On this week's episode of "What's Eric Eating," sommelier Antonio Gianola joins CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss his career working in Houston and his current role as general manager of Houston Wine Merchant. With experience at Houston restaurants such as Da Marco and Catalan, Gianola oversees the store's day-to-day operations and makes buying decisions for French, Italian, German, and Austrian wines.
In response to social distancing requirements, Houston Wine Merchant has closed its store to customers, but they can order over the phone or online for curbside pickup. Sandler asks about what people are buying during a time they're required to stay home.
"Before the pandemic, I would say people were regularly in the $30-70 range was the sweet spot of what people were looking for. Now, I think people are looking for wines they don't have to cellar, and they're drinking them all, most in the $20-35 range tends to be the biggest movers right now. . . Instead of buying a bottle or two, people are buying half a case or a case."
Listen to the full interview to hear Giancola recall working with chefs Marco Wiles and Chris Shepherd. He also offers a few buying suggestions for people looking to pick up something tasty from Houston Wine Merchant.
Prior to the interview, Rebecca Masson joins Sandler to discuss the news of the week. The pastry chef starts off by talking about the process of reopening Fluff Bake Bar in its new home near The Heights and then fires back at people who leave negative Yelp reviews during a challenging time for restaurants.
Special guest Adam Brackman joins the show to discuss the Payroll Protection Plan, a provision of the recently passed CARES Act that provides restaurants and other small businesses with the opportunity to apply for forgivable loans equal to two times their monthly payroll. Brackman says he plans to apply for a loan to support Axelrad, his ultra-popular bar in Midtown.
In the restaurants of the week segment, Sandler and Masson share some of the places they've ordered takeout from. Masson's choices include Pizaro's Pizza and Chow Wok, a Chinese restaurant in west Houston. Sandler raves about a recent meal from Galleria-area French restaurant Étoile.