Virtual Gourmet

November 18,  2007                                                       NEWSLETTER


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In This Issue


NEW YORK CORNER: A Meeting of Culinary Giants: Philippe Rochat and Gray Kunz by John Mariani

NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: At Thanksgiving Drink as the Colonists Drank
by John Mariani


by John Mariani

     The days grow short and cold up north, so it might well be time to start thinking about a flight south, perhaps Miami, where the sun still shines and there are always plenty of new restaurants to check out.  Unfortunately, many aren't worth the effort. Chains and high rents have forced many of the best of years past out of business, including Norman Van Aken's Norman's in Coral Gables, Jonathan Eismann's Pacific Times, Johnny Vinczencz's Johnny V, and several others.
    Now, just as I was about to report on it, the very elegant David Bouley Evolution, in the Ritz-Carlton, Miami Beach, has just closed this week.  Given the high visibility of a NYC celebrity chef like Bouley, the shuttering is particularly telling. Perhaps my review below--now completely useless--may indicate why it did not succeed in a neighborhood where fine cuisine is way down the list of attractions. Of course,
according to the owner, the fact that Bouley had not visited the restaurant since last February didn't help.
     As Van Aken told the Miami Herald, "I don't think Miami is capable of being a big foodie town. Miami was a better place in the early '90s. What's happening today is one step above Fast Food Nation."
      I'm afraid I have to agree, especially with regard to Miami Beach, where there is so much truly bad food--really expensive dreck--and so many gargantuan, cacophonous eating houses.
        There is, however, one new restaurant off the Beach in Miami proper that is well worth a visit after a day at the beach.

130 Northeast 40th Street


    Given what Van Aken said above, any restaurateur hoping to draw a local clientele with taste has to open elsewhere in Miami.
    Chef-restaurateur Michael Schwartz, who made his rep on the Beach years ago at Nemo, then
at  Shoji Sushi and Big Pink, decided to fill a void across the causeway in the burgeoning Miami’s Design District, and since opening Michael’s last spring, that void has been filled in with gallery people and foodies who come to feast on Schwartz’s “fresh simple pure” downhome fare based on organic ingredients, at prices amazingly fair for such a high quality of cooking.
     The place has the look of an upscale luncheonette with winsome little touches, like the mosaic of Guatemalan coins.  You’re greeted by Schwartz’s wife Tamara (who is herself quite a dish), and if you can take the Miami heat sit outside on the patio or, inside,  snuggle into a booth facing the open kitchen, where Schwartz is firing away. Bring friends, then just point anywhere on the menu and share everything, starting with a few nibbles of crispy hominy with chile and lime.
     I pretty much just told Schwartz (right) to send out whatever he felt like, and it kept coming for a while. His chicken liver crostini are dreamy, part Tuscan, part Jewish. There's a light salad of watermelon and feta cheese with pickled onion, arugula, and lemon oil. The yellowfin tuna tartare with grapefruit, avocado, and crispy potatoes is pure Florida soul food.  Skip the mediocre pizza, but do not miss the chile-hot chicken wings with creamy cucumbers, or the wood-oven roasted prawn with garlic butter and a bite of lime and cilantro.
     For main courses get right to the roasted pork shoulder with cheese grits and pickled red onion, or the crispy breast of veal that gives new, sensual meaning to the phrase “chew the fat.” Crispy beef cheeks with whipped celeriac and a not-sweet chocolate reduction is a delightful twist. Equally crispy and good was a breast of veal--a neglected cut of meat--and the best fish I tried was wood-roasted Florida black grouper with roasted Brussels sprouts, pancetta ham, and a sprightly lemon aïoli.
      Desserts are gee-whiz-scrumptious, including a caramelized banana upside down cake with devastatingly rich dulce de leche cream, and a pretty lemon meringue tartlet.
       Now, what will this run you?  It depends: the dishes are served small, medium, and large, so the mediums can serve as a hefty starter or a good-size lunch portion.  At dinner the smalls run $8-$11, the mediums $9-$16, and the large plates $16-$39, with some extra large items, like a 24-ounce porterhouse, in the $40+ range.
       The winelist is excellent and fairly priced, and for a place this pleasantly casual, the wineglasses are of good, thin quality.
AS NOTED ABOVE, the restaurant David Bouley Evolution, which opened last December in the Ritz-Carlton, closed this week. I include this report, then, as  indication of the difficulty of sustaining fine dining on Miami Beach.  The restaurant has already been taken down from the hotel's website. My remarks on the Ritz-Carlton Hotel itself, however, still stand as it is definitely the finest hotel on the Beach.

david bouley evolution
One Lincoln Road, Miami Beach
(305) 604-6090

The name David Bouley conjures up certain ultra-high standards of cuisine and service that seem inextricable from New York, where his namesake flagship, along with Danube, and Bouley Bakery, have long been counted among the most serious dining establishments in America.  To demonstrate those same standards would, therefore, require the same dedication and fanatical focus Bouley has always shown in his long career.  So it came as a surprise to find him opening David Bouley Evolution last December, so far from home base, and on South Beach at that. Still, the cosseting of Ritz-Carlton management within what is now the most strikingly handsome hotel on the strip suggests more than an idle commitment on everyone's part.
      The hotel itself, originally called the DiLido and designed by the flamboyant Morris Lapidus, whose motto was "Too much is not enough," has been updated with respect for the Lapidus signature style, with sweeping curves and dramatic art deco staircases in the lobby (
There are 375 guest rooms, including 72 poolside cabanas, 40 suites, and 67 Ritz-Carlton Club Level rooms and suites. The Spa features La Maison de Beauté Carita, a 16,000-square-foot facility with a fitness center and a full-service salon.  Golf is available through the Miami Beach Golf Club, (two miles away) and Crandon Golf Course, a host of the Senior PGA Tour (14 miles away). You can play tennis at Flamingo Park (two miles away).

     The restaurant, by Parisian designer Jacques Garcia, who did Bouley's Danube in NYC along with several posh European properties, brings a sophistication to South Beach without much pomp or pretentiousness. Motifs of sea and sand and shell are spread in art nouveau-like patterns, and the sexy Étoile Lounge (below), with camelback loveseats and black marble bar, is a good place to meet for a glass of Champagne or martinis before passing into the 77-seat rectangular dining room, with its tall ceilings and windows, banquettes and arm chairs, shimmering sushi bar, and a mural of the rising sun in homage to Louis XV and the Palace of Versailles.  It's considerably more sedate than I expected, and there is clearly a serious French-Japanese menu in place here, with chef de cuisine Pierre Saussy, originally from Puerto Rico and with wide experience in France, in the kitchen. It's certainly a restaurant to celebrate in, not to drop by for a Caesar salad and fried grouper.

       The wine cellar now holds about 600 labels, mostly French, priced from $50 on way, way up to a bottle of $5,662. Many wines are offered by the glass.

        The best way to appreciate the food here is with the four-course tasting menu, at  $90 ($160 with wines). À la carte, appetizers run $14-$30, entrees $31-$45.  This is very complex food, very French, with not as many Asian influences as I'd expected.  There is finesse throughout, and ingredients are all superb.  But the use of so many foamy sauces without much flavor needs re-thinking.
     We began well, with phyllo-crusted shrimp, baby squid, sea scallop, and crabmeat in an herbal broth--just the thing to remind you you're in Florida, where fresh seafood should rule.  Yellowtail with Asian mushrooms and cavaillon melon in a foamy aromatic ginger sauce with micro herbs was pretty enough but bland, as was lobster with peas, a fricassée of asparagus, and another foamy sauce, this with Port and paprika.  Seared foie gras with Pruneaux d'Agen, a quince purée, and Armagnac sauce was thoroughly French and very good.
We then turned to lamb and beef for our main courses: a rack of lamb with tiny gnocchi
(why does a restaurant of this caliber find it necessary to say "homemade gnocchi"), Brussels sprouts and a zucchini-mint purée was very fine, and the excellence of the Prime New York sirloin was only enhanced by roasted shallots in a classic Burgundy wine reduction with fingerling potato puree and "fresh" parsley dressing.
       For dessert we enjoyed a hot chocolate soufflé with caramel and vanilla ice cream and chocolate sorbet, and a pineapple meringue with a warm pistachio core and pineapple sorbet--both quite good if not particularly imaginative for a restaurant of this stripe.
       For as enjoyable as the dinner was, I found the concepts slightly dated--too many foams, too many purées, very little textural contrast.  I do not know if South Beach will embrace the high style of David Bouley (left) in the ways they do the hip-and-happening bar restaurants along Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue, but for the person who has had more than enough of that, this is the place to go for fine, if somewhat safe, haute cuisine.


Philippe Rochat Cooks at Café Gray

by John Mariani

             Gray Kunz and Philippe Rochat in the middle of their respective staffs at Columbus Circle

     I cannot recall ever writing about a meal, however wonderful, prepared by a visiting chef to another chef's restaurant.
Indeed, I usually avoid such weddings for several simple reasons:  The cooking almost never approaches the quality I've experienced from the chef's home kitchen, and if I haven't been to the chef's restaurant I have no way of judging how representative the experience of sampling his wares in a foreign kitchen really is.  Obviously the ambiance and service will be almost completely different in unfamiliar surroundings, and the people who really benefit are usually the staff at the host kitchen, which gets a up-close view of another's chef's work. 
It is also a bit snooty and counterproductive for me to write about a meal my readers cannot attend after the fact.
       But a recent dinner at Café Gray (10 Columbus Circle; 212-823-6338) in the Time-Warner Center showed that a truly brilliant master chef can throw off revelatory sparks that suggest what he cooked that night must be very close to what he cooks back home, if only because it's difficult to imagine so many dishes being any better at Philippe Rochat's namesake restaurant in Crissier, Switzerland.  Hôtel de Ville-Philippe Rochat (1 rue d'Yverdon; 41-21 634 0505) is considered one of the finest in the world (with three Michelin stars), set within  what was once the Town Hall, then the premises for Frédy Girardet's cherished restaurant, where Rochat began working in 1980 then took possession when Girardet retired in 1996.  Like his mentor, but unlike his three-star counterparts in France like Alain Ducasse, Paul Bocuse, and Pierre Gagnaire, Rochat is resolutely in his kitchen, for lunch and dinner, from Tuesday through Saturday.  So his leaving to come to NYC with his kitchen brigade to cook for three nights at Café Gray (Chef-owner Gray Kunz worked with Rochat at Girardet a while back) was a very rare event.
     The dinner was hosted by the Lake Geneva Region, the Office of Tourism of the Canton of Vaud, and Lausanne Tourisme, with further support from Swiss luxury watchmakers like Hublot, Audemars Piquet, and Chopard. The event also co-incided with
the 10th anniversary of the winning of the New York Marathon by Franziska Rochat-Moser, Rochat's wife who began a foundation for promoting long-distance running talents, prior to her death in an avalanche in 2002.
                                            Hôtel de Ville-Philippe Rochat
     After a glass or two of Dom Pérignon '99 and passed canapés that included precise cubes of duck foie gras glazed with old Madeira, crispy langoustines with Oriental chutney, and a tiny cup of turtle soup, guests sat down to an amazingly light velouté of green apples with osietra caviar to add a saline-briny edge, then spaghetti á l'italienne--a creamy, buttery sauce--with white Alba truffles in profusion.  A sweet morsel of a scallop from Brest, with an emulsion of Dom Pérignon was perfectly simple, and sole came in a lovely juice of carrot and lime, again, something so very simple yet so remarkably flavorful.  The only dish I didn't care for was blue lobster tail in a court-bouillon à la livèche (lovage) that was a little watery and bland. The main course was a triumphant and wholly classic lièvre à la royale--a rich dish of braised hare with bacon, the liver and gizzards of the hare, cooked in red wine with a mélange of vegetables.
      Then came cheeses, followed by a "cocktail exotique" with spiced mango, and a wittily conceived feuillantine of bittersweet chocolate with Florida oranges and a chocolate "milk-shake" ice cream.
       What the meal showed--and no one rose from the table feeling stuffed--was that French cuisine (even à la suisse) has a delicacy and finesse that coalesces around a principal ingredient that is showcased, never obliterated, never turned into something else.  The beauty of it all is in the execution and the timing, not in novel ideas about how to change something already wonderful.
       Rochat, who seems a very shy man in the dining room, thanked everyone for attending, to a wall of applause, as Gray Kunz stood by his side enjoying his friend's  momentary celebrity.  For the next day Rochat would be heading back to Crissier, and by Tuesday morning he would be back at his own stoves, diligently, and, I suspect, very happily.
      By writing about this unique evening I hope that the reader will have an inkling of what both Rochat and Kunz are capable of, night after night after night.


At Thanksgiving Drink as the Colonists Drank

By John Mariani
      You’re not likely to find it in schoolbooks, but the real reason the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620 was because they ran out of beer. In the Mayflower’s log is found the notation that the Pilgrims landed where they did because "We could not take much time for further search, our victuals being much spent, especially beer.”
      Before long, however, they were making beer from maize, spruce or birch. By 1637 the Colony had two licensed breweries.
      At the first Thanksgiving dinner in the autumn of 1621, the Pilgrims probably drank sweet wine made from wild native Labrusca grapes and with their Indian friends feasted on oysters, cornbread, eel, goose, venison, watercress, leeks, berries and plums. Turkey was not specifically mentioned but was most probably part of the meal.
      The early colonists certainly drank wines based on native grapes like Concord and Catawba, but European wines were quickly imported. In 1632 Governor John Winthrop of Massachusetts decreed that Governor’s Island in Boston Harbor be devoted to wine production.
     The colonials would certainly have had access to European wines. In fact, Capt. John Smith, in his Sea Grammar of 1627 recommended all incoming ships from Europe bring onboard “fine wines.”
      The British already had a long history as importers and exporters of Portuguese wines and the technique of making Port wine by adding brandy to red wine was the work of a Liverpool wine merchant in 1678. As a result, many Port companies, like Cockburn, Sandeman, Croft, and Taylor Fladgate, have British names, as do many Madeira and Spanish Sherry companies.
      The colonists would also have ample access to locally produced cider, both fermented and unfermented, and ginger beer, as well as imported brandies and “London Dry Gin,” so-called because it was made near London.
      Rum, a product of the Caribbean, was widely drunk. By 1657 it was also being made in New England, which was part of the highly profitable Triangular Trade of shipping rum to Europe to make money to buy slaves in Africa who were sent to the Caribbean to work the American sugar plantations to make molasses as the base for rum distillation.
      So, if one wants to be very traditional about celebrating Thanksgiving in the style of the pre-Revolutionary War colonists, you have a wide range of beverages to choose from.  This year I’ve decided to serve an array of beverages at my Thanksgiving table based on pre-1776 models and menus.
      Therefore, when my guests arrive I will serve them cocktails (beverages that date back before 1800) made with either London Dry Gin like Beefeater ($16) or a rum like Bacardi Gold ($12).  I’ll mix the gin with quinine tonic, for quinine was discovered to be essential onboard British ships to prevent scurvy. I’ll make a rum punch with citrus fruits and spices, a beverage known in print at least since 1625.  An ad in The Salem Gazette for 1741 noted that orange juice was becoming preferred to lemon juice in the fashionable punches of the day.
      For those wanting something lighter, I’ll pop the cork on some sparkling cider.  In 1775 the Continental Congress decreed that every American soldier should receive a choice of one quart of either cider or spruce beer daily. I was only able to find a French import—Duche de Longueville Cidre de Bouche de Cru ($6) made in Normandy, but it’s close enough to the original American.
      We will then sit down to dinner, where I will serve a New York State Finger Lakes Riesling like Dr. Konstantin Frank’s Semi-Dry Dry Riesling ($14) to go with the cream of watercress soup we’ll begin with.  For the turkey course, which will have as many sweet as savory flavors in the stuffing, cranberry sauce, and sweet potatoes, I’ll serve a Virginia wine from a European varietal--Barboursville Vineyards’ elegant Octagon ($34), a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon, made from vineyards on land that was once the 870-acre plantation of Gov. James Barbour, whose mansion was designed by Thomas Jefferson.
      Then will come the cheese course—a sharp, aged Vermont Cheddar from Cabot Cheese in Montpelier, with glasses of either a Taylor Fladgate 20 Year Old Tawny Port ($50) or a Cossart Gordon Bual Colheita Madeira 1990 ($30), which will carry over nicely with the traditional desserts of apple pie and pumpkin pie.  Then, after coffee, for those still in a celebratory mood, I shall bring out snifters of a fine, well-aged dark rum, like Plantation 8 Year Rum from Jamaica ($25).  (I might have chosen an aged Kentucky bourbon, America’s only indigenous spirit, but bourbon really wasn’t made until after the Revolutionary War; nor was Kentucky one of the original Colonies.)
     If there are any beer drinkers at the feast, choose  pale ale or stout over lager, which was not made in America until about 1840.
      Dining this well, with these wines and spirits, it is easy to be thankful for what the American colonists set in motion nearly four centuries ago.

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.



"SPECTACULAR beaches, dramatic cliffs, amazing surf -- it's hard to feel sorry for Malibu. But if you love to eat out, life has dealt you the kind of hand that's landed you a spread on Broad Beach (or even a Thanksgiving week condo rental on the other side of the highway) and you've had enough of Nobu Malibu, you'll have to jump in the Ferrari and zoom out of the ZIP Code to find much of interest. . . .Happily, Terra's not too expensive -- most of the main courses are in the $20-$28 range (steaks are more). So you don't need to pull up in the Enzo to feel right at home; you can leave it in the garage and take the Nissan. You don't even have to live in 90265 -- sometimes a drive up PCH can just make you feel like a million bucks. And at long last, you don't have to head back south for a decent dinner."--Leslie Brenner, LA Times (Oct. 17, 2007).



CB I Hate Perfume in Williamsburg is now making a  “food series,” which includes roast beef, bruschetta, pesto, boiled rice, a California roll, cucumber sandwiches, French bread, and tortilla chips. The scents go for $25 to $35 for fifteen milliliters.   In an interview in New York Magazine, perfumer Christopher Brosius said,  “A lot of them are unwearable. Most of the time the people who buy them buy them as a modern smelling salt. If they’re feeling run down or out of sorts, they’ll smell the bottle and feel better.”  Their best-seller? “We’ve sold a few dozen roast-beef bottles. For something that bizarre, that’s a lot.”


TO ALL PUBLICISTS: Owing to the amount of material sent to this newsletter regarding Thanksgiving, Christmas,and New Year's dinners--many of which are only announcements as to price fixed dinners--it is impossible for me to include any but the most unusual of events for those holidays in Quick Bytes. --John Mariani

* In Seattle, sommelier Jake Kosseff announces the “Extraordinary Dining Society,” a series of dinners featuring rare vintage wines paired with cuisine from the most respected chefs in the region. Nov. 29:  The Herbfarm in Woodinville, WA,  with chef Keith Luce cooking a 9-course dinner, “Some Like it Haut: Great French Wines of the 1980's.  $1,150 pp. Call (425) 485-5300.

* In observance of World AIDS Day,  Dec. 1,  select Boston restaurants will designate proceeds from a portion of their menu to help AIDS Action Committee fight HIV/AIDS, by creating a prix fixe menu or running a special dish or drink for the evening. Restaurants incl: Avila,  Bambara,  dante, KO Prime, Myers+Chang, No. 9 Park, The Fireplace and The Ruby Room.

*  On Dec. 1 The Lark Creek Inn in Larkspur, CA, will celebrate the holidays with its 5th annual "Gingerbread Inn" fundraising event to benefit Marin County's Whistlestop Meals, Wheels and More. Guests will decorate their own pre-assembled gingerbread houses, with the assistance of 13 of Northern California's top pastry chefs while enjoying sparkling wine and savory hors d'oeuvres from The Lark Creek Inn's Chef Erica Holland-Toll. $125 pp. Call 415-456-9062.

*     On Dec.1 & 2 Rutherford Appellation Wineries will be "Kickin' up the Dust" at the first annual Passport Weekend, with special pourings, tastings and entertainment,  for the two-day price of $50.  Profits will be donated to the Rutherford Dust Restoration Team, a group of vintners and growers who are working together to improve the health of the Napa River as it passes through the Rutherford AVA. For a complete list of participating wineries  visit

* From Dec. 4-11 in NYC, Toloache’s Chef Julian Medina will be celebrating Hanukkah at the restaurant this year by offering a special menu at dinner throughout the eight nights of the holiday. Call 212-581-1818; 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