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  July 28,  2013                                                                                                NEWSLETTER\

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"South Beach Bathers" by John Sloan (1908)



by Christopher Mariani

by John Mariani

Re-Thinking Red Wines in Summer
by John Mariani


Part Three

by Christopher Mariani

    After four days of driving up the California coast, Katrina and I pulled into Carmel-by-the-Sea and nestled into this charming city on the Monterey Peninsula. We arrived in the late afternoon as the sun’s rays were beginning to wane. We parked downtown and decided to stretch our legs with a relaxing walk through quiet streets. Art galleries and boutique shops were in abundance, as were small eateries and specialty bake shops. There were sweet shops, fudge shops, and smoke shops.  The cool evening breeze was gentle, beckoning us to break out the only light sweaters we had packed for our trip.
    As the day turned to night, we headed to the legendary Cypress Inn for our one-night stay in Carmel--hands down, my favorite stop along the way. We were whisked past the check-in counter and brought directly to our lovely room, where we were greeted by a lighted fireplace and a bottle of amber sherry. Our room keys were quietly placed as our gracious bellhop closed our door and left us in the privacy of our magnificent rooms. Our suite was fitted with a balcony, overlooking the street below, a warm living room, a connecting bedroom (below) and a bathroom fit for a prince. As modern and sophisticated as the accommodations were, we still felt as though we were in the comforting hands of a bed and breakfast. In this case, a bed and breakfast on steroids.

The Inn dates back to 1906, when artist Sidney J. Yard built Carmel’s first art gallery on the site, rebuilt in 1929 to look as it now does, then called "one of the show places of the Monterey Peninsula."  Then, in the 1980s,  business man Dennis LeVett and his wife, Hollywood star Doris Day, took over the Inn and gave it its current name.

    After a quick nap, we dressed and headed downstairs to Terry’s Restaurant and Lounge. We sat at the inn’s bar and ordered two old fashioneds and admired the cocktail list’s initial quote by Humphrey Bogart, “The problem with the world is that everyone is a few drinks behind.” After attempting catch-up with a second round of drinks, we thanked our bartender and headed one block over to L'Auberge Carmel (below, left), whose restaurant Aubergine  was set for a dinner to remember.
    After years of high praise from the media, the accolades for Aubergine continue to roll in. Just this year, Food & Wine’s best new chef of 2013 award went to chef Justin Cogley. Congratulations chef!
    We entered Aubergine (below) and were greeted by a tall, handsome gentleman who knew exactly who we were. We  sat at our spacious table and immediately took notice of the attractive simplicity of our surroundings. Beige and sandstone colors coated the walls, the furniture splashed with hints of polished dark wood. The space is small and intimate, exactly why the experience is so special and impressive on every level. That evening, we ordered off the four-course prix-fix menu ($98) and opted for a conservatively priced bottle of wine (not easy to find on such a stout wine list) rather than the sommelier’s wine pairing, worth $110. Dungeness crab bathed in a pool of rose water and coconut with a subtle hint of the floral geranium flower. Bone marrow came smoked, served in a highly concentrated broth of burnt vegetables and topped with beautifully presented pickled maitake mushrooms. Next, a single Maine diver's scallop sat in its shell floating in a lemon balm soup. The highlight of our meal was chef Cogley’s Japanese kampachi, gracefully decorated with dates and smoked roe, finished with traces of vanilla and saffron. Chef Cogley did a superb job of never overpowering his main ingredient, even when toying with such powerfully distinct flavors.
    We were also lucky enough to enjoy Aubergine’s beautifully marbleized Japanese Kobe steak, a rarity in terms of quality and authenticity. (The price reflects such legitimacy.) Desserts were equally impressive, including a Nyangbo chocolate bar topped with grapefruit and peanut butter. Also notable, a sweet cooked pear with celeriac mouse and wood sorrel. Cogley’s dishes were leaders in presentation and flavor, a common remark by anyone who has had the opportunity to dine at Aubergine. After our final glass of wine, we slowly walked back the Cypress Inn for a good night’s sleep.
    In the morning, we headed back down to Terry’s for their famous breakfast layout, all centered around just-made, hot, buttery popovers that come out in batches of twelve, filling the entire first floor of the inn with the tantalizing aroma of fresh baked goods. I must have had at least four popovers before my girlfriend recommended I save some for the other guests. I reluctantly moved on to sliced fruit, French-style scrambled eggs and home fries. This meal gave us more than enough nutrition needed for our next leg of the road trip, Napa Valley.
    A few exhausting hours later, all due to the miscalculations of our un-trustworthy navigation system, we pulled into the parking lot of Auberge du Soleil (below), where I experienced one of the loveliest meals in my entire life.
    The vineyard-caressed Auberge was the first deluxe places to stay in the Valley, opened in 1985 when wine country tourism was burgeoning. The resort is done in a Provençal style dear to owner Claude Rouas' French heart, and recently remodeled. We walked through the front doors of the Auberge and were immediately awed by the stunning view that lay ahead.
its pool area is a remarkable setting fitted neatly into the hillside. The all-wood balcony looks out over Napa Valley and all its beauty. We sat down, wide-eyed, and stared out at vineyards that stretched for miles and miles, with the great hills of Napa in the distance.
    We started with two glasses of the property’s very own reserve sparkling wine from one of the finest, award-winning wine lists in the world, and quickly moved on to half-glass options, presented on Ipads, of Sonoma chardonnay, pinot noir from Carneros and big cabs from St. Helena. We were taking in Napa with each breath of crisp air and each sip of delicious wine. Our late lunch began with a generous portion of Chef Robert Curry's tender lamb tartare and a roasted Kurobuta pork belly with fresh avocado, buttery brioche and smoked tomato. For a mid-course, juicy pulled lamb topped potato gnocchi, fava beans, Niçoise olives and a subtle orange sauce. Entrees included savory short ribs and bacon-wrapped veal served with sweet plums, rich mascarpone cheese, pecans and a Marsala sauce.
    Desserts were also terrific, but there is one I’d like to single out.  And that was the dark chocolate-filled dumplings accompanied by extra virgin olive oil. The combination was one I was leery about until I tasted it, but the chef’s vision and innovation trumped all my doubts that it would work. The meal ended with two glasses of Dolce dessert wine and our gazing over the tranquil Napa Valley.
    Our next stop was Napa’s renowned Meadowood resort just down the Silverado Trail and more great food at Goose & Gander. Stay tuned.   

  Part four of this article will appear soon.


by John Mariani

158 Eighth Avenue (off 18th Street)

    Gabe Stulman is a cautiously ambitious restaurateur, for while he doesn’t rule empires as large as Michael White’s and Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s, in a more concentrated way he has expanded rapidly, now with Jeffrey’s Grocery, Joseph Leonard, Perla, Fedora and Chez Sardine within his domain. Montmartre is the latest, following Chez Sardine by only a few months, a blend of French bistro and Asian culinary styles, under Chef Tien Ho (below).
    The menu has evolved from its initial offerings, when it was more French, but these days Ho has brought with him the innovative sensibility he plied at his prior workplaces, Momofuku Ssam Bar and Pêche, both under the peripatetic David Chang. If the marriage of Franco-Asian cuisine is not always seamless at Montmartre, the food is almost always tantalizing.
    There is a raw bar here, with offerings like fluke, King crab, and oysters. “Premiers” (appetizers) at the moment lists heirloom tomatoes, close to their peak (it’s been a weak year for tomatoes everywhere), here mixed with Adirondack kunik (a triple crème cheese), olives, watermelon rind and a little basil, all of it sharing the plate like the best of friends on a picnic blanket.  The boudin chinois (below) is a terrific French blood sausage packed with assertive seasonings like five-spice powder and set upon a reduction of sweet-sour balsamic vinegar and Sichuan pepper oil.
    Snail toast, which could easily have been a dud, was delicious, the blandness of the snails perked up with spices and garlic cream, served with a rich tomato confit on country toast.
    Many kitchens just can’t get the hang of cooking trout, but Ho’s rendering, with beluga lentils, roe, parsley and ginger-laced beurre blanc, is a textbook example of how good this fish out of water can be.  So, too, mussels with frites (below, left)—that classic of French bistros—is intense with flavors, bringing in those Asian elements of coconut milk, chili and coriander to liven things up. And those frites are irresistible. So, too, a “Garniture” of eggplant with red curry, tomato, fish sauce and Thai basil would be justified as a main course on its own, so savory was the assemblage.
    The pot-au-pho (a play on the French pot au feu) is a signature dish at Montmartre and a generously proportioned one, too, served for two, with short rib, oxtail, leeks, Thai basil and sweet hoisin sauce mixed in, which makes for a better autumnal dish than a hot summer’s indulgence.
    I mentioned to Stulman (whose Perla was one of Esquire’s Best New Restaurants when it opened) that a lot of new places these days seem to be listing dishes prepared only for two, though he reminded me that restaurants, especially bistros, have long done so on their menus.  Montmartre has three such dishes, the pot-au-pho, grilled whole turbot, and roasted and braised duck.
    The desserts work well within the stylistic context here—crispy mille-feuille with chocolate mousse and cherry compote, rhubarb crumble with lime crème fraîche, and cheesecake with strawberry jam and tuile cookie.
    Given the modest size of Montmartre, I suppose a modest wine list is to be expected, and there are plenty of out-of-the-ordinary wines from places like the Languedoc, the Jura, and the Finger Lakes, though I’m not sure how many people want to pay $64 for a bottle of La Carinne Farm 2011 Semillon Blend.
    Stulman is not known for opening large restaurants, and Montmartre is anything but spacious.  There is an open-air patio, delightful when the summer heat allows people to sit out there. Otherwise, inside, people are saying “excuse me” whenever a chair moves and waiters angle themselves between tables.
    There is a bar up front, manned by a master bartender named Brian Bartels,  a  small dining area downstairs, and the main dining area is done with off-white walls and slatted wood benches, with an array of black and white Parisian photos and prints on the walls.
    The one serious demerit at Montmartre is the noise. The crowd gets louder and louder as people struggle to be heard above the din, not helped by a lack of sound absorbent surfaces.  At the height of the evening, enjoying your meal can lead to a yearning to be set free from the 100+ decibel level, which is too bad, because it would be nice to linger over a glass of cider or cognac.
    Still, Montmartre is packed most nights, and Stulman wisely allows for a number of walk-ins.  Convivial it most certainly is, and the menu is now where it should be, which means full of dishes you won’t find anywhere else.

Open for lunch and dinner daily, brunch on Sat. & Sun.; Dinner appetizers run $9-$24, main courses $14-$34.



Re-Thinking Red Wine in Hot Weather
by John Mariani

    At a time when it seems most of the world is sweltering, it is worth considering the hoary argument that red wines are inappropriate for drinking during hot weather.
The rationale seems commonsensical enough: when it’s hot and humid, red wines are too heavy and, well, too warm to drink; red wines aren't all that appealing with the kinds of cold foods and salads served in summer; high alcohol reds are not what you want to be drinking in the broiling sun.
White wines from an ice chest seem a more amiable choice, a more refreshing option, and go best with summery foods like fish, chicken, Caesar salad, and pasta primavera.  Indeed, if there is a better marriage in gastronomy than a steamed lobster with a great chardonnay, I cannot imagine it; if I’m having clams or mussels, I want a zesty sauvignon blanc or pouilly-fumé. With oysters, the classic match-up is chablis.
Rosés, which I like to drink year-round if they have some body, is often the chilled alternative to reds, and sparkling wines with low alcohol, like prosecco and Spanish cavas, are terrific aperitifs.  And white wines are, by and large, much better choices with cheeses.
Nevertheless, summer is a time for grilling and barbecue, steaks and hamburgers. Plus the fact that people dine in restaurants with plenty of air-conditioning, which evens out the playing field for wines. “I’m still seeing a lot of red wine sales this summer,” says Dale LoSasso, g-m and wine director for the new Tongue & Cheek restaurant (right) on steamy Miami Beach. “Not huge cabernets or bordeaux, but plenty of pinot noir and lighter style reds. We sell a lot of cheeseburgers and people order riojas and tempranillos from Spain and South America. What we don’t see as much are people ordering big red wines like shiraz and zinfandel.”
Pinot noir is an especially good choice for grilled red meats because it usually has softer, less pronounced tannins and lower alcohol levels than big-fisted cabernet sauvignons.  Pinots are also more adaptable to barbecue spices, as are the Spanish and South American reds LoSasso mentions. “We have a lot of Latin American guests and they are used to drinking lighter red wines with their meals year-round.”
At dinner this month at New York’s Gotham Bar & Grill, I asked Eric Zillier (left), wine director until this month, to choose wines to go with our meal. With cheese-filled agnolotti with morels, fava beans and leeks, he served a white Burgundy, but with the pork chop with strong flavors of roasted fennel, radicchio, bacon and apple in a balsamic reduction, he went red—-a rich pinot noir from Burgundy,
2006 Nuits–Saint-Georges “Aux Boudots” Jérôme Chezeaux. “I am always `dish specific’ with my wine suggestions,” says Zillier. “With the earthy pasta dish I think you can taste the intricacies of the dish better with that white burgundy. With the pork dish there’s a lot you can do, from an Alsatian riesling with lots of spice to a cru beaujolais or Loire Valley sancerre or chinon. The Nuits Saint Georges I chose had acidity and its own spice, and it’s only 13 percent alcohol.”
Still, there is the steak quandary, which for many is no quandary at all. Cabernet sauvignon still rules. “We seem to be an anomaly.” says Marc Passer, beverage director for Fourth Wall Restaurants, which owns the New York Smith & Wollensky and Maloney & Porcelli. “We can have a table of ten guys who order Silver Oaks Cabernet with oysters, and we sell a lot of older vintages of Jordan. They love the big California style with their steaks.”
David Flo, general manager and partner of Chicago Cut Steakhouse agrees: “Americans have a love affair for steak with cabernet and it's never going to change. Ninety percent of our guests order the same thing when it’s 95 degrees outside as when it’s 30 here in Chicago. But if I’m asked for something lighter, I’ll suggest an Oregon pinot noir, which has depth and rusticity but not the heaviness of a cab.” Flom also insists that the wine temperature should be cool, “ideally 66 degrees, which is what we store our reds at.”
Still, while I’m fine with cabernet sauvignon with a porterhouse cooked on the patio grill when it’s 98 degrees out, my preference is to tone down the alcohol while still seeking body and texture. Even in winter I’m not crazy about cabernets at 16 percent alcohol that take over rather than enhance good beef.  So I go with a chianti classico, pretend I'm in Tuscany and grill a thick bistecca alla fiorentina.

This article first appeared in  Bloomberg News.



"Critics of California kitchens, usually East Coast guys trained in the complexities of classic French cuisine, have been known to describe what local chefs do as more assemblage than cooking, as nothing more than arranging superb local produce in Instagram-friendly arrays."--Jonathan Gold, "Barnyard's deceptive simplicity," LA Times.


Researchers at the University of East London School of Psychology in England published a paper in
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience contending that  when adults drink water, they tend to have better concentration and perform better on mental tests. Study subjects who ate nothing the night before were given a cereal bar, the next,  a cereal bar and about 3 cups of water.  When the participants were given a reaction test where they had to press a button as soon as they saw something pop up on a computer screen, those given water had a reaction time 14 percent faster.


 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 REFINERY HOTEL; LETTER FROM PARIS

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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© copyright John Mariani 2013