➔ QUESTIONS? TO REACH JOHN MARIANI WRITE TO: email@example.com.
➔ ARCHIVE: Readers may now access an Archive of all past newsletters--each annotated--dating back to July, 2003, by simply clicking on www.johnmariani.com/archive
➔ SUBSCRIBE AND
UN-SUBSCRIBE: You may subscribe anyone you wish
to this newsletter--free of charge--by
Alberta by Carey Sweet
NEW YORK CORNER: Perbacco by Christopher Mariani
MAN ABOUT TOWN: Is EATALY Up to Its Hype? by Christopher Mariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: Very Old California Wineries Turning Out Very Good Wines by John Mariani
A Bison & Game Dining Adventure in Alberta
By Carey Sweet
was hard not to draw the conclusion after I 'd spent more than a
traversing the good restaurants of Alberta, Canada. My first stop, in
straight from the Edmonton airport, was dinner at the popular Skinny Legs &
Cowgirls, where the meal included smoky bison ribs and bison
nearly all of the ingredients at the chic, quirky brothel-esque
restaurant on the edge of downtown, the meat was organic and sourced
For lunch the next day, enjoyed at Eco Café in
the village of Pigeon Lake about an hour-and-a-half south of the city,
into a bison dip – local, roasted meat on fresh baked bread dunked in
savory jus. Back in Edmonton,
dinner at the established
favorite Wild Tangerine (left) featured Siang Hseng wine
slow-cooked Rimbey bison
short ribs with gnocchi (or I
could have had Ardrossan bison short ribs
for good reason. It’s all part of a raging trend toward localized
to diners craving a sense of place through their palate. Game has its
advantages, I heard over and over like a culinary chant throughout my
conversations with chefs all through Canmore, Banff and Calgary: low
cholesterol, calories and fat, high protein, iron and flavor. In
fact, according to the United States
Department of Agriculture, a 3.5-ounce serving of bison has 145
211 for beef, and two grams of fat versus 9.3 grams. Even better, it
good when farm raised (as most game now is) and properly prepared; it
have that gamey flavor that has turned many consumers off. Good game is
toothsome, and actually a bit sweet under its robust first impression.
and, yes, backwoods gourmets, it’s taken on a new shine. Not
surprisingly, more than one restaurant owner and game purveyor told me
their target was the young, rich, trend-driven consumer. Skinny Legs
also serves boar bacon bits in its
spinach salad, while Eco offers a decadent game pie brimming with
raised elk, duck and pork; or elk stroganoff studded with apple cured
mushrooms in red wine sauce. Wild Tangerine sometimes offers Leduc
elk prepared two ways, as Lion Head-style meatballs stuffed with Sylvan
Gouda, and as pan-seared tenderloin ladled in Saskatoon berry compote.
Janice Beaton Fine
Cheese, a small charcuterie shop displaying what seemed like
hundreds of meats
and cheeses, including wild hog salami, duck terrine and cured rabbit
was served a charming, tiny restaurant next door, called The
local boutique farmers and purveyors for dishes like Alberta bison strip loin
in a Cabernet demi-glace with roasted garlic, Poplar Bluff mashed
green beans. Even a stop-in at the Sylvan Star Cheese Factory
in Red Deer, between Edmonton and Calgary, found game a-plenty, the
cases packed with seasoned elk patties and blueberry pork sausage among
enormous wheels of signature Grizzly cheese, an extra-aged Gouda with a
see wild bison roaming the plains (actually, grassy fields and towering
forested mountains), but I never saw a one. The closest sighting was of
at the side of a highway. While literally millions of the majestic
to roam Canada in the 1800s, now, small herds are fenced in and
Alberta’s national parks. It wasn’t until we arrived at Canadian Rocky
Mountain Ranch game farm just southwest of Calgary that I
finally got up-close
and personal with a majestic woolly beast.
indeed, as I pulled up for my tour, a staffer was outside the
measuring and weighing massive piles of antlers. The racks were still
the base from where they had been humanely trimmed from the animals’
heads. The severing, I learned, does little damage to the elk other
surprise, should he see his reflection in a pond. The smooth plush that
growing antlers, I was told, inspired the name of one of CRMR’s
restaurants, Velvet, in Calgary.
buckle. The experience almost turned me vegetarian, as a 1,100 pound
Tara huffed and blew warm, wet kisses on my outstretched hand, her
deep, dark-lashed eyes like mirrors reflecting my gluttony. A baby
(bisonette?), all soft and plush in mocha-colored downy fur, hid behind
mother in an adjacent pen.
Except then I thought back on the previous
evening’s dinner at The Bison, a boisterous,
always-packed destination in
Banff. With its dramatic open, coppered kitchen anchored by a
plus stunning mountain views from the patio, the ambiance is eclipsed
lengthy, playful, protein-rich menu. The restaurant (left) showcases strictly locally
organic and sustainably farmed products, and, lest a guest has
menu reads like screenplay of “Locavore: The Movie,” complete with
histories on all the regional purveyors. A meal might start with seared
carpaccio, the thin, slightly chewy meat edged in a Dijon herb crust
drizzled in balsamic and truffle oil alongside a bit of intensely
Bella Lodi cheese. For an entrée, it could be pan-roasted bison
decorated in prosciutto alongside organic roasted potato and arugula
grainy house mustard vinaigrette.
cheese fondue, and I was rewarded with an
presentation of gooey hot Emmental, Gruyère and Vacherin
dunked with white cornichons, and bites of air dried beef and smoked
ranch’s resident veterinarian and manager Dr. Terry
me to his favorite area restaurant, conveniently enough called The
Ranche (below), and
part of the CRMR empire. The historic house, at more than 100 years
like a Grimm’s Fairy Tales chalet dropped in the middle of Fish Creek
Provincial Park, an oasis just 20 minutes from downtown Calgary. But it
specializes in game prepared in all kinds of delicious ways, like a
(below) so opulent I gave up
trying to remember the literally dozens of meats and cheeses
my server explained. (Bison pastrami? Elk pâté? All
Ranche’s crispy bison short rib ravioli,
however, is unforgettable, the melt-in-your mouth nubbins swathed in
potato buttermilk puree with a tangy kiss of pancetta herb vinaigrette. Elk
flank steak was equally remarkable, bathed in an invigorating marinade
Rose Ale before it was moistened in game reduction and plated with
organic Gouda and spinach gnocchi alongside
A following evening found me at the Fairmont
Banff Springs, which towers over the town from its
mountainside setting, in an
opulent Tudor-style mansion design that looks like it might have been
for the film “The Shining.” It wasn’t. But it is home to Bow Valley Grill, and a menu
teeming with game, such as a charcuterie plate of cured smoked bison,
venison salami and smoked duck breast accented with aged Gouda,
Port-caramelized onion and Saskatoon berry relish; or Carmen Creek
over earthy wild mushroom barley risotto in Okanagan Merlot jus and a
zingy red currant-Granny Smith hollandaise.
ingredients, some plucked from the hotel’s
garden and prepared in the full kitchen that is the centerpiece to the
wine shop. In my demo, the chef was Cory LeDrew of the hotel’s renowned
Banffshire Club (below, right). He introduced me to
pepper leaves, edible from the Bell pepper
plant, and made into an intricate red pepper soup dotted with pepper
potato chorizo, goat cheese, sherry vinegar gel and Parmesan cracker.
no bison in the blend, but it’s pretty sure that the soup would go well
the meat, yes?
its charms and challenges. Skinny Legs relocated to new
space last December and deserves a stop-in just for its décor.
Gauzy black and
burgundy velvet drapes frame burnt orange walls lit by glittering
and flickering candles, and one of the proprietors, Amy Kellock,
dresses like a
tattooed 50’s pin-up girl. Except it’s really a destination for groups,
portions and prices are for sharing ($90 for a mixed grill, $25 for the
salad). But by all means, get the papas
leche (“potatoes that hug you,”
purred Amy), for a gooey bliss of local potatoes sautéed with
chiles and feta finished in oceans of cream.
a tiny, tourist-rich town of boutiques and convenience stores. The wide
menu showcases local ingredients across a health-oriented platform, for
Mediterranean, country farm and Moroccan recipes, plus there is an
bakery for delicious breads and desserts. Yet this was my first
Canadians eat their meat well-done, which for a medium-rare girl like
my bison somewhat tasteless. It’s an odd predilection, this well-done
thing, considering that game, as a lean, dark red meat with virtually
marbling, really needs to be seared either quickly on high heat, or
and low. Fair warning, too: reservations are accepted for only parties
or more, and smaller groups can plan on very long waits.
Besides The Bison restaurant, another
must-not-miss is the new Charcut (left) in Calgary’s deliciously hip Hotel Le Germain (it opened in
February). Stylish and sophisticated in
the manner of
contemporary butcher-friendly cuisine, servers think nothing of
meats like mortadella as “a whole pig head stuffed and slow cooked
melts like butter.” Oh, it’s divine, devastatingly creamy and bursting
earthy pork flavor studded with pistachios and truffles. The talents
behind this high-style business cure
their own meats and always have something spinning on the roaster;
for the rotisserie and “cut” is for the vintage-style slicer and
bar. Canada culinary types will recognize John Jackson and Connie
the chefs-owners. Pretty much the entire menu is meat – the
Canadian classic poutine is
updated with a deep fry in duck fat, and even a
dessert of coconut and Mauritian vanilla bean crème brûlée comes (so cute) with
visitors can even stay at a wild
game-centric ranch; CRMR owns the Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts group,
Buffalo Mountain, Deer and Emerald Lake Lodges and Painted Boat Resort
As for those chocolate-y eyes, well, Church put it matter-of-factly, even as he stroked Tara’s giant snout with obvious affection. Bulls get harvested at 24 to 30 months; heifers at 30 to 36 months. Beyond that, they toughen, and are good only for ground meats. Bison are beautiful, he agreed. But mainly, in today’s locavore-loving Canada, bison are for eating.
is a California-based travel and food author writes for the Arizona
Republic, The San Francisco Chronicle, Phoenix Magazine, and Inside
NEW YORK CORNER
(near Avenue A)
Perbacco is open for dinner Monday-Friday, lunch and dinner both Saturday and Sunday. Appetizers $9-$15, pastas $15-$21, and main course $21-$25. Perbacco also offers a three course $40 tasting menu Sunday-Wednesday .
glamor of Napa Valley is still too often more about
razzle-dazzle than good wine. Well-financed
traditional wines from
wineries don’t get the press they deserve.
But I had to admit Concannon’s 2007 Petite Sirah ($15) and Captain Joe’s Petite Sirah ($30) reminded me of the creamy richness this varietal delivers when made with care. The former is silky, with a good range of plum and cherry flavors within a light oaky framework; it was delicious with gnocchi pasta with tomato and mozzarella. The latter, named after second-generation Joe, who served in the First Cavalry, is culled from Concannon’s best lots, then given a small amount of syrah (a different grape from petite sirah) for structure. At 14.5 percent alcohol, it’s a very muscular wine, which went well with our entrée of veal scaloppine with a brandy cream sauce, and would be ideal for Thanksgiving dinner.
Clos du Val (below), founded in 1972 by John Goelet and Bordeaux winemaker Bernard Portet (now retired), was the first Napa vineyard I ever visited, back in 1977, and I recall Portet’s passionate prediction that there was great potential in the Valley’s vineyards. A year before Clos du Val was one of the cabernets selected for the now legendary 1976 Paris tasting matched blind against First Growth Bordeaux; it came in eighth out of ten wines; in a rematch ten years later Clos du Val took first place.
Portet and successive Clos du Val winemakers (Kristy Melton, formerly of Saintsbury winery, just too over in August) have always hewed to a classic Bordeaux style determined primarily by the terroir not by the winery. I’ve always found Clos du Val’s wines among the most elegantly structured in the Valley, never oaky, never hot, never sweet, never cloying, with sensible alcohol levels. Back when many Napa vintners scoffed at adding merlot to their cabs, Portet knew from the start how softened the tannins, as has been traditional in Bordeaux.
I opened a bottle of the new release of their flagship wine, Stags Leap District 2005, the other night with a sirloin steak and was reminded all over again what a glorious match great American beef and fine cabernet sauvignon is. Rounded out with 14 percent merlot, velvety, restrained at first then blossoming slowly with the fat of the beef on the palate, the wine is a paragon of how French tradition and California terroir can so honorably merge into excellence.
The function of all good wine is to please the drinker, but in the case of Concannon and Clos du Val, they also just make me very happy.
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.
Is all the
hype about Eataly
The vast market is filled with every conceivable Italian item, including endless selections of terrific imported cheeses like pecorino and parmigiano, along with homemade mozzarellas, ricottas and burratas that go wonderfully with Eataly’s prosciuttos, mortadellas, sopressatas, and pancettas. The selection does not stop there, there are homemade pastas made daily; ravioli, pappardelle, and capellini, placed beside the bread station that offers selections of foccacia and ciabatta bread that fill half the market with one of the most pleasant aromas the I’ve ever inhaled.There's even an Ipad application to keep track of what's seasonal and special that day. The rooms jut off from one another, left and right, gaily decorated with Italian art and posters and photos. The floors are like brushed tile, the music is a slew of Italian-American crooners. A first-time visitor may be dazzled by it all, and the opening weeks have clearly been just shy of pandemonium, but the staff seems already quite in control and very friendly. So you should sample several areas, bring home some bread, and save the steakhouse for another day.
Not that I can imagine anyone neglecting to pass by the pizzeria station, but make sure to stop by and order one of Eataly’s thin crust pies simply topped with plump, sweet, tangy tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese. Afterwards, go to the gelato station, conveniently located by the exit. Nocciola and fig are my two favorite flavors, while sitting at the Lavazza café and enjoying a short espresso. I give lots of credit to those who are willing to attempt something never done before and on such a grand scale, but I must also say that Lidia, Joe, and Mario have picked the right city in which to experiment.
To contact Christopher Mariani send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
JUST THE GIFT FOR YOUR HYPERACTIVE KIDS!
IT'S ALL THAT DAMN CHEWING, SWALLOWING, CHEWING, SWALLOWING. . .
✉ 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
* In Chicago, IL and Lincolnshire,
IL, Fleming's Prime Steakhouse
& Wine Bar is now offering a
3-course Prix Fixe Menu inspired by the vibrant flavors of the season.
is available through January 3. $39.95 pp. Visit www.flemingssteakhouse.com.
* During the
month of Oct. in NYC, Capsouto Freres will offer a 3-course menu for $30 pp. in
honor of its 30th Anniversary. On Oct.
16, Capsouto Freres' actual anniversary date, guests will receive a
complimentary glass of Champagne and celebratory Anniversary cake with
and enjoy live entertainment. Call 212-966-4900 or visit www.capsoutofreres.com.
1- 31 in NYC David
host WineFest at David Burke
Townhouse, Fishtail and David
Bloomingdale's and make great wines accessible to restaurant
guests. Activities incl. "Spin the Bottle" where guests spin a wine
wheel for prizes , specially priced wine lists, no corkage fee Mondays
dinners at each restaurant throughout the mont, Visit www.davidburketownhouse.com
call 212-754-1300; www.burkeinthebox.com
or call 212-705-3800 that day.
* On Oct. 7
at 55 locations nationwide, Morton's
the Steakhouse and three generations
of the Mondavi Family -- coming together for the first time
ever -- will host an interactive four-course wine dinner with
wines from Charles Krug Winery, Folio Fine Wine
Partners and Continuum Estate and charity auction to benefit
Make-A-Wish Foundation. The main dinner
at the Carriage House at Charles Krug winery will broadcast
simultaneously to 54 other Morton's private dining rooms, making
possible for 2,400 guests to dine alongside Mondavi family
members. $175 pp.
* On Oct. 9 in New Orleans, the Southern Food and Beverage Musuem will host Kid Chef Eliana de Las Casas as part of the New Orleans con sabor Latino exhibit and demonstration series. Eliana will prepare her own Cajun Cuban Sandwich and signing copies of her book Eliana Cooks! Recipes for Creative Kids. $10 pp, Children under 12 free. On Oct. 11, celebrate Southern Food Heritage Day with SoFAB by making a southern dinner and sharing your favorite southern recipes. Call 504-569-0405 or visit www.southernfood.org.
* On Oct. 11 in Chicago, join Chef/Partner Tony Mantuano and Chef di Cucina Meg Colleran Sahs as they host the inaugural "Farm to Fork Fest" walk-around event with tasting dishes prepared by Terzo Piano and other local chefs, incl. Rob & Allison Leavitt of Mado, Josh Adams of June and Jason Hammel & Amalea Tshilds of Lula Café. $125 pp and a portion will benefit Feeding America. Call 312.443.8650. www.terzopianochicago.com.
now until Oct. 15, to celebrate Chile's 200th birthday, the Wines of
Chile Experience is sending one lucky wine enthusiast and a
friend on a dream
trip to the wine regions of Chile. Applicants to "Tweet,
Tweet, Chile" will be asked to create their ideal seven-day itinerary
own Chilean adventure and describe how they would use Twitter to share
thoughts and experiences with the world. The top five itineraries will
to public vote--but only one can win. Visit tweet.winesofchile.org.
* On Oct. 17,
the annual Harvest Celebration benefitting
Green City Market takes place at Mettawa Manor, the
country estate of Bill Kurtis and Donna LaPietra. Explore the gardens
exquisite estate while enjoying Harvest-inspired cuisine from some of
top chefs, sip seasonal cocktails and local wines and bid on live and
auction items. Tickets (tax-deductible) $250 pp and up; call
* From Oct. 19 - 26, Douglas Katz of fire food and drink in Cleveland will lead a group of "Slow Food" aficionados to Turin and Milan to the Salone del Gusto, the public forum of Terra Madre, incl. a private visit to the "Last Supper" by DaVinci, great restaurants in Milan and Turin, 3 days in the Piedmont to learn risotto making, to taste the best barolos and grappa - plus cooking classes throughout - and a balloon ride over the vineyards. Visit http://www.hamiltonfitzjames.com/karencarr-italy.
Oct. 21 at Two Spear Street
in Nyack, NY, invites
patrons to enjoy
a German wine and food sampling with some of the finest German wines
Rhine region. The evening begins at 6:30 pm with a five course tasting
prepared by Executive Chef Kyle Rubino. $39.95
pp. Call 845-353-7733; www.spearstreet.com.
Wales, UK –
The Conwy Food Festival incl. free admission
to Conwy Castle. Call (+ 44) (0) 1492 593874. www.conwyfeast.co.uk.
* On Oct. 27, in Cary, NC, Herons’ executive chef Scott
Crawford and chef de cuisine Steven D. Greene will celebrate the
restaurant’s Sept. reopening by hosting Curtis Duffy, chef de cuisine
of Avenues at The Peninsula
Chicago, and Claudio Aprile, chef of Colborne
Lane in Toronto, for an evening of culinary excellence. $145 pp.
Call 919-447-4050 or visit www.theumstead.com
* On Oct. 29 in Manchester Village, VT, Equinox Resort presents the Farmers Dinner Series in partnerships with Taylor Farms and Vermont Fresh Network with Equinox’s Chef Jeffrey Russell. $50 pp. Call 802-362-4700.
* On Oct. 30, Lawry’s the Prime Rib in Chicago, IL, will host their annual Halloween dinner, including a prix fixe menu of signature dishes with spook-inspired twists and haunting tours of the historical 1890s McCormick Mansion. $48pp. 312-787-5000.
Napa Valley, CA, Auberge du Soleil and Swanson Vineyards
celebrate their 25th anniversaries with joint intimate event. W. Clarke
and Elizabeth Pipes Swanson
host for a five-course dinner by Executive Chef Robert Curry and wine
$250 pp. Call 707/967-3147 or email: email@example.com.
* On Oct. 31, chefs Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison will bring together the South’s culinary icons for Sunday Supper South, a gourmet, family style Friends of James Beard Benefit Dinner to be held at Westside Provisions District in Atlanta. Chefs incl. Hugh Acheson, Sean Brock, John Currence, Chris Hastings, Linton Hopkins, Mike Lata, Frank Lee and Bill Smith, et al. $150 for JBF members and $175 for non-members. Call 404-365-0410, ext. 22 or visit www.sundaysuppersouth.com.
Oct. 31-Dec. 2, in Yosemite
National Park, CA, The Ahwahnee
will host its
annual Vintners’ Holidays event, bringing together 32 of California’s
winemakers. In a series of eight sessions, Vintners’ Holidays
winetastings, educational seminars, reception and a grand finale
dinner held in The Ahwahnee’s Dining Room, by Executive Chef
Whatley. Two- and three-night packages start at $744. Call
801-559-4903 or visit www.yosemitepark.com/vintners.
Everett Potter's Travel Report:
I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and a frequent contributor to National Geographic Traveler, ForbesTraveler.com and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star places as five-star experiences." THIS WEEK: 10 Affordable Fall Foliage Towns; A Slow Walk in Devon.
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 KNPR.org. Click on the logo below to go directly to his site.
Tennis Resorts Online: A Critical Guide to the World's Best Tennis Resorts and Tennis Camps, published by ROGER COX, who has spent more than two decades writing about tennis travel, including a 17-year stretch for Tennis magazine. He has also written for Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, New York Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, Money, USTA Magazine, Men's Journal, and The Robb Report. He has authored two books-The World's Best Tennis Vacations (Stephen Greene Press/Viking Penguin, 1990) and The Best Places to Stay in the Rockies (Houghton Mifflin, 1992 & 1994), and the Melbourne (Australia) chapter to the Wall Street Journal Business Guide to Cities of the Pacific Rim (Fodor's Travel Guides, 1991).
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.
All You Need to Know Before You Go
nickonwine: An engaging, interactive wine column by Nick Passmore, Artisanal Editor, Four Seasons Magazine; Wine Columnist, BusinessWeek.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.nickonwine.com.
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.
Any of John Mariani's books below
may be ordered from amazon.com by clicking on the cover image.