Mariani's Virtual Gourmet Newsletter
June 19, 2011

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Billy Gray, Lauren Chapin, Robert Young, Jane Wyatt and Elinor Donahue in the TV series "Father Knows Best" (1954-1960)




by John Mariani

by John Mariani

by Christopher Mariani

by John Mariani

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.

THIS WEEK: The Best Desserts of 2011 (So Far).

Mariani's Quick Bytes
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Marcello's Ristorante 25th Anniversary Wine Tasting and Concert
Marcello's Ristorante of Suffern, NY celebrates his 25th anniversary with the release of his new cookbook with two live concerts at the historical Lafayette Theater. On 6/16 artists Cristina Fontanelli,Gary Wilner,Big Band, on 6/23 Giada Valente,Antonio Ciacca, Albin Konopka, Elsebeth Dreisig, Ivan Dimitrov and Ornella Fado. Please visit for details and to view the playbill. The pre-theater wine tasting at Marcello's Ristorante is already sold out but we still have concert tickets available. If you are not attending the concert, the wine tasting of 8:00, 9:30 are still available with live music.Cost of wine tasting and Italian antipasto is $25 all incl. Call 845-357-9108 for tickets. Grazie!       
Gather Restaurant
On June 22 Gather Restaurant in Berkeley, CA will host a Hodo Soy/Magruder Ranch $47.00 four-course prix fixe dinner prepared by Esquire Magazine’s “Chef of the Year” Sean Baker with continuous service from 5:00 to 10:00 p.m.; Mac MacGruder and the owner of Hodo Soy will be at the dinner; vegan alternatives available; optional wine pairing also offered; 2200 Oxford Street; (510) 809-0400;
HOUSTON …Executive Chef Maurizio Ferrarese of Quattro at the Four Seasons Houston Hotel is pleased to announce the kick-off of a Summer Guest Chef Series at the award-winning restaurant.   The series kicks off on Friday, June 24 and Saturday, June 25 with a Two Chef Dinner with Chef/Owner David Denis of Le Mistral.  Chefs Ferrarese and Denis will collaborate on a four-course dinner that will feature Italian and French influences side-by-side on each plate.  Cost is $65 per person plus tax and gratuity (Groupons cannot be used for these dinners). Quattro is located in the Four Seasons Hotel Houston is located at 1300 Lamar at San Jacinto. For more information, visit or call 713-276-4700.
Spectrum Wine Auctions
On June 25-26, Spectrum Wine Auctions will hold its Summer 2011 Auction in Hong Kong. The auction will feature wines from three major single-owner collections.  Bids may be placed live in the auction room, online and by phone, or in advance via fax. Interested buyers may preview 360-degree photographs of bottles from each lot prior to the sale, and may request a complimentary catalog at
Bond 45
NYC's Times Square fine-dining favorite Bond 45 (154 West 45th Street, 212-869-4545, is offering an unbeatable $15 Lunch Special at the bar from 11:30am to 4pm Monday to Friday. From pleasing pasta dishes to succulent seafood and steak items, you can enjoy a different and delicious dish each day from Culinary Director Brando De Oliveira. On Mondays indulge in classic Spaghetti & Meatballs; on Tuesdays savor Penne with Sausage Amatriciana; on Wednesdays, a tasty Tagliatelle with Filet Mignon Braciola; on Thursdays, Gramigna with Pulled Pork Ragu; and on Fridays, a flavorful Orecchiette with Red Wine Braised Calamari.
Le Caprice
On weekdays from 12pm to 3pm at the modern Le Caprice (795 Fifth Avenue, 212-940-8195,, you can enjoy Executive Chef Ed Carew's "lunch at the bar" menu with flavorful offerings like a Scotch Egg with celery salt ($8), Scottish Smoked Salmon with lemon and capers ($14), and an exquisite Welsh Rarebit ($10). And with Central Park right across the way, Le Caprice is an ideal spot for a midday meal.
Columbus Tavern
Columbus Tavern's (269 Columbus Avenue, NY 212-873-9400, old-world feel and delectable lunch menu can be enjoyed at their 100 year-old mahogany bar. Executive Chef Phil Conlon offers playful dishes like BLT Dumplings with spicy mustard and salted radishes ($7.50), Triple Mac & Cheese with spiral pasta and roasted tomatoes ($11), and ChefPhilly's Cheese Steak ($13). While there, you can also enjoy unique cocktails inspired by Upper West Side buildings like The Ansonia and The Dakota ($12 each).
Benjamin Steakhouse, White Plains, NY

Benjamin Steakhouse: White Plains NY seeks an energetic, self-motivated Events/Marketing professional to promote the restaurant and handle all banquet sales/private events. Ideal candidate must have excellent communication skills, as well as a minimum of 1-2 years of professional experience in events, sales, or within the hospitality industry.  Strong sales and administrative skills are key, as well as attention to detail, good organizational skills and the ability to multitask. Self-motivation is crucial! Must be able to promote, book, and coordinate events from start to finish!! Familiarity with the area is a plus! Interested candidates may email a resume, as well as a description as to why you would be a good fit to

Place you Quick Byte Here


TURIN: Hiding in Plain Sight
Part One
by John Mariani
Photos by Galina Dargery



    “Not even the Italians know Turin! They only know FIAT! FIAT! FIAT!”

     So said Michele, a spry, elegant, elderly Turinese who took my wife and me for a cup of rich bittersweet coffee and chocolate called a “capriccio” at the historic Caffè Baratti e Milano (below), opened in 1875 on Turin’s broad Piazza Castello.  We’d met him just minutes before on our search for the equally famous café named Bicerin, only to learn from Michele that it was closed on Wednesdays.

    He didn’t seem troubled by his statement that the world outside of Piedmont, including the rest of Italy, did not regard his hometown as worth visiting, unless it was to see the Automobile Museum.  “It is not a bad thing not to have so many tourists,” said Michele, who had a salt-and-pepper beard and wore an artfully thrown scarf around his shoulders. He never gave us his last name and who seemed to have retired to the life of a boulevardier known to every bartender and barrista in Turin.

    “Look around you,” he said, smiling. “Turin is never noisy, never crowded, except”—his eyes rolled back—“during those Winter Olympics! So we Torinesi have our restaurants and cafés all to ourselves most of the time.  Our mercato sells every kind of food and wine you could possibly want, and that new place EATaly is just a few kilometers that way.” He waved his hand in the general direction of the gargantuan food market and restaurant complex established in 2007 in the out-of-the-way Lingotto district. He shrugged. “Maybe I visit someday.” And then he was off, saying he was meeting friends at a trattoria whose name he neglected to share with us.

    I must admit that I, too, had little knowledge or interest in Turin, having only paid brief visits to the city in the past while attending a food conference or simply passing through to tour the beauty of the Piedmontese countryside and wine country, where some of the region’s most noted restaurants, like Combal Zero in Rivoli, Locanda del Pilone in Alba, and Delle Antiche Contrade in Cuneo, are located.  My earlier visits had, however, disabused me of any thought that Turin was a drab, self-absorbed northern industrial city.  It is worth noting that director Michelangelo Antonioni used Milan in “La Notte” (1961), Rome in “L’Eclisse” (1962), and Ravenna in “Il Deserto Rosso” (1964)—not Turin—to depict the deadening effect of industrialization on the soul of modern Italy.

    On a recent extended visit, I found the heart of the city among the most beautiful in Europe, justly famous for its long, graceful series of arcades, the grandeur of its vast piazzas, and its stately and highly efficient grid pattern.  The Po River flows as majestically through Turin as the Arno does through Florence and the Tiber through Rome.

    FIAT has, of course, dominated and buoyed Turin’s fortunes since 1899 (it still produces 37 percent of Italy’s GNP) and had an enormous hand in the post-war Italian Economic Miracle called Il Boom, when it released the two cylinder Fiat 500 (Cinquecento) in 1957 (left), which was both very efficient and affordable for upwardly mobile Italians.  Still, the Torinesi are quick to remind people that their city was in fact the first capital of an Italy unified in 1861 under Victor Emmanuel II, whose Royal Palace, set in the huge square entered from the broad Via Roma, is a spectacular example of a baroque opulence intended to reflect the proud independence of Piedmont, which only 50 years earlier had been annexed by Napoleon Bonaparte.  Upon invading Italy in 1800, the young Corsican general faced 20,000 Piedmontese and 11,500 Austrians, but his tactical genius divided his enemies and, in embarrassment, King Victor Amadeus II ceded Piedmont to the Corsican, who immediately demolished Turin’s city gates and bastions and renamed the Royal Palace as the Imperial Palace—a decree that horrified and humiliated the Torinesi.  Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1815 freed Piedmont, whose power increased in the decades leading up to 1861, when it became the capital of the new Italy.

    As an imperial city, Turin’s artistic treasures are exceptionally fine, all in baroque wrappings. Although there is no museum the equivalent of Florence’s Uffizi or the Brera in Milan, the Royal Palace itself (below)—once residence of the powerful Savoy dynasty, taken over by the Italian government in 1946--is crammed with notable works.  My wife and I were amazed at room after room of imperial salons, including Queen Maria Theresa’s quarters, in every color of marble, each with trompe l’oeuil painted ceilings, and we were particularly impressed with the palace’s collections of exquisite tapestries and Chinese porcelain. 

    We toured the city’s Egyptian Museum at the Academy of Science, considered one of the finest of its kind in the world, on top of which sits the admirable Sabauda Gallery, with works by Bronzino, Veronese, Jan Van Eyck, and Van Dyck. And to gain a sense of the unique way that Piedmontese royalty could actually welcome the red-shirted rebels of Garibaldi’s army, the Museum of the Risorgimento in the Palazzo Carignano, where the first parliament of 1861 met, depicts the region’s history from the 19th century through Unification, and on through two world wars.

    The splendid Duomo of St. John the Baptist, still home to the now wholly discredited Shroud of Turin, is the city’s only true example of pre-baroque Renaissance architecture. And, as everywhere else in Italy, there seems a church or chapel on every block. 

         Uniquely Turin, however, is its National Museum of Cinema, set inside a landmark 500-foot tower originally designed as a synagogue in 1863 by Alessandro Antonelli.  We wound from hall to hall and room to room over five floors, flanked with flickering images of early shadow cartoons and the first primitive, silent efforts of Thomas Edison; within the play of chiaroscuro and expressionist lighting that evoked “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” there are mini-theaters, and long corridors lined with huge movie posters from every era.  There is also a futuristic café-restaurant (left) on the ground floor whose starkness, color and light could be a setting for a bar in “Star Wars” or “Bladerunner” that fits perfectly into the ambiance of the museum.

         But if you ask a Torinese where his city’s true artistic achievements lie, he might well say they are in those beautiful arched walkways that line miles of streets and plazas throughout the city center.  Of even height, woven throughout the city along the city center so as to connect with one another, the arcades were built over the course of two centuries, principally as shelter from Piedmontese winters but also as showcases of banks and boutiques, antique pharmacies and food shops, and, more than anything else, cafés and candy emporiums.  Look above their doorways and you see stencils and carvings from the 18th and 19th centuries.  Their façades are done in black marble or richly varnished mahogany, usually in the baroque style but also in more “modern” styles of Art Nouveau or Art Déco, and they act very much like picture frames for paintings.

    One of the most famous is The Baratti & Milano (1875), which bears the imperial crest given it by the Vittorio II.  The King and Garibaldi toasted the Reunification at Caffé Mulussano, later relocated in 1907 and done in the sleek art déco style of that period. Litterateurs have long made Caffé Fiori (1873) their second home, and in his day FIAT founder Gianni Agnelli passed his few idle hours at Caffé Piatti (1875). And while each has its secrets of coffee making, it is likely that the locally produced Lavazza coffee is the starting point for the artfulness.  While café culture vitalized every large city in Italy during the 19th century, none but Turin brought it to an art form in and of itself, where the cafés were extravagant testimony to the luxurious pleasures of taking time to sit, drink and talk.  Indeed, it is the arcades that allow for such an extravagance of cafes barely imitated in Venice’s Piazza San Marco.

    Through the spotless windows we saw countless displays of the most beautifully crafted chocolates, marzipan, and sugared fritters in pastel colors, pink paper, gold foil, arrayed in painted tin boxes or set on lace doilies.  The soft lighting inside is never harsh, never low, imparting a Christmas ornament’s appeal to the confections every day of the year.

         And then there is the aroma of the chocolate itself, almost always commingled with coffee set on the zinc or marble counters, where white-coated barristas grind, pack, adjust, steam, fizz, and present their handiwork in a manifestation of Turin’s deeply ingrained coffee culture, richer here than anywhere else in coffee-obsessed Italy. The thunder of the shuddering coffee machine, the clink of the cups and saucers hitting the bar and the tinkle of the little spoons in the saucer never lets up.  The barristas pour a glass of Asti spumante for some, a tipple of vermouth—created in Turin by Antonio Benedetto Carpano in 1786—or a dark, bittersweet amaro digestiva for others. A waiter delivers a slice of sugar-dusted cake, covered with satiny dark chocolate, with a filling of the chocolate-and-hazelnut cream gianduja that is also an invention of Turin. 

         There are many stories as to how gianduja got its name, sometime in the 19th century, when chocolate and coffee shops had become the rage throughout Europe.  Turin tradition has it that the name derives from “Giovanni della doja” or “Gion d’la duja”  (John with a pint of wine in his hands), a popular commedia dell arte marionette created by Gioacchino Bellone di Raccongi and first exhibited in the city as of 1808.  Others contend it was named after di Oja, a hamlet near Bellone’s hometown, and that the name is really Giovanni di Oja.

         Whatever the origin of its name, gianduja made a tremendous contribution to European chocolate candy as we know it, and in Turin, hazelnuts seem inseparable from chocolate in any form.  Indeed, Turin is chocolate mad, and yet another of its finest sweet ideas was bicerin, a small rounded glass with a metal handle (from which it gets its name) of hot espresso, chocolate, and milk.  Various aficionados debate the origins of this totemic Turinese concoction, though the most widely accepted was that it was first made at Caffè al Bicerin (above and left), which opened on the Piazza della Consolata in 1763.  (Incidentally, the church across the piazza has one of the most extraordinary interiors in Turin.)

         Like the equally famous though not nearly so old Caffé Sant’ Eustachio in Rome, Caffè al Bicerin is a revered monument to coffee and chocolate, a dim, fifteen-by-twenty-five foot room with tiny marble tables, candles that seem votive, antique mirrors, dark red banquettes, wall sconces, and old wooden chairs. The cramped counter holds jars of bon bons and chocolates, and the old Faema coffee machine rumbles and roars like a FIAT assembly line when the glasses of thick, semi-sweet bicerins are made.  
My wife and I entered feeling like acolytes, privileged to sit at the tiny tables among an array of Torinesi, many of them old men and women for whom a morning bicerin is like receiving Holy Communion, as a restorative against the Piedmontese fog and drizzle.


Next Week: Where to eat and drink in Turin.

This article is expanded from the original that appeared in the magazine La Cucina Italiana.



by John Mariani

401 East 76th Street (between First  & York Avenues)

     Are you as tired as I am of new restaurants popping up in every American city as "gastro-pubs"?  It's not that the idea of a small bar serving above-average food is a bad one, as evidenced by superior examples like The Spotted Pig in NYC and Longman & Eagle in Chicago, but, as always, those restaurateurs who simply jump on the  next faddish bandwagon have nothing new to offer, except their huge size, and soon roll off into the gastro-dustbin.
    As in any good restaurant it is the chef who is going to drive the quality of food, not a mere conceptualizer who thinks bigger and louder is better and that a few pub favorites like fish and chips will give them credibility.  In the case of the new Jones Wood Foundry on the Upper East Side, the driving force is a consummate pro and, for once, a true Brit who knows as much about haute cuisine as he does traditional English fare.  Jason Hicks first made his mark in NYC at the very La Goulue and Orsay, where he occasionally veered away from the rigid French bistro menus to add his own style and sensibility.  No one in NYC cooks better game in season.
    So when Hicks took over as chef and partner, with Yves Jadot,  at Jones Wood Foundry, housed in an 1860s building that once made manhole covers and later became a school in a neighborhood once known as Jones Wood, I was curious what kind of menu he would craft.  He has the space for largess--three rooms and an inner garden courtyard with French doors, a long bar up front, and a communal table (above).  Exposed brickwork and antique mirrors carry through the idea of an old pub and eatery, as does a
high-backed leather Chesterfield banquette in the dining room. The place is already doing banner business since opening a few weeks ago, especially with deck shoe-loafered locals from the UES.
    Sadly, the absurd blue laws of NYC that prohibit a restaurant from serving booze if too close to a school allow JWF to serve only wine and beer; the selection of the former is a tad weak but the latter is a good and unusual selection.
    One of the unique things at JWF is its "toasts," a range of scrumptious Anglo-appetizers and lunch items that include a fine citrus potted crab with tomato powder; a silky textured, very rich chicken liver and foie gras mousse; marinated sardines with a chickpea spread; and--quite unusual anywhere these days--Scotch egg with tartar sauce.  When asked about the preparation, our charming waitress said, "Well, it's an egg crusted with bacon and deep-fried. What's not to love?" and she was right.
    At dinner the traditional dishes are all in array, along with some seasonal ones like Hicks's beautiful cream of corn soup with shrimp, chard and tomato, a silky, cold rendering that was perfect for a roasting hot NYC evening.  The salmon gravlax with beet tartare and mâche was one of the best I've had west of the Irish Sea.  Hicks also offers three crusted savory pies, and the flaky crusts are extraordinary.  There's a hearty steak and kidney pie (left), maybe a little heavy for hot weather, and a cottage pie that was supposed to be full of shortrib meat and mushrooms, but I fished around for the meat and found next to none.
    The main courses contain textbook versions of Anglo cookery, starting off with impeccably crisp, sweet beer-battered cod (right) with positively addictive "chips" (fat, fried potatoes).  There is a plate of faggots and onion gravy, which the late English food writer Jane Grigson called "a good-tempered dish" once popular to use up odd cuts and leftovers like hearts, liver, and kidneys.  An "old-fashioned roast chicken" could use some updating. Then there's a hefty platter of Myers of Keswick bangers and mash with caramelized onion gravy.  Myers of Keswick, on Hudson Street, is that rare NYC grocery selling British goods, and their bangers (sausages) are delicious and go splendidly with the rich, sweet gravy, to be sopped up with very buttery mashed potatoes.  (I was, by the way, surprised to find, while reading Keith Richards' new autobiography, that the gnarled old guitarist's favorite dish was bangers and mash, which he himself would often cook up and eat before going onstage.)
    And so on to sticky toffee pudding with treacle sauce, as sweet and lovable a dessert as there ever will be. But I'm afraid I may never find a sherry trifle I like, and did not find it here.

    It would, then, be a misnomer if not a downright insult, to lump Jones Wood Foundry with all the other clichés of the  gastropub genre downtown and in Brooklyn these days, for Hicks is such a superior, knowledgeable chef about this kind of food that you will want to come here to taste the Real McCoy and do so within a very charming, well-run establishment.

Jones Wood Foundry is open for dinner nightly; Brunch Sat. & Sun.; Toast lunch Mon.-Fri. 
Dinner starters and soups range from $7 to $12. Main courses $17-26.




by Christopher Mariani


380 Columbus Avenue (at 78th Street)

   Food and restaurants have never been so all-consuming to New Yorkers as over the past five years.  I remember friends of mine who rarely tasted anything beyond their mother’s cooking who are now out twice a week ordering exotic sushi and spending every last dollar they earn to be one of the first to try out the city’s hottest new restaurants. The food craze has hit NYC hard, so that cuisines that were once almost impossible to find are popping up around every corner like Starbucks. (Indeed, there's a newly coined word for restaurants that are intended to come and go--pop-ups.) Were you to ask the average New Yorker where is a good place to grab some Thai or Indian food, you better have a pen and a long sheet of paper handy.

            In 2007, chef Gazala Halabi, who was born and raised in Daliat el-Carmel, Israel, opened her first restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen named Gazala Place. She was serving Druze cuisine, a fare that shares the essence of many Eastern Mediterranean dishes from Lebanon, Jordan and Israel. NYC residents embraced Halabi’s cooking at Gazala Place, and just three years later she opened her second location, Gazala’s, on the Upper West Side where I dined  last week.  According to Halabi, hers are the only two restaurants serving this kind of cuisine.

            The restaurant is in the process of receiving its liquor license and claim they will have it soon, but call ahead and make sure before you show up empty handed. The night I dined it was still BYOB, so I brought a nice bottle of red wine.

            The interior is unfussy, surrounded by brick walls with arched windows, dark-wood chairs and tables, and that is all. On the right side of the dining room you can look inside the small kitchen as Halabi and cast stir up small appetizers and tasty lamb dishes.  If the heat of the summer is not too intense, try and grab one of the four outside tables; they are among the best seats in the house.

            After being greeted by our amiable waitress, we started with a selection of cold and hot appetizers. Ground, tender meat came packed with thick rice and rolled up inside delicate green grape leaves, served with a side of room temperature cucumber yogurt; they come six to an order, none of which were left behind. The chickpea hummus was silky and resembled the texture of a yogurt, blended with a hint of tahini and a noticeable amount of lemon juice that added a wonderful citrus element to the usually subtle and soft dish. The warm pitas used to lap up just about everything in front of us were very thin and had a pleasant chewy consistency that was not your typical pita. There is also a delicious babaganoush appetizer and a dish called “meat cigars,” fried pita stuffed with onions, meat and tahini, the one and only boring dish we were served all evening.

            For main courses, we were very pleased with the halabi, chopped oval-shapped meat patties placed over a plate of fresh tomato sauce seasoned with parsley, onion and pine nuts. Ground meat was flattened thin and covered with cheese in the kafta tahini, a very lush dish packed with flavor.

            The dessert menu is small, and I highly recommend the kenafi, which is made to order, filled with sweet cheese, pistachio and syrupy honey that gets absorbed into the crispy shredded dough, easily enough for two people. If you have room also try the traditional baklava, a flaky pastry filled with pistachio nuts and a honey-lemon mixture.

            From start to finish Gazala stays true to its Druze culture and doesn’t offer anything outside of the cuisine, except for a diner-sized order of blueberry cake. The wait staff is warm and although could use a bit of refinement, they still leave you walking out with a gracious smile and tamed appetite.               


Open seven days a week. Appetizers range $4.50-$6.50, entrees $8.50-$16.95

To contact Christopher Mariani send an email to

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American Sauvignon Blancs’ Styles Tough to Pin Down
By John Mariani

       More often than not when ordering a white wine I go for a Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé, made from the sauvignon blanc grape in France’s Loire Valley. I find it as versatile as an aperitif as I do with a wide variety of foods to come, and the price is usually right.

      What I almost never do is order a sauvignon blanc from America, where it is sometimes called fumé blanc. All the virtues I find in French sauvignon blancs—-their aromatic bouquet, herbaceous, slightly grassy flavor, and lightness of structure—seem so often squandered in California and Pacific Northwest wineries, which tend to overemphasize herbal notes, making most taste like a newly mown lawn with plenty of dandelions and a little fertilizer thrown in.

      Many examples deliberately imitate the fruit punch flavors of the enormously successful Cloudy Bay and other sauvignon blancs out of New Zealand. One wine writer writing about Cloudy Bay found “Tangerine, mango and citrus flavors are pure and focused, smooth, round and wonderfully refreshing, with peach, Key lime pie, mineral and floral elements that really take off on the finish.” As I said, fruit punch.

America’s sauvignon blancs tend not to be quite that aggressive, but their styles differ radically. Some very light, others hefty, with up to 14.5 percent alcohol. The big grassy ones are a mouthful but their charms fade very fast after a few sips. The varietal’s prodigious growth and vigor can lead to an under ripeness that can add to those herby demerits. The varietal had a surge in popularity after the late Robert Mondavi re-named it fumé blanc in 1966, to avoid confusion with cabernet sauvignon and giving it a sexy French nuance.

      Many California wineries don’t allow much if any skin contact with the grape juice; others do. Some age only in stainless steel; others use oak barrels. In some instances, semillon or other grapes may be added.

   It’s difficult, then, to pin down the American sauvignon blanc style. But with summer and outdoor grilling upon us, a reasonable case can be made for the American varietal as a good choice for big smoky flavored foods.  With that in mind, I collected a slew of western state sauvignon blancs of different styles and vintages and tasted them with and without such foods.


Sineann 2007 ($30)—This small Yamhill County, Oregon, producer, best known for its pinot noirs. Unfortunately, although the bottle I sampled had a very tight glass closure, the smell was slightly chemical and the wine itself, obvious from its color, starting to oxidize.

Carica Kick Ranch 2007 ($25)—Sonoma Valley’s Carica has only been making wine since 2005 but already has a considerable following. The owners insist their sauvignon blancs follow “classic French style” with “crisp acidity,” with 25 percent sauvignon musque is added and 10 percent of the first blend ages in new French oak. This was indeed a very Sancerre-like sauvignon blanc, tasted, with a lovely fresh bouquet, excellent body and clean acids.  This was clearly the best of my tasting, perfect will fish cooked on the grill.


Windsor Sonoma 2007 ($15)—With vineyards in the warm Russian River Valley, Windsor Sonoma takes advantage of cool summer nights to keep acidity levels high, with a judicious 13.9 percent alcohol.  The color is very, very pale, the aroma herbaceous, but the overall taste flabby, without those promised acids evident. It’s a one-dimensional wine.


Groth Vineyards & Winery 2007 ($26)—Located in Napa’s Oakville appellation, Groth has been highly regarded for its sauvignon blancs since the 1980s, made from grapes grown in microclimates that Goth’s website says gives the wine “a lush, full melon/citrus character in the aroma and in the flavor.” Leaving the juice on the skins gives it more body, but you get a high alcohol level of 14.5 percent.  It’s big, it’s floral, it’s pleasantly grassy but not overdone.  This is a very fine example of the bold California style of ripe fruit and balance of acidity, as well as a singular family effort, as shown at right, with Dennis, Andrea and Suzanne Groth anointing the harvest.


Turnbull 2008 ($23)—Napa-based Turnbull makes a wide range of wines, sourcing grapes from four Oakville and Calistoga vineyards, and the juice spends an unusually long time on the lees. Very pale in color, with a modest apple-like nose, it begins brightly on the palate but fades fast without any real finish.  It would be fine with grilled chicken or even hot dogs.


Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery 2009 ($35-$40)—Napa’s Spottswoode specializes two cabernets and its sauvignon blanc, fermenting them in small stainless barrels, then French oak to add toast and spice. This is another fine example in the Loire Valley style, a very creamy wine but with tantalizing acid and freshness that would make an excellent aperitif or a wine to go with summer salads and tomatoes with goat’s cheese.


John Mariani's wine column appears in Bloomberg Muse News, from which this story was adapted. Bloomberg News covers Culture from art, books, and theater to wine, travel, and food on a daily basis.



Texas dentist Dr. Clint Herzog,  tired of people saying they hated going to the dentist, began offering beer, wine and TV shows  to his patients "to take the edge off" a visit.





“On a warm spring night, one waitress . . . made an unusual, Bloomfield-worthy offer. `We have one fish head left. It’s snapper.’  Met with stares less skeptical than dumbfounded, she pressed on: `You can eat the cheek, the neck—I had the eyeballs, they were good.  You can eat the brain—it’s involved.  Some people like it.” –Shauna Lyan, “The John Dory Oyster Bar,” The New Yorker (5/30/11).



 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, gastronomy, 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 Esposito, host 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: Best Family Bike Rides on Cape Cod; Mauna Beach Hotel

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.

© copyright John Mariani 2011