Tuesday, November 27, 2012

10 Dining and Plate Trends You Won’t Find in Italy

“Don’t play with your food,” our mothers and grandmothers and aunts and nuns used to tell us. That was then. America has a whole new order and the kids are now the quartermasters at the asylum. Italy looks to America for all kinds of inspiration, but some of the plate trends that refuse to die in American kitchens, one would be hard pressed to find in the heart of the Italian kitchen. Some of those plate trends we now have to come to America to witness and enjoy are:

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Dallas: A tale of two J.R.’s

Dallas circa 1966 (Photos by author)
As a youth living in California I often heard about Dallas. Dallas, the town where my father was born. Dallas, where my mother grew up. Where her sister still lives. Dallas, where JFK was assassinated.

When I moved to Dallas 15 years after the JFK assassination, the town still smoldered under the ashes of the deeds of November 1963. I say deeds, because the shame didn’t stop on the 22nd. There was a serial quality to the events that would culminate in Dallas on November 24th. That was the day J.R. shot Oswald. No, not “that” J.R. This J.R., Jack Ruby was small time compared to J.R. Ewing, the fictional hero/villain of the TV show that would surface in the 1980’s, named Dallas. No, Jack Ruby was the dark side of Dallas, steamy and noir and unspoken, like all those bottles of whiskey hidden in the homes of prominent Baptist leaders of Dallas. Yes, Dallas has secrets, like any town. Save for the viewing on the TV screens for all the world to see.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

An Ancient Olive Orchard in Old Calabria

At first glance, it appeared to be just an orchard of ancient olive trees. We arrived on a day when there had been a lot of rain. The soil was soaked, the sky was muted, the trees glistened from the saturation. We drove around and I took several pictures. My friend and host, Paolo, told me about one of his Scandinavian importers, who whenever he visited the winery, asked to be brought to this place and left alone for several hours. This orchard was planted at the beginning of the Renaissance, when much of Italy was flourishing in the arts, architecture and music, resulting in scores of works of art. Here in Calabria, the Renaissance left less of an imprint. But nature would see to it that Calabria wouldn’t be ignored.

These trees, a family of hundreds, planted on this escarpment overlooking the Ionian, never to leave, never to see the wonders of Florence, Venice or the Vatican. Left out in the sun, the wind, the heat, the cold, the snow, the silence.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Stellar Italian Food Experience in Calabria

Every once in a while, on the wine trail in Italy, I find a place that redefines what Italian food is for me. While there are the tried and true dishes that we fall in love with, and there are those who push the limits of what it known and expected, there is also this: out of this world food that comforts and nourishes and is so delicious. I had one of these experiences in the hilltop town of Ciro in Calabria this week.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Making a small fortune in Montalcino *

Richard Parsons is a wildly successful fellow. He’s made a lot of money, and he has risen to the top of the Wall Street summit. Forbes reported in 2008 he made over $10,000,000. And in the last four years he probably hasn’t done too badly for himself. Yeah, there have been a few bumps along the road, but now he’s sitting pretty under the Tuscan sun at his Il Palazzone estate.

A smart guy; belongs to the “best and the brightest” club. Great at finance and media and knows how to sell with the best of them. And that’s the way we reward folks in America. When they’re the best at what they do.

So when a recent article came out on Bloomberg News about Parsons’ Montalcino project, why, oh why didn’t someone check the quotes? I know of the wines of Il Palazzone; their social media person Laura Gray is affable and plugged in. I reckon she’s trying to figure out how to tweet herself out of this.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

First-Timer's Guide to finding the best bathrooms at Vinitaly

Over the years, Vinitaly has grown. When I first went there in 1984, there may have been 6 pavilions in use. Now there are 17. The crowds have swollen and the infrastructure has been tested at times. The search for a clean, dependable bathroom is a necessity. Hours of standing, tasting, spitting, drinking water to wash off the tannins and the tint, an espresso every couple of hours and you get the picture. When you gotta go, you gotta go. But some places are better than others. And so, dear readers, for the very first time, I am offering first-timers (and crusty veterans) my Guide to Finding the Best Bathrooms at Vinitaly.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Vinitaly International Wine Competition 2012 : Day 1

Just a quick post as we run out to day 2. This is the 20th year for Vinitaly Wine Competition and this marks the first year where they hold the judging at a time other than the fair. This makes sense, in that the fair organizers and the competitors can properly promote the opportunities. A couple of quick observations (after the jump):

Sunday, November 11, 2012

There’s a place for 'us'

Life has these funny little connections. I’m sitting is a sorry little corner of the Frankfurt airport and tweet, “With #DavosDuVin & #EWBC done there's still #MeranoWineFestival. Me? I'm heading to Verona 4 Vinitaly Wine Competition pic.twitter.com/8p45NFM9

A few minutes later Luca Currado (@vietti_vino ) replies, “ @italianwineguy ciao Alfonso .... Me too in Frankfurt ... But on my way to go home! Ciao.”

Just like that Frankfurt isn’t some cold place that I have been walking around trying to find the right terminal for the last hour. One of my pals is here. The world gets smaller and more connected.

There was a  recent article in the NY Times about an island of Greeks who boast incredible longevity of years. One of the elders asked what might be the secret to such long life. He answered, “It’s not a ‘me’ place. It’s an ‘us’ place.”

More and more it is becoming an ‘us’ place. To be sure, there still are plenty of 'me’s' on this swirling little orb, but in the wine business one grape doesn’t make a wine.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Ab Urbe Ad Rura : A Byzantine Procession

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Premature Jubilation

Sunday, November 04, 2012

The Last Bottle

In 1980 I bought my first case of wine. It was a 1976 Johnson’s Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The sommelier at the Italian restaurant I worked at, Il Sorrento, thought it was a good wine and she was selling it off the menu. I tried it and liked it and so she arranged for me to get a case. Thus started my road to wine collecting. Over the years I would open up a bottle and try it. And the years just flew by, 32 of them. And then there was only one bottle left.

It was from the same year my son was born. And November 4th is his birthday. I invited him and his lady friend over tonight for homemade meat balls. I bought some good bucatini from Jimmy’s and made my own sauce and meat balls. And we had an old-fashioned Caesar salad. And the last bottle of the 1976.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Thanks for a Rockin' October!

October was an especially busy time on the wine trail in Italy. Traffic was up 28% from October of 2011. Before the wine blog awards were announced I had been thinking about taking the blog posts down from 2 a week to maybe 1. No reason in particular, just a busy life. But I kept plugging away. In October I posted 19 times, something I hadn’t done since May of 2010 when I was in Sicily. So thanks all for reading and keeping me motivated. For those of you who have been too busy or those who have told me, “You are posting too darn many times, I can’t keep up with them,” I will list the posts from the most popular on down. I have had a huge week of travel with wine dinners every night this week, in Dallas, Austin and Marfa. And with no end in sight for the foreseeable future.

So read on, if you care to. I will be posting as I care, too. Probably a little more than I should, but the tap has been turned on. There’s very little I can do about it.

October's posts in order of popularity: ( after the jump)

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