Virtual Gourmet

  October 2, 2011                                                                                               NEWSLETTER

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"Autumn Sunflowers and Eggplant, East Hampton, NY,"  by Galina Stepanoff-Dargery (2010)


My latest book, written with Jim Heimann and Steven Heller,  Menu Design in America,  1850-1985 (Taschen Books), has just appeared, with nearly 1,000 beautiful, historic, hilarious, sometimes shocking menus dating back to before the Civil War and going through the Gilded Age, the Jazz Age, the Depression, the nightclub era of the 1930s and 1940s, the Space Age era, and the age when menus were a form of advertising in innovative explosions of color and modern design.  The book is a chronicle of changing tastes and mores and says as much about America as about its food and drink.


“Luxuriating vicariously in the pleasures of this book. . . you can’t help but become hungry. . .for the food of course, but also for something more: the bygone days of our country’s splendidly rich and complex past.  Epicureans of both good food and artful design will do well to make it their cofee table’s main course.”—Chip Kidd, Wall Street Journal.


“[The menus] reflect the amazing craftsmanship that many restaurants applied to their bills of fare, and suggest that today’s restaurateurs could learn a lot from their predecessors.”—Rebecca Marx, The Village Voice.


“Restaurateurs, take note: A resurgence in thoughtful, artistic menus is past due.”—Bon Appetit Magazine


by Misha Mariani

by John Mariani

by Christopher Mariani



By Misha Mariani       

         Too often, Americans believe that travel should be beyond their own borders, to go to Europe to see architecture and experience cultures that date back centuries, or to tropical paradises like French Polynesian or Thailand to absorb the exotic.   I’ve grown up my entire life  in New York and will be the first to admit how much I take one of the greatest cities of the world for granted, wearing blinders that block my visiting the vast number of shows, museums, and landmarks the city has to offer. And this applies to so many other cities and regions to visit right here in the USA.  How many people have seen the glorious mountains of Montana,  the magnificent coastline of California that spans 840 miles of blue Pacific waters, or the beauty of the Northwest?  At some point we all have to realize the bounty of what we have right in front of us, and one of those places Santa Barbara and its huge wine region, all within easy reach of the city.
    Santa Barbara’s roughly 42 square miles are filled with activities, beauty, warmth, hospitality, and plenty of sunshine to bask in, a city surrounded by low-lying Santa Ynez mountain ranges and warm white sand beaches. You’ll notice while walking down State Street that Santa Barbara’s architectural motifs, strongly influenced by Latin American and Spanish design, with its red terra cotta rooftops and Mission styles, and don’t miss the Santa Barbara Mission--“Queen of the Missions” (right)--with its twin bell towers.  Downtown is only a mere 30-45 minutes away from the Santa Ynez Valley, so even a day trip up to the valley is feasible, but I would definitely recommend an overnight stay to enjoy it all. Downtown SB is also home to the Santa Barbara Farmer’s Market , founded in 1983, where
all along a five-block stretch 130 local producers and farmers gather together to showcase some of the most spectacular fruits and vegetables grown in the country . The  market is set up in downtown SB on State street on Tuesdays and Saturdays, else where in the near by areas the rest of the week.
    When seeking local lodging, look no farther than the Cheshire Cat Inn (below), located on W. Valerio St. just off of State Street,  the main road that runs through the heart of SB. The Cheshire Cat Inn is an adorable, quaint inn comprised of two Victorian houses that sit side by side to each other and are decorated in a fanciful “Alice in Wonderland” motif, with original vintage sketching, paintings and drawings of scenes from one of our most memorable childhood stories.
    The room we happened to stay in on our trip was called “Alice’s Balcony room” (below), dressed in lovely designed ivory wallpaper, a two-cushion love seat, and a split-level step up that housed a plush Queen-sized bed just steps away from a balcony overlooking a backyard of greenery, flowers, a gazebo in which to enjoy late afternoon hors oeuvres and wine put out every night at five o'clock. The inn’s gazebo- covered hot tub is open to guests all day/night long. And don’t rush off without enjoying the complementary continental breakfast in the morning, either at the communal dining room table with some of the other guests or in a private old wooden bench table nestled up against a bay window looking out over the well-manicured frontyard, or outside in the terrace with fresh California air and sun. And keep your fingers crossed that during your stay one of the breakfast made fresh every day are the dangerously addictive Danish pancakes called “Ebelskivers,” made in a special cast iron pan and formed into balls filled with cream cheese and dressed with warm raspberry jam.
    But this only one of so many places in town to get great food. Located down on 813 Anacapa St., you'll find Doug Margerum’s Wine Cask Restaurant and tasting room (below); that’s right, he makes wine too. Doug’s family opened Wine Cask in 1981, became one of the most respected dining destinations in Santa Barbara, and then in 2007 decided to sell it in order to focus his efforts on making wine,  then bought it back just a few years later. I’m happy about that because from what I understand, the short-term owners didn’t do it any justice, and Doug’s re-acquisition has brought it back to its strong roots, with a more renewed and revived feel. To help him do that is Co-Owner Mitchell Sjerven and Executive Chef Brandon Hughes.
    My girlfriend and I sat down to a starter of "confit" of artichoke heart, a dish with great potential but unfortunately poorly executed, the artichokes not being trimmed properly, with fibrous leaves that were inedible, and a tasty local beet and baby carrot  salad with fresh chèvre, market herbs and tarragon vinaigrette.  Our entrees were hands-down delicious and perfectly put together. A pan-seared Kurobuta pork chop, a Berkshire pig raised in Kagoshima Prefecture, with fava beans, wild mustard, and cornbread panzanella was one of the most tender and flavorful pieces of pork I’ve had in quite some time and gave me a feeling of relief because of the amount of U.S. pork that is so fatless and flavorless. The mustard with its bright acidity and the nutty cornbread with its touch of sweetness harmonized the whole dish. Also stellar was the grilled marinated rack of lamb with lentils, cherry tomatoes, wilted dandelion greens and spiced Muscat-reduction, another dish of complementary flavors, the sweetness and acidity of the market cherry tomatoes matched with the bitterness of the dandelion greens and the fattiness of the domestic lamb.
    Wine Cask is also one of only two restaurants (The Four Seasons, below, being the other) that has its own in-house pastry chef, Rosie Gerard, who has had stints with Daniel Boulud and other great pastry chefs. Don’t leave without having her butterscotch pudding and the chocolate and chèvre doughnuts--decadent!
    As I mentioned, Doug is also the wine maker for Margerum, so make it a point to stop by their tasting room to try some of their wines, also a part of the Urban Wine Trail.  I recommend the 2010 V.D.P. Rosé made from 100% Grenache grapes that have been imported from Vaucluse, with an aromatic and fruitful nose but showing slightly dryer on the palate than you’d expect from what you get on the nose; the 2008 Piocho Happy Canyon Vineyard with its rich, heavier, higher alcohol palate, with red bell pepper on the nose and a great granite minerality; and lastly his 2010 Riesling, a varietal I adore, crisp, bright and well-balanced acidity, great minerality, apples on the nose and low-residual sugar, similar to a German Kabinett.
    Not far from downtown, is The Four Seasons The Biltmore, the hotel that the Kardashian/Humphries guests and entourage stayed at during their wedding weekend. 
The Biltmore is definitely the place you want to stay if planning on splurging or just simply want to enjoy your vacation in the lap of luxury, with on premise spa, outdoor pool, exceptional dining and warm hospitality. Unfortunately we didn’t stay here, but we did have the opportunity to dine at Bella Vista, one of their three restaurants, for lunch. The room is an airy dining room opening out onto a veranda (below) that overlooks the Pacific Ocean, walls a soft burnt orange clay, warm weather foliage, and hammocked drapes hanging above as the only barrier between you and the open sky. We even had a pleasant surprise guest while dining, a small sparrow navigating its way around the dining room before slipping back out of the ceiling.
    We started with creamy burrata mozzarella and heirloom tomatoes with chive blossoms, and a tomato gazpacho with crab that was well seasoned and balanced with acidity. A little extra fat or olive oil wouldn’t have hurt. Next was pan-seared bass with a summer vegetable hash and sautéed spinach, as well as pan-seared scallops with an English pea and lemon risotto, not a ground-breaking dish but well prepared and delicious.
    A huge component of Santa Barbara’s heartbeat is its booming and vital wine culture, paired with the unique geographical design of its transverse mountain ranges in the Santa Ynez Valley that creates a climate much different from the rest of California’s blistering hot regions. What makes this  range unique is that it spreads all the way west to the Pacific, where the coastal breezes are funneled inland and help keep the vineyards cool, creating pockets of micro-climates that can mimic the cool nights of Burgundy and extend the growing season, allowing for greater and more gradually matured grape clusters, and creating wines that have greater fruit development and still that pop of acidity that a lot of big Cali wines lack due to their rapid maturation.
    One way to experience what Santa Barbara wine country has to offer is through its Urban Wine Trail, developed by  a group of local wineries that have set up their tasting rooms all within close proximity of each other in order to offer wine lovers the chance to taste what’s happening in the wine world of the Santa Barbara region, most for the inexpensive price tag of about $10 per person. You might glimpse some of them in the hit film "Sideways."
    Part of this Urban Wine Trail is wine maker and owner Seth Kunin (right) of Kunin Wines, who has an affinity and admiration for Rhône-style wines and can be found most days in his tasting room pouring and running through his wines for visitors just stopping by for a casual wine tasting. And don’t be surprised if he pulls out maps and info to help you further understand where his philosophy and wines come from.  Kunin founded his winery in 1998 after a long career in the NYC restaurant business, eventually moving to California, working the vineyards and developing his passion and expertise for wine making. His philosophy is that of many Old World wine makers, where wine should be the expression of the grapes and terroir and not the medium for manipulation through the use of too much oak. Seth produces Syrahs, Zinfandels, Viogniers, and blends that show depth, complexity, restraint, and balance that simply excite the palate. Wines to try: Sauvignon Blanc ‘Grassini Vineyard’ 2010 and ‘Pape Star’ Rhone Blend 2009 (PHOTO 5), with ripe blue and dark fruits on the nose and palate, an earthiness of slate and clay minerality, and hints of smoke and spice, a truly enjoyable blend. Other don’t-misses along the trail are Margerum Wine Company, Municipal Winemakers, and Whitcraft Winery.
    After four fantastic days in downtown Santa Barbara, it was time to make our way through the curvy roads of the mountains up to wine country for the day, where we drove up to Ballard, a town of just a thousand residents--visit the 1882 schoolhouse here--and pulled into the Ballard Inn (below), a Victorian bed & breakfast that, when we mentioned we were staying there, made everyone respond eyes wide open, “Oh!, You’re going to love it,” and they were right. The Ballard Inn is a charming B&B, opened in 1985 and now owned by the Kazali family, who purchased it in 2004 and made it into one of the most desirable and lovely places to stay on a trip up the Santa Ynez Valley. The Inn is designed in a very classic manner, with antique furnishing, hardwood floors and area rugs, wine paraphernalia, and assorted design motifs, yet all staying within harmonious boundaries.  We happened to stay in The Equestrian Room (below) on this trip, with dark green rugs, beige walls, adorable candle sconces, plush leather chairs with copper rivets set around a dark stained breakfast table, and vintage photos/paintings of horses,  appropriate since Ballard was named after the proprietor who owned one of the original Wells Fargo stagecoach station in town.
    After we settled in, it was time to visit a few wineries and the Lampoc Wine Ghetto in the valley. Our first stop was Buttonwood Winery, a winery focusing on sauvignon blanc, semillon, marsanne, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and syrah, not unlike many other wineries of this region, but Buttonwood has really distinguished themselves from the rest in my opinion. Set on  a 39-acre vineyard amidst 109 total acres, the winery is owned by Betty Williams and her son-in-law Bret Davenport, who have chosen to emulate the styles and techniques of Bordeaux and the Rhône. Their wines, unlike so many in California, see minimal oak, are truly balanced, and aren’t the gigantic fruit bombs that I can never get used to. Buttonwood's wines are elegant, refined,  structured, and reflective of their varietals. They produce many single varietal wines as well as a few blends, and to top it off, they are all very modestly priced. Wines to try; 2010 Buttonwood Sauvignon Blanc “Zingy” $18 and the 2008 Buttonwood Cabernet Franc $22. Buttonwood, along with their wines, also has acres of peach trees, which they are know for so make sure to pick up a dozen or so, one of the best peaches I have ever had.
    Now it was onward to the Lompoc Wine Ghetto, an industrial area in the Lompoc Valley, where about a dozen winemakers of the region have grounded themselves with their production facilities or tasting rooms, and offers a broad view of what some of the more regarded winemakers are produces from the fruits of this great area. The Lompoc Ghetto was created to offer an affordable route for small entrepreneurs starting up their own wine labels and providing shared wine making facilities that neighboring cellars could facilitate, helping to cut costs.
    If you can’t find the time to work your way through all the tasting rooms in the ghetto, be sure to make your way through the doors of Fiddlehead Cellars and Flying Goat Cellars, whose focus is predominantly pinot noir, and Palmina, owned and founded by Steve Clifton, who has taken inspiration from Italy’s wine making heritage and has created a line up of some Italy’s great varietals, specifically those found in Piemonte such as barbera, dolcetto, nebbiolo, and arneis, along with other regional greats like friulano, pinot grigio and malvasia. Steve isn’t trying to recreate Italy’s great wines but rather take inspiration and apply that to Santa Barbara’s similarly cool wine growing region.
    So, after a long day of tasting, it was back to the Ballard Inn, where we took a quick nap and got ready for dinner, just a flight of stairs away. Chef Budi Kazali, proprietor and chef, has spent years honing his skills under some big name chefs like Ming Tsai of Blue Ginger in Wellesley, MA, and San Francisco's Gary Danko and now runs his own restaurant within the Ballard Inn. Located on the first floor, the  12-table dining room is a Victorian-design room with white tablecloths, a fireplace with a wooden mantel and 16-pane windows looking out onto a front porch where we dined. We sat outside watching the sun set while sipping a glass of Champagne and were greeted by our welcoming server, who is just one among a staff here that truly exudes a feeling of warmth, hospitality, generosity, and knowledge.
    Our first course was a sashimi of hamachi with avocado, yuzu, daikon sprouts and fried ginger. A simple dish you can find in many Asian fusion restaurants, but Chef Kazali (right) really shows that it takes an experienced hand to make the simplest dish sing, and sing it did. Perfectly balanced flavors with the richness of the hamachi and avocado being cut by the tart citrusy yuzu and pepped up by the ginger. This was followed by a sweet white corn soup with crab toast and basil oil--I could have put away a couple more bowls,  it was so good. Next was an uninspiring  Kurobuta pork belly with Asian pear and sautéed cabbage, which was fairly bland and under seasoned. But this seemed to have been just a hiccup, because the New Zealand grouper with edemame rice, house-made chorizo and cockle clams was a hit. The grouper perfectly cooked and moist, the chorizo spicing up the dish just enough, and the salinity and sweetness of the cockles made for quite an exciting dish. Along with our meal, we decided to do the wine pairing--which I highly recommend, with most of the selections coming from the local area and served by staff that you can tell have been raised in a lifetime of wine. We finished our last sips of dessert wine and then slowly retreated back to our room where we slipped away into our dreams with smiles of satisfaction.
         So whether you’re a foodie and wine lover or just someone looking to lay back, get some sun and lose yourself in relaxation, be sure to consider Santa Barbara as a front runner for you vacation destination.

Some Other Great little spots to dine in downtown Santa Barbara: D’Angelo’s Bakery, The Hungry Cat & Taqueria Rincon Alteña.


by John Mariani

ARMANI/Ristorante Fifth Avenue
717 Fifth Avenue (at 56th Street)

  Once upon a time NYC department stores' eateries were ladies' lunch or tea rooms, and they lagged far behind excellent modern restaurants in European stores, like Harrod's, Marks & Spencer, and Harvey Nichols in London, Galeries Lafayette in Paris, and KaDeWe in Berlin. Since then attempts at putting  restaurants in NYC stores have given us Burke's Cafe  and Burke in a Box at Bloomingdale's and Fred's in Barney's, but designer Giorgio Armani knew he had to reflect his own northern Italian heritage with a very fine ristorante if it were going to have his name on it.
     You enter, awkwardly, on a less-than-stylish elevator, but when the doors part you step into an exceedingly stylish split-level room indeed, with three gorgeous hostesses wearing Armani to greet you warmly. Seductive lighting emanates from the bar (left) and walls of glass with twinkling curtains bring in the lights of Fifth Avenue.  Walls and banquettes and surfaces are curved, the floors and ceilings jet black, all very civilized, without (overly) loud house music. 
     Armani brought to NYC one of his favorite chefs
(the second here since 2009), Roberto Deiaco, who comes from the Italian Dolomites,  and he is keeping the menu delightfully free of clichés, as evidenced by an antipasto item of sautéed sea scallops on "thousand-layer" potatoes with black summer truffles (by now, perhaps, black autumn truffles), and a dish of rock lobster croquettes that you'll just want to pop in your mouth (though at $19, you'll probably prolong the pleasure). There is also marinated goose foie gras with black figs, and the classic vitello tonnato, a beautiful, creamy rendering of this Piedmontese favorite.
    The pasta section is lavish with offerings, from potato-and-caciotta cheese-stuffed ravioli with leeks, branzino and zucchini flower sauce to fresh whole wheat tagliarelle (one of the first I've ever really enjoyed) with chanterelles, crispy Speck bacon, and a parsley root puree.  Fat agnolotti are packed with foie gras in a white butter and truffle sauce--a great and simple dish. The very best of all was a lasagnetta croccante, which came as featherweight layers of pasta with veal ragù served over a light Parmigiano foam--exquisite, modern, but very Italian, too. Deiaco also does risotto right, which on the night I visited was rich with vegetables and shaved Castelmagno cheese, all perfectly al dente.
     I suspect a lot of Armani shoppers stop there--and skinny models probably don't get that far--but the main courses are sumptuously rewarding.  Oven-baked wild sea bass (what a difference the wildness makes in flavor) comes over new potatoes and asparagus tagliatelle, and roasted veal tenderloin is set atop braised baby seasonal mushrooms.  A beautiful roasted Colorado lamb chop comes with very tasty stuffed peperoncini with roasted baby artichokes in a dark red reduction of Chianti wine.  And if you crave veal alla milanese, lightly breaded and crisply fried, have it here with baby arugula and fresh tomatoes on top.

Some of these dishes are among the "selezione Armani," apparently the designer's favorites, which include the simplest of pennette pasta with tomato sauce. The fresh fruit crostata and tiramisù (left) are also on this short list.

     Armani's wine selections are very strong, with an admirable array of wines under $50 here, all well chosen. Trust the well-trained--and quite handsome--service staff to guide you, foremost the improbably named but very suave and very sharp Sean Scottini.

     Now, you would think, given the Armani label, this would all cost a fortune, and while prices are high, they are no higher than at places like Del Posto or Ai Fiori,  and considerably lower than top French restaurants, with a $34 fixed price lunch, in addition to à la carte.
    For many this two-year-old restaurant has been something of an afterthought because it is in a store, however posh, and it is on the second floor.  But once in that beautiful, softly lighted, seductive space, you will hardly think of it in any other way but as a very fine Italian restaurant with a very fine, very chic polish.

Armani/Ristorante 5th Avenue is open for lunch and dinner daily, and brunch on weekends.  Antipasti run $16-$24, pastas $24-$30, main courses $28-$48. 




by Christopher Mariani


     This summer I toured all throughout Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia in search of great tapas, the best paella and the finest restaurants each city had to offer. Blanc, inside the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona, located on Passeig de Gracia, did not serve tapas or paella but was without question the most excellent upscale restaurant I dined at in all three cities. Not only was this the finest meal I had during my stay but also the most beautiful meal I may have ever seen. The splendor of this meal had nothing to do with fancy, over-the-top presentations, instead it simply focused on the beauty of each individual ingredient in its freshest and purest state.
The interior of Blanc was designed by Patricia Urquiola and showcases her ever-creative and very unique style.  Blanc fills the space of what was once a bank, actually sitting directly where the trading floor once existed. The entire space is now blanketed in pristine white,  disrupted only by an occasional green plant or a subtle bouquet of flowers. Light shines through the glass ceiling, making this one of the most revitalizing dining rooms I’ve ever dined inside.
    Chef Jean Luc runs the kitchen and is doing things in Barcelona that few others are even attempting, without resorting to the trendy molecular style.  I started with an order of bright green peas served in a delicate cod tripe broth. The sweetness of the peas was like nothing I had ever tasted in the States and was well balanced by the flavor of the salty cod. The peas were just slightly cooked, leaving them nice and firm, with a slight pop every time my teeth broke the outer skin of each pea. Chef then placed beef carpaccio on a white plate with shavings of parmesan cheese, fresh arugula tossed in olive oil and topped the dish with cracked black pepper. The intense colors of red and green shot up from the plate as the sun beamed down from above. I took some time to appreciate how gorgeous these ingredients truly were before taking my first bite. This dish should be a reference for all chefs who cluster their plates and try too hard to impress the guest’s eyes.
    Next, Jean Luc sent out a hot plate of wild mushrooms topped with seared duck foie gras. The foie gras was crisp, so that the top and bottom had a slight crunch, leaving the inside tender and rich, with the fat inside slightly melting.  The play on textures throughout the entire meal was executed with perfection, leaving the palate constantly wanting more. I finished off the lunch with a sirloin steak, cooked rare, with a side of creamy, buttery mashed potatoes.
    Blanc also has an expansive wine list, offering over 600 labels from around the world. Notable wines served during our meal included were a Recaredo  Can Credo, a white Penedés crianza made from the unusual Xarel-lo grape (commonly used to make a sparkling wine) and a glorious dessert wine--Selección Especial Moscatal 2005 by Jorge Ordonez from Malaga.

    I give a lot of credit to Jean Luc for combining the three components that make for an exceptional meal -- presentation, flavor and texture. What many chefs fail to understand is that each of these three characteristics must compliment one another and work in harmony to enhance the dish. Chef Jean Luc’s dishes hit the table and immediately please the eye, not because they are fancy and complicated with dots of sauce and swirls all over the place, but because they are simply attractive.  The aromas of Luc’s dishes then rise up to the nose, increasing one interest to taste the food.  Finally, when the food enters your mouth, it delights the palate with both explosive flavors and textures. This is a talent that takes years to perfect and cannot be replicated through mere dazzle and flair. Save art for art's sake, not for the plate, where good taste should always be the guide.

To contact Christopher Mariani send an email to


In Kent, England, restaurateur Dev Biswal of the Ambrette was arrested for carrying a plastic pillow of dried weed police suspected was marijuana.  Biswal had a difficult and embarrassing time explaining it actually contained a herb traditionally used as part of a Hindi fertility menu.



George Metz, author of Hamburger America, says he is a big fan of the green chile burger at Bobcat Bite in Santa Fe, even though it's made by a vegetarian cook, of whom Metz says, "I liken him to Beethoven being deaf."


 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

"Eating Italian will never be the same after reading John Mariani's entertaining and savory gastronomical history of the cuisine of Italy and how it won over appetites worldwide. . . . This book is such a tasteful narrative that it will literally make you hungry for Italian food and arouse your appetite for gastronomical history."--Don Oldenburg, USA Today. 

"Italian restaurants--some good, some glitzy--far outnumber their French rivals.  Many of these establishments are zestfully described in How Italian Food Conquered the World, an entertaining and fact-filled chronicle by food-and-wine correspondent John F. Mariani."--Aram Bakshian Jr., Wall Street Journal.

"Mariani admirably dishes out the story of Italy’s remarkable global ascent to virtual culinary hegemony....Like a chef gladly divulging a cherished family recipe, Mariani’s book reveals the secret sauce about how Italy’s cuisine put gusto in gusto!"--David Lincoln Ross,

"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: World's Best Airlines.

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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© copyright John Mariani 2011