Some Texas wines from Inwood Estates and McPherson

It’s been a while since I posted anything on wine. I’ve been busy eating and playing with new electronics, so the wine has been consumed but not noted here. I had a 2008 Arrogant Frog Ribet White, which is a 50-50 blend of Chardonnay and Viognier. Not bad for what is probably a wine priced under $15, but nothing special really. As for the Texas wines tried on this trip, the standout was a Viognier from McPherson Cellars, grown on the high plains of Texas. Viognier is a finicky grape, but this wine was nicely balanced with some light honey and apple on the palate and a wet floral nose (kind of like a garden after a brief shower) McPherson also does a Sangiovese, which felt a bit youthful but might be OK in a few months.

I was seriously dogging the Inwood Estates 2006 Palomino-Chardonnay for weighing in at $79.50 a bottle, but it turns out the winery only made 12 cases due to the small yield. The ratio of Palomino to Chardonnay is 2 to 1, and this wine is interesting, but not at that price.

I went on to have the last bottle of a Chablis Grand Cru at a lovely French bistro called Au Petit Paris. The food was also excellent and I strongly recommend trying the boite’s signature scallops. A special appetizer of mussels in puff pastry and the brioche made on premises were also memorable.

I went on to have a Leeuwin Estates 2006 Margaret River Riesling, which was crispy, slightly citrusy and something I could easily recommend to any fans of dry-style Riesling. My pals and I headed across the street to Indika, a marvelous Indian restaurant. We ordered lamb, venison and salmon, respectively so a Crios 2006 Malbec Rose was called into service and it went perfectly with all of the main courses as well as the quail with pine nuts and filled naan.

Not to shill for my old stomping grounds, Houston has always been a great restaurant city, but it seems to be even better now. I will not miss the smog, traffic or infuriating layout (no zoning in case you forgot) but I will miss the meals.

My cities are gone

The drive into Houston proper from Intercontinental Airport told the Negress that her 13 years of absence had made for changes. Where green fields lined US 59, there were now more strip malls, huge churches, car dealerships and all the fruits of a land use policy that doesn’t believe in zoning. She was here for a food journalism conference (if you want to read more about that go here) and to catch up with any friends she could find. The conference was great fun, especially the margarita sampling at the Last Concert Cafe. However, you could still see signs of Ike’s wrath on the city. A lot of FEMA blue roof tarps, especially south of downtown, some skyscrapers still sporting plywood scars where not all of the broken windows had been replaced. You still see the occasional pile of damp couches, tree limbs and soaked insulation in front of an apartment complex. If the radio news is any indication, much of that will be cleared away in the next two weeks. The folks at the Omni showed us the pictures of Buffalo Bayou coming up to the lobby level having inundated the pool and their pub.

When the conference ended, I moved in with my pals the Gumbies, whom I have known forever and a day. The couple were living in the bounty of the Pacific Northwest but moved back to H-Town for good work stuff. They have a FEMA roof and lost some trees and fencing, but their house is fine. They clued me into the nearest Whataburger and we drew up an eating plan to check out several local restaurants in the coming nights.

But after breakfast of cinnamon sugar deep fried biscuits and a potato onion frittata, we decided to drive down to Galveston. On Interstate 45, there are still about 30 boats resting against the shoulder barriers from being blown out of the water. Ike really lit into the island town, and the wounds are still oozing. The University of Texas Medical Branch is still running on generator power and laid off about 4,000 workers. The public housing complex is abandoned with lone pieces of kitchen furniture dotting the landscape. The Strand, Galveston’s tourist strip of Victorian-style shops and business is deserted, except for workers in ghostly jumpsuits removing debris. The seawall side of the island fared a little better but the famous Balinese Room disappeared, leaving nothing but pilings. The city still has a surprising number of Victorian homes whose owners dug in and painstakingly restored them to their Painted Lady glory. Unfortunately, much of their care was obliterated. There’s no electricity in the Strand or most of the surrounding neighborhoods, but Whataburger was open so we ate a solemn lunch on Stewart Beach, which normally with the glorious weather would have been packed with people. The city smells like generator fumes and rot, except by the water.

We ate at a Mexican restaurant in the Meyerland section of Houston that was a cheerful antidote to  Galveston’s grimness. The Negress is off today to find Project Runway Season Two winner Chloe Dao’s store and perhaps eat another Whataburger.

Galveston Victorian house post Ike

Galveston Victorian house post Ike

What's left of a waterfront restaurant in Galveston

What's left of a waterfront restaurant

The brackish water food, friends and U turns

The Negress has returned to Houston to attend the Association of Food Journalists conference. It’s been 13 years since Dying Media 3.0 left me in the lurch and I headed West then East. Being back is weird since much has changed but some things like Whataburger remain.  I’ve eaten well, learned a lot and sampled some intriguing Texas wines which I will post about later. Being out of the Metro makes me realize I am more open to relocating than I thought. I’ve had some conversations that might lead to that, including finding that one opportunity might put me back in touch with an acquaintance I’ve always respected. It was nice to chat with Robert del Grande, chef at Cafe Annie, one of Houston’s breathtaking high end restaurant. It was even better to scarf down quail with peanut sauce and some filled puffs with pomegranate and pea paste from Indika. Braised short ribs with onion and horseradish puree from T’afia were awesome as were Texas cheeses from Brennan’s with mayhew jelly and honeycomb. Living in Texas can turn you into a parade float since no one walks.

I’m looking forward to seeing some old friends, and am kind of excited about any of the next steps. More later. I’m hungry.

WBW #50: A long walk spoiled

The theme for this month’s web-wide tasting was pairing a wine with a favorite hike. Big ups to winehiker for the idea. I was excited about this one for all sorts of reasons. I knew the hike in a heartbeat — a four-mile or so loop in the Pyramid Mountain Natural Historical Area in Kinnelon outside of Boonton. I had the wine in mind too a Viognier from Unionville Vineyards that was worth the drive to almost the border of Pennsylvania. I was all set.

Or so I thought. The hike is still there with the maddening scramble in the middle that’s pretty challenging for a Negress with a pair of titanium knees and quads as weak as a kitten’s. But I love the hike and I love the 79-year old guy who wrote a book about it and other hikes you can find here. He kicked the Negress’ not-yet-50 year old butt, but reminded me how much I love to hike which is a major incentive for getting in shape.

However, a quick trip to the Unionville Vineyards website and….nothing doing. There’s a new winemaker and some new wines including a Seyval Blanc and something called Chambourcin. No Viognier in sight but a Pinot Noir

Negress on the trail

Negress on the trail

has joined the fray. These all seems to be bad signs. I did a story on the vineyards of New Jersey about for years ago, and this was one of my favorites. It was like finding out your mother has been replaced by a succubus.

We end with better news: The truckers at Dying Media caved and ratified a restructured contract. The Negress is officially bought out. To celebrate I’ve joined a Biggest Loser gang at my gym. Let my life begin again with a proper soundtrack, less flab and better wine.