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Eugene Weekly : Wine : 10.6.11

Share the Feast

Despite the gloom, or maybe because of it

“Love is all you need.” When the Beatles sang the anthem lyric of the late-’60s, there were howls of scorn from cynical reactionaries — and of course they were right: Love is not enough, but without love this becomes a life hardly worth living. Case in point:

For the last year or so, my dazzling wife, Kat, and I (and sometimes her mother, Pat) have made a habit of dropping in at Friendly Street Market for Gnocchi Night at the attached café. Its formal name is Latitude 10, but neighbors know it as the Friendly Street Café — and that’s cool with chef/owner Mario Tucci, because his place is just the kind of restaurant most of us crave: local, ethnic grub made with love, informal to the nth. It’s funky, the tables and chairs reclaimed from some kindergarten; the plates (some) are chipped, the “silver” mismatched; the “wine glasses” (also water) are jelly jars. Chef Tucci seats guests, hugs everybody, tells bad jokes, waits on tables, takes orders, cooks the food, sometimes delivers, then acts as cashier (sometimes he has help). 

The menu is homestyle Italian — pastas (rockin’ rustic carbonara, lasagna better than Mom made), salads, even burritos — but Gnocchi Nights (Wednesdays), the neighbors pack the joint, especially on First Wednesday when the live music emanates from Spirit Farm: two, three or four guys (depends) who’ve been playing together for decades and sound really good. One of the guys — bassist Percy Franklin, also a fine songwriter — is having deep trouble: his beloved wife, Sandy, is about to undergo a lung transplant. The whole band is chipping in, along with folks who know and love Percy, Sandy and music.

This Saturday night Tsunami Books hosted a benefit for Sandy. The love in the room was palpable. Sure, it wasn’t enough; the donated bux helped for real. Wanna contribute? Bring checks or cash to Mario’s; any help gratefully accepted.

Now, let’s show some love and share a seasonal feast this dreary year, despite all omens of doom. Let’s serve up a well-browned roast — turkey or tofurky — or just rice and beans, at home or at the Mission, the Whiteaker School or the Occupy camps. And some of us will be lucky enough to serve up a little wine with the grub, adding flavor and laughter to our meal.

Spendrift Cellars 2009 Pinot Blanc ($15) is versatile, a dry white with a silky mouthfeel and ripe, round flavors (pears, white peaches, almond, mineral notes). It’ll keep loving company with a full range of holiday foods.

Acrobat 2010 Pinot Gris ($11) is produced by our neighbors at King Estate, already world-renowned for their pinot gris, and this version is approachable and affordable. The flavors are dominantly pear/citrus, well-balanced and food-friendly. Don’t over-chill this — or any — white wine, not if you really want to enjoy its flavors.

Oregon pinot noir ranks among the world’s best, and that’s a fact. A charmer is 3˚ (Three Degrees) 2009 Pinot Noir ($13), made in McMinnville by Maysara. It delivers dead-center black-cherry fruit flavors, with hints of raspberry and a dusting of pepper, all acutely balanced. Serve slightly cool with virtually any entrée.

Gotta have a monster red? Try Bootlegger Wines Demon Bird ($18). The grapes come from Washington but the wines are born right here in Eugene by Mark Nicholl, wine-maker at Sweet Cheeks. Get ready for bold black-fruits and a liberal dose of pepper. Best served with, say, roasted rump of wildebeest. The label itself is fun, a fantasy in black and white. Open a couple hours before serving.

If love is not enough, what else you got? Make it real.