On the road with Stefano Illuminati and “other” celebrities
After our Big Night in Houston, the next day we had a lunch appointment with the sommeliers of Da Marco, Poscol and Tony’s at Tony’s. A power table at a power restaurant run by one of the most powerful restaurateurs in Texas. Tony Vallone has been “in the biz” for as long as I can remember and his eponymous restaurant is a shrine to wine, food, art – and power. My Austinopoli colleague has written so much more eloquently about it. I was even looking for his cousin Marty when I walked in for lunch.
I ran into Tony in the bar and we exchanged greetings. Our orbits all these years have been in different galaxies but we’d occasionally cross over into each other’s world. Just a couple of busy Italian-American fellows making their way in the world. I had to gasp when I actually had time to sit down and gaze upon some of the art in the dining room. Was I at the Mesnil Collection, or the Houston Museum of Modern Art? It was quite impressive. I was an art student in college, so the works of giants like Robert Rauschenberg and Mark Rothko are familiar. The unusual sculpture of The Three Graces by Jesus Moroles is one of those iconic pieces that harkened back to the day when wealthy patrons like the Medici’s would commission an “important” piece.
The night before I had gone a little overboard, so I was looking for simple clean, light food that would complement the Illuminati wines we were showing to the accounts. And though folk like our dear Tom Wark lament that the three tier mechanism is broken beyond repair, there are those of us who are in the trenches trying to keep the world safe for wine, Italian and otherwise. Some of us choose to be stewards of our trade, even when the ship occasionally hits an iceberg. For the record, I am not against wineries that cannot get their wine going through the regular channels to try to find ways for their wines to reach the public. At the very least, those folks will get an education in the blunt realities of getting your wine to the final consumer. It is already not easy through the established channels, so if someone finds a way to the New World, good on them. Spend two weeks on the road knocking on doors and it is very clear. Very few people "in the industry" have time to read blogs, wine or otherwise. They just want their wine delivered at the right time and with the right discount. Isn't that right, Yelenosky?
I saw gumbo on the menu and thought it might be the perfect starter for the lunch to go with the Illuminati Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Cerasuolo “Campirosa” Rosato. A sixteen hour skin contact impressed the wine with a color that isn’t a blush and isn’t a red. The color is animated – very bright, almost a hot crimson – gorgeous. It is the wine we drink in the summer by the Lungomare in San Benedetto del Tronto while a server brings out a perfect plate of Mezze Maniche (rigate of course) with a spicy Arrabiata sauce. Cool wine that is almost red, but still refreshing. A great match
But today it was Gumbo. Thick rich roux, with gobs of seafood. No skimping, no shortcuts. And the wine with the gumbo was a terrific match.
We moved on to reds going from lighter to richer. I was still looking to maintain my new waistline, so I ordered up a simple plate of carpaccio. Again the simplicity of the dish sailed through the three wines, from the basic Montepulciano, the Riparosso, to the riserva Zanna, to the more international Lumen.
As we were talking and I was shooting the food and the folks at the table I spied a table in my lens. One of the ladies dining looked familiar, but it wasn’t until I got home and did my Antonioni “Blow- Up” exercise on Photoshop of the images that I spied someone that looked like the daughter ( and grand daughter) of past presidents of the USA. The Illuminati connection? When the younger one was governor of Texas he conferred the status of Honorary Texan on Dino Illuminati.
What do you think- is this Jenna Bush Hager lunching with her lady friends?
Great food, great art, some pretty good wines, stimulating conversation and a possible celeb-sighting – all in a day’s work on the wine trail, this time in Texas, making the world safer by showing the wines from Stefano Illuminati.