Virtual Gourmet

January 31, 2010                                                                  NEWSLETTER

Mural in Nayarit, Mexico. Photo by Galina Stepanoff-Dargery (2009)


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In This Issue


Dovetail Revisited by John Mariani

NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLARItaly’s Mystery White Wine Is Also Its Finest by John Mariani



By John Mariani

     Remember  "Miami Vice," the one about two undercover cops who drove around so inconspicuously in a $250,000 Ferrari sportscar and dressed in Dolce & Gabbana and Versace so they could blend in with the bad guys?  Ah, what innocence it was! Sex, drugs, and rock and roll! Miami became the center for it all, with South Beach booming with crummy restaurants that all served pasta salads, crab cakes, and mojitos. For more than a decade, Miami Beach was the focus of the greater city’s nightlife and restaurant action, especially on those three long blocks hedging the beach—Ocean, Collins, and Washington—which each season saw the appearance of new eateries in the spaces of last season’s flops. Most were hardly worth remembering.
     But in the last two or three years Miami’s downtown and the burgeoning Design District have become far more interesting places to dine, with restaurants that are far from the cookie-cutter faux-trattorias and steakhouses on South Beach.  Let me begin by saying there are several very good restaurants on Miami Beach that have succeeded year after year by serving more individualized menus, not least the famous Joe’s Stone Crab Restaurant, which has been around since 1912, where the lines may be a bit shorter these days but where the game of palming the maître d’ for a shorter wait and good table is still requisite.
     The old grand hotels of Miami’s 1960s heyday have retrenched or, as in the case of the Fontainebleau, which has been closed for years and wholly rehabbed at a cost of $1 billion.  The old continental dining rooms have been replaced with restaurants with celebrity chefs names on them, including Scott Conant, who put in a version of his New York Scarpetta Italian restaurant; Hakkasan, a transatlantic leap from London’s Chef Alan Yau; and a steakhouse by Gotham Bar & Grill’s Alfred Portale.
     Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road, closed to vehicular traffic, has had its ups and downs, but at the moment it is home to the city’s best new steakhouse, with the double entendre name Meat Market (left).  It’s pretty slick, with a big bar up front, the usual pounding music, roomy booths, and shadowy décor that is a direct opposite of the old masculine steakhouses of the past.  The menu bears comparison to more modern grills like the BLT Steak chain, which has a unit
on South Beach in the Betsy Hotel. Meat Market’s chef, Sean Brasel, with meats cooked over a wood-burning grill, Japanese Kobe beef (at $95 for six ounces), and “creative sauces” like smoked paprika chimichurri and Jack Daniel’s pasilla garlic.  If you like your steak with a good vibe, this is the place to go this season.
    Some of the Beach’s best Italian-Mediterranean food is to be found at La Marea
 at the well-restored Tides
Hotel, a handsome, sand-colored dining room where Chef Pietro Rota does evocative dishes like seafood stew with scallops, clams, tomato, and garlic; sautéed Moroccan tuna filet with spices; and schiaccina--a Tuscan foccacia bread filled with tomatoes, burrata, and arugula.
     As I noted, foodies have been leaving the beach or driving in from the metro area to the Design District, which never had a gastro-profile at all until Michael Schwartz, formerly of Nemo, moved over there to open Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, which looks, on purpose, like upscale luncheonette and has a menu to boot.  But Schwartz has elevated comfort food to an exemplary level: His chicken liver crostini are dreamy, part Tuscan, part Jewish. The yellowfin tuna tartare with grapefruit, avocado, and crispy potatoes is pure Florida soul food. And the roasted pork shoulder with cheese grits and pickled red onion, or the crispy breast of veal would be first-rate cuisine anywhere. 
     Michael’s success immediately spurred a slew of new restaurants in the Design District, including Pacific Time (right), once located on Lincoln Road, Chef Jonathan Eismann’s paean to tropical casual chic, Asian tropics included, as evidenced in his succulent skirt steak with Indonesian spices, fermented black beans, and braised bok choy; his marvelously crisp softshell crab tempura; and addictive hot-and-sour popcorn shrimp with Thai vinaigrette. Pacific Time, like most Miami restaurants, spills over al fresco onto a patio, from which it’s a treat to see the handsome crowd sashay by.                 
Photo: Andrew Meade
     The most anticipated arrival in the District has been SRA. Martinez (below), a nickname for Michelle Bernstein, whose work at Azul  made it into the finest and most stylish restaurant in Miami.  Here at her new place, in an historic 1920’s era post office now done up with two bars on two levels, she is focused on small plates, some tapas-like, which range from pan con tomate, an authentic Spanish staple of toast moistened with tomato, topped with Jamon de Serrano, to calamari cooked “a la plancha” on a griddle, served on a bed of black rice, and to more high-end ingredients like her foie gras with brown butter apples and pulled pork. It works and it's sensational.
     Downtown there is renewed culinary interest, which was spurred by the housing and condo boom of the past decade, so that hotels like The Four Seasons, the Viceroy Miami, and  The Epic joined the spectacular Mandarin-Oriental (opened in 2002), where Azul (below), under Michelle Bernstein, achieved a well-deserved nationally recognized excellence no other Miami restaurant had ever achieved.  Upon Bernstein’s leaving three years ago, the apron strings were tied on to young master Clay Conley, who has maintained Azul’s eminence and the menu’s East-West fusion cuisine with glorious results and his own dazzling style, as in glittering dishes like his whimsical and delicious "steak n' eggs" carpaccio and tartare of beef, with crispy egg yolk, truffled artichoke vinaigrette and balsamic vinegar; summer squash ravioli comes with a warm chanterelle vinaigrette, whipped goat's cheese, pesto sauce, and tempura-fried squash blossoms; and yogurt-marinated swordfish with toasted pita and heirloom tomato salad with a brown butter lobster sauce and the slight crunch of hazelnuts--a brilliant dish.
  Desserts closely follow Conley's style of contrasts--a milk chocolate semi-freddo with orange crème brûlées, cocoa nib tuile, and orange sorbet is excellent, and the "deconstructed apple pie" is a plate of roasted apple compote, buttery pecan streusel, cinnamon-caramel gelée, and apple sorbet. Sommelier Cynthia Betancourt matches Conley's ideas with a superb 700-selection winelist that fits the cooking here.
      At the nearby Epic Hotel, on the 16th floor, Area 31 (below, left) is a new dining room with real panache in its clean, modern use of wood and steel, an open kitchen, attractive lighting, and a fine view of downtown Miami’s condos, many sitting unlighted at night.  Another young chef, John Critchley, is doing superlative work that features local seafood in the Miami-Mediterranean style, based on the sustainable product of Fishing Area 31, an area surrounding Florida and Central America. There is a selection of raw fish called by the Italian term crudi, including stone crab, yellowfin tuna and Key West pink shrimp, as well as a Grilled Fish category that depends on the best in the market that day—maybe Spanish mackerel, mangrove snapper, corvina, cuttlefish, or mahi mahi paired with variously flavored sauces. Other main courses include sautéed red snapper, salt-crusted dorade and wood-grilled spiny lobster.
      At the Viceroy things got off to an ambiguously inane start when it debuted its 15th floor restaurant last year. Then, this spring, they brought in star chef Michael Psilakis to do in Miami what he’d done in New York, which was the transformation of Greek cookery into haute cuisine, at Anthos. He'd also done combinations of Mediterranean and Italian food at other restaurants, so all that experience was poured into the menu at The Viceroy restaurant, which was renamed Eos (below, right), which has unfortunately retained the banal design of the previous restaurant.
     As at Area 31 and so many other restaurants around Miami, Eos features raw seafood, many signature items from New York, like orange marlin with pistachio, Speck bacon, and sweet apricot. The melted fonduta of pecorino over hazelnuts, thyme honey, and crostini is irresistible, and chicken is poached in milk and served with sweet corn. For something quite decadent, try the sea urchin risotto with caviar and egg yolk.
The effort here seems offhanded but interesting enough.
     Whether or not Psilakis, who now runs three restaurants in NYC will ever have the time to be at Eos remains to be seen and is a questions worth considering. Call and ask.
     It’s nice to be able to get off the beach in Miami these days and know you are going to get a fine meal, indeed, a great meal.  And if the ultra-casual, sloppy seaside look of the patio eateries in the painted art deco hotels gets to be a bit much, you can now dine with a sure degree of sophistication, your choice of great wines, and service that doesn’t end every sentence with “Awesome choice!”



103 West 77 Street

     now two years old, Dovetail is going strong in an expanded space up near the Museum of Natural History, and chef-partner John Fraser's cooking gets stronger all the time, more effusive really, food that shows snap and imagination without going over the line of sensible taste. The quaint name suggests a calming hospitality, and that's what you'll get from a service staff,   from amuse to petits-fours. Not least among the staff is sommelier Amanda Reader, who has added 500 bottles to the winelist and knows every one of them very well. Seek her advice.
     The expansion of the dining room by 20 seats and the bar by 16 (there is a new bar menu) brings in some much needed spatial light, making the dark wood and brick of the walls colorful than they used to look. It is disappointing, however, that they've kept the naked, dark bird's eye maple wood tables, which, sheen or not, add to the coffee shop feeling in the room.  How much warmer and brighter things would be with simple tablecloths.
     Fraser was born in California, worked at The French Laundry and in top toque restaurants in France before achieving recognition at Compass a few block south of Dovetail.  His cooking shows a range of influences adapted to his own particular taste, evident in every dish. Begin with the millefeuille of rabbit in filo sandwich sheets, which would be addictive on its own, but the tangy-sweet addition of apples and the woodsy flavor of black truffles make this a stellar winter's dish. Sweetbreads were nice and meaty, with a sweet-sour quince sauce, fried rice, cashews, and bok choy--an Asian item that I wish more Asian restaurants in NYC might approximate.  Potato gnocchi were fine, embellished with matsutake mushrooms, fennel and poppy seeds that gave it a Trentino echo, and sautéed foie gras of excellent quality came with the charming crunch of Graham crackers and sweet, beautiful huckleberries.
     Among the entrees I most enjoyed were the superb pistachio-crusted duck with a melange of figs, roasted red pepper, and watercress and a polenta starch counterpoint. Monkfish took on terra firma notes from braised oxtail and sunchokes, while a roasted sirloin of beef cheek lasagne with endive and mushrooms was polished off quickly at our table.  Only a pork chop, lacking fat, with celery and underseasoned lentils was disappointing.
     dovetail's pastries, by Vera Chang, are some of the best in NYC and they fly just above the complexity of what precedes them--brioche bread pudding with bananas, bacon brittle, and rum ice cream is a triumph; oatmeal Stout gingerbread with pears and a liquid crème caramel is devilishly good, and the pumpkin cheesecake was a delight.
      The winelist at Dovetail is, as you'd expect, broad and deep, priced about as high as its competitors do, but consult Ms. Reader for your price range and you'll drink very well. Dovetail is unique in stocking 25 Sherries you rarely see west of Jerez.

Sat. & Sun. Dovetail is open for lunch Wed.-Fri., for dinner Mon.-Sat., and for brunch Sat. & Sun. There is a "Sunday Suppa" at $38. Appetizer at dinner range from $12-$48, entrees $28-$38, with a 6-course dinner at $94.



Italy’s Mystery White Wine Is Also Its Finest
by John Mariani

     Even though I’ve been drinking wine with pleasure for a very long time, jaw-dropping moments have been few and far between.  Sometimes it’s in awe of how dreary a much-praised wine turns out to be; others, it’s when I didn’t expect much at all from a wine that proved a revelation. The latter was definitely the case when I had my first sip of Edoardo Valentini’s Trebbiano d’Abruzzo thirty years ago at a seafood restaurant called Guerino in the seaside town of Pescara in Italy’s Abruzzo region.
     My wife and I ordered spaghetti with clams and a simply grilled branzino graced with nothing but olive oil and lemon. Looking over the winelist I spotted Valentini’s wine at a price way above the other trebbianos, though in those days $10 was a fortune to spend on an Italian white wine.  Especially trebbiano, which is produced in Abruzzo in bulk and is rarely anything but dry and pleasant when young.  The other odd thing about the Valentini listing was its age—ten years old, which is about eight years more than I would ever consider drinking a trebbiano. I was curious but suspicious.
      The waiter poured the wine and the color was not promising, like burnished gold, usually a sign of considerable oxidation in a white wine. I swirled the glass and the aroma was very full. Then, on taking my first sip, my jaw did indeed drop.  I looked at my wife and said slowly, “This is one of the greatest white wines I’ve ever tasted.” And it got better as it aerated in the glass.
      The richness, the body, the velvety smoothness of the fruit-acid balance, and the distinctiveness of the varietal flavor—unlike any trebbiano I’d ever tasted—was unique.  I called over the owner of Guerino and asked him about the wine. His eyes lit up. “Ah, that is a trebbiano made by the Lord of the Wines in Abruzzo.” Beyond that revelation, he had no more information, almost like a Transylvanian speaking in hushed tones about the Lord of Darkness.
      In the years since then I have drunk Valentini’s Trebbiano whenever I could find it (as well as his superb red wine, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and a rosy Cerasuolo), which is not often enough. And information on the winery is not easy to come by. Edoardo Valentini (right), who died in 2006 at the age of 72, was not a man to give away his secrets, had various exporters, no p.r. agency, and not even a website. He was notorious for not allowing media visits or interviews.
      When Charles Scicolone, now food and wine editor of, got to visit the estate a few years ago, Valentini and his family “sat there like Mussolini and were very unpleasant,” he told me. “He would not show us his winery or tell us anything about how he made the wines. He did, though, talk endlessly about how he grew the grapes, which he said was the only true clone of Trebbiano, and how he covered his vines with canopies. Then he refused to sell us his wine.”
     The little information that can be pieced together about him and his winery shows that his ancestral home in Loreto Aprutino goes back three centuries, that he studied law, but then, in the 1950s, devoted himself to the 170 acres of vineyards.
     That trebbiano clone may well be the reason for his wine’s superiority but Valentini’s mania for picking only the best grapes means he uses only about five percent of the crop to make his wines (the rest is sold off to a cantina sociale).  Although allowed by law to make up to 800,000 bottles each year, Valentini never made more than 35,000 of Trebbiano and  15,000 of Montepulciano, usually much less. And it was always hard prying any out of him.
      The wines are made by old-fashioned methods of vinification and aging, a tradition carried on now by his son Franceso Paolo (with his father, left). The wines are never released until the winemaker determines they have sufficient age on them, which may be five years or more. Only the greatest of white Burgundies and sweet rieslings of Germany can hold up to a decade or more in the bottle, yet Valentini’s vintages of 1985, 1988, and several in the 1990s are prized by collectors.
      I had occasion recently to taste the currently available vintage of the Trebbiano, 2005, and found it every bit as good as every bottle I’ve ever had. Its U.S. importer, Domenico Valentino, brought in just 30 cases of the 2005 and has only ten left, most of it sold to restaurants. I’ve found that vintage from $75-$111, and vintages from the 1990s go for about $115.
      Will Edoardo’s son be more open to the world? Will he make more Trebbiano in the future? I, for one, hope not. A little mystery goes a long way, and a little wine keeps connoisseurs of Valentini panting for more.

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.



Orange County police suspect drugs may have been involved with the behavior of Bayron Reyes Lopez of San Clemente, when he allegedly jumped out of a third-story window, killed a dog with his bare hands,  then poured coffee all over himself after running naked through a tennis club, where he was a maintenance worker.

WELL, IF IT'S GOOD ENOUGH FOR MR. ROSEN, IT'S GOOD ENOUGH FOR US! "The art to the east puts even arrivistes directly at the center of a particular kind of Manhattan scene. There is a lot of cashmere and silk at Casa Lever, plenty of crazy wealth. (That’s Mr. Rosen over there now!) But it’s still fun in Spence-Chapin thrift-shop merino, in a Housing Works frock.. . . Micro-greens, those biosphere wonders too easily overcome by dressing, here stand up to little croutons and welcome a soft-poached egg, if not crisped prosciutto in the role of bacon or pancetta." —Sam Sifton, "Lever House," NY Times (1/6/10)


* Guidelines for submissions:  QUICK BYTES publishes only events, special dinners, etc, open to the public, not restaurant openings or personnel changes.  When submitting please send the most pertinent info, incl. tel # and site, in one short paragraph as simple e-mail text, WITH DATE LISTED FIRST, as below.  Thanks.  John Mariani


* On Feb. 1, in Brooklyn, NY, T D Selections and the Brooklyn Heights Wine Bar, will present a 4 course Wine Dinner, with wines paired by Tony DiDio. $65 pp Call 718 834 1776.

* On Feb 1& 2 , in Lombard, IL, Fonda Isabel will hold a fundraiser for Haiti with a special 3-course menu for $20 to benefit the Red Cross' efforts.   $20 per person plus tax and gratuity. Call 630-691-2222.

* Beginning in February in Atlanta, GA, Pacci Ristorante is giving guests the opportunity to recycle their corks and receive discounts with the restaurant’s “Cork to Fork” promotion in partnership with ReCORK America.   The restaurant will deduct 2 percent off the total bill for every cork brought in up to a maximum of 20 percent off.  This offer is limited to natural cork wine closures only, and does not include plastic or metal closures.  Call 678-412-2402.

* On Feb. 2 in Newport, RI, 22 Bowen’s Wine Bar & Grille will host a dinner featuring the wines Nickel & Nickel Single Vineyards.  Larry Maguire, Nickel & Nickel partner, will lead guests through each selection of wine paired with Chef Chris Jones’ 4-course dinner.  $99.22 pp.  Call 401-841-8884.

* On Feb 3-6,  in Oakland, CA, Oliveto  celebrates its annual Whole Hog dinners, held in honor of an ancient Italian wintertime tradition of using the entire animal from snout to tail. Chef Paul Canales will incl. signatures such as Choucroute Garni, Piemontese Peasant Braise of Pork Shoulder, Little cotechino Sausages, and Wild Boar Spare Ribs. Call 510-547-5356, or visit

* On Feb. 4th in Denver, CO, 7 of the top chefs in the region will gather for a 6 course dinner with paired wines to raise much-needed funds for Denver’s own Project C.U.R.E. and their Haiti relief fund. The chefs incl. Matt Anderson, Bistro Vendôme, John Broening, Duo/Olivéa, Yasmin Lozada-Hissom, Duo/Olivéa, Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, Frasca, Max Mackissock, Squeaky Bean, Alex Seidel, Fruition and Jennifer Jasinski, Rioja. $125 per person with all money going to Project C.U.R.E. Call 303-820-2282.

* On Feb. 6 thru Feb. 21 in Washington, DC, Café Dupont will host a Sunday Soul Brunch featuring classically southern comfort foods and cocktails. Cuisine by Executive Chef Silvan Kramer includes Fried Chicken and Waffles and Shrimp N Grits. Menu a la carte. Call 202-797-0169.

* On Feb. 6 in Rutherford, CA, at Quintessa Winery, Forever Young Wine Auction & Benefit will benefit The Young School, an elementary school in St. Helena. Unusual and hard-to-find wines and ‘priceless’ experiences with winemakers and behind-the-scenes winery visits, tastings and meals. $100/person, call 707-967-9909.

* On Feb. 6, in Schaumberg, ILL, Shaw’s Sushi Chef Naoki Nakashima, an authority on Japanese cuisine and etiquette, will lead an interactive Japanese sushi demo in Shaw’s Oyster Bar. Call Shaw’s Schaumburg at 847-517-2722.

* On Feb. 8 in San Francisco, Daniel Patterson, chef-owner of Coi and David Kinch, chef-owner of Manresa, team up to cook a 7-course dinner at Coi to support the Bocuse d'Or USA Foundation. $195 pp. Paired wines for an additional fee. Funds will support training of the chef who will represent the U.S. at the next international Bocuse d'Or competition in Lyon in 2011. Call 415-393-9000.

*On Feb 8, in NYC, Einstein meets Julia Child when Great Performances, Liberty Science Center, and a host of NYC chefs unite in the kitchen to explore the natural science in cooking and molecular gastronomy at ELEMENTS, an  interactive dining experience where top chefs, winemakers, coffee roasters, and master mixologists who will display and explain the physical and chemical changes that occur in food when exposed to the natural elements of fire, water, air, and ice.  The Great Performances Kitchen; $150 pp.  Visit

* On Feb. 9 in Atlanta, GA Toulouse Restaurant   is hosting a Steve Penley Wine Dinner to benefit the ServeHAITI Foundation.  The dinner includes a 5-course meal with two glasses of wine and the chance to meet artist Steve Penley and view and buy his artwork.  A portion of the art proceeds as well as a sizeable portion of the nightly proceeds will be donated to the ServeHAITI Foundation. $125 pp. Call 404-351-9533.

* On Feb. 10, in Orangeburg, SC, Four Moons ( will host a wine tasting dinner with Paul Hobbs. First tasting, Felino Series, $25 pp; 2nd Tasting, Crossbarn Series; $35 pp; commentary from Hobbs and light hors d'oeuvres; Wine Pairing Dinner, $150 pp; in-depth presentation by Hobbs. Call 803-531-1984.

* On Feb. 11 in San Francisco, CA, Foreign Cinema Chefs Gayle Pirie and John Clark celebrate the 87th birthday of Marion Cunningham, an American food writer, local cookbook author, friend, mentor and long time Bay Area resident. Enjoy a special menu imbued with Gayle and John’s favorite Marion Cunningham-inspired dishes. Call 415-648-7600 for reservations or visit

* On Feb. 13 & 14 in Madrea, CA, The family wineries of the Madera Wine Trail will host “Wine & Chocolate Weekend” Wine lovers may purchase a Passport Wine Glass at any of the participating wineries both days of the event for $25, or in advance for $20.  Sample current & newly released vintages while indulging in  chocolate creations, special food pairings, local art and live music. Call  800-613-0709 or go to

* From Feb.17-Apr. 4 in New Orleans, Besh Restaurant Group celebrates the traditions of "jours maigres" or "lean days" with enticing seafood dishes at August, Besh Steak, La Provence, Luke, Domenica and American Sector on the six Fridays during Lent. Call 504-299-9777.

*  On Feb. 18 in NYC Gascon chefs create a dinner at the James Beard House in honor of D’Artagnan’s 25th anniversary with Madiran, Gaillac, Gascogne, Pacherenc, Fronton, Saint-Mont, Jurançon and Cahors, and inductions into the Company of Musketeers of Armagnac.  $250 non-members; call 212-627-2308; . . .On Feb. 21 in NYC D’Artagnan’s 25th anniversary progressive dinner, with a chartered bus to each course at a different 4-star restaurant, with chefs from France and NYC (32 stars among them) celebrating a fusion of Gascon and American cuisine. With Daniel Boulud, Jean-Georges, Eric Ripert, Thomas Keller, Daniel Humm, and wines from the top vintages and reserves of Cahors, Madiran, Jurançon, St. Mont, and Château Lynch Bages will be served.  Trou Gascon Armagnac will be served on the bus between courses.  $600, 800-327-8246.

* From Feb. 19 – March 26 The Celebrity Chocolate Buffet returns to Park 75 at Four Seasons Atlanta when each Fri. evening a different celebrity will join Chef Robert Gerstenecker to share their favorite chocolate recipe  along with 15 other  chocolate desserts created by Gerstenecker. Hosts incl. fashion designer, Mychael Knight, radio personality and philanthropist, Frank Ski, Atlanta Ballet Creative Director, John McFall, President and CEO of the Trumpet Awards Foundation, Inc., Xernona Clayton,  of Fulton County Animal Services and owner of Barking Hound Village, David York and New York Times bestselling author, Emily Giffin. $20pp. Visit Call 404-253-3840.

* From Feb. 18-Feb 28, the Montreal HIGH LIGHTS Festival will take place with the city’s top chefs joining forces with their international counterparts at the SAQ Wine and Dine Experience presented by Air France. The festival features 280 events and this year pays tribute to Portugal, New Orleans  and Quebec’s Eastern Townships. Fausto Airoldi, master of Portuguese cuisine, will serve as honorary president and 21 chefs will be featured from his country. New Orleans chefs incl. Michael Farrell (Le Meritage), Brian Landry (Galatoire’s), Donald Link (Cochon), Duke Locicero (Café Giovanni), Ian Schnoebele (iris) and Thomas Wolfe (Wolfe’s in the warehouse). Call 1-999-477-9955 or visit

NEW FEATURE: I am happy to  report that the Virtual Gourmet is  linking up with four 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: Is The MS Europa the Best Ship in the World?; Lingering in Lucerne.


Eating Las Vegas is the new on-line site for Virtual Gourmet contributor 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).

Family Travel Forum: The Family Travel Forum (FTF), whose motto is "Have Kids, Still Travel!", is dedicated to the ideals, promotion and support of travel with children. Founded by business professionals John Manton and Kyle McCarthy with first class travel industry credentials and global family travel experience, the independent, family-supported FTF will provide its members with honest, unbiased information, informed advice and practical tips; all designed to make traveling a rewarding, healthy, safe, better value and hassle-free experience for adults and children who journey together. Membership in FTF will lead you to new worlds of adventure, fun and learning. Join the movement.

Family Travel Forum

All You Need to Know Before You Go

nickonwine: An engaging, interactive wine column by Nick Passmore, Artisanal Editor, Four Seasons Magazine; Wine Columnist,;;


MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly.  Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Contributing Writers: Robert Mariani,   John A. Curtas, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Suzanne Wright, and Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographers: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery,  Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.

 John Mariani is a columnist for Esquire, Bloomberg News, 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.

My 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

© copyright John Mariani 2010