Category Archives: Wine Pairings

i8tonite with Italian Wine Expert Jeremy Parzen & Recipe for Pasta Olio Aglio Peperoncino

i8tonite with Italian Wine Expert Jeremy Parzen & Recipe for Pasta Olio Aglio PeperoncinoIn 2007, New York Times wine writer Eric Asimov devoted an entire column to Do Bianchi (a Venetian term meaning two wines), a blog started by Jeremy Parzen. Asimov calls him, “One of those annoyingly talented individuals who speaks multiple languages, writes music, plays in a band, and also writes about wine meaning and food.”

Even though the annoying part was a gentle ribbing, Parzen is all those things. He holds a PhD in Italian, having lived in Pisa. He continues to travel back and forth to the boot-shaped country once a month from his home in Houston. Via his wine blog, Parzen is considered to be the foremost authority on Italian wines currently being written in North America; he has also been a food journalist and editor for the defunct Cucina Italiana, the widely popular magazine that was solely about Italian food, products, and cooking. He has penned additional stories for Wine & Spirits, Gastronomica, Men’s Vogue, and The Tasting Panel.

i8tonite with Italian Wine Expert Jeremy Parzen & Recipe for Pasta Olio Aglio Peperoncino
Sotto dining room. Photo Sean Murphy

Yet more importantly for consumers, his formidable knowledge on the nearly 1000 grape varietals used in making Italian vino is on display and available for tasting at Sotto, the Beverly Hills restaurant dedicated to regional Romanesque cooking. Here, with his friend of 25 years, Chef Steven Samson, guests can drink extraordinary small productions of vermentino or the Sardinian red fruit, cannonau, pairing it with handmade rustic pizzas and pastas.

i8tonite with Italian Wine Expert Jeremy Parzen & Recipe for Pasta Olio Aglio Peperoncino
Wine pairing at Sotto

“Working with Steve and knowing him for as long as I have, he let me push the envelope for the wine list,” says Parzen. “In the end, we have produced a menu that’s won a lot of people over and is selling.”
“Steve always said to me, ‘When I’m ready to open my restaurant, you will (create) my wine list.’ (At Sotto), we try and give a voice to the youthful wine culture. I specialize in Italians wines that are looking to (the restaurant) to  give it a voice.”

And when you can’t find Parzen drinking an Italian wine, you can find him on a stage playing French pop music in a band called Nous Non Plus. Renaissance man, indeed.

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Sparkling wine.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Hearty appetite.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Fear of pickled herring or horse meat.

i8tonite with Italian Wine Expert Jeremy Parzen & Recipe for Pasta Olio Aglio Peperoncino
Wine pairing at Sotto

Beer, wine, or cocktail?

Your favorite cookbook author?
Craig Claiborne.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Chef’s knife.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Italian, American, but not Italian-American.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?

Favorite vegetable?
Horse radish.

Chef you most admire?
Chef Steve Samson!

Food you like the most to eat?

Food you dislike the most?
Junk food. Processed food.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Play music.

Whom do you most admire in food?
Darra Goldstein.

Where is your favorite place to eat?

i8tonite with Italian Wine Expert Jeremy Parzen & Recipe for Pasta Olio Aglio PeperoncinoWhat is your favorite restaurant?
Sotto! For real…

Do you have any tattoos?
Jews generally don’t get tattoos, so n/a.


Recipe: Pasta Olio Aglio Peperoncino

i8tonite with Italian Wine Expert Jeremy Parzen & Recipe for Pasta Olio Aglio Peperoncino
Pasta Olio Aglio Peperoncino. Photo: Flickr cc: Yusuke Kawasaki


Heat EVOO in a pan. Add garlic and chili flakes.
An anchovy, washed and cleaned, can be added as well, if desired.
Cook spaghetti until al dente.
Strain well and add to the pan.
Toss well and drizzle with EVOO before serving with a glass of Verdicchio.

– The End. Go Eat. –

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, California

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, CaliforniaThe city of Santa Barbara has been called The American Riviera. Matter of fact, as a travel destination, it’s been trademarked as The American Riviera under that name, bringing connotations of luxury and prestige. Beyond that branding, the area is home to truly great farming, including wine growing regions. There is also damn mighty fine eating if you get beyond the idea of high-end dining and leave that to the bigger urban centers. It’s not that the chefs aren’t capable and many of the small city’s dining rooms are decorated beautifully, but it’s why bother bringing a jacket or heels to a low-key area? After all, this is a coastal community and a college town, where flip-flops and shorts are de riguer.

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, California
Photo Credit: Terry Straehley

Interestingly, Santa Barbara provides a sublime campus for higher learning, as this is where – as noted – several colleges are based, including the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), Antioch University, and Brooks College of Photography. Located along the Pacific Coast, about an hour and a half north of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara’s geography provides temperate weather, golden sand beaches, and incredible bike paths, supposedly evocative of the Mediterranean.

However, if cultural pursuits are really your interest, there is the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Furthermore, Mission Santa Barbara (named the Queen of the Missions), is one of the twenty-one Franciscan missions in the state of California. Well documented in the eighteenth century history books, the traveling and gospel spreading monks dedicated to transiting the indigenous peoples into Christians did so via sub-standard means and torture.

Even with all the college aged individuals, there is relatively very little nightlife and the streets roll-up early. But the beauty of Santa Barbara lies not in its evening but in the early part of the day, when people – visitors and natives alike – take up more physical pursuits, such as kayaking, beach volleyball, and fishing.

Breakfast: Tupelo Junction Cafe

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, California

When Tupelo Junction first opened, it was cozy with no more than a dozen tables packed onto a small side street. The walls were covered in burlap cloth and white washed with touches of red gingham, giving the impression that Tom Sawyer and his girlfriend Becky were manning the cook’s station. Maybe about a decade ago, the restaurant moved to State Street, closer to the action. The charming atmosphere was lost, but thankfully not the creative spin on Southern dishes. You can eat buttermilk pancakes slathered in creamy pan gravy or apple beignets.

  • Our Suggestion:  Dungeness Crab with Potato Hash, Avocado Salsa, Poached Eggs, and Beurre Blanc. This restaurant is a touch of France, big scoops of the America’s South, and the California coast.
  • Price: $18.00. (It has big pieces of crab throughout and worth every penny.)
  • Hours: Breakfast is served daily from 8:00am to 3:00pm.
  • Website:
  • Address: 1218 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA  93101
  • Phone: (805) 899 – 3100

Lunch:  Brophy Bros.

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, California

This is a wharf restaurant that is worth just driving ninety minutes along the Pacific Coast Highway to dine for lunch.  It’s truly a quintessential Santa Barbara dining experience, overlooking the fishermen’s boats as they bring in their day’s catch. If you decide to have dinner here, the second floor outlook is one of the most beautiful places in California to watch the setting sun. It’s a busy restaurant and can have a very long wait.

  • Our Suggestion: New England Clam Chowder. Living on the West Coast, where food is mostly about becoming a rabbit – chewing a lot of veggies, no carbs and dairy – this is one of the most deliciously, decadent soups imaginable. It’s very East Coast made, with lots of clams, potatoes, and cream. The only thing missing is the Maine mist and chill. If you do take an afternoon drive to Santa Barbara, come here and have this as a cup with a salad for lunch, with a glass of white wine, and your life will be as perfect as fairy tale.
  • Price: $5.00 for a cup; $7.50 for a bowl.
  • Hours: Open daily from 11:00am – 10:00pm. They do not take reservations. First come, first serve basis.
  • Website:
  • Address:  119 Harbor Way (Harborside), Santa Barbara, CA           93109
  • Phone: (805) 966 – 4418

Cocktails: Canary Hotel’s Finch & Fork

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, California

Smack dab in the middle of the town of Santa Barbara is the Canary Hotel. White-washed on the outside with a distinct Mediterranean/ Mexican/Spanish feel, complete with clay tiles, red-roof, decorative irons and wood, it can be a little precious. But it’s a great place to stop for a mid-day cocktail or an afternoon repast as you meander through the State Street shops. New American cuisine with freshly bought bounty is served at the bar daily and in the main dining room.

  • Our Suggestion: This is one of California’s great wine countries. You need to sample the wine while here.
  • Price: Varies depending on the winery.
  • Hours: Open daily at 2:30 pm – 11:30 pm.
  • Website:
  • Address: 31 West Carillo Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
  • Phone: (805) 879 – 9100.

Dinner: The Wine Cask

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, California

Created in 1981, The Wine Cask is Santa Barbara’s landmark restaurant bringing the area’s food and wine to the forefront of dining scene throughout California. Farm to table long before the term was coined, the owner, Doug Margeruem, has long been resolute in showcasing the Santa Barbara County’s rich agriculture, most notably it’s wine growers. If ever there was a quintessential dining place — a must place to dine in Santa Barbara — The Wine Cask is the place. It’s like going to Beverly Hills and never eating at Spago, or dining in New York and never eating at Gotham Bar and Grill. There are some restaurants that you have to eat at if you are in the area. The dining room, with its painted beam ceilings and massive fireplace to keep out the sea chill even in the heat of the summer, is one of the California Coasts most stately and stunning.i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, California

  • Our Suggestion: The food is delicious and the produce is brought in daily from nearby farmers markets and vendors. Probably the closest you will get to the farm without actually picking it yourself.
  • Prices: Varies but American Wine Country cooking at it’s finest.
  • Hours: Nightly from 5:30 pm. Closed Sundays – Mondays.
  • Website:
  • Address: 813 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara, CA                                91301
  • Phone: (805) 966 – 9463

Place to Stay: Simpson House Inn

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, California

Out of all the hotels in Santa Barbara, this is the one beyond reproach. It’s a small bed and breakfast, with 13 rooms, and no two rooms are the same. Therefore, each time you stay, the experience is different. And unlike the other hotels, which are managed or owned by big corporations, wealthy developers, or billionaires, this is luxury hospitality at its finest. Built by the Davies family, Simpson House Inn became an award-winning bed and breakfast, the only one to be named a “five diamond” by AAA and by Andrew Harper’s Hideaway. Like all b and b’s, breakfast is served daily – but it’s completely vegetarian. If it was never mentioned, a guest would never notice. Also, there is a two-hour afternoon wine tasting with a bevy of tasty snacks before dinner. For this intrepid traveler, I find this to one of my favorite hotels in the world.

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, California






Prices: Ranges according to accommodation and season. Prices can start over $250.00, but it’s worth every penny.

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i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet To Eating in Santa Barbara, California


The end. Go eat. 



i8tonite: A Special Thanksgiving with Famed Wine Retailer, Gary Fisch: His Wine Selections & Celebratory Cheese

Everyday folks will not know the name, Gary Fisch, but in the wine world, to those who sell and make wine, he is an icon. He personifies entrepreneurs at their best.  Fisch’s stores are considered to be the number one  seller of high-end California wines. Although based in the state of New Jersey, the stores sell throughout the United States. To honor such a distinction, Gary’s Wine & Marketplace was chosen as Market Watch Magazine’s 2014 Retailer of The Year.  This year, They have received the honor of the 2015 Great Oak Award from New Jersey Monthly for corporate social responsibility.

Since opening his first store in Madison, Fisch has grown his business from $800,000 – starting in 1987 — to a $50 million business today. Gary’s Wine & Marketplace have an additional three locations including Bernardsville, Wayne, and Hillsborough along with the original site. They also have an on-line shopping experience with shipping to 37 states.

Fisch followed in his father’s footsteps and began his career in the 1980s as a salesperson for a local wine and spirits distributor. Gary and his brother purchased their first 1,200-square-foot liquor store in Madison, NJ, then named Shopper’s Discount Liquor. In 2000, the Madison store was re-branded as Gary’s Wine & Marketplace and associated it with Gary’s personality, presence and his increasing accumulation of wine knowledge.

Fisch travels annually to Napa Valley sometimes three to four times a year tasting, selecting and purchasing wines. He says,” There is great wines in the world everywhere, but I have a fondness for Napa Valley. I was able to celebrate my daughter’s 21st birthday with our family. It was truly unique.” He recounts the day fondly as his family feasted and drank with wine doyenne Margit Mondavi and celebrity chef Michael Chiarello.

However, he also has a fondness for Italy as well as he talks about luscious Tuscany and Piedmontese grapes which he loves to taste and explore.

Gary’s Wine & Marketplace is the source of top Napa and international wines and bottles. They may be in the Garden State but their retail arm is omnipresent. For collectors, oenophiles and everyday people, Gary’s Wine & Marketplace – which also sells cheese and wine accessories – is the emporium for an unparalleled selection of luxury vintners and knowledge.

Food People Questionnaire with Wine Retailer, Gary Fisch:

What is your favorite food to cook at home?  Burgers on the grill. Or if no one’s looking, sardines on a salad.

What do you always have in your fridge at home? Umm…wine!

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? Someone who laughs at my jokes, which means I can only eat dinner with the same person once.

GaryFischWhat marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? Wine snob.

Beer, wine or cocktail? Wine, of course!

Your favorite cookbook author? I don’t use cookbooks. But if I had to, I would choose one of Bobby Flay’s books.

Your favorite kitchen tool? Spatula.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Anything my wife cooks.

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? Chicken.

Favorite vegetable? Spinach.

Chef you most admire? Michael Chiarello.

Food you like the most to eat? Anything.

Food you dislike the most? Blue cheese.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do? Run.

Who do you most admire in food?
Danny Meyer, his staff continually delivers exceptional service and hospitality.

Where is your favorite place to eat? Napa.

What is your favorite restaurant? In Napa, Farmstead and Bottega. In New Jersey, Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen (Morristown, NJ) and Redux (Madison, NJ).

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?  No tattoos!

GaryFischThanksgivingPicksSPECIAL THANKSGIVING DAY: WINE PAIRINGS CHOSEN BY GARY FISCH. (Find more selections by visiting Gary’s Wine & Marketplace website.)

2013 Murrieta’s Well “The Whip” (White Blend)
Livermore Valley, California

If you’re not sure whether to get a Chardonnay or a Sauvignon Blanc, we suggest you go with Murrieta’s Well “The Whip”—a white blend of 28% Semillon, 24% Chardonnay, 14% Sauvignon Blanc, 11% Orange Muscat, 11% Viognier, 11% Gewurztraminer, 1% White Riesling.  This sophisticated white blend can hold up to the variety of flavors at Thanksgiving dinner, and will delight both Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc fans. With pronounced aromas of white peach, pear, citrus and melon, along with flavors of cantaloupe, green pear, and butterscotch, Murrieta’s Well “The Whip” is the perfect crowd-pleaser wine for Thanksgiving.

2013 Second Growth Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley, Oregon
This Oregon Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley is an enjoyable, silky, multi-layered wine that you are sure to enjoy during Thanksgiving Dinner. With bright red fruit aromas and flavors of candied cherry, pomegranate, cranberry and raspberry, along with a touch of nutmeg and cinnamon, this elegant Pinot Noir Pair will pair with salmon, ahi tuna, veal, pork, poultry or hearty vegetarian entrees.

2012 Chase Cellars Hayne Vineyard Zinfandel
Napa Valley, California

Capturing the essence and complexity of our ancient vines, while maintaining youthful appeal from the fruit of the younger ones, this Zin has sweet red and black fruits which surround a rounded core of soft but ample tannins, offering up a mouthful of supple textures and layers of lovely fruit.

GARY’S GUIDE TO CREATING AN IMPRESSIVE HOLIDAY CHEESE PLATTERS: Need to make a cheese platter?  No problem!  Just following the simple steps below and you are guaranteed to impress your guests.

Start with the basics; You should always have a creamy cheese, hard cheese and a semi soft cheese. My recommendation would be a Delice de Bourgogne (a brie like French cow’s milk triple crème cheese), Manchego (a Spanish Sheep’s milk cheese) and Cotswold (an English onion and chive cheddar made with Cow’s milk). You always have the option to add a goat cheese and/or a blue cheese to the mix depending on your taste.

Dress up your cheese: You can dress up your cheese with all types of yummy items. Try Truffle honey drizzled over a fresh goat cheese, fig jam with Spanish cheese, like as Manchego, or red pepper jelly with brie.

 How to eat your cheese: You can eat your cheese on so many things!

  • Assortment of breads, such as, baguette, ciabatta, semolina or a cranberry walnut bread (delicious with blue cheese)
  • Don’t restrict yourself to a plain cracker.  Try something with flavor such as, Jan’s farmhouse cranberry pistachio cracker or Stonewall Rosemary Parmesan Cracker.
  • Add fruit to the platter.  Any addition of fruit is a perfect paring for cheeses.  Try these on your next platter, grapes, strawberries, fresh figs, pickled pears, cherries soaked in brandy and that’s just to name a few!!


Let’s get Plattered (this is the fun part)

There are so many options.  You can choose from a ceramic plate or a rustic looking slate board.  There are so many option so let loose and have fun.


When you’re finished making the platter pour yourself a glass of wine, sit back and dig in.  Cheers!