NEW! Click esquire.com
to go to my new column at Esquire Magazine.
Index: A complete list of restaurants covered in this newsletter
since 2003. Please
NEW YORK CORNER: Porcão Churrascaria by John Mariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: BAREFOOT AND BUBBLY and SIMPLY SUBLIME
by Mort Hochstein
neighborhood is the historic Campo dei Fiori, especially
at dinner time. One of the gems here is Osteria al Bric (Via
Pellegrino 51; 06 687 95 33). A window display of
cheeses on straw mats invites you in. Wine-case end panels decorate the
walls: here again, you’ve stumbled upon a wine lover’s dream, run by
third- generation wine merchant, Roberto Marchetti.
directly across Via del
Pellegrino is another must
visit: Grappolo d'oro "Zampano" (Piazza della Cancelleria 80; 06 689 70 80),
whose movie-loving owner named it after the circus
strongman in Fellini's "La Strada." Either the selection of salumi, or an aptly
named insalata di polpo--just
about as good
as octopus gets--or creamy brandade
di baccalà all did better-than-yeoman’s work as
starters. Pastas included tonnarelli
spaghetti) cacio e pepe, and
fresh fettucine with guanciale,
and pecorino moliterno,
another variant of pecorino from
the town of Molino in Basilicata, that’s actually made with a small
portion of goats’ milk as well.
The tab for two was 86 Euros the first night, and 73 Euros the second.
Our old favorite in the
neighborhood is Hostaria Farnese
Baullari 109), especially when the weather allows for dining out
at a handful of tables and watching the ebb and flow of passersby
Campo dei Fiori and Piazza Farnese. Long an inviting, homey mom-and-pop
operation, with La Signora in the kitchen and husband Francesco making
everyone feel at home in the dining room. Mamma (right) has finally moved on to
well-deserved retirement. Now her son Luca has joined his father in
front of the house, and the welcome is as warm and friendly, the prices
as easy-to-take, and the cucina
casareccia as reliable and satisfying
NEW YORK CORNER
by John Mariani
360 Park Avenue South
(at 26th Street)
It's been a good idea since 1975, when the first Porcão opened in Rio de Janeiro, then expanded to other Brazilian cities, then to Miami and New York. And it's a very simple one: You get to stuff yourself at a set price--$35.90--on all the salads and appetizers you can get onto successive plates, then, when you've polished that off, waiters bring long skewers of meats to your table and slice off however much you desire, again and again and again, until you turn over a green disc to reveal its red underside--STOP! It's a helluva lot of fun, a real gorge on the Gargantua-Pantagruel scale. It may well be a "guy thing," but plenty of women also love the concept, and they keep up--caipirinha for caipirinha.
The first time I went to a churrascaria was in Rio, and I thought the idea would catch on like wildfire in the meat-loving U.S.A. And it did, with other non-Porcão churrascarias popping up around the country. Porcão's is certainly the most identifiable and familiar, for they do it all with real dash and splash, and the décor in the NYC operation has a shadowy glamor, with dark recesses within a vast, pillared space, huge windows on two sides, a lively bar, and lights focused on the salad and appetizer bar. There are tablecloths and thin wineglasses. Make it a table for two or twenty-- they have plenty of room--yet (I was there on a slow night) the noise wasn't deafening, and the Brazilian music was a refreshing change from the Techno-crap played elsewhere in such big venues.
And so we began. You don't want to seem overly anxious to hit the app bar, so you order a cocktail--the caipirinhas are made fresh in front of you by a waiter--and fiddle with the green-red disc and make small talk, and then, when you can't stand the pangs of hunger any longer, you hit the bar, amazed at the range of offerings--40 of them--from salad greens and mozzarella balls to shrimp and beans and sushi and pasta and on and on. You load up your plate foolishly because you can't help yourself, even though you know the main event is coming up. So you nosh on the starters, eating way too much (management is well aware that you will, so you won't be eating nearly as much meat as you thought), and then take a deep breath and summon the skewer bearers. Sizzling cuts of beef, lamb, pork, sausage, turkey, chicken thighs, filet mignon wrapped in bacon, and other meats, all perfectly seasoned, are paraded by you one at a time, and they start to slice as you help pull the meat off with little tongs.
True, it's a show, and, true, the whole thing is a formula. But the meats are of very, very high quality, and the way they are cooked, in such volume, throughout the night, means they get to you in impeccable condition, even to the desired temperature or color you prefer. You go on and on, half thinking you don't want to eat any more, half believing you'll be thought a wimp if you turn over your disc.
And if they can stand the parade of meat, you can even bring your vegan friends. And your wineloving friends will be delighted with the selection from Spain, Portugal, and South America.
So you get up, settle your center of gravity, and pat your stomach. To say no one leaves hungry is to state the obvious. To promise everyone will have a good time is the key to understanding the flamboyance and jollity of Porcão.
Porcão is open daily for lunch and dinner. Dinner is set at $35.90. Business lunch, $22.90.
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
BAREFOOT AND BUBBLY
by Mort Hochstein
few weeks back, Barefoot Wine,
a group whose
name tells all, sent me a batch of bubbly, half a dozen bottles of
fizzy types. The Barefoot people, non-elitist, always casual and
disdainful of accepted doctrine, call their line "Champagne," a
designation which does not bring joy to the French who have lobbied and
keep that term all their own, even clamping down on Gallic winemakers
operating outside of the small Champagne district.
from simple to sublime, I went soon
afterwards to the opposite extreme as I helped celebrate the
anniversary of one of the great French houses, Champagne
Henriot. At The Modern, the posh restaurant in the Museum
of Modern Art in Manhattan, Stanislaus and Joseph Henriot, members of
the founding family, brought out a handful of treasures from their
ancient cellars, 60 feet below the cobblestone streets of Reims.
Henriot is one of the few remaining family-owned major producers
and father and son promised us they would resist the lures of the
conglomerates which dominate the Champagne trade.
DRINK TO THAT!
A research team led by Tomas A. Prolla
and Richard Weindruch of the University of Wisconsin reported in the
journal PLoS One the oxidant
resveratrol abundant in red wine may be effective in causing people to
live longer lives. In earlier studies of mice on treadmills, the
animals were large amounts of resveratrol that would have
equaled 100 bottles of red wine a day, but the new report used a
dose on mice equivalent to just 35 bottles a day. According to Dr.
Weindruch "a mere four, five-ounce glasses of wine starts getting
close to the amount of resveratrol they found effective."
PLEASE JUST LEAVE!
“No please-don’t-go-on-or-I’ll-soil-myself lachrymose chortling at clunking Holywood anecdotage. No Billy Connolly or Stirling Moss, no winsome flirting with Miss Piggy.”—Matthew Norman in a restaurant review in The (London) Guardian.
* In Paris, Hôtel
de Crillon has re-opened the Patio with a host of seasonal
cocktails and an ice cream trolley available throughout the day. Chef
Jean-Francois Piège has expanded C’est Chic (55 euros), Le
Pic-nic! menu, with a Chic & Choc (35 euros) menu of and a
third for children, Le Petit Pic-nic (25 €). Visit www.crillon.com.
* On June 23 at Daniel
in NYC a Taittinger wine dinner will be held with sommelier Philippe
Marchal and master sommelier Olivier Masmondet. $395 pp. Call
212-933-5262. Visit www.danielnyc.com.
* On June 26 Cuvaison
Winery is hosting a wine dinner at The Sea Grill in NYC
presented by Cuvaison Estate Wines President, Jay
Schuppert. $135 pp. Call 212-584-4323.
* From July 4-6 in Jamaica, the Pepsi Portland Jerk Festival at
Folly Estate, Boston Beach, and Frenchman’s Cove in the resort area of
Port Antonio, kicks off with the official opening and Children’s Fun
Day at the Boston Playing Field and all-inclusive beach party,
with cuisine from Portland’s leading chefs and music by
Renaissance Disco. The highlight will be the “Big Show” on Sundayat the
Folly Mansion ruins with more than 25 stalls showcasing the best jerked
foods available on the island. Call 1-800-JAMAICA (1-800-526-2422).
Palace in Lausanne has created a special 3-night Summer Spa
Package, available through Sept. 30, priced from CHF 750 (approximately
USD 720), including VAT and service charges, the special includes: 3
nights accommodations in a garden-view room; buffet breakfast in
the Salon Grammont or room service; Exclusive Jubilee treatment at the
Cinq Mondes Spa (per person); Lunch at the spa's restaurant; 4-course
dinner at La Rotonde; Free access to the Cinq Mondes Spa and the tennis
courts, and more. Call 011-41 21 613 3333; or through The Leading
Hotels of the World at: 1-800-223-6800; visit: www.brp.ch.
* From July 10-13 The
American Institute of Wine and Foo
(AIWF) National Leaders Symposium will bring together this
organization’s principals and members in Monterey, CA, for a
behind-the-scenes look at the region’s agricultural industry, fishing
and wine industries, with custom-created insider visits, incl. a tour
of the Salinas Valley, Monterey Peninsula wine tour, the Monterey
Aquarium and Hopkins Marine Research Laboratory, as well as gourmet
food and wine tasting excursions. Participants can choose
from a series of small-group Dine Around Dinners in Monterey, Carmel,
and Pebble Beach, capped by a gala “Passport Around the World”
soirée in the private, members-only Beach & Tennis Club
dining room at Pebble Beach. Visit www.aiwf.org.
* From July 12-30 in Los Cabos, Mexico, Pueblo Bonito Oceanfront Resorts & Spas
Chef Antonio de Livier presents PacifiCooks, with some of Latin
America's most popular Master Chefs, as well as culinary artists from
Mexico. Chefs incl: Enrique Olvera , Restaurante Pujol; Guillermo
Gonzalez Beristain, Grupo
Pangea; Benito Molina
. La Manzanilla, Silvestre, and Muelle Tres; Paulina
Abascal, Pastry Shops and host of the Pasterleria.mx TV show;
Federico Lopez, Ambrosia Culinary Academy; Ricardo
Muñoz Zurita, Café Azul y Oro. visit www.pueblobonito.com
or call (800) 990-8250.
* On July 14 New Rivers
in Providence will hold the 3rd Annual Rhode Island Chef Smackdown to
benefit the AIWF Rhode Island Patricia Tillinghast Memorial Scholarship
at Johnson & Wales University and Days of Taste. Five Chefs from
Providence and Five Chefs from Newport will duke it out culinary style.
$125 pp. Call 401-683-2490.
* From July 16 -20 The New Orleans Culinary and Cultural Preservation Society, will hold its annual Tales of the Cocktail, a culinary and cocktail festival on July 16-20, 2008, features award-winning mixologists, authors, bartenders, chefs and designers in the New Orleans French Quarter at dinner-pairings, cocktail demos and tastings, seminars, mixing competitions, design expos, book-signings and much more. Visit www.TalesoftheCocktail.com.
* From July 17-19 in Oakville, CA, the Robert Mondavi Winery’s TASTE3 will
bring more than 300 guests that incl. Cary Fowler, Executive Director
of the Global Crop Diversity Trust; Dan Barber, chef/owner, Blue Hill
& Blue Hill at Stone Barns; Tea expert and vermicologist David Lee
Hoffman, et al. Private winery dinners at Etude, Gargiulo, Hall Wines,
Mumm, Quintessa and Rubicon Estate, and more. Conference registration
is open at www.taste3.com or call 707-967-3997. A limited number
of fellowships are available; details are at www.taste3.com.
* On July 17 in Chicago, Cafe
Matou will host its summer
Bière Night. Chef/Owner Charlie Socher and Wine Director James
Rahn will present a Provencal-style summer 5-course meal featuring
locally-grown produce and summer micro brews. $67 pp. Call
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, ForbesTraveler.com 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: THIS WEEK: Jumel Terrace B&B, NYC; Abu Dhabi.
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 KNPR.org. Click on the logo below to go directly to his site.
Tennis Resorts Online: A 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). THIS WEEK: A Report on The Four Seasons Jackson Hole. 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, Suzanne Wright, John A. Curtas, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Suzanne Wright. Contributing Photographers: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery, Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.
Any of John Mariani's books below
may be ordered from amazon.com by clicking on the cover image.