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  October 23, 2011                                                                                               NEWSLETTER

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The 5th Annual Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival will take place this year from Dec. 9-13, with a star-studded, epicurean extravaganza hosted on the resort island playground of Palm Beach. Join James Beard Award-winning chefs, Food Network personalities, authors, winemakers, mixologists and a plethora of local talent in an unforgettable series of dinners and parties that will saturate your senses in the most anticipated culinary event of the season. Chefs include Michelle Bernstein, Daniel Boulud, David Burke, Clay Conley, Scott Conant, Dean Max, Michael Schwartz,  and many more.  John Mariani is proud to be Honorary Chairman. For info click here.



by John Mariani

by John Mariani

by Christopher Mariani

by John Mariani

GOOD NEWS!  Esquire.com now has a new food section  called "Eat Like a Man," which features restaurant articles by John Mariani and others from around the USA.
 THIS WEEK: Where to Eat in Colorado Right Now


Do You Get What You Pay For?

by John Mariani

Ginger Rogers in "Goldiggers of 1933"

    I passed Economics 101 in college--not with flying colors--but nothing in the course prepared me for the bewilderment of observing the current luxury travel market at a time when the whole western world is skidding near a cliff.  Greece is near bankruptcy, Italy is teetering, France's banks are cracking, London's financial sector is trembling, and New York's financial industry is forecast to lose 10,000 jobs in the next year.  Unemployment in the U.S. is at 9.1 percent, no one can get a mortgage, and protesters against the banks are growing by the thousands around the world.
    And yet. . . I had a very hard time finding a hotel in Amsterdam, Brussels, Antwerp, and Ghent this past month, the  restaurants everywhere were jammed, even at lunch. 
Meanwhile, in Paris, there is always a line of at least 20 people outside the door of Louis Vuitton trying to get to buy their signature handbags.  My wife and I were approached by two Japanese women who had apparentlty bought their limit of bags and begged us to go into the store and buy two more for them.  We refused and bade them "Sayonara."
friend of mine was in Santorini recently and said he paid the highest price ever in a restaurant, and the place was packed. The Greek government boasts that in 2011 there will be a 12 percent rise in foreign tourists, but, Dakis Joannou of the Guggenheim Foundation told Bloomberg News, “The tourists who come to Greece go to the sunny islands [like Santorini], making any rise in visitor numbers pathetic in comparison to our assets.”
    A report on CNN recently explored the world of the "gigayachts," defined as anything more than 200 feet long, costing a standard no-frills $1.36 million per meter. The largest afloat? Roman Abramovich's Eclipse (below), at 535 feet, with 24 guest cabins, two swimming pools and a mini-submarine, and rumored to have cost between $540 million and $1.1 billion.  Just the setting for a James Bond movie!

   "There's definitely a 'mine is bigger than yours' syndrome in this industry and there is a desire to have the best," said Jonathan Beckett, CEO of Burgess Yachts. "There is nothing standard when it comes to this area of our market. But if you are purchasing a superyacht you would want a vessel that was transglobal and you'd want a reasonable speed. You'd probably want at least two helicopter platforms, so you can land your own helicopter and visitors can also land theirs, cinemas, hospitals, spas, large entertainments areas and hairdressing salons. These vessels have anything from 80 to 120 people onboard including the crew, so it's a little town."
    Still, there has been something of a slowdown: "No one's looking to pay a strong price for a yacht, as they were pre-2008," Beckett told CNN. "Then it didn't matter how much you paid, it was cool to pay top price, now it matters a lot. In today's market it is cool to be paying a low price."

       Meanwhile the cruise ship lines are sailing full, and there's not a single seat to be found on an airplane. And those seats are getting excruciatingly smaller: Spirit Airlines is now flying Airbus A320s with a seat pitch of 28 inches between seats, when the average is more like a still skimpy 31.
    This last puzzle is easily solved: In a USA Today article entitled, "
Don't look for an empty middle seat on a flight anytime soon. And don't hold your breath waiting for a cheap fare." High fuel prices and an uncertain economy have caused airlines to scale way back on flights. Delta has reduced flights 5 percent through December, despite, says spokesman Eric Torbenson, "We've seen very strong bookings."  Delta is cutting back on its flights, he says, as a way of being "cautious about fuel prices." The article also quotes Matthew Jacob, senior airline analyst for ITG Investment Research,  who said, "lower supply means higher prices," noting that planes on average have been flying 80% to 90% full. "Paying more to fly on fuller planes is going to be the norm for at least the next couple of years," Jacob says. "I think the days of lying across a row of three empty seats on a transcontinental flight are really behind us." 
    American airlines have made reductions in flights, despite boasting of their recent purchase of 260 fuel-efficient Airbus planes and 200 from Boeing, with the prospect of buying an additional 465 planes through 2025.  According to Tom Horton
, president of American Airlines, speaking to CBS News, "We wanted to do this big and we wanted to do it quickly. . . . Our needs were just so great, and we wanted to do this in such a big way, that one company, one manufacturer couldn't fulfill our needs in the timeframe."
    Nevertheless, American, of all the major carriers, is set to report a quarterly loss and, according to the NY Times, there are "growing concerns that [American] cannot weather yet another slump in travel and may have to file for bankruptcy protection."
    But how does that explain the extravagance in other sectors? 
An article in Bloomberg this week reported that D&D London Ltd., which owns 20 restaurants in the city, saw sales rise by 6 percent last month and by 5 percent in the six months up through September 30, "as poor weather, riots and volatility failed to damp demand." Their events business at Guastavino's in NYC surged 50 percent. New York Magazine's Grub Street blog called ten high-priced steakhouses ranging from BLT Steak to Craft, from Minetta Tavern to Peter Luger, to try for an eight o'clock table last Friday and the best available was either 5:30 PM or after ten or none available at all.
    There are, too, still a lot of people flush with doh-ray-mee--decadently so--not least the scads of Russian and Arab rich, along with an increasing number of Chinese, who are flooding into major European and American capitals.  Consider that in a Chicago club named the Board Room this month, a Russian billionaire's son sent over a $100,000 Nebuchadnezzar-size bottle of Armand de Brignac Champagne to actors Zac Efron and Heather Graham's table. The man also left a $22,000 tip to a waitress named Jasmine (right). I wonder what daddy had to say.
    Back at the beginning of 2009, high-end restaurants in the San Francisco, Las Vegas and Los Angeles reported business down 45 percent, and the National Business Travel Association found that 96 of 147 corporate travel managers surveyed in October, 2008--before the full force of the melt-down hit--insisted their employees switch from luxury hotels to those with lower rates. So what's going on now in 2011?
    "I think there are a lot of people who are spending the money they have and enjoying it, because they don't know if it will last," David Levin, owner of The Capital Hotel  in London told me. "Business has actually been quite strong."

    "The cruise business increases every single year because cruises offer terrific value," says Larry Pimentel, President and CEO of Azamara Club Cruises, whose eight-night Titanic Memorial Voyage next spring is already almost sold out, with cabins beginning at what seems a very reasonable $4,900 for a centennial event.
    This is a recession?

    If I can make any sense of what seems an economic dichotomy, I would say that people who do have money or are still on expense accounts are being careful in the sense of spending it where it counts and where the value is unquestionably there, in spades.  Thus, booking a hotel room for $700 or more at, say, The Pierre in NYC or Le Bristol in Paris, or The Capital (junior suite, left) in London, is a sure thing, which is to say that there is more than good value for money.  At such hotels everything is up to date, up to speed, and usually goes beyond expectations.  Cleanliness is taken for granted, so is the service staff, the check-in procedure, and the concierge services.  Then there are those artful touches that we might in fact take for granted and never even notice.  Look at the photo of a hallway in Le Bristol, Paris (right).  It's just a hallway, a pleasant, sunny hallway, but notice that every small table has a pot of roses on it, and I bet every one is right smack in the center. (Fortunately the newly renovated hotel has its own florist.)
    Book a table at the Bord'Eau restaurant in the new De L'Europe Hotel (left) in Amsterdam, where the finest linens, stemware, silver and vases are arrayed, where yours is the table for the evening, with no on else scheduled for a late dinner. The cuisine, by Chefs Richard Osterbrugge and Thomas Groot is among the finest in Europe, backed by a superbly selected wine list. The service staff throughout is always there: lift an eyebrow, and a captain or waiter will be at your side in seconds. You expect that; you are paying for it; those who can, will.
    The agonies of flight have become so indelible and of such magnitude, that the security checks alone can add hours of abject embarrassment to travel, clear evidence that the terrorists have in fact done precisely what they intended--wreck worldwide travel by costing airlines and airports and hotels billions upon billions of dollars. 
    When speaking of value on airlines, the elimination for all practical purposes of so many First Class cabins in airplanes shows that more than ever the debatable comforts of such sectioned-off cabins is rarely justified by business travelers anymore who must pay an unconscionable $10,000 and way up from there for a fully reclining seat and the same old reheated grub and mediocre wines. Depending on the distance, even Business Class can cost that much.  Which is why many airlines have switched to all Business Class or enhanced Business Class with names like Elite, but even then prices can be astronomical. 
    I cannot even dream of paying such prices, so I was happy when invited to try out the 12-seat Biz Bed section (left) on OpenSkies airlines to fly from Newark to Paris, Orly. From Washington DC-Paris, at an October special rate, you'll pay only $630 round-trip in business class; from NYC it's $1,400.  These prices may vary considerably throughout the year but they beat every one of OpenSkies' competitors. This month economy class on Air France to Paris is $1,600; Business is $8,030; First Class a whopping $15,668.  Then think about  the Delta Shuttle--a 35 minute flight--from NYC to DC is now $625 roundtrip! (By the way, in case you'd like to rent a mid-size private jet for the trip from DC to Paris on Flex-Jet, the fee would be $76,935.)

    Launched in June 2008 as a premium subsidiary of British Airways, OpenSkies acquired L’Avion, the 100 percent business class French airline that flew between Paris-Orly and Newark, in July that year.  (British Air only flies to Paris after stopping in London first.) At that time, then managing director Dale Moss told me, "We don’t need a huge amount of market space because we have only 54-84 seats per plane. We just want the right numbers to differentiate their experience that feels exclusive and priced so competitively well. A road warrior has to travel at some level of comfort. You can’t do that three abreast in coach."
    OpenSkies' Boeing 757s have a maximum of 84 seats (most other airlines' 757 configuration has close to 200), so getting onboard and off takes less than ten minutes. They also have a lounge at Newark (now quite cramped but due for a change to larger space) and at Paris Orly, an airport extremely accessible to Paris on the Metro.  There is no charge for up to three bags, whereas some airlines charge $50 a bag each way. There are 12 fully flat Biz Beds, with a 73-inch pitch,  in a separate cabin, and 60-72 Biz Seats with a 50-inch pitch, all set in a two-by-two configuration.
    The amenities on board are all very good, very sleek, with soft colors, the food about average for business class, the wines well chosen and all is served by a very attractive, well-dressed, young crew--none of those rumpled chinos, polyester vests and ugly neckties. And the personal on-demand entertainment system has just been replaced by an effortlessly easy iPad, packed with nearly 30 movies.
    I had a seamless crossing, sleeping my usual two-and-a-half hours, no matter how much I drink or take a pill, but it was not the usual shiftless, restless sleep; it was sound, and I felt a lot better the next morning upon arrival at Orly than I might otherwise.  On the way back I flew Biz Seat, as did all but one passenger, who was alone in the Biz Bed cabin.  I asked about this and a flight attendant told me that a lot of travelers want the bed to fly overnight but going back west, they take the less expensive Biz Seat, which to me makes good sense. You get into Newark in the late afternoon.  I still slept two-and-a-half hours, dropping off about midway through "Midnight in Paris."

For this article, I interviewed OpenSkies' Paris-based CEO and Commercial Director Western Europe, British Airways,
Patrick Malval, 43 (right), about the challenges of servicing the luxury market in stormy economic conditions.

   What changes in the market/economic situation have affected OpenSkies and how has the company adapted?

A. It's been difficult after 2008, when we began, but we think 2011 is going to be much better.  We have seen an improvement in the economy in both our European and U.S. markets, especially the Paris-New York Route. Competition has increased on the DC route, especially with Air France, and there is a greater number of seats in that market.  So we're going to see what happens through the winter, which is traditionally a slow period, and make a decision about whether or not to continue DC-Paris service in 2012. It's a wait-and-see situation.

Q.    How would you describe your clientele? Business? Leisure?

A. It's a very mixed clientele. Our customers are very, very loyal, going back to when they flew L'Avion.  We are atypical among the airlines serving the luxury market because we have not tried to court the corporate market as much as others have.  We certainly have corporate travelers, but we work more with individuals, to build loyalty. We have a lot of customers in the luxury industries, many celebrities, sports figures, politicians and their families, and commuters who have to fly to Paris and New York nearly every week or two. They know exactly what they will get by flying OpenSkies.

Q.   How can OpenSkies charge lower fares than comparable business and first class carriers and still make a profit?
A. It's all about our costs. We watch them very, very carefully. For one thing, our costs are cheaper than what we call the `legacy' carriers because we don't have cabin crews with 25 years of history. Our staff is paid fairly but they make less than at the legacy airlines. But our staff also prefers the atmosphere and conditions we provide on our flights. We don't have grand offices. By the same token, because we are part of British Airways, we enjoy their purchasing power. If we need to buy 10,000 items of something, we can take advantage of the fact that they are buying 10 million.
    We bought four Boeing 757s, which are fairly fuel efficient, but they were not brand new, so we didn't pay a fortune for them and our costs are all in maintenance. Our estimates are that if oil can stay under $120 a barrel, we are okay, but if they rise above that for a long period, then we will have to consider what to do and what our next fleet will be three years from now. (BA is very good at purchasing fuel at good prices.) Also, most carriers' 757s carry up to 200 passengers and their luggage.  We fly a maximum of 84, so our planes fly much lighter, and that saves a great deal in fuel costs.

    So, while the world falls apart around us, perhaps the pleasures gained from indulging in a little luxury is good for the soul, if the price of that luxury is met, then exceeded by the excellence, pampering, and elegance that seems increasingly rare.   
So, take your pick  and sing a little! A-One! A-Two!

We're in the money, we're in the money;
We've got a lot of what it takes to get along!
We're in the money, that sky is sunny,
Old Man Depression you are through, you done us wrong.
We never see a headline about breadlines today.
And when we see the landlord we can look that guy right in the eye
We're in the money, come on, my honey,
Let's lend it, spend it, send it rolling along!
    -Music by Harry Warren, lyrics by Al Dubin

See Ginger Roger sing the song in "Goldiggers of 1933"

Every morning, Every evening, Ain't we got fun?
Not much money, Oh but honey, Ain't we got fun?
The rent's unpaid, dear, We haven't a bus.
But smiles were made, dear, For people like us.
In the winter in the Summer, Don't we have fun?
Times are bum and getting bummer, Still we have fun.
There's nothing surer, The rich get rich and the poor get poorer.
In the meantime In  between time, Ain't we got fun?
    -Music by Richard A. Whiting, lyrics by Raymond B. Egan and Gus Kahn.

See Doris Day and Gordon McRae sing the song in "I'll See You in My Dreams" (1953)



by John Mariani

Le Bernardin
155 West 51st Street
212- 554-1515


     While we're on the subject of luxury, the very biggest joke about America's contemporary dining scene is that fine dining is dead, an ill-informed idea held by those who have either never set foot in a true fine dining restaurant or haven't tried to make a reservation at one recently.  It reminds me of Yogi Berra's assertion about a restaurant that "Nobody goes there anymore. You can't get into the place."
    The fact is, fine dining in the USA and everywhere else is doing amazingly well. As Daniel Humm, Chef and soon-to-be owner of the illustrious three Michelin star Eleven Madison Park has noted, "There will always be a need for luxury, for the people that can afford to experience it all the time, and for those that save up their money so that they be pampered every so often. I don't believe fine dining will ever die, so long as it evolves with the times."  Pick up the phone and try to get a rez for a table at Eleven Madison Park tomorrow, or at Per Se, or at La Grenouille, or Babbo,
or Le Bernardin, this last  a French seafood restaurant that opened in 1986 and has rarely had an empty table since.
   Le Bernardin's menu has certainly always evolved, yet it is still devotedly in a style that preserves the original precepts of Chef-founder Gilbert Lecoze and his sister Maguy, which were based on those set years before at their original (long closed) Le Bernardin in Paris.  Gilbert, who sadly died young some years ago, was both rigorously classic in his French techniques yet always inventive, not least by treating American seafood species with respect and by eliminating heavy, cover-all sauces from his dishes. His fish carpaccios were copied worldwide by other chefs. And since Gilbert's passing, Chef and now co-owner Eric Ripert (with Maguy, right) has never veered far from those precepts while making his own indelible mark on every dish.

    The premises have this year been done over, all for the better.  I loved the original design but it had dated a bit, so Bentel & Bentel's re-do keeps the basic lineaments, including the magnificent coffered ceiling, while installing a sexy lounge (below) up front and giving the main dining room a soft lighting that spreads over each well-set table, and while it allows you to see everyone in the room, it feels distinctly intimate at your own seating. On the wall is an extraordinary  seascape by Brooklyn artist Ran Ortner, as perfect a metaphor for Le Bernardin as can be imagined.

Photo by Brigitte Lacombe

    Pretty much all I said about the quality of service at La Grenouille last week applies to Le Bernardin.  A woman opens the door for you, you are asked if you wish to check your coat, you are greeted by a smiling hostess and longtime maître d' Ben Chekroun, shown to a table and seated and  greeted still more by of the staff that will serve you, including head sommelier Aldo Sohm, who has built Le Bernardin's wine list into a model of small estates of unique character.  Put yourself in his hands and you will discover how fine a new wine from a region you thought you knew can be so impressive.
    Eric, whom I know well enough to call by his first name, offered to do a tasting menu for my wife and me, and, wanting to taste as many different dishes as possible, I asked if he could do two separate ones, which he was delighted to create. And so we began, nine courses each, with paired wines, and each dish was designed to capitalize on the one before in terms of tastes, texture, and seasonings, as were the wines. It would take another whole issue of this newsletter to describe each and every dish, so I shall list more than I shall describe.  I will note that Eric's cooking has evolved in a deceptively more complex way, with more flavors, aromatics and spices added to each dish but never assertive enough to disturb the essential flavors of the seafood species used. Working six days a week, he seems more animated than ever, tantalized by ingredients and what he can do with them without doing too much.
    It is a very , very rare thing when, after a meal of such dimensions I have not felt overwhelmed, overstuffed or disappointed by several dishes.  At Le Bernardin I was reeling not only from pleasure but by the realization that no chef I know cooks with such focused invention.  And so, the meal:  We began with a trio of amuses
shaved geoduck clam; smoked edamame mousseline with wasabi-citrus emulsion; and a devastatingly delicious small cup of lobster bisque, accompanied by Dom Ruinart 1998.  Next came Nebraska wagyu beef, langoustine and osetra caviar tartare with black pepper-vodka crème fraîche and a single pomme gaufrette; poached escolar with the lovely texture of sea beans, nori, and a kaffir lime-lemongrass scented sauce marinière, served with Bandol Blanc, Domaine de Terrebrune, Clairette 2008; rich ultra-rare yellowfin tuna (right) with spiced dashi gelée and an enticing green peppercorn-Iberico ham chutney, with a glass of Chablis, "Vieilles Vignes" Domaine Savary 2009.

     Butter-poached lobster with spiced celeriac and an Earl Grey-citrus sauce followed, the lobster of exceptional tenderness, which took well with an unexpectedly fine Grüner Veltliner Federspiel "Burgberg" 2010. Just as tender was octopus, this time charred, with fermented black bean-pear sauce vierge with  purple basil and an ink-miso vinaigrette, and a  Sauvignon Blanc Cantina Tramin 2010.  You can taste how the flavors were becoming more accented, little by little.  Lacquered hiramasa with chayote squash and a sofrito broth matched well with a bold Auxey Duresses, Leroy 2000, which also went with rich baked lobster with a bittersweet caramelized endive-pear terrine and a whiskey-black peppercorn sauce.
    We were far from done, yet our appetites raced (portions are, as you'd hope, small). Next up was barely cooked wild Scottish salmon with an assertive wasabi-laced bean purée and yuzu emulsion, a spicy dish well connected with a Mâcon, La Roche Vineuse "Vieilles Vignes" Olivier Merlin 2008; Eric had some fun with halibut steamed "Borscht" style with golden beets and horseradish crème fraîche, matched to Château Grillet 2005;  monkfish was roasted to succulence and paired with Brussels sprouts, and a slightly sweet parsnip and Pata Negra ham emulsion, which demanded a light red wine--Pinot Noir, Dr. Heger, Baden 2005, as did crispy black bass with
pickled cucumbers and a black garlic-Persian lime sauce, which took on a Pinot Noir, Copain, Tous Ensemble, Anderson Valley 2009 with ease.
    After a few breaths we summoned the desserts, which came in waves--
yuzu parfait with crispy sesame rice, ginger, green tea ice cream;  an elderflower crème mousseline, crunchy choux, apricot coulis, with blackberry powder with a sip or two of Château La Rame Reserve, Semillon/Sauvignon, Saint Croix du Mont 1999; then came "The Egg"--a pot de crème of chocolate with caramel foam, maple syrup, a "Grain of Salt" and a Belgian Westmalle Dubbel Trappist Ale, which we found too bitter with the dessert; a sweeter beer would have been better.  Then there was peanut and salted peanut caramel, Maralumi milk chocolate, malted milk crunch chocolate and an olive oil-infused chocolate crèmeux with toasted bread, brown butter, and Marcona Almond, all courtesy of pastry chef Michael Laiskonis. These were accompanied by the luscious Passito de Pantelleria Sangue d'Oro 2009. Of course, there were petits-fours and chocolates.

    It is rare when I don't return home from such a lavish meal with a package of  food I intend to give my ever-ravenous son or to feast on the next day, but there was not a morsel left of anything. We left Le Bernardin smiling and beyond contentment, assured that Le Bernardin has evolved so beautifully and very sure that this is still one of the greatest and most influential restaurants in all the world.
    Whenever I read that chefs in the "modernist" movement insist on throwing out tradition by treating their food to chemical enhancements and torturous techniques designed to dazzle their customers--usually with menu prices far beyond Le Bernardin's--I invite them to have Eric Ripert cook for them and learn that all that is deliberately, radically new in cuisine is usually the result of ego not talent.


Le Bernardin is open for lunch, Mon.-Fri. and for dinner Mon.-Sat. Lunch is fixed price at $70, with a City Harvest Menu at $45; dinner a$120, with a tasting menu $190, with wines at $330. 



by Christopher Mariani


154 West 45th Street
New York, New York

     I can only assume that within ten years most restaurants across the country will utilize iPads to perform almost every function of a restaurant service staff, except actually carrying the food to one’s table. But who knows, by then, that may be possible too. I’ve already witnessed iPads replace lengthy wine lists in multiple restaurants across the country, one of the first, Tony and Marisa May’s SD26 in NYC. As of now, this technology is sheer convenience, but down the line I foresee the crumble of what I most enjoy when dining out, the relationship between my waiter and myself.
    This past week I dined at Bond 45, reclaimed from Bond clothiers whose big neon sign still glows, located in NYC’s vibrant Theatre District, on 45th Street directly across from the famous Lyceum Theatre. Bond 45 is an old-fashioned Italian steakhouse--a NYC invention and the basis for most every other steakhouse in America now--doing exactly what they do best, offering great food in full-size portions, a traditional steakhouse décor with leather banquettes topped with low-lit red lamp shades and, most important, amiable service that begins the moment you walk through the restaurant’s revolving glass doors.

    Our waiter’s name was Jeremiah and he approached the table with a big smile and a gracious hello. After handing us dinner menus and starting us off with a cocktail, I knew we would be in good hands for the remainder of the meal. Throughout the evening he made it obvious that he was there to make our dining experience as pleasurable as possible. His table upkeep was subtle, among the best in the city and his timing couldn’t have been more perfect, whether it was stopping by to clear an empty glass or simply lay down a crisp white linen to cover up any mess left on the table.
     Jeremiah went on to recommend dishes he personally vouched for and couldn’t have been more helpful with our deciding what to order when faced with Bond 45’s broad menu. The only decision I made was ordering a 20-ounce T-bone steak, the rest of the meal was in the hands of Jeremiah, and he chose very well.

    We started off with an order of fried artichokes alla giudea, a Roman specialty, made from entire artichokes sliced in half, fried, and sided by a thick wedge of lemon. The artichoke leaves curl backwards and begin to fray as they are fried, creating a satisfying crunch with each bite, softened only by the tender heart of the vegetable. Housemade burrata cheese hit the table next, creamy and rich, almost the size of a man’s fist. The tomatoes placed next to the cheese were pale and firm, one of the only disappointing ingredients served all night. Tiny golf ball-size meatballs swam in a pool of thick, chunky marinara sauce, topped with fresh basil leaves and grated parmigiano cheese.

    For entrees, do not miss the famous veal chop parmigiana, a 12-ounce veal chop pounded pencil thin and served with the bone still attached. The veal spanned well over one-foot wide and tasted just as great the following day for lunch. The 20-ounce bone-in ribeye, although full of flavor, owing to a coating of butter and salt, was lacking sufficient natural fat, making the meat a bit too lean.  French fries were of the crisp shoestring variety.

     Desserts included a massive cut of velvety NYC-style cheesecake and properly made profiteroles, packed with hazelnut ice cream and topped with warm chocolate sauce.
    The wine list, although packed with fine wines, could use some improvement and variety, not too mention more wines under $50.

    Unlike so many trendy joints in Manhattan, all serving tapas-size portions and offering small plate menus, Bond 45 stays true to its generous New York roots and most guests will surely go with a doggie bag filled with first-rate items that would be a sin to leave behind; I brought home about three.
    The combination of good food, terrific service and a nostalgic NYC location make Bond 45 a great choice for any true New Yorker or an out-of-towner who wants to get a real sense of the city's Broadway largess.
    I don’t know about you, but I’d rather dine at a restaurant that serves me a real meal, rather than an array of tiny appetizers, typically not all that good, a fad I thankfully see diminishing quickly. A good restaurant will woo you with solid service and dish up a satisfying meal, not a dorky waiter wearing a T-shirt who believes acting rude is hip and then telling you that you can choose from a selection of mediocre appetizers that look like hors d’oeuvres. Oh, but I forgot, that’s cool though, right?

To contact Christopher Mariani send an email to christopher@johnmariani.com


by John Mariani

   Some of the most consistently galling misinformation is on wine labels. Does "put in the bottle at the château" mean the wine was made at the estate?  How about "put in the bottle by the proprietor?"  And how much meaning the word "reserve" have on a bottle from Spain versus Italy, France versus California?  Does "organic" have any definition whatever, much less "biodynamic?"

    Those take some study, but there shouldn't be any real confusion about a label that reads "Champagne" or "Port" or "Chianti"; you should be able to assume the first is from the region north of Paris, the second from Portugal's Douro region, and the third from hillsides in Tuscany.  But there have been few laws and regulations about wineries or brands putting such words on their labels no matter where the wines come from.

    Which is shy  results from a recent poll of U.S. consumers, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, released this week found that Americans, in particular, have very strong feelings about the role of location in making wine-purchasing decisions. Key findings from the poll of 1,000 U.S. wine drinkers include:

    79 percent consider the region where a wine comes from an important factor when buying a bottle of wine;

    75 percent report they would be less likely to buy a wine if they learned that it claimed to be from a place like Champagne, Napa Valley or Oregon, but in actuality was not;

    84 percent think that the region a wine comes from is extremely important in determining its quality;

    96 percent say that consumers deserve to know that the location where wine grapes are grown is accurately stated on wine labels; and

    98 percent support establishing worldwide standards for all winemakers that would require that they accurately state the location where wine grapes are grown on wine labels.

      The study also indicated that, when presented with two labels to compare side by side, most U.S. consumers were unable to determine the correct origin of the wine. As a result, the leadership from 15 of the world's premier wine regions gathered in NYC this week with eminent chefs  to call on policymakers to heed growing consumer demand for wine truth-in-labeling. The coalition hopes that the clear and resounding results of consumer survey data, combined with the accelerated interest on the part of chefs and other food and wine experts and an overwhelming majority of the world's leading wine regions now working in unison will push lawmakers and others around the globe to better protect wine place names in the U.S. and beyond. The wine region participants are currently: Champagne, France; Chianti Classico, Italy; Jerez, Spain; Long Island, New York; Napa Valley, California; Oregon state; Paso Robles, California; Porto, Portugal; Rioja, Spain; Sonoma County, California; Tokaj, Hungary; Victoria, Australia; Walla Walla Valley, Washington; Washington state; and Western Australia.
    Chefs and sommeliers lending their support included Thomas Keller from Per Se and the French Laundry; Ferran Adrià from El Bulli; Daniel Boulud from Daniel; Alexandre Ferrand from Alain Ducasse; Wolfgang Puck from Wolfgang Puck Restaurants; Antoine Hernandez from Joël Robuchon; Michel Richard from Citronelle; José Andrés from Jaleo and minibar; Pontus Elofsson from Noma; Charlie Palmer from Charlie Palmer Group.                                      Douro River in Portugal

     According to the declaration,  the 15 wine regions have collectively affirmed that geographic names are fundamental tools for consumers to identify the wines from specific wine-growing areas.  "The research released today shows consumers are more focused on product origins than ever before and it isn't just a passing concern, but one they feel extraordinarily strong about," said Linda Reiff, executive director of Napa Valley Vintners. "When a place name is misused, a part of the identity of that distinctive wine region is lost and consumers can be misled. This poll shows that U.S. consumers understand this and are looking for clear labeling of wine place names when they purchase wines."

    Bruno Paillard, representing Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne, said,  "The 15 regions gathered here today agree that great wine is made in unique places all over the world and that these unique place names must be protected. A failure to do so undermines all of these wine-growing regions and, as the research shows, runs counter to the expectations of the consumer." 

    The poll was released by the signatories to the Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place & Origin, a coalition first formed in 2005 when the initial global declaration was signed. The organization has since doubled in size, welcoming its two newest members - Rioja and Long Island - at this year's meeting.




Gualtiero Marchesi (right), one of the founders of ultra-expensive nuova cucina
and the
first chef in Italy to get three Michelin stars has entered into a
partnership with McDonald's by creating two "refined" hamburgers and a
tiramisù for McDonald's in Italy. "I simply asked what and where young
 people were going to eat
,"he told the press.  "They were very simple
questions which led to my decision to team up with McDonald's."





"An article last Wednesday about the United States Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, an agricultural industry promotional organization, described the National Milk Producers Federation, an alliance member, incorrectly. It is a lobbying group, not a marketing group. The article also misidentified the sponsor of the `Got Milk?' advertising campaign. It is the California Milk Processor Board, which is not an alliance member — not the milk producers federation. The article also misidentified another alliance member. It is the American Meat Institute, not the American Meat Producers Association, which does not exist. And the article misstated the name of a Web site run by the institute. It is meatmythcrushers.com.--NY TIMES Correction.


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

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

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, thedailybeast.com

"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 Meal.com.

"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, 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: In Search of the Real Mexico in San Cristobal, Chiapas

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 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. http://www.familytravelforum.com/index.html

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, BusinessWeek.com;  nick@nickonwine.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 Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.

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© copyright John Mariani 2011