Vineyard Cuisine: A Delicious Book

Last modified on 2011-02-20 11:09:19 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Vineyard Cuisine: Meals and Memories  from Messina Hof is a delicious book that’s a joy to read, to view — and to use.

It’s the story of Merrill and Paul Bonarrigo, Texas Protestant gal and New York Catholic guy, who met, married and created one of Texas’s oldest wineries, tourist destinations and spas.

That Messina Hof would be one of the Lone Star State’s oldest wineries says a great deal in itself.  The first vines were planted in Texas in 1659 near present-day El Paso.  When France’s vineyards were virtually destroyed by phylloxera, a sap-sucking louse that feeds on the roots and leaves of grape vines, it was a Texas vintner, T.V. Munson, who grafted Texas root stock, which is immune to phylloxera,  and shipped it back to France, saving the French wine industry.  France awarded Munson the Legion of Honor for his work.

Stephen F. Austin, who is known as the Father of Texas for leading the second and ultimately successful colonization of the state with 300 families from the U.S., said in 1821 that “Nature seems to have Intended Texas for a vineyard to supply America with wines.”

Austin would have been astounded had he lived 100 years later to see the damage Prohibition would cause.  It wiped out the Texas wine industry.  California survived because a few of its wineries supplied wine to the church.

In the late 1970s, a few families began to recreate the Texas wine industry.  One of those was the Bonarrigos.  Merrill was one of the first women to graduate from Texas A&M University; Paul was a physical therapist who had emigrated to Bryan from New York.  His family had been winegrowers and vintners for generations in Messina, Sicily.  Her family traced its roots to Hof, Germany.

The result was Messina Hof winery.  Vineyard Cuisine is the story of the winery told in words and photos.  The photos are stunning enough that the book could be yet another travel book, full of pictures of creeks, lakes, fields, statuary and the interior of grand houses.

But it is much more, as the title itself suggests.  It’s a collection of around 200 recipes prepared and served at Messina Hof Winery’s Vintage House Restaurant.  The recipes are a nice blend of traditional Sicilian, Texas Hill Country and American fare.  Each is paired with a wine, and there is additional information about wine and cheese pairings and what wines go best with what foods.

The Villa at Messina Hof was named Texas’s most romantic inn.  Until you can stay there, this book is a good glimpse at the romance of a Texas vineyard.  And for those who do visit the restaurant or Villa, it’s a terrific souvenir.

Vineyard Cuisine is published by Bright Sky Press at $29.95.


The Year’s Best Book on Managing People. Period.

Last modified on 2010-12-18 03:06:45 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

I don’t like management books.  Almost without exception — until now — every management book has come up short.  Most of them are 10-plus chapters of concepts like management by walking around or stories about companies built to last.

It’s Okay to Be the Boss:The Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming the Manager Your Employees Need definitely isn’t one of those mushy Kumbya management books.  It is a straight-forward guide to correcting what the author, Bruce Tulgan, views as an epidemic of undermanagement that is hurting U.S. companies, and the U.S. economy overall.

He deftly dismantles many of the most popular theories floated by management gurus who give speeches at trade association conventions — empowerment, being fair by treating high-performers the same as low performers, being a nice guy or friend of your employees, avoiding “difficult conversations” with employees, the idea that leaders are born, not made.

To be sure, Tulgan forthrightly acknowledges that managing is hard work. and requires the boss — whether he’s a first-line foreman or the chief executive of a Fortune 500 company — to engage in hands-on management.  Tulgan says every manager needs to learn to talk like a performance coach.  He tells the reader to take it one person at a time, and notes that what works for one person may not work for another.

He also discusses how to make accountability a real process, how to tell people what to do and how to do it, how to track performance, how and why to solve small problems before they become big problems.  Why you should do more for some people and less for others; It’s a matter of rewarding strong performers and incentivizing weak performers to improve — or leave.

What is particularly significant is that this is not a high-level theoretical book.  It is a step-by-step, how-to-do-it cookbook full of recipes to turn mediocre bosses into great bosses, who in turn  mediocre workers into great workers who make their companies great.

This is a book that deserves a place in the briefcase of every person who has to supervise another.  But simply reading it isn’t enough:  You have to put it into practice.

We strongly recommend it.  You can buy it through our online bookstore.

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