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  March 24,  2013                                                                                                NEWSLETTER

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Jean Arthur at the NYC Automat in "Easy Living" (1937)


                                                                                    CHARLESTON SURGES
                                                                                          by John Mariani

by John Mariani

Notes from the Wine Cellar 
The Wines of Argentina

by John Mariani


by John Mariani

    Charleston continues its remarkable surge as an American food city, and anyone doubting it should attend the annual Charleston Wine + Food Festival, which just concluded three weeks ago.  Now in its eighth year—and I have attended and hosted events most years—the focus is still on the cuisine of the South, and the wide majority of the chefs invited to the festival come from the region, although many come from all over the country, too.  Unlike the annual food and wine festivals in Aspen and Miami, which depend almost entirely on the same tired TV food and travel  show celebrities, Charleston celebrates new people each year, and they have a lot of great talent to choose from: this year the invitees included Art Smith of Art and Soul Restaurants, The Lee Bros., Ryan Smith,  Katie Button,  Sarah Simmons, John T. Edge, Barbara Lynch,  Nicholas Stefanelli, Tandy Wilson, and many others.
    The "Heart of the Festival" is the tented Culinary Village, where back-to-back demos, book signings, and music jams are held throughout each day. Testament to the success and popularity of the Festival is not just that it's grown, but that its various events sell out weeks in advance.  Next year I expect it to be bigger and better than ever.
The 2014 event will be held Feb. 27 to March 2.
    Of course, I got to eat around town, including some impressive new places opened since the last Festival, all showing the traditional depth and the continuing innovation of the city's cuisine.

192 East Bay Street

 Of all the chefs working in Charleston today, none has a longer or more respected tenure than Frank Lee--and I mean a working chef who daily puts in his time on the line at the Maverick Southern Kitchens restaurants, of which Slightly North of Broad (SNOB) is now two decades old. Over those years, Lee (right) has become a master of Low Country Cuisine and has a thick binder of sources for the best foods available in any season. Along with veteran chef de cuisine Russ Moore, Lee has been turning out traditional and innovative Southern cooking with panache, in a dining room (with open kitchen) whose conviviality is part of the draw. SNOB is always packed with locals for whom it is a regular lunch or dinner place, and the tourists fill in every other chair.
    To show just how innovative Lee is these days, I asked him to cook up some of this new ideas. Without a moment's thought, he went back to the kitchen and dazzled me.  Many of these items are not on the day-to-day menu, but they do appear as specials.  I'll let Frank tell you what I ate:

        "We started you off with a version of our chilled shrimp salad, which were local McClellanville shrimp, tossed with a little avocado and black cherry tomatoes from our hydroponic grower, Kurios Farms.  That was all tossed in a dressing of olive oil, hard boiled egg, and lemon juice, with a single Bibb lettuce leaf.  We proceeded with a spicy shrimp broth, enriched with lemon grass, ginger, etc. to which we added minuscule slivers of our pork belly brined in smoke, from our pig grower, Keegan Farms, along with slivers of green beans, purple pearl onions, and a fennel bulb.  Following the soup course, you enjoyed a tuna carpaccio topped with Nantucket Bay scallops, which had been lightly dressed with fresh blood orange and a lovely California olive oil.  We then went to our daily special, which was a roast stuffed pork loin, over a sauté of crispy potatoes and Brussels sprouts, with a little fried chicken liver, caramelized onion gravy, and a tiny dot of reduced Port wine gastrique on the chicken liver.  We then gave you a samplings of sweet trinkets: a salty caramel with toasted hazelnut, a lemon bar, and a chocolate truffle rolled in pecans."
    It was a sumptuous but curiously light lunch, the tastes and textures in lovely equilibrium, lots of spice and bright acids throughout. Such dishes go very well with SNOB's regular menu, which contains dishes like
Carolina flounder with spinach, local sweet potatoes, tomato currant jam, balsamic brown butter; shrimp and Timms Mill yellow grits with sausage, country ham,  tomatoes, green onions,  and garlic; roasted rack of lamb with Rack Anson Mills farro, roasted vegetables, and Cabernet-rosemary sauce;  and banana cream pie with a graham cracker crust and rum caramel.
    SNOB is a template for all the fine  restaurants that have followed in Charleston, and Lee is a chef's chef who still walks the walk.

Lunch, Mon.-Fri., dinner nightly. Appetizers $7-$14, main courses $18-$29.

1300 Rutledge Avenue

 Almost as long as Frank Lee has been cooking in Charleston, so has the redoubtable Robert Carter, whose years at the genteel Peninsula Grill gave the city its finest dining room.  Two years ago he left to open his own place, Carter's Kitchen, across the bridge in Mt. Pleasant, which was more casual but showed the range and depth of the man's talent for bringing up the flavors of Southern cuisine. (It was one of my 20 Best New Restaurants of 2012 in Esquire.)
    Now, he's gone downscale with a big, brash, welcoming splash at the Rutledge Cab Company, whose name was taken whole from a previous tenant. The door is made of faux alligator, the lot outside has bike racks, the patio is a great place for a cocktail, and inside the booths are roomy, the bar scene jamming, and the artwork--like the taxi cab to the left--is terrific.
    The menu is big and offers something for everyone, and I trust Carter (far right) will cut it down when he sees what works best.  Right now the menu has a lot of well-rendered bar food, four flatbreads, four salads, nine sandwiches, burgers (five of them), grilled dishes, including five kabobs, sides and desserts, not to mention some really delicious milkshakes as thick as lava.
    There's a generous platter of charcuterie (below) with cheeses, potted meats, country ham, even fried bologna--a steal at $12--and the French onion soup is sweet with plenty of long-caramelized onions, though the rye bread did little for the soup.  There's even a cheddar cheese and beer fondue with smoked sausage, soft pretzels, broccoli, cherry tomatoes and apple to dip. It can easily served four as an app.
    The flatbreads are heartily mounted with ingredients like roasted potato and blue cheese of BBQ shrimp with goat's cheese, cilantro and pickled onions. The corned beef in the Reuben at Rutledge doesn't rank with the best in NYC (northerners do some things better than in the South!), but the roasted lamb sandwich with Harvarti cheese took on some real zing from pickled cabbage, on a warm toasted hoagie roll. The eight-ounce burgers take on a whole array of ingredients, including tempura fried poblanos and a savory smoked onion aïoli. The beef is house ground and perfectly cooked.
    From the grill menu we had lamb kabobs with mint pesto; a nice slab of swordfish with herbed wild rice and tomato ginger relish; and BBQ glazed smoked ham chop with garlic spinach and peach relish, which rated among our group of five people as the best of the evening. French fries go with everything here, and that's a good thing.
     I've already remarked on the chocolate milkshake, but there is also a red velvet cake that might be a new signature for Carter. Southern pecan pie was, admirably, mostly pecans and not too sweet.  There's also a chocolate fondue available.
     Rutledge Cab Company fits into its neighborhood snugly and with good feelings.  Located just outside of downtown, it's an easy cab ride for visitors to Charleston.  For locals, it's a cheery addition full of generosity of spirit and good eats.
  It's a square meal for a square deal.

Open all day and night long, from breakfast on, and brunch on Sat. & Sun.Appetizers run $8-$10.50, sandwiches $7-$11.50, burgers $9.50-$11.50, main courses $14-$19.50.

The Ordinary
544 King Street

Photos by Squire Fox and Gately Williams

    Charleston--and the national food media--has been waiting for Mike Lata to open a new restaurant, since his first one, Fig, has long been among the most praised in the country and is always packed.  Lata (below) took his time and now The Ordinary is his big new place right on King Street, located in what had been a bank building, with all the historic lineaments and decorous touches left intact, from the beautiful 16-foot Palladian arched windows to the back-lit skylight. 
Local artist Becca Barnet fabricated shadowbox installations with preserved marine life, and the lighting is simply perfect to let everyone see each other in the large room with mezzanine and to add conviviality to the space. There is a six-seat marble raw bar, and the floor  and bar are made from reclaimed wood. Without any sense of showiness, the entire design comes together as an immediate model of good contemporary taste.
    That goes for the menu, too, which is deliberately composed so that the guest can take in and desire everything on it, starting with the array of oysters each night, along with the shellfish platters ($65-$125) lavished with peel and eat shrimp, clams, lobsters, and other shellfish.  There is a cold section that includes a finely grained smoke trout pate with brown bread; a delectable skate wing and potato terrine with rémoulade sauce; "porchetta" tonnato with lemon and olive oil; and hot starters, including a clam cake with coriander and crème fraîche, and braised, nicely mild, uni with a Yukon puree, mustard and lemon.  You can readily tell that Lata does not want to mess up his ingredients with too many others, so that the primary star shines on the palate.
    Among the main courses are grilled Spanish mackerel, wahoo with steak fries, and my favorite that night, triggerfish--a species you rarely see on menus--done as a crisp schnitzel, with a simple brown butter vinaigrette.
    For dessert don't miss the Carolina gold rice pudding--as homey a dish in the South as it is everywhere else--and a crisp apple-almond tart.
    The wine list teems with unexpected rarities, most under $60, all chosen with care, and there is also a category for sherry, cider, and Madeiras. And the cocktails here are made impeccably, always with fresh fruit juices and the best spirits.
    The Ordinary's name is belied by everything from décor to service, from food to drink, here.  It took Lata awhile to get it right. In the end, he got it very very right.

The Ordinary is open for dinner Tues.-Sun.; Appetizers $$10-$25, main courses $24-$27.

Charleston Place
224 King Street

    The Charleston Grill has always been the city's big deal dining room, with a heritage of great chefs that have included Louis Osteen and Robert Waggoner. Now, the Grill has its first woman in the kitchen, and the management's decision not to dumb down the splendid, polished grandeur of the dining room and bar is matched by its support of Alabama-born Chef Michelle Weaver in her dedication to all the finer points of fine dining.
    After schooling at the New England Culinary Institute, Weaver moved to New Orleans to work, then to Nashville, where she worked for Waggoner at The Wild Boar restaurant, traveling with him to The Charleston Grill in 1997; so she has unique experience with the kitchen and service here. The service, by the way, is overseen by one of the real pros of the industry, Mickey  Bakst, whose knowledge of every aspect of hospitality, food and wine makes him a formidable maître d' in the truest sense.
    The menu is divided, somewhat awkwardly, into four categories of culinary style, though you can choose among any of them to make your meal. The Southern dishes are contemporary interpretations of regional favorites; the Pure menu items are simple dishes inspired by the clean, light flavors of the ingredients; the Lush dishes come from the French tradition of extravagance; and the Cosmopolitan  dishes are exotic and imaginative.  That shows Weaver's range, which, largely, she delivers on.
    I won't bother to note which dishes I had came from what category, for I ordered from all of them:  sweetbread piccata was crispy indeed, graced with capers, artichokes, the nice touch of bacon, and bracing lemon.  Seared foie gras was superb, accompanied by apples, bourbon-cider sauce, and delightful gingerbread.  Happily, I enjoyed once again the signature crab cake here--very plump with all lump meat--with shrimp,and a lime-tomato vinaigrette.
    A Colorado rack of lamb could not have been juicier or more flavorful, served with a rich potato puree, the scent of thyme emulsion and lamb jus, while the hearty Southern style showed through in Frogmore stew, with crab, shrimp, clams, potatoes, corn, and andouille, a dish whose ancestry dates to St. Helena Island, SC. 
    I also ordered Thai fish, which I suspected might not be up to all else I was served, but Weaver came through with a perfectly cooked fish with grilled pineapple, cherry, tomatoes, and a basil salad, which just begged to be accompanied by kimchi fried rice, which I gobbled up down to the last grain.
    Three desserts, by pastry chef Emily Cookson, showed very well, especially the sweet potato gnocchi, an unexpected surprise, with dulce de leche, brown butter, golden raisins, and pumpkin seeds.
    It was so good to be back in that beautiful dining room, entertained by an excellent jazz group and sipping a 1977 Boal Madeira with my dessert.  At a time when  genteel Southern dining has given way to trendiness and little but the basics, the Charleston Grill holds its banner high and with pride that comes from a generation of great chefs.

Charleston Grill is open for dinner nightly.  Appetizers $12-$19, main courses $27-$59. Six-course tasting menu $90, with wines $60-$120.


186 Coming Street
843- 637 - 3722

    I'll make no real judgment about Two Boroughs Larder because I ate there on a day when the communal table was taken over by attendees at the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, and the owner was nice enough to give me a corner table and serve me the day's set menu.  But so many people asked me about the place, having gotten considerable press, that I feel a preliminary report is required.
    Basically it's an out-of-the-way storefront next to an old seafood house.  The interior resembles more that of a grocery store, with pots and pans, towels and beers, and distressed wood, than a restaurant; the kitchen is off to one side, where Pennsylvania-raised Chef Josh Keeler works the stoves while his wife Heather takes care of customers. The name refers to the building's location between Elliotborough and Cannonborough and it does resemble an open larder.
    Despite a meal in which everyone got the same dishes, there were long waits between them.  We began with some first-rate sourdough bread with sea salt, which came in handy while waiting for the lamb bacon with mole sauce and fromage blanc--a pleasant breakfast or brunch dish, though the seasoning was slight and the mole needed snap.  So, too, simple salt and pepper would have much improved some lackluster rabbit loin and confit with a fried egg and Ansel Mills oats.  For dessert there was a sticky bun with Benton's bacon (bacon twice in one three-course meal?), bitter chocolate and carrot, which was good if not stunning.
    The Keelers are obviously cooking with dedication and good ingredients, and media attention should bring them more business.  If so, I trust they will develop the acumen to make all go smoothly and efficiently in and out of the kitchen.  I'll go back for dinner some time and see what time has done for a place that needs to turn quaintness into a real culinary experience.

The restaurant is open Tues.-Sat., from 10 AM until 10 PM. Average dinner price, about $30.



by John  Mariani

9 West 53rd Street

      Back in 2005 when The Modern opened adjacent to the newly designed Museum of Modern Art, I named it the Best New Restaurant of the Year in Esquire. And if it had opened in 2013, I'm pretty sure I would award it the same honor today. 
    Eight years ago I described The Modern as restaurateur Danny Meyer's masterpiece, with a glass rich décor by Peter Bentel, a Bar dining area (below) that is packed from lunch through dinner, and a main Dining Room (right) so distinctive that it will endure as a classic of New York sophistication and urbanism, overlooking, as it does, the Museum's glorious sculpture garden.
     The restaurant has worn those eight years well: last night, both dining rooms were packed, and I, in the main section, was again amazed at the striking beauty of it all, with its huge flower displays (which must cost a small fortune), the fine linens and stemware, the leather banquettes that you slide smoothly across, and a waitstaff that proves that dining at this level demands a specialized style of highly informed servers whose respect for the guest is mutual.  Lighting is soft and complimentary to everyone--at least until they turn the lights down around 9 PM for some unnecessary reason. Most men wear jackets and ties, and women dress up with pleasure--though I'm not at all fond of the waiters' strange new shirts with stranger black neck pieces.
    Executive chef Gabriel Kreuther is still here, every day and night, working and coaxing the best from his kitchen staff.  (My son, in fact, once worked at The Modern as a cook and learned everything about finesse from the experience as well as the commitment to making the next dish better than the first.)  Kreuther has said,  “The idea of modernism opens a door to creation but also a more sleek and streamlined presentation with a more purist side.  You take things off instead of adding them in." And so, right from the start of our meal, canapés like pickled raspberry with foie gras mousseline and rye crumble; brined duck breast with whipped mustard grain; and fennel-saffron soup with red pepper marmalade showed off exactly what he meant by restraint and intensification of flavors and textures.
    What followed was the kind of meal that keeps me from ever being jaded in my job: pralines of foie gras terrine (below) with mango puree and a touch of balsamic vinegar; a rabbit terrine dashed with gewürztraminer wine (Kreuther is from Alsace), a faint touch of anise, and fines herbes; lustrous hamachi with black truffles shavings and more foie gras.  Ingredients count for everything here.
    Key West pink shrimp were served raw, with a cucumber vichyssoise, kumquat confit, and a little mint oil, while Alsatian dumplings stuffed with tender, moist rabbit and truffles had the subtle accompaniment of sunchoke and crystal lettuce.  A fine morsel of foie gras was poached in cabernet wine, with baby fennel and a black pepper caramel that sweetened  and balanced the wine.  One of the heartier dishes of the night was a Münster-Brie soufflé with almond crumble and a bright carrot consommé.
    Again showing his Alsatian roots, Kreuther brought forth a delightful combination of sturgeon and sauerkraut in a tart dotted with American caviar mousseline smoked over applewood. This was followed by a gratinée of John Dory with beggar's purses of mussels and a colorful pimento glaze. The last of the seafood dishes was a roasted lobster in Pernod, with a kohlrabi puree and ham emulsion.
    The meat dishes arrayed before us included quail with a macaroni gratiné, spinach and chanterelle mushrooms; succulent rack of lamb with olive and fines herbes--a touch of the Mediterranean--bacon fondue and crisp onions; and slowly roasted Scottish salmon with fennel, a risotto gâteau and pistachio emulsion.
    Note how Kreuther never lavishes any main ingredient with anything that would tone down its essential flavor; everything adds in small, counterpoint ways.  This is also true of pastry chef Marc Aumont's mango craquelin with citrus mousseline, almond "spaghetti" and mango-passion fruit sorbet; his pain d'épices feuilletine with lemon cream and Mandarin sorbet is a marvel.
     We thought ourselves sated and happy, but then they wheeled over a novelty here--a huge cart of chocolates, caramels, and cookies--the kind of ending one can only expect these days from a restaurant of this caliber.
    Not in any quarter--food, service, or wine list (one of astounding depth and breadth, overseen by sommelier Ehren Ashkenazi)--does The Modern shrink from consistent excellence.  At a time when some--thank god, not all--food media are insisting that restaurants and haute cuisine like The Modern's is passé and not even very popular, this splendid place of great beauty and elegance continues to enjoy the patronage of those who know the finest and can distinguish from the fads of the present season.  Add to this a fixed price of $98 for four courses (Kreuther sent out a few more to our table), with the additions of canapés, amuses, chocolates, and candies--and a little box to take some home in--and you have an evening whose pleasures cloud never be curdled by a sense of flagrant spending.
The Modern is open at the Bar for lunch and dinner daily, with the main dining room open for lunch Mon.-Fri. and dinner Mon.-Sat.




Cash and Milk May Be Hoarded in Argentina,
 but There’s Plenty of Good Wine to Be Found

                                                                    by John Mariani

    Last month, with a mounting deficit on her hands, Argentina’s Peronist President Cristina Fernandez put a two-quart per person limit on milk purchases and forbade U.S. dollars from leaving the country. After nine years of an economic boom, Argentina again teeters on its own fiscal cliff. Yet the one continuing bright spot in the country’s economy is its wine industry, which has record sales abroad based on high quality wine at remarkably modest prices.
     According to Wines of Argentina, sales of malbec—the principal varietal here—grew worldwide in sales by double digits from 2004 through 2011; the number of cases exported to the U.S. more than doubled from 2007 through 2012. Argentina is now the world’s fifth largest wine producer, at a time when the global wine market is glutted.
    Argentina’s last financial crash, in 2002, actually benefited the wine industry because the devalued peso made wines cheaper for export and falling real estate prices made vineyard land cheap.
     Seventy percent of Argentina’s wines come from the Mendoza region, whose terrain is desert-like and whose 900 vineyards spread over 370,500 acres are planted up to 5,777 feet, all of them needing irrigation--factors that help combat the effects of global warming and the warm and cold ocean currents called el niño and la niña. The high desert soil and low humidity also help keep phylloxera blight at bay.
      A number of highly praised labels are now coming out of Argentina, including Bodegas Salentein and BenMarco. But none has the pedigree or clout of Nicolas Cateña Family Estates, with vineyards throughout Mendoza. Nicolas Cateña founded the winery in 1902 and is considered one of the prime movers of Argentine’s wine industry.
     His great granddaughter, Dr. Laura Cateña, is both managing director of the company as well as a remarkable woman in her own right, having graduated magna cum laude in biology from Harvard and earning a medical degree in emergency care from Stamford. Married to another ERD doctor and mother of three children, she splits her time between her practice in San Francisco and her family’s winery in Mendoza.
     “My personal motto is ‘Hard on issues, soft on people,” she told me on a visit to her Cateña Zapata winery. “We constantly work on quality through rigorous blending. A bottle of wine is like an orchestra: the instruments are all wonderful on their own, but together they create a truly beautiful sound.”
         The family was also a pioneer, starting in 1994, in making malbec—usually a grape used for softening cabernet in Bordeaux-- now Argentina’s most admired varietal. Beginning in 2001, Dr. Cateña brought her scientific knowledge to bear on improving malbec to the point where it supplanted cabernet sauvignon as their principal varietal. Their high-altitude Cateña Zapata vineyards now produce some of the most prestigious wines in Argentina, none of them topping 14.5 percent alcohol  “We hate high alcohol!” Dr. Cateña insisted.
         Of those I tasted, the Nicasia Vineyard Malbec 2009 and the Adrianna Vineyard Lot 9 Malbec 2009 were outstanding, big bold malbecs but softer and fruitier than the inky, malbec-based Cahors wines of France.
Laura Catena and her mother Elena Maza                       
    Cateña also owns two lesser-priced lines that really hit that sweet spot in the current global market. Don Miguel Gascon wines use malbec along with grapes like bonarda, syrah and cabernet sauvignon to make bold, tannic wines with fruit up front and a fine balance, just the thing for the Argentine beef that dominates every meal and menu here.  The Gascon wines sell for $15 a bottle and taste like they could sell for twice that.
         Cateña’s third winery is Alamos, whose winemaker, Felipe Stahlschmidt contends that his avid mountain climbing in the Andes sharpens his senses for blending grapes from different vineyards. “The mountains are always there to remind me of the nature of the   The Alamos wines include a well-rounded Seleccion Malbec 2011 ($20), along with a remarkably complex cabernet sauvignon 2012, a good clean 2012 chardonnay, and, a real delight, a torrontes, a white varietal with delicious spice, layers of stone fruit flavors, and a marvelous bouquet.  This is a textbook example of what can be done with a once negligible grape already widely grown in Argentina that might well
become the next big white varietal, in the style of viognier or gruner-veltliner.
         All the more remarkable is that, except the Selection Malbec, all the Alamos wines sell for just $13. At that price you can find good white and red wines in the market from Italy, Chile, even Bordeaux, but these Argentinean varietals are very distinct, with their own unique flavors and styles that fully express their location and the way modest grape like malbec and torrontes can become revelations in the glass.






Last October, Paula Deen claimed on TV she had invented the doughnut hamburger (left) claiming  "It came by accident, it happened by accident y'all" and that on a whim she decided to use doughnuts instead of hamburger buns because they were "harder than my arteries." But her son Jamie Deen now contends in an interview it is not their mother's recipe, saying, "That was a Minor League Baseball thing, and my mom did like a spoof on it. . . . I have never tasted or seen my mom ever make a Krispy Kreme cheeseburger in my life."



Restaurant critic for the London Times, Giles Coren (right), gave the new London branch of NYC's Balthazar 0 out of 10 points for food, writing, "I had hoped that London was too sophisticated now to fall for this sort of thing, but the critics seem to be going wild for it. The food at Balthazar comes out of "truly the worst kitchen to open in London since the arrival of McDonald's. I am fed up with the city of my birth, life and eventual probable death being treated as a dustbin for the pale shadows of restaurants that have done well elsewhere. All these feeble replicas of places by Ducasse, Robuchon, Wolfgang Puck, Vong Wotsisface, Daniel Boulud, not to mention a thousand half-baked barbecue, burger and fast-food fads."  He then said his media colleagues' praise for Balthazar was "the greatest mass delusion since nazism."



 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 won top prize  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: THE WEST COAST OF IRELAND

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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