Thursday, October 06, 2011

Sore Losers

Where O-N-D meets O-M-G

I figured it must be the holiday season when I woke up from a dream that had me arguing for Italian wines on a wine list. During the sacred O-N-D season (October-November-December) where a lot of wine and spirits are moving through the system, the emotions and the expectations run high, so much that they invade the subconscious. My hope is to go into that cavern and try to effect changes on those who dwell more in the unconscious than in the reality I would prefer to see them in. But, alas, after 30 years of battling in the trenches, I have come to realize there are some folks who just will never get it. Do you want to know a secret? I’m Ok with that. Because I have moved on. I am limiting my exposure to the slow pacers and those who don’t run to win. I have found other fields that will accept the seeds I have brought to them from Italy.

It really all gets down to intellectual engagement, for me. I mean, after pounding on a chap for 20 years and he really doesn’t get it, isn’t it time to abandon that plot if there are richer lands to harvest? Yes. And man are they out there.

So rather than lamenting about the many suns that are setting, let me tell you about a sunrise over a rich field.

No, it isn’t Italian. It’s an American place. The chef has a healthy respect for local food. Just like Italy. Their menu had chicken from a ranch from folks I know. Not some industrial produced disaster of a life made for the large breast meat. This American place has a cheese steward. He rolled into the room, between courses and gave us a run of his latest offerings. Not that they didn’t have me at cheese, but the first one he offered was Paula Lambert's Hoja Santa wrapped goat cheese. It was as if a little of my terroir was inserted into the conversation. Has my Hoja Santa guardian angel been working the back channels?

Have you ever had crab cakes with a Barbera? Lately I find those unlikely combinations coming across my path. Let me tell you, it is a whole lot better than more garlic, which seems to be the solution for many tired “Eyetalian” spots. Take carefully, no, consciously prepared crab cakes, as the one I recently had in that American Steak house. Typical man cave looking place – but under the armor, the chef doesn’t fuel her decisions based on the testosterone levels of the country. Looks like a lot of food angels have descended into the man cave to help her out.

Impeccable Italian wine service from folks for whom Italian is not their roots. Again, a change from the Italians that caught a boat 20 + years ago and passed themselves off as wine (and food) experts in all things Italian. Mind you they rarely strayed from their region all the years they lived there.

No, these young Americans, don’t assume that they “know it all”. Odd, for me to have the interface of humility and interest in what it is I have been working on all these years. Even more odd not to find it in an Italian place. Or is it? We are in America, even if it is flyover country.

Even more odd that after the experience last week in New Orleans, where they do “get” things Italian (and they “get” folks like me). But once in a while people show up from other places, intellectually engaged souls, looking for the good stuff with open minds and hearts.

So all these years pounding the streets has proven to be less influential than two other things: working my little plot of land and plucking away at the keyboard. All these years I thought a sword in a battle was the way to go. Now I realize a trowel and some compost and a blog and a fertile imagination has been a better choice of implements when waging my crusade to bring Italian wines back into the forefront.

Thirty years ago if an Italian restaurant put a French wine like Chateau Lafite or a Pommard or a Chateauneuf du Pape on their wine list it was meant to convey a certain legitimacy for their efforts to be seen as serious and committed to wine. Now when an Italian place does that it throws up a serious flag. Unfortunately for both the French wine and the Italian restaurant, it isn’t a good sign. It indicates someone doesn't know wines from their own country well enough. And that they don’t have a willing spirit to take their cues from folks who do know better and want to help them. And it throws into question their food menu. Is that pasta dish really reflecting the sensibilities of things Italian or is the pasta just a decoy?

This is my midweek ramble. Is it any different from other rants about the industry I seem to throw out once in a while? Probably not. The sea change for me this week is that I really have found other fertile fields to plow in. I no longer rely on the Italian emigrants from the 80’s to be ambassadors. They came from a country that is in as much trouble, politically and economically, as America. They came here to get away, not to get up into it.

No, I’m looking to my own country and our own people, especially the young, the energetic, the ones willing-to-change, in order to keep the Italian wine revolution moving forward. And believe me it is proceeding. But through the efforts of success-minded forward-thinking souls who aren’t afraid to take a leap, intellectually as well as in the trust department. And all that is good news.

Losers need not apply.


Unknown said...


Alfonso Cevola said...

Gracias, Angela!

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