Virtual Gourmet

May 11,  2008                                                        NEWSLETTER

Mara Hobell as Joan Crawford's daughter in "Mommie Dearest" (1981)


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In This Issue



by Brian Freedman


Tasting Bologna

  If  Italy is the world's kingdom of great food, then Bologna is the culinary capital of that kingdom.  This tiny medieval principality has long been recognized  as the country's unofficial epicurean center for good reason. Every street in the old district is a fantasy  of things to indulge in, from fresh produce to pastry and artisanal pasta.  The rest of the town runs a close second.  Still, the best way to learn about Bologna’s culinary profile is to eat your way through all of it.  That's precisely how I filled three delectable days.
      Bologna is located in Emilia Romagna and  one of the oldest cities in Europe, the first to have a university, and the first to make significant contributions to Italian cooking. Aside from its culinary magnificence, Bologna is also famous for its 25 miles of sprawling medieval porticoes and well-preserved ancient watchtowers.  The most famous of these are the slightly torqued pair referred to as Two Towers of Bologna.

Fontana del Nettuno

      I was particularly pleased on this trip, because I got to stay at the Grand Baglioni hotel (51-225445), located in a magnificently restored palazzo on the Via Indipendenza.  Actually, the Baglioni (below) is more of a castle for hire, where at the end of your stay you exchange money in return for being treated like the member of a royal family.  In addition to impeccable service, (the porter seems to always recognize you from half a mile away), the place is an architectural treasure of frescoed ceilings, winding marble staircases, impressive colonnades, and
in the dining room cinquecento frescoes by the Caracci brothers.  In the bedrooms baroque paneled walls, canopied beds, and crystal chandeliers are standard fare, as is an endless stream of marble in the bath.  My room was so spacious that I could barely see the TV from my bed.  I had to get up and migrate to a plush armchair to get a good look at the local station.  An inconvenience I never have to put up with that at home.
     The city has a rich gastronomic history and lore, from the time of the Etruscans.   Remains found in the nearby Po valley indicate that the Etruscans  cured the back legs of pigs here, as in the making of modern-day prosciutto. There are similar antecedents to salamis like mortadella, cotechino, and numerous varieties of sausage.
      First, I canvassed around for the best place to sample Bolognese cuisine and was directed by more than one source to the Trattoria al Caminetto d'Oro (
Via de'Falegnami, 4; 51.263.494) a spot where I had no trouble packing away a meal that lasted four-and-a-half hours.  Caminetto d'Oro occupies two simple but elegant storefront rooms (below) on a side street of the Via Indipendenza.  As with many restaurants in Italy, the establishment is family run; in fact, if you phone for reservations before noon, the family matriarch and chef de cuisine, Maria Carati, will probably answer.  Don't let her warm, maternal manner fool you: in the kitchen, this woman is a dynamo.
      Maria and her husband Gino opened this spot in the 1980s after spending careers in the restaurant business.  He came from a family of bakers, and she had cooked in some of the best small kitchens of Emilia Romagna.  As a native of that region, Maria keeps Emilian cuisine upstage on her menu, though she gives fair time to specialties of Abruzzo, where Gino's heritage lies.  I was completely blown away by an amuse bouche of passata di porri.  In English, that might translate as pure bliss with leeks and zucchini.  Smooth, velvety green froth was fragrant with creamy leeks and topped by a buttery crouton.  The aromatics floated through in a mix of other rich tastes that I may never be able to pinpoint.
     Next up was fegatelli, an Italian version of chicken liver pâté, which escalated this household basic to new heights.  Its nutty flavor had delicious top notes, as though the meat has been roasted over an open spit with a dousing of fine cognac.  It was lightly caramelized, and in perfect counterpoint to the creamy dab of fresh Dolomite butter that I smeared on my toast points.  The wine was a smooth and balanced Centurione San Giovese 2004 from one of the many small wineries and organic vineyards patronized by the owners, who try to avoid big wine producers.  Following was raw beef "alla battutta," a thin slice of meat with a fragrant aroma; it melted on my tongue as if that were its sole purpose on the planet. It was a pleasure to slowly devour one morsel at a time.
     Still, the highlight of the evening was the polpetta di manzo, which had about as much to do with the kind of meatball you'd find in the States as Madison Square Garden is a replica of the Coliseum.  I could tell it was a masterpiece just by looking at it.  A circle of red pepperoncino sauce was drizzled around the edge, followed by a band of crisp, thin-sliced potato, all topped off with gorgeous, shimmery chunks of roasted artichoke.  My massive, fragrant polpetto was crowned by a fresh quail egg, letting off an aroma that was driving me nuts.
      By that point, dessert seemed like the least likely thing to happen, but lo and behold, the signora came out from the kitchen in full chef de cuisine regalia to see if she could fix me something dolce.  I took one look at that lovely face, and thought about the likelihood of ever having this chance again, and found I couldn't say no.  In fact, I think a good mantra for dining in Italy is to just, never say no.  Tell this to yourself over and over everywhere you eat and you will always be grateful.  So I went for panna cotta.  And, sure enough, I will now express exponential gratitude.  Juicy chunks of fresh, garden-grown berries with just a drizzle of fruit compote were strewn across a slice of cream-laden lightness.  I'd never had anything like it before, and don't know if I will again.  Those who think a good panna cotta is simple and easy to replicate have much to learn, though I doubt the chef will be giving away any secrets on this one.
    Of course, by the end of the evening, it felt like everyone was my lifelong friend: Maria's son, Paolo, who runs the place, along with his delightful wife Flavia, and their two children who wait on the tables.  Not to mention Gino, who bakes the bread and all the pastas, and the queen of the kitchen, Maria Carati. Like many of Italy's family-run restaurants, Caminetto d'Oro is a labor of love hard to replicate on this side of the ocean.  Antipasti here run 10-12 euros, pastas 10-14 euros, main courses 18.50-20 euros.
    My second day involved visiting the famous food shops that dot Bologna's oldest streets.  They cluster around the medieval crossways near Piazza Maggiore, primarily via delle Vecchie Pescherie and the via Caprarie.  You can tell from the swelling outline of the buildings that these passageways are at least five hundred years old, their beautifully aged stucco structures are wilting with years and crouch over the tiny cobbled walkway below.
     I was particularly struck by the fruit vendors on Vecchie Pescherie.  Though all the sellers close shop midday for a 4-hour lunch break, no one is afraid of thievery.  They just put up a sign that reads, "out to lunch,"  and throw a sackcloth over the produce.  The stacks of fresh goods are hard to believe.  Gorgeous purple, red, vibrant green, shades of vegetables and fruits I know I may never see again:  Not just one type of radicchio, but radicchio di Trevisano, radicchio di Mantovano, radicchio di Viserbo, then, finally, regular radicchio, and an announcement that the carciofi di Puglia were available.
    A few meters away is
where the seafood vendors start. Even though there are a number of fresh fish sellers in this 'quartiere', everyone seems to crowd in to one (the best of course)  -- Italian style.  Its name is Brunelli, and customers push and jostle like Yankee fans on line for opening day.  They're vying for first dibs on items that I’d never seen or heard of,  like sgombi adriatici, cefali, candocchie, totani adriatici, and on and on.  I feel like I must never have seen a real fish market before, with my naive vocabulary of shrimp, mussels, flounder and salmon steak.  There were easily 100 species of shimmering, fresh-caught ocean life laid out for all to marvel at.
     Next up, I dropped in on Tamburini (via Caprarie, 1; 51-234-726; right ), which I was told is the most famous salumeria in the region.  It's a family-owned operation that started out several generations back as a purveyor of cured meats.  Today, the family’s sprawling food shop is adjacent to a wine bar.  The storefronts are connected for good reason: it's hard to shop in Tamburini without becoming incredibly, uncontrollably hungry. The store's masterpiece is its homemade tortellini (below), and it is a privilege in Bologna to be known for such things.  I soon learn that this town is tortellini’s birthplace, and the Bolognese will never, ever let you forget it.  Giovanni Tamburini, one of the brother/owners, is a tall, large-framed framed man with sandy blond hair and a round face that captures the ideal jovial Italian.  He was delighted to set me straight on the topic, and offered his perspective.
     When we nestled into a table at the bar for lunch, a good half-dozen customers chimed in a familiar greeting to him. It seems that mingling over a meal is a regular activity here. First, Giovanni explained that tortellini are made only with specific, top quality ingredients, according to a strict recipe.  No matter that the formula changes from one small town to the next; we were here to witness the classic from Bologna.  It's more or less equal parts lombo (or flank of Italian pork), prosciutto, and parmigiano aged for 3 years.  If by chance your cheese is younger than three years--(Giovanni was quick to point this out--the quantity would have to be adjusted!  I made the appropriate notation in my notebook.
    To help me sample the real thing, the kitchen brought out a steaming plate smothered in ragù.  Of course, I was promptly informed that by tradition tortellini should be eaten only in broth; so one can savor the delicate mix of flavors. They were violating protocol for me because they wanted to cook something up on the spot.  Tamburini assured me that although his shop is famous for its tortellini, he refuses to export them, as small-batch production is essential to quality.  Welcome to competitive marketing Italian style.
     The tortellini were incredible indeed: meaty and firm, with an al dente shell, and stuffed with a blend of meats and spices that made me want to just sit back and inhale deeply.  I could see why one wouldn't normally cover them with a ragù.  There’s such a complex interplay of flavor and aroma that you'd never want to complicate the picture.  Paired with a ruby-colored glass of Terre Rosse, it was the type of Italian lunch I usually dream about.  I could have spent the whole day gabbing about Italian food with Giovanni.  In fact, I was invited to return the following Saturday to watch the guys who make the tortellini by hand.  Couldn’t think of a better reason for sticking around. If only.
     As a final stop I couldn't pass up a visit to the beautiful belle-époque Pasticceria Paolo Atti e Figli (Via Drapperie, 6; 233-349).  While adults will appreciate the pure confection of its antique store front, I can guarantee that children will go wild over the fantasy world of goods that fill out the shelves.  The shop is run by the Atti family's current matriarch, Anna Maria Bonaga Atti, with her husband Romano.  Their legacy goes back 100 years, when Paolo Atti opened his first bread shop, the Forno Piemontese.  Every nook of this delightful store was crammed with breads of all shapes and sizes, as well as at least 20 types of homemade pasta and an array of specialty flours (apparently, some people come here just for the raw baking materials).
     A glimpse at the pastry selection would make anyone feel like they were six again.  Every shiny, colorful gem was crafted to perfection and sitting out with a glistening coating, with names like certosino panspeziale (a cooked  candied fruit and specialty of Bologna), crostate biondi e mora, tartufini, baci di dama, craccanti di cioce, profiteroli, girandole, torte napoletane -- you get the idea.  You head would be spinning before you could possibly get it all straight.
    Though the house specialty appears to be bread and pastry, the Atti shops (there are two within a few meters of each other) also specialize in tortellini.  Here, I am told, you can find a limited amount of exportation.  A number of prominent restaurants in the US and other nations serve their tortellini imported straight from the Atti workrooms.  I think that importing is a must, as the likelihood of finding this caliber of product outside Italy is next to nil.
      As with so much of the city, it’s hard to walk into an emporium like Atti and walk out on an empty stomach.  At least if you are human.  But if you want to sample some of the finest food to ever grace the planet, you have a very good reason to visit Bologna.  And once there, the more human you are, the better.

Marianne Camarda is a freelance writer who lives in New York City.  Her work has appeared in Chile Pepper, the Brooklyn Eagle, Diversion, Elle, Wine Country International, House Beautiful, and Delectable Magazine, among others.


by John Mariani

251 W. 50th St. (near Broadway)

     Having just returned from a week in Mexico where I ate Mexican pretty much three times a day, I wasn't really ravenous for another platter of enchiladas and refried beans.  But, knowing the reputation of chef-owner Julian Medina, who trained in Mexico City and was brought to NYC in 1996 by Richard Sandoval to cook at Maya and late became chef at Zocalo, I suspected the food would be quite a bit different from what I'd been eating for the past week. I was not disappointed.
      Toloache, named after a flowering Mexican plant "used in love potions," is a splendid-looking two-storied restaurant with 90 seats.  Downstairs there is a lively ceviche bar that makes for a terrific pre-theater dinner, and upstairs a more conventional dining room with beautiful tilework, rich earth colors, and Mexican folkloric murals. Also, thank heavens, Toloache has bright white tablecloths, which have become a rarity these days in NYC restaurants.  The service staff couldn't be nicer or more informed about the menu and the list of nearly 100 tequilas, mezcals, and cocktails, and the noise level is highly conducive to normal conversation. The margaritas (try the one made with Don Julio 1942)  are very well made indeed.
     If Mexican food is sadly predictable in most cases, Toloache's proves otherwise.  The ceviches are outstanding, from the hamachi  with Meyer lemon, avocado leaf oil, cucumber, red onion, and salsa with crispy avocado. Also very good is the spicy yellowfin tuna with Vidalia onion, radish, and watermelon that gives it a cool twist.
     The small plates--botanos--I enjoyed included a clever take on corn cakes made with a form of Mexican ricotta and topped with a quail's egg and salsa ranchera.  You can already see what I mean about the food being clearly, authentically Mexican but in no way predictable.  They also make a terrific trio of guacamoles that brings that dish into a whole new sphere of diversity, including one made with fruits like mango, apple, and peach, flavored with basil.
     Los tacos is a separate section on the menu, made with handmade tortillas (and believe me, those items are getting to be rare in restaurants in Mexico). We loved the braised veal cheeks with onion, cilantro, and a rich chile de arbol salsa, as well as a nicely assertive carne asada, in which skirt steak is rubbed with chile and served in a hot taco with pickled red onions and pulque salsa borracha ("drunkard's style").
     Downstairs there is a brick oven, which is itself unusual for a Mexican restaurant. At Toloache they use it to make queso fondido, chicken quesadillas, and my two favorites, a quesadilla of braised short ribs with Chihuahua cheese and chipotle barbecue sauce, and another with manchego cheese and huitlacoche, the corn mushroom fungus with its earthy, subtly smoky flavors.
     Among the main courses I recommend the perfectly rendered roast suckling pig (from that brick oven), which is shredded and glossed with a habanero-sour orange salsa, and accompanied by a cooling avocado-chicaron salad. Braised short ribs are treated to the tang of pomegranate, with a celeriac puree and chile ancho glaze, while tuna is rubbed with seven chilies, yet it keeps its essential sea flavor, served with corn, chorizo, and a tequila-chipotle glaze.
     If you have room for dessert go with the soft chocolate torta or the traditional flan, which are particularly original but are very good.
     With chef de cuisine Carlos Barroz, Medina is showing that Mexican food is not just capable of diverging for the formulaic but has evolved into a cuisine of refinement and finesse without losing its spicy soul. I wish there were more restaurants in Mexico, Texas, and the Southwest doing food this tasty, this smart, and this personalized.

Toloache is open for lunch Mon.-Fri., Brunch Sat. & Sun., and dinner nightly.  Appetizers at dinner run $8-$13, ceviches $10-$17, and main courses $8-$27.


by Brian Freedman

                                                                                            The Douro River

    For centuries, the Portuguese wine industry has been defined by Port. And while few would argue with the resounding success Portugal has historically had with all things sweet and fortified, it nonetheless deserves more credit and attention for its dry wines, too.   The problem—as is the case with wines from so many countries and regions that the wider wine-drinking public is not terribly familiar with—is both finding them in the first place, and knowing what to look for when you do come across a wine shop that carries more than a few bottle.
    In terms of this first issue, the situation is improving all the time. As the dollar grows ever weaker against the Euro, merchants are having to look to wine-producing regions in Europe that have not traditionally had a great deal of success or exposure on this side of the Pond. Expect to see more and more bargains from places you didn’t even know grew grapes in the coming months and years. And while it’s unlikely that your local store will begin to carry more Portuguese wines than French, the wines have become significantly easier to find lately.
    As for the second problem—knowing what to look for—learning the basics is not as difficult as it is with some other parts of the wine world. Portuguese wine lingo and geography are, thankfully, relatively easy to grasp: No complicated, German-style labels; no obscure, Burgundy-like place-names to wade through. A bit of familiarity with the key regions and grape varieties is all that’s necessary to begin taking full advantage of these underappreciated wines.
    Reds from Alentejo, a surprisingly successful wine-growing region in the hot, dry southern part of the country, are relatively easy to find, and what they lack in name-recognition they more than make up for in easy drinkability and excellent value. Because of this, they offer some of the best wine bargains in a country overflowing with them.
    I recently tasted two wines from the Alentejo, and while neither one blew me away, they were both exceptionally drinkable, undeniably pleasant bottles. And because the region is home to so many grape varieties that may not be familiar to most people—herbaceous, spicy trincadeira; aragónez (more commonly known as tempranillo); and a bit of touriga nacional, among others—they offer the chance to taste something new.
    Foral de Évora’s 2004 Tinto has a nose of ripe cherries, dark berries, and a strong garrigue aroma that reminds me of nothing so much as grenache (likely the result of the alicante used in the blend, one of whose parent varietals is, not surprisingly, grenache). On the palate, the wine is very well balanced, with notes of cranberries, cigar tobacco, and dried Sicilian olives.
    The other Alentejano red, Fundação de Almeida’s Adega da Cartuxa Tinto 2006,  shows notes of grilled herbs, cranberry, and a not-unpleasant rubber aroma. There is a real sweetness to the fruit in this wine, which eventually evolves into something resembling a strawberry Fruit Roll-Up (but in a good way). For all of its fruit, however, there’s excellent concentration, too, and a surprisingly solid sense of grip.
    Of course, despite the historical importance of local grape varieties in Portuguese wines, there are some very nice bottlings being produced from non-native ones. The Campolargo Tinto 2004, for example, is 100% pinot noir. And while none of the best producers in Vosne-Romanée or the Willamette Valley should feel threatened by it, this wine offers all the pleasure of varietally accurate pinot noir at a fraction of its usual price.
    Despite its edge of rusticity, this pinot from the Bairrada region in the north of the country exhibits a pronounced floral perfume along the lines of slightly dried lavender, as well as bright acidity, cherries, and mushrooms. It may not be all that complex, but it certainly seems custom-made for the warmer days of spring.
    Not all the still reds of Portugal are crafted in this vein, however. The Dão region’s Sociedade Agricola de Casal Tonda Quinta dos Grilos Tinto 2005 is a deep, aromatic wine with a polished and somewhat vanilla-rich palate that is far more subtle than the ripe plum, thyme, black pepper, and chocolate of the nose. And the Quinta de la Rosa Aguia Tinto 2005 from the Douro region, produced from tinta roriz (better known as tempranillo), touriga franca, and the king of Portugal’s native grape varieties, touriga nacional, starts off almost overwhelming oaky but quickly develops unexpected flavors of plum, tar, and truffle.
    In that regard, at least, the Quinta de la Rosa is a fair symbol for the red wines of Portugal: Easy to enjoy, true to its origins, and a lot more interesting than you might initially expect. Port may be the most well-known wine here, but the dry reds, now more than ever, are worthy of renewed attention.

Brian Freedman is food and wine editor of LifeStyle  Magazine (, restaurant critic for and, director of wine education at the Wine School of Philadelphia and editorial director  at



"I have loved red Burgundy for decades, ever since the first really great Pinot Noir passed my lips.  Who could fail to be entranced?  Here is a wine which can sing like a nightingale, shine forth like a sapphire, intrigue like the most complex of chess problems and seduce like the first kiss of someone you are just about to fall in love with.  "--Clive Coates, The Wines of Burgundy.


When Madonna's husband Guy Ritchie went on the Cookie Diet, which Kelly Clarkson and Jennifer Hudson had followed, she told a Phoenix radio show she was not happy: "My husband went on that Cookie Diet and it was such a turn-off because he didn't want to have sex. He did lose weight but he didn't really need to lose that much weight.”  In response Dr. Sanford Siegal, who created the Cookie Diet in 1975, said, he has "treated more than 500,000 patients" and he "can't recall any of them reporting a similar effect on their sexual appetite."


*  On May 15, at Charlie Palmer Steak in Washington DC, Share Our Strength  will gather 9 chefs to create a 5-course menu paired wines for “A Tasteful Pursuit®.” Chefs incl. Jeffrey Buben, Bistro Bis; R.J. Cooper, Vidalia;  Roberto Donna, Galileo and Bebo Trattoria; Todd Gray, Equinox; Brian McBride, Blue Duck Tavern;  Michel Richard, Citronelle and Central; Bradford Thompson, James Beard Winner, 2006 Best Chef Southwest;  Chef Bryan Voltaggio, Volt Restaurant.

* The Hôtel Le Bristol Paris has announced upcoming dates for their “Fashion High Teas.”  This summer, Le Bristol welcomes designers Azzaro and Ungaro. During the shows, guests will also enjoy English tea and French pastries and finger sandwiches by Pastry Chef Laurent Jeannin, inspired by the designer being featured.    The Azzaro show will be held on May 24 and the Ungaro show will be held June 28; 50 Euros pp. Call 33 (0)1 53 43 43 42 or by visiting

•    On May 19 Wine Enthusiast’s annual epicurean evening of wine, food and soft jazz will be held in Lincoln Center of the Performing Arts.  International wine and spirit companies will pour more than 500 of their premium products, and over 30 top New York restaurants will be showcased. 
VIP Tasting $185,  Grand Tasting, $95. 
Silent auction
to benefit:  City Harvest and the Food Bank For NYC. Visit or call 800-847-5949
Other Cities:     San Francisco: March 27;  Atlanta: April 17; Chicago: May 1.

•    On May 20 Dish du Jour Magazine hoists the first Burger Battle of the Boroughs at their 7th annual Cuisine of Queens & Beyond 2008 Food and Wine Gala at the Astoria World Manor, Astoria, NY.  Each borough, except Staten Island, will have a representing burger submitted to a panel of celebrity judges incl.  Chef Terrance Brennan of Picholine, Restaurant and Artisanal Cheese & Wine Bistro, Arthur Schwartz, The Food Maven, Josh Ozersky, online food editor for New York Magazine’s Grub Street, Kelly Choi, producer and host of Eat Out New York on NYC TV, and Tony Tantillo, CBS2 HD Food Expert. The event will showcase cuisine from over 50 local restaurants, gourmet shops, bakeries, wine and beer companies.  $55 pp in advance; $65 at the door. Call (718) 777-7918 or visit

* Every Wednesday night is now "Caviar Night" at Petrossian in NYC, with a prix fixe of $95 pp that incl. Petrossian’s Royal Transmontanus and Alverta™ Caviars served with freshly made blinis and toast points, an assortment of Petrossian’s zakouskis (a variety of hors d’oeuvres), all topped with Paul Georg Champagne and Petrossian Vodka. Call 212-245-2214.

*  On May 29 in Charlotte,  NC,  M5 Modern Mediterranean restaurant has announced a wine dinner on featuring BR Cohn wines. Hosted by Dan Cohn, National Marketing Director, the 5-course menu created by Executive Chef Tom Condron will be paired with select BR Cohn wines. 75 pp.  Call 704-909-5500.

* Linda and Ted Fondulas, owners of Hemingway's in Killington, Vermont, will conduct a Food Odyssey in central Vermont from May 31 to June 1, incl. cooking classes, wine tastings, visits to farmsteads and artisan food and beverage producers, food tastings, gourmet dinners, picnics, and wild edible forages.  Call 802-422-3886.

* From June 1-4  the BROADMOOR will be hosting grilling authority Steven Raichlen’s Barbecue University ™ in Colorado Springs, a 3-night interactive grilling course. Packages start at $2,428 for one student and $3,713. Call 800-634-7711 or visit

* From June 4-8 in Kennebunkport, Maine, the  Arts in the Inns pairs "Palettes with Palates" with TV chef Sam Talbot as guest,  with chefs creating 4-course, artist-inspired meals and artists painting in plein air during this cultural and culinary immersion.   On June 5 at the Breakwater Inn and Spa will feature a  The Champagne Preview;  A Conversation with Charles Movalli and Dale Ratcliff, and Sam Talbot's take on a traditional Maine Clambake on June 7.  
Proceeds benefit local cultural programs and  an art scholarship. Visit or call 781-249-7821.

* Ultimate Wine and Food Tastings at Auction Napa Valley's American Classic Weekend, June 5-8,  For $5,000/couple, enjoy kick-off parties, Taste Napa, barrel tastings, a private dinner and luncheon at a premiere vineyard and the gala auction dinner. For more information, visit or call 707 968 4217.

NEW FEATURE: I am happy to  report that the Virtual Gourmet is  linking up with three 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."  THIS WEEK: "PARIS, PARIS, PARIS: Apartments for rent,  102 best restaurants , A review of "Metro Stop Paris."   



Eating Las Vegas is the new on-line site for Virtual Gourmet contrinbutor John A. Curtas., who since 1995 has been commenting on the Las Vegas food scene and reviewing restaurants for Nevada Public Radio.  He is also the restaurant critic for KLAS TV, Channel 8 in Las Vegas, and his past reviews can be accessed at Click on the logo below to go directly to his site.


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,  Suzanne Wright, John A. Curtas, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Brian Freedman, Marianne Camarda, and Dotty Griffith. Contributing Photographers: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery,  Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.

John Mariani is a columnist for Esquire, Wine Spectator, Bloomberg News and Radio, Diversion.,, and Cowboys and Indians.  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), and other books below.

 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 2008