Whadda night! Anthony Wilson Trio at the Neurosciences Institute, La Jolla

Above: What a mindblowingly great show last night by The Anthony Wilson Trio, with Larry Goldings on Hammond B-3, Jeff Hamilton on drums, and guest Gilbert Castellanos on trumpet! The old auditorium at the hyberbolically postmodern Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla continues to be a great “room” to hear jazz.

Wow, last night, whadda night… At the last minute, our good friend Robin Stark hooked me up with a ticket via her frequent flier miles and got me into La Jolla for Anthony Wilson Trio’s show at the Neurosciences Institute.

These guys — each of them a jazz master in his own right — performed two spell-binding sets, with original composition “Mezcal” flooring me in the first, and the theme to the movie Chinatown transporting me (and a lot of other folks) to a new plane of consciousness (I’m not kidding) in the second. Both tracks appear on Anthony’s latest disk, Jack of Hearts. They also did a hauntingly gorgeous cover by Judee Sill (can someone remind me of the title?) and a a couple of Ellington covers.

Above: Stopped in briefly for a Campari and soda at Jaynes, now serving cocktails nightly.

Brother Tad and nephew Cole (both of them jazz aficionados) were there, as were Yelenosky and Jon and a whole mess of nice La Jolla folks I know. Jayne and Jon hosted the after-party for the band and Robin’s posse at their home. Robin, who underwrote the performance, was talking up her ProKids charity: “The mission of Pro Kids is to positively impact the lives of inner-city youth by providing programs that promote education, character development, life-skills, and values through the game of golf.”

Above: 2006 Meursault Les Chevalières by Boisson-Vadot and 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon by Chateau Montelena with pizza for dinner. That’s how one rolls in La Jolla. The Montelena, which I was tasting for the first time, impressed me with its restraint. The Boisson-Vadot? Killer. To borrow Lyle’s phrase, rocks and fruit.

I’m already on a plane back to Texas (posting from the plane!) and I’m looking forward to a weekend at home with that super fine lady of mine.

With the arrival of spring and the wine industry and its media back at full throttle these days, I have to confess that the lame-assed negativity of certain bloggers (and haters) has been bringing me down lately. I don’t know why certain folks can’t realize this blog — my blog — is about my life and nothing more… It’s a journal, its entries filled with my experiences, the wines I taste, the foods I eat, the pairings I stumble upon, the music I like to listen to, and my impressions of the places where I travel and the people I meet.

Anthony Wilson is definitely one of the coolest dudes I’ve ever met and we all had a blast drinking some killer wines, listening to vinyl, munching out, and hanging at Jayne and Jon’s after the show. A truly “epic” night, as we say in Southern California.

I was reminded just how lucky I am to be surrounded by such wonderful folks who truly care about and for me, warm family that cherishes my happiness and my achievements, and a gorgeous and loving lady, whose affection and carbonara truly rock my world…

Yesterday, I was treated to a heaping serving of awesome music, thanks in part to friends who know how much I like that type of thing and who just generally like having me around.

This post is for me to look back on and remember this moment and how it made me feel. This post is dedicated to those friends…

Thanks for reading…

The best Mexican restaurant in the world?

Above: Fonda San Miguel’s owner Miguel Ravago told me that the restaurant’s name was inspired by a Mexican fonda or inn and the fact that he and his family used to own a house in San Miguel Allende.

California friends Robin Stark and David Schacter were in town for the weekend for a visit and so it was finally time for me to check out the legendary brunch at Fonda San Miguel in Austin. We went today, joined by Robin’s friend John Balistreri who also lives nearby.

Tracie B and I will often go there for a nice dinner on a weekday night, if we have something to celebrate or just want to do something special. We always eat at the bar and we LOVE the antojitos: the sopes topped with salpicon de pescado and cochinita pibil are our favorites. But I had still never been for brunch. The night before, Robin and David had paid a visit to a celebrity west Texas gourmet Hill Rylander who, when asked about the restaurant, responded by saying, “Fonda San Miguel is not the best Mexican restaurant in Austin… It’s the best Mexican restaurant in the world!” He might just be right.

Above: Corn pudding and chilaquiles, migas, marinated green chiles stuffed with cheese, and beans. Miguel told me that the corn pudding is used to sooth the tastebuds after you’ve eaten something too spicy. I tried it and he was right.

I’ve eaten great Mexican food throughout California and Mexico: from my family’s home in La Jolla (San Diego, CA), it takes only 30 minutes to reach the border and I have traveled extensively through Baja California and lived a summer in Mexico City when I was a teenager. In my experience, the moles (green and brown) at Fonda San Miguel are among the best I’ve ever had.

Above: The salad section of the buffet includes guacamole, ceviche, and Tracie B’s favorite, the spinach salad.

David — one of the most demanding palates and gourmets I’ve ever met — agreed, noting that the guacamole, a deceptively simple dish, was outstanding. Tracie B needed no convincing: she’s known all along! She always says that the cochinita pibil was one of the things she missed most (after her family, of course) when she lived in Ischia.

Above: Miguel told me that George W. Bush proposed to Laura at this table. The European travelers at the table were gracious enough to let me photograph it (I didn’t tell them why!).

The brunch is an all-you-can eat buffet and although not cheap, is a great value for the quality of the food (and all the chefs are very knowledgeable and talkative about the dishes; Miguel spends his time between Spain and Texas and we were lucky to find him there). I highly recommend it but be sure to make reservations because it is always packed and people understandably linger.

From left to right, counter clockwise: John Balistreri, Robin Stark, David Schacter, and Tracie B.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road: Jaynes bids Jar adieu

Above: Erik (Benoit), Nicholas, and Jon Erickson (co-owner with his lovely wife Jayne), at the bar at Jaynes Gastropub in San Diego — my “habitat” for the last 12 months. Benoit wrote me this beautiful “farewell” post at his excellent blog, AntiYelp.

Following my 3-day Dantean solo drive halfway across the country (think Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, George Jones, a little Paul Simon, a lot of Willie, and the obligatory Gram — all set to a desert landscape), I am posting today from Austin, Texas, my new home.

On Friday night, I completed my last shift at Jaynes Gastropub in San Diego (although I’ll surely make a cameo appearance or two in 2009).

When I clocked out, a few friends joined and they threw me a lil’ going away party (fyi, all of my friends in music and in San Diego call me “Jar” or “the Jar,” my nickname since junior high days)…

In her quest to get me to love Bordeaux, Robin Stark brought this excellent 95 Angelus. We decanted and tasted about an hour later. I was impressed by the wine’s bright acidity (not what you see in modern-style bored-oh). Thanks, Robin!

My high school friend John Yelenosky brought this 99 Poggio Salvi Brunello di Montalcino, which showed beautifully. (Click here and scroll down to see our high school senior pics.) John and I had a great 2008 playing music, drinking Produttori del Barbaresco, and just hanging out — like in the old days… Gonna miss you, bro!

That’s me with Jayne’s dad, the inimitable Frank Battle. In September, I officiated at his daughter’s wedding to my good friend Jon Erickson. Mr. Battle, you’ve got a lovely daughter.

Jayne and Jon and everyone at Jaynes Gastropub: I’m gonna miss you! Thanks for helping me get my pour and my groove back on in 2008!