Virtual Gourmet

April 22,   2007                                                       NEWSLETTER


                                   Wine Corks at Hunkar Restaurant, Istanbul (2006)  by Galina Stepanoff-Dargery

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In This Issue



NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLARFeudo Arancio Makes Quality Sicilia Wines at Great Prices by John Mariani



by John Mariani
    For several years now a friend of mine has never gone on a trip without  packing what we calls his "travel suit"--a shiny, ill-fitting bottle-green number he bought years ago in Hong Kong that he says he wears only when he absolutely has to put on a jacket and tie. "It's terrific," he exults. "I can crumple it up, shake it out, wear it and not really care if it gets torn or stolen. It's just a cheap, crappy suit I wear out of necessity."
    If that seems like a nifty item to have in your luggage, consider also that he looks like he's working a cheap, crappy suit. In other words, concierges, restaurateurs, and shop owners take one look at that awful green suit of his, wring their hands and say, "Here comes another one."
   I am not suggesting that clothes always make the man, nor that the pleasure of travel be encumbered by the kind of wardrobe only George Hamilton would bring for a weekend in Palm Springs. But in an era when so many Americans travel in clothes that seem more appropriate to a day at the miniature golf course, the wisdom of traveling with a certain style and elegance is being wholly forgotten.  More important, dressing appropriately while on vacation or business trip has its own pleasures--especially if the treatment you receive as a result suggests a mutual acknowledgment of worldliness on both sides of the check-in desk.
    There are certain rules--simple ones that don't take up much room in the luggage--that I think both ease one's passage through gates and lobbies and give an air of sophistication that is always preferable to being regarded as a close cousin of the Simpsons. None of these rules requires extra baggage--they may even require less--nor discomfort, unless you're the type of man who thinks wearing a jacket is somehow more constricting than wearing a windbreaker or jogging suit top.
  ]]]]  The guiding principle of traveling in style is always to look comfortable in one's clothes, not stiffly dressed to the nines. "A good style should show no signs of effort," said W. Somerset Maugham, who also said that "only a cad would wear a brown hat to town." Which reminds me of a woman I met who once attended a party where Cary Grant showed up. After returning home, the woman asked her husband, "Did you see how beautifully Cary Grant was dressed?" To which her husband shrugged and said, "No, what was he wearing?" Her reply: "Oh, I don't know what he was wearing."
   So, here are a few do's and don'ts of traveling in style that I think are completely reasonable, usually rewarding, and don't cause chafing.
   One of the chronic mistakes Americans abroad make is to dress in a style that suggests everything was purchased from a mail order catalog. Tennis shirts the color of strawberry sherbet, a blue poplin blazer with welted seams and white buttons, uncuffed chinos and brand new sneakers, that sort of thing. Such ppppppppan ensemble is perfectly adequate on vacation in Boca Raton, Hilton Head or Las Vegas, but it marks you as an rube on every continent including North America.
   I've nothing against chinos (I own a pair or two) or blue blazers (which I also own two of), but it has become the American traveler's uniform and gets an appropriate response. It's fine--as are shorts in hot weather climates and anoraks in wet--but wearing such an outfit to a fine restaurant in Paris, Hong Kong, New York or Toronto will make you stand out like a rent-a-car agent.
   The whole world has become more casual in its dress, but that doesn't mean slovenly.  Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the finest restaurants in Europe don't require jacket and tie, and some of the best dressed men in Rome, Barcelona, and Athens haven't tied a tie around their neck in years. Yet they seem as comfortable in a t-shirt as in a double-breasted suit, and they do wear well-tailored casual clothes--gabardine slacks, cashmere sweaters, sport shirts of cotton lisle, and good leather loafers. This takes no more effort to accomplish, and the clothes they wear are incredibly comfortable because the fabrics themselves are so lithe and light. If you've ever worn a jacket by Armani, Canali, or Zegna, 7877you'll know what I mean. They fold into luggage beautifully, do not wrinkle easily, and fall gracefully when you put them on. Linen, once said to wrinkle with panache, looks horrible after a single afternoon, making most men look like a Colombian drug dealer.  Women, I might add, have always known these things to be true, and while they may pack too much, they pack the right things.
   So, too, Italian or Spanish loafers are supple, while English laced shoes are more comfortable after a long day on your feet. Nikes and Reeboks are fine for traipsing through the ruins of Pompeii or Teotihuacan, but, unless you're Woody Allen, they should never be worn after six p.m. in the lobbies and restaurants of Naples and Mexico City.
   By the same token, it is useless to object to restaurant policies that insist upon a jacket and tie and pure folly to arrive in expensive, casual duds and expect to be seated anyway. Most restaurants that require a jacket courteously have on hand several discreet jackets in a range of sizes. Others try to punish your indiscretion by giving you something embarrassing to wear. While dining  at the Savoy Hotel in London, I found several men wearing the same grotesque liver-colored jackets, as if they had wandered in from a convention of Midwestern florists. Fact was, they'd neglected to wear jackets of their own, so the Savoy provided them with those things. I'll bet those fellows will never make that mistake again, or never dine at the Savoy.

  If you've ever read any of Ian Fleming's James Bond books, you will see that super-suave super spy 007 [is anything but the fop he became in the Roger Moore films. Bond, by the very nature of his assignments (forty-eight hours to find and defuse an atomic bomb in choppy waters off Jamaica), traveled light. True, he did always pack a tuxedo jacket just in case he had to beat a nemesis at baccarat in a Monte Carlo casino or dress for dinner with an enemy about to throw him to the sharks in Tobago. But usually, whether he was flying off to Istanbul or Tokyo, he would always pack the same, correct, easy-to-accessorize clothes--a lightweight wool, dark blue or gray suit, several white or pale blue shirts, gray flannel slacks, a blue blazer and a black knit tie. With such clothes he could gain access anywhere, look cool and never feel out of place, whether it was having mint juleps with Goldfinger at his estate in Kentucky or stealing the beautiful Domino away from Largo in Nassau.
   A blue suit is essential to traveling in style. It is never out of place, dressy enough for more formal occasions and always correct in business meetings. Medium to dark gray is fine too, but tan, khaki, green, and brown get boring--both for the wearer and the onlooker.
  A well-made lightweight wool blue blazer--without welted seams--will always be welcome just about anywhere and at any time, with or without a tie, but with gray flannel slacks, not chinos. The former makes you look like a gentleman; the latter like a member of a college glee club.
   Tweed jackets in a fairly muted range of colors adaptable to whatever else you're packing are fine, but avoid splashy plaids or anything a TV tennis commentator would wear.
     58A man can get by in most echelons of society in a well-fitting, moderately-priced suit. But nothing can disguise a cheap shirt. If there is one item of clothing that betrays a loser's style, it's a shirt with a collar that doesn't sit correctly around the neck, a sheer fabric of a kind that makes you look like an insurance claim adjuster on the job, and cuffs and seams that pucker after two trips to the cleaners.  Clothes may not make the man, but bad shirts mark the man, and an investment in good, all-cotton shirts--and you can get excellent quality starting at about $60--is the best one a traveler can make if he wants to make an effortless impression. Bring a variety--a couple of button downs, a straight or spread collar, perhaps a tab. Skip pin-collar shirts. French cuffs are beautiful, but they take extra thought, and you can't afford to lose a cuff link. And take enough shirts for a week: You're unlikely to have them sent out to a cleaner, which would cost a fortune anyway.
   Also, while this may seem obvious, dress shirts should have collars. But these days, many of the high fashion shirts don't, giving the wearer that ineffable dentist or barber look. Save such collarless fashions for Oscar night 32e1`in Los Angeles, where most male nominees seem to favor this ugly eccentricity, along with a three-day's growth of beard. But wear one while checking into the Connaught in London or the Ritz-Carlton in Chicago, and you'll probably be snickered at as you walk away towards the elevator.
  I am adamantly against buying exorbitantly priced leather luggage or anything with little, intertwined L's and V's on brown vinyl, unless I wanted them banged around by the baggage handler terrorists. Good, sturdy  luggage with good locks is a necessity. Suiters, rarely handsome, are the best way to avoid losing your luggage, of course. But buy a good carry-on bag: You might think your old Carnival Airlines bag from your cut-rate trip to Aruba is roomy, useful, and you don't care if you scuff it up. But I've found that a handsome piece of carry-on gets approving looks and comments, and says something about your personal sense of style. And it should look a bit worn and well traveled, the way you imagined Ernest Hemingway's or Gary Cooper's would. Last, have decent-looking luggage tags. Flapping shreds of paper or little plastic jobbies just don't cut it.
  I'm old enough to remember the days when people driving their friends and relatives to an airport or picking them up at one would really dress up for the occasion. Now, even in first-class, you'd be lucky not to be sitting next to a tattooed doofus in a sleeveless t-shirt and baseball cap or a jacket reading "GO BULLS!" across the back. (Ever try to pack one of those heavy, satin sports jackets? Fuh-ged-aboud-it!)
  653Not too long ago the airlines themselves requested jackets and ties for gentlemen in first class, then "appropriate dress." Few pay much attention any more, but I have found that showing up at the counter in a jacket and, preferably, a tie can work wonders with the gate and flight attendants in getting you a bit of preferential treatment, whether it's in a better choice of seating, a little lagniappe with cocktails or food, even an upgrade. On a recent occasion I showed up in jacket and tie for my coach seat, only to upgraded to business by a gate attendant who was in a particularly good mood, had the room, and thought she'd do me a favor. Couldn't hurt.


  I always carry a few items that don't take up much more space than if I didn't, and they can sometimes make for a more elegant appearance and acceptance at my destination. Pocket squares and neckties in two or three colors to add variety to a basic wardrobe.  White cotton handkerchiefs. One cotton turtleneck to be worn under a jacket. 5555555A lightweight cotton raincoat--never one of those hideous plastic things that fold into a pouch or a poncho that makes you look like a tour guide in Seattle. A small pocket flashlight for dark restaurants, dropped keys, or a darkened elevator.
  I try never to check my bags, but if I do, I never put anything in there I can't afford to do without. I make the reasonable assumption that anything of value will be summarily stolen. I do try to bring one extra suit of clothes in case they lose the bag, or get spilled or splashed upon. It creates a little more bulk in the baggage, but it's worth it for peace of mind.
   But the key element to traveling in style is always to remember that you are probably not going to see the same people more than once or twice on your trip. That means you need not take more than two outfits and a few accessories, because no one is going to see you in them again. I once drove back and forth across the U.S. for 14 weeks with two jackets in the trunk of the car, never spending more than a couple of days in any one town, never seeing the same folks twice. Afterwards, I threw one out; the other I still liked and occasionally wore.
   As I said up front, traveling with a certain elegance can be as comfortable as traveling in bad taste.  For those who couldn't care less, go right ahead. But don't blame me if a maître d' in a posh restaurant leans over to say, "Are you dining with us today, sir, or are you here to check the gas meter?"


1 Million B.C.


500 B.C.


50 A.D.











by John Mariani

36 West 52nd Street

     deThe sudden closing of Dona, the East Side 52nd Street restaurant run by Chef Michael Psilakis and  Donatella Arpaia (below),  after less than a year in business was a real downer for those of us who went there for first-class, modern Greek-Mediterranean cuisine.  As often happens in such cases, a new owner of the building made staying in that location exorbitant, so after a brief respite, Psilakis and Arpaia have opened Anthos, on the same street but just across Fifth Avenue and facing `21' Club.  And while they insist this is not Dona (which may re-open elsewhere in the future), their re-emergence is great news for those of us who have come to regard Psilakis, 37, as one of the new  masters of New York cuisine.
     Arpaia, whose first restaurant was Bellini,
partnered with Chef David Burke three years ago to open burke & donatella on East 61st Street; she then opened Ama  in Greenwich Village (she is no longer associated with the restaurant), featuring the cooking of her mother's native Puglia. Psilakis started as a restaurateur at Ecco (now closed),  where one night his chef and line cook failed to show up, forcing him into the kitchen, which he found he loved.  Two years ago he opened Onera (now transformed into the more rustic Kefi), a superb, modern Greek restaurant that won rave reviews. At that time he was among my picks as “Chefs to Keep Your Eye On” in Esquire.41341
      Joining Arpaia at Dona, Psilakis featured what he called
"First Generation Cuisine," combining modern ideas on Italian and Mediterranean food, with a good deal of  raw seafood items and mezes appetizers. At Anthos he is toeing much the same line, refining further those elements he innovated at Dona.
      The new space, formerly occupied by an Italian seafood restaurant named Aquapazza run by Arpaia's brother Dino, is far more beautiful than Dona, basically a long, sleek, glowingly lighted 95-seat room with pleasant bar-lounge upfront and a staircase leading to private dining rooms.  White tablecloths, good glassware and silver, and a conversational decibel level make this one of the west side's most congenial and civilized new dining venues, and, though not required, most of the men at dinner wear jackets and ties.  The 215-label winelist, with a slew of good modern Greek wines, has a decent price range starting at $35, and a good sommelier, mark Du Mez.
      So far--at less than two months old--the staff at Anthos is not quite up to the food or wine here. They seem overwhelmed by early success, and the bar is confused by even the simplest cocktail order.  I trust this aspect of Anthos will only improve once they all get in synch.
      Psilakis's food is wholly in its groove, though.  For while he is extremely proud of his Greek heritage and wholly knowledgeable about old country culinary traditions, he has brought them into the new century with panache, from the mezes straight through to desserts. The
raw mezes (below) began with glistening tuna  dressed with mastic oil (made, I'm told from resinous "tear drops" blended with olive oil), tangy  lemon confit and a little rosemary; yellowtail  was dusted with fennel pollen and sided with ouzo-macerated cherries, and a Taylor bay scallop with pomegranate gelée, pistachio vinaigrette, and the tingle of peppermint; slightly smoked sable fish came with potato and pickled peppers; and cobia  with a little lamb shoulder terrine.
     3143The amazements kept coming: Tasmanian crab  was flavored with a sea urchin tzatziki of  trout roe with chives; large Japanese botan ebi prawns were moistened by a tomato consommé  with crumbled feta and spicy basil; sardine escabeche  that just escaped being fishy came with cucumber, and something inelegantly called "Thassos olive tar," made from cured, not brined, olives that are dehydrated then blended with olive oil to make a tar-like purée; grilled octopus  was fabulous, with a mixture of orange purée and tsakistes olives, with chicory and  garlic; and hilopita  egg noodle encompassed rabbit,  snails,  black truffles, and sheep's milk manouri cheese--this last the only dish that went a little over the edge, and certainly didn't need the snails.
     Our main courses were somewhat simpler and heartier, as they should be.  We began with
whole grilled loup de mer with roasted vegetables, then succulent grilled swordfish  with seftalia Cypriot minced lamb sausage, baby octopus, chickpeas and cracked coriander vinaigrette, followed by two meat dishes--baby pork chops and belly with cabbage-wrapped dolma containing pork and rice, with grilled fennel and a light, lemony avgolemono sauce, and a rack of lamb and moussaka with parsley root, nettles, and a garlic confit.
      Beautifully composed desserts by Bill Corbett included a trio of baklavas--for once not overly sweet!--pistachio, honey custard, and walnut cake with cinnamon ice cream;  yogurt with spoon fruit and the unexpected flavors of olives, with a mint gelée and crushed mastic kourambiedes shortbread cookies; a rose and white chocolate crema with passion fruit purée and almond crumble; and goat's cheesecake with Pink Lady apples, goat's milk caramel, and wispy, crisp kataifi pastry.
      The menu at Anthos is just the right size to allow Psilakis and his team to bring everything off with finesse, despite the number or exotic ingredients used.  It is to their credit that none comes across as gimmicky, nothing that might be called "experimental." Everything works here on the principle of good flavors and impeccable ingredients combined in very precise ways to make something that is wonderfully new rather than tellingly novel.
Appetizers at dinner run $15-$20, entrees $28-$44. Anthos is open for lunch Mon.-Fri. and for dinner Mon.-Sat.

Feudo Arancio Makes Quality Sicilia Wines at Great Prices
by John Mariani

     tyLucio Matricardi is not a winemaker to mince words. Indeed, when discussing his or others’ bottlings he refuses to indulge in the usual Winespeak that makes wines sound more like fruit salad and chem lab experiments than fermented grape juice.  “This is a `Jimmy wine,’” he says of an over-extracted California cabernet. “It went to the gym before being bottled.”  Another example is a “Schwarzenegger wine—musclebound, without finesse.” Then, turning to one of his own wines, a nero d’avola from Sicily, he murmurs, “Ah, this is a `sofa wine”—you want to lie down and drink it.”
     Matricardi, 38, (below) of the Feudo Arancio estates located in Sambuca di Sicilia, in the province of Agrigento, is a high-energy Italian winemaker who is trying to propel Sicilian vineyards into the 21st century by using distinctive, regional grapes to make wines that taste as if they should sell for $25-$50, but instead cost under $10. “I want to make young, happy wines,” he said over dinner at New York’s L’Impero restaurant. “So many Italian, and particularly Sicilian, winemakers forgot how to make clean wines.  The old way was like pushing a car to the top of the hill, then letting it drive itself down the other side. They let the wines oxidize, and did nothing to stop them.”t12
If this seems like an elementary concept of modern viniculture, it is a fairly novel one in
Sicily, an island the size of Massachusetts that produces almost as much wine as all of Australia. In the recent past 75 percent of Sicilian winemakers made wines for cooperatives, and only 3 percent may be labeled with Italian government appellation “D.O.C.,” given to wines made according to strict rules of production. Much of the total production is turned into distillates under EU control. The best known wines like Marsala are fortified, though its sweet wines like Passito di Pantelleria have been getting international attention.
Last year for this column I did a tasting of two dozen expensive Sicilian wines that revealed little of real quality, with several of them oxidized. It is this reality that Matricardi and his associate, winemaker Calogero Statella, have been trying to change at Feudo Arancio, a 2,200 acre estate owned by Gruppo Mezzacorona, a group of 1,500 growers whose headquarters is in the north, in
7Feudo Arancio (below) produces a range of wines under $10 including non-indigenous chardonnay, merlot, syrah, and cabernet sauvignon, which Matricardi admits are made just for the international market. I found them competently made, clean, and certainly good buys.  But I was more intrigued and certainly more delighted by the native Sicilian varietals, the white grillo and the red nero d’avola, both $7.99.

      “Grillo is a grape we can trace back 2,500 years,” says Matricardi, who was born in Abruzzo and received his Ph.D. in enology in Bologna, in cooperation with the University of California at Davis. “It is one of the grapes that go into Marsala, where it always oxidizes. But it is a fine white varietal, with a simplicity that whispers and a wonderful flavor and aroma of summer’s white peaches.”
I found the Grillo 2005 (right) enormously charming, very refreshing, not particularly complex, but ideal for appetizers and just about any seafood I can think of. It is only faintly greenish yellow, and very crisp, despite 13.5 percent alcohol.4

      The Nero d’avola, which is also known as calabrese, is Sicily’s most prodigious grape, planted in about 35,000 acres. Only now are winemakers beginning to regard it as perhaps the most promising Sicilian varietal for single estates.  “There is so much nero d’avola that it is used in too many blends,” says Matricardi. “But if you use less than 15 percent of a grape in a blend, you’re going to lose the typical regional character.  That’s why we treat the grape with respect, including night harvesting when it’s cooler.”
      As a result, Feudo Arancio’s Nero d’avola 2004 has a minimum alcohol level 13.5 percent—on the low side for any Mediterranean red--because Matricardi protect the vines and grapes from too much of the scorching Sicilian sun.  It is definitely not in danger of oxidation, having spent 12 months in new French oak barrels, and it has an impressive complexity of flavors—dried black cherry and blueberries, with hints of anise, ideal with tomato-and-garlic rich pastas, saffron-scented risottos, and both poultry and red meats.
      But there I go writing Winespeak. Lucio Matricardi took a sip of the wine, let his eyelids droop, and sighed, “You taste this wine and it is like walking through the vineyards at twilight at harvest time."

John Mariani's weekly wine column appears in Bloomberg Muse News, from which this story was adapted. Bloomberg News covers Culture from art, books, and theater to wine, travel, and food on a daily basis, and some of its articles play of the Saturday Bloomberg Radio and TV.


MAYBE IT'S JUST. . .  YOU !635
"Dining in [Los Angeles] isn't what it used to be. Tables are offered with the proviso that you vacate in time for the next reservation 90 minutes later. Servers recite dozens of specials and maybe the chef's philosophy, then bore you with which dishes are their favorites. You might even get a lecture on the ingredients. (Yes, we know by now what burrata is.) It's too dark to read the menu or see your food. Servers interrupt the conversation to ask if everything is wonderful. The food either takes too long to arrive, or you're rushed through dinner. Busboys interrupt the conversation to ask if you've finished. (Don't touch that plate until everyone's done, bub!)"-- Leslie Brenner, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer.


* Silks restaurant at Mandarin Oriental San Francisco announces additions to the schedule of winemaker dinners hosted by Wine Director and Master Sommelier Richard Dean. Each event is preceded by an hour-long tasting seminar with the winemaker or winery representative. Chef de cuisine Joel Huff will create menus to complement the wines.   April 24: Freeman California Wine Dinner with Ken and Akiko Freeman. $160 pp;  May 29: Louis Jadot Burgundy with Olivier Masmondet;  $160; June 12: S.A. Prum Riesling with Raimund Prum.  $150;  July 25: Domaine Carneros Sparkling Wine with Eileen Crane. $150;  Aug. 14: L’ Aventure Paso Robles with Stephan Asseo. $160; Sept.  18: Opus One with Michael Silacci. $295;  Nov. 13: Cakebread with Dennis Cakebread, $160. Call 415-276-9787.

* During The Tribeca Film Festival from April 25-May 6,  Cercle Rouge is offering special $19.95 lunch and $34.95 dinner prix fixe menus for guests in the area, featuring chef Pierre Landet's cuisine. Call 212-226-6252.

* From April 28-May 6 in NYC all three Dos Caminos restaurants will lead in to Cinco de Mayo with special Hass Avocado dishes and a specialty cocktail, the Zaragosa.  On Cinco de Mayo Dos Caminos Park Avenue and Third Avenue will have Latin bands during lunch.  On May 3,  Dos Caminos Third Avenue will host a free demo on how to prepare guacamole, followed by a free tasting and chef meet & greet, courtesy of Hass Avocados from Mexico.  The $10 per person cost will be covered by Hass Avocados from Mexico, with all proceeds going to benefit City Harvest.

* On April 29 West Hollywood's BIN 8945 continues its monthly "Sunday Guest Chef Series" as Owner/Chef Sang Yoon of Father's Office in Santa Monica collaborates with BIN 8945's Chef Michael Bryant and Managing Partner David Haskell to create a 7-course dinner with wine and beer pairings.  $85 pp. Call 310.550.8945; visit

* On April 30,  the Washington, DC Chapter of Les Dames d'Escoffier is hosting "The Art of Food," the 12th Epicurean Food & Wine Auction Gala at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.  DC’s top female chefs will create cuisine in honor of the nation's capital's "ColorField remix" celebration taking place this Spring. Chefs incl. Anna Saint John, Nona Nielsen-Parker, Laurie Alleman-Weber, Lisa DeStefano, Lynn Foster, Ruth Gresser, Carla Hall, Kate Jansen, Ris Lacoste, Jamie Leeds, Janis McLean, and Nora Pouillon. Proceeds will benefit the Scholarship and Grants Program of Les Dames d'Escoffier.  $250 pp. Call 202-973-2168; visit

* Whistler's Dine & Unwind program returns May 1-June 28, offering visitors multi-course menus starting at just $20 pp. Participating restaurants incl.  Araxi, Bavaria Restaurant, Cinnamon Bear Bar & Grille, Crêpe Montagne, The Den at Nicklaus North, Fifty-Two 80 Bistro, Hy's Steakhouse, La Rua Restaurante, Milestone's Whistler, The Mountain Club, Quattro at Whistler, Ric's Grill, Rimrock Café, Tandoori Grill, The Wine Room, and Zen Sushi. Stay in Whistler during Spring Dine and Unwind for as little as $99 per night. Call 1-800-WHISTLER.

* On May 14 in Barnard, VT, Twin Farms will begin The Fourth Annual Wine Celebration with a series of  educational evenings of food and wine. Chef Ted Ask will present 5-course pairings for each dinner: May 14, Duckhorn Wine Company, hosted by Alex Ryan, President; June 3, The Wines of the Pacific Northwest; June 10, Château de Beaucastel; July 9, Turley Wine Cellars; July 22, The Wines of Robert Foley of Pride Mountain Vineyards. Call 800-894-6327 or visit

* As part of the new "Art de Cuisine" series at Sivory Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic, Chef Denis Jaricot will conduct weekly complimentary cooking demos and on Fridays will host guests and parties ranging from two to 10 at Chef's Table.  $40 pp.  Call (809) 552-0500.

NEW FEATURE: I am happy to  report that the Virtual Gourmet is  linking up with two excellent travel sites:

Everett Potter's Travel  Report

I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the  web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury  Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and  a frequent contributor to National  Geographic Traveler,  and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their  travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special  places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of  staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star  places as five-star experiences."  To go to his blog click on the logo below:


Tennis Resorts OnlineA Critical Guide to the World's Best Tennis Resorts and Tennis Camps, published by ROGER COX, who has spent more than two decades writing about tennis travel, including a 17-year stretch for Tennis magazine. He has also written for Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, New York Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, Money, USTA Magazine, Men's Journal, and The Robb Report. He has authored  two books-The World's Best Tennis Vacations (Stephen Greene Press/Viking Penguin, 1990) and The Best Places to  Stay in the Rockies (Houghton Mifflin, 1992 & 1994), and the Melbourne (Australia) chapter to the Wall Street Journal Business Guide to Cities of the Pacific Rim (Fodor's Travel Guides, 1991). Click on the logo below to go to the site.



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 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 2007