Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Fire, Forks and Friendship

Sometimes it can be overwhelming. There are just so many commitments, travel schedules that tax the healthiest of bodies, and the constant pounding on the streets to move a few inches forward in this happy battle.

Then there’s the food, and lots of it. Wine service on top of that. The ebb and flow of the pulse of the cycle, which if you cannot detect the counterbalances, can seem either overwhelming in its momentum or perplexed by its downside.

Monday night we witnessed something I never dreamt I’d see in Texas. But more on that later. What really has me going? We’re there, we’re really there, regarding the Italian wine explosion. I hope they send us some bright young ‘uns soon, cause we need their help.

In the back of the minivan yesterday, wobbling back to Dallas from Austin, I managed to get some office time in. And then the phone rang. First time was from the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. He wanted his wine director to get in touch with me to talk about an Italian project they are working on. The second call was from a restaurant owner, who was upset because he believed his wine order had gotten all screwed up. He was hot.

The third was from the future, our American blogger in Italy, come home to start a new life. There I am in the back of the van, being driven home and getting all this input from such a diverse array of people, somehow interwoven into my life because of Italian wine.

Later that night our Italian vintner had a craving for a steak, so we stopped by a local place and had our Fat Tuesday meal. It was a nice ending to a long road trip, sitting there while the Maestra Sommelier deftly opened a MacLaren Vale Shiraz to serve with our steaks.

This has been a blitz of wine and dine of forks and corks and of fire, inside the belly and the hearth. Along the way old and new friendships have been renewed and forged. There is so much to be thankful for.

Olives Ascolana-style

Some of the food at last night’s dinner. This was from the “I never dreamt I’d see this in Texas” moment. South of Austin, in Driftwood, old friend Damian Mandola has built a winery and a trattoria. Five years ago the only thing out there was Salt Lick BBQ, which should be plenty for anyone’s books. Who would have thought that 70 people would line up for the doors to open, on a Monday night, out in the middle of the country, to eat and drink “proprio Italiano”? But that we did. Food and wine was memorable, from the Olives Ascolani style to the spaghetti alla Chitarra with Duck Ragu. I’ll cover this meal in another future post when I wrap up the last Waltz around Texas.

Chitarra con Ragu' di Anatra

As we stopped for gas and jerky in Italy, Texas, with the country twangy music playing in the store, I thought what an unusual place Texas has become again for me. We have the emergence of a global-cultural scene and the folkloric and simple typical Texas –Italy, Italy meets Italy, Texas.

Damian Mandola and Stefano Illuminati


Marco said...

Arancini or hushpuppies?

scott luetgenau said...

they look like stuffed, fried olives from Puglia...

Tracie B. said...

that pasta looks divine! and all i can think of when i see those olives is a cool franciacorta rose' (bubbly of course!).

i'm glad you had fun, ace...and i'm sure that our texan image was well represented by you with those furiners :)

Tenbrooks said...

I really enjoy the blog, but Driftwood is between Austin and San Antonio--sort of like saying "outside of Boston is a New York City" or "outside of Venice is Genoa."

That said, good luck to your friend with his restaurant and continued success to you as well.


p.s. The Salt Lick's lack of a wine--well, beer service--allows the discerning connoisseur to engage in an Aliagnico or Frappato free-for-all should he or she see fit. One should assume glassware is bring your own, naturally.

Italian Wine Guy® said...


Thanks for the correction. My editor didn't catch that one.

Now all we need is a sweet lil' B&B somewhere between the Salt Lick and the Trattoria Lisina.

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