Mariani's Virtual Gourmet Newsletter

May 22, 2011

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"Big" (1988) with Tom Hanks

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:
  An Ode (Sort of) to the Closing of Elaine's


Part Two

by John Mariani

The Northern Lights above Reykjavik

    Iceland only has a few towns that rise to the name city, and the capital of Reykjavik, founded in the 9th century, never seems exactly bustling. The whole country only has 300,000 people, and two-thirds of them live around Reykjavik. Little traffic means little noise, and wherever you are, you sleep in windy silence.  If, as shown in the photo above, you are there when Nature conspires to bring up the Northern Lights, you will see something as rare and wondrous as when Eric the Red arrived here.
        It is a city with a good number of tourist sights for its size, and it is as handsome as its people, who come from Norwegian and Celtic stock. There are art museums, natural history museums, a Viking Village, opera, theater and year-round music festivals. Evereybody, and I mean everybody, speaks perfect English.
    It is definitely a walking city, in the downtown streets, lined with shops and boutiques, with many local designers of clothes and jewelry, and you can stroll around most of it in a couple of hours, along the waterfront, up to the extraordinary
Church of Hallgrímur—or Hallgrímskirkja--with its 244-foot steeple, the tallest building in Reykjavík (left).   In summer the climate is a lovely 15 degrees C (59 F), so the sea does not get warm enough to swim in. But summering on the beaches and trekking through the mountains and glaciers is wildly popular. After months under long, dark days, Icelanders crave the sun like wildflowers.
    Iceland has, of course, suffered a double whammy in recent years, with its economy collapsing in 2008 (the joke at the time was,
“What’s the difference between Iceland and Ireland? Answer: One letter and about six months.”), and then the volcano Eyjafjallajökull exploded.  But, as Paul Krugman of the NY Times explains, "Iceland let foreign lenders to its runaway banks pay the price for their poor judgment, rather than putting its own taxpayers on the line to guarantee bad private debts," and "unlike Ireland, Iceland still has its own currency; devaluation of the krona, which has made Iceland’s exports more competitive, has been an important factor in limiting the depth of Iceland’s slump."  So while the economy has not completely rebounded, the country is in pretty good shape, and that volcano eruption helped enormously in drawing tourists who want to see what all that was about. (See Part One of this article for further info on the effects of  Eyjafjallajökull.)
    Reykjavik has plenty of small hotels. The grandest in town is the Hotel Borg, with 56 room, though I stayed at one of the best new hotels in town,
101 smack in the center of town and convenient to everything within blocks. Modern, minimalist and very comfortable, with large rooms and big bath/shower, 101  (right) also offers a fine breakfast in the morning to get you started and the lounge is arrayed with hundreds of international design and fashion magazines for your perusal.
   I had a chance to visit The Laugar Spa  (left), rightly one of the city's most popular attractions, constantly filled with locals who come for a work-out and then steam in a series of shadowy, echoing rooms.    
     The Blue Lagoon, about 40 minutes drive from the capital, is where, with stamina, you can go for a cold dunk and splash around in the icy water, if that makes you happy. There's a spa by that name with all the treatments and relaxants to the body and spirit you could ask for.
     You’ll find every kind of restaurant in the city—even Indian kebab houses and sushi—while Iceland's native cuisine is largely built around reindeer venison, lamb, and seafood, including lusciously sweet langoustines. 
Reindeer were brought in from Norway in the 18th century and now all run wild. The lamb is all raised in Iceland.
    There is a Christmas tradition to serve ptarmigan, a very gamy wild bird that is hunted (but may not be sold) in Iceland. A local favorite—well, actually not all that many Icelanders crave the stuff—is called “stinky shark,” which is fermented by having a group of guys piss on the dead fish, then burying it to acquire a taste that my guide said “tastes like very strong cheese.” I passed.

     There is, as everywhere in the world these days, a vibrant young crowd of chefs in Reykjavik who are forging what they call a New Nordic Cuisine.  Exemplary of this movement is VOX Restaurant, which actually published its own manifesto on the subject, including the following precepts:

● To express the purity, freshness, simplicity and ethics that we would like to associate with our region.

● To reflect the different seasons in the meals.

● To base cooking on raw materials whose characteristics are especially excellent in our climate, landscape and waters.

● To combine the demand for good taste with modern knowledge about health and well-being.

● To promote the Nordic products and the variety of Nordic producers – and to disseminate the knowledge of the cultures behind them.

● To promote the welfare of the animals and a sound production in the sea and in the cultivated as well as wild landscapes.

● To develop new possible applications of traditional Nordic food products.

● To combine the best Nordic cooking procedures and culinary traditions with impulses from outside.

● To combine local self-sufficiency with regional exchange of high-quality good cooperate with representatives of consumers, other cooking craftsmen, agriculture, fishing industry, food industry, retail and wholesale    industry, researchers, teachers, politicians and authorities on this joint project to the benefit and advantage of all in the Nordic countries.


    Vox has a Gourmet Restaurant and a more casual Bistro (right), where I dined one afternoon. It was a buffet, not my favorite way to eat, but it did give me a sense of the exceptional range of the kitchen under chef de cuisine  Stefán Viðarsson  (above, on the far right, with kitchen brigade), from Nordic-style sushi and sashimi of unstinting freshness to some well-wrought pastas.  There was a smørrebrød of fried plaice on rye bread with  rémoulade and pickled cucumbers, and an array of Nordic tapas , including shrimp, smoked salmon, herring, caviar, bread.  Among the myriad desserts offered, the one not to miss is the whipped sky, an Icelandic cheese, with  meringue, cherries, toffee ice cream.
    One of the most popular restaurants in the city, since 2008, is the Fish Company (left), whose building dates back to 1884, originally set elsewhere but now on its present location at
Grófartorg. The heritage of the building is incorporated into “The Tides,” a  work of art by Hjörleifur Stefánsson; the restaurant was designed by Leif Welding and master chef Lárus Gunnar Jónasson, with window panes from the Hafnarfjörður Free Lutheran Church backlit behind the bar; signature china is from Figgijo in Norway, and many of the items used in the restaurant, china and kitchenware alike, are on display and for sale in the outer hall.There's also a wall of food photos and on the way out Post-Its and notes from fans who love Fish Company's happy atmosphere and good food.

    As should be obviously, the food is proudly Icelandic, and a good way to appreciate that is to go with the tasting menu of tea-marinated fillet of cod and garlic with roasted langoustine--langoustines are very large in Icelandic waters--roasted artichoke puree, fennel, and spiced bread, and lobster with Hollandaise sauce; Arctic char and dried salted salmon with walnut powder, salmon roe, dill oil, mustard sauce and malt ice cream; thyme-scented rack of lamb and salted mutton with pearl onions in crowberry, caramelized turnip puree and crispy leek and bacon roll; for dessert, blueberry pudding with chopped caramel chocolate, sky, yogurt and lime sorbet and white chocolate. Quite a bargain at about $75.  The wine list is surprisingly global, with bottles from Europe, Australia, and Africa.


      Lækjarbrekka is a very different kind of restaurant, old-fashioned in the loveliest sense, set within a house that dates to 1834 as the house of  Danish ship owner and merchant P.C Knudtzon, who also ran a bakery  there. The baker in turn bought the house in 1845 and prospered as the only baker in town for years. The building was used as a dwelling until 1961 and a small shop was there until the time of reconstruction began in 1980, upon being declared a protected historic building, turned into the restaurant in 1979.

    It is now very beautiful, evocative of an older time, done in antique furnishings and artwork, quiet, civilized but unpretentious. I recommend either the "Icelandic Langoustine Feast" ($75) or the Icelandic Lamb Feast ($70), both very popular here (there is also à la carte). The first menu features langoustine soup with a taste of cognac and lightly whipped cream; langoustines in three ways, grilled in garlic butter, deep fried in tempura and pan fried with saffron cream; and for dessert, a three-color parfait with crunchy praline base.

     The Icelandic Lamb feast begins with a carpaccio of lamb, smoked and herb cured lamb with crispy salad and blueberry vinaigrette, then lamb in two ways, pan fried fillet and slow cooked shoulder served with crunchy potatoes and thyme sauce, with an ending of chocolate special dessert. Linger over the last of the wine or a glass of Cognac, step outside, breathe in the freshest air imaginable, and take a languorous walk back to your hotel.  You will sleep as well as any baby that night in Reykjavik.


BARS: An Icelandic tradition is the midnight pub crawl called a runtur, which can end around 4 AM. The 101 Hotel, where I stayed,  has a sleek, modern bar.  The ten-year-old NASA goes strong as the most popular hangout in Reykjavik for live music. B5 is a hip spot with a light bistro menu and Philippe Starck décor. Thorvaldsen Bar gets a late-night weekend crowd and serves Icelandic-Asian food. 


Icelandair  flies nonstop from New York to Keflavik International Airport about 40 minutes from Reykjavik.  This summer Air Berlin will fly to Iceland from Hamburg, Berlin, Stuttgart, Düsseldorf, Munich and Vienna,  while Iceland Express will add Chicago and Boston to its destinations. Delta Air Lines announced its plans to commence direct flights between Iceland and New York. A taxi from the airport , a good 40 minutes from the capital, can cost about $110, but Reykjavik Excursions runs buses for about $14 each way.

To Read Part One of this article, click here.




954 Old Post Road, 
Bedford, NY


    Hollywood has always loved the idea of naive characters from the city who get into enormous difficulties upon moving to the country, ever since "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House" up through "Beetlejuice" and "The Money Pit," not to forget when Lucy and Ricky moved to Connecticut to raise chickens in the "I Love Lucy Show."  Of course, plenty of show biz stars who do in fact live way out from town, not least Keith Richards, who, oddly enough, lives in Connecticut.   The late Paul Newman resided in Westport, where he supported both the local Playhouse and a fine restaurant there called the Dressing Room.  So it was not quite unique for actors- and-married couple Carey Lowell and Richard Gere, together with partner  Russell Hernandez,  to open the
eight-room Bedford Post Inn and spa on an historic 19th century property in Bedford, New York, about 45 minutes’ drive from Manhattan in Westchester County.  That was three years ago and the place does very well in every season; I'm sure guests hope the Geres might some nights drop by to see how their investment is faring (they do).
    It's a very beautiful place in a superb and bucolic location, its décor largely Carey's doing. At the downstairs Barn (below), they serve breakfast and lunch weekdays, dinner Monday and Tuesday, and brunch on the weekend, with its  Bakery open daily. Upstairs is the dining room called the 75-seat Farmhouse (below) , with wainscoting, buffed wooden floors, antique tables set with breadbaskets, and well-spaced tables laid with soft linens, fine stemware, and good silverware.  Earlier in the evening the lighting is glowing and amiable, but for some reason later on they turn out down to become dark and far less congenial.
    The Farmhouse's first chef, Brian Lewis, worked in a modern American style, incorporating global influences into his seasonal menus.  The new chef  is Jeremy McMillan, who continues much  in the same style, a balance between the rustic and the refined, as evidenced in the mushroom minestra in a parmigiano broth with wild nettle pesto.  There is a section of crudi, raw items, including, when at their best, fluke  with tangerine, green olive and almonds; striped jack is pretty with onion blossoms, blood orange, and pistachio; well-fatted swordfish belly comes with Mediterranean flavors of dried tomato and salmoriglio sauce of olive oil garlic, herbs, and lemon; and beef with ramps, pecorino cheese, and a toasted baguette. 
    An appetizer of mozzarella with rhubarb mostarda and almond pesto is excellent, and simple spring vegetables come with a whipped ricotta  and a tangy citron vinegar.  There is a pasta section, all of them rendered with authenticity, from linguine nero with King crab, pickled chilies and mint to fat agnolotti with rich veal, porcini, ramps and parmigiano stuffing. A simple spaghetti is treated to a tomato sauce is spiked with crushed peperoni and pecorino cheese.
    The night I visited I was delighted with the quality of the swordfish with baby fennel, lemon, and capers, all complementing each other and as fresh as the sea, while dry-aged beef was first rate, with pearl onions, arugula and a glaze of balsamic.  Tender, flavorful veal came with lovely green fava beans, spring onions in a bagnet vert (green sauce), and “John Boy’s Chicken” (named for a former Wall Street broker who, after 9/11, sought a quiet life raising chickens and pigs in the Berkshires, supplying the Inn with many of their ingredients) was crisply roasted and accompanied by potato with pickled ramps and sweet chilies.
In some of McMillan's dishes, the seasonings were a little tame, and added salt and pepper enhanced more than one dish.
    I heartily recommend the farmstead and artisanal cheeses offered here in peak condition, with some of the best bread served in the region. Otherwise, go with the yogurt panna cotta, which is nice and light, or the rich and decadent chocolate-hazelnut gianduja mousse with cocoa nibs and chocolate sauce.
    The 2,500 bottle wine list at BPI continues to be a very good one, but prices, even for this tony neighborhood, are high, a list in need of more selections under $60.
    At just about any time of year the Inn  has its distinct charms, from the snowy drifts of winter and the foliage of fall, but right now, with everything in the garden and the surrounding woods in bloom, the idea of driving up to Bedford is a wonderful outing.  The Geres and their partners did it right.

The Farmhouse is open Wed.-Sun. for dinner only. Dinner appetizers run $12-$15, pastas $17-$23, main courses  $29-$39. There is a five-course menu at a very reasonable $65 and eight courses for an even more reasonable $95.



by Christopher Mariani

An Auction That Bids Down In Price?

    Auctions of any sort are typically notorious for their incessant auctioneers speaking in almost unrecognizable tongues, intense emotion among potential buyers and the price of an item increasing until the highest bidder is finally awarded as the victor. Yet, when I attended a fish auction at the market of Fano in the Le Marche region of Italy, the auctioneer barely spoke, buyers sat quietly as trays of seafood from the Mediterranean were presented and the price of the catch decreased during the bid process. I thought to myself, this doesn’t make sense, why does the price drop?
         As part of an annual GRI (Gruppo Ristoratori Italiani) educational trip to Italy, hosted by Tony May, owner of NYC’s SD26, I attended a fish auction very early one morning. The phone rang at 3:15 a.m. and I turned over in my bed to answer. The voice on the other end said, “Signore Mariani, this is your wake up call. Would you like a follow up call in 15 minutes?” I responded in a coarse voice, “No thank you,” then hung up the phone. I sat up, rubbed my eyes, then got dressed. After a quick espresso in the lobby of the Hotel Savoy in Pesaro, we headed for the market in the darkness of the young morning.
         After a short nap on the bus, we arrived. Fishermen were unloading their fish and placing them neatly on display inside trays layered with shaved ice stacked about four feet high. The tile floor was wet from ice that had melted and the loading room smelled of fish. We then entered the auction room (above). In the center of the room was a conveyor belt presenting tray after tray of fish, a scale that calculated the weight of each tray and around the display a steep semi-circle seating forum that sat no more 70 people that morning. The seats were not all that comfortable. There was an old wooden wrap around desk in front of the seats most men used to lean their elbows on. Underneath the wooden desk were small buttons used to discreetly bid on desired trays of fish.
         Trays of gorgeous scampi, triglie (mullet), granchio (crab), sardines and other species of small fish came out on the conveyor belt in no particular order. The process of bidding began when a tray of seafood would make its turn onto the weight scale. The price in Euros, per kilo, would display in red on a large electronic board (below) mounted on the wall. The auctioneer would speak into a microphone to state the type of fish on the scale and its starting price. The price on the board would then slowly begin to drop as a circular sequence of lights surrounding the starting price would move in a counter-clockwise direction. When a potential buyer was happy with the adjusted price, he would then press his discreet button and the tray was his.
         The question still remains, why does the price drop? The price drops because the fisherman selling the fish set the initial price very high. They of course hope the set price will be the sell price, but they are well aware the price they have set is inflated. As the price begins to drop, restaurateurs and potential buyers have three questions to ask themselves. What is a reasonable price for the fish by kilo? How many other people in the room desire this same tray of seafood? And, how many trays of this specific fish are there? The first buyer to press the button is the one who gets the fish. So you must be aware of the others buyers in the room and what they are willing to pay for such a catch. There is a strategy to this bid system, far more intricate than just out-bidding your competitor. One obviously does not want to overpay for a tray of fish, but on the other hand, does not want to lose a tray of fish to a fellow bidder if there are a limited amount of that particluar fish in the loading room.
         After the auction ends, about two hours later, many of the fisherman and buyers head down the street to a small café for a fisherman drink known as a moretta, made with espresso, sugar, lemon, rum, anisette and either cognac or brandy. I had one moretta and then proceeded back to my hotel for a little sleep before I woke and toured the stunning seaside city of Pesaro, but that’s a story for another time. 

To contact Christopher Mariani send an email to




At Ravenswood, the Godfather of Zinfandel Searches for its Identity

by Brian A. Freedman


         In a world of so many over-extracted wines whose main selling points are their high alcohol, glass-staining color the opacity of a black hole, and fruit so extracted it’s often perceived as sweet, consumers could be forgiven for assuming that Ravenswood’s wines fit neatly into this category. The name is as close to synonymous with zinfandel--that rich, exuberant grape--as any other producer’s in the world, and their motto, “No Wimpy Wines,” could be perceived to imply that the goal is richness at all costs.

         But to assume so would be to miss the point completely. For though Ravenswood does produce a number of show-stoppers, it’s also capable of bottling some of the most nuanced, terroir-expressive zinfandels in the world today. Its Vineyard Series, in particular, demonstrates exactly how detailed these wildly expressive wines can be, and how much more California has to offer than most people give it credit for.

         It wasn’t always this way. When Joel Peterson (below), affectionately known as the Godfather of Zinfandel, first started out making wine on the side during his previous career as a researcher in cancer immunology, none of the success he has since seen was a foregone conclusion--or even, for that matter, terribly likely.

         “Zinfandel has actually had some ups and downs in its life,” Peterson said. “I keep a framed copy of an article on my wall just to remind me. It’s from The New York Times, and it’s labeled, ‘Zinfandel: Beloved No Longer.’ It’s from, like, 1977, I think. Obviously [now], zinfandel is much more beloved than it was at that particular moment in time.”

         That, of course, is a huge understatement, and in the more than three decades since then (the first wines that Peterson ever released were single-vineyard zinfandel bottlings from the 1976 vintage), Peterson has led the way toward the widespread acceptance, and even veneration, of American’s great red grape variety.

         It hasn’t always been easy. Peterson stressed to me that, as is the case with so many wines (and spirits and beers), producers tend to chase scores, to craft wines that they believe will make the biggest impact when the critics taste them. “Zinfandel is probably more subject to that than many other varieties, because it doesn't have a referential place from which it’s difficult to differ too much without confounding expectations," he said. "Bordeaux, for example, is generally the benchmark for cabernet, Burgundy for pinot noir, and so on. But zinfandel really doesn’t have anything like that, so it searches for its identity, which I think is getting stronger.”

         Peterson noted that, in the 1970s, zinfandels were often produced in a way that was “very high in alcohol, usually had some residual sugar, and had enough tannin in them to preserve [them], and those fell out of favor because once the fruit dropped out, they were just these kind of hollow, harsh-tannin shells,” he said.

         From there, as pendulum began to swing in the other stylistic direction, a more balanced style of zinfandel emerged--what Peterson called a “Claret style” that demonstrated “a good balance of acid and tannins and pretty fruit.” There’s been some back and forth over the years, as there is with all grape varieties and regional styles, but these days, Peterson sees zinfandel as finding its sweet spot in this more even-keeled incarnation, which results in wines that are just as delicious on their own as they are paired with food.

         “I, of course, have certain prejudices, because that’s the way my wines have always been,” he said. “I’ve been very careful about making wines that I think are balanced, that represent the place that the wines come from.”

         I recently had the chance to taste the range of Ravenswood’s 2007 Vineyard Series wines, and they beautifully embody exactly what Peterson is talking about. For despite the fact that you might assume more expensive, smaller-production zinfandels to find their footing on the flashier end of the spectrum, these were surprisingly restrained--each of them, despite their many and obvious differences, a nuanced, finely detailed expression of what the zinfandel grape variety does in a specific vineyard, a particular patch of the planet.

         The sophisticated “Belloni” bottling showed cream, cherries, and warm clay on the nose, as well as particularly gentle pink and black peppercorn and a whiff of cigar humidor. These led to sweet notes of blackberry and wild-berry compote kept in check by layers of spice, a touch of flowers, and gorgeous balancing acidity.

         The “Dickerson,” on the other hand, was a bit weightier, more muscled on the nose. Wild strawberries and kirsch, with licorice and balsamic in the background, precede a mouth-filling, exuberant palate of chocolate-covered blueberries, other mixed summertime berries, and, thoroughly unexpected, a flavor that reminded me, somehow, of deeply concentrated dark watermelon juice. With its richly expressive ripeness and lingering finish, this is a textbook example of how elegant zinfandel can be.

         From the Dry Creek Valley, the “Teldeschi” finds its footing on the other end of the spectrum: It’s at a quiet phase right now, the tannins still dominating strawberry and dark raspberry fruit. There are intriguing hints of thyme-dominated garrigue, oolong tea and peppercorns, and with air the sweetness of the fruit comes out. Still, I’d hold onto this one for another 3+ years to allow it to emerge into a more mature state. Once it gets there, however, it should be delicious.

         The “Old Hill” zinfandel will also continue to evolve for another several years, but it’s already showing its stuff beautifully right now with kirsch-filled chocolates, violets, and licorice. This is a wine that wears its power with remarkable elegance, as is the “Barricia,” which was perhaps my favorite among the 2007s, smelling of perfumed, roasted and gently smoked blackberries and blueberries, birch bark, and brown spices, and tastes of sun-warmed wild strawberries, dates, cigar tobacco, and kirsch. The finish, which lasts for well over 30 seconds, nods in the direction of cardamom and sweet dark cherries, and absolutely demands another sip, and another, and another.

         Then, finally, there’s the “Big River,” which reminds me of a more sophisticated version of the classic, fleshy California zinfandel with its Sachertorte, cream, and toast notes cut with spice and acid that manages to keep this generous wine in harmony and balance. For zinfandel lovers--and, frankly, simply for fans of well-made wine that express a sense of terroir and varietal specificity—these Single Vineyard Designate,  bottlings from Ravenswood are hard to beat. They’re both true to the land from which they come, and to the philosophy that has guided Joel Peterson ever since his maiden voyage with the 1976 vintage. Thank goodness he’s no longer in immunology research; we’re all drinking infinitely better as a result of the chance he took all those years ago.



As a joke referring to recent rising water levels caused by rain in the Ohio River, Kathy Kinane and her husband walked into the Waterfront restaurant (right) on a barge in Lexington, KY, wearing snorkeling outfits, and soon found the restaurant had broken from its moorings and floated downriver, carrying them and 81 others along 30 miles down river before being rescued. "We were joking about the river," Kathy Kinane told media. "Well, the joke's on us now."


Police investigated a possible hazing incident at the University of Virginia after a 19-year-old first year student became sick and was rushed to the hospital after eating dog food, matzo balls, gefilte fish and soy sauce. The student was pledging at Zeta Psi fraternity,  had a seizure, and spent  four days in the hospital, treated for  an electrolyte imbalance caused by the high sodium content of the 12 to 18 ounces of soy sauce consumed. An investigator wrote that a Zeta Psi member said the meal is a tradition for pledges. . . . Meanwhile in Germany:  While promoting  their film "Marley & Me,"  stars Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson ate dog biscuits on the live television show, "Wetten, dass...?" ("Wanna bet?")


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Tattered Cover on Colfax
On May 31 at Tattered Cover on Colfax in Denver, CO, Melissa Coleman will read from This Life Is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family Undone, a memoir that takes place during the early days of the natural living and organic food movements. Tattered Cover 303-322-7727, or visit
On April 27 from 6 p.m. to close Corkbar hosts a “Sausage Supper” with artisan purveyor Huntington Meats. Three-course, $25 prix-fixe menu with each dish featuring sausage from the local butcher. Co-Owner Jim Cascone will be on hand to greet guests and answer questions. A $10 beer pairing includes Lagunitas Brewing Company’s PILS, Mad River Brewing Company’s Steelhead Extra Pale Ale, and AleSmith Brewing Company’s IPA. A $15 wine pairing features two-ounce pours of Qupé Marsanne, Santa Ynez Valley, 2009; Straight Line Wine Syrah, Santa Barbara County, 2009; and Genuine Risk Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Ynez Valley, 2009.
Tibetan Aid Project
On June 1 at the Arader Gallery in New York, NY the Tibetan Aid Project will host the benefit gala Taste & Tribute in efforts to support the cultural and spiritual heritage of Tibet.  Guests will enjoy an exquisite four-course meal prepared by a superbly talented team of New York chefs including Missy Robbins, George Mendes, Gavin Kaysen, and Michael Laiskonis.  There will also be a live auction which will feature Tibetan artwork and luxurious getaways. $475 pp. Visit
Powell's Books on Hawthorne
On June 6 at Powell's Books on Hawthorne in Portland, OR, Melissa Coleman will read from This Life Is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family Undone, a memoir that takes place during the early days of the natural living and organic food movements. Powell's 503-228-4651, or visit

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 Any of John Mariani's books below may be ordered from

My new book, How Italian Food Conquered the World (Palgrave Macmillan) is a rollicking history of the food culture of Italy and its ravenous embrace in the 21st century by the entire world. From ancient Rome to la dolce vita of post-war Italy, from Italian immigrant cooks to celebrity chefs, from pizzerias to high-class ristoranti, this chronicle of a culinary diaspora is as much about the world's changing tastes, prejudices,  and dietary fads as about our obsessions with culinary fashion and style.--John Mariani

" A fact-filled, entertaining history [that] substantiates its title with hundreds of facts in this meaty history of the rise of Italian food culture around the globe. From Charles Dickens's journey through Italy in 1844 to 20th-century immigrants to America selling ice cream on the streets of New Orleans, Mariani constantly surprises the reader with little-known culinary anecdotes about Italy and its people, who have made pasta and pizza household dishes in the U.S. and beyond."--Publishers Weekly

"Equal parts history, sociology, gastornomy, and just plain fun, How Italian Food Conquered the World tells the captivating and delicious story of the (let's face it) everybody's favorite cuisine with clarity, verve and more than one surprise."--Colman Andrews, editorial director of The Daily

"A fantastic and fascinating read, covering everything from the influence of Venice's spice trade to the impact of Italian immigrants in America and the evolution of alta cucina. This book will serve as a terrific resource to anyone interested in the real story of Italian food."--Mary Ann Espositio, hosty of PBS-TV's Ciao Italia.

"John Mariani has written the definitive history of how Italians won their way into our hearts, minds, and stomachs.  It's a story of pleasure over pomp and taste over technique."--Danny Meyer, owner of NYC restaurants Union Square Cafe, Gotham Bar & Grill, The Modern, and Maialino.


FEATURED LINKS: I am happy to  report that the Virtual Gourmet is  linked to 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: WORLD'S HIGHEST GAS PRICES; AN INTERVIEW WITH PAUL THEROUX.

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).

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.

Family Travel Forum

                                                                    ALL YOU NEED 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.

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