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MAN ABOUT TOWN: Tiella
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: Barone Ricasoli says Arriverderci to Super Tuscans, Hello to the New Chianti
by John Mariani
I've gotten to know Rhode
Island well over four decades because my brother and his family have
lived there that long, currently in the beautiful and historic town of
Bristol. Anyone considering a New England sojourn might drive straight
through the little state (which takes about an hour), perhaps stopping
off at Newport to visit the grand mansions along the water. But
Providence, once the gateway to Boston, has developed into a
wonderfully vibrant city with its own style, architecture, and food
scene. And then there's the coastline, jagged and puckered with
inlets, bays, rivers, and beaches. Here are some new places to eat
along the way.
1 Bluff Avenue
Watch Hill, RI
the bluffs of Watch Hill overlooking the Atlantic, the Ocean House
is a magnificent new addition to the region. When I say new, some
readers might recall that there'd long been an Ocean House on that same
bluff, and they'd be right. The old one, known for its yellow
clapboard, was derelict, eaten away by sea salt and time, salvageable,
incapable of being renovated, and closed down in 2003.
One can exult, then, that Bluff Ave. LLC, a community investment group that owns the property, built the new resort from the ground up, keeping as much of the historic interior as could be reclaimed--5,000 artifacts included--as well as replacing 247 windows in their original positions. The developers have fashioned a design for the new Ocean House that evokes all the architectural charms of the old one, so that it looks like it has been here since 1868, when the original Victorian-style resort hotel opened.
Once used only as a summer hotel, the Ocean House is now open year-round--and would be a capital place for families to spend Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year's. It now has 49 guest rooms and 23 private residences, a 2,000-square-foot spa, and more than 10,000 square feet of event space. The spacious interiors, from the grand lobby to the restaurant, have a lightness buoyed by colors of yellow, blue, turquoise and cream, dotted with fine artwork, with hardwood floors everywhere, very comfortable, well-arranged and decorated rooms, with marble bathrooms, and all the most modern amenities, including HD televisions, fully-stocked iPods and iPads available, with movies and other entertainment, and high-speed wired and wireless internet access. There is also a members-only Club Room; Prices for residences start at $1.5 million.)
may also sail on the Ocean House's own restored lobster boat, The Gansett, that offers evening
cocktail cruises thrice a week, weekly
trips to Block Island/Sag Harbor, and daily coastal cruises between
Rhode Island and Stonington, CT. They also float the Dandy, a 32-foot wooden picnic boat
as a private charter, as well as three other yachts from Vintage
Yachting Club, and several yachts from the America’s Cup fleet of winners
and competitors. Obviously the resort is planning on a very
affluent clientele, which in winter may be hard to find.
Exec Chef Albert Cannito and Chef de Cuisine Eric Haugen have crafted a modern American menu, rich in seasonal specialties. When my wife and I dined there, the listings were under "Nearby Waters," "Local Pastures," and "Local Gardens," so we were anxious to try and enjoy dishes like English pea panna cotta with a lemon crème fraîche glaze, orange, radish, and pea shoots. Lobster tail is poached in butter, served with roasted cauliflower, a delightful salted almond streusel, and a white verjus-Madras emulsion, while duck foie gras comes in a terrine with caramelized white chocolate, spices, pistachio nougatine, and maraschino cherry gastrique. There are, perhaps, a few too sweet elements added to ingredients that, like good English peas, have their own, but in most cases the dishes work well. There is an array of fine cheeses each night, which might act as a balm, but don't neglect the desserts here, which are lavish and just reward for a good day at sea or long walk on the beach.
ROOM RATES: Off-season rooms from $260. Peak-season rooms from $485.
223 Main Street, East Greenwich, RI
Readers may have read my high praise of La Masseria in NYC, owned by Giuseppe "Peppe" Iuele and Enzo Ruggiero with chef-partner Giuseppe "Pino" Coladonato. So here I go again, this time in praise of its only branch, in a small town in Rhode Island named East Greenwich. When I asked why they went way up there, I was told that a favorite customer and investor coaxed them, and the result is that now Rhode Island has one of the best new Italian restaurants in New England.
East Greenwich itself is good for a short stroll down Main Street, and somewhere in the middle lies La Masseria ("the farmhouse"), done with a rustic trattoria look that in the daytime absorbs all sorts of sunny highlights that make this a wonderful place for lunch. Have a bottle of wine with friends--the list is very nicely priced. Put yourself in the hands of one of the three owners, who go back and forth to NYC, and definitely ask what's special that day.
The day we went we were treated to an impeccably fried, greaseless fritto misto of calamari, shrimp, and sea scallops, along with some luscious zucchini blossoms, and burrata mozzarella with its creamy center and Speck bacon and tomato. La Masseria was making great meatballs long before the current fad took hold, so have them here, with a fresh tomato and basil sauce.
The namesake pasta, penne alla masseria, is a happy dish, chunky with pancetta, radicchio, smoked scamorza cheese, and creamy tomato sauce. Another of their signature items is the granotto (left), a Pugliese grain cooked till tender like risotto, here mixed with white beans and seafood sauce. Of the main courses we tried, branzino was cooked in aqua pazza ("crazy water"), which indicates a good solution of tantalizing spices to go with the sweet flesh of the fish. Rarely have I had more flavorful medallions of veal, here lavished with porcini mushrooms.
For dessert the torta di mamma paola, a family recipe, is a rich, flourless Caprese-style cake with crushed almonds, topped with vanilla ice cream. The ricotta cheese cake is sublime, as is the warm apple tart with raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream.
Providence has long been known for the hearty Italian-American fare as served up on Federal Hill, but La Masseria brings to the area a true, regional cucina all'italiana it has sorely needed and now has in an exemplary, amiable form. The owners and their staff could not be more grateful its customers come to eat at their place. You sense it the moment you enter and long after you leave.
La Masseria is open for lunch and dinner Tues.-Sat. and for dinner on Sunday from 3 PM. Antipasti run $6.50-$16.50, full pastas $12.50-$21.50, and main courses $14.50-$32.50.
COOK & BROWN
59 Hope Street, Providence
401-273-7274The demise of the mom-and-pop restaurant is one of the sorrier effects of both the current recession and the rigors of running one of the easiest businesses to bankrupt even in good times. So you’ve got to applaud the sheer effort of Chef Nemo Bolin and his wife Jenny in opening a modest little place without the slightest pretense that they want to do anything more than cook wonderful, highly personalized food at Cook & Brown in Providence. Listen to them talk:
“The root of both the joy and the agony come from the same place. The complete and utter emotional, financial and physical dedication to our business is the reason we are able to relish when a guest raves or when we read a positive review. We can say proudly that we deserve it because we work our asses off and we live to hear that unmistakable sigh when someone takes that first bite of their meal and they just melt into their chair preparing to enjoy every bite. This brings us to our ultimate joy, which is that we have each other. It is an immeasurable asset to have the strength that comes from a true partnership. We never divide and that keeps our business strong and our guests happy. Our son will grow up knowing where his food comes from, how it got to his plate, a greater appreciation for the intense labor involved in local farming, and, of course, the importance of obtaining meat from people who raise and slaughter their animals humanely. We don't just care that our food tastes good, we care about the people, the animals and the plants that made it possible for us to have such beautiful food.”
very sweet, but the proof is still in the pudding. Do this: Order a
peas to go with Nemo’s roasted bone marrow with pickled shallots and
bread. You’ll never taste better. And that goes for everything
the Bolins’ menu.
be easy enough to open an assessment of the new Lavo by asking
just what does it want to be--a restaurant with a nightclub or
vice-versa. But I'm very sure that the Tao Group (which also owns
the immensely popular Asian restaurant/club by that name across the
street) know exactly what
they are doing by combining both. Lavo is an offshoot of a Las Vegas
original, in the Palazzo, and here on East 58th Street it has the size
and dimensions you'd associate with that city's casino-based
Lavo is open 7 days a
week for lunch and dinner till 1 AM. Appetizers run $14-$28,
full-course pastas $19-$38, main courses $26-$48.
1109 First Avenue (between 60th and 61st)
returning from Rome and Firenze, I was
still ravenous for a good Italian meal here in NYC to help mask the
such a beautiful country, so I dined at Tiella, located on the upper
eastside. Tiella is an
extremely small restaurant, very simple in design, surrounded by brick
and filled with dark wood tables. Upon
entering the restaurant, one sees a small host's
stand to the
left, a handful of tables, none exceeding four guests (at least that
case the night I dined), and in the near distance, a small kitchen
a wood burning oven, and that’s about it.
Neapolitan restaurants strive to offer way more than just great pizza,
Tiella certainly does, but do not miss out on one of their thin pies,
especially the stracciatella
tartufo (right), topped with
soft stracciatella cheese,
sliced prosciutto, shaved black truffles, and a drizzle of truffle oil,
perfect antipasto to start with; ask Mario to pair it with a nice prosecco
came the sformatino,
a light spinach flan served over a sweet gorgonzola sauce, and an order
oven-roasted calamari served with mushrooms, olive oil, and lemon. Tiella’s pastas are an affirmation that
chef Castellano worked under San Domenico's Master Chef Odette Fada and
owner Tony May in years prior. Two of the best
pastas on the menu are the nera,
cuttlefish ink-colored and flavored fettucine
with sweet seared scallops and chanterelle mushrooms,
the sciatatielli (left),
mixed with smoked mozzarella cheese and eggplant served inside a thin
Parmigiano crust. If you can
handle more food, the roasted lamb with rosemary is top-notch, and the
whole branzino, one of the
specials that evening, was prepared with olive
lemon, just the way it would be in Italy. The
are not worth skipping a pasta course for,
but quite good, especially the Roman sheep's milk cheesecake.
constantly asked by friends what are some
of the best restaurants in NYC, and
say, Tiella has made its way onto my list of personal favorites and
trattoria captures the
feel of a restaurant in Italy, and will now be my choice for dinner
begin to miss Italy.
Pizzas $12, antipasti $11-$14, pastas $18-$22, and entrees $22-$28.
To contact Christopher Mariani send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
Ricasoli says Arriverderci to Super Tuscans,
Swirling a glass of his just-released 100 percent sangiovese 2007 Colledila, Barone Francesco Ricasoli shrugged and told New York wine media, “Super Tuscans were wines of the 1990s. Now they are no longer very important.” As the family tree to the right shows, the barone is of the 32nd generation of a family that dates back to the days when St. Francis of Assisi was preaching to animals, is great grandson of Bettino Ricasoli, the “Iron Baron” who created the original blend for Chianti Classico.
“The idea that a single vineyard will produce an estate’s best wine flies in the face of modern viticulture,” he said. “Since I became head of the winery [in 1993], I have worked very hard both to identify the best clones of the sangiovese grape and, with the help of chemists at the University of Siena, studying each parcel of vines on our property, which now number 250 out of 1,200 hectares. In 2009 we made 180 different vinifications of grapes to come up with what we feel is the finest cru for each of our wines.”
Though reserved and mild-mannered, looking more like a technologist than a grand aristocrat like his neighbor Marchese Piero Antinori of Antinori wines, Ricasoli has a subdued revolutionary spirit. The fact that he even referred to the French term cru for a wine blend and held his seminar over lunch at New York’s very French Restaurant Daniel seemed to send a signal that his wines were not his great grandfather’s chiantis. (Then again, the family crest’s motto is in French, “Rien sans peine”—nothing without pain.)
Indeed, the fact that his 2007 Colledila (which means “the hill on the other side”) was a blend of 100 percent sangiovese diverges from the once-mandated blend of sangiovese with malvasia and trebbiano grapes for chianti classico. “Chianti classico was always there sitting on the shelves,” Ricasoli recalls, “and always sold within a specific price range."
Ricasoli’s own Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico, long the estate’s workhorse label, has been completely reconfigured for the 21st century, since Italian wine laws in the 1990s allowed a percentage of “foreign grapes” to be added to the blend. Castello di Brolio now comes from an array of replanted vineyards, with a predominance of sangiovese and equal parts cabernet sauvignon and merlot.
Ricasoli is hardly alone in Tuscany in using 100 percent sangiovese and configuring new blends for chianti classico, but the baron’s remark about the fading of the Super Tuscans, which in the 1990s were the showpiece sangiovese blends, shows a shift back to historical roots and an intensified study of Tuscan terroir. “We find great variation in the different vineyards,” he says. “What is more, we’re finding that the so-called foreign varietals like merlot are becoming `Chianti-cized,’ each year developing flavors that are very different from what people expect from merlot.”
My tasting of three of Ricasoli’s 2007 vintages revealed the thrust of what he contended. In the case of a wine called Casalferro ($65), once promoted as a Super Tuscan blend, I would never have pegged it as 100 percent merlot. It was much richer and far more complex than any Italian merlot I’ve tasted (only about 4 percent of Italy’s total wine acreage), and, while its fullness and body recall French merlot of St. Emilion and Pomerol, Casalferro 2007 is far more open and ready to enjoy.
The 100 percent sangiovese Colledila ($65), had a typically lovely bouquet, herbaceousness and tightness upon first sip. After a morsel of bread and butter, it quickly loosened up and indicated the evolutionary taste of chianti classico that Ricasoli is aiming for—bigger, brighter, with good acidity.
Brolio ($65) had a deep color, with almost tropical notes in the
which was the complexity added by the tannins of cabernet and the
action of merlot.
Given the richness of the wines, I asked Ricasoli what the alcohol in them was, thinking he might be deliberately edging them into the range of California voluptuary wines. “They are 13.5 to 14 percent,” he said, “but we’re working to get that down.” Alcohol, he feels, can work against the balance of fruit and acid that gives his wines elegance. Which in the global wine market full of blockbuster wines, is very good to hear.
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.
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Nov. 25 Seastar Restaurant & Raw
Bar in Bellevue, Washington
will host a
record 600 needy guests for Thanksgiving dinner with an all
crew, the 8th year Chef/owner John Howie has held the meal. After all
of the guests have departed and the last dish is cleared, volunteers
join John and his family for a Thanksgiving dinner together. Call
425-456-0010 for information.
* From Now till Jan. 15 gourmet Restaurant "De Pisis," at the BAUERs L'Hotel in Venice (Italy), will serve a special à la carte white and black truffle menu. Call +39 041 520-7022 / +39 041 240-6992 or email@example.com
* On Dec
10-12, the American
Truffle Co. will launch the inaugural Napa Truffle Festival,
Lexus, in Napa, CA, featuring
a truffle cultivation experts and scientists, and chefs led by
Ken Frank/La Toque, and special guests
food and wine world. Prices from $15 pp/Epicurean Marketplace -
$1,325 pp/inclusive 3-day pass (incl Truffle Fest Dinner). Visit
* On Dec.
11, La Quinta Resort & Club
in Palm Springs, CA will
“Preparing Winter Salad & Root Vegetables” Interactive Demo.
will sip La Quinta Nectar and be
given tastes as well as recipes to take home. Class limited to 25
pp ($5 for resort members, complimentary for resort guests). Call
760-564-4111 x 7259.
* On Dec. 11 in NYC Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises present their 2010 Santa Cruise. Bring a toy donation for Toys for Tots, take a free pic with Santa, enjoy milk & cookies, and cruise to the Statue of Liberty. $3.00 pp. Visit circleline42.com or call 212-563-3200.
Dec. 10-12, Lexus at the
Westin Verasa Hotel in Napa, CA, introduces the inaugural Napa
Truffle Festival featuring
leading truffle cultivation experts and scientists, along with
renowned Michelin Star chefs, and special guests from the food and wine
Keynote by Doug Duda, truffle seminars, cooking demos, truffle
orchard tour, 13-Michelin Star Truffle Dinner and Epicurean
vary. Info: napatrufflefestival.com;
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All You Need to Know Before You Go
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