Getting tiggy with it in the ATX

From the “just for fun” department…

On Friday night, Tracie B’s birthday celebration weekend began with a glass of 1987 López de Heredia Tondonia — one of the best wines I’ve tasted in a long while. Our good friend Mark Sayre at Trio at the Four Seasons always has something crazy and stinky for us to drink when we hang out at Austin’s best-kept-secret happy hour (half-priced wines by the glass, happy hour snacks menu, and free valet parking).

I’ve become somewhat obsessed with chef Todd Duplechan’s fried pork belly. He makes a confit of pork belly and then fries it: when he serves it, the fat in the middle is warm and gelatinous and the outside is crispy and savory. You know the story I always tell about the Rabbi and the ham sandwich he “can live without”? Well, I can’t live without Todd’s fried pork belly. He garnishes with a relish made from seasonal vegetables, in this case pickled watermelon radish and okra.

Later that evening, we met up with some friends at the High Ball (no website but does have a Facebook fan page), Austin’s newest (and only) bowling alley cum Karaoke bar cum mixology and designer beer menu. Tracie B had the “Heirloom”: roseberry fizz, citrus infused vodka, elderflower, rosemary, muddled blackberries. The High Ball hasn’t even had its official, hard opening and it is already packed nightly, Austin’s newest hipster hangout and a lot of fun with its art deco, Bettie Page ambiance and clientele.

Thanks to everyone for coming out to my Italian wine seminars at the Austin Wine Merchant. Last night was Tuscany (that’s our new friend Mary Gordon, front row center). Highlights were 2006 Chianti Classico by Fèlsina (such a great value), 2001 Brunello di Montalcino by Il Poggione (this vintage is just getting better and better, always a fav), 2004 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano by Villa Sant’Anna (old-school Vino Nobile that I thoroughly dig), and 2005 Tignanello (not exactly my speed but always a go-to trophy wine). Coincidentally, Laura Rangoni posted an interview with the “father of Tignanello” Renzo Cotarella on her blog yesterday. “Barrique is like a mini-skirt,” he told her, “not every woman can wear one.” I couldn’t have said it better myself!

Yo, Renzo, get tiggy with it! Thanks for reading.

Nah nah nah nah nah… Get tiggy with it…

I have seen the Futurism: the Negroni

Above: A Negroni at Annies in Austin, the latest addition to the restaurant and nightlife scene here. Not bad for a snap taken with my Blackberry Curve, eh?

No one needs me to retell the story of the Negroni: the tale of Count Camillo Negroni and the cocktail named after him has been retold countless times (however apocryphal those chestnuts may be).

But what few remember these days is that the Negroni was one of the favorite cocktails of the Futurists, the avant-garde movement founded in 1913 by F.T. Marinetti (often called the father of the historical avante-garde). The Negroni — made with Campari, the quintessential Futurist bitters — was one of their polibibite or polybeverages, each intended to stimulate the idealized Futurist (in one way or another).

Yesterday evening, when I tasted a Negroni at the newly opened Annies Café and Bar on Congress in downtown Austin, I couldn’t help but think of the Futurist banquet I attended in 1993 at the Getty Villa in Malibu. (A few years later, I worked as one of the bibliographers of the Marinetti archive at the Getty’s Special Collections.)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how Futurism and the historical avante-garde were essentially self-destructive movements, like much of twentieth-century critical theory: by destroying its fathers (and mothers, for that matter), the historical avante-garde presupposed its own destruction by future generations.

But the cocktails sure were good…

The Negroni at Annies wasn’t bad (although it should have served with an orange wedge or orange zest). The Lousiana-style gumbo I sampled wasn’t bad either. Seems like they have a few kinks to iron out there but I’ll be back: I liked the feel of the place, the hipster mixology, and the old-time music they had going.