEHT-teh) is literally “burnt” or grilled bread, always dressed with olive oil and often topped with a combination of the above ingredients. Most believe the word and the preparation originated along the central Adriatic coast of Italy.

We paired with one of my favorite expressions of Sangiovese, 2006 Rosso di Montalcino by Canalicchio di Sopra. Canalicchio’s wine is traditional in style. It showed some of the stinky volatile acidity that you get on old-school Sangiovese like this but it quickly blew off, giving way to delicious, bright, food-friendly acidity and red, plummy fruit.

In other news…

Also on Friday, we managed to get into my friend Inara’s packed showcase with her band The Bird and the Bee at the SXSW festival. Inara rocked it! (picture taken with my phone.)

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.