Virtual Gourmet

June 25, 2006                                                       NEWSLETTER


The Door to Harry's Bar, Venice, Italy

     "Then he was pulling open the door of Harry's bar and was inside and he had made it again, and was at home."--Ernest Hemingway, Across the River and Through the Trees (1950).

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In This Issue

Truth in Trout by John Mariani

NEW YORK CORNER: Ennio & Michael by John Mariani


by John Mariani
Esquire Magazine's first cover, Autumn 1933

               If I had to name the tastiest fish in the sea, I would have a hard time deciding among turbot, Dover sole, John Dory, and half a dozen other species. But when it comes to freshwater fish, there is nothing that leaps to mind like the trout. The blueback, the red trout, the ruby, the golden, the brown, the cutthroat, the speckled trout, the multi-spotted Dolly Varden, the rainbow, the steelhead--each beautiful in its way, with flesh that tastes of and is colored by what it eats.
   A trout is amenable to a fair array of cooking treatments, though not to all. It is superb with buttered almonds, succulent to the bone when stuffed with crabmeat or a mousseline, made tangy with fresh capers, and as good as fried fish can possibly be, especially in bacon fat.  And even though we must suspend our belief, in light of game regulations,  that the best trout is the one we catch, the flavor and spirit of the wild trout is a magical thing.
    As anyone who has ever read Isaak Walton's The Compleat Angler (1653) or Norman MacLean's A River Runs Through It (1989) knows, of all the fish gathered by mankind, the trout has always evoked the most romantic associations.  Let Jonah and Ahab have their terrifying whales and the Old Man his magnificent marlin.  Trout fishing is part patience, part endurance, part boredom, part Zen and part art. As MacLean put it in the beautiful opening line of his short story, "In our family there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing."                              (To order The Compleat Angler click on photo of Isaak Walton at right.)
   Most of all, trout fishing requires a man to retreat into the wild, to find a silent stream with no one else around and to spend some time in contemplation.  Even when other anglers are included on a trout fishing expedition, there is none of that yahoo camaraderie and machismo that seems essential to bass fishing over the side of a motor boat. No, trout fishing is a solitary act designed to bring pleasure to the angler and unfortunate pain to the fish. As Walton (above) put it, "when the lawyer is swallowed up with business and the statesman is preventing or contriving plots, then we sit on cowslip-banks, hear the birds sing, and possess ourselves in as much quietness as these silent silver streams which we now see glide so quietly by us."
     iolThe trout, whose species span two whole genera, Salvelinus and Salmo, is spread throughout the world's rivers, yet it seems the most American of fish. Or at least the most American of American fish. In the colonial era it was everyday food for first settlers, and by the nineteenth century there still seemed little reason to imitate the efforts of the French, who constructed the first public-owned trout hatchery in 1852 to propagate fish commercially. (France now has 700 trout-producing farms producing over 20,000 tons of fish each year.) Nevertheless, in 1864 Seth Green set up a hatchery in Mumford, New York.

Brad Pitt in "A River Runs Through It" (1992)
   American anglers merely had to dip their lines in the rivers to come up with large, beautiful fish perfect for pan-frying on the spot. The only dilemma was deciding which tackle to use to catch a particular trout in a particular place. Trout anglers gird for battle and speak a language designed to keep most mortal men at a distance--floaters, sink tips, breaking strain, hatches, and wonderfully fanciful names for flies like Rat-Faced McDougall, Humpy Adams, Living Damsel, Greenwell's Glory, and Drowned Olive May.   Nevertheless America's first great fishing author, Frank Forester, complained in his Fish and Fishing (1849) that Americans did not take their fly-fishing with all due seriousness.   After the Civil War the days when anglers filled their baskets with forty trout in an afternoon were fading fast.  When the end came -- as a result of industrial pollution and invasion of the trout streams, as well as overfishing -- it came quickly.
   It was the introduction of the German brown trout (Salmo trutta) to North America in 1883, and Green's stocking of his own hatcheries with that fish in 1886, that caused a comeback of the trout in America, while native rainbow trout (Salmo gairdneri) were being introduced as far away as New Zealand and South Africa.   Protective measures have also helped restore the trout populations, and, since American anglers have become dutifully serious about their sport, efforts have been made to maintain the balance of nature in trout streams.
   klo76As with anything that seems lost in an idyllic past, trout fishing took on mythic overtones, and there grew an enormous amount of literature on the subject of casting, lures and the most sensible way to approach the game. The finest literature on trout has come from American authors, from specialists with wondrous names like George Michel Lucien La Branche, Charles Zebulon Southard, Arthur Flick, Sparse Grey Hackle, and Ernest Schwiebert, to outdoorsmen like Zane Grey , who wrote mostly fishing books, not westerns, in his later life, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway, whose long short story "Big Two-Hearted River" is perhaps the best thing ever written on the subject and one of the classics of American naturalism. (To order Hemingway on Fishing, click on cover below; to order Zane Grey on Fishing, click on the photo of Grey at left)
    Year by year the books on trout keep coming--a check of turns up more than 800 currently in print--and magazines like Sports Afield, Men's Journal and Field and Stream keep the sport more vibrant than it's ever been. Nowhere is this truer than in the West, more specifically in the Rockies, where the trout run wild and plentifully. One can easily find trout streams in the east, but the romantic, primordial lure of fishing the Rockies seems at the heart of the matter.tyyyy

       Fly fishing is a good thing to learn early on, first,
because there's so much to learn; second, because children learn grace effortlessly; and three, because life's too short. You don't need much gear--you can wear everything but the waders out to the hatch--and if you plan to eat what you catch on the spot, you can pretty easily carry the pan, plates, knife and fork you'll need. And a coffee pot. As John Gierach writes in a lovely essay about fishing the headwaters of the western United States, "The only luxuries you've allowed yourself are a full-sized coffeepot, a notebook, and a modest-sized bottle of bourbon--but maybe they're not entirely luxuries, at that.  The coffeepot doubles as a saucepan, and holds enough water to completely douse the campfire in three trips to the stream. Your life has been such that there's the normal background noise of built, but so far, you haven't burned down a forest and don't plan to; you are meticulously careful with your fires."
   Letting a trout go after catching it is neither required nor suggested, unless you've been lucky enough to catch more than you could possibly eat. I still believe the difference between a good hunter and a bad one is that the former only eats what he kills and the latter too often kills what he doesn't intend to eat.    Trout makes for good eating, though it is far from the tastiest fish in the world. As a matter of fact, there's a whole slew of fish--salmon, turbot, sole, snapper, bluefish, cod, tuna, swordfish, even skate--that have more flavor and lend themselves to more recipes. Few people would  make trout stew or trout sashimi or trout soup. But when you do eat trout under the proper circumstances, cooked with precision when the fish is exquisitely fresh, there are few things in the world that taste better.
   tytutThe classic way to prepare trout is au bleu--poached in a vinegar stock that makes the skin turn a gorgeous blue hue. It is the way it is traditionally cooked in Europe, originating in Switzerland and popularized in France. The French do many things with trout: In Normandy it is pot roasted with cider or cooked en papillote with Calvados and cream; in the Périgord region the fish is flambéed; in Burgundy it is cooked in red wine. But truite au bleu is the most respected, so much so that French gastronome Jean Giono snipped, "With the exception of truite au bleu nobody knows how to cook trout. It is the most unfortunate fish on earth. If an atomic bomb destroyed the world tomorrow the human race would vanish without ever having known the taste of a trout.  Of course, I am no more talking of the tank-bred trout than I would give a recipe for cooking a dog or cat."
   Our great American gastronome, James Beard, who ate a good deal of truite au bleu in his time, would disagree, however. When friends would bring him just-caught trout from Oregon's Columbia River, he would invariably cook it with a coating of cornmeal and bacon. uuuuiui"I have been castigated by a gourmet-according-to-the-books for even mentioning the idea of bacon and trout together. But is it any more improbable to add the flavor of bacon than to add lemon or vinegar, as in truite au bleu? I hope someday to have the chance to offer this critic a perfectly sautéed mountain trout with bacon. I'm certain he will eat it with gusto, protesting the while that it shouldn't be."                                                      (To order James Beard's New Fish Cookery, click on cover:)

Trout is far more versatile than one might think, although the simpler the recipe, the better. But first and
foremost, the fresher the fish, the better. If you don't have access to really fresh trout, you might as well not even bother cooking it at all. It can taste fishy, its flesh can be mealy, and you might well wonder what all the fuss is about.  The only sad part is this: By law, all fish served in a restaurant must come from a game farm. On the one hand, this guarantees a consistent and healthy supply of fish; on the other it guarantees a fairly mild flavor indistinguishable from one source to the next.
    yug334There is something special about a well-caught, well dressed, well-cooked wild trout from a good river whose flavor is finer, sweeter, and, well, wilder than those fish that are "tank-bred." I say "good river" because not all trout dwell in pristine waters or eat as well as they do in the Rockies.  Trout from the Great Lakes make have an oily taste picked up from eating alewives, and there are far too many rivers in America that are muddy and polluted. Fresh from a river, then, is not necessarily as good as fresh from a tank. Incidentally, you cannot only eat the skin of wild trout, as with salmon, but it is absolutely delicious.
     Of trout cooked with bacon over coals in the outdoors, Hemingway wrote,  "The trout are crisp on the outside and firm and pink inside and the bacon is well done--but not too done.  If there is anything better than that combination the writer has yet to taste it in a lifetime devoted largely and studiously to eating." It's always difficult to disagree with Hemingway.


by John Mariani

539 LaGuardia Place

             Once upon a time, Greenwich Village was home to dozens of Italian-American restaurants almost indistinguishable from one another in decor and menu.  They had names like Enrico & Paglieri, Nino & Nella, Gene's,  Luigi's, and Mario's, and they all served dishes whose ingredients were purchased at low prices in order to keep the menu prices cheap.  Good olive oil? Real Parmigiano? Arborio rice?  Fuggeddabout it!
     Then, in the fall of 1978, two former waiters, Ennio Sammarone and Michael Savarese, opened a namesake place, Ennio & Michael Ristorante, on Bleecker Street,  where they started serving updated versions of Italian-American classics along with dishes from their native Abruzzo region. And they opened at a time when fine Italian ingredients--balsamico, virgin olive oil, imported pastas, and good wines--had begun to come to New York.  Their success was immediate, and people came to the Village  eat well, not just to catch a plate of spaghetti or pizza slice before heading off to the Bitter End or Café Wha.
       Eighteen years ago Ennio & Michael moved around the corner to larger quarters
on LaGuardia Place, with a splendid al fresco patio (above).  NYU was expanding, the Village was getting gentrified, and the two men thrived without ever leaping on the uptown Italian bandwagon that sent pasta dishes and veal chops soaring in price.  But it was as much the  generosity of spirit that imbued E&M as the good food. Ennio, usually up front, and Michael, usually in the dining room,  have never become complacent about their work or their regulars, and newcomers are greeted with a warm welcome.  There's one wall covered with photos of celebrity guests (below) who have frequented E&M over the years, some, like Bill Cosby, Danny Glover, and Peter Falk, regulars.  The late Chairman of the Board, Mr. Sinatra, was a fan early on.
     The room is spacious, the tables nicely separated, with white tablecloths.  Up front is a curved wood-and-marble bar tended by Ennio, and The winelist is nothing spectacular but serviceable and reasonably priced. Prices for dinner have risen only gently in 28 years, with appetizers $9-$15.75, pastas $16-$22.75, main courses $17-$26.75.
      Every time I've dined here I always order two dishes that are consistently among the best of their kind in NYC: Stuffed artichokes, glistening with olive oil and well-seasoned bread crumbs; and linguine with white clam sauce, abundant with small sweet vongole clams, an assertive dose of garlic, a fresh broth, and, if you like, red pepper flakes.  The owners bring in very good, creamy mozzarella, served with Prosciutto, asparagus, and peppers, and they also bake asparagus with a coating of Parmigiano that is absolutely terrific.  So, too, are the thinly sliced, crisply fried zucchini.
      wecVery sensibly, the kitchen lists only six pasta dishes it can make to order, with perhaps one or two specials each night.  Aside from the linguine with clam sauce, I love E&M's rigatoni alla Ennio, lavished with a cheese-tomato sauce, peas, mushrooms, and sausage. For something powerful, order the spaghetti alla puttanesca, ripe with Gaeta olives, plenty of garlic, olive oil,  and basil.
      For main courses I recommend pollo all'arrabiata, a pungent dish of chicken morsels dashed with garlic and balsamic vinegar, and the eggplant alla parmigiana is fragrant, rich, and restorative.  Scaloppini di vitello alla Michael is tender veal with tomato and slices of bufala mozzarella.
      Desserts are fairly standard issue and about as good as the better examples of Italian dolci in the neighborhood.
      Ennio & Michael are not pushing in new directions, nor do they need to. Their commitment is to the freshness of their food, made to order any way their patrons like it.  You come here for favorite dishes, sure that nothing has changed about them, and for a chance to get a warm handshake, maybe a kiss on both cheeks, from these two wonderful, ebullient Abruzzese gentlemen.


by John Mariani

   pp For something that is basically just a beverage—albeit one far more delicious than any other—an awful lot of folderol has grown up around the service and consuming of wine.  Indeed, wine drinking is fraught with opportunities to show oneself either a naïf or a show-off, usually both at the same moment.  I’ve found more people who pretend to know a great deal about wine often go through ridiculous rituals that make about as much sense as waiting 30 minutes after eating before going swimming.  Here are ten myths best laid to rest ASAP:
1. Wine is a living thing.  On the contrary, once its yeasts have died off after fermentation, it is a dead and decaying thing, which nevertheless, like aged beef, can acquire wonderful flavor and balance. But if there’s anything still living in a wine bottle after fermentation ends, it’s definitely not supposed to be in there and mostly likely is going to cause problems.
2. All wine gets better with age. Well, maybe one percent of all the white wines in the world may (e.g., a white Burgundy from a great vineyard and vintage) and maybe ten percent of all red wines. But most wines of both colors are these days being made to drink when they hit the store shelf, having already been aged back in the winery. Big reds from Bordeaux, California, and Italy gain with age, but most wines in bottle gain little if anything at all.
3. White wines should always be well chilled and red wines served at room temperature. A white wine chilled below  45° F will lose flavors better tasted at temperatures above that.  As for “room temperature,” the phrase has no meaning if the room is 67° or 85° degrees. "Cellar temperature" for reds is more like it: Best is between 55 and 70.[p
4. One should always sniff the cork. Why? Ninety times out of a hundred it will reveal nothing, unless the cork is so visibly rotted that you wouldn’t want to sniff it. The purpose of presenting the cork is wholly unnecessary these days—a holdover from days when an inferior wine was deliberately and unscrupulously mis-labeled as a better one—a scam exposed by looking at the cork, imprinted with the original, real provenance of the wine.
5. Red wines should always be decanted to remove sediment. If a red wine has sediment, fine. If it does not, there’s no necessity. Most red wines do not throw off sediment anyway, and if one does, it will usually take a minimum of at least five years to develop. Some enophiles contend that decanting brings oxygen into the wine—which may help older wines of a kind that did have sediment--but a few swirls of your glass will do the same thing. By the same token, decanting can quicken aeration of both white and red wines, and I must admit I've taken to decanting most of the time.
y6. Vintage Champagnes must all come from a single vineyard. Nope. All vintage Champagnes so labeled must indeed come from a single, outstanding vintage, but with only one or two rare exception out of thousands, they are always blends of various wines from various vineyards, as determined by a master blender to achieve harmony.
7. When tasting a wine, you should suck in air and swirl the wine several times in your mouth to bring out the wine’s qualities or defects. Well, if you’re a professional wine taster—who may go through 50 wines at a time and spits the wines out—this can be helpful. But at a dinner table? Uh-uh. You’ll look ridiculous and embarrass your friends. 
8. A wine should be set at an angle in a wine cradle when served. The only reason for those silly—if often beautiful—wine cradles is to keep any possible sediment in the bottom of the bottle. But if there is any sediment, the wine should be decanted and rid of it. If there is no sediment (see Myth No. 5 above), why lay the bottle on its side?tjjj
9. You should always send back a wine you don’t like. No, you should only send back a wine that has gone bad, either by being oxidized or corked.  Just because you don’t care for the taste of the wine is no reason to ask for it to be taken off your bill. The exception is when a wine steward has really pushed a wine on you that you’re unfamiliar with and you find the wine distasteful.  Then, back it goes.
10. A screwtop closure indicates an inferior wine. This used to be the case until corks were discovered to cause malodorous corkiness in 5%-10% of all wines so stoppered.  Today, however, many top wineries, including many of the best in New Zealand, at least one Premier Cru Chablis, and California's illustrious Plumpjack are moving away from cork towards screwtops or the new glass stoppers developed in Germany. Stay tuned on this score.


In Cincinnati a man claiming to be a vampire plans to picket the local White Castle because its new hamburger made with garlic has "angered the undead."


"No, that isn't the sun glinting off Mariah Carey's toe ring.  It's the sparkling Carrera marble powder that stands in for sand at the Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel and Club."--Sandra Ballentine, "39 Ways to Have a Sand Blast," NY Times (May 24, 2006).


* From July 1-23, to commemorate the Tour De France, Chef Jean Joho of Brasserie Jo in Boston and Chicago will have daily menu specials to reflect the culinary influences of the regions the bikers drive through. The restaurant will air the race on a 42” TV. Also a raffle to win a TREK 1500 bike, worth $1500.

* On July 13 Dancing Under the Stars with Midsummer Night Swing” at Lincoln Center Festival 2006 will have a Celebrity Chef Food Tasting, incl. Julian Medina, Zocalo; Wylie Dufresne, WD-50; Marco Moreira, Tocqueville; Sara Moulton; Bill Telepan, Telepan;  and Tom Valenti, Ouest, in a benefit to support Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
* On July 14 in Rye NY,  La Panetiére will celebrate "Bastille Day" with a 5-course "Revolutionary Dinner" accompanied by an accordionist, Nick Paone, who will entertain you with his "ginguette" style music or any of your requests.  $75 pp, wines $40 more. Call 914-967-0654 or visit

* From July 14-16 The Glenlivet Single will host “The Glenlivet Gathering,” incl. a traditional Scottish dinner aboard a classic steam train, a private tour of The Glenlivet Distillery and tasting of stock with the Master Distiller Jim Cryle, a hike along the famous Smuggler’s Trail, a fitting for at to wear at a traditional caleidh party) in The Glenlivet’s Malt Barn, Scottish dances and Scottish cuisine. Each traveler will receve  a vintage of The Glenlivet that will be exclusively bottled for guests attending The Gathering.  Rooms at the Aviemore Highland Resort.   $3,500 pp. Visit

* From July13-16, Robert Mondavi Winery celebrates its 40th anniversary with TASTE3, a gathering of 30 professionals in wine, food, and the arts, at Copia: The American Center of Wine Food & the Arts, incl. crystal designer Georg Riedel; restaurateur Drew Nieporent; Archaeological chemist Patrick McGovern; Leo McCloskey, founder and president of Enologix; Marie Wright, flavorist, International Flavors and Fragrance/Visionaire TASTE project;  UC Berkeley-based historian Victor Geraci; Margrit Mondavi, et al.  In addition to dinners at Napa Valley wineries such as Harlan Estate, Quintessa, Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, Rudd and Grgich Hills Cellar, the events will feature 25 alumni of the Great Chefs at Robert Mondavi Winery, incl. Alice Waters, Thomas Keller, Bradley Ogden, Roy Yamaguchi, et al, and 50 of America's top sommeliers at a dinner on  July 15,  paired with wines from Robert Mondavi Winery's wine library.  $2,350 pp. Visit or call 707-967-3997.

* From July 14-16, The Finger Lakes Wine Festival®, supported by The Corning Museum of Glass will be held, with 80 wineries from across the Finger Lakes region to set up at  Watkins Glen International, NY. The 2006 Festival kick-offs on Fri. with the 5th annual toga party, “Yancey’s Fancy Cheese Launch of The Lakes”;   Sat. & Sun. will begin with the Great Western Chardonnay Champagne Breakfast at the Glen Club, while Saturday evening is topped off with the Tasters’ Banquet.  New for 2006 is Finger Lakes Tri-fecta’s final bicycle race, hosted by, Sat. night.  Call 866-461-7223, or visit
* On July 14, a Bastille Day Celebration  10:00 p.m. will be held at Carafe in  Portland, whose French community will presents a day-long celebration with the 2nd annual Portland Waiters Race, a French marketplace, live music, petanque demonstrations, kid’s activities, and a pig roasted by Pascal Sauton of Carafe. Free admission. or call 503-223-8388.

* On July 14 Jean Francois Meteigner of La Cachette in L.A. will feature a 5-course “Parisian Bistro Night” for  Bastille Day. $90; with wine pairing $125. Call 310-470-4992 or visit
* On July 15 The Culinary Vegetable Institute and The Chef's Garden in Milan, OH, will hold its 2006 Food & Wine Celebration, to benefit the non-profit children’s program, Veggie U. It will feature feature musical entertainment, auctions wine from top vineyards all over the country and the culinary creations of more than a dozen of the nation’s most renowned chefs. Call  419-499-7500.

qrqrThis fall, from Sept. 29-Oct. 6 John Mariani (left), publisher of Mariani's Virtual Gourmet and food & travel columnist for Esquire Magazine,  will host and lead a 7-day cruise called "The Sweet Life," aboard  Silverseas' Millennium Class Silver Whisper, with days visiting Barcelona, Tunis, Naples, Milazzo (Sicily), Rome, Livorno, and Villefranche.  There will be a welcoming cocktail party, gourmet dinners with wines,9999 cooking demos by John and Galina Mariani co-authors of The Italian-American Cookbook), optional shore excursions will include a tour of the Amalfi Coast, dinner at the great Don Alfonso 1890 (2 Michelin stars), a private tour of the Vatican, dinner at La Pergola (3 Michelin stars) in Rome, a Night Cruise to Hotel de Paris and dinner at Louis XV (3 Michelin stars) in Monaco, and much more.  Rates (a 20% savings) range from $4,411 to $5,771. For complete information click.


MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly.  Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Contributing Writers: Robert Mariani,  Naomi  Kooker, Kirsten Skogerson,  Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Suzanne Wright. Contributing Photographers: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery,  Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.

 John Mariani is a columnist for Esquire, Wine Spectator, Bloomberg News and Radio, and Diversion.  He is author of The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink (Lebhar-Friedman), The Dictionary of Italian Food and Drink (Broadway), and, with his wife Galina, the award-winning new Italian-American Cookbook (Harvard Common Press).

 Any of John Mariani's books below may be ordered from by clicking on the cover image.

6y6My newest book, written with my brother Robert Mariani, is a memoir of our years growing up in the North Bronx. It's called Almost Golden because it re-visits an idyllic place and time in our lives when so many wonderful things seemed possible.
    For those of you who don't think of the Bronx as “idyllic,” this book will be a revelation. It’s about a place called the Country Club area, on the shores of Pelham Bay. A beautiful neighborhood filled with great friends and wonderful adventures that helped shape our lives. It's about a culture, still vibrant, and a place that is still almost the same as when we grew up there.
Robert and I think you'll enjoy this very personal look at our
Bronx childhood. It is not yet available in bookstores, so to purchase a copy, go to or click on  Almost Golden.
--John Mariani

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copyright John Mariani 2006