Virtual Gourmet

October 7,   2007                                                       NEWSLETTER


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In This Issue


NEW YORK CORNER: `21' Club by John Mariani

BEANSNew Espresso Machines Foolproof by John Mariani


STAYING AND DINING away from the crowd in VENICE
by John Mariani
      Venetians are masters of what the Italians call spezzatura--the art of concealed art. Venice is really a medieval town that almost completely ignored the excesses of the Baroque, and the Venetians tend to be more reserved in their passions, dress and appetites than other Italians. They delight in foreigners calling their hometown the “Queen of the Adriatic,” a unique place, not a natural wonder at all but a confection that caused Truman Capote famously to observe, “Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.”
     The Venetians can even make the flooding of the Piazza San Marco into an excuse to sit at the Caffé Florian under the arcades, listen to violin music, and wile away their time with an espresso or a nightcap until the water recedes enough to allow them, reluctantly, to wend their way home through glistening, wet streets.  This is a wholly Venetian response to life, enjoying yourself while waiting for the waters to recede, and nowhere is there a better vantage point to watch the natives at their most characteristic than in their cafes, trattorias and ristoranti, where they take their time eating, drinking and savoring the way the world goes by.
          At dinner a Venetian exercises all his faculties of good taste, harmony, manners and criticism. He dresses well for the occasion. He picks over a salad to make sure every leaf of arugula is well formed and the olive oil green gold. He demands to see the fish before it is cooked and to smell the white truffle before it is shaved over his risotto.  He swirls a glass of  wine ceremoniously, sniffs it carefully, tastes it slowly, pauses for a few hushed seconds, and then pronounces on its soundness.  He hates garniture and heavy sauces. And he takes his time.  In the afternoon he stops for an ombra--a glass of wine or dish of tiramisù taken in the shadow (ombra) cast by the bell tower and cathedral at San Marco. Later, around seven o’clock, he will begin the ritual of the passagiata, a lilting, arm-in-arm stroll through the Piazza that often includes a stop at a gelateria for a little ice cream. Then dinner.
    What they eat and drink at dinner is an amalgam of Italian culinary traditions married to strains of Austrian, Turkish and Middle Eastern flavors derived from Venice’s eminence as a window on the East and as Italy’s major trading port on the Adriatic for more than a millennium.  Even before the Crusades (for which Venice provided ships and supplies at a good price) the city was importing foods and spices from the East, and Marco Polo was, of course, a hometown boy who brought back news of the gastronomic splendors of the Orient. Even though defeated by the Turks in 1718 and Napoleon in 1804, then occupied by the Austrians in 1815, Venice was able to absorb the best lessons from each culture, making it far more of an international city than Rome, Milan or Florence.  Venice made café society fashionable--the Florian opened in St. Mark’s plaza in 1720--and tourists have forever flocked here to savor the flavors of this man-made island city, where each year they hold a colorful regatta (below).
   Sadly, it's become more than arduous to visit Venice, Rome, and Florence--almost anywhere in Italy at this point--from May 1st to October 1st, because the Italians have been so successful at seducing the world to come to their beautiful country that the whole of it is now depressingly overrun.  The tourists swarm, they pack the museums, making three-hour waits the norm, the restaurants charge more (natives invariably get a discount), and the amount of detritus they leave behind on city streets, in fountains, and on statues is more depressing than ever. They also leave the shopowners, guides, waiters, and cooks exhausted. The food suffers.
     Especially in Venice, where there simply isn't much room to move around the narrow calle and bridges that can take ten minutes to cross, while being shoved by the opposing force from the other side. This exhausting crush has caused me to consider carefully when I will visit, which comes down to mid-October through mid-April, and even those shoulder seasons can get antsy. Fortunately, many of the very finest hotels and their restaurants have something of a lull in August because their affluent clientele doesn't come to town at that time.  Nevertheless, later in the year is much better to truly enjoy the myriad and maze-like charms of this city on the sea.  By the way, the best restaurant guide to Venice (in Italian only) is Bacari Ristoranti e Osterie di Venezia e Dintorni by Simone Azzoni (12 euros), listing 160 places to eat and drink in the city and surrounding area, all with photos.
       If you do wish to get away from the crowds in Venice and want the city more to yourself in the off season, here is where you should stay and eat.

Hotel Gritti Palace

Campo Santa Maria del Giglio Venice I-30124 Italy
Phone 011 (39)(041) 794611

                             Venice has nothing grander than the Gritti, which was Ernest Hemingway's favorite hotel in Italy, as it has been to countless counts and countesses, authors, musicians, and film stars.  Set right on the Grand Canal, the Gritti was, as of 1525, a Doge's home, later the Vatican ambassador's residence.  Antique in ever detail, the Gritti is nevertheless completely equipped with any modern amenity you could request (not always the case in Venetian hotels), and its 91 guest rooms and suites are exquisitely, individually decorated with beveled mirrors, polished bird's eye maple, sumptuous velvet,  satins, and silks throughout.

     The Gritti Hotel's  principal restaurant here, the Club Del Doge (below), is entered through the very chic Bar Longhi, and in good weather you can dine outside with the vaporetto-churned water lapping at the dock.  There is no more beautiful panorama on the Canal than this, although on the night I dined there the view was equally beautiful at the next table, where the stunning Italian actress Monica Bellucci was dining with her husband and daughter.  Such serendipity always improves the food and wine, but the cucina alla veneziana at the Club del Doge hardly needs embellishment.  Start off with soft-centered burrata mozzarella with stuffed vegetables and a touch of mint, graced with celery sauce.  Beef carpaccio (invented at nearby Harry's Bar) with Parmigiano and arugula is light and refreshing, and one of the specialties here is tagliolini alla Burano, served alla gratinata with a cream of spider crab and seafood.  Sea bass is baked in salt to preserve its succulence, and the Club does one of the best fegato alla venezianas--sautéed calf's liver with sweet, melted onions and white polenta--I've had in the city.  They also do a splendid pasta e fagioli drizzled with olive oil, and scampi with fillets of sole in a sweet-sour sauce with a mild baccalà of puréed salt cod.
     Desserts are a little extravagant, but this is Venice and this is the Gritti, so go ahead and splurge and watch the moon make the dome of Santa Giorgio Maggiore glow white against the deep blue sky.
       At the Gritti you are on the edge of everything but just beyond the most crowded sections of central Venice; it is almost tucked away, so it is quiet, especially in the morning when you hear nothing but the creaking of the gondolas at their docks and the putter of a vaporetto in the Canal. You have your cappuccino and brioche, read the International Herald-Tribune, and maybe go back to bed.

       First courses at Club del Doges run 27-30 euros, main courses 40-61 euros.

     Starwood Hotels, which owns the Gritti,  almost has a monopoly of the city's deluxe hotels, including the nearby Danieli, the Westin Europa & Regina, and both the Hotel des Bains and Westin Excelsior at the Lido, each with their own architecture and style, some only open for the season.

Hotel Cipriani
Giudecca 10
011 (39) 041 520 7744

      Across the Canal on Giudecca sits the Hotel Cipriani, whose breathtaking view of Venice from that small island is like the striking view of Manhattan from Brooklyn or New Jersey. 
   Yet without ever leaving Giudecca one can get lost in the douce charms of the Cipriani, exploring its tiny vineyard, swimming in its huge pool, visitng the island's churches, half in the belief that you are a world away, reachable by the hotel's own antique wooden motorboat (above).  You arrive from the Piazza San Marco in about four minutes, struggling to take in everything around you, and then you are helped from the boat by a greeter who leads you through the leafy arbor to the hotel, which is as reclusive as it is what the Italians called raffinato.
     You will in all probability then meet manager Natale Rusconi, whose consistent presence has made him the island's grand monsignore. His professionalism should be copied in textbooks, and he instills its in every staff member, mixing affability with respect, familiarity with deference, exuberance with gentility, whether you're arriving for the first or thousandth time.
      The Hotel Cipriani has not been under Cipriani ownership for a long while, but for several years now the Orient-Express company has run it with all the style and comfort it has always been famous for, and now, with a its annexes, the Palazzo Vendramin and the Palazzetto, it seems even more secreted away than ever.
     There are several dining venues, beginning with the posh and formal Fortuny and its al fresco terrace (left). Cip's Club is a casual trattoria for lighter fare. On my last visit, for lunch, I ate at the Gabbiano Poolside restaurant (below), which at first I feared would be serving typical poolside food; instead I found that I was able to order from the sumptuous Fortuny menu.  With my wife and friends I began with a classic rendering of the Cipriani carpaccio, luscious creamy green tagliarini al prosciutto gratinati,  and risotto with fat scampi from the Adriatic, a dish that proves Venice's supremacy in seafood cookery.  There was also a Genoese dish--tondini round pasta with scampi, tomato, and basil sauce--very good.
     If it sounds like I took every opportunity to feast on scampi, you're right. Scampi are Venetian prawns, not shrimp, and they are sweet and tender, and should only be kissed by herbs and olive oil. They fry up beautifully, too, so I ordered a frittura of them with calamari, squid, and baby artichokes that crunched in the mouth.  I also could not resist another serving of fegato alla veneziana, smothered in soft onions. A fillet of branzino came with a light tomato, lemon, coco bean and mushrooms sauce, and absolutely delightful was a loin of crisp, golden suckling pig with stewed cabbage and puréed apple. After a meal like this, simple fruit sorbets were the happy ending to our sunlighted meal by the pool, as we finished the last drop of a bottle of valpolicella ripasso and ogled the pretty pool people, the Americans who brought their young daughters for a holiday, and the Europeans who seemed to be quite at home here.
     First courses and pastas range from 18.50-32 euros, main courses 33-44 euros.


by John Mariani

`21' Club

21 West 52nd Street

     The regulars call it "The Numbers." Occasional visitors call it just "21." And out-of-towners call it The `21' Club. Such nuances used to matter in this bastion of New York sophistication, once a speakeasy, then a restaurant that catered to a crowd composed of industry titans, Broadway and Hollywood actors, Old Money, and, over time, the Nouveau Riche.  Its exclusivity was based on longtime alliances dating back to Prohibition days when Jerry Berns and Jack Kriendler ran it with a wink in one eye and another that sized up the incoming clientele.  To get your corporate model airplane or truck hung from the ceiling of the bar was as good as getting the key to New York.
     `21' has been notorious, raffish, stuffy, stylish, and an antidote to trendiness. For decades good food never got in the way of having a good time, and anyone who questioned his bill obviously didn't have a house account.
      Over the past 20 years, however, successive new owners have not only spruced up a very threadbare interior--cleaning the Remington statues and paintings, installing the superb graphic art of the 1930s and 1940s, and reconditioning 66a kitchen with modern technology.  Some very notable chefs came and went, but none lasted very long in an environment where the preferences of the clientele dictated what stayed on the menu, and often the improvement of a dish with better ingredients and attention to cooking was met with disbelief by those who had grown used to the awfulness of the cooking.
      Nevertheless, `21' has not only persevered, having lost Mr. Berns last year, and seen the retirement of longtime manager Bruce Snyder, retaining its traditional clientele while attracting at least two younger generations of people who come here either as regulars or to partake of a Gotham icon as authentic as the Rockefeller Center skating rink, the Washington Square Arch, and the Great Hall of Grand Central Terminal.
      Under new manager Roger Rice and longtime maître d' Oreste Carnevale, the "joint," as Berns used to call it sails on. I heartily recommend going to the Club's website for history, anecdotes, and hilarious happenings over the past eight decades in business, including the time Robert Benchley came in out of the rain and quipped, "Get me out of this wet coat and into a dry martini." So many movies and TV shows have filmed at `21' Club, including "The Sweet Smell of Success," "Wall Street," and, recently, "Sex in the City" (below, right).

       For the past several year the Orient-Express company has owned the restaurant and kept its exterior, with its famous jockey hitching posts, and its mahogany-and-stucco interior in impeccable shape.  The upstairs banquet rooms are very fine, decorated with vintage graphic cover art, those Remingtons, and antique silver urns, and the downstairs wine cellar, behind a two-and-a-half ton swinging door no revenue agent was ever able to find during Prohibition, is one of the most beautiful and intimate dining rooms in the city. Five years ago they added an upstairs dining room (below) that in its elegance and posh is the antithesis to the raffish downstairs look.
       ----The menu, now under John Greeley, here for more than a decade prior to becoming exec chef, is now a canny balance of the old, which has been improved immensely, and the new, which can compare with the best cuisine in New York.  The winelist, under sommelier Philip Pratt, has a Wine Spectator Grand Award, with 1,300 selections, and 21 wines by the glass that include First Growth Bordeaux.
      My brother was in town with an old friend and said, "Let's go somewhere quintessentially New York."  I told him,
"`21' reeks New York," and off we went. Greeted with the  impeccable degree of New York savoir-faire and a nod of recognition, we sat in the downstairs Bar Room, arrayed with those hanging men's toys, happy to see the place packed with young and old, happy to see the starched red-and-white checkered tablecoths, and happy to see a menu that kept links to `21's traditions while bringing dishes into the 21st century. Thus, you might start with the `21' Caesar salad or the cold Senegalese soup with grilled chicken and Granny Smith apples.  Iced oysters and clams are always available. The jumbo lump crabcake is better than ever, judiciously sized, with a light brown crustiness, 2and creamy lump crab throughout, with shaved fennel, micro-greens, and warm Meyer lemon sauce.  There is also a fine carpaccio, drizzled with a truffled mustard and top with a deviled quail egg.
     A special that evening was risotto abundant with tender roulade morsels of rabbit meat and fava beans, and the sautéed Dover sole in butter, with asparagus, fingerling potatoes, and potatoes (we went with the nonpareil pommes soufflés, though at $12.50 they're a pricey splurge) could not be bettered anywhere in New York.  The creamed spinach was first rate too.
       Kimberly Bugler's pastries are a delight, from the perfectly  plump profiteroles with rich chocolate sauce to the excellent crème brûlée and a tall hot soufflé.
       After a sip or two of Armagnac, we wedged ourselves out from behind the table, `21' still in full swing, into a New York autumn night, feeling giddy about the evening.  We felt like we'd been "on the town," in the greatest town in the world.
`21' is open for lunch  Mon.-Fri.; Dinner Mon..-Sat. A la carte prices run  $12-$28 for starters, $30-$45 for entrees; There is a $35 lunch menu, a $40 pre-theater menu, and a Chef's Tasting at $85 ($140 with wines).  Upstairs 3 courses is fixed at $70.


9pppThe Espresso Wars Heat Up with New No-Fail Machines
 by John Mariani
            Despite $29.3 billion U.S. coffee sales in 2006, most Americans don’t know beans about coffee.
      “Coffee is at least as complex as wine,” insist Andrea Illy, 43, the third-generation Chairman of illycaffè S.p.A., whose grandfather Francesco invented the espresso machine in the early 20th century. “In America people think of coffee as just a drink with food,” he groaned during an interview at the company’s U.S. New York, “Even when people here buy our coffee and machines, even restaurants, they usually don’t make it properly and the whole point of good espresso is lost.”
     Illy’s mission is to get the world—especially the U.S.—to treat espresso with respect and to learn how to make a good cup of it. In Italy a trained employee called a barista makes the espresso. In  U.S. restaurants the busboy is usually the one who makes the coffee.
     “Coffee is composed of 1,500 chemical substances, and we search hard for the best beans,” says Illy. “We have 114 quality controls, and we do not buy in the commodities market. We have contracts with specific Brazilian coffee producers.  Today 600 of them compete annually for a prize we began in 1991 for the best producer of high quality coffee.”
      Since becoming CEO and Chairman in 1997, Illy has expanded the brand’s global penetration from 29 to 140 countries and 50,000 restaurants and cafes, with worldwide sales last year of 246 million euros (US$320 million). Illy Caffè does not disclose U.S. figures, but it is the number one European imported coffee in North America.0000
      “For years we have tried very hard to educate our customers.” he says, “In Japan, we show them once and they obey all the rules. In the U.S. they don’t clean the machines correctly, they don’t heat the cups, they serve it with lemon peel. . . .” His voice trails off and he shakes his head. But then his eyes light up, and he whispers, “But now we are about to change that. We have made espresso-making foolproof.”
      He then unveiled his newest machine, the sleek push-button Hyper Espresso machine, which uses pre-measured plastic cartridges whose precise amount and grind of coffee are controlled by laser. The coffee never touches metal, making the machine easy to clean; air pressure forces out a precise amount of coffee and a perfect layer of light foaminess on top that Italians call the “crema.
     I sampled the results and it was, indeed, not only an impeccably made and delicious espresso with a lingering taste of complex coffee on the palate, but after several minutes the crema had not dissipated. “You could let that cup sit there for an hour, and the crema would still hold up,” Illy said proudly.
      The Hyper Espresso is about to hit the restaurant market here, then next spring, a modified home version, in designer colors, will retail for between $600-$800, about the price of push-button espresso machines currently on the market made by Braun, Lavazza, De Longhi, and Gaggia.
      3eeAs with other machines, you have to use the company’s packets or cartridges, a quid pro quo that has thrust Nestle Nespresso S.A., founded in Vevey, Switzerland, in 1986, into the highly competitive espresso market.  With an array of beautifully designed machines, with names like Le Cube and the Essenza, Nespresso now has a 22.7 percent market share of espresso machines globally. Its products sell in 50 countries, with 3,500 points of sale and 79 stylish city boutiques selling machines, cups, sugar, and coffee to 3.1 million Club Members who purchase monthly supplies of cartridges in jewel-bright colors and handsome boxes. Last year Nespresso sold 2.3 billion capsules.
      Nespresso’s newest machine is the Latissima (left), made by De Longhi, which amazingly makes a first-rate cappuccino in just one step: You place a milk container in the machine, pop in a coffee capsule, push one button; the frothy steamed milk fills half the cup, followed by the espresso, which sinks beneath the cap of foam.  It’s an impressive process, and the cappuccino is excellent. The home unit retails for $699 in red or black, $799 in “satin chrome.”
      Such innovations are making it hard for anyone to totally screw up making a good cup of Italian coffee. Even a busboy can do it.  And about that lemon peel? It’s said people used it in the old days to tame the bitterness of bad espresso. But an old Neapolitan barista once told me with a shrug, “The lemon peel? You dip it in the sweet espresso and give it to a sick child to suck on to calm his stomach."



Nashville's popular, 1920s New York-style Italian restaurant, will be the lead restaurant at Nashville's Cumberland Yacht Harbor luxury waterfront community announced Alex Marks, Senior Vice President of Tower Investments, LLC. . . . MAFIAoZA's, a favorite on the Nashville dining scene since its opening in 2003.”—press release from MAFIAoZA’s restaurant, Nashville, Tennessee.




* On Oct. 10 the Greater Cincinnati Independents (GCI) hold their kick off the second annual Octoberfeast event at the Currents Ballroom at Newport Aquarium (, featuring the city’s chefs, incl. Andy’s Mediterranean Grille, Behle Street Café, Bella Luna, Brown Dog Café, Daveed’s at 934, Encore Bistro & Bar, Hugo Restaurant, Jag’s Steak & Seafood, Jean-Robert at Pigall’s, Jean-Robert’s Pho Paris, Jimmy D’s Steakhouse, Kona Bistro, Mesh, Mike & Jimmy’s Chophouse Grill, Montgomery Inn Boathouse, Nicholson’s, O’Bryon’s Irish Pub, One Restaurant & Lounge, Polo Grille, Pompilio’s, Pub at Crestview Hills, Red Restaurant and Universal Grille. Live music from local favorites The Bluebirds to benefit the WAVE Foundation (  $50 pp. in vance on the web site (, or $55 at the door. Call 513.605.4700 ext. 18.

* On Oct. 12 in (Schaumburg, IL, Shaw’s Crab House will host the 19th Annual Royster with the Oyster Festival Kick-off Party. Llive music and free oysters with the purchase of any Goose Island Beer; Oyster Slurping Contest, with winners to  advance to the Grand Slurp-off held Oct. 19, at the Oysterfest Tent Party, held outside Shaw’s Chicago location. Call 847.517.2722 or visit

* From Oct. 12-14 the 1st Annual Martha’s Vineyard Annual Harvest will be presented by the Edgartown Board of Trade, with chefs from the island, Boston and NYC, artisanal food purveyors and winemakers from around the globe. Food & Wine Seminars, Wine Dinners. Call (508) 939-0880 or .

* Beginning October 15,  owner Piero Selvaggio will  debut his V-vin bar at Valentino in Santa Monica, CA, specializing in  attractively priced flights of older vintages and rarely seen    labels from  American and international wineries, with a regularly changing menu of wine flights  and a menu of small bites focusing on Crudo and Carpaccio. Small  plates will run from $10 – 15 each, cheeses from $15 – 45, glasses of wine from  $10 – 50 and flights of wine from $15 – $60. Call 310-829-4313, or visit

* On Oct 15, at the Rainbow Room, the NYC chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier honors Dame Lidia Bastianich with a 4-course dinner overseen by Culinary Chair Mario Batali and prepared by Chefs Mark Ladner of Del Posto, Cesare Casella of Maremma, Odette Fada of San Domenico, and Frank Langello and Pastry Chef Gina DePalma of Babbo. The event will continue with a live/silent auction and a video retrospective of Lidia.  Master of Ceremonies: Isaac Mizrahi. $475 for VIP tix, $375 for regular. Visit

* On Oct. 16 in Summerville, SC, Woodlands Resort & Inn will host its monthly "Wines of the World" wine tasting and pairing dinner featuring "The Finest Cru of Bordeaux,” hosted by Sommelier Stephane Peltier. $79 pp. Call 843-308-2115.

* On Oct. 17 Chicago's Fulton's on the River will host a 4-course gala dinner by Chef Rick DeLeon to benefit Chicago Parkways. $95 pp.  Call 312- 527-1417.

* On Oct. 17 at North One 10  Restaurant in Miami, a James Bond themed dinner will be held with dishes like “From Russia with  Love”  Corn  Cakes, Caviar and Crème Fraiche. $85 pp. Call  305-893-4211; visit

* On Oct. 17 Bijoux Restaurant in Dallas will debut the 2004 Opus One wines, with a 4-course dinner by Chef Scott Gottlich and his wife, sommelier Gina Gottlich, with a vertical tasting of the Opus One wines. $500 pp. Call 214-350-6100.

* On Oct. 18 Women Chefs & Restaurateurs (WCR) will host a 5-course dinner presented by women chefs, winemakers and sommeliers At the Table New York: Toasting Women Chefs & Restaurateurs, part of a national series of events, to support the WCR's scholarship and internship programs.  Sara Moulton of Gourmet Magazine is the Honorary Chair and MC for the event, at the Prince George Ballroom. Tix can be purchased online for $150 pp  or $1,000 per table of 10 at or by calling 877-927-7787.

* On Longboat Key,  The Colony celebrates the “Stone Crab Festival” Oct. 25-28. Participating chefs & vintners incl.  Andrew Zimmern from The Travel Channel's "Bizarre Foods";  Richard Sandoval from Modern Mexican Group;  Andrea Curto-Randazzo & Frank Randazzo from Talula, Miami Beach;  Mike Lata, FIG in Charleston; Michael Bulkowski, Revolver in Toledo, OH;  Michael Blum, Michael's Kitchen, Sunny Isles, FL; Vinters Lee-Anne Bosman, Morgenhof Estates (South Africa);  Patricio Reich, Bodega Renacer (Argentina); Robert Haas,  Tablas Creek (Paso Robles); et al.  Call  941-383-6464 ext. 2830 or visit

* On Oct. 23 in NYC Daniel Restaurant will hold a 5-course game dinner and auction to benefit Citymeals-on-Wheels. $495 pp.  Call  (212) 288-0033 X124  or visit
*    Chef Vincent Guérithault of Vincent’s on Camelback in Phienx, AZ, announces his 2007-2008 Wine & Spirits  Dinner Series featuring 11 events between Oct. 2007 and April 2008, incl. “An Extraordinary Champagne Tasting Event” on Jan. 25 at $55 pp. Call (602) 224-0225; visit
*     Nantucket, RI’s White Elephant is holding its annual Chef & Shop weekends, priced from $175 per room, with a Fri. “Port & Cheese” party in The Library with the chef, who will give a cooking demo tasting with paired wines on Sat.  Dates are Oct.  26-28, with Alexandra Guarnaschelli of Butter in NYC; Nov.  2-4, with , Dan Silverman at Lever House in NYC; Nov. 9-11, with Geoff Gardner of Sel de la Terre in Boston; and Nov.  16-18, with Bob Iacovone of New Orleans. Call (800) 445-6574 or (508) 228-2500 or visit

* On Oct. 27 in Minneapolis, Minn, Masa is again welcoming Chef and Mexican cooking authority Patricia Quintanta for a wine dinner in association with the Walker Art Center's major Frida Kahlo exhibition, featuring wines from the Casa Madero Winery in Mexico. $120 pp, with proceeds to El Jardin Botanico.  Additionally, the restaurant will feature an authentic Dia de los Muertos, (Day of the Dead) alter, as part of the Day of the Dead festival. Call  612-338-6272.

* On Oct. 28 Rialto in Cambridge, MA, will hold a  4-course Piedmont dinner paired with wines from La Spinetta. $125 pp. Call 617-661-5050.

* Every Sunday night during both Oct. & Nov., BR Guest restaurants in NYC at  Blue Fin and Blue Water Grill are now offering special New England-style “clambake” menus.  . . . Also, BR Guest  support sBreast Cancer Awareness Month at Blue Water Grill, Blue Fin, Ocean Grill, Atlantic Grill or Isabella’s with a guilt-free dessert, with 10% of proceeds going towards the American Cancer Society. Call 212-529-0900; Visit

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. It was 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