Virtual Gourmet

August 22, 2010                                                                   NEWSLETTER

                                                      Julia Roberts in the film "Eat Pray Love" (2010)



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

➔ SUBSCRIBE AND UN-SUBSCRIBE: You may subscribe anyone you wish to this newsletter--free of charge--by clicking here.

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 Hottest Burger You'll Ever Eat


In This Issue

Doing the Charleston Chew by Suzanne Wright

Pò and Il Matto by John Mariani


A Long Haul to Singapore Requires Sheer Luxury by Christopher Mariani



Doing the Charleston Chew 

By Suzanne Wright

"La Tête de Porc" by Charleston Artist William McCullough


   It’s a sweltering summer day, and I am trudging across cobblestones, my legs heavy as anchors, mopping the sweat from my forehead.

   I am a woman on a culinary mission.  Heat, humidity, mosquitoes—I won’t be daunted.   Meals  await in air-conditioned comfort.

    According to the Convention & Visitor Bureau, Charleston is “where history lives.”  But from a culinary perspective, history is being made, every day, on plates throughout the city.  The vibrant scene has long attracted national attention, with a string of local chefs achieving acclaim.

     I’ve checked into Restoration on King. Built as condos before the recession, it is now a boutique hotel (left) with a privileged location half a block off King Street, the city’s main pedestrian artery.  Room 306 is a corner suite suspended over the street, with floor to ceiling windows and contemporary interiors; it’s like staying at an artist friend’s hip loft. The service exemplifies Southern hospitality: continental breakfast is brought in a picnic basket, wine and cheese is served nightly at 5 p.m., followed by milk and cookies at 8.

     Caviar & Bananas  is Charleston’s version of Manhattan’s Zabar’s.  I grab a tub of pimento cheese and a to-go container of zucchini, cranberry, pecan and feta salad and I’m off to Wadmalaw Island.  Cross the bridge (or was it two?) and a lonesome ribbon of asphalt unfurls over the famously picturesque marsh land, Spanish-draped live oaks providing a canopy of shade. This is farmland; hand-lettered signs for tomatoes, corn and peaches punctuate the road’s shoulder.

     First stop:  the Charleston Tea Plantation (below), America’s only commercial tea farm.  Even if I don’t, tea loves heat and humidity; 150 years ago planters brought bushes from China to the island where they’ve thrived.  The tour includes a trolley ride through the fields, a glimpse of the processing and a tasting.  I’ve arrived at the moment of “first flush,” when tea goes from field to cup in just 20 hours; the result is a rich, aromatic brew.  I stock up on the popular Charleston Breakfast and Governor’s Gray.

     Next, I’m headed for the “hard stuff.”  Husband and wife Jim and Ann Irvin have a funky compound (once used as carriage storage) that comprises their two operations:  Firefly Vodka Distillery and Irvin House Vineyards. (South Carolina law prohibits signage and I didn’t have cell service, so be sure to ask for directions as you depart the tea plantation.)

     Created in 2007, sweet tea vodka is the signature product of the state’s first distillery and a nationally popular Southern spirit, but there are seven others, including peach tea.  Brags Jim, “You can smell the fuzz on the peach.” Also in the works, java rhum made with Colombian coffee.  It, too,  had a powerful nose, though I was partial to the infusion made with Buffalo Trace bourbon.  At Charleston’s only winery, the wines tend toward the sweet (muscadine grapes are the varietal), though I think Mullet Hall red is irresistibly named.

     Dinner at the Fat Hen (right) on neighboring John Island is, quite simply, life-affirming.  In an unpretentious  setting, Chef Fred Neuville is serious about farm-to-table; he has a farmer’s market in his parking lot during Sunay brunch. Vegetarians will be very, very happy: fried green tomatoes maintain their texture with a light panko crust and a smear of goat cheese, a dab of pepper relish and a puddle of tomato jam; the roasted corn and oven-dried tomato salad has the one-two surprise of boiled peanuts and Green Goddess dressing.  Oysters—twice the size of my thumb, yet firm, not flabby—are sautéed with country ham and wild mushrooms and served over grilled bread.  There’s so much more:  an interesting charcuterie plate, perfectly crispy pommes frites, butter bean cake with avocado chipotle cream.  The special of the day was truly inspired:  meaty wreckfish paired with mesclun, fresh corn, wax beans, heirloom tomatoes and lemon cucumbers, goosed with a citrus vinaigrette—summer’s bounty on a plate.  Do not miss the "pluff mudd pie" (ask your server to explain the name), a fluffy chocolate mousse with an Oreo crust and Chantilly cream.  Hands-down, this was my favorite meal of the trip.

     Back in Charleston the following day, I had another praiseworthy meal at Amen Street, open just since November 2009.  Chef Todd Garrigan has reinvented fried calamari by tossing in corn, tomatoes and green onions, along with bacon for smokiness.  His hushpuppies are served with local honey; his mussels with garlic, tomatoes, white wine and herbs have a pleasant sweetness.    
     Even some locals don’t know about funky Dixie Supply Bakery & Café  (located next to a convenience store, but you should.  I still can’t decide if I liked the gooey tomato pie or luscious carrot cake pancakes better.

    At FISH (left) the desserts were most memorable, perhaps because of the menu’s engaging copywriting: “It’s just ready if the juice doesn’t drip off of your elbow.  That’s what my mom always told me about a strawberry,” which captures the spirit of the strawberry mojito parfait with yuzu lime syrup, sitting between two star anise wafers:  a grown-up ice cream sandwich. Cheesecake lollipops were rolled in chocolate gingersnaps served with strawberry lemon curd.  Among savories, the standout was Chef Nico Romo’s bouillabaisse with trout, scallops, shrimp, clams, potatoes, bok choy, mushrooms, carrots and coconut lemongrass broth—a refreshing Asian twist on a classic.  The bacon pork loin medallions—the pig was fed with special compost the restaurants prepares—were flavorful but a bit heavy for a summer supper.
     Bald, tan and tattooed, Chef Brett McKee at Oak Steakhouse  works the room to the staccato sound of shaken martinis as the light glints off his earrings.  Look beyond the chopped salad and filet mignon to the menu’s real stars: killer sides including Brussels sprouts with applewood smoked bacon and lobster mac and cheese.  If you have room, there’s a six-layer chocolate cake served with a shot glass of whole milk, and my favorite, a super whipped cheesecake.  Let McKee tell you how the recipe evolved.

     McKee is also behind O-Ku, an upscale sushi restaurant which has been likened to Nobe.  It may be culinary sacrilege to admit, but I am not a big sushi or sake devotee.  Chef Sean Park and his gracious staff are working hard to create demand for sushi beyond bargain rolls.  I enjoyed sipping refined, chilled sakes—some milky, some clear—with mellifluous names like Snow Maiden and Bride of the Fox, while noshing on mandoo, delicious dumplings stuffed with kimchee.  The bar also makes an award-winning passionfruit mojito, sour and refreshing and a steamy Southern night.  The presentation is impeccable, the attention to detail graceful, from escolar to otoros, big eye and yellow carpaccio.  Ask your server for wasabi stems to enliven everything.  If you’ve got a sweet tooth, steer toward the pineapple crème brûlée.





by John Mariani
    Although it may seem a culinary anomaly, what precedes the main course in Italy is almost always more enticing and tasty than the main course itself.  Lavish main courses--called secondi--are considered just too much after the antipasti and pasta (primi) courses, which may involve anything from mozzarella in carozza and minestrone to lasagne alla bolognese to risotto al barolo.  The secondi usually are little more than simply grilled, roasted, or fried meats and fish, the only embellishment a squirt of lemon. It's about all you need.
    Main courses tend to be much more lavish in Italian-American restaurants, where chicken alla parmigiana and steak alla pizzaiola are more common.  Two restaurants under consideration this week--one around for a long while, the other a few months old--tend towards elaborating the main courses, when in fact, the antipasti and pastas are the way to go.

Alfredo DiLelio and Jimmy Stewart at Alfredo's in Rome, c. 1956.

31 Cornelia Street (near Bleecker)

     For 17 years now New Yorkers have had a soft spot for Pò, primarily because it was one of the first of a new, more authentic-style trattorias in a pretty street in the West Village and because it was where Mario Batali first worked to develop the style he later manifested big time at Babbo. His partner Steve Crane is still owner, now with  Lee McGrath in the kitchen, and Pò, whose name derives from the northern Italy river,  still maintains that sweet sense of smallness and minimalism. Pò is not decorous and it can get loud (I should note that Americans are much louder than anyone else in restaurants), but it is also convivial with people who are obvious regulars, and Mr. Crane is there to take care of everyone. (Unfortunately, on the night I visited recently, he was under the weather and not in attendance, so service was a bit slack and Po lacked the spirit of his personality.)
     It's a pretty good-sized menu, but you should not miss the white bean bruschetta (below), an ideal appetite starter that says all you need to know about what Italian antipasto should be--fragrant, soft beans with olive oil on good country toast.  Those same beans come with cured tuna, and I highly recommend the meatballs--a favorite here long before meatballs became chic!--with tomato sauce and caciocavallo cheese. There is also a selection of panini sandwiches filled with good things indeed, like grilled chorizo with goat's cheese and sweet onion marmalade.
     White beans must fascinate Mr. McGrath, for he also stuffs them into ravioli, dressed with a simple balsamic brown sauce. Pappardelle come with sweet corn and spicy chorizo; al dente linguine with vongole clams gets a shot of chile and pancetta bacon, lashed with white wine. Gnocchi here is straightforward, with tomato and mozzarella, while spaghetti all'amatriciana is a classic Roman rendering with red onion, guanciale, tomato and chile.
     I recommend going for the simpler preparations with main courses, because when things get complicated here they get a little messy, like the guinea hen that is oversauced, with roasted corn, scallions, fregula, and too thick a saba wine reduction. The sweetbreads are good but  a tad compromised by still more chorizo and two starchy vegetables, cauliflower and potatoes.
    For dessert, I enjoyed the ricotta cheesecake with amarena cherries and the always wonderful affogato of coffee gelato doused with chilled cappuccino and a rich chocolate caramel sauce--a winner every time.

     Two decades is a lifetime for a restaurant anywhere, and, given the packed house here on a steamy midweek summer's night, it looks like Pò will be around--for good reason--for a long time to come.

Pò offers Lunch, Wed-Sun; Dinner, nightly. Antipasti are $9-$13, full pastas $15-$18, main courses $19-$23

Il Matto

281 Church Street (near White)
212- 226-1607

  Il Matto means "mad man" in Italian, and things do get a little crazy on Tuscan chef Matteo Boglione's main course menu.  But before that there are some wonderful dishes without any eccentrics. He leaves the pre-meal fun to mixologist Christina Bini, who comes up with exotic cocktails like the Buffalo 66 with rosemary-infused vodka, Worcestershire sauce and beet juice, and the La Signoria, a blend of gin, lemon, strawberry, balsamic reduction, and lettuce leaves.

      The restaurant itself, in TriBeCa, is a knock-out space of modernity all'italiana, with Roman columns,   an S-shaped, mosaic glass-topped bar on an upper level, tall windows,  rosy colors and lighting, and very cool, rolling teacup banquettes under a large portrait of Boglione depicted as a mad octopus by graffiti artist Doze Green.
     Boglione (who is half American) came to the States some years ago to work at restaurants like Falai and Gradisca, and here at Il Matto he is exerting the full force of his creativity.  This begins with a marvelous dish of tender steamed octopus with fat-studded mortadella, potato compote cream, and basil pesto.  Braised pork belly is luxuriously velvety, accompanied by black olive honey, shrimp, chickpea puree and tangy-sweet raspberries, which cut the richness of the dish. Piping hot baby artichoke croquettes have an aromatic saffron sauce and cream-centered burrata cheese and summer truffles give the dish a fine lustiness.

     He infuses fazzoletti pasta with black olive essence then  lavishes it with buffalo mozzarella and tomato sauce, topped with fried eggplant for sweetness and texture.  The Tuscan pasta called pici comes over a celeriac puree and tomato concasse with clams and the saline flavor of bottarga roe.  Very good indeed was a dish of saffron pappardelle with a ragù of osso bucco and bone marrow-laced sabayon, while gnocchetti (a little too soft one night) was made with squid ink, a crabmeat ragù and fried artichokes--a dish that gave a hint of the elaborations to follow.
     Italian main courses, as noted, are overwhelmingly very simple in concept, but at Il Matto they are extravagantly mounted, as with Boglione's rendering of the old classic tournedos Rossini, here layering filet mignon with a foie gras mousse, veal jus, and white asparagus.   Sea scallops are crusted with black olives, served with roasted porcini, yellow beets and an almond milk foam, a clash of flavors and textures on one plate.  Desserts are equally as fanciful, which is certainly Okay. 
     The winelist is very fairly priced.
     So, I'd go back to Il Matto for the antipasti then the pasta as a main course, eat every forkful, then stop and feel I've been satisfied and dined well within a very colorful, hip place.

Il Matto is open for dinner nightly.  Antipasti run $14-$15, pastas $13-$23, entrees $22-$25.






Loire Valley Wines Get Pumped Up for Global Market

by John Mariani




    The average winedrinker’s familiarity with Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, and a few wines from the Rhone and Alsace usually does not extend very far into France’s Loire Valley.  Grape varieties with names like folle blanche, melon de bourgogne, pineau d’Aunis, and grolleau do not leap to mind when considering what to have with dinner.

     Given a few hints and nudges, one might come up with muscadet, sancerre, and vouvray, perhaps rosé d’Anjou, as Loire Valley wines, but bottlings from quarts de chaume, saumur champigny, and côtes du Forez don’t often make it onto the world’s winelists.

     Ignoring a region’s wines is not the same thing as ignorance of them, but an increase in Loire exports gives me reason to think more winelovers in search of well-priced, terroir-specific red and white wines will be ferreting out the best examples now coming into the market.

      Melon de bourgogne makes up 37 percent of white wine production in the Loire, followed by chenin blanc (25 percent), and sauvignon blanc (22). Of red wines, cabernet franc makes up 51 percent, gamay 20. Only 20 percent of total production is exported; currently the UK receives 34 percent of that, Belgium 19, and the USA 13.

       That abundance of melon de bourgogne goes into making Muscadet in the western Valley around Nantes, about 600,00 hectoliters, of which the best, from Sévre et Maine, Côteaux de Grandlieu, and Côteaux de la Loire, are categorized “sur lie” (“on the lees”), meaning the white wines are kept in contact with the barrel yeasts and sediment, imparting richer flavor and sometimes a little sparkle.

     Since the 1970s muscadet has since largely been considered a pleasant, highly acidic, low-alcohol (around 12 percent), moderately priced white wine to be drunk upon release and with abandon. Its citrus flavors can often overwhelm its fruit, which makes it a good choice with shellfish.  But a recent tasting of some of the finer examples now available showed me that Muscadet can have considerably more substance than I’d realized.

     Just four years ago enologist Eric Chevalier took over his family’s estate, Domaine l’Aujardière, located in terroir closest to the Atlantic Ocean. His Muscadet Côtes de Grand Lieu sur Lie 2008 ($14) spent the winter on the lees, and the wine had excellent body along with aromatic and mineral qualities that balanced the acid notes. It went perfectly with an Alsatian cheese tart with bacon and onions at DB Bistro Moderne in New York.

      Far more amazing was a 1999 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur Lie from Domaine Luneau-Papin Le Lion d’Or ($25). Prior to that first sip, I would never dream of drinking a Muscadet 11 years old, assuming its best days ended about three years ago. Oxidation should have set in five years ago and a decade ago the wine should have been undrinkable.

     Instead it was a revelation. Eighth generation winemakers Pierre et Monique Luneau-Papin head this 30-hectare estate in Le Landreau since the early 18th century. They make small cuvees to reflect particular vineyards’ terroir; harvesting is by hand, with an immediate light débourbage (separation of juice from gross lees), followed by a 4-week fermentation, then six months of aging in stainless steel on the lees.

      The process is nothing really out of the ordinary, but the steps taken together somehow produce a Muscadet that not only has grown in body and beauty over 15 years but taken on complexity I never would have expected.  Because of that richness, it was ideal with a steamy choucroute whose own aromas of pork fat, juniper, and the tartness of sauerkraut needed that boldness from a white wine.

      I have never been an enthusiastic fan of the red Loire Valley wine chinon, finding most examples simplistic, sometimes a little bitter. But a single vineyard chinon from Philippe Alliet, who with Bernard Baudry, is considered one of the region’s finest vignerons, changed my mind. Dedicated to producing only small yields, mostly from old vines,  Alliet makes a chinon called L'Huisserie 2007 ($34), with a bit more flesh on its bones than I’d been led to expect of the 2007 vintage. The  characteristic light tannins of chinon and the ripeness of the older vines’ fruit showed further nuance.

                                        Chinon cellars


    On the other hand, Thierry Germain’s Domaine des Roches Neuves La Marginale 2005 ($40)f from Saumur Champigny in the Loire Valley was fairly raw and inky, but with the charming scent and flavor of wild fennel, making it a wine with an affinity for herb-rich grilled foods of the Mediterranean.

      The Loire Valley wines now coming into the market from smaller producers show yet again how hard French vignerons are working to improve image by making better wines and keeping them at a price most people will readily accept.


John Mariani's  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.




by Christopher Mariani

A Long Haul to Singapore
Requires a Whole Lotta Luxury

     Since  returning from Singapore recently, I have been asked the same two questions more times than I can say: "How long was the flight?” and, “How could you sit on a plane for that long?” as opposed what I would like to be asked, “What was Singapore like?” and “What interesting things did you see?”  OK, my answer to the two most-asked questions are, 19 hours direct from Newark, and I did sit some of the time, but lay down most of the time and slept on Singapore Airlines’  all new Business Class, an A340-500 fitted with just 100 seats that recline into fully flat beds.

       Of course I, too, was concerned about what I would do for almost a full day on an airplane, so I overpacked my carry-on with seven books, an iPod, my laptop, magazines, and multiple newspapers.  I mean, really, who can gauge what to do with that much free time?

        I arrived at Newark’s International Airport and headed towards the Singapore Airlines check-in where I was immediately greeted by a beautiful, smiling check-in representative who  quickly confirmed my flight information then asked if she could carry my bag to the lounge.  Acting the gentleman, I declined, but she personally escorted me to the SIA lounge where she wished me a wonderful flight and left me in the hands of their welcoming lounge receptionist. My first impression of the service before I even stepped foot on the plane--something I personally place a tremendous value on--was highly professional, by far the best I have ever experienced when dealing with airline staff. Right then and there, I knew my flight was going to be far from an endurance test.

       Once on the plane I nestled into my window seat, where I was instantly offered a glass of Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve, various magazines and newspapers. The seats were commodious and reminded me at once of a La-Z-Boy recliner.  Straight ahead of me was my very own 15.4 inch LCD television screen offering 120 movies, 170 television shows, 20 music stations, and video games, which could easily have kept  me entertained for a flight three times as long as the one I was on.
     After takeoff,
I was handed an extensive food menu with four selections for each of the four different meals served throughout the  flight, not to mention the section called "light bites" that may be ordered at any time during the flight, even in between meals.  Now, before I tell you this airline’s food was really good, which may sound like an oxymoron, I must explain the International Culinary Panel, known as the ICP, that  put together the ideas, flavors, and dishes on Singapore Airlines’ flights.  The ICP is made up of eight of world’s great chefs (below), Georges Blanc, of Georges Blanc in Vonnas, France;  Nancy Oakes of Boulevard in San Franciso, Alfred Portale of Gotham Bar & Grill in NYC; Yoshihiro Murata of the Kyoto Japanese Culinary Association; Yeung Koon Yat, Sanjeev Kapoor, TV Chef host in Mumbai; Matt Moran of Sydney;  Gordon Ramsay of Gordon Ramsay; Zhu Jun of Jade Garden in Shanghai; and Sam Leong of Singapore's Tung Lok group;  who have all come together and created the signature recipes for the dishes served on SIA flights.

      The process is quite remarkable: the recipes are first created by the ICP’s chefs, then sent to the  Inflight Catering Centre, which determines whether or not the dishes can realistically be prepared at 35,000 feet.  When I  interviewed one of SIA’s head chefs, he explained that fried crispy dishes are pretty much out of the question,  since the planes are only equipped with dry heat ovens, steam ovens, and microwaves, and, most important, the dishes are being re-heated. Once the recipes and dishes are finally approved, the next step in the process is to test them out in a giant pressure chamber that replicates a 30,000-foot altitude and was shaped identically to a plane’s preparation kitchen.  Here the food and wine selections are rigorously tasted,  because at high altitudes, passengers' taste buds do not react the same as at sea level and people may find some food very bland.  The pressure chamber offers SIA’s testers a chance to slightly alter the dishes and recipes by adding more seasoning or salt if need be.  Children's meals are also developed and offered onboard. I was impressed by this level of forethought, especially when I thought about every tasteless airline meal I have had over the years.
During a press conference held at Singapore’s Shangri-La Hotel, Senior Vice President of product and services, Yap Kim Wah, stated that there has been such a high demand from SIA passenger’s for the recipes of the airline’s dishes, that the ICP has created a cookbook called, Above and Beyond, that incorporates many of the recipes and pictures of the dishes served in-flight.  The cookbooks’ first year’s revenue is going to be donated to Singapore’s Community Chest Charity.

         For my first in-flight meal, I began with marinated lobster and saffron couscous, dried fruit, pistachios and watercress accompanied by a glass of Geyser Peak 2007 Chardonnay, paired by SIA’s wine panel experts Steven Spurrier, Michael Hill-Smith, and Jeannie Cho Lee.  For my main course I had the braised black cod covered by a garlic sauce served with vegetables and steamed rice, all very appetizing, the piece of cod thick, moist, flavorful, and surprisingly fresh tasting.  After the cod, I was offered a cheese plate of Camembert, California Vella dry jack, and Iowa Maytag Blue paired with a glass of Offley LBV 2005 Port.  After my cheese course--just to make sure I would sleep well!--I had a bowl of Häagen Dazs chocolate-peanut butter ice cream smothered in chocolate sauce and topped with roasted almonds. Life can be good at 35,000 feet.
And because I learned at a young age to follow Thoreau's advice to "suck out all the marrow of life,"  I finished off my meal with a glass of Highland Park 12-year-old single malt whisky as I watched Robert DeNiro in "Raging Bull."  The movie ended, I decided to turn in for the night, so I called my attendant, who happily  helped me convert my seat into a bed, then quite literally tucked me in and turned off my reading light as I quickly passed out with a huge smile on my face.  The bed itself was comfortable, private, and had plenty of room--and keep in mind I am six-foot-one.

     Nine hours later I awoke, sat up, and was immediately approached by my beautiful attendant, who asked if I would like some coffee or juice before she brought me my breakfast, which consisted of Raisin Bran with milk, followed by an order of braised egg noodles with beef, mushrooms and leafy greens.  After breakfast and an espresso, I relaxed and breezed through an Elmore Leonard novel, followed by catching up on some work, and before I knew it, we were just  three hours from Singapore.

      There were two other terrific dishes upon my return from Singapore  worth a mention.  One was the grilled Chilean seabass served in a fresh chunky tomato sauce with olive oil-flavored mashed potatoes,  the other, from the light bites section, a steamed dim sum selection with  lotus leaf rice, siew mai, bean curd roll and har kow.

       So how does one survive a 19-hour flight? If it's to Asia, you may well want to consider taking Singapore's new  service,   Otherwise,  I guess my only advice is treat the flight like an entire day and try to act as if you would normally: sleep a full night’s worth, if at all possible work from your laptop, enjoy a book that you have been dying to read, watch a great movie, or just sit back, overeat and drink. And no pills! Works for me.


To contact Christopher Mariani send an email to


In Oregon, people who bought pink shrimp at some local stores reported that it glows in the dark. Marine food experts told the Register-Guard the luminescence was due to certain marine bacteria but that it's not a health risk and does not indicate mishandling during processing.



And Now a Word from Our Corporate Pinheads

On Tesco's Tiramisù dessert (printed on bottom) -- 
"Do not turn upside down."


On Sainsbury's peanuts -- 
"Warning: contains nuts."


On Marks &Spencer Bread Pudding -- 
"Product will be hot after heating."


On an American Airlines packet of nuts -- 
"Instructions: Open packet, eat nuts."


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 Aug. 22 in Atlanta, 4th & Swift will host a Homegrown Sunday Supper to kickoff Taste of Atlanta 2010. Chef Jay Swift will prepare a menu of modern American classics featuring local produce and cheeses, Blue Ridge Rainbow trout and Niman Ranch lamb. $60 pp.  Visit  or call 678-904-0160.

* From Aug.  23-28, Chef-owner Aaron May of Iruña, a Spanish tapas restaurant in Scottsdale, AZ, re-mixes the Tomatina Festival in Pamplona, Spain, offering cocktails, Spanish tapas and classic Basque dishes built around summer tomatoes. Multi-course tasting menu changes daily; prices from $30-$40 per person. Visit or call 480-398-3020.


* From Aug 23-Oct 31 the US Virgin Islands are offering bookings on the Sizzlin’ Sampler Promotional Package, incl. $350 instant credit on ea booking of 5 nights or more at participating hotels; $50 shopping certi; $50 attractions certif $50 dining certi; Details on

* On Aug. 25 in Roanoke, VA, Local Roots restaurant will be kicking off their Guest Chef Dinner Series with a dinner featuring Chefs Sean Brock, Bryan Voltaggio, Ashley Christensen, and Tarver King.  $90 pp.  Call 540-206-2610.

* On August 27 in Arlington Hts., IL, Le Titi De Paris will feature the  wines from the region of Burgundy in their continuing 2010 Gastronomique series, hosted by Sommelier, Marcel Flori with a six course menu from Chef/Owner Michael Maddox. $85 pp. Call 847-506-0222.

* From Sept. 1-30 in Orlando, Fla., the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Inc. presents Orlando Magical Dining Month when more than 60 restaurants offer three-course dinners for $30. Visit

* On September 2 in Malibu Canyon, Los Angeles,  Saddle Peak Lodge presents the wines of Qupe Wine Cellars at a four-course dinner with the winemaker Bob Lindquist with menu by Chef Adam Horton and Chef de Cuisine Chris Kufek. $95 pp. Call 818-222-3888 or

* From Sept.  6 – Nov.  23, in New Paltz, N.Y., Mohonk Mountain House is offering Seasonal Bounty packages that celebrate America's favorite fruit, the apple, in September and the pumpkin. Guests will enjoy culinary treats, seasonal bounty spa treatments, and discounts at midweek rates starting at $199 pp, per night. Call 800-772-6646 or visit

* From Sept. 10-19, the second annual Denver Beer Fest, a citywide brew-centric experience leading up to the marquee event: America’s most prestigious beer festival and competition, the Brewers Association’s Great American Beer Festival (GABF), held September 16-18. Call 303-571-9450.

* On Sept. 11 in Duxbury, MA, Island Creek Oysters will host it's fifth annual Island Creek Oyster Festival featuring over 20 of Boston’s most notable Chefs.  Event passes range from $50-$150 pp. Visit  or call 781-934-2028.

* On Sept. 11 in Cle Elum, WA, Swiftwater Cellars will host LONESTAR band for its grand opening celebration. $35 pp.  Visit or call 1-800-325-SEAT.


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: La Tour d'Argent; Cape Hatteras.


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: Christopher Mariani, 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