Thursday, September 02, 2010

Pastramma Mia: The Best Fried Green Tomato BLT and Pastrami in Flyover Country

From the “It doesn’t get any better than this” dept

My amigos in Austin might have great home cooked meals (and great Nebbiolo) when they go home, but even on the road one can find culinary surprises. I’m in Indiana all week, all flyover, all the time. And I got to tell you all, this is one underrated part of the world. I’ve been here since Sunday night and have been putting in 14 hour days, and loving it.

I’m here to work with a great bunch of salespeople and a great company, Olinger in Indiana. From their leader Jim “just when I thought I was out they pulled me back in” Oliver, who is Sicilian to the core, to the people who work the streets. Man, I am feeling the street-love, and I’m sending it back in doubles!

We got here Sunday afternoon and hightailed it to Capri, where Arturo Dirosa runs a place that if it were in my neighborhood I’d be there every Friday night. Check out his website, how cool is it to have Paolo Conte playing on the front page (instead of Louis Prima or Dean Martin) for a change? Situated a little bit away from Indy-Central, Arturo is a mellow fellow, and we have fast become friends. To make it even better, where can you go drink a bottle of 2006 Produttori Barbaresco for under $60? One of the best Barbarescos at any price (in spite of what one misdirected Italian wine salesman in Austin has to say about it).

Speaking of haters, folks have been slamming me on other food blogs lately. I have been told that some anonymous jerk slammed me for recommending a falafel place in Dallas to the local restaurant reviewer. How dumb is that mishegas? Like I have anything to gain from telling anyone about a great Israeli hangout in the hood? I have way too many things that have happened in my life, it puts hating in its proper perspective. Knuckleheads.

Along with that, who said it was cool to go into an account and slam your competition wines, in front of the restaurant owner and the salesperson? Lesson 1: Never slam the competition; you never know when you might be selling it. Point in fact: this week I am selling Planeta, Antinori and Bertani in Indiana, where in Texas I compete with other products. So there. In fact I don’t even sell Produttori in Indiana, but I still like it. Duh! So fellow wine salesman who likes to throw down stupid insults, go crawl back in your air conditioned chamber and leave the job to those of us who love Italian wines and the people who make them, sell them and drink them.

That made me hungry. Fortunately there is no shortage of good food here in Hoosier country. Yesterday at Sweet Grass in Bloomington (how cool is it that they have Texas-grown Stevie Ray Vaughan playing "Sweet Litttle Thang" on their front page?)I had the most amazing fried green tomatoes, fried with panko bread crumbs, and topped with a little “country caviar”. The Zardetto Prosecco paired beautifully with it, and the spoofy little Sassyr was wickedly good. Who knew Sangiovese and Syrah would match up so well? But the pièce de résistance was the Fried Green Tomato BLT. That one makes my list of best things eaten in 2010.

While we’re at it, today I went to Shapiro’s, a much loved institution in Indianapolis, and famous for deli food "to die for". I couldn’t resist the pastrami on the home made rye. Maybe Kenny and Ziggy’s is as good, but I haven’t experienced it yet. Shapiro’s, whoa, I haven’t had anything like this in recent memory! There was a soulful fellow making the sandwiches and talking smack about politicians interlaced with how great America is. He was a trip. But the pastrami on rye (with potato salad, sorry about the mayo) was another one of those that will make my list of best things eaten in 2010. Did I say Indiana is cooking? One thing I didnt say (but wish I did), "I never thought I’d utter the words, “there IS great deli outside of New York.”

These have been 14 hour days, and I have an 8:00AM pickup to take me to South Bend and back. I just got home from an incredible meal with the Ruth’s Chris folks. We drank Orvieto, Brunello, Aglianico, Tignanello and old Amarone and passed around big honkin’ steaks to go with it. So I better get this post written and get to bed, 'cause I have got to get on the treadmill in the early morning and work off some of these corn fed calories. Two more days to go.

Really folks, I couldn’t be happier than when I am standing around with a bunch of open bottles of Italian wine and a few folks and we are tasting and telling tales. That is my element, especially as we lead into the holiday season.

And this team here has had a tough summer, a summer in Hell. Without going into the details, suffice it to say, I am working with a major league team here, trying to make the world ( and flyover country) safer for Italian wines.

And to make it even cooler, I snapped this shot out in front of one of my new best friends Italian restaurant. Can you guess who else was “Est. 1951”?


Wine Curmudgeon said...

Did you try some Indiana wine? The traminette is getting there.

And anonymity is a wonderful thing, especially for cowards.

Alfonso Cevola said...

I've been slammed, too busy to taste Indy wine, tho we distrib Oliver (et al) here. Maybe @ Friday meeting. They also have a new peanut flavored vodka called "NutLiquor" that should have all kinds of Bloggy-blog possibilities. site here:

Thanks - I am too busy for the haters, as well.

Marco Falafelo said...

Est. 1951? Tis Capo Bastone hisself.

Do Bianchi said...

Thanks for the shouts out, man. Right back at you. In the end, midwest (read Chicago) style deli might be the winner... so envious of that pastrami... It's been a pretty good summer, wouldn't you say? lots to be thankful for, all around... :-)

juliette said...

The pastrami and Fried BLT look amazing. Makes me want to take a trip to Cantor's in LA...the best aroudn these parts.

Thomas said...

Peanut-flavored vodka! What will the anti-allergy crowds say about that???


It is sickening how some sales people go through life never understanding that every time they talk about someone else or someone else's product they lose the center of attraction for their products, and they lose the customer's respect as well.

Samantha Dugan said...

"Been feeling the street lovin" dude, be careful that can cause a nasty rash! That fried green tomato BLT looks insane....

Rich Hellner - Owner, Pandora Spirits said...

NutLiquor contains no peanut allergens, so no worries!

69-proof peanut butter vodka...tastes like the center of a peanut butter cup...blended to be enjoyed neat (no "rubbing alcohol" taste or burn, just a little warmth going down).

Thanks for the mention, Alfonso!

Do Bianchi said...

this pastrami is STILL on my mind... just had to get that off my chest...

Tracie P. said...

That's right, ace...we need u to come whip some old italian rude salesperson a-double-ess. It makes one look petty and ignorant. Mission accomplished.

Anyway, I'm so glad you had fun! :)

Bottle Deck said...

Great blog Alfonso! Can you recommend restaurants in Indiana?

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