Virtual Gourmet

  January 13,   2013                                                                                                NEWSLETTER

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by John Mariani

by John Mariani

Global Warming Worries Winemakers Worldwide
 by John Mariani



by John Mariani

     Walking around inside the walls of Beaune's old historic center, every street and byway, will take you about one hour. But its charms are such that you will probably retrace those steps time and again to take in the illustrious sites like the Hospices de Beaune (below), where the famous annual charity wine auction is held each November. It's a beautiful building,  dating to the 15th century, still set with the draped beds of patients tended here and an exquisite polyptych by Roger van der Weyden.  There is a wine  museum and gift shop within. 
Outside those city walls, within minutes' drive, is the 60-mile Route des Grand Crus that take you along the slopes of 38 communities in the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits, with dozens of the most illustrious wineries of the region open to the public for visiting and tasting. For those who prefer a trek, there are 14 footpaths that take between one-and-a half to four hours duration. (See below for guided tour information.)
    Back within  the walls, the main church is the 12th century Collegiale of Notre Dame, with a good collection on medieval and early Renaissance art and five tapestries depicting the life of the Virgin. The main thoroughfare of the old town, branching off in narrow diagonals, is the Rue de Faubourg Madeleine, lined with bistros, food shops, boutiques, and, in good weather, outdoor vendors selling oysters and shellfish.
    When I was there in November for the auction, I stayed at the
Hôtel de la Paix, which was serviceable if little else, the kind of place people in the wine trade would check into, drop their bags, and go off to do business in town, either buying wine or a tractor. The better known and favored is the Hôtel de la Poste on Boulevard Georges Clemençeau.
     In any case, Beaune is not the sort of small city you would stay in your hotel for much time anyway, for it is designed for walking, chatting, and dining well in the Burgundian manner. 
    The highest end dining in that regard is Loiseau des Vignes, (left) opened in 2007, on the Rue Mafoux.  This is one of Bernard Loiseau's four restaurants, with two in Paris, and is said to have been the first restaurant in Europe to offer an entire list of 70 wines by the glass. Chef Mourad Haddouche has won a Michelin star for the restaurant, cooking with personal flair but well within Burgundian culinary traditions. There are several menu options, at lunch menus at 20€, 23€, and 28€,  at dinner 59€ and 79€.
    The commodious room has tables genially set apart from one another, and, though the lighting is too bright at night, it is a convivial place favored by wine industry people.  I dined with Thibaut Marion of Séguin-Manuel (founded in 1824), who brought some superb Burgundies, beginning with a Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru "La Garenne" 2008 that was ideal as an aperitif with an amuse of cauliflower cappuccino, followed by quenelles of pike with watercress foam (there's a lot of foam floating around French cuisine these days!). The wine
also went perfectly with the beignets of langoustines. Clos des Mouches 2009, a lush, mineral-strong wine was poured with meaty squab in a classic, intensely reduced red wine sauce with whipped potatoes; Charolais beef was shredded, to be eaten "with a spoon," enjoyed with three red wines--a Savigny-Les-Beaune 2007 made from 70-year-old vines, a Beaune 1er Cru Champimonts, and a fabulously rich but impeccably balanced Pommard "Pézerolles" 2009, which went especially well with the extensive cheese service of 30 offerings here (right).  For dessert we had a baba soaked not with rum but with Poire William.
    L'Ecusson (below) on Rue Lieutenant Dupuis, is clearly a labor of love of Virginie and Thomas Compagnan, a darling two-room restaurant whose well-set tables, good lighting, comfortable chairs, and personalized cuisine makes this a place to come back to again and again in Beaune. The cooking is sensible, never elaborate, the ingredients' quality stressed. One of the meanings of the word l'ecusson is a grafting bud for a vine, and the winelist here is very reflective of Burgundy's breadth of wines.
     A mild parfait of duck came with sliced pear and a spiced wine reduction. The soup was a cream of mushrooms scented with vanilla, a softboiled egg parfait and little rounds of foie gras--delicious.  Pork, from a black pig, was done in a confit, with Sardinian fregola, and calamari rings, which Compagnan calls "Un Mariage Terre/Mer," or "surf-and turf," and reminded me a little of Portuguese and New England renderings.
    Omble chevalier, a char lake fish, came with a lovely green watercress mousseline with cauliflower.  For dessert we had apples cooked "for ten hours," syrupy and succulent within an Arlette crisp, dashed with cider, and a ganache of chocolate with Brownies (printed that way in English on the menu), a tuile of cocoa and caramel sauce.  It was quite a lunch yet fairly light in every way that good modern French cooking now is.
    L'Ecusson offers a three-course 25€ meal with wines by the glass between 6€ and 9€. A la carte runs 21€ to 26€ for starters and 31€ to 40€ for main courses.
    For very traditional Burgundian cooking I went to two places, one, L'essential on Place Madeleine, with  menus at 19€, 24€, and 32€ or 36€ tasting menus, but what I had was nothing to rave about, though the place  seems popular locally. 
    Much more endearing in a way that all good, traditional bistros are, was Le Gourmandin, which just about everyone in town recommended. It's easy to see why: the façade, with its art nouveau lettering, the tables outside and potted planters, the long slip of the dining room, with another above, have all the earmarks of places that for eons have served French family cooking, from a superb jambon persillé whose jelly simply bound a generous allotment of  meat to a hearty boeuf Bourguignonne with egg noodles in a portion scooped from a casserole that could feed two.
    The owner, Isabelle Billard (her husband Alain, below,  is the chef) who speaks good English, could not be more helpful.  Having forgotten to bring something I ordered--I forget what--she apologized profusely and brought me dessert on the house--two big profiteroles lavished in dark chocolate.  Throughout the night,  staff members cut huge loaves of crust-heavy bread, and the whole tilt of the place seems headlong but in complete control.  The restaurant's location, right on the Place Carnot, puts you in full view of everyone in town and those visiting, strolling, most arm in arm, shopping, nodding at each other, sitting for a glass of wine or crêpe.
    There are menus at Le Gourmandin from 20€ to 40€, with main dishes 8€ to 26€, and a three-course lunch at a remarkable 14€. The winelist, with specials posted outside (right), is excellent in all price categories.
    Two places I highly recommend outside of town are the restaurant La Buissonniere in Ladoix-Serrigny, and the gorgeous new restaurant at Chateau de Pommard. The former, five minutes drive from town, is a modern, tall-ceilinged space run by Charlotte Boisseau-Bertelot, who bears a passing resemblance to both Juliette Binoche and Julia Ormond. There are many menu options, from 19.50€ to 36€, all beautifully presented in a room with dark and light accents, sun pouring through a large front window, illuminating rough stone walls in the more intimate side room (left).
    We were presented with an amuse of cauliflower puree with a single snail and some bits of smoked pork. I then ordered langoustines with a soy foam (more foam!), which was wonderfully simple, and a filet of pork with grains of artichoke and laced with, beguilingly, a little maple syrup.
    At Château de Pommard, one of the most illustrious of Burgundy's wine estates, its courtyard and gallery filled with modern art from Roy Lichtenstein to Keith Haring,
Christophe Quéant has opened a very large namesake restaurant,  with a gorgeous view of the vineyards and a fine bar and lounge.  It's become immediately popular for events and celebrations, and the dining room (below) is large, with widely separated tables and colors and mirrors that reflect the light, done in Empire style throughout, except for the more modern terrace. Both have comfortable chairs in red velvet, and service is impeccable, right down to the carving of dishes at the table.
    This is Chef Quéant's showcase for a modern cuisine very much based on respect for the local flavors and tastes.  (He had previously  been chef at
Loiseau des Vignes), and the size of the menu itself is ideal for focusing in on every detail, with starters running 24€ to 30€, main courses 42€ to 57€. Our party of three began with a cream soup of chestnuts and foie gras spiced with cardamon that showed Queant's imaginative global streak. Risotto was dotted with snails and sweetbreads in a reduction of sweet garlic.  Scallops, lustrous and pearly, were tenderly cooked, served with gnocchi made with squash and sided with Brussels sprouts and diced truffles.  That day, they offered squab, carved tableside (left), juicy to the bone, served with a rich reduction of Burgundy wine. There was also poached bass with a seaweed butter--very much a classic--with asparagus and osietra caviar topping it all. Lobster is done here on the griddle with endives, raisins and saffron.
    Desserts are quite simple (all are 10€) like baba au rhum, and roast bananas that are glazed and served with a sable Breton.
    Beaune is a winelover's city, not a city for days of museum-going or sightseeing.  But if you wish to get a sense of the culture of Burgundy, whose people so largely work in the industry with enormous pride that they produce some of the world's greatest wines, then Beaune should be your center for exploring Dijon, the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits, up through Chablis country, and south to Lyon, where the dining scene is richer in more ways than one.  Beaune is a little Camelot of a medieval town, well preserved, with fine cuisine, great wines, and traditions that are at the heart and soul of French viniculture.


I would highly recommend the driving tour around Burgundy for visits to vineyards, and the best guide in the region is the ebullient, English-speaking Youri Lebault, whose company Bourgogne Gold Tour provides everything from transfers from train stations to wine estate visits, to reservations for restaurants.  You will be chauffeured in a luxurious sedan, and Youri, who has a deep baritone and loves American music, is happiest when he can customize the tour for you.  A half-day fee starts at 240€, with a full day at 395€.  Tel: 0033 (0) 6-6-88-5055.



13 East 1st Street

    L'Apicio, the new East Village restaurant named after a 1790, cookbook by Francesco Leonardi,  L'Apicio moderno  (itself commemorating a first century AD cookbook compiled by the kitchen of Roman nobleman Apicius), is the latest in a short string of Italian restaurants opened by
Epicurean Management, which also runs L'Artusi, dell'Anima, and Anfora.  Remarkably, they are not cookie cutter, formula restaurants, which they might have been if Executive Chef Gabe Thompson (below) wasn't so passionately devoted to the myriad manifestations of Italian regional cuisine. Few dishes are repeated here, though the rustic style of Thompson's cooking is the same throughout the mini-chain.
the design here evokes a rusticity coupled with urban materials, as in the raw steel and glass vestibule, the lounge with leather couches, and the 12-seat walnut bar.  The walls are sand-colored, exposed brick, with reclaimed wood paneling "recovered from New Hampshire mushroom harvesters" for what it's worth.  Wine glasses sit on lighted shelves. It's a very comfortable place, made moreso by a staff that is genuinely welcoming--not always a given at a new hot spot people are clamoring to get into.  Also, at least on the night I was there, they kept the sound system (not necessary anyway, since people are talking and having a good time) to a rational decibel level.  Conversation is easy.
    Thompson sets an admirably small menu (though who needs six salads in a trattoria?), with six small plates to start with, including delicious charred octopus, some of the best in a city gone mad for the mollusk, and fine hamachi crudo with apples and jalapeño.  Best of all I tasted were arancini rice balls with sausage and fontina and a bit of sage.
    There are a generous dozen pastas and four polenta dishes.  Of the former, I enjoyed an excellent tagliarine with plenty of porcini mushrooms, and agnolotti packed with sweetbreads, creamy mascarpone and condimento, precisely the kind of dishes you won't find all over town, thank heavens. The polenta selections can be enjoyed as a main course, since they are pumped up with ingredients like braised short rib, pork meatballs, and shrimp with bacon and breadcrumbs (below).
    My favorite among entrees was an excellent, very juicy roast chicken with fennel, lemon, olives and potatoes, while two fish dishes--bass with black lentils, soffritto crudo, and frisée lettuce, and a cod saltimbocca with chorizo and clams showed how Thompson works contrast and texture into familiar species or old ideas.
    Desserts by Katherine Thompson are very good if more overwrought than Italian dolci usually are: thus, a vanilla semifreddo is lavished with an apple compote, spice cake, apple cider sorbet, and oatmeal streusel, which gets pretty far away from the semifreddo flavors.  A hazelnut ice cream cake was scrumptious, with salted caramel gelato (a little too much salt in there), and praline crunch. Good for winter is the pumpkin cranberry budino with apple vinegar caramel, crème fraîche mousse, and candied pecans.
    Beverage director Joe Campanale deserves high praise for his global white wine selections, with so many under $40 well worth drinking and labeled New and Old Country. But I only counted a half-dozen red wines under $50 (and not by much) on a list packed with scores of wines $100 or more. Most mark-ups are reasonable, but why is a Syrah Bien Nacido Qupé 2001 listed at $192 when it can be found in stores at $30 to $40 and a Giacosa San Stefano 1999 at $395 can be found at $105.
    Well located, handsome, and very amiable, L'Apicio proves yet again that good Italian restaurants rule in NYC.  L'Apicio veers from the pack by trying harder to much more with its menu than others even dream of attempting.

L’Apicio is open nightly. Starters $8-$18, pastas $14-$19, main courses $22-$34.



Global Warming Worries Winemakers Worldwide
 by John Mariani

     In the vineyards of the world, something worrisome this way comes. 
    Over the last decade, the effects of global warming have begun to be felt in those narrow zones that allow for growing wine grapes.
Ironically, global warming is a mixed blessing for different winemakers. In colder climates like Bordeaux and Burgundy, more heat can increase sugars in the grapes. According to Dr. Richard Snyder, a biometeorology specialist from the University of California, Davis, speaking at last year’s Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, a temperature rise of just 3
°C would put more carbon dioxide in the air to help plants photosynthesize better, with a longer, frost free growing season.
      The bad news, said Snyder, is that more droughts would occur in climates in the Mediterranean and California.
        Unlike so-called ‘broad acre’ crops like soybeans and wheat, “wine grapes are really a ‘niche crop’ that can only been grown in certain areas,” says Dr. Gregory V. Jones, professor and research climatologist in the Department of Environmental Studies at Southern Oregon University, whose grandfather was a Kentucky farmer. “
The issue today is, when we talk of global warming, we talk about humans’ contribution, which is occurring at a much faster rate than in recorded history. What we used to consider a one in 50 year drought is now more commonplace.  The extreme heat of 2012 in U.S. was one in 1,600 year event.”
    “It was the long-lasting heat wave of 2003 all over Europe that made us realize something was going on,” says Axel Heinz, director of production for Ornellaia in Tuscany. “
The weather is now getting more and more extreme and unpredictable with sudden heat spikes, long lasting drought periods and violent and unpredictable rainfalls.”
    Such spikes make it difficult for winemakers to adapt quickly. “Perhaps the most constant phenomenon we observed is a quicker increase of the grape’s sugar content,” says Heinz (right), “leading to higher alcohol levels, a trend clearly accelerated in the last five years. All conventional vineyard techniques had been designed to optimize the ripening of the grapes and were often developed in northern growing areas where it had always been a struggle to ripen grapes. Today, even in those regions, ripeness is now achieved much easier and faster.  As a result, we are returning to a more conservative approach, diminishing canopy sizes, picking slightly earlier and reducing vine vigor to allow the vines to better manage the resources in the soil.”
    In Burgundy, where sun and heat can be a boon, there is some cautionary optimism about global warming. “The vines flower very early now,” says
said Marie-Andrée Mugneret, co-owner of Domaine Georges Mugneret-Gibourg in Vosne-Romanée. “If I told my grandfather we were picking grapes in early September, he would say it’s impossible. For now, it seems a good thing; the concentration of flavors is there.  But we just don't know what the future will hold.”
    Burgundians worry that alcohol levels may rise high above 14 percent in pinot noir, the dominant grape there, and about soil damage.  Enologist Gautier Romani of Château de Pommard told me, “I fear that global warming will affect the soil underneath the top layer. It will become compacted and microorganisms in the soil will be affected. The vineyards will change but we don’t know how.”
    In California, where high heat allows grapes to develop a higher alcohol to make a fleshier style of wine, hot and cold weather and long droughts have made adapting to climate change difficult. “Over 30 years here, I can’t see an overall trend in climate change in the Napa Valley,” says Elias Fernandez, winemaker at Shafer Vineyards. “
That said, we have tried our best to be good stewards of our land and environment. In 2004 we were the first winery in Napa and Sonoma to flip the switch to 100 percent solar power for our cellar and winery (left), which produces `clean kilowatts’ after learning that half of the toxic pollution in our atmosphere is the result of power generation. Over the 30-year life of our solar array, the carbon not produced on our behalf will equal the air-purifying effects of 17,000 mature trees.”
     In Portugal’s Douro Valley where Port is made, wineries feel sure that hundreds of years of experience will allow them to adapt. “
We have been tracking weather data, and there is none that definitively shows there is global warming in the Douro valley,” says Robert Bower, sales and export manager for the Fladgate Partnership Vinhos S.A., which owns Taylor Fladgate, Croft, and Fonseca. “If global warming comes to the Douro, the Port producers can adapt with the variety of elevations and various aspects to the sun available in a Port vineyard (right). If the year is warmer than they would like, winemakers can use more grapes from higher elevations or use more grapes from a northerly aspect to the sun.”
Jones says that agribusiness can adapt more easily to climate change than vineyard owners, who must look closely at every aspect of their microclimate. “We have to be good stewards of the land, looking at microfungi in the vine roots, what kind of fertilizer should be used, how the elimination of pests affects everything. With niche crops like chocolate, coffee, and wine grapes, small changes can have a large impact. The most magical things happen when grape ripens at the margin of the climate.”




"I don't think anyone saw the astounding popularity of Moscato coming. Echoing the White Zinfandel craze of the late '70's and '80's, Moscato, in all its various guises, began flying off retailers' shelves like pedestrians off Lindsay Lohan's bumper. Never underestimate America's sweet tooth."-- Ron Washam,  "The Hosemaster of Wine"





Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews tried to put an end to years of sanctioned fast-food parties in prisons held for inmates, which  doubled as a food drive for groups like Doctors Without Borders, by which inmates used their own money to order outside food, while food drives took place on the outside. "Canadians were concerned that dangerous and violent prisoners had across the board access to pizza parties and BBQ socials," a spokesperson for the government said.




 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--Now in Paperback, too--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: Vienna.

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).

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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