Friday, April 29, 2005


I have been known to be a critic of the new Whole Foods Megalopolis SuperDuperCasinoStore, in the past. It opened a couple of months or so ago, here in Austin, at Sixth and Lamar. I was a critic because I believed that the concept for this mammoth venture was geared more toward tourists than for those who have looked to Whole Foods to be their local culinary delight-cum-natural food store for so many years.

I attended the grand opening a while back, and truly, it hit me like a frickin' casino. Remember that first time you stepped foot into a Las Vegas hotel? It was like that...a raging spectacle of visuals that made you want to shut down like an overstimulated infant. The sheer amount of prepared food, of every ethnicity and type, the live Alaskan King Crabs jostling in the wall-mounted tanks, the fountain of was all too much to handle. I couldn't imagine actually trying to shop there. Who the hell would want to be bombarded like that, every time they needed a loaf of bread and some flax seed oil?

So I decided to check it out today, now that it's had time to get in the swing of things, now that the honeymoon is over, and the place isn't packed with people.

I was not suprised by what I saw. There was an average crowd. The feisty Alaskan King Crabs had been replaced by lethargic lobsters. I inspected the prepared raw foods in the meat department, a rather quiet department now, and found a few kebobs that were showing some age. The place had settled down significantly.

The prepared foods, however, was still abuzz. And I realized: this part of the store is where people will always flock. Forget being a do-it-yourself chef. Whole Foods is there to do it all for you.

Want noodles? In the mood for Palak Paneer? Tacos? Pizza? Meatloaf? Or are you one of those raw food nuts? It's all there for you, ready to go, by the pound, in and out and on your way.

And verily, despite myself, I was impressed.

I don't wanna fucking talk about it. I am still wont to feel a crushing ennui, with the whole thing. I mean, where does it end? Here's a store that caters to the whim of any freaking target market you can think of, from soccer moms to hardcore hippie vegans. I still can't shake the feeling that we're all a bunch of spoiled brats. Oh,'s not good enough to have a store that caters to those who love to cook their own food, for the love of the experience. We gotta have all this stuff spoon-fed to us.

Feh. It's hurting my head. Almost as much as this shitty rose I'm drinking.

2003 Vega Sindoa Rose
(half garnacha, half cabernet)

I bought wine while I was there, okay? Hey, man, their prices are whip-ass. So I grabbed this little rose because I love me some Spanish garnacha.

The nose is berries and barnyard, which intrigues me, but the palate...

eeek. I dunno. It's kinda refreshing, but there's something like artificial cherry flavoring in there that kinda grosses me out.

I've definitely had other roses that have moved me more. I was hoping it was a cool cheap find, but I'm not impressed with anything other than the cool label.

Did I mention the rosemary/garlic roasted almonds at the nut bar? Oh, jezus, they're good.


Thursday, April 28, 2005

cheap-ass guzzler for the summertime

I am sooo proud of my sistah over on japan-0-matic . She's back on her yoga regimen, gettin' all lean and mean for the summertime. It's a worthy pursuit, yoga. Such a wholesome exercise, a way to relax muscles, calm the mind, call into focus the essentials of the soul.

Of course, I'd rather do all that shit with wine.

2003 Campo de Borja 'Borgia' Garnacha

It'll be hotter than the devil's teats around here, starting as early as May, and this wine is perfect for all things hot Austin. It's a super light grenache from Spain, and the cool blue bottle can be seen stacked to the ceiling in Central Market and Whole Foods alike. It is fresh, bright, and tasty, and will only set you back $6-$7 a pop.

For your convenience, I've compiled a list of things this wine will compliment:

1) tacos con pollo with a load of fresh pico on top (note: if you don't recognize this staple of Texas cuisine, you probably think you're too good for cheap granache anyway)

2) sweaty treks down to Hamilton's Pool (can't take glass containers, so grab a couple of bottles and fill up your Camelbak).

3) hot, anonymous summer flings

4) kind bud

5) bbq ribs

6) sangria recipies

7) movies by almodovar

8) a big plastic straw, poolside

9)telling off SoCo boutique owners for offering microscopic swatches of cloth for two-hundred-fucking-dollars

10) sitting around, smoking cigarettes, laughing at your friends whose bodies hurt from yoga. 'Cause while they're hurting, you're feelin' fine.


Monday, April 25, 2005

Livon wine pics

Yeah, baby. Posted by Hello

And he shall be Livon, and he shall be a good wine...

It's no damn fun being all stuffed up from allergies, especially when there's a whip-ass wine tasting to attend. Last Saturday, our friend Marco Calligaris from Livon winery in the Collio (on the coast of Friuli-Venezia Giulia) was in town to show off his wares. I almost didn't go, I felt so bad, but I thought: what has ever been wrong with me that a little wine couldn't fix? So I doffed my work clothes, donned my cutie duds, and drove out to Siena restaurant.

Even though my palate was off, I had just enough sniff power to pick up what these beautiful wines were puttin' down.

Livon, owned by brothers Valneo and Tonino Livon, has labels in Friuli (Livon, Villa Chiopris, and Tenuta RoncAlto), Tuscany (Borgo Salcentino) and Umbria (Col Santo). We had a chance to taste from Friuli and Umbria. While I liked some better than others, it was really a matter of style preference, because all of these wines are crafted with meticulous care and none can be dismissed. The '04 Gambero Rosso offers reserved praise, saying they were "suprised" that a tre buccieri emerged among them (Livon's 2000 Tiare Blu Gran Cru) since "we have come to view them as eternal bridesmaids at the taste-off wedding". But I think the big, elegant styling of the Friuli wines are perfectly lovely, and the line of easy drinking whites have beautiful aromatics and are well worth the price.

Here were some o' my faves:

2002 Livon Collio Tocai Friulano

Dreamy floral aromatics. Dreamy, I say. Like a bunch of fresh white flowers, several of which have bees sitting in them, puzzling over their brief but decadent lives. Crisp, fresh and clean.

2003 Livon Collio Pinot Grigio

This one had dreamy aromatics, too, but more fresh clover and melon. Maybe a white flower in there, too; a teensy one. Full bodied and smooth.

Livon 'Picotis' Schiopettino (current release)

Dusty rose nose. Or maybe it was dusty camilla, not sure with the allergies and all. Light bodied with bright acidity. It made my minted lamb loin baaaa with pleasure.

2000 Tiare Blu Gran Cru

This is the tre buccieri winner, the bridesmaid who got herself laid. This bordeaux style blend of Cab, Merlot, and Cab Franc (new french oak) was very good, but I gotta tell you, it was not my style. Am I allowed to say that? Even as I know this wine was immaculately balanced, I still didn't care for it. Ezra says I probably don't like Cab Franc, but it beats the hell out of me. The attack was still too "fruity" for me, even though I know damn well it wasn't vinted to be that way. Probably all the snot blocking my little olfactory epithelium. Or maybe I just don't know wtf I'm talking about. Who said I did? But I'd drink that Schiopettino first any day. can take the the girl out of the trailer park....

BraideAlte Gran Cru 1998
(The blend is Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Verduzzo, and a touch of Moscato.)

Jerry and Marco decided to show this wine after all the reds to prove that it is a Queen Bitch worthy of their company. You must try this wine. Rich, fuller than any stuck-up Cal Chard, unctuous, with a nose full of all those stanky, naughty aromas: petrol, freshly pounded grass, cut white onion, hot candle wax dripping onto sweaty skin, sticky honey. This is a fascinating wine. It reminds me of this girl I had a crush on in high school who was voluptuous, mysterious, droll and sexy. Imagine stealing away with a girl like that, into a dank grotto still damp from a rain, and having her show you the ways of lusty abandon. That's this wine.

Livon 'Cumins' Picolit 2002

Oh, sweet Jehosephat. This is some serious nectar right here. If you have never tried 100% Picolit dessert wine, you haven't lived, sister. Another of the Lord's requests when He's in the mood for something to sip while trying to decompress from the day's dealings with Terrorists, famine, war and Republicans, this is indeed a liquid that ought to be served by fat cherubim wearing silken panties.

I'm so spent now.


Monday, April 18, 2005

Wine and Song 2005

Every last one of these guys plays guitar. That is so fucking hot! Austin's the live music capital of the world, bay-buh! The wine-swillers are multi-talented, fo' sho'. Posted by Hello

Matt and Steve sing Hall-and-freaking-Oates

From the looks of things, you'd never guess what these boys are singing. A Guns and Roses ballad? Led Zepplin? Hell no! Would you believe Hall and Oates?!? Posted by Hello

Me, Pickled on good Cotes du Rhone

Your humble author, singing AC/DC with 12-string accompaniment. Posted by Hello

Wine and Song Pic

This is how us cork dorks kick it down here in South Texas, y'all. This is the Hub (center) and two of my boys from the store, well into our fourth bottle. I had stopped taking notes on the wines around the third. Posted by Hello

Supercool wine storage in the dessert

This is my living room. Okay, I'm totally lying. This is the wine wall of the Ocotillo restaurant in Lajitas, Texas. It's one of the coolest freaking wine storage ideas I've ever seen, except that the occassional snake sneaks in and hides in the lower chambers. It's in the dessert, after all. Posted by Hello

Friday, April 15, 2005

2 Brothers 2003 Big Tattoo Red

David Frum is a pompous, pontificating, bubble-dwelling idiot. I'm sitting here, watching the Bill Mahr show, and absolutely loving the saucy, sassy Natalie Maines from the Dixie Chicks totally talk over this asshole. Who knew a buxom Southern Blonde could be a smart, well informed debater on a national cable show? I DID! Yee haw, all y'all!!!

What does this have to do with wine, you wonder? Not a damn thing. It's just what I'm watching while I drink this:

2 Brothers 2003 Big Tattoo Red

I picked this up a couple of months ago, and kept ignoring it because it always seemed like it would be too heavy and fruity for my post-work mood. Picked it tonight because I was hesistant to open any of my favorite little bottles, since I'm hosting a wine tasting for me and the boys tomorrow night (the hub is a vendor and has some wines too show off).

Well, it didn't do a thing for the herb roasted chicken I devoured, and it had a bit of copper penny taste to blow off, but once it did, this bastard child of syrah and cab sauv is pretty decent. Touch of anise, smooth. The hub says there's a hint of stale smoke on the nose, like a bar at closing time, but I'm thinking that's just our living room. Up front, there's a little stemmy thing....

The hub and I agree that it's not a fantastic wine. But it's not bad, and I think the softness and ample fruit are pleasant. Plus, you have to appreciate the story on the back, which tells of the two brothers, one a tattoo artist and the other a wine importer, who made this wine in honor of their mother, who passed away from cancer. They donate an impressive portion of their proceeds to cancer related charities.

Hey man, in a rough world, I'm gonna give that a hearty 'hell yes!'. Buy the juice. But drink it after all the good stuff is gone.


Saturday, April 09, 2005

Fine fish on First Thursday

I didn't realize it was First Thursday until I'd parked in front of Uncommon Objects and seen the signs. It was early; the jewelry and candle peddlers were still setting up their tents. The hub and I have done only one First Thurday before. Other than my love of catching a light buzz and shopping, it doesn't do much for me, especially if I get a slightly stronger buzz on and decide I need to stock up on soy candles and tank tops with pictures of Hindu Gods. Eeek.

I was down on South Congress to meet the hub. We met at Vespaio for antipasto and a sip of white wine (the hub had a Muller Thurgau, and I chose a Terlaner, both from Alto Adige; both were light and lovely) But dinner would be at Seven, a sparsely adorned seafood bistro belonging to Sam Dickey and Will Packwood.

I always feel I've snuck in the back door to a lifestyle that has great perks. Because the hub and I have been so long connected with restaurants, we know chefs, managers, and every wine vendor who shows in the Austin area. As a result, we end up running into wine tastings in progress, into which we are heartily invited, as we were on this lovely evening.

Sam greeted us and led us into what will be the new Seven bar, once the trim is finished, painting is complete, and the bar's filled with all sorts of bottles. He was very proud of his baby, which he thought might be complete as soon as late this month. So far, so good, I thought. This addition will do great things for the capacity of the dining room, and lure cocktailers in for a bite.

After our tour, we sat down at the small bar already in the corner of the front room. Yay! It's Greg, our vendor buddy, with a bag fulla vino! We had a great time, tasting everything. I was only briefly chided for taking geeky little notes on guest checks (all these boys are well past the honeymoon of selling wine, and I'm still in wide-eyed fascination).

Before I get to the juice, though, two things: praise for Seven's list. Their list is one of the few I've seen in Austin that actually sets the pace rather than follows it. It's an exciting, ecclectic list that invites guests to experiment, rather than settle back into the usual. Much applause to them.

Two: praise for Seven's food. They do a la carte, selling super-fresh fish by the 3-oz portion, and offer a list of versatile sauces that come in ramekins so you can mix and match. So yummy, especially the skate. They make a butter/caper sauce to complement it, but I liked the brown butter/almond even better.

Here's my little notes on the juice:

Marchesi Alfieri 2002 Grignolino

Have you ever had one of these? This one was my first, and I was giddy with it. The bartender had opened the bottle the day before; apparently they're best with a good long chunk of air time. I'd never had anything quite like it. It had a rosy-orange tint in the glass and a hot nose exploding with white pepper, pink blossoms, and orange peel. What a perfect glass of red to go with fish fillets, I thought. The palate, again, was full of soft white pepper, light cherry fruit, sage, and a touch of something like tangerine on the finish. Very light body. I had this again with my meal, and the white pepper played off the fish nicely.

I Frati 2003 Lugana

I love Lugana. Love it, love it, love it. This one had a nose full of honeysuckle, pear, and a teensy hint of something heady and green, like...well, like really good weed. Unctuous and honeyed palate with a touch of spiced pear, and a caressing, long, nutty finish. Oh, sweet waters of Garda, how your fruit makes sweet love to me.

Anna Boroli 2003 Langhe

This one is roughly 30% each Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Merlot, with a toss of Cabernet. The wood is young barriques. Hot, dark cherry/black pepper nose...shit, my notes are bad...

Me: Honey, what was that Langhe like?
The hub: it was yummy.
Me: I need more. It's a blog, dammit.
TH: Smokier than I remember. It had been open for a while, and I was suprised at how it had changed. Just out of the bottle, it tastes like Nebbiolo.
Me: wait! I need more, don't run off.
TH: lesseee...when I first got it, it had lost some of it's sparkle already, the high end tone, the spice...but it had gained in body. Fatter, fuller mid fruit...don't you remember?
Me: I was distracted by the guy outside, the guy with the sign about 'will heal all hurts, donations accepted'. The guy with the Jesus thing going on?
TH: Then write about the Grignolino you liked.
Me: I already did! Just help me out here.
TH: Christ...okay, it was bright fruit, but with body, heady. It was really good.
Me: Is that all you can pull out?
TH: You're the one blogging! You should have taken better notes.
Me: Fine. Piss off.
TH: Ptthblt.

I apologize. I had this Langhe in hand while Jen and I checked out the goings-on in the street and failed to take decent notes. What can I say.

So while the prophets of God healed people in the street, we wined and dined inside. Sigh. I love spending my disposable income this way, instead of on rugrats.

OH, and before I forget: Seven's layered chocolate-hazelnut turrine is a freakin DREAM, even if it did cause me serious acid reflux at four in the morning.


Monday, April 04, 2005

Soft Montepulciano for a hard, hard world

The Pope is dead, the House majority leader is a shit-grinned, slimy bag of snot, and Bermese women are breastfeeding tiger cubs. It's a krazy time. Nothing makes any goddamn sense, and I have the distinct sense of being taken for an idiot by the media. No wonder my acid reflux is acting up. Jesus, it gets going and I'm eating mashed potatoes for two days. My mama might have said, "Well, then, shut off the news," but it doesn't matter whether I read/watch it or not. You can just feel that something really fucked up is happening to us. Fortunately, that is not what this blog is about, so here's my final word:
what the world needs now is a raging ball-busting, then a resonating bitch slap, followed by a glass of nice, soft, rich Montepulciano D'Abruzzo, just to let it know that, despite it's incessant acting out, it is loved.

My boss promised me a bottle of wine if I sold seventy bottles of stacked wine. Not a bad one; a white from Sicily, and I parked my ass in front of a case of it and sampled it out. I sold 74, and chose this bottle for my prize:

La Valentina 2002 Montepulciano D'Abruzzo

I refuse to be influenced by the ratings bestowed by the Big Two Mega-Validators, but a Robert Parker '90'...especially in a MD'A (since it's not a big, phat fruit bomb), is worth plunking down the cash and trying it out. But oh yeah! I didn't have to! All the more lovely.

The hub and I were concerned that it would be too 'new world style', (i.e. big phat fruit bomb) but no, no it's not at all. Oh, man, it's got the perfect structure: baby's ass smooth, rich dried cherry and cocoa, followed neatly by a savory note, then bright, firm tannins. Good earthy, stony stuff. In the words of Beck: Hell Yes. Please Enjoy.