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A Summer's Evening of Food, Wine and Music

Friends try a pairing of tastes and emotions in Tuscany

Posted: Aug 4, 2009 11:51am ET

I have been to many events with food, wine and music in my life. And, for the most part, they seem pretty much the same - wine, dinner and wine, and then wine and music at the end. Moreover, most of the events don’t seem to be choreographed, or put together properly. The food and wine parts usually work well together – as they should – but the music usually ends up being an afterthought, or just background, sort of gastronomic "muzak", or wine and food pairing with elevator music.

A few months back, I was speaking to my buddy film director Mike Figgis, and he was in agreement. He had long wanted to do a food, wine and music event where each element complemented the others, a symphony of tastes and feelings. “The music should help you digest the food and wine, and ready you for more, as well as touch all your senses,” he said.

Granted, we were pretty buzzed talking about all this one early morning, following a long dinner at my house with friends. I can’t remember the wines we drank. but they were all Tuscan, if I (sort of) remember correctly.

Mike had spoken to a number of event organizers already in Tuscany, but they were not interested in a collaboration. I had been approached as well. But it never seemed right. So we said, “Let’s do it ourselves.”

On Saturday night, we hosted about 60 friends from all over the world at an outdoor dinner at the estate of Petrolo. We enjoyed a four-course meal of hearty Tuscany food, fabulous Sangioveses and beautiful music. Mike’s girlfriend, Hong Kong concert pianist Rosey Chan, mostly provided the latter, with Mike accompanying her on a few pieces. The music ranged from Bach and Chopin to Bill Evans and Tom Waits. (Pretty diverse!)

Mike’s good friend Sting also sang “My One and Only Love.” And my 11-year-old daughter Isabel, who is a singer, sang “Autumn Leaves.” (Check out the video.)

The music was presented following each course of food, which was prepared by local restaurateurs Paolo and Daniela Tizzanini of Osteria dell’Acquolina Paterina. Here was the menu (hope you understand some Italian):

Aperitivo (al Fresco)
Selezione di Salumi di Antica Macelleria Falorini Greve in Chianti
Pecorini di Montemercole Casentino
Querciabella Toscana White Batàr 2007

Crema di Pomodoro Costoluto
Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Rocca Guicciarda Riserva 2006

Tagilatelle di Chianina
Eredi Fuligni Brunello di Montalcino 2004

Granpezzo di Chianina al Forno con Fagioli Novelli
Petrolo Torrione 2007

Torta al Cioccolato
Fontodi Colli della Toscana Centrale Flaccianello 2006

I wanted to focus on very Tuscan food and wine, so it all may have been a little heavy for a hot summer’s night. But it was delicious, particularly the pasta with a beef ragu. And all the wines, except for the aperitivo white, were Sangiovese. 2006 is a great year for Sangiovese, perahaps better than the legendary 1997. And 2007 is not far behind. I professed my love for Sangiovese at the event, although a beautiful blonde next to me at the dinner said that she didn't share my taste for the great, indigenous red wine grape. Oh well. At least she likes Nebbiolo!

It was a wonderful evening that really did touch all of your senses. And I think the order of the food, wine and music really worked. In other words, wine, food and music enhance one another if choreographed properly. It can be done properly at an event, or even in your own home. Just think about it.

Next year Mike is going to make a film about our summer dinner.

Gil Lempert-schwarz
Vegas Baby —  August 4, 2009 5:28pm ET
James, that's a pretty spectacular event indeed. Kudos to your daughter for following Sting in a performance; amazing. Hopefully Mike shot a behind-the-scenes film we can enjoy at the Festivals next year. Looks like you're feelin' pretty good at home in Tuscany. Have a great summer.
Maryann Worobiec
Napa, CA —  August 4, 2009 5:31pm ET
Isabel is a doll, and what a voice! You must be a very proud father.
Farhana Haque
Queens, NY —  August 4, 2009 6:28pm ET
Your daughter is extremely talented. What a beautiful voice! Have you guys ever thought of adding short films (silent or not?) to the mix?
Matt Scott
Honolulu HI —  August 4, 2009 7:26pm ET
Wow James! You must be very proud. Thanks for sharing.
Milan, Italy —  August 5, 2009 12:05pm ET
James, Isabel is a star!
And I agree with the misterious blonde: Nebbiolo is THE GRAPE!
Jlpef@uol Com Br
Sao Paulo BR —  August 5, 2009 12:55pm ET
Where's the video at the new site?
James Suckling
 —  August 5, 2009 12:57pm ET
Farhana. That's in the future. Good idea?
Johnny Espinoza Esquivel
Wine World —  August 5, 2009 1:41pm ET
What a wonderful time and memories to share and what a nice lineup! Sort of comment/question: I would like to learn more about pairing and how to prepare a meal/wine course like the one you just described.

Thank you for sharing!
Michael Stounberg
Copenhagen-Denmark —  August 5, 2009 1:56pm ET
Hi James

Must have been a fantastic event - your daughter is very talented!
I am a big fan of Fontodi Flaccianello, so a non blind rating would be greatly appreciated.
Farhana Haque
Queens, NY —  August 5, 2009 6:34pm ET
That's an awesome idea!!!! I've often thought about doing it for a house (read: apartment) party.

Now, how do I get invited? :D
Beverly Reordan
La Quinta, Ca. —  August 5, 2009 10:41pm ET
Dear James Isabel is wonderful how about inviting me the next time you have a wine,food and music event. Love, Bev (your mother)
James Suckling
 —  August 6, 2009 5:38am ET
Michael. THe 2006 Flaccianello is phenomenal.
K & L Wine Merchants
Hollywood, California —  August 6, 2009 8:41pm ET
Ciao James, I was wondering when you were going to get around to releasing scores for the 2007 Rosso di Montalcino vintage, what do you think? Anything going to break the 90pt barrier?
Greg St.Clair
Belgium/Brussels —  August 11, 2009 5:32am ET
A very talented daughter, indeed.
I am visiting Petrolo next week on the 19th. Can't wait to taste 2006 galatrona

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