Virtual Gourmet

June 27,  2010                                                                   NEWSLETTER

Nathan's, Coney Island, NY



➔ ARCHIVE:  Readers may now access an Archive of all past newsletters--each annotated--dating back to July, 2003, by simply clicking on

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GOOD NEWS! now has a new food section  called "Eat Like a Man," which will be featuring restaurant articles by John Mariani and others from around the USA.

  THIS WEEK: The Purple Pig, Chicago


In This Issue

Fredericksburg . . . Texas! by Galina Stepanoff-Dargery


NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR:  Barsac with Scallops and Duck? But Hold the Foie Gras! by John Mariani

MAN ABOUT TOWN by Christopher Mariani


Fredericksburg. . . Texas!
by Galina Stepanoff-Dargery

       Settled by Germans in 1846 and located in the beautiful Texas Hill Country about 65 miles west of Austin and 65 miles north of San Antonio, Fredericksburg is a town of well-maintained and beautiful limestone buildings, many along Main Street, made wide so that horse and carriages could easily turn around.  The town has strict historic preservations ordinances, and allows only certain historic colors for buildings, billboards and chain stores. Fast food chains are forbidden in the center of town. Which all makes for a charming town that avoids being quaint by being so true to itself and its heritage.  This is Fredericksburg, not Williamsburg.
      On my recent, and first, visit to the city I found Fredericksburg a trove of activities and entertainments. Known for its rich number of art galleries, the natural art is in as manifest in its fields of wildflowers, where aficionados come from afar to admire the bluebonnets, Indian paintbrushes, winecups, spread like bold palettes of color into the landscape.
       Museums are numerous: Gish’s Old West Museum (right) is  Joe Gish’s personal collection of cowboy memorabilia; the National Museum of the Pacific War is one of the finest, in-depth repositories of history devoted to that theater of World War II; The Pioneer Complex is a 3.5 acre complex with displays of early German settlements in the area, where Lyndon B. Johnson’s ranch is still  referred to as his “Texas Whitehouse.”
       Over a hundred “Sunday houses” or cottages--small townhouses with one bedroom and a lean-to kitchen--were built here from the  1890s through the 1920s by rural families that would come to town on weekends to sell their produce and attend church.  Today, many of these cottages have become popular rentals for tourists.

     The Hill Country is also one of the fastest-growing wine destinations; in fact, Texas is the fifth largest grape and wine producer in the U.S., with more than 220 family-owned vineyards in a $1 billion industry. The wineries within the Hill Country Appellation, spread over 15,000 square miles in 22 counties—the second largest in the U.S.--produce more than 2 million gallons of wine annually. The problem with people getting to know well-established wineries like Messina Hof, Fall Creek Vineyards and Llano Estacado Winery  is that most of their wines are sold out in state.   Not far from Fredericksburg heading out on Route  290, “the wine trail” leads to any number of wineries--Padernales Cellars, Becher Vineyards, Grape Creek, and Torre di Pietra ,to name a few open for wine tastings.
      When it is time for a meal, Fredericksburg offers a variety of choices.
Fredericksburg Brewing Co.  (left) is a large, lively restaurant where all the beers on tap are made on the premises according to German beer laws, without preservatives. Several of their brews have won medals at the annual Great American Beer Festival.
    The menu at the brewery reflects the proletarian crossroads of gastronomy in Central Texas--Mexican, German, the Deep South-ranching heritage, and Cajun.  Their most popular appetizer special features fried slices of pickles the size of bottlecaps, deep fried jalepeño slices, hot chicken wings, and mozzarella cheese wedges with assorted dipping sauces.  The sausage sampler is a generous selection of  knockwurst, bratwurst and pepperwurst, all made fresh and  served with sides of red cabbage and potato salad. Jäger Schnitzel is a breaded pork chop topped with a Bavarian-style mushroom sauce. Chicken fried steak is breaded, pounded steak topped with country gravy;  crispy chicken flautas – tortillas  fried and topped with shredded cheese and sour cream—come with rice and beans.

      Local farms are big business  around here, and one of their favorite crops is peaches, which appears in one form or another on almost all dessert lists. Local farmers are also growing blueberries and strawberries.  Some of the desserts at the Brewery are peach cobbler, fudge brownie with vanilla ice cream and chocolate chip pecan pie--easily among the most difficult choices to make in town.

      Dick Estenson owns The Hanger Hotel, a 50-room structure with antique details; he also owns The Fredericksburg Herb Farm, The Fredericksburg Brewing Company, and the Airport Diner,  a retro-looking beauty at the local private airfield. The Airport Diner (right) is a wonderful  take-off of the old railcar diners, with stainless steel counters, twirling seats, and red leather booths, all with a great view of the landing strip. The place is referred to as the “$100  diner” because  pilots fly their private planes in here just to have a meal at the eatery, then fly back home. The choice of dishes include sandwiches, burgers, salads and soda fountain specialties from shakes, malts, floats and flavored sodas.
       Der Lindenbaum  is named after the linden tree, a symbol of German immigrants’  homeland.   It’s located in one of the beautiful historic limestone building constructed by the pioneers a hundred years ago. The atmosphere is cozy, comfortable and friendly.  The menu is strictly German, with Schnitzels, goulashes, sauerbraten, pfeffersteaks, and  beef and pork meatballs in caper sauce.
      August E’s (left),  is owned and run by Dawn  and Chef Leu Savanh,  who is also a martial arts instructor, a fifth-degree black belt listed as “a registered weapon,” so I doubt anyone complains about the food here. Then again, there isn’t any reason to: Leu serves the most imaginative “nouveau Tecas” cuisine anywhere around, an inspiration of local dishes with Asian influences.  Appetizers  include the signature crab stack, lump crabmeat with buttered crostini, avocado with tomato, greens and wasabi aïoli, crabcakes with rémoulade sauce and field greens.  The ribeye steak is mesquite grilled American Kobe with mascarpone whipped potatoes, grilled asparagus, topped with bacon bordelaise sauce. Seared sesame ahi,  served with bamboo rice, sautéed Asian greens and topped with sake soy sauce.  An extensive sushi menu is available with special handrolls.

    The restaurant is located just off Main Street has a modern, contemporary décor--a large room with sage green walls,  cement floor, industrial overhead track lighting. Tables have white tablecloths  topped with a fern in a vase. Chairs are modern leather highbacks. The large, high walls are perfect for featuring local artists’ work,  which are all for sale.
    Rather Sweet Bakery and Café, (right) is not to be missed. Owned by Rebecca Rather, has been featured in many national magazines. The bakery, set back on the street has outdoor tables, set in a garden, and an indoor eating room painted in red, hung with whimsical art work, all for sale. Some of their German pastries are mixed berry koulachi, a yeasty sweet dough with mixed berries; a savory omelet koulachi is  topped with an omelet with onion, red pepper and potato.  Other choices include blueberry scones, and  orange muffins that are light, fluffy with an aromatic orange flavor.  Their Café is just next to the bakery on Main Street, where salads, hot and cold sandwiches and their homemade desserts and cookies are served.

     The Clear River Pecan Company, with its original floor and high ceiling in a 1800’s building  is a fun place to stop between shopping or sightseeing to have some homemade baked goods, a sandwich or ice cream, shakes or  ice cream sodas.  The place plays music from "Grease," reminiscent of an old-fashioned 1950s candy store, decorated with Elvis memorabilia, gumball machines, and toy machines.
       There is a bounty of art in Fredericksburg that can keep you busy exploring all day.  If one happens to be in Fredericksburg in the beginning of the month , the first Friday of each month,  the town has an Art Walk, a day full of art and special events in Fredericksburg’s fine art galleries.  Whistle Pik Galleries,  celebrating 15 years here is among the ones that is on the art walk, displays some of the finest Western art. In September 2010 the gallery will be featuring Gerald Harvey’s western art, a painter and sculptor who specializes in turn of the century Americana and western sagas of cowboys.      Insight Gallery,  opened in 2009 by two sisters, is housed in a historic landmark building with 12 foot ceilings and limestone walls is a perfect setting  to feature the finest painters and sculptors across a variety of styles  and concentrating on Western art, should not be missed.

       Lodgings in the area are varied, depending on one’s desires.  Just five miles away from downtown Main Street is a charming pioneer farmhouse,  Palo Alto Creek Farm (left) with 4 guest houses situated in a bucolic farm setting.  If a quaint cottage or bed and breakfast is more to one’s liking and closer to town, Gastehaus Schmidt can advise and book numerous cozy lodgings.  The Inn on Barons Creek  is a comfortable hotel just off Main Street.


by John Mariani

65 East 55th Street (off Madison Avenue)
212- 307-7311

     Up through the 1950s NYC had a pretty fair representation of Scandinavian restaurants, the way it once did German and Czech. There was Gripsholm, Red Brick, Wivel, Finland House, Three Crowns, Castlehom, and Swedish Rathskeller. By the 1970s only Copenhagen and Stockholm were left, and they too closed.  But for more than two decades now, Aquavit, under owner Håkan Swahn, has held high the banner for Scandinavian haute cuisine.  It would be easy enough to say Aquavit's success is due to default, drawing lovers of Scandinavian food because there is nowhere else to go.  But the fact is that Aquavit, with a line of celebrated chefs that includes Christer Larson and Marcus Samuelsson, since its inception in other quarters in Nelson Rockefeller's former townhouse across from the MOMA, and for the last several years in its present location between Madison and Park, has been ranked among the top restaurants in the city in any category.
     Its design alone,
by Arne Jacobsen, Paul Kjaerholm and Verner Panton, is exemplary of the evolution of Scandinavian design, which, rather than dating, has only become more handsome, from its swank bar-lounge to its bistro and main dining rooms.
     The annual Herring Festival just ended, but in the fall will come the crayfish festival and holiday specials, all handled with finesse by young Chef
Marcus Jernmark, who has simplified the cuisine while making it entirely his. In the casual Bistro you can have a menu of  traditional Scandinavian favorites such as Swedish meatballs, gravlax and herring. In the dining room there is a 3-course fixed price dinner menu at $78 and a 7-course tasting menu at $105 (with wine pairing, $105). There is also  "Mamma Mia!" package: Aquavit has partnered with the hit show   with a three-course dinner  then an evening on Broadway, starting at $139 per person.
      Recently my wife and I pretty much allowed Jernmark to choose some of his current favorites along with items we could not resist ordering from the menu. Since the Herring Festival was still in full swing, we were presented with six types, along with vasterbotten cheese and the traditional boiled potatoes. One could easily make a meal of these well-fatted, pickled fish, but we were also eager to try the butter-poached brook trout with ramps, smoked mussels, trout roe, and cucumber, a dish whose light smokiness played off the green freshness of the cucumbers and the saline roe.  A chilled Maine lobster came with 
pickled baby tomato, Belgian endive, asparagus, and celery, while sweetbreads were smoked over hay very gently, then served with sweep   parsnip purée, fava beans, grilled bread, and a lashing of apple cider.    Of the second courses, I was particularly happy with the lustrous seared scallops with butter poached lobster, sauerkraut and quinoa for textural contrast and an  oyster vinaigrette. Silky Arctic char came with   fennel cured char, cauliflower, salted hazelnuts, horseradish emulsion-- a dish that reads a little complex but so little is done to each ingredient that they are all simple complements to one another, not a conflict.

    If you prefer game, the duck breast roulade--wonderfully pink and juicy--came with hearty bacon-onion dumplings called kroppkakor, rainbow swiss chard, English peas, and  a light lingonberry jus. Aquavit's lamb comes from Valhalla Farm (in Washington, not Viking paradise) and is served cooked just to a turn, with flavorful mustard greens, artichoke barigoule, and garlic scapes.
     The winelist at Aquavit is long, deep, and priced in every category, and of course there are good beers and a superb selection of aquavits that go especially well with the pickled herring and other seafood dishes.
       Desserts are as beautiful as they are well married to the kind of creativity and presentation as what precedes them.
       If Aquavit did not exist, NYC would simply not be the same.  Not to have a serious Scandinavian restaurant would be a major lapse; not to have one as superb and even trail-blazing as Aquavit would be terrible loss.  Fortunately, Aquavit's success promises that it will continue to be both a beacon and a reminder of how unusual this food and drink is.

 Aquavit is open for lunch Mon.-Fri, for brunch Sun., and for dinner nightly.



Barsac with Scallops and Duck? But Hold the Foie Gras!
by John Mariani

   Aline Baly winces a little when people automatically order the classic pairing of foie gras and a glass of Barsac, which, with Sauternes, is one of the great sweet Bordeaux wines.  “There’s nothing wrong with it—it’s a glorious match—but it just limits the possibilities for enjoying Barsac with so much else,” says the 29-year-old co-proprietor, with her father Dominique and Uncle Philippe of Château Coutet, whose estate dates back to 1643. It was Thomas Jefferson’s favorite Barsac and has enjoyed First Growth status since 1885.

Aline and Philippe Baly

      Baly was in New York promoting her wines, and though she is allergic to seafood, she recommended that this writer try a range of Château Coutet Barsacs with everything from scallops to softshell crabs, and, finally, pressed duck, at Chef Daniel Boulud’s flagship, Restaurant Daniel on East 65th Street.
      “It’s difficult to convince people that a sweet wine can go with savory dishes,” she said, “but they are a revelation once people try them.” And after several courses paired to her wines, I had to agree, for the same reason that foie gras and Barsac or Sauternes has for so long been a decidedly decadent marriage of fatted duck or goose liver with a sumptuously sweet wine.
      We sampled three vintages—2004 ($54), 2005 ($65) and 1997 ($65) with the delicate flavors of Maine peekytoe crab salad with a tangy, acidic Granny Smith apple sauce; crisp softshell crab tempura with fingerling potatoes and sauce grenobloise with tart capers; and hazelnut-crusted sea scallops, with a woodsy morels fricassée and a green peppercorn sauce.  Usually, gourmets might choose a big white Burgundy or California chardonnay to enhance such dishes, but the Coutet handily complemented the sweetness of the hazelnuts, the zest of the apples and capers, the hot oil of the tender crabs, and the assertiveness of the peppercorns.
       The showpiece pressed duck (which needs to be ordered a day or two in advance at Daniel) is an elaborate dish that dates to the early 19th century, prepared by a captain and a waiter tableside.  The legs and meat are carved from the bones, which along with the liver and cognac is squeezed through a silver press into an extremely rich elixir that serves as the sauce. Traditionally, a red Burgundy or Bordeaux is enjoyed with this famously sumptuous dish, but by pairing it with the magnificent Coutet 1997, whose age intensified the fruit and acids within the sweetness, the dish resembles a French version of Peking duck, which is itself brushed with a sweet soy sauce, carved and served with the sweet condiment called hoisin sauce.
      With desserts like warm chocolate coulant with liquid caramel and sea salt, of course, the Barsac went impeccably well. But we might just as easily had a blue-veined cheese like Roquefort, another classic match-up, or just sipped the Coutet as a dessert all on its own.
      Like most Barsacs, Coutet’s is made from a blend of semillon, sauvignon blanc, and a touch of muscadelle. The Lur-Saluces family, which also owned the famous Château d’Yquem, produced Coutet until 1923. The Balys took over in 1977 and renovated the estate and cellars (below), bringing in the newest technology and replanting many of the 38.5 hectares (95 acres) of vines under cultivation. The average vine is 35 years old, some older.
      In 1994, Philippe and Dominique Baly signed an agreement with the Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, giving exclusive worldwide distribution rights to her company, Baron Philippe de Rothschild S.A.
Barsac, like Sauternes and the beerenauslese and trockenbeerenauslese wines of Germany, is made from ugly yellow grapes shriveled and blackened by the Botrytis cinerea fungus, the so-called “Noble Rot” (below) that allows the evaporation of water and concentrates the sugars. The grapes are hand picked as they ripen, so that at Coutet about 80 pickers need at least five days to complete just one pass through the vineyards, repeated several times as more grapes ripen over a six-week period.
      Coutet’s ideal balance is considered to be approximately 14% alcohol and about 130-150 grams per liter of residual sugar, and aging is 18 months, at which time the final blend is made.
      No matter how many times I sample Barsacs and Sauternes, I am always amazed at how they can be so densely sweet and complex but never cloying.  In Coutet’s wines I taste aromatic, floral flavors, along with very ripe tropical fruits, and that distinctive, requisite hint of oak that provides the wine’s backbone and provides notes of vanilla.
      The fact that Barsacs, even more than Sauternes, are so reasonably priced for such illustrious wines makes them all the more attractive to try with a wide range of dishes.

      It was a splendid, enlightening evening at Daniel, even if I was dying for a glass of red wine halfway through feasting on the duck. Drinking Barsac throughout a meal is not something most people will ever do, but to eschew the foie gras or save the Roquefort in order to try Château Coutet with other savory dishes will indeed be a revelation.

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 NEW COLUMN: I am proud to present a new column of goings-on around town, be it New York or London, Portland or St. Petersburg.   Christopher Mariani will be reporting in on where he's been, what he's seen, what he's eaten, and whom he met, making the title
Mariani's Virtual Gourmet even more expansive.--J.M.


by Christopher Mariani

Rare Bar and Grill
On a recent balmy New York’s summer evening, I taxied over to the Rare Bar and Grill located in the Wyndham Hotel at 152 West 26th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues, inside Fashion 26, conveniently near the Fashion Institute of Technology, to  celebrate the restaurant’s grand opening party held by owner Douglas Boxer (who also owns the first Rare Bar and Grill located at 303 Lexington Avenue). Outside, the media were snapping pictures and conducting interviews, tall models posed for the cameras, and a bright pink carpet beckoned invited guests to the lobby of the hotel and down one flight of stairs to the restaurant, with wooden floors and tables, and barbed wire motifs in the hanging lamps, appropriate for a modern high-end burger place.  There is one way-out-of-the-ordinary seating space here—a huge charcoal-like rectangle where a few diners can eat ”inside the rock.”
     There was a sea of about 100 people who were sipping one of the restaurant’s signature drinks, the Shark Tale, made up of Pyrat XO Reserve Rum, Patron Citronge, passion fruit puree, and a splash of both fresh lime and simple syrup.  About halfway through my first Shark Tale I ventured downstairs to check out the main dining room (right), which seats around 200 guests.  Hors d’oeuvres were being passed, including a “frickle”--a fried sliced pickle--followed by a tasty beef-and-cheese slider placed on a delicious bun.  After consuming a quick half dozen of these,  I made my way to the bar where another signature cocktail was being poured,  The Fashionista, a blend of Patron Silver, Patron Citronge, strawberry purée, fresh jalapeño pepper, and a splash of fresh lime and simple syrup, very bold in its spiciness.

James Beard Foundation DinnerA few nights later I had my first dinner at the legendary James Beard House, at 167 West 12th Street, which several times a month has fund-raising dinners to spotlight one of America's great chefs.  In this case, it was one of my own personal favorites, Chef Dean Max, of 3030 Ocean in Fort Lauderdale and other restaurants, who cooked for a packed house.  When you attend a JB dinner, you enter down a few steps then pass right through Beard’s original kitchen, where the guest chefs are cooking, then into the beautiful courtyard garden behind this Greenwich Village townhouse for a glass or two of the Bellavista Franciacorta Cuvée Brut NV.
    I was enthusiastically greeted by Dean (below) with a big man hug, since I had recently spent a week with him onboard the M/S Paul Gauguin in French Polynesia, where he’d been guest chef.   Dean Had brought a brigade  of his chefs, from Dean James Max DJM Culinary, Inc.:  Ellis Cooley of Amp 150 in Cleveland; Paula DaSilva of 3030 Ocean; Richard Lee Cheeca Lodge,  Islamorada, FL; David MacLennan Latitude 41, Columbus, OH; Brad Phillips The Brasserie, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands.
    The highlight of the entire evening was Chef Max’s Hors d’Oeuvres, consisting of a Zellwood, Florida,  sweet corn soup topped with a fried mushroom (Zellwood is located in the NW corner of Orange County Florida and is known for its amazing production of crisp sweet corn during the month of May and also hosts the Zellwood Corn Festival); barrel fish escabeche with Calabrian peppers that were light and delicious; and fresh poke-style Hillsboro Inlet Wahoo.
We then went upstairs to what used to be Beard’s living quarters, to begin our meal with  a seared salt-crusted tuna with ackee purée, shaved pickled radishes and cherry tomatoes. (When I read ackee purée on the dinner menu, I immediately took a second look to make sure I had read the ingredients correctly, considering that ackee fruit, a native fruit of West Africa brought to Jamaica in the late 1700’s and is now the national fruit of Jamaica, is considered to be highly toxic if not prepared correctly!) We then had  Key West pink shrimp with shiitakes, spring onion–ginger ravioli, and Thai coconut broth; Hickory Acres lamb fillet with foie gras, Mokum carrot crown butter, and peas; and to finish, smoked chocolate panna cotta with Graham Cracker tuile, with brûléed Marshmallow Fluff, and warm Valrhona ganache--a very high-class version of s'mores.

Belvedere Intros a New Pink GrapefruitPoland’s Belvedere Vodka held a launch party on West 14th Street in Manhattan to introduce their newest flavor, grapefruit, created by mixologist Claire Smith, winner of the UK’s largest cocktail competition, “Battle of the Giants.” Smith told the party-goers that, including the new addition, Belvedere now has four flavors in its line of maceration vodkas—Citrus, Orange, Black Raspberry, and now Grapefruit.  She explained the new vodka to be naturally flavored with whole pink grapefruit combined with fresh ginger and Spanish spring lemons, contending that pink grapefruit, “is the perfect base for a variety of cocktails and yet just as delicious served chilled, neat or over ice.”
      Belvedere is a vodka made from gold rye.  I tried each of the four maceration vodkas neat as I chatted with local bartenders who  attended the event to scout out what Belvedere had to offer. The cocktails were served with  some wonderful food items to go along with the highly exotic blends: Soy marinated tea smoked duck with watercress and toasted pine nut pesto was accompanied by Belvedere Pink Grapefruit, plum sake, Carpano Antica Formula vermouth, and chocolate bitters.  Maguro sashimi, verjuice marinated tomato and avocado espuma went with the vodka,  lemon juice, watermelon and a sweet balsamic reduction;  and coffee and white chocolate mousse for dessert, with dry ice-chilled licorice infused Belvedere Pink Grapefruit.



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 June 30 and July 17, Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Chicago presents a Grant Park Music Festival Package. Dinner at Lawry’s is followed by VIP on-stage seating at the concert performed at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion.  $105 adults, $72 children. Call (312) 787-5000.

* On July 2-3, Simi Winery in Healdsburg, CA, Chef Eric Lee will serve three specialty  barbecued pizzas – one red, one white, and one blue-- at SIMI's Landslide Terrace Pizza Café. 95448. 1-800-746-4880;

* On July 4 in Atlanta, GA, The Sun Dial Restaurant, Bar + View presents Chef Christian Messier’s menu  for $69 pp. “Red White & Blue With a View Level” for the kids,  $45; kids ages 6 – 12 dine for half price and children 5 and under eat free. The Bar Level opens from 5 until 11 p.m.  There will be a $30 cover charge including a nacho station available from 6 - 9:30 p.m.  Call 404-589-7506.

* On July 7 in San Francisco, CA, Ame Restaurant at The St. Regis San Francisco will host a Three Course  Bo ssäm Dinner, for  $55 pp,  Shochu Cocktails. Call 415-284-4040.

* On July 10 in NYCAndaz Wall Street Hotel will launch the Andaz Wall Street's Farmers Market and will continue on every Saturday until Nov. 20. In addition to the farm sellers’ stands, the market will also have a live band, fresh samples, and monthly cooking classes conducted by Wall & Water’s Executive Chef Maximo Lopez May. Call 212-699-1700.

* From July 15 – July 21 in Washington D.C., Chefs Bart Vandaele of Belga Café, Robert Weidmaier of Brasserie Beck, & Claudio Pirollo of Et Voila! – will host a week-long “Belgian National Day” celebrated on July 21 - commemorates the day o Throughout the week, a series of culinary-infused events will be hosted at the three restaurants.   Beer Dinner at Belgian Ambassador’s Residence, Mussels Throw Down, Not Your Traditional Belgian Waffle, Mussels from Brussels, Belgian Chocolate Fest, and more. Call (202) 544-0100 or visit

* From July 16 – Oct. 31, in South Beach, FL, The Setai will host the Balinese Hour on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays  at The Bar & Courtyard while listening to the  Balinese Gamelan performance. Complimentary Satay and Balinese specialties will be served; Visit

* On July 17-18, in Watkins Glen, NY, The Wine Glass Company, Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association along with participating wineries have joined together to bring The RIEDEL Experience to the Finger Lakes Wine Festival presented by Yancey’s Fancy New York’s Artisan Cheese.  Available to 150 participants, includes a two-day VIP pass to the festival, sensory evaluation with Georg Riedel, a RIEDEL Vinum XL Tasting Set, several exclusive tastings, and a ride around the historic race track in a pace care. $175 pp. Call 866-461-7223 or

* On July 17 Persimmon Creek Vineyards in Clayton, GA presents "Bon Appetit, Y’all!," A Bastille Day dinner celebration prepared by Chef Virginia Willis. $95 pp; call 706-212-7380.

* On July 18, the L.A. Flea Market will hold its grand opening in Los Angeles. It features a Rick Dees Hollywood Yard Sale, valet parking and gourmet food trucks. Tickets range $5-25 pp. Visit <>  or call 866-966-9495.

* On July 18-25 in Los Cabos, Mexico, Pueblo Bonito Oceanfront Resorts and Spas brings together celebrated chefs from across Mexico for the "2010 PacifiCooks" with custom “All-Star” menus designed by collaborating  chefs, cooking seminars, cocktail receptions and  more. Call  011 (52) (624) 142 9999;

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: Hidden Treasures in Naples; 50% Off a Second Hotel Room in Concorde Paris Hotels; Letter from Paris: A Gastro Chic Restaurant and a Swell Little Bistro.


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). THIS WEEK:

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