Sunday, February 28, 2010

"Occhi Spalanchi Sul Mondo"

This is such a great time to be on the wine trail. There are many good wines at all levels, from so many places. There are new people coming into the field with their ideas and energy. There is a confluence with the world of food and art and music, along with philosophy, economics. So many areas that touch each other. There is the fun and comedic aspect (my gosh, we laugh so much these days). And while we have some naysayers, those snarky little blue ticks that prey upon the ledges, leeching blood and energy, I reckon it’s all in the game. This week has been a good week for the forces of light and good and love and wine.

It began when I started reading Frances Mayes newest book, Every Day in Tuscany, Seasons of an Italian Life.

I wanted to look at some of her recipes, as I was doing a wine dinner with local Chef, Jim “Sevy” Severson, of Sevy’s fame. We were doing a Tuscan evening, and I thought I’d get a little inspiration from Frances’ latest book.

After several minutes scanning the recipes and a few pages, I realized exactly what I needed to do for the wine dinner. Simply, tell the stories of the people who made the wine. We had people attending who have traveled to Italy, so many times. But the more I go to Italy and stay there, the more I come to realize how little I know. In effect when one of the nasty commenters on local food blogs throws me in the grease for my stand on Italian food in these parts, they are right. But for the wrong reasons. My lament isn’t that Italian food is impossible to find outside of Italy. It’s more that the philosophy is hard to find in the kitchen. My aunt had it, so did my grandmothers. And for sure they used local ingredients. Would they call their food Italian? Would I not call it delicious? And when I go into a place, whether it be Italian or French or Thai, my hope is that there is someone in the kitchen, thinking consciously of what they are doing with their ingredients.

Last night at a local wine bar, where the most amazing array of bottles kept showing up at the bar where we were sitting, a local Doctor, David Ellis, who has a passion for wine and food, stated it so simply. “My best meal ever in this town" he said, “was from Anthony Bombaci at Nana. It was a sea bass, seared in olive oil with salt and pepper.” No more than five ingredients. Oh, yeah, you can find it. Anywhere.

Sevy was proud of his menu; he took me back in the kitchen and showed me the bistecca in preparation. The evening would be an homage to the brightness of Tuscan cooking with wines to match. I was in heaven.

The next day, a package arrived in the mail. One Vintage, a word and picture book about live in a Los Olivos vineyard. Chris Jones has found her own Bramasole in the Central Coast of California, and her sweet little book is a Valentine to all grape growers. Thanks so much, Chris, what a joy.

Meanwhile, people struggle daily, with their realities. More than one restaurant I have been in this past week has had way fewer than needed people in those seats. There is nothing more challenging than to be in a place with good food and wine and have it be empty. And then, there are those places that are so darn busy, three-deep at the bar at 9 o’clock on a Saturday night. Hopeful signs, but still survival of the fittest. No room for mistakes in this economy. Hope, alone, won't keep the lights burning.

Last night at that busy wine bar, in an arts district with opera and symphony overflow, people didn’t seem to be anxious. Two nights before, though as I walked around the area, the handful of restaurants didn’t have enough people in all of them to fill one of them. Maybe last night people were just ready to get out and charge it on their already overcharged credit cards, in spite of the consequences on Monday. I don’t know. But I do know there is some trepidation.

I was in the mood for a Savennieres. I’m often in the mood for this wine, but last night I realized, once again, why I love that wine. It followed a young Gruner, an aged Puligny-Montrachet Les Pucelles and an even older Mazy-Chambertin. But this wine, the 2004 from Nicholas Joly is the little pillow I love to lay my head on. It was creamy, it had an edge, it was sweet, it was savory. It was minerally, it was salty, it was lively, it was mellow. I ordered a cup of butterscotch pudding to appease my sweet tooth. I have had a week where so many wine and food matches have seemed like they were perfect (all unplanned). Maybe this is the week the palate gods tell me my thoughts about such things are erroneous. After all, the Blue Meanie Blogarazzi think I’m full of crap, maybe the wine gods agree. If that’s the case, so be it. I’ll just hop in my submarine and find another wine tasting, putting on my perennial millennial shirt and hat and facing the next flight - occhi spalanchi sul mondo – eyes wide open on the world.


Thomas said...

Simplicity--secret of all great cooking.

Savennieres should be kept a secret so that it never runs out.

Mattie John Bamman said...

I think I began to slightly grasp Italian cooking when I moved into a kitchen without measuring cups or measuring spoons. Life changed forever, and my only tasting spoons became my tongue and nose. Unless you're baking, that's the spirit.

Thanks for the killer posts.

Beth said...

Thanks for sharing the review of Every Day in Tuscany, Seasons of an Italian Life. I found it interesting. Will order my copy today.

Chris said...

Thank you, Alfonso, for your kind words about my quiet book "ONE VINTAGE: A Year in the Vineyard."

Alfonso Cevola said...

DoBi- will do, amico!

Thomas- I'll keep the secret with you.

thanks MJB- sounds like you are having a great time in old Italy

Beth- a great read - Frances has such a lyrical, lovely writing style

Chris- e un piacere per me.

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