My chat @IsleWine @EatingOurWords @HoustonPress

Photo via Grub Street.

Beyond writing about wines under $25, my mission as wine writer at the Houston Press is to offer coverage of fine wine in Houston and Texas.

So what could be better than an interview with my friend Ray Isle, Houston native, who’s on his way to Texas next month for the Austin Food & Wine Festival?

You can read the interview here.

And here are his thoughts on Italian wine (topic of one his seminars) that didn’t make it into the Houston Press post:

    Cesanese was a discovery for me not too long ago (particularly the wines from Damiano Ciolli, who’s a very talented young guy). In fact, in general Central Italy fascinates me — it seems like it’s been a little bit bypassed, attention-wise. Marco Carpineti’s wine in the Lazio are great; a lot of Abruzzese wines are terrific (I think La Valentina’s Binomio bottling is a standout); and there’s been a crazy wave of good Lambrusco coming in, which has been a godsend for dinner parties, as far as I’m concerned. But what’s great about Italy overall at the moment is it seems as though you can’t go to an importer tasting and not run across a producer you’ve never heard of before who’s doing something ambitious and interesting.

Ray is such a cool guy… I’ve promised him a night of honkytonking while he’s out here. Ginny’s Little Long Horn Saloon, anyone?

Amarophilia across the USA…

Above: Fernet Branca shakerato, the way I drink it.

My colleague at Sotto in Los Angeles, mixologist Julian Cox, got a nice shout out from wine writer Ray Isle in an article on amaro in this month’s issue of Food & Wine. Julian’s amaro list at the restaurant features around 20 labels on any given day.

There’s no two ways about it: amarophilia (amaro fever? amaro mania?) is one of the new waves in mixology these days.

When I traveled to Friuli in October with a troika of über-hip mixologists, the barpeople wanted to duck into every wine shop they could in the hope of discovering a label unknown to Americans.

Above: That’s super cool Sam Ross of Milk & Honey (NYC) fame with the fabu Nonino sisters, an image I snapped on our trip to Friuli. He uses Nonino’s amaro in his cocktail, “the Paper Plane.”

When Ray — a friend and colleague from my NYC days — called to interview me for the article, we talked about the differences in the way that amaro is perceived and applied in the U.S. and Italy, historically and currently.

I recalled a Neapolitan-American friend of mine, Giovanni, now in his 50s, whose mother used to give him an espresso spiked with a shot of Fernet Branca and an egg yolk every morning before school.

There was a time when Italians used amaro as a tonic. And today, even though it’s no longer applied as a household remedy, Italians still serve it as a digestive. At any given bar or restaurant, you might find 3 or 4 different labels but no one would ever think of offering guests an amaro list (with 20 labels!) or using amaro as an ingredient in a cocktail.

Another expression of that great misunderstanding otherwise known as the Atlantic Ocean…

Colorado Day 5: Aspen Celeb Watch! (or my new career as paparazzo)

paparazzo (1961), the name of the character Paparazzo, a society photographer in F. Fellini’s film La Dolce Vita (1960).

The selection of the name Paparazzo (which occurs as a surname in Italy) for the character in Fellini’s film has been variously explained. According to Fellini himself, the name was taken from an opera libretto; the comment is also attributed to him that the word “suggests a buzzing insect, hovering, darting, stinging”. It is also used as the name of a character by G. Gissing in By the Ionian Sea (1909), which appeared in Italian translation in 1957 and has been cited as an inspiration by E. Flaiano, who contributed to the film’s scenario. (For further possible expressive connotations of the name, it has also been noted that in the Italian dialect of Abruzzi, where Flaiano came from, paparazzo occurs as a word for a clam, which could be taken as suggesting a metaphor for the opening and closing of a camera lens; the Italian suffix -azzo).

Oxford English Dictionary, online edition

Sommelier Carlos “Charlie” Arturaola and celeb Chef José Andrés at the “must be seen at” Wines of Spain party.

Chef Andrés made a pork sausage paella for the overflowing crowd at the party, held this year in a private home (chef Andrés was assisted by chef Terri Cutrino).

Culinary legend Jacques Pepin looked fabulous as always at the Food & Wine Classic welcome party. How do the French do it?

Celeb Chef Tom Colicchio kept a lid on it as he did an interview.

Importer Bartholomew Broadbent and tele producer Josie Peltz (the better half of celeb sommelier and wine writer David Lynch).

American Express head honcho Ed Kelly and my buddy Ray Isle, Deputy Wine Editor at Food & Wine, on the other side of the velvet rope.

Restaurateur and wine world star Brian Duncan and winemaker Danilo Drocco lunched in town yesterday.

Life isn’t treating this paparazzo so bad: I drank a 1990 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande at a private dinner last night.