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Audrey Hepburn, 1954
WHAT'S NEW IN ATLANTA?
by John Mariani and Suzanne Wright
NEW YORK CORNER: BLUE CARAVAN
by John Mariani
MAN ABOUT TOWN: WHY I DO WHAT I DO
by Christopher Mariani
WINE: ULTIMATE BERTRAND WINES AND A BIRTHDAY SURPRISE
by Mort Hochstein
GOOD NEWS! Esquire.com 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.
★ On this Monday, June 13, John Mariani will host a four-course book signing dinner in Boston at BINA Osteria for $40.
For info and reservations, click here.
WHAT'S NEW IN ATLANTA?
by John Mariani and Suzanne Wright
The Café at
3434 Peachtree Road
Indeed, it has only been
and that certainly goes for the new menu by new chef Todd Richards, who
doing some of the city's finest modern cuisine with a distinctive
slant. Richards has been
other R-C properties, including Atlanta (Downtown) and Palm Beach,
moving to The Oak Room at the Seelbach Hilton in Louisville, then
Atlanta to become corporate chef for One Flew South, the first fine
restaurant at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
DOUBLE ZERO NAPOLETANA
5825 Roswell Road
Sandy Springs, GA
Iberian Pig in Decatur and three Sugo
restaurants in the region, have named their new Italian place after the
highly refined, ground flour used to make pizzas in Naples. This,
and rigorously authentic Italian ingredients, along with a custom-made
pizza oven that heats to a thousand degrees, is what Executive
works with to produce a very generous style of Italian classics;
main courses are all meant to be shared.
Double Zero Napoletana
serves dinner Mon.-Sat. Appetizers and salads run $7-$13, pastas
$13-$19, main courses $17-$36.
999 Peachtree Street
Bacchanalia, Canoe, Restaurant Eugene, and Holeman & Finch, and now
he's partnered with Chef Hugh Acheson, of National and Five &
Ten in Athens, GA, to bring the city a kind of contemporary
Southern cooking that doesn't stray far from tradition but utilizes
everything that is good from the Southern cornucopia, not least an
array of vegetables that might put a carnivore in doubt of where his
DaviO's northern italian steakhouse
Appetizers: $6-21; entrees: $15-46; hours: Lunch Mon-Sat; Dinner: Mon.-Sat. Brunch Sun.
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Goin’ Coastal Sustainable seafood joint
Appetizers: $6-20; entrees:
$12-26; dessert: $7; Open nightly for dinner.
the Sound Table
483 Edgewood Avenue
Appetizers: $4-15; Entrees: $11-22; desserts: $5. Hours: dinner Mon-Sat: 6-11 p.m.
NEW YORK CORNER
by John Mariani
West Side along
Columbus Avenue, you can hardly pass a storefront that isn't a
restaurant of some kind; just between 82nd and 83rd alone, there
are options for Italian food, French food, and a couple of others, not
least the brand new Blue Caravan, mid-block.
Blue Caravan is open for breakfast Mon.-Fri., lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner nightly, brunch Sat. & Sun. Dinner small
plates$7-$15, large plates $16-$27.
WHY I DO WHAT I DO
On board the M/S Paul Gauguin in French Polynesia
I hope this piece offers a little insight as to why I became a food and travel writer, not what makes me qualified to write about food, but why I love food and really the sole reason I write about it.
Ever since I can remember, family dinners were always a big deal. I loved waking up on the morning of a holiday, inhaling whiffs of garlic, sweet onions, a simmering pasta sauce and cakes or pastries that were still in the oven. My brother and I would spring out of bed and immediately run downstairs to check out what my mother was cooking. If there were cookies cooling on the tray next to the oven, we always managed to snatch one or two before getting yelled at for eating cookies for breakfast.
My aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents always showed up late, and it drove my father crazy. When they finally did arrive everyone would stand around in our small kitchen peeking under pot lids and picking at plates of antipasti that my father had gone to get the day before from Mike’s Deli on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. Even though the living room was set with extra chairs and small plates of olives and nuts, everyone stayed in the kitchen and somehow my mother continued to cook a feast for ten plus people. Dinner itself was always long, filled with multiple courses and twice as much food as was ever needed.
When there were no holidays or birthdays to celebrate, my mother would cook a hot meal nightly for my father, brother and I. Many will say their mother’s cooking is the best, but for anyone who knows my mother personally and has eaten her food, they might modify their claim. Even with the TV turned on, we would sit around enjoying each other’s company, talking and many times arguing, but that’s what makes a family a family. My life and family have revolved around food as far back as I can remember.
Growing up the son of a food and travel writer, we dined out a lot. We were constantly heading into Manhattan for dinners at many of the city’s best restaurants. From an early age I was lucky enough to eat at some of the greatest restaurants and I didn’t even know it. Years later I understood, but at the time I was too young to appreciate their quality. As I got older I was willing to try just about anything. I remember my father saying to me when he saw me analyzing a dish, “Try it, if you don’t like it you don’t have to eat it.” So I tried it and most of it I liked.
I vividly remember the first time I tried frogs’ legs. We were dining at a Chinese restaurant and the waiter brought over a steaming hot plate of crispy frogs' legs smothered in a garlic sauce that smelled wonderful. My father informed me they were chicken wings, so I gobbled them up. After eating every last morel of the juicy "chicken wings" I found out I'd been deceived, but I shrugged it off and we all laughed. Eating, dining out a few nights a week and tasting just about anything were the memories of my childhood. I didn’t know it then but my palate was expanding, and I began to have a reference for many different foods and cuisines far greater than any of my friends did.
My father traveled extensively when I was growing up, but as often as he could he brought the family with him. By the time I was a teenager I had seen many major American cities and traveled abroad numerous times, eating out in London, Paris, Rome, and Florence. My brother, mother and I treated these trips as vacation while my father was working as hard as ever, joining us for dinner each evening. I anticipated each trip with great expectations to see new places and try new food.
At every dinner my father would have me taste a sip or two of his wine to learn to appreciate alcohol and understand its pleasantries. Even when a wine was bad he would insist I try it. He always said, a man cannot appreciate a good wine until he has tasted a bad wine--a statement that applies to many other things in life.
At the age of fourteen I began working as a busboy in the summer months at a terrific, upscale diner in White Plains, NY, called City Limits. I took the train to work a few times a week and quickly learned how hard it was to make a few bucks. On the weekends I worked in the coat check of an Italian restaurant around the block that paid me $50 to sit there for four hours, and I made tips! I was rich!
Two years later I quit both jobs and began working at a catering hall in the Bronx, which catered specifically to Albanian weddings with over 800 guests present. I had no idea what I was doing. I was told to make sure the guests always have a full glass of whatever they were drinking, make sure to not drop the tray of food, and don't so much as glance at the Albanian girls. (I sometimes disobeyed the last order.) It was very difficult work but occasionally someone would slip a $20 bill into my pocket and that made it all worth it.
My next job was waiting tables at the Italian restaurant I used to coat check for. Through high school I worked Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights and enjoyed every second of it. I found my groove as a server and families began to request my service. I was making great money and learning what no restaurant management school could ever teach me. I was young, working my butt off and making good tips, finding out what it took to run a restaurant and realizing what a grueling profession it can be.
The best way to describe working in a restaurant is organized chaos. I am a strong believer that every teenager should work at least two years in the restaurant business. Trust me, it will change you. I was socializing with customers, dealing with kitchen problems, surviving the 7 pm to 9 pm rush and working for every dollar I made. I had a ton more responsibility than my friends who worked at Blockbuster bagging DVDs and arguing with customers over their balance. Restaurants were an enlightening experience for me and taught me values I hold onto to this day.
When I went off to college I continued to work in the restaurant business but upgraded to a Modern American restaurant in wealthy Greenwich, CT, named Rebeccas, where I learned about classic French service and the proper way to do just about everything in the front of the house. This schooling later became an essential tool when writing about dining out and offering my reader a true reflection of the service they will receive.
Every car that rolled into Rebeccas’ parking lot was worth $80,000, many much higher. Maseratis, Bentleys, Mercedes, it was like walking into an exotic car show. The tips were unreal. For the next four years I worked and broadened my understanding of what makes for a great restaurant. I wasn’t just serving food, I was actually playing an important role in the restaurant. I began to learn about the ingredients we were serving, where they came from, why they were they better than other products, the importance of presentation and how a restaurant must work in harmony to be successful. There is so much that goes into the dining experience that unless you have worked for years in the business, you will never know. When I dine out now and the orders come out in an orderly manner and the food tastes great, I truly appreciate what went into achieving that experience.
During my time at Rebeccas and while attending college, my mother and father wrote their first recipe collection together, The Italian American Cookbook, and I was the guinea pig for all the recipes--270 of them!--and began to taste food differently and to understand its subtleties and flavors. I started to taste the ingredients that created the flavor of complex dishes, and again, my palate continued to grow. I also took daily advice and pointers from my mother on how to cook. I don’t consider myself a great cook but I definitely know my way around the kitchen.
A year after the book was published my brother started a career as a chef. He attended the French Culinary Institute in NYC and graduated first in his class, taking a job as a line cook at The Modern, one of Danny Meyers' restaurants in the MOMA. After three years he moved to work alongside master chef Michael White at Marea. He is now working as a manager at the new Lincoln restaurant in the Lincoln Center. He also dates a beautiful girl named Priscilla, who is a wonderful pastry chef at one of Daniel Boulud’s fine establishments. I guess food runs in the family.
Still, after college I dismissed the restaurant business and took an office job with a local health care company. At first it was exciting, a new environment, shirt and tie every day, and a desk where I could finally sit! But within a few months I realized this job was not for me. As much fun as using the fax machine and sending out lengthy weekly sales reports to my boss were, I knew I needed to get back to my roots and do something I enjoyed.
I was so miserable I thought of just quitting my job and fly out to Australia where I could lay out on the beach for a year and work when needed. Australia never happened, even though I still think it would have been amazing. A little over a year later, at last, my opportunity presented itself.
My father asked me if I wanted to come work for his newsletter, Mariani’s Virtual Gourmet, and I said, “maybe.” Within a few weeks he shipped me off to French Polynesia, where I was covering a story on the Paul Gauguin cruise ship stopping in Tahiti, Bora Bora, Morea, Ratea and Taha. Just one week earlier I'd been sitting behind a desk making cold calls for some company that didn’t even know I existed, and there I was in French Polynesia drinking a Hinano beer, and eating poisson cru. When I returned from the South Pacific I turned that “maybe” into a “yes!” I had no idea where it would take me and I didn’t care, I was once again happy.
I took a significant pay cut in salary, but for those who read my weekly column, you know where I've been and what I've seen; money can’t compare. I consider myself very lucky to have been given this opportunity and don’t take any of it for granted. Many people ask me after hearing my last name, “You’re John’s son, right?” And I say proudly, “Yes, I am.” I respect my father’s work and believe he’s one of the best writers in the game. As many of you know, our writing styles are far different, and that’s what makes me the Man About Town.
I travel three times a month, dine at some of the best restaurants around the world, stay in posh hotels, meet terrific and interesting people, and constantly expand my horizons, whether it is in Paris, France or Paris, TX. Every place I visit has something wonderful to offer. In fact, nothing makes me more happy than writing an article about a small town then getting flooded with emails of people who now want to visit or who have been and can share the same experience.
My father and I are constantly asked, so what do you guys cover? And we always respond, the entire world, wherever they serve great food.
So to answer the two questions I am frequently asked. The answer is the same to both: I got into writing because of an entire life of loving and learning about food and how other people eat and drink around the world.
I want to thank everyone who reads the Virtual Gourmet and know that it makes my day every time we receive a positive email from you. I will continue to travel and write as much as I can, I hope you will continue to enjoy my articles. Please take a look at our FaceBook account where I have endless albums of pictures taken from just about every trip I’ve been on. You can also follow the Man About Town on Twitter @Virtual Gourmet. Ciao
To contact Christopher Mariani send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
by Mort Hochstein
There are some benefits that come with growing old: reduced price tickets at museums and movies, senior citizen fares on the bus and subway, a seat on those busses and subways offered frequently in deference to age, and just recently, a precious bottle of wine from the year of my birth.
That prize arrived after a sumptuous luncheon for journalists at chef Thomas Keller’s Per Se, a temple of fine dining in NYC. A small group of writers had been assembled by Gerard Bertrand, a worldly winemaker who owns half dozen estates in the Languedoc in France. Mr. Bertrand (below), a rugged former rugby star, is the Johnny Appleseed of the Languedoc, traveling frequently to proclaim its vinous virtues to the world, just as Robert Mondavi did for Napa in its less prosperous years. (By the way, Bertrand also runs a fine resort, shown in the photo above, named after L'Hospitalet.)
The Languedoc is a region we worshipers of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Alsace often overlook. and I really was not acquainted with Mr. Bertrand’s wines until that long and lavish afternoon. Our host was spending big bucks to seduce writers into a greater respect for the Languedoc. He opened a batch of his wines, some inexpensive, others costly, to accompany some of the most exquisite and expensive food in Manhattan. That sort of pairing is almost always guaranteed to add luster to wines that are not well known or seldom arrive at the tables of the affluent-- if they are good, and these were.
Bertrand’s opening salvo was a crisp and lemony 2010 viognier, coming in at $14 retail, a low price point Mr. Keller and his customary clientele might never explore. It was paired with a delicately roasted halibut, the vivid acidity of the viognier bringing out the sweetness of the fish. Bertrand reached to a higher level for an organically produced Cigalus ($50), primarily chardonnay tempered by small amounts of viognier and sauvignon blanc. (The Cigalus vineyard is shown at right.) The lush Cigalus, crisp on the palate with vanilla , nutmeg, and tropical fruit tones, played well with a San Marzano tomato marmalade which dressed the halibut.
Mr. Keller and Mr. Bertrand respect the mantra of red wine with cheese and Bertrand brought out three big guns for this course, La Forge and L’Hospitalas, both from 2008, and Le Viala 2007, each retailing at $75. Wines of this caliber deserve more time to develop and I would relish revisiting them when they are more mature. Of the three, I preferred the elegant, highly concentrated, ripe black fruit of the La Forge. Its black raspberry fruit and high acid notes brought out the best in the cheeses.
The wine of my vintage came last. After we had properly appreciated our first three courses, Mr. Bertrand rose to the podium to introduce a rare dessert wine, a 1929 Legend Vintage Maury. Wines entitled Legend Vintage are special bottlings from exceptional vintages, and there are currently just two others available, a Rivesaltes 1945 and a Banyuls 1951.
“This is a wine that is 82 years young,” he proclaimed. “The grape is grenache noire, its color remains brilliants and crystal clear, and it has many years ahead to bring pleasure to the table. None of us,” he observed, “were around when it was born.”
savored the wine, its fresh, spicy
nose and its
flavors of apricot, tobacco
and minerals. Then I informed
Mr. Bertrand that I and
the wine shared a similar vintage. He
beamed and said, “come with me to the podium.” Bringing
presented me with an unforeseen additional
of growing old, my own
bottle of 1929 Maury, declaring that we should
enjoy a long life together. All
SHUT THE CLUCK UP!
According to the Times of Trenton, the municipal government of Hopewell Township, after three hours of public debate, passed laws to regulate farm chickens’ sex life. The measure not only limits the amount of time male chickens can spend with their female counterparts to 10 days each year, but that they prove they’re disease-free before having access to the hens. Also, the roosters must keep quiet during their stays. Any rooster caught crowing for a prolonged period of time will subject the property to a two-year moratorium on all rooster visits.
In a recipe
Chicken for Two, Michael Ruhlmann in Slate
writes that after preheating the oven, washing and
trussing the chicken and putting it into an oven, "Have sex with your
partner. (This can require planning, occasionally
some conniving. But as cooks tend to be resourceful and seductive by
most find that it's not the most difficult part of the recipe.)"
MARIANI'S QUICK BYTES
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❖❖❖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, 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: CUBA: ROME'S BEST BISCOTTI; TO THE LIGHTHOUSE.
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).
ALL YOU NEED BEFORE YOU GO
An engaging, interactive wine
column by Nick Passmore, Artisanal Editor, Four Seasons Magazine; Wine
Columnist, BusinessWeek.com; email@example.com; 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
© copyright John Mariani 2011