John Mariani's Homepage
"And the Dish Ran
Away with the Spoon" (2009) by Galina Stepanoff-Dargery
Big Surprises in Small Places: Bristol, Rhode Island and Atehn Georgia
by Robert Mariani and Suzanne Wright
New York Corner: Ciano
by John Mariani
Man ABout Town: Cayman Cookout, Grand Cayman
by Christopher Mariani
Wine: Amaros May Be Bitter but They Are Sweet on the Tongue
by John Mariani
BIG SURPRISES IN
town of Yankee
traditions, classic Colonial architecture, and
avid yachtsman-ship. Just a short drive southeast from both
Providence and north from Newport,
it’s tonier, more glamorous seaside neighbor, Bristol occupies a narrow
peninsula between Mt. Hope Bay and Narragansett Bay. The wind
on Narraganset Bay make it one of the best sailing ports in the world,
no surprise that the famous Herreshoss Yachting Museum & America’s
Museum are located here. Officially named “America’s Most Patriotic
the summer Bristol hosts the first, and longest running 4th
parade in the nation. Just driving the shady streets and waterside
is a trip back to Colonial times, and though not on the top ten list of
England’s tourist destinations, when it comes to good eating, this
has some hidden gems. It also happens to be my hometown.
Perhaps the most iconic Bristol restaurant is the DeWolf Tavern, named after Bristol’s founder, sea captain and slave-trader, James DeWolf. Located right on the waterfront, the Tavern restaurant opened a few years ago in a history-rich old, two-story pudding stone building where African slaves were once imported and exported. The exterior looks much like it must have back in those days in the early 1700’s, rough-hewn and weather-worn, and the interior has maintained the rugged patina and added beautifully restored wood floors, a cozy fireplace and windows that look out on breezy Bristol Harbor. In summer, there’s also a terrace for dining while watching all the sailboats and motor yachts cruising the Bay.
The DeWolf Tavern’s owner, Chef Sai Viswanath, (below) holds degrees in culinary arts from the Culinary Institute of America and from the hotel school in Madras, India, and has traveled the world refining his cuisine, holding positions as Chef of the renowned Indigo in Mumbai and the Union Square Café in NYC. The Tavern has won national accoladfes, from Esquire to Food & Wine. He’s inspired by the beautiful local seafood available in Rhode Island waters and has created a unique menu, one that interprets contemporary American cuisine through the flavorful and colorful prism of Indian cuisine. And that is precisely why so many of Chef Sai’s flavor combinations seem so new yet somehow familiar.
Take his very original “Lobster Popover," for example. The crisp popover is light and airy; split down the middle, it makes a perfect little soup dish for a delicious ladle-ful of savory lobster bisque with bite-size lobster chunks, and there are more little lobster tidbits in the popover itself. The popover comes with a small salad of warm wilted field greens that complement the bisque perfectly. For an appetizer course, there’s mushroom gnocchi with crisp pancetta, Swiss chard and a parmesan cream. I love how fresh tasting the little pasta pillows are, dark and woodsy from the mushrooms--and how naturally the sauce enhances that flavor.
The seafood bisque is yet another combination of the familiar with the exotic. Chef Sai’s new addition here is the “seafood samosa,” which adds a subtle, sweet flower-like flavor to the more familiar smoky, sherry-tinged bisque. Some other starters include charcoal tandoor-roasted coconut jumbo shrimp; warm duck frisée salad with Camembert, pecans, prunes and flaky paratha bread; tuna carpaccio with green mango, mustard oil and pearl onion chutney; and the irresistible steamed mussels in saffron-white wine, or coconut milk.
For an entrée, I love the king salmon with an absolutely unique tasting “Kocum sauce,” very mild and subtle and at the same time lingering and unforgettable. The charcoal tandoor oven-roasted chicken comes as two legs and two thighs marinated with caramelized onions and an original honey tomato, sweet spice sauce that again contains flavor notes that are never strong, just extremely distinctive. Other entrees include charcoal tandoor-braised, truffled loin lamb chops with a mint crisp shallot raita, saffron basmati rice, and lemon lavender chutney; tandoor-roasted, native lobster; crisp duck confit with shrimp biryani wrapped in a lotus leaf with a mango sauce; hazlenut-crusted cod with Native corn and Fenugreek sauce; a lobster, shrimp and scallop sandwich on olive naan; grilled jumbo shrimp in a coconut lentil bisque with seasonal vegetable fougath.
The generous Dessert Sampler Platter features a chocolate lava cake with kirsch cherry center, vanilla ice cream and dried cherry sauce; lime curd tartlette with honeyed cranberries; baked Alaska with rose ice cream and devil's food cake; coffee cardamom cappuccino pot de crème with warm froth and chocolate Amaretto biscotti; and warm chocolate chip banana bread pudding.
Located just a block up from the Bay on Bristol’s State Street, the unassuming little storefront façade of the Persimmon restaurant is easy to miss. Small sign, small window, small door, with the daily dinner menu posted unpretentiously on the glass. And although it’s so close to Bristol’s scenic waterfront, the only “views” at Persimmon are of your fellow diners. There’s really only one reason you come to this cozy, diminutive, 38-seat restaurant and that is for Chef Champe Speidel’s wonderful food.
I’ve been a fan of Chef Speidel’s for years, ever since I encountered his cooking at another under-sized restaurant in Providence’s Italian restaurant district known as Federal Hill. His talent for focusing flavors and pairing them artfully has always made him a stand-out, even on “The Hill,” where Rhode Island’s culinary heavyweights tend to congregate.
Here in Bristol, Persimmon is the embodiment of Speidel’s culinary vision— small, intimate and dedicated to making the most out of local flavors from products procured daily. Even the décor and the artwork on the walls have an elegantly simple focus. Persimmon’s menu is created each day, based on what the best ingredients available are locally, so there are no compromises on freshness. Quite the contrary, so the dishes I write about here might not be on the menu when you come.
On previous visits to Persimmon I’ve been dazzled by such entrées as the apple-and-soy glazed pork porterhouse and the braised spring lamb shank, and so this time I quite willingly put myself in the capable hands of Chef Speidel and his wife Lisa (right) and opted for his Tasting Menu of the Day.
It began with a delicate, palate-clearing spoonful of red snapper tartar in brisk cucumber, cilantro, ginger and basil oil. Each flavor in this tiny morsel took you inevitably to another stage. Next was a light but hearty soup of locally foraged mushrooms featuring chanterelles, porcini and native “chicken of the woods” mushrooms with Yukon Gold potatoes.
A small salad of Jonah crab followed, laced with cucumber and celery, avocados and pea shoots. Each ingredient was clearly taste-able and fit perfectly with the next. I longed for more but was glad I showed restraint when the next course arrived, a miniature lobster tail the size of your forefinger (cooked quite rare) with a sweet corn pudding and red wine reduction. The nuances that the additions gave to the fresh-tasting lobster meat were truly remarkable.
A tiny mouthful of fresh red snapper followed, its skin perfectly grilled to crispy-ness, its flesh soft and moist. It was expertly paired with a mild ratatouille and tomato broth.
The first “full-size” course was a medium-rare lamb cutlet accompanied by a sumptuous couscous punctuated with black olives and a pungent rosemary-infused demi-glace, with the briny olive taste and the fragrant rosemary flavors playing off each other. Crispy-skinned duck confit and breast slices were served with sweet-as-honey baby carrots and garden-fresh green peas. Again, each distinct flavor served to sharpen the focus on the main ingredient and bring it to a new level. And yet with all its complexity, this entrée never felt heavy or over-done.
The desserts are equally well-parsed. One was a white peach sorbet in a semi-sweet plumb confit. What amazed me about this little masterpiece was Speidel’s inspired addition of just the tiniest flecks of thyme, which took your taste buds to a flavorful place you never expected but that seemed like the perfect finish.
Another dessert was equally unique in its own, more creamy, way— a vanilla yogurt panicotta with touches of chilled summer fruit.
Finally there was a tantalizing sampling of “The Persimmon Cheese Experience,” literally an artist’s palette of minute cheese portions beautifully balanced with tiny smears of fresh berries, syrups and jams.
Until recently, the only empty niche in downtown Bristol’s compact culinary scene was a good French restaurant. Le Central on Hope St., Bristol’s main drag, has filled that void and, I’m happy to report, is doing well.
Le Central is located directly across the street from the historic Linden Place mansion, which houses an antique museum and a treasure trove of historic Bristol memorabilia. The restaurant's owner Jesse James, who spent several years cooking at Boston’s esteemed classic French restaurant, L’Espalier, assured me that if anything, the recession has actually been good for his business here, perhaps because Le Central offers such an attractive menu at reasonable prices.
There’s nothing pretentious about this neighborhood bistro. It’s a spacious, simply appointed room with a bar against the rear wall, and wide, storefront windows that look out onto Hope Street. Le Central has a full bar and an excellent wine list of domestic and imported wines.
Each night, the regular dinner menu is supplemented with a list of specials like Jonah crabcake and hot pepper rouille for starters; and entrées like grilled charmoula-rubbed lobster with a warm asparagus salad; bouillabaisse; and grilled lavender duck breast.
On our latest visit, we began with one item from the Specials menu, the parsnip bisque and “frizzled” leeks, and it could not have been more comforting with a mild, mixing of soft flavors in a creamy white broth. I also sampled the local oyster Alsacienne from the regular appetizer menu, consisting of four oysters on the half-shell gently cooked in a horseradish cream with tiny chunks of bacon. Even without the bacon, it would have been a nice, gentle starter.
The first entree from the regular menu was a perfectly cooked medium-rare hangar steak accompanied by paper-thin slices of sautéed potatoes and a crisp baby arugula salad with a simple oil and vinegar dressing. Our other main course, Le Central’s Lobster Mac and Cheese, is served in a palm-sized soup crock. The penne macaroni and chunks of lobster meat were swimming in a rich cream sauce with hints of thyme, bay leaf and carrots. The entire dish was sprinkled generously with panko bread crumbs and is an excellent choice for a chilly New England evening. Their regular menu leaves little to be desired with main dishes like roasted and braised Moroccan organic chicken; a petit cassoulet; coq au vin; grilled rack of lamb merguez; grilled Atlantic salmon “Niçoise;” cod Provençal; and grilled lobster.
For dessert I had the immensely satisfying chocolate brioche bread pudding. Another treat is the lemon ricotta crêpes with seasonal fruits. The crêpe is a delicate creation stuffed with a mild, creamy ricotta cheese and dressed with bits of pineapple, strawberry, and kiwi.
“It doesn’t look like a hotel,” says my friend Dale as we nearly drive past The Hotel Indigo (below) in Athens, Georgia.
In fact, its architecture reminds me of a covered bridge, with its steep pitched roof and long, narrow shape. Yet this modest-looking hotel has quite a pedigree: it’s the first Gold LEED-certified hotel in InterContinental Hotel Group’s portfolio of 4,500 properties scattered throughout the world.
Georgia’s Bull Dawgs and
the B-52s, both of which are
referenced onsite: canines (and
their owners) get their own Happy Hour and framed posters of local
hang in the rooms, which have a vaguely 70s retro vibe with a
soothing greens, blues, gold and tangerine.
The Madison Bar offers a grapefruit cosmopolitan which is
in-room coffee is from local roaster Jittery’s Joe’s
and, along with the homespun Foxfire
volume, is the chic Guide to Athens, a little black book for this town
successfully marries the traditional with the cheeky.
hungrily watched as Athens came
own as a culinary destination, thanks in large part to Chef Hugh
put Five and Dime on the national culinary map. But
of which I have heard great things. Athens
foodies are a fierce lot; they give football fans a
run for their
money—and an excuse to skip tailgating for a table at this
eatery. (See my earlier review of The
of Full Moon Farms, a five-acre
organic/biodynamic farm in nearby Watkinsville; they also run Moonshine
a livestock operation that raises cows, pigs and chickens.
A restaurant is a logical extension of
their agricultural efforts. They also run a mobile Farm
The rustic, unpretentious space—anchored by an open kitchen—is immediately welcoming. There’s great lighting and the exposed duct work, iron trusses and wooden beams give it a European feel. In my dealings, Athenians seem to share an appealing nonchalance that is in stark contrast to the toadying of too many big-city enterprises. Stellar ingredients and knowledgeable service exudes a quiet confidence. You don’t feel the effort, but the results are evident. The cocktail list shows creativity. I order a pistachio Manhattan made with Maker’s Mark, Dumante pistachio liqueur and Carpano Antica Formula vermouth, which is smooth and satisfying. Good thing: the menu is mouth-watering.
“This is a safe place to be experimental,” says our server, with an air that manages to be both breezy and informed, hip and kind, as she refills our water glasses and places homemade yeast rolls on the table. We start with pork trotters, which I wouldn’t order just anywhere, but here they look like mini crab cakes, which makes them more palatable to Dale, who’s suddenly become a bit timid, recoiling slightly as they are presented. But after his first hesitant bite, his body language changes. Breaded in panko, they are velvety inside and pleasantly textured. In a word: delicious.
The butcher board is easily a full meal for two, a “mighty plenty” as Dale declares, and an excellent introduction to the kitchen--and a hell of a value at $18. Besides chicken liver mousse, (seasonal) apple sausage, pastrami and champagne pâté, there are local apple slices, hard-boiled eggs, pickled radishes and red cabbage sauerkraut. Something was rendered slightly sweet by the addition of Christmas spices, but I don’t recall if it was the pâté or mousse.
I’ve lived for nearly 20 years in Georgia and never seen clams from this coastal hamlet, so I am excited to order mussels and Sapelo Island clams. They prove irresistible: big and sweet, while the house-smoked andouille sausage provides a dose of heat. We dip grilled bread into the broth, swimming with leeks. The only slight misstep of the evening was the fried oyster salad, the Apalachicola beauties slightly over-breaded, obscuring their briny perfume. Braised pork shoulder delivered big, in-your-face flavor, the pork cooked with a hint of cinnamon and the polenta creamy and robust. A side broccoli rabe added to the dish’s earthy character.
We ended the evening with hands-down, the best ever pecan pie either of us has ever tasted. Rather than the cloying, syrupy versions most restaurants (or mothers) offer, this one was dense with nut meat, almost black in color. It was modest-looking—one might even say, sweetly homely—and topped with vanilla whipped cream. From the first bite, it revealed itself to be sweet and salty and crumbly—all in the same forkful. A divine ending to a near-perfect meal.
The following morning, before we head back for Atlanta, we pay homage to Atcheson with brunch at The National, (left) a bustling, casual place serving Mediterranean- inspired food, where colorful laminated oilcloths and fresh flowers top the tables. We start with Bloody Marys goosed with Guinness. "Egg in a hole" is a tweak on the classic "toad in a hole," a tiny local duck egg nestled in Pullman toast, topped with frisée and radish salad and a sliver of Berkshire pork belly for lusciousness. The spiced-right lamb pita comes with crisp-fried patatas brava and dollops of tomato jam and horseradish. Dale lived in Portugal and praises the silver-dollar sized custard cakes with cinnamon whipped cream. But it’s the parsnip cake that is truly revelatory: off-sweet, with the winter root vegetable grated into it for texture, partnered with cranberries for tartness and eggnog sauce for richness.
Suzanne Wright is an Atlanta-based food and travel writer. Follow her at www.wanderwomanonline.com.
NEW YORK CORNER
(near Fifth Avenue)
Having just returned from Turin and Venice, where I ate very, very well, I still feel it can now be said that, at least in NYC, Italian food is more exciting than in most cities in Italy right now. I didn't say better, I said more exciting, for in Italy the rule of simplicity and regional tradition still abides, so that it is really a moot question whether regional cooking is disappearing in Italy: believe me, it is abundant everywhere.
that NYC, particularly in
the past two years, has come to define modern Italian cooking's
evolution. Restaurants like SD26, Del Posto, Scarpetta, Maialino,
Lincoln, and now Ciano would be difficult to find
anywhere in Italy for the breadth of their concepts, and I leave it to
others to debate the unproductive "authenticity" issues that haven't
had much relevance since the opening of Babbo in 1993.
each was a winner: lamb ravioli braised in barolo wine
with rosemary butter; a lasagnette
with "white bolognese" of dreamy balsamella,
sottocenere, an aromatic truffled
cheese from Veneto; and cortecce (little pasta shells that
look like shelled pea pods) with baby octopus, Calabrian
peppers, fennel and garlic breadcrumbs.
Desserts were yet to come, and one really stood out--a honeycrisp apple napoleon with caramel custard, cider syrup, and spiced vanilla gelato.
The wine list has something for every budget, though the higher your budget the more choices there will be. Ask Mr. Slover to guide you to a good, reasonable bottle.
And so Ciano joins the ranks of the most exciting and enticing feel-good Italian restaurants of the moment, one I would happily return to anytime. My only concern is that this style of gutsy, fat-rich, very loveable cooking may start to pall on those who really just want a good Italian meal without too much fuss. But for now, Gallante and his crew are working at the top of their form, and Ciano is a very lively, finely tuned place to spend a convivial evening.
Ciano is open for dinner
nightly. Antipasti run $13-$19, pastas $14-$17, main courses $29-$9.
The Market Menu is available for 4 courses at $75 and 5 at $90.
CAYMAN COOKOUT, GRAND CAYMAN
checked into the Ritz Carlton late Friday night and headed straight to Taikun
for some sushi and a few shots of sake. The restaurant sits right off
from the hotel
lobby and prepares innovative sushi rolls, thick cuts of fresh negiri,
and a stellar wine list that offers some diverse sakes. The space is
dimly lit, with dark brown and deep red tones, and a small marble
sushi bar where I dined to begin my weekend. After dinner, it was off
Genuine for a few after dinner drinks.
The next morning, none too early, after a pleasant breakfast at the Ritz’s outdoor restaurant 7, it was straight to the white sand beach for some sun and relaxation. Throughout the day, cooking demonstrations were offered on the beach under a giant white tent by Ireland’s television star Rachel Allen, Toronto-based chef Susur Lee (above), and dessert tastings with "Top Chef"’s Gail Simmons and Michael Laiskonis. There were also South African wine tastings hosted by Food & Wine’s Ray Isle, The Big Reds event led by sommelier Anthony Giglio, and a sampling session of reds from Rioja, held inside Eric Ripert’s elegantly appointed Blue restaurant.
That evening under the bright light of the moon was the "Surf and Sandcastles" kick-off celebration (above), a night filled with lots of rosé Champagne, food prepared by almost every chef on the island, and more and more pink champagne. After leaving behind my loafers at the shoe check, I walked into the torch-lit beach festival. In the center of the party were all the chefs' stations serving up signature dishes from their restaurants. Lines formed as each chef conversed and explained the creation behind their dish. In the background was a live band and along the perimeter were tiny bar stands serving up specialty cocktails. Some notable dishes were Dean Max’s (right) satin snapper sashimi served with a virgin coconut oil, a grapefruit reduction, garlic chives and a crispy casava; Charlie Trotter’s terrine of roast turnip and duck confit topped with a sour mango vinaigrette; the Ritz Carlton station’s Caribbean callaloo, stuffed Jamaican baby goat sided by a curried mango chutney and roasted breadfruit; and Schwartz’s sweet and spicy pork belly with kimchi, peanuts and local pea shoots. Besides the lengthy lines that generated along Charlie Trotter's, José Andrés' and Eric Ripert’s food stations, the event was a chance to meet fellow guests and mingle with some of the favorite celebrity chefs. As the event died down and the food slowed, the large crowd quickly brushed the sand off their feet and found its way to the Ritz Carlton bar where the celebration continued late into the night.
Upon waking up and collecting my thoughts with the help of a spicy bloody mary, it was off to Starfish Point for a picnic on the water hosted by chef Eric Ripert. We all boarded the catamaran and sailed out to a tiny oval-shaped strip of beach front where a live jazz band played, cooking stations were set up along the water's edge and picnic tables with umbrellas were taken by guests in bathing suits. Ripert (left) stood in the water as he manned the grill, serving up seared chunks of fresh tuna, while other chefs from the Ritz Carlton offered grilled lamb kabobs with peppers, onions and a creamy tzakiki sauce. Long cuts of chorizo were topped with local spices and hot mustard. Arepas were filled with different shredded and pulled meats with cheeses. And my favorite, a mouth-watering mound of succulent jerk chicken that paired wonderfully with a cold local Caybrew beer. After a few hours of great food, lots of sun and cocktails, it was back on the catamaran and finally to the Ritz for a nice afternoon snooze before the nighttime festivities got under way.
Around seven, I headed over to Dean Max’s The Brasserie for a dinner hosted by Max and Lee, with wines selected by Dennis Cakebread who was also in attendance. The restaurant is magnificent, designed with tan and brown tones throughout the bar and main dining room, a lovely outside herb garden, and a grand open kitchen almost the same size as the dining room, a chef’s dream. After a cocktail hour filled with conch salad, blackfin tuna sashimi, and fish tea shooter hors d’oeuvres, prepared by Max and Brad Phillips, we all sat in anticipation for a splendid meal. Lee served a caramelized black cod surrounded by preserved lemons, salmon pearls and a garden turnip cake and then followed with a tasty rice gnocchi and chicken served with foie gras, black truffle shavings, roasted pears, Chinese sausage and a rich porcini mushroom sauce. Max and Phillips finished off the evening with a thick cut of Angus beef sided by a braised veal cheek, Vidalia onions, and a local breadfruit au gratin. After dinner, Lee and his lovely wife came to sit and chat at our table as we enjoyed a few more glasses of Cakebread cabernet sauvignon.
The final day of the Cayman Cookout culminated with the Bon Vivant Champagne Brunch Cook-off. Hundreds of guests filled the massive ballroom where cooking samples were in abundance, Champagne was poured freely, and Ripert and some members of Bravo’s "Top Chef" cast judged a three-hour cooking competition. Hours later the weekend came to an end at the Gala Dinner held at Ripert’s Blue restaurant, where a multiple course meal was prepared by Ripert, Allen, Andrés, Lee, Schwartz and Trotter. The dinner went late into the night and was a perfect end to such a memorable weekend.
To celebrate the success of yet another magical Cayman Cookout, the chefs were thrown a private party after the Gala dinner at the Ritz’s Periwinkle restaurant. With the personal invite from a few of the chefs, I spent the rest of the night congratulating and toasting with the men and women in white, and boy, can they party! Vive la Caribbean!
To contact Christopher Mariani send an email to email@example.com
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
Amaros May Mean Bitter but They Are Sweet on the Tongue
by John Mariani
above the broad archways of
San Carlo, and ordered traditional Piedmontese specialties like the
meat-stuffed ravioli called plin,
tonnato, made with slices of veal in a creamy tuna sauce. But
first I was
presented with a little appetite starter—a rosy slice of culatello ham, a
spoonful of ricotta drizzled with balsamic vinegar, and a small glass
Italian cordial called an amaro.
Italy produces scores of amaros, whose name means bitter but whose sweet flavors are a complexity of herbs, spices, and citrus rinds, including gentian, angelica, lemon verbena, ginger, mint, thyme, licorice, cinnamon and menthol. Made between 16 a 35 percent alcohol, amaros are drunk either as an aperitif on the rocks or in cocktails. More commonly in Italy, amaros are taken as a digestive after a meal.
In fact, their origins lie in the medicine cabinets of medieval monasteries, concocted by monks as aids to digestion and good health. If you want to know what those early medicines tasted like, buy a bottle of Fernet Branca, a commercial Milan-based brand of the amaro called fernet; it is a dark and potent brew—with up to 45 percent alcohol. Fernet Branca’s ad motto is “It is worth the bitterness,” made from 27 herbs and spices, including Iranian saffron, South African aloe, French gentian, and aged for a year, created in 1845 by Bernardino Branca.
It is indeed very bitter, so some use it cocktail bitters. Still, even many of its advocates grimace upon knocking it back after a huge meal to settle a queasy stomach. I am one of those reluctant advocates, but that is the price I pay for being raised a Catholic taught to believe the sin of gluttony must be punished with bitterness.
The best known, sweeter, amaro is Campari, the garnet red spirit usually drunk on the rocks with a twist of lemon or as a component in the classic Italian cocktails, the americano and negroni.
Vermouth itself, both red and white, is an amaro (the word comes from the German Wermut for wormwood), first produced by Turin-based Antonio Benedetto Carpano in 1786. In fact, the amaro I was served at Caval d’Brons was Carpano’s “Antica Formula,” which can be found in the U.S. for about $25-$35.
The Carpano firm (now owned by Fratelli Branca) also makes the popular Punt e Mes, which means, in Piedmontese dialect, “point and a half,” said to refer to a point-and-a-half rise in the stock market that once greatly benefited the company. Other fairly well known amaro brands available in Europe, South America, and the U.S. include Averna, Ramazzotti, and Cynar, all at least as sweet as they are bitter.
I set out to find some more unusual amaros in the market, heading for the Italian section of the Bronx known as Arthur Avenue to Mount Carmel Wine & Spirits, a superb repository of Italian wine and spirits. Here are notes on some amaros I particularly liked.
Amaro Lucano ($24.99)—This minty, liqueur-like amaro has been made in the province of Madera in Basilicata since 1894. Roasted hazelnuts, orange notes, and a lingering bittersweetness make for a delicious way to begin or end an evening.
S. Maria al Monte Amaro Naturale ($26.99)—Hefty, at 40 percent alcohol, this Ligurian amaro has a deep mahogany color, is of medium body, and is quite bitter, with a aroma that instantly evocative of the incense used at Sunday mass. A good Catholic could sniff it and fall to his knees. Best after dinner.
Ditta Bortolo Nardini ($44.99)—Claiming to be Italy’s oldest distillery (1779), Nardini, in the Veneto, is best known for its grappas, but its premium-priced amaro pours like maple syrup into the glass and delivers a beautifully nuanced bouquet and what tastes like scores of carefully blended herbs and spices. You could have this on pancakes.
Nonino Amaro ($36.99)—This Friulian distillery almost singlehandedly changed grappa’s image from moonshine to connoisseur’s brandy twenty years ago, and there’s no mistaking the refined hand of the family in this exquisitely crafted amaro, with an impeccable balance of bitterness, sweetness, fruit, and spice that would be every bit as welcome after dinner as a vintage Port.
WHY AMERICA IS IN DECLINE,
✉ 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 March 8, in Atlanta, Fadó Irish Pub & Restaurant will be hosting the Second Annual Tower Beer, Wine & Spirits Whiskey Dinner at Fado Irish Pub & Restaurant, featuring four different whiskeys paired with a selection of hors d’oeuvre in addition to a sampling of Irish beers and Irish coffee to finish. The host is Kevin Mulcahy, Master of Whiskey. Cost is $39 (all inclusive). Call 404-841-0066 or visit fadoirishpub.com/atlanta.
* On Mar. 9, Upstream in Charlotte, NC, will host a Jordan Vineyard and Winery Dinner. Executive Chef Scott Wallen will present a five-course dinner while wine representative Sara Halstead leads guests through each pairing. $85pp. Call 704-556-7730 or visit upstreamseafood.com .
* On March 12-13 at The Sheraton Hotel & Towers in Hong Kong, Spectrum Wine Auctions will hold its 2011 March Rare Wine Auction of more than 1,700, incl. the second installment of “The Doctor’s Pristine OWC Coolection” purchased direct from the cellars of Château Mouton Rothschild, Château d’Yquem and Compañia Vinícola del Norte de España. More than 14,000 bottles will be offered with a pre-sale estimate of nearly $5 million. Call 949-748-4845 or visit www.spectrumwine.com.
* On March 13 in San Jose, CA, LB Steak hosts the debut of a “Chicks Dig It” quarterly speaker series starting with a discussion of women in agriculture focusing on eating in season, storage of produce, container gardening and heirloom vegetables. Includes a food tasting, specialty cocktail tastes and unlimited house wine. $20 pp. Call 408-244-1180. lbsteak.com.
* On Mar. 17, Stephan Pyles in Dallas, Tx, will host a Krupp Bros. wine dinner. Tres Goetting will lead guests through each selection of wine paired with a 4-course menu created by Chef Pyles. $125pp. Call Lisa Moore 214-999-1229 x 102 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. . . . On Mar. 29, Stephan Pyles will host a Hudson Vineyards wine dinner. Lee Hudson will lead guests through each selection of wine paired with a 4-course menu created by Chef Pyles. $125pp. Call Lisa Moore 214-999-1229 x 102 or email email@example.com.
* On March 18-19 The 7th Annual Savor Dallas, a celebration of wine, food, spirits and the arts returns to downtown Dallas and The Arts District. Featuring over 60 of Dallas-Fort Worth’s top chefs serving samples of their cuisine and more than 400 premium wines, spirits and imported beers, the most delicious wine and food festival in Texas has exciting new events this year including: a cooking class with Beard House best-chef nominee Stephan Pyles, a wine and cheese pairing session with Mozzarella Company cheese czar Paula Lambert at The Mansion on Turtle Creek, and The Ultimate Friday Night Party featuring the work of area artists at Gables Park 17. Individual event ticket prices range from $35 to $125 and are available at savordallas.com or call 888/728-6747.
* On March
18-20, the 9th
Annual Boca Bacchanal Winefest & Auction in Boca Raton, FL –
“Celebrating the Era of the Mango Gang Chefs”– will be presented by The
Boca Raton Historical
Society, with silent and live
auctions. Fri. features Vintner Dinners in magnificent
settings. Sat. is the Bacchanal & Auction at the elegant Boca
Raton Resort & Club. The Grand Tasting, with specialties of
South Florida restaurants and 140 wines is outdoors at Mizner Park
Amphitheatre. Visit bocabacchanal.com
Any of John Mariani's books below
may be ordered from amazon.com.
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:
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).
The Family Travel Forum - A community for those who "Have Kids, Still Travel" and want to make family vacations more fun, less work and better value. FTF's travel and parenting features, including reviews of tropical and ski resorts, reunion destinations, attractions, holiday weekends, family festivals, cruises, and all kinds of vacation ideas should be the first port of call for family vacation planners. http://www.familytravelforum.com/index.html
ALL YOU NEED 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.
© copyright John Mariani 2011