Category Archives: food and Wine

Creating Beauty in Spello

One of the more intriguing quotes from Oscar Wilde goes like this

I put all my genius into my life. I put only my talent into my works

The quote appears in a book by Andre Gide on Wilde, where Gide attempts to bring out the genius that he saw.  Sadly, the genius that Wilde thought he was living was not a genius that English society would tolerate at that time. Things got very messy and things ended badly. They ended so badly, that some still talk about the tragedy today. It boggled minds back then, and boggles the mind still.

Wilde did not intend things to turn out that way, but he certainly invited this unfortunate finale. I would not call it a death wish, but it was a desire to be “contra mundum” and to try to get away with it. And this conra mundum aesthetic has found fertile ground among artists and thinkers of the 20th century. Sadly, that aesthetic often ends badly, whether through drugs, booze, or hard living or just frustration that the heroics of the rebel are not rewarded by a bewildered society.  Kerouac, I think, fits into that last category, living with his mother and third wife as a middle aged, ex-beatnick, and passing on from liver failure before he turned 50.

Less well recognized have been people whose genius is in finding and nurturing peace in the world. Where is that to be found? That is a good question. And the hopeful answer is anywhere — if you know what you are looking for. I think that is what Maugham was trying to say in his book “The Razor’s Edge”. Maugham used the plot device of a man converting to Buddhism to find peace after a nasty war experience. But I daresay one can find peace anywhere and not have to be scarred by war or become a Buddhist.

Perhaps Waugh’s suspicion that peace is desperately needed but not to be found — no matter how earnestly one might search for it — gave Waugh his dark side. And no one would accuse Waugh of putting genius into how he lived. From the other world, where perhaps Waugh longed to be, might have been heard the sigh, “the poor man needs help.”

If you need help, peace is most easily found in places where the people live for enjoying the simple pleasures of life.  Like sipping wine under the golden, afternoon sun, playing with laughing children in a field of wild flowers, or strolling along a lazy river, or even just loafing and observing a spear of summer grass. Places where people take the time for these things because they are valuable to experience and share in themselves. Errrr … even if society is not as inspiring as we might like it to be.

It was these types of stories that inspired me, many years ago, to  follow certain writers who focused on the pleasures of the table. Fisher, David, and the rest. I still smile when I think of turns of phrases that occasionally appeared in Asher’s writing on wine. And I must admit that I admire people who find ways to live in charming places simply for the pleasure of going further into that sort of world.  I admire their genius in finding ways to be there over time, finding meaning in experiences, rather than demanding meaning simply from rejecting unwelcome societal standards.

Here is a fun example — an Australian couple who spends the summers in Italy. He helps make wine. And she? She is having fun learning Italian in innovative ways with friends. As important, they are there because the town of Spello is just one of those fun places to be. You might call it the “spell of Spello”.

Simple. Brilliant!

BTW, Spello is wonderful, I am sure. But what about Detroit? Does it have people who are creating and enjoying the simple pleasures of life? Hmm … you might think not. But check out Dvita Davison’s TED talk about the urban gardening movement that is transforming Detroit. As you listen, you might get a sense of what I am talking about.


Sunday Dinner Coconut Poached Salmon From Goop


Yeah, Goop. I know. You might have issues with Gwyneth.  Like getting the spelling of her first name right. And that obsesion with detox is a bit over the top. But she does offer a pretty simple recipe for poaching salmon in coconut milk.  And that comes in handy when your cooking has gotten into a bit of a rut. Like mine!

I thought I might try it tomorrow evening  — just for fun. That would mean a white wine. Yes! An excuse for buying some riesling! Stay tuned!

Along with the poaches salmon? Some steamed broccoli? roasted garlic mashed potatoes?.

Errr …  BBC food has a recipe for baking salmon in coconut milk  that might pack some more flavor!

Hmmm … choices! I will definitely get back to you on this one.

Brad and Sean Go Nuts in the Kitchen

Back in the days of Julia Child, kitchen work was meant to be serious. Julia had fun now and then, but the main purpose was producing incredible food – not just fooling around.

Brad Leone of Bon  Appetit, takes a  somewhat different view. He likes making great stuff, but from his videos, you get the sense that he likes having fun in the kitchen even more. And that is why I love him? Here he is with Sean, making cast iron skillet pizza — and tasting the hottest of hot sauces that you can imagine. Enjoy!

Pecorino is Poorly Understood!

When you woke up this morning and looked in the mirror, you probably were not thinking about pecorino. And the thought of pecorino probably would not have entered your mind as you sipped your coffee, walked the dog, read the newspaper and pondered the world from your kitchen window..

And yet, an article about pecorino would open your mind to another way of living. An article about pecorino would tease your senses and connect you with God’s earth. It would take you to Tuscany, where sheep farmers are passionate about making cheese.

Here is that article. You know what to do. Go there! Enjoy!

And remember, we are not talking about pecorino romano!  We seek pecorino di pienza!  The story starts this way

I’m not saying I drank too much Brunello di Montalcino. But if I had drunk too much Brunello di Montalcino — the Podere Le Ripi 2014, for example, at, say, 2 a.m. — then a hot, dusty barn packed with sheep wouldn’t have been my first choice of places to be at 6 in the morning.


A Dessert Wine to Remember

As a general matter, I do not drink a lot of dessert wine. It is just not part of my routine. But now and then, it is nice to end a group dinner with a kick ass wine that goes well with sweets ans savory desserts.  Yes, the wine is sweet. But sometimes that is totally ok!

The other night, I had that opportunity. I had a bottle of 2012 Castello di Querceto Vin Sante del Chianti Classico (that I got at half price) with no idea how it would turn out.

Image result for www.castellodiquerceto vin santo del Chianti Classico

The upshot – wow! I am thinking of buying more. You might check it out as well! Here is a tasting note

Vibrant golden colour. On the nose it is intense and complex with notes of orange peel, dried fruits and nutty aromas. Very long and complex dessert wine.


A Bologna Sandwich the Size of a Chihuahua?

That is right!

And it is a glimpse into Bon Appetit’s restaurant of the year. – a sandwich shop!

Here is a further peek into the bologna sandwich that you can get at  Mason Hereford‘s “turkey and the Wolf!” in New Orleans

Mason’s take on a bologna sandwich had nothing in common with the mayo-and-Wonder-Bread ones I grew up eating. In his, three slices of locally made bologna were griddle-fried, blanketed in American cheese, and stacked on thick-cut, butter-griddled Pullman slices with house-made hot mustard, Duke’s brand mayo, and “shrettuce” (what Mason calls shredded lettuce). It was further crunchified with two fistfuls of vinegar-brined potato chips.