Virtual Gourmet

October 1, 2006                                                       NEWSLETTER

                                                                    Chocolate Making in Spain in the 18th Century

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In This Issue

Big Berlin by Suzanne Wright

NEW YORK CORNER: Terrace in the Sky by John Mariani


by Suzanne Wright
        You might say Berlin has blinders on:  it's full-speed ahead. But that’s not to say that this world-class city doesn’t pay homage to its painful past.   It’s just that the biggest city in Germany—both in population and cultural cachet—is decidedly forward-facing. Nine times bigger than Paris in acreage, Berlin can be as difficult to grasp emotionally as it is to traverse physically.
         I hadn't been in Germany since I was nine, when my father was in the U.S. Navy and we lived on a base in Bremerhaven, in northwest Germany.  Now I returned to the reunified Berlin, in northeast Germany. One of the sweetest memories I have—now it’s me who’s looking back—is of being a kid visited by St. Nicholas.  I arrived at the tail end of the holiday season, and the wooden kiosks are still hammered into place at the Gendenmarket, one of the best Christmas markets in Berlin.
       Cranes dominate the skyline on both the east and west sides of the city.  It’s as though the shame and blame mantle of the past has been dropped as clear-eyed, canny movers and shakers barrel toward tomorrow.  The thrum is palatable—and exciting.   Amidst jaw-dropping architecture, glugging Glüwein (mulled red wine) and bundled against the brisk weather, I wandered the Gendenmarket, past stalls selling such varied items as rose-flavored sugar and wooden toys.  In a juried section, a flamboyant woman named Fee, who lives part of the year in India, has “channeled” her feminist vision into chunky rings, necklaces and bracelets.  Her artistry is certainly singular and progressive. I bought a two-finger ring as much for its conversational value as its unusual beauty.
      8io8 I had a chance to dine at the well-reviewed Vau (Jägerstr. 54/55;  Tel: 202-9730) located nearby, which I found breathtakingly expensive (entrees are 30 Euros and up; desserts ring in at 13 Euros) and cutting-edge in terms of its culinary vision:  Chef-owner Kolja Kleeberg's plump, perfectly seared scallops with lentils and pumpkin, moist John Dory with the bite of capers and lime and mashed white beans, subtly sweet pear cake.  There is a peach salad with coriander, a mushroom soup with roasted quail,  and for dessert a white chocolate soup with citron. It’s so post-modern there’s not even music to soften the minimalist interiors.  There’s no Weiner schnitzel or sauerkraut on the menu and don’t even think of inquiring. It’s all quite severe but very accomplished, as befits its Michelin star.
      KaDeWe (21-24 Tauentzienstrasse), the biggest store in Europe, 5with sixth-floor food halls that offer everything from cheese to knockwurst, sushi to kugel, 1,300 different cheeses, and 2,400 wines, was frantic on New Year’s Eve. Sadly, I couldn't get  a table for lobster and champagne, but I notices lots of couples, shopping bags piled at their feet, holding forth in animated conversation at table after table in the bustling food halls. But there are more than two dozen eateries here to choose from.  The floor plan alone (right) tells you how vast this place is.
       The Berlin Philharmonic also throbs with exhilarating performance.  Sir Simon Rattle, the conductor with the Art Garfunkel-like hair brings the intimate space alive with his thrilling performances (need I mention the perfection of the acoustics?). At lively Potsdamer Platz, the Berlin equivalent of Times Square, another sort of bracing experience is underway on a wintery evening as kids of all ages shriek as they toboggan down a snowy hill near the underground.  The collision of architectural styles—Renzo Piano’s Debis Tower and Helmut Jahn’s tent-shaped Sony Center—along with a shopping and entertainment arcade, adds to the visual excitement.
       yuOf course, Berliners also honor their painful past, and visitors flock to Checkpoint Charlie, the legendary border crossing and museum with fascinating objects of escape where two worlds split apart were eventually joined together.  Symbolically, Russian and American soldiers pose for photographs. At the architecturally futuristic-looking Jewish Museum, two thousand years of German Jewish history is presented in all its touching, messy complexity. Perhaps most striking is the large-scale Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (left), row after row of concrete slabs that clutch the heart like the cold air as I solemnly walk single file through the gray maze. It’s like a contemporary cemetery: brutal and beautiful.
     I stayed at the Intercontinental Berlin, a listed architectural landmark in the heart of Berlin near bbthe Kurfürstendamm, a major shopping thoroughfare. (The hotel is also home to the one-Michelin star Hugos Restaurant; unfortunately, it was booked solid during my visit.)  From its black and white checkerboard façade to the Vitality Center and top-floor Club Lounge—the hotel is highly contemporary.  The guest rooms (right) have heated marble floors and sleek furnishings.
        For my final experience in Berlin, I dined at Dunkel (below), where you eat in pitch blackness and are served by blind staffers. After selecting a meat, poultry or vegetarian menu, I am led, into the restaurant by my waitress, my hand on her shoulder.iooo
Plunged into darkness, the first ten minutes were, if not exactly terrifying, anxiety-producing, for sure; the next twenty were more comfortable,  as senses beyond sight took over, and the last hour or more was, frankly, a bit boring as the gimmick wore off.  Although the food was just so-so, the experiment changed perspectives for some:  I heard a nearby dinner exclaim when she was told that she had just eaten—and enjoyed—eggplant. Without the visual cues, she was willing to try something new. Three- and four-course meals are available between 33 and 49.50 Euros.

What a metaphor for
Berlin:  thrust into darkness at one point in its history, now hurtling toward a lighter, brighter phase, visitors can literally enter and exit the city’s reality at will.

If You Go
Berlin is especially festive during the holidays. Visit for details on the month-long celebration.  For general information on the city, log onto

by John Mariani

Terrace IN THE SKY
400 West 119th Street

       [[[[[[[[I suspect there are many New Yorkers unaware that Harlem has long been home to one of the most uniquely elegant restaurants in America, though it's hardly been a secret, even if the Michelin Guide inexplicably failed to list Terrace in the Sky in its first NYC guide (2006). For 30 years now the restaurant  has been perched atop a Columbia University dorm building and run with indefatigable good taste by the Bernic family.  Its beauty alone, with a 360 degree panorama that takes in Morningside and Central Park, every borough, as well as the East River and the Hudson, the Palisades, the carousel lights of the George Washington Bridge, Riverdale and the north Bronx, far-off Westchester County, and the long finger of Long Island, has long made this a destination restaurant, and I suspect it's been the scene of more proposals of marriage than anywhere in New York.  At lunch it is also generally full of university provosts, deans, and professors from Columbia, and does an enormous business in banquets and cocktail parties on its outdoor terrace and in its beautiful glassed-in Belgian Conservatory.
        Chef Dusan and his wife Nada Bernic, two proud Croatians, leased the space three decades ago, and Dusan served a proper continental menu in a wrap-around glassed-in dining room.  Sadly,  Dusan passed away several years ago, but Nada1111 (right), and now her son Chris (who is also the sommelier) have not simply maintained the Terrace's eminence but, through a succession of young chefs, refined the menu year after year.  The current kitchen is headed by Chef Jason Potanovic
, who brings fresh, creative ideas to the tables, which are still candlelighted, and where there is soft music played each evening by a harpist from Juilliard.  Service is as professional and cordial as it gets in the city, and Chris has kept the 400-label, 10,000 bottle winelist among the finest in the city.
       The entrance to the Terrace at Butler Hall is like one you'd expect at a university club, a fine Beaux Arts building with wood-paneled lobby. (For those driving here there is valet parking available.)  You then take an elevator straight to the top, where the Bernics greet you with an Old World sophistication that tells you this will be a very special evening.  Well seated--and every table  in the main dining room has a view of New York's glittering cityscape--you are offered several breads as you go over the menu, which is both à la carte (with appetizers from $17-$24 and entrees $33-$40) as well as offering a 4-, 5-, or 6-course tasting menu at $80, $90 and $100, and a prix fixe dinner at $45. Lunch is also à la carte, with a prix fixe of $25. Tablesettings are all first-rate, from silver to stemware, from linens to flowers.
     i999Potanovich (below, in the Belgian Conservatory), previously at Picholine, is Nada's nephew, and this all-in-the-family arrangement seems to work very well, keeping tradition alive and new ideas at the front.  I opted for a six-course dinner, with additional amuse and desserts, that showed Terrace in the Sky to have as much culinary credibility as it has unquestioned beauty. I began with a generous tartare of Hawaiian bluefin toro (below) with a ponzu sauce infused with just the right amount of wasabi so as not to overpower either the fish or the Laurent Perrier Brut Rosé. Next came a satin-textured sea urchin cream with sesame crisp and Thai basil, where again the assertive flavor of the mollusk was tamed by the cream.
     A pan-seared John Dory was prepared "Adriatic style," with sautéed Swiss chard, fingerling potatoes and garlic, and a tomato-infused olive oil.  Risotto (a little overcooked one evening) was laced with nice chunks of lobster, sweet corn, and truffles, with which I enjoyed a Château de Callas 1999, a beautiful Graves that went perfectly with the dish. Then veal tenderloin, cooked pink and juicy, with braised Tivoli greens, wild mushrooms, and a black truffle-celery foam of great delicacy.[[[[lo
      I love how Potanovich balances his flavors and textures, and I also love the care Chris takes with an amazingly good cheese cart with 40 or more selections from various countries, all in peak condition and a good reason to try a glass of Ivo Skaramuca Vineyard Plavac Mali 2003 from Croatia, which is beginning to make very fine wines these days.  We ended off with  parfait of Meyer lemon and poppyseeds that also bespoke the Eastern Mediterranean, and an exotic fruit and mango sorbet with lemon-infused milk that tasted of Polynesia.
       I hadn't been back to the Terrace in several years,  and, as a Columbia graduate myself, was enchanted to find it better than ever, overlooking the great university and the Harlem renaissance that has made this a very beautiful neighborhood again.  My congratulations to the Bernics and my thanks for carrying on with their own vision of the American dream coupled with their own refined European taste.

The Main Dining Room at The Terrace
u“A View from the Terrace," celebrating three decades of food will be held on Nov. 15 at a 5-course dinner, honoring  Gael Greene, food author and co-founder of Citymeals-on-Wheels;  Tina Ramirez, Founder and Director of  Ballet Hispanico; and Herman “Denny” Farrell, Assemblyman for NYC's 71st District. Lloyd Williams,  President of Harlem’s Chamber of Commerce, will be Honorary Chairman. Thirty silent auction items will be offered, incl.  a trip for two to Rab, an island off the Dalmatian coast of Croatia, where the Bernic family will soon be opening “Arbiana,” a turn-of-the-century hotel, and its three neighboring villas.  Guests will also be bidding on tickets for the best seats at the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade and the NYC Marathon, a private puppet show for 50 at the Swedish marionette cottage in Central Park, and a private tour of the Historic Parks of Harlem by Commissioner Adrian Benepe himself. In the restaurant’s Belgian Conservatory members from the Ballet Hispanico will interpret a dance from “West Side Story.” The event, limited to 100 guests, is priced at $1000 pp, or  $8000 per table.  Call 212 666-9490.




In Najin, China, the Rising Sun Anger Release Bar encourages patrons to yell, punch and pummel waiters dressed in protective gear that resembles people the patrons don't like. Smashing glassware is also encouraged. The waiters are 20 "muscular men" hired by management.



"There is a perennial sparkle in Tony Talbert's blue eyes that intensifies when he talks about his passion for food."--Brigitte Guehr, "Valley Stars," Santa Barbara (Fall, 2006).


* Luís Caseiro, Executive Chef at NYC’s Alfama, is celebrating his one-year anniversary at the restaurant with a specially priced 3-course “Discover Portugal” menu on Monday nights, at $25 pp. Menu items will be changed seasonally. Call 212-645-2500;

* For the month of October Beppe in NYC Executive Chef Marc Taxiera will offer a harvest menu of 6 courses starring a colorful selection of grape varietals, incl. Concord, Niagara, Red Globe, Sangiovese; and Champagne. $85 pp. Call 212-982-8422.

* On Oct. 4, Chef/Owner Paul LoDuca of Vinci in Chicago will host a 4-course dinner featuring the Apulian wines of  Paolo Cantele. $43 pp.  Call 312-266-1199.

* On the weekend of  Oct. 13- 15, at the Bel-Air Hotel in Bel-Air, Ca, will feature dinner with wine authority Anthony Dias Blue in the Palm Room with winemaker Marco Fantinel ($110 pp).  On Saturday, a trip to the farmer's market followed by lunch and cooking class with Chef Bruno ($50 pp), followed by dinner with Mr. Blue in the Garden Room  with FontanaFredda winemaker Robert Bruno  ($150). On Sunday, brunch with Blue on the Wine Terrace ($75 pp).  A weekend package incl. 2 nights accommodations and 2 tix to each event at $1500 for two. Call 310-943-6742 or e-mail to

* From  Oct. 12-21 in Atlanta,  La Tavola Trattoria presents “Abbondonza: Share in the Abundance of Southern Italy” with a 4-course dinner served in family-style portions. Call  404-873-5430 or visit
* From Oct. 13-20 Aglaia Kremezi, author of The Foods of the Greek Islands,  joins Executive Chef José Andrés and Head Chef Jorge Chicas in the kitchen at Zaytinya in Washington DC, with wines from Boutari Vineyards. Call 703-550-2250 or visit

* On Oct 14 the Tour De Champagne makes its inaugural visit to Chicago at the Chicago Cultural Center, featuring Chicago's top French chefs and prestigious, champagnes, incl. Michael Maddox of Le Titi De Paris;  Michael Lachowicz, Restaurant Michael;  Jean Joho, Brasserie Jo; Dominique Tougne, Bistro 110; Michael Pivoney, Signature Room at the 95th;  Gilles Arzur, Cafe des Architectes; Michael Buard, Zest, and The French Pastry School. This unique event also marks the establishment of the Chicago chapter of the French Wine Society. Tix are $125 pp, $175 VIP ; for French Wine Society members $110 &  $155 VIP. Visit

* On Oct. 14 the Castle Hill Inn & Resort in Newport, RI, will host Penfolds Winemaker Peter Gago  at a 5-course dinner by Chef Jonathan Cambra. $250 pp.   Call 401-849-0918, ext 148 or visit

* On Oct. 14 the 4th annual gathering to "Celebrate the Craft" will take place at The Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, CA, featuring food artisans from across California. Featured chefs incl.:  Jeff Jackson,  AR Valentien, The Lodge at Torrey Pines;  Trey Foshee, George's At The Cove; Amiko Gubbins - Parallel 33;  Michael Stebner,  Region; Antonio Friscia,  Stingaree;  Jason Knibb,  Nine-Ten, et al.   There will be a Picnic  with a bluegrass band ($65 pp) and Sunday Evening Supper ($140). Proceeds will go to  Slow Food. Call 858- 777-6635 or visit

* On Oct. 16 Grafton Street Pub & Grill in Harvard Square celebrates its 10th anniversary with complimentary fish and chips served up in an authentic Irish newspaper cone. Throughout the rest of the week, celebrate with Executive Chef Dan Pogue’s Irish specials paired with a pint of Guinness for $10. Call 617-497-0400.

* During the week of Oct. 16, Shaw’s Crab House in Chicago and Schaumburg is hosting its 18th annual “Royster with the Oyster Festival” this fall, with a nightly “Oyster Slurping Contest” starting at 6:00 p.m. each night.  The festival culminates on Oct.  20 with a “Tent Party” in Chicago from noon to 10:30 p.m., featuring a Shucking Contes. Call 312-527-2722 (Chicago) or 847-517-2722 (Schaumburg) or visit

* On Oct. 19 at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, a Women Chefs & Restaurateurs Fundraiser Event in support of the education and advancement of women in culinary fields, Women Chefs & Restaurateurs (WCR) will host At the Table Los Angeles . Participating chefs incl. Anne Conness, Napa Valley Grille; Monique King, Firefly Bistro;  Tara Thomas, Traxx ;  Christine Banta, La Boheme ;  Brenda Grana, Mission Bistro;  Caitlan Stansbury, Sommelier at The Lodge;  Chayenne Vandenbrook, Monterey Bay Aquarium, et al. $150 pp.  or $1,200.00 per table of 10.  Call 877-927-7787, x240. For questions e-mail Yolanda Jackson at

* From Oct. 24-28 in Barbados,  Daphne's and London's J Sheekey restaurant will participate in a Culinary Week with Executive Chef Marco Festini- Cromer with dinners ranging from US$65 & $80;  also, culinary lessons at Daphne's, with lunch  at $38 &  $45;  Fish market and Mt. Gay Rum tour followed by a culinary lesson at the distillery with Mark Hix, Chef Director of Caprice Holding, and author of various cookbooks, and  lunch at Daphne's, $45 & $53;   Lesson with Hix on the Tiami catamaran, with  lunch at Daphne's, at $75 & $88. Call 800-467-4519 or visit

* On Oct. 24 in Atlanta,  Ecco will hold a “Modern Spirits Tasting,”  of 4  different Modern Spirits artisan vodkas.  The ticket price includes a plain shot and a cocktail made from the vodka at each station.  Also, each station will have a different appetizer paired with the drinks. $20 before the event or $25 the day of.   Call Ecco at 404-347-9555 or visit
*On Oct. 28 the Emeril Lagasse Foundation will hold the 2nd Annual Carnivale du Vin in New Orleans at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, featuring a 4-course dinner by chefs Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck, Mario Batali, and Lidia Bastianich,  with wines by Bastianich Vineyards, Domaine Serene, Schrader Cellars, Hundred Acre, and Au Bon Climat. There will also be a live auction music by Allen Toussaint  and Michael McDonald. Ticket levels begin at $1,000 pp. Call 504-212-2222 or visit

* From Dec. 7-10 The Sofitel Métropole Hanoi celebrates its 2nd "Festival d'Arômes," featuring 3-star Michelin chef Olivier Roellinger from La Maison de Bricourt in Cancale, France, and Sofitel Métropole Hanoi's chef consultant, Didier Corlou.  Events incl.: "New herbs" presentation and tasting with creations that blend herbs and white wine.  Dinner at the Thang Long Hall, US$60; "Tout Chocolat" dinner $50;  "Cancale oysters" dégustation and  light brunch at Le Club Bar and in the hotel's garden, $60; Gala Dinner by  Roellinger at Le Beaulieu, $180;  "All stars," $80;  free cooking demos. A special package incl. 2 nights' accommodation;  full American buffet breakfast; city tour; Cooking class; Choice of dinners. $500-$630 pp.  Call 84-4-826 6919 ext. 8500. Visit


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