Virtual Gourmet

April 25,  2010                                                                   NEWSLETTER

The Modern Dining Room. circa 1965


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GOOD NEWS! Starting this Monday, will have a new food section on its site, called "Eat Like a Man," which will be featuring restaurant articles by John Mariani from around the USA. 


In This Issue


NEW YORK CORNER The Oak Room at The Plaza by John Mariani

NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: Matching Madeira to a Meal Makes More Sense Than Ever
by John Mariani



by John Mariani


     The appetite-inducing dish you see above  is Wiener Schnitzel, the namesake signature dish of Vienna, even though there's a back-and-forth battle with Milan as to which came first, the veal Wiener Schnitzel or the costoletta alla milanese, both   made from pounded, breaded veal sautéed till very crisp. I need not join that battle, for both are simple dishes, which, when prepared with care, are among the most delicious in Europe. (Odd that the French never tried to finesse the idea.)

      Vienna is an international city where the locals can pretty much dine out on any kind of cuisine they like--sushi included--but the traveler is of course going to want to taste Austrian cuisine at its best and most typical, an easy enough accomplishment because Vienna is justifiably proud of its cooking, and Wiener Schnitzel is something that every non-sushi restaurant serves.  On my recent trip to Vienna with an old friend, we went through our share of Wiener Schnitzels, finding all of them well rendered but none of them so surpassingly great that one need worry about finding a "quintessential" version.  You really can't go to far wrong.
     In fact, my friend ate Wiener Schnitzel at least four times in seven days and I twice, and we were never disappointed, although Figlmüller is most famous restaurant for its version and packs people in for just that dish all day and night.
     Our first meal upon arrival in the city was at Do & Co Albertina (right), located within the Albertina Museum in city center.  This is a pretty cool and lively spot, with its Egon Schiele blow-up murals, good soft leather banquettes, and bright sunshine streaming through the windows--yet another example of Europe's commitment to good restaurants in their museums. (Do & Co is a restaurant group that has others around town.)
     So I sat down to my first Wiener Schnitzel squirted it with lemon, and was blissfully happy with its crisp, satisfying flavor of veal lightly fried and served with a potato-cucumber salad.  I also enjoyed the Austrian-style ham called Schinkenfleckerl with a steamy, caramelized  noodle gratin and green salad, and a rare tuna steak with a very non-Austrian balsamic and teriyaki sauce, ratatouille and buttered potatoes mousseline, all accompanied by a fresh 2008 Blaufrankisch from the Leo Hillinger estate.  For dessert we had their specialty--Mohr in Hamt,  a dense, moist chocolate cake and treacle with vanilla ice cream.  Prices here were very reasonable, with the main courses €13.80-23.50.

      That evening, with snow blanketing the streets, we tromped  our way to an upstairs restaurant  at the Museum Platz near the Ringstrasse named Glacis Beisl (left), through World War I a canteen, now a popular spot specializing in traditional and contemporary Viennese cuisine, in a shadowy dining room with canvas ceiling, and art nouveau lighting. Begin here with a glass of sparkling Welschriesling with apricot or pear pulp in elderfower syrup while you decide among dishes like leek pumpkin strüdel with herbs and cream or marinated beef salad with pumpkins seed oil. A warming beef consommé with tiny dumplings was perfect fto shun the chill of the winter's night. For main courses I was quite happy with juicy roast pork with cabbage and dumplings--a hefty platter--and roast saddle of veal with a mushroom ragoût, potato rösti and vegetables, ending off with churd cheese dumplings and apple puree and a sugared pancake with stewed plums.
      The next day, we visited what is perhaps the most renowned of Vienna's fine dining restaurants, Steiereck in the State Park, set right by the Vienna River.  The three-star restaurant here will run you €95 for five courses, though there is also  an à la carte menu. We chose to eat in the restaurant's far more casual, very pretty, very airy, glass-enclosed Meierei  ("Milk Bar"), open since 2005, which alludes to its serving milk-based products at breakfast, only to its fine selection of 150 cheeses.  At lunch the bright white restaurant (right) serves more substantial fare, though always with a lighter touch. It serves breakfast till noon then stays open till 11 PM.
       One of those light specials is the hochzeitssuppe, or “wedding soup,” a deep golden beef bouillon with a crispy strudel, a bacon biscuit and a semolina dumpling. Wiener Schnitzel here is first-rate.

       That evening we dined within the splendid fin-de-siècle magnificence of the Rote Bar (below)  restaurant at the Sacher Hotel, where we were staying. (For my report on the hotel itself, click here).  With its red brocade walls, soft napery, candlelight, varnished mahogany, mirrors, and antique paintings, all with a view over the city center's plaza, we felt quite baronial, the food sumptuous, with a definite Viennese slant and some modern European touches on the menu.  Don't miss the Sacher's superb, longtime favorite starter, a good liver tart with elderberry chutney, quince, and the crunch of hazelnuts in golden, buttery brioche. The kitchen has had enough practice over many decades to perfect its consommé, which is studded with spleen bread, potatoes, and liver or semolina dumplings. For the adventurous, you might try the stewed lung, cut int strips, much like tripe. Buckwheat risotto nods towards Italy, here done with pepper and baked ravioli, quite a sumptuous little dish. They offer Wiener Schnitzel, of course, with parslied potatoes, but for a change of pace I tried the similar Wiener Backhander, made with pounded, battered chicken, served with lamb's lettuce salad. There is also a crackling good suckling veal with its filet and cheek, served with a carrot confit and polenta.
      For dessert it is almost mandatory to feast on the hotel's signature Sacher Torte, which is truly one of the world's finest chocolate layered cakes.  Main courses at the Rote Bar run €20-32.  The winelist is excellent, rich in Austrian bottlings as well as international selections.

      The next day I was determined to find a superlative Tafelspitz--the boiled meats and vegetable dishes that is another of Austria and Germany's classic homestyle dishes, similar to France's pot au feu and Italy's bollito misto. Everyone in town has his favorite places to go for the dish but the hands-down winner in overall votes is the multi-unit Plachutta.  The one we dined at, near the cathedral area, on Wollzeile Street, was packed, all three big rooms, with wainscoting, yellow tablecloths, and metal warming plates on which to set and serve the simmering Tafelspitz (right), which is offered in several versions listed on the menu, so you can pick your selection of Austria-raised meats--shoulder, ox tongue, brisket, and so on--or the classic version with Huferschwanzel (from the rump),  which comes with sour cream, horseradish, and other condiments.  The hot broth is served first with fresh noodles, then the slices of meats, with some spinach and crisp, buttery spaetzle potatoes. Main courses run €15.80-25.40.
I have to admit that after a breakfast the next day of a bratwurst and hot coffee from a wurst stand parked just outside the Sacher, I began craving Italian food, and when I heard that the Antinori family of Tuscany, which makes some of Italy's finest wines,  had a branch of their Florence-based Cantinetta Antinori in Vienna (there are others in Moscow and Zurich), we were ready to depart from our Austrian diet, rewarded with delicious, plump and tender gnocchi with sausage and the tubular pasta cannelloni, followed by a simply grilled branzino graced with olive oil and lemon, and two glasses of Roero Arneis white wine--a good, sturdy but light meal for a cold afternoon of museum visits.  Main courses run €22.50-28.
       Café culture in Vienna is as important to the local lifestyle as its music. Indeed, there are said to be 2,200 coffee houses in the city, which must work out to one on every corner.  People go in the morning, have a rather leisurely breakfast, read the papers, and even claim their tables and waiters--addresesed as "Herr," at their favorites.  Some of the best known cafés would include the one at the Sacher Hotel near the Opera; Café Landtmann (left), which opened in 1873; the Prückel; Schwarzenberg, and others, each with its own style and atmosphere, some quieter than others, some for young people, others for an older crowd that values the afternoon coffee and pastry afternoon hiatus that seems to stretch into an hour.

      A few words about dining out in Vienna:  Just about every restaurant has a menu provided in English.  Dress, as everywhere in Europe these days, is casual, but  at the more traditional restaurants and cafes you will want to dress a bit conservatively, although bluejeans are everywhere.  There is no smoking allowed inside. Service is unfailingly courteous, and in the cafés very efficient.  You won't wait more than a minute or two for your order.  As for tipping, I got various answers from various Austrian friends:  Many restaurants list a service charge--usually about 10 .5 percent--on the bill, along with a 10 percent VAT tax; there may also be an old-fashioned cover charge for bread-and-butter, which can be  a hefty €2-3.  The best bet is to ask if service is included and if it is, leave another few Euros; if not, a 10-15 percent gratuity is acceptable.

To read Part One of this article on Vienna, click here.



by John Mariani

The Oak Room
The Plaza Hotel
10 Central Park South (at Fifth Avenue)

    W hen the Oak Room re-opened in the fall of 2008, its timing was hardly propitious. The renovation of the restaurant, along with the entire Plaza Hotel (now mostly condos) was done with care,  with the City's Landmarks Commission looking over the architect's shoulder.  And the renown of this fabled hotel should have insured its success.  Since opening in 1907,  designed by Henry Hardenbergh, with an addition in 1932 by Warren & Wetmore, the grand hotel combined Edwardian posh with the style of a grand French château, offering rooms at the opening for $2.50 a night. How times have changed.
     F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby, short stories, and his own antics while staying at The Plaza gave the stately hotel a Roaring Twenties raffishness,  and later the children's book Eloise at the Plaza (1965) by Kay Thompson bestowed an urban fantasy upon the vast hotel, echoed in the 1990 movie "Home Alone." Indeed, several movie scenes have been set in the hotel, from Hitchcock's "North by Northwest" (1959) and "The Way We Were" (1973) to "Plaza Suite" (1971) and even "Crocodile Dundee" (1986).   Along with
the Palace Arms in the Brown Palace in Denver, The Oak Room at the Seelbach in Louisville, and The French Room at The Adolphus in Dallas, The Oak Room at the Plaza is one of the last grande dame restaurants in America.
       Still, controversy over the hotel's condo conversions and the onset of the recession made it difficult for the hotel and The Oak Room to attract the kind of upscale clientele it was built for, and
while French chef Joël Antunes' cuisine was at the start very fine, the meal was also very expensive, with main courses $38-$59,  and the room's historic trappings overwhelmed the food.   Some quick re-thinking was necessary;  unfortunately, Mr. Antunes was out within months.  In his stead, The Oak Room hired a highly talented, well-respected American chef  named Eric Hara to take over, put his own stamp on the menu, and try to appeal to a broader audience.  The menu was made fixed price, $55 for three courses and $70 for four, which in NYC is really quite a steal, and in the bargain you get the full-tilt glory of The Oak Room.
      I may be wrong, but the lighting, once funereal,  seems better, a little brighter, warmer, and the service is  more professional and amiable.  Sad to say, there seems to be no dress code (the website suggests "smart casual" but many pay no attention to the first word), and in a place so baronial as this, it's offputting to see so many people dressed up along side so many people dressed way down.
      The winelist, built up when the restaurant was re-opened, is now well-suited to the current economics.
        It was wonderful to be back in the grand space of The Oak Room (though the Oak Room Bar is as dark as a dungeon!), partaking of a real part of Gotham gastronomic history.  We began with a Scottish langoustine, meaty and sweet, with Ligurian olives, Marcona almonds and radish, which set up well-conceived textural contrasts.  Beef carpaccio with pickled Japanese mushrooms had the lagniappe of rock shrimp tempura and aji amarillo for spice and that nice little edge of fat.  Braised veal cheeks, as a starter, was hefty and good, with creamy polenta, sweet white peaches, and micro turnips (these last had little flavor).  Two winsome ideas involved a foie gras "PB&J" with the fresh foie gras on toasted brioche with a macadamia nut butter and strawberry-vanilla jam--really good--and "Pork 'n' Beans," which was crisp, meaty pork belly with smoky tarbais beans and pearl onions.
   F or our main courses, we ordered red snapper with plump Dungeness crab ravioli, pearl onions and a crab broth with a confit of raisins to add a sweet touch.  Dover sole ($20 supplement) was done simply, with white asparagus on the side, hedgehog mushrooms and the flavoring of sorrel--a pleasant dish, but the sole was none too fatty and the dish needed more butter.  Muscovy duck beast with a duck confit-foie gras cabbage roll, beluga lentils and white mulberries carried through the leitmotif of savory and sweet flavors of Hara's cooking, which is never cloying, only clever.  The side dishes of truffled "tater tots" did not, however, need the too sweet peach ketchup, but the tempura artichokes with aji amarillo were delicious.
     You may choose from a selection of cheeses for $22, or go with pastry chef Mallory Staley's lemon-raspberry Pavolva with lemon sorbet and rose syrup--quite a lively dish--of the honest-to-very-goodness caramel apple parfait with warm Milano cookies.
am hopeful that the revamping of the menu here and the improvement in service will bring people back for the occasion to bask in the radiance of such a glorious room.  The food s certainly worth it at current prices.  Now if they could only urge their make guests to take "smart casual" more seriously, The Oak Room would again be one of NYC's grandest.

Breakfast daily; Lunch Mon.-Fri.; Dinner nightly; Brunch Sat. & Sun.



Matching Madeira to a Meal Makes More Sense Than Ever
by John Mariani

 “When I was a little boy I liked to eat lemons,” says Ricardo Freitas. “I think maybe that’s where I got my love of acids.”  Sucking lemons might not be the best training for a maker of Portugal’s Madeira wines, but then Freitas, 45, has always followed his instincts and personal taste rather than stultified tradition.  “Less technology and more thinking,” he told me over a lunch at The Modern in New York. “Madeira has a long history with many rules in place, but I always believed that acidity is the key to making a brighter, more refreshing wine than the old heavy, tannic, oxidized style.”
Freitas is managing director and winemaker for his family’s Viñhos Barbeito, whose Madeiras have twice been judged one of the world’s ten best wines regardless of category at Vinexpo in Bordeaux and his basic 10-year-old Verdelho Madeira was judged the top fortified wine in the world at Vinexpo, surpassing an array of Vintage Ports. Having tasted half a dozen of his wines over lunch, I discovered that not only are they far easier to drink than traditional-style Madeiras but that they go far better with food than as dessert wines or after-dinner drinks.
      One complete surprise was to find how well Madeira went with Chef Gabriel Kreuther’s very spicy casserole of braised tripe with chickpeas and red hot harissa aioli--a dish I would never think of accompanying with a sweet Madeira.  But Freitas’ Signature Series Barbeito VB, a blend of equal parts Verdelho and Boal, was only medium sweet and the acid so beloved by Freitas was perfect at cutting the richness of the dish.
      Other bottlings, like the 2001 Barbeito Boal Colheita Madeira Casks 48+84 ($45/500 ml)--those palindromic numbers signaled good fortune to Freitas when he found the casks-- went splendidly with a foie gras torchon with dried cherries and duck prosciutto, while a duck confit à l’orange, with its own bittersweet edge, was wonderful with the nutty “Charleston” Sercial.   This last, along with a “Boston” Boal and “New York” Malmsey, these Madeiras are part of what Barbeito calls its “Historic Series,” commemorating the prestigious reputation Madeira had in the U.S. in the 18th and 19th centuries.
      Along with the firm’s American importer, The Rare Wine Co., Barbeito creates its wines from single harvest and/or single casks in limited production, with just a barrel or two made at a time. Freitas regards each step of the Madeira-making process, including fortifying the wine with spirits, as an opportunity for questioning old practices. “It took me five years to convince my mother to stop using caramel to color the wines,” he says of an age-old technique. “I believed the caramel added its own flavor and I wanted the wines to taste only of their grape.”
     To this end Freitas has also demonstrated that Madeira’s workhorse grape Tinta Negra Mole can make fine wine without blending, and he ages his wine in a slow method called canteiro without the direct heat most producers use in the estufa (“hothouse”) method of accelerating the maturation of the wine. Barbeito’s slower maturation, which keeps oxidation to a minimum, allows the wines to be enjoyed earlier and, as I found out over lunch, can be enjoyed with savory food.
    When an age is indicated on a Madeira bottle, it usually refers to the oldest wine or the average age of the wines in the blend, as with Barbeito Malvasia 30 year-old Special Lot Madeira ($125/750ml), which Ricardo made as a tribute to his grandfather Mario Barbeito, the company’s founder. The average age of the wines is 30 years, with some older and some younger. Freitas promises this is the only time he will make such a blend; with only 1,550 bottles, it’s the company’s priciest bottling.
     Barbieto will also vintage date the wines to indicate a single barrel Madeira like its 1994 Malvasia Single Cask '23c’ ($50/500ml), bottled by hand in 2006, with 942 bottles made. In the fall of 2007, upon finding that a cask from 2000 had become quite concentrated after the summer’s heat caused evaporation, he bottled the wine immediately to maintain its refinement and richness, which might have been compromised by further aging.
      We did enjoy the Madeiras with some artisanal cheese and desserts like a milk chocolate and hazelnut dacquoise with raspberry sorbet, which would have made conventional sense at that point in the meal. But Freitas, who seemed as surprised as I was by the match-ups with the first and main courses, proved to me the versatility of his wines with food.  I’m not sure I’m ready for an entire meal accompanied only by Madeira wines—whose alcohol content is 19 percent and higher—but with an individual dish, especially one with spice and a little sweetness, they are absolutely delicious alternatives to dry whites or reds.

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.


A former NYC counterterrorism detective named
Anthony Chiofalo says he was unfairly fired after failing a drug test he blamed on his wife because she put marijuana in his meatballs.  A state appeals court upheld  the dismissal, even though his wife Catherine told police investigators she secretly substituted marijuana for oregano in the recipe so that her husband would fail the  test so he would have to leave police work.  But Police department lawyer Edward Hart says there was more marijuana in Chiofalo's system than the meatballs could explain.




Faster Times asked writer Jessica Pilot to determine which “human-grade” dog food tastes best in categories that included “something that I would serve my boyfriend for dinner.” You may watch the video at





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



* From Apr. 15 – June 15 in Milan, Italy, Hotel Principe di Savoia invites guests to "Name Their Price" at Acanto Restaurant. Each evening, guests have the opportunity to reserve a single table  for a maximum of 4-diners, ordering from the À La Carte menu. The final tab will be whatever they think dinner is worth. The offer incl. multiple courses, soft drinks, and coffee; wine and alcoholic beverages will be charged as stated on the Wine List and Bar Menu. Rates start at 255 Euro per night. Call 39-02-6230-5555 or visit

*On Apr. 22 in NYC, Bistrot Bagatelle  will host its first “Arabian Nights.” Guests can expect costumed waiters, Middle Eastern décor, Arabic beats by DJ Taze; belly dancers, and Chef Nicolas Cantrel's  i couscous and classic Mezze style dishes.  Call 212-675-2400 or visit

* On Apr. 29, in NYC, the Grand Street Settlement will host the 10th Annual Taste of the Lower East Side at the Puck Building. 40 restaurants from the Lower East Side and surrounding neighborhoods will serve a trademark dish accompanied by special cocktails, beer and wine donated by major beverage sponsors. 100% proceeds benefit Grand Street Settlement’s services for low-income children, youth and families living in the LES and in Bushwick, Bklyn. Tickets $150 pp and can be purchased at

* On May 1 in New Orleans, the Southern Food and Beverage Museum will discuss the origin and role of the Mint Julep in the American South. We will demonstrate how to make the traditional version as well as the now-extinct New Orleans style julep. Traditional Kentucky Derby snacks and drinks incl. $15 for members and $20 for non-members. Call 504-569-0405 or email

* On May 6 in San Francisco, CA, Moussy’s Restaurant hosts a  dinner and cookbook signing showcasing Mireille Guiliano’s latest book, The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook. The author will be present. $85 pp, incl. a copy of the book. Call 415-441-1802.

* On May 6, Absinthe Brasserie & Bar in San Francisco, CA, will host an intimate dinner with Kermit Lynch. Lynch will pour selected vintages from two of his benchmark producers – Domaine de Cherisey and Domaine Les Pallières – paired with a 4-course menu from Executive Chef Jamie Lauren.  $150 pp. Call 415-551-1453.

* This May 8, sample wines from Oregon's best small producers at Portland Indie Wine & Food Festival (Tickets $75, VIP $125 - call 503-595-0891 or visit Book Hotel Vintage Plaza's special "Portland Indie Wine Package" for a VIP ticket upgrade, overnight room for 2, Oregon Pinot wine flights, Riedel glasses, and more. Package prices starting at $229. Book at or call 800-263-2305.

* On May 8 in St. Helena, CA, a who’s who in Napa Valley food and wine join A Celebration of Food and Wine honoring the late Belle and Barney Rhodes. Presented by Napa Valley College and The Culinary Institute of America, the dinner at CIA features chefs Michael Chiarello, Gary Danko, Ken Frank, Perry Hoffman, Cindy Pawlcyn, Stephen Rogers, Sally Schmitt and others. The wine includes 1980 Heitz Cellar "Bella Oaks" Cabernet, as well as the more current 2005 vintage. $250 pp. Call 707-256-3200 or visit

* On May 8, in Portland, OR, 
the Portland Indie Wine & Food Festival returns to
at the Bison Building to
showcase 40 jury-selected, Oregon craft wineries and 15 of the city's creative culinary talents in a farmer’s market-style setting.  $75 pp. VIP  tickets are $125. in NE Portland near downtown. Call 503-595-0891, or visit

* On May 13 in San Francisco, at the Old Mint Building, the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society  presents Standing Ovations III – Cookin’ The Mint, honoring San Francisco Bay Area culinary luminaries. The Old Mint will transform into a living “Farmer’s Market” with  exhibits, featuring stories of chefs, wineries and food purveyors. $500 pp/. Call 415-537-1105 x107,

On May 13, in Hollywood, CA, the Bogart Pediatric Cancer Research Program will host its Eighth Annual Wine Aficionado Dinner at the  W Hotel.  Titled “Hollywood and Wine: The Biggest Stars in Wine Today,” dinner will showcase some of the world’s finest wines paired with a 4-course dinner. Wine service will be overseen by several LA sommeliers. Live auction.  $1,250 pp. or $10,000 per table of ten. Call 323-330-0520.

* The Inn at 202 Dover in Easton, Maryland has just introduced a Sunday Jazz Brunch created by chef Mark Knipp, Music is provided by improvisational Jazz pianist Joe Holt. Guests can also come for the night and receive half off a second night. 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: Go Walking in England with Everett Potter; When is a French Flea Market Not a Flea Market?; SpaWatch: A Massage by Deepak Chopra?


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