Virtual Gourmet

  March 11, 2012                                                                                                NEWSLETTER

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ANNOUNCEMENT: John Mariani will be part of two events at the Tennessee Williams Festival, to be held Wed. March 21 through Sunday March 25. On Friday, at
5:30 P.M.:  "RESTAURANT SCOOP FROM THE VIRTUAL GOURMET," wine, wit, and hors d’oeuvres. Mariani, a food columnist for Esquire, will give the scoop on the latest national restaurant trends. Windsor Court Hotel, 300 Gravier Street, limited seating, $40. Sponsored by the Windsor Court Hotel. Sunday March 25: 11:30 A.M. "NEW ORLEANS FOOD MEMORIES ": Join WYES-TV producer and co-author of Lost Restaurants of New Orleans Peggy Scott Laborde as she discusses local food reminiscences with Tom Fitzmorris, host of The Food Show radio program and co-author of Lost Restaurants of New Orleans; and author John Mariani. Whet your appetite with a sensory feast of New Orleans’ famous culinary scene. The Pelican Club Restaurant, 312 Exchange Alley, $25 limited seating. Sponsored by The Pelican Club Restaurant. For Festival Tickets click here.



by John Mariani

Le Cirque
by John Mariani

Au Revoir. . . for Now.. to Philly's Le Bec Fin
by John Mariani


by John Mariani

    More than once I've insisted that Chicago is, overall, a better restaurant town than San Francisco, New Orleans, or L.A., and falls into a solid second behind NYC.  All of those others may, in fact, be better food towns, for their variety of indigenous styles, ethnic neighborhoods, and great markets.  But when it comes to restaurants, Chicago is as vibrant as any and faster moving in developing, or at least adapting, what was first done elsewhere.  Its legitimate claim to being America's crucible for modernist or molecular cuisine may be a mixed blessing by downplaying the excellence of so many great chef-driven restaurants in favor of the razzle-dazzle of that handful of chefs who believe novelty trumps good taste.  And the city has become obsessed with gastro-pubs (the first of which appeared in London and NYC a decade ago), which is a nice enough idea but can become tiresome after the fifteenth wooden slab of rabbit rilletes and Cabrales cheese.
    I never tire, however, of going to Chicago to see what's new and delicious.  Here's my report based on my most recent time in town. 

Chicago Cut Steakhouse

         A great steak is pretty much guaranteed in a town so historically intertwined with the beef industry as is Chicago, and you can bet that the veteran local places like Gene & Georgetti, Gibson’s, and the original Morton’s on State Street are as consistent as the city’s fierce winter winds and throbbing summer heat waves.  And with all the national steak house chains in town, it hardly seems wise to open another high-end entry downtown--unless you’re going to be significantly different.
    At Chicago Cut, two veterans of the steakhouse wars, David Flom and Matthew Moore, start by buying great USDA Prime, hired their own butcher and built their own dry-aging meat locker. 
     Now add to all that a nonpareil view from a 22-foot glass wall of the magnificent Chicago Riverfront, where the El barrels over Wells Street and the river boats ply their way past the city’s great architecture.  At lunch, it’s fabulous; at night it takes your breath away.
    The place is open for breakfast, and for the power lunch crowd, which includes Rahm Emanuel, James Carville, John Cusack, Oprah, and George Stephanopoulas, there is an iPad menu. And for Chicago Bear defensive end Izzy Idonije there’s a four-pound triple porterhouse. Otherwise, go for the succulent bone-in ribeye, the double cuts of châteaubriand, the creamed spinach and any of five potato offerings, along with an irresistible mac-and-cheese.  The wine list is already one of the best in Chicago. The place is also open every day till 2 AM.
    There's a new chef onboard here, Russell Kook, since I visited, but the menu thus far is as I sampled it, and steakhouses of this caliber and consistency don't make radical changes, so I think you can trust what I've written above.  Prices: Appetizers $6-$19; main courses $28-$52 (double cuts more expensive).



    Something of a circus but no zoo, this vast, brash Chi-town bistro with a very sexy Paris Studio lounge upstairs is the hottest place in town for all the right reasons—not least for its “French Soul Food” and low prices.  It’s become an overnight hit for its ebullient hospitality, a long menu of hearty bistro classics, a very reasonable wine list, 14 craft beers on tap, and terrific charcuterie plates to share. You can’t help but have a good time.  The whole place rings with the sound of people having a grand old time, sharing plates, ordering too much, dropping in, rushing out. It does get loud in there, so ask for a less-loud table, if possible.  The waitstaff is very attractive and very affable. And if a table isn't available or ready, head upstairs for a cocktail and the swank lounge (below) with the prettiest people in Chi-town.
    You can begin downstairs with a chilled seafood platter of lobster, shrimp and oysters, or a fine tuna tartare and an array of pâtés and terrines that includes terrific pork rillettes with Dijon mustard, creamy foie gras mousse with a cassis gelée, or some sweet roasted eggplant.  In the seafood category there are excellent sea scallops with a lime beurre blanc; Nantucket bay scallops (in season), sweet and meaty, with herbed rice; and the not-often-seen skate wing with lemon, capers and brown butter. Don't miss dishes include the pig's feet bonbons--ridiculously rich--and the macaroni and cheese with French ham.  That French Soul Food includes  a rich, crispy confit of duck with wheatberries and candied cherries; good old coq au vin; and short ribs bourguignonne, along with the expected steak frites and a Roquefort-crusted filet mignon, Don't neglect the sides here--Alsatian spaetzle and zucchini fries are terrific.
    The largess continues in big portions of apple strüdel, a chocolate crêpe cake, and dark chocolate mousse.
    What's more, the wine list is long, has breadth, and holds plenty of bottlings under $50.


    If you find Paris Club, above, too loud, you'd might consider earmuffs or plugs or noise-cancelling headphones before venturing into Bistronomic, which replaced Restaurant Eve last year.  Except for some pulled-back drapes, there are no sound-absorbing surfaces anywhere in the red-and-brown dining rooms, whose walls are hung with black-and-white French photographs of another era. There are no tablecloths  and the ceilings are high an echoing. There's a wrap-around bar towards the rear.
    But the draw here is veteran chef Martial Noguier, who had for years distinguished himself at the Pump Room and One Sixtyblue.  With partner John Ward, he has fashioned Bistronomic to be a modern French bistro, whose menu is not radically different from others, including Paris Club, but whose food shows the pedigree of Noguier, whose appetizers include several jars of ingredients like Picholine olives, sardines and caviar, all to be eaten with good crusty bread.  This is easy to-like fare--grilled cheese sandwich , a savory tartine, chicken liver mousse, and Parisian-style gnocchi. For main courses there is a good deal of braising and poaching going on in the kitchen, cooking in the flavors and seasonings, herbs and spice, as in the braised lamb shoulder and the glazed short rib (left) with carrot puree and buttery fingerling potatoes.  There is, of course, steak frites, and it's good to see Lake Superior whitefish on the menu, with glazed lentils and bacon in a Dijon vinaigrette. The frites may be had with parmesan and black truffle salt.  You may get a generous six-cheese platter for $26, composed of French and American artisanal varieties. For dessert, definitely go for the baked Alaska.
    The wine list is rich in fairly priced vins de pays among upper echelon bottlings, including American varietals, and the spirits and cocktails are well promoted with specialties you won't find elsewhere.
Prices: Starters $7-$14, main courses $19-$25.



Photos by Anthony Talier

  Certainly one of the loveliest and most civilized new restaurants in Chicago, with a very amiable sound level buoyed by enjoying themselves and being catered to by a finely tuned staff, is Henri, its décor inspired by the work of Chicago architect Louis Sullivan, whose early skyscrapers are in evidence along the lake front.  The restaurant's location across from Millennium Park and the Symphony make it an ideal choice for pre-theater.

    The colors are soft pastels and charcoal, with sea green mohair-covered settees, chocolate velvet-covered walls, hardwood floors, crown moldings and chandeliers swathed with silk shades. Fine white cloths drape the tables, stemware is thin, a flower decorates each setting, and during the day brilliant sunlight pours in off the lake.

    Executive Chef Dirk Flanigan (below) and Chef de Cuisine Christopher Cubberley are driven by classic concepts of  French cuisine, but it does not hold them back, showing a sure degree of finesse in all they cook, whether it's an impeccable Dover sole or rich lobster Wellington. There are daily specials, too, like bouillabaisse on Friday and a hearty cassoulet on Monday. There is surely no better bargain in town than Henri's three-course lunch, with ample choices, at $30. Since that changes, I can only say that my lunch a few months ago was very good--though lunch doesn't wholly show the kitchen's range. The current prix fixe that includes similar dishes like smoked steak tartare, a torchon of foie gras with fig jam, or a winter vegetable soup; second courses of cobia gravlax and croque-monsieur; a Prime burger, and buckwheat crêpes with wild mushrooms.
    At dinner you might enjoy pheasant consommé with cheese-rich gougères and for a main course a roasted veal chop with root vegetables of the winter and a silky demi-glace, or roasted duck breast with confit, foie gras mousse, spiced poached pears, hazelnuts and pomegranates to lend texture and sweetness. Ji Yoon's desserts like chocolate mousse cake and almond financier are strictly classical and taste the way classics should.
     Henri prides itself on a mostly biodynamic wine list, though that moniker is less-than-definitive and, to my mind, gimmicky.  But it's a solidly knit list. Unfortunately there's little here under $70 and a whole lot well in the hundreds of dollars.
    Were I in Chicago for any of the following reasons--business lunch, pre-theater dinner, romantic, leisurely dinner, Henri might very well be my first choice.  It's so nice when you can actually hear the person at your table speak.
Prices: Dinner appetizers $12-$22, main courses $22-$44. 


    Proprietors Adolfo Garcia, Daniel Alonso and David Mistrial debuted their new River North neighborhood restaurant with an intent to please just about everybody, not least a tavern crowd, people who like small plate selections, and those who want a good hearty meal prepared by Exec Chef Bob Zremmer, whose tenures at True, North Pond and X/O make him an ideal candidate to handle all these attractions, with a definite Mediterranean style and slant to the menu.
    It's two stories high, with a big, long downstairs dining  room with a big long bar, marble counters, colorful Moroccan tiles, and carved Balinese doors;  and some nooks that help tamp down the noise when it's crowded at night. Tufted banquettes  and wooden tables set with votive candles, big abstract and expressionistic art lines the walls,  huge globes give off a soft light, and there is a communal table (right) for those liken minded.
    Hubbard Inn features an array of classic and old cocktails, with 22 craft beers on draft, a solid global wine list, and plenty of small-batch spirits, liqueurs, cordials and housemade mixers.
    Zremmer's menu is the kind where you just point anywhere, because it's so tough to decide among small plates like mussels in white wine with fennel; a traditional Cobb salad;  steak tartare; bacon-wrapped dates; and duck rillettes, from which you can easily make a meal, especially if you add on one or two of the delicious flatbreads, one with merguez sausage, another with three cheeses.  Main dishes are more substantial and hearty, generously proportioned, like the sheep's milk ricotta ravioli in mushroom ragoût with bitter greens; the crispy tuna with piperade and saffron aïoli; and a grilled duck bratwurst with ribolita cake, runny egg and duck cracklings. And, yes, there are big burgers and a fried oyster sandwich and thick lobster club.
    This is a place you make your own if you live in River North; a place to meet friends, if you don't; and if you're in from out of town, a great place to meet new friends. Prices: Starters run $9-$14, main dishes $15-$40.



by John Mariani

Le Cirque

151 East 58th Street (near Third Avenue)

     Thirty-seven years is a long time in the trendy world of NYC restaurants, but through those four decades the Maccioni family--paterfamilias Sirio, his wife Egi, and, when they grew up, their three sons, Mario, Marco, and Mauro--have maintained Le Cirque's eminence while expanding its name to other cities, now including Las Vegas, the Dominican Republic, and New Delhi. The family also owns Circo in NYC, with plans to take over the dining room at the Pierre Hotel.
    The NYC flagship's, its third location since the 1970s, in the Bloomberg Building between Lexington and Third Avenues, is as admirable for its consistency as it is for its willingness to change over the years, which is to say that the strictly classical French haute cuisine of the 1970s has evolved into a modern New York restaurant style that is still largely French, while also very Italian, balancing the finest ideas of chefs past with what it is wholly contemporary.  Its roster of chefs over those years, from Alain Sailhac to Daniel Boulud, from Sottha Kuhn to Craig Hopson, and the myriad graduates from its kitchens, including  David Bouley, Terrance Brennan,  Rick Moonen, Jacques Torres, Sylvain Portay, Christophe Bellanca, Michael Lomonaco, Alain Allegretti, Bill Telepan, Alex Stratta and Geoffrey Zakarian.

    The newest (ninth)  executive chef is a dyed-in-the-wool Frenchman with an Italian-sounding name, Olivier Reginensi (left), born and raised in Martiques. His résumé of grand restaurants is far too long to list here, but they include training and stints at  Abbaye de Sainte Croix; Prieuré in Thonon-les-Bains where he mastered traditional Rhône-Alpes cuisine; the three Michelin starred Les Prés d’Eugénie under chef Michel Guérard; served as chef de partie at Le Cirque under Chef Sylvain Portay in 1993, as sous-chef at San Francisco's Ritz-Carlton, and more recently at Restaurant Daniel in NYC.
    He has, since coming onboard at Le Cirque in January, maintained a balance of Le Cirque's mainstays and signature dishes like the plâteau fruits de mer and potage Saint Germain, lobster salad "Le Cirque," and crispy flounder "Le Cirque," but his own contributions have now filtered onto the menu, and I put my self in his hands recently to cook for my guests and me as he wished. The results were superb across the board, beginning with a  rich, flavorful s
quab terrine stuffed with foie gras, truffles, and winter salad to cut the richness.  Then  came   Maine scallop ceviche with hearts of palm, cilantro, a subtle nudge of aji amarillo, avocado and carrot salad. A wonderful specimen of John Dory was accompanied by fennel compote and zucchini, dashed with bouillabaisse jus.  With these was poured a Sicilian Grillo Carolinem Marengo Feudi di Pisciotto 2007, which was lively and full of mineral flavors that went well with lighter first courses.
    Next was
   a tour de force, a double consommé de poule with foie gras, tapioca ravioli, black truffle; so rarely do I taste a perfect consommé as this was, clear, robust and wonderfully enriched by the ravioli and truffles. Hake was done simple "demi-sel," with olive oil crushed potatoes in a sauce grenobloise, served with an Alteserre Bava 2006 from Piedmont, followed by a Barbera d'Alba "Amabiliu Casciu Adelaide 2006, with a slowly cooked egg that poured out over sweetbreads, black trumpet and  pearl onion on buttery brioche; last of the savories was a braised "porchetta" of rabbit--a roll of impeccably juicy rabbit meat with peqillo peppers, Swiss chard, peas, onions, and foie gras--as perfect a winter's dish as I've had all these chilly months.
    For dessert there was an enchantment--"Creamsicle Vacherin" with vanilla ice cream and mandarin orange sorbet, and, of course, Le Cirque's classic signature crème brûlée.
    I really love the balance at Le Cirque, the well proven, the much beloved, and the completely new, all delicately wrought with the kind of refinement that the Maccionis have always exhibited, now with a new chef who is not gong to betray that trust.

Dinner at Le Cirque is fixed priced at lunch for $45, in the Cafe $28; at dinner $135 for six courses; a la carte, with starters $21-$47, main courses $39-$79.  The restaurant is open for lunch Mon.-Fri, and for dinner Mon.-Sat.



Au Revoir. . . for Now.. to Philly's Le Bec Fin
by John Mariani

    The announcement that Philadelphia's venerable Le Bec Fin, one of the true temples of haute cuisine in  the United States, was closing after 42 years under the obsessive leadership of chef-owner Georges Perrier, 68, was greeted with the usual gasps that always accompany the shuttering of an institution. Some came from longtime regulars, some from food media--many that hadn't mentioned Le Bec Fin in years--and some from people who had never even dined there.  The NY Times wrote a lengthy obituary of the restaurant, covering last Saturday's closing night, quoting the always quotable Perrier as saying he had "absolutely no regrets" handing over the reins to Nicholas Fanucci, who had worked at Le Bec Fin before becoming general manager at the French Laundry in Napa Valley.  (Fanucci plans to cut Le Bec Fin and re-open later this year.)"He will be the one who will bring back the glory of Le Bec-Fin," said Perrier, adding "I have given everything that I have."
    Indeed he had: I have known Georges since 1980 when I dined at Le Bec Fin to write about it for Playboy's "25 Greatest Restaurants in America," based on a survey of more than 100 food authorities.  At that time, NYC's Lutèce held first place on a list crammed with French haute cuisine restaurants, including La Caravelle, La Grenouille, and The Palace in NYC, Le Français in Wheeling, Illinois; L'Ermitage in L.A., Maisonette in Cincinnati, and several others.  When I dined at Le Bec Fin and met maestro Perrier to tell him of the honor, he glared at me and, in still-thick French accent shouted, "Le Bec Fin ees number feef-teen??!! Are you keed-ing? You theenk zat places like zee `21' Club eez better than me?" I defended the list by saying I had not personally chosen or ranked the restaurants, and that being 15th on such a list, especially since Le Bec Fin was in a city without nearly the tourist visits that NYC or L.A. had, was an extraordinary achievement.  That seemed to placate him a little, not much, but he and I began to develop a respectful professional friendship that has endured to this day.
    Four years later I conducted the same survey for Playboy, and this time Lutèce again took the number one spot and Le Bec Fin moved up a notch, to number 14, which didn't make Georges any happier to see places like Paul Prudhomme's K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen in New Orleans at number 6. "Zay theenk zat zees guy who makes goombo and blackened feesh is better than me?" This time I had to explain to Georges that there had been shifts in American gastronomy, and that Le Bec Fin's lavish dedication to French haute cuisine was considered by some a tad passé, which in the 1990s led to the demise, for various reasons, of most of the French restaurants on the list, most of which were run by Georges' personal friends and members of the prestigious Maîtres  Cuisiniers de Français. 
    That commitment on Georges' part was total, and he was notorious for being the kind of taskmaster in his kitchen that would make Gordon Ramsay seem a namby-pamby. Georges was tough but was always did himself everything he demanded of his brigade, and he oversaw every detail in the dining room, which sat 50  people who paid $65 for a multi-course dinner, which back then was heavy with silver, crystal, and heavy French décor of a kind that had indeed become dated.  But nowhere in America could you find better food or service, a superb cheese cart, and a dessert display from which you could choose as many as you wished, all backed by a truly great wine list,  and, as a chef who had seen the best and worst of la nouvelle cuisine, Georges had in fact adapted the new ideas to his never-too-rigid classicism.  That is still pretty much the case today.
     Nevertheless, I told Georges that he really needed to get out more and at least to try some restaurants of the new American style. So he came to NYC and I took him to Alfred Portale's Gotham Bar and Grill.  At first he sniffed and moaned about the place, but as he ate dinner, all his Gallic pretensions dropped away, and he admitted the food, the preparation, even the underpinnings of Portale's style was superb.  After that, Le Bec Fin's food evolved, got lighter, more imaginative.  You might find ravioli with foie gras on the menu, less cream in the sauces, less pretension on the plate.  Waiters changed from tuxedos to suits, and eventually--much to his regret--Georges dropped the requirement for jackets-and-ties. 
    Le Bec Fin thrived against all odds as the place to dine in Philadelphia, even as brilliant young chefs--many grads of Le Bec Fin--shook things up elsewhere in the city.  Even after Georges nearly severed four fingers of his hand in a Cuisinart. Even through a couple of marriages. And even after breaking numerous bones in his body after falling down a darkened stairwell. Georges was going to persevere, and as he got older he even opened other restaurants, including a more casual bistro underneath Le Bec Fin.
    Now, after more than four decades in business, Georges is stepping away from the great edifice he built.  Knowing him as I do, ever amazed at his energy, his joie de vivre, his knowledge, and the impossibility of separating the man from his kitchen, I suspect he will get restless soon and start something else, begin a new life in the kitchen. Maybe he will teach. Georges Perrier is not one to spend his days perfecting his golf swing or forehand; he won't merely travel around visiting his old French chef friends and dine at their restaurants, and it's unlikely he'd ever feel wholly comfortable living back in France. For Georges is that peculiarly American success story, a man of nerve, drive, and unimpeachable standards who in teaching Americans how to dine became part of our gastronomic fabric, his influence threaded throughout this country's greatest and grandest kitchens, a mentor and master who instilled all he knew in others, and never demanded more of them than of himself.  Georges is a great French chef but he's also a great American.


London's Guardian reported that Dutch scientists were close to producing "an artificial burger that looks, feels and tastes like the real thing," to be concocted by molecular chef Heston Blumenthal. It was reported that
the lab-grown meat was grown from fat stem cells and cow muscle, and now resembles  "unappetising half-millimetre thick strips of lab-grown meat that are pinky-yellow in colour." But the project's lead researcher expects a near-perfect approximation of a real burger by October.



In Gainsville, FL, a new cookbook titled From The Big House to Your House is a collection of 200 recipes by six Texas women prison inmates, all serving at least 50 years at the  Mountain View Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, all but one of them for murder.  The inmates apparently found that an empty potato chip bag works for cooking in a quart-size electric warming pot and a plastic ID card can be used as a cutting or chopping implement. Ingredients are limited  to what can be purchased from the prison commissary.

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

My latest book, which just won the prize for best book from International Gourmand, 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 coffee 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.

My new book, How Italian Food Conquered the World (Palgrave Macmillan) 
has just won top prize 2011 from the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.  It 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: COLORADO'S NEW HIGH COUNTRY RESTAURANTS

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 2012