Virtual Gourmet

  FEBRUARY 9, 2014                                                                                             NEWSLETTER

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By Andrew Chalk

In Defense of LaGuardia Airport
By John Mariani

Le Cirque Cafe
By Marcy MacDonald

San Antonio's Best Cocktails Right Now
By Andrew Chalk


The Very Well-Named

By Andrew Chalk

           In Los Cabos, an area known for a slew of luxury resorts, including Capella Pedregal, Esperanza, and One & Only Palmilla, it is an  ambitious goal for  Las Ventanas Al Paraiso, a Rosewood property, to strive  to be the top luxury resort on Mexico's Baja California Peninsula.
        The challenge is taken up with the guests' arrival at Los Cabos International Airport, where visitors are greeted by a resort employee driving a Mercedes Geländewagen who packs them and their luggage into the vehicle and offers water and cold beer for the 20-minute drive to the resort.    Upon entering the resort, the property almost takes you by surprise--an understated, single-story, pueblo-style frontage designed, perhaps, more to conceal what is inside than to display it. The one concession to an audacious statement is a colossal agave plant standing to attention on a spinney in front of the main entrance.   Inside the entrance, the ground tumbles away to the ocean, a setting enjoyed best in the late afternoon when the western sun bathes the resort, beaches and the Pacific Ocean beyond.
        Your luggage is whisked away by staff who already know your name and where you came from.  A Junior Suite is a large, white-walled cave with a sumptuous king-size bed and amenities befitting a five-star facility: flat-screen satellite TV, DVD player, minibar, coffee machine, complimentary bottled water and a safe. Floor-to-ceiling windows lead to a balcony obliquely overlooking the ocean and large enough for three couples to socialize without feeling cramped. At one end, a circular staircase leads to a balcony, well positioned for avid grey whale watchers (Los Cabos is a favorite site for this pastime in late February and early March) but also serving as the site for a massage. Each suite has two butlers, working shifts, to serve guests’ needs. The bathtub is huge--the bathtub accommodates more than one person and the walk-in shower, with rainforest shower heads, is similarly expansive.  Wi-fi is fairly dependable.
     In fact, this 960-square foot Junior Suite exceeds the area of some of the largest available facilities at other resorts. For example, at the Radisson Blu St. Martin a Superior Room is 430 square feet and a Deluxe Grand Suite is only 1,050. 
     Moving up, Luxury Villas  at Las Ventanas come with 1,600 square feet and a private infinity pool and hot tub. From there, the rooms get larger and larger, with the two-bedroom penthouse suites at 3,250 square feet, with a full kitchen and a wine cellar.


    Dining opportunities are many at Las Ventanas. At the main restaurant (below), the theme is “locally sourced, nationally inspired.”  French-born Executive Chef Fabrice Guisset sources meat and vegetables from local farms, fish from fishermen of the Pacific and herbs from the resort’s own extensive herb garden. The La Cava Wine Room off the main restaurant  (below, right) offers groups of up to 14 a private room for their meal.
    The restaurant's cuisine style might be described as "Mexico City meets New American and Modern French."  For example, roasted striped bass with lentil purée, crispy bacon, sweet potato and raw jalapeño sauce is a melting pot of national influences. Here, the lentils form a mushy bed for the fillet of fish, which is topped with small-diced sautéed sweet potato and squares of fried bacon. Braised short rib “pascalito” with pumpkin seed broth, serrano chile, pico de gallo and homemade jalapeño tortillas merged the succulence of the beef with a piquant serrano chile sauce cut by the mitigating influence of the pumpkin seed broth.
    Desserts come with a sugar overdose you may be familiar with from high-end Mexican restaurants in the U.S. We had a natilla de horchata, rice custard, cinnamon pastry and xoconostle (
prickly-pear fruit) ice cream.
    We confined our meals to the main restaurant, but there are plenty of more casual options. The Sea Grill offers Cocina del Fuego grilled foods such as free-range Rock Cornish game hens, veal chops and lobster tail. La Marisqueria at the Sea Grill is a raw bar offering a selection of ceviches and shellfish. The Molcajete Menu employs the molcajete, a volcanic stone mortar and pestle, to prepare dishes with ground spices.
       On the other side of the resort is the ceviche, sushi and tequila bar. This is an outside rectangular bar around which guests can enjoy the apparently unorthodox combination of sushi and sashimi washed down with the spirit of the blue agave plant. It is a combination that works. The bitter backbone of the tequila is ameliorated by the rice in the sushi. The bar is popular from late morning until long after nightfall.


    Appropriately between the restaurant and the Sea Grill is the massive infinity pool, which offers room for restful swimming or vigorous laps. At one end, the obligatory swim-up bar takes you into one side of the sea grill. The Fitness Center and Spa (below), at 2,900 square feet, offers an indoor-outdoor experience rooted in local tradition, called the ‘Four Elements’ treatment menu, inspired by the ancient healers of Baja. When undergoing the treatments the dominant feeling is tranquility.        
    The beach at Los Cabos is justifiably famous,  not only for the ferocity of the Pacific but because Las Ventanas is well sited at a relatively calm spot on the Pacific.
Other activities at Las Ventanas include tequila lessons, incorporating a tasting much like a wine tasting. A "Department of Romance" can help plan weddings and special proposals (one example: ‘Will You Marry Me?’ etched in the sand and viewed from a helicopter).
      The town of San José del Cabo is within a ten-minute drive. Its center is small and very walkable. The most interesting neighborhood is just off the town square behind the Cathedral San José, an arts district where more than 15 galleries dot cobbled streets that also contain the Baja Brewing Company, a craft brewer run by a grumpy ex-pat American, and a burgeoning restaurant scene. The best time to visit is the Thursday night art walk. So far there are only six restaurants (representing Mexican, New American, brewpub and, believe it or not, Thai, cuisines) but evidence of public works to enhance the area is everywhere, so it is growing.  

 It should also be mentioned that the resort makes departure less stressful than at other resorts. Mexican government-approved resort personnel called Airport Ambassadors escort Las Ventanas guests through airport security and into a private VIP lounge with wi-fi, dining and beverages.


By John Mariani


        Vice President Joe Biden’s recent characterization of LaGuardia Airport as being akin to one in a Third World country is neither idle nor flippant.  Indeed, many would argue that airports in some Third World countries are even more modern than LGA.  But to me, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

   Old-fashioned, small airports may be out of date by not looking like vast shopping malls or by not being configured in a maze-like way so that it takes an exiting passenger half an hour to get to the street.  LGA’s size is what makes it convenient, unlike the torturous new Delta Terminal at JFK.  And, while I was in awe at the modernity of the Zurich Airport, it took me nearly 30 minutes—not counting security—to wend my way up stairs and escalators, along shopping boutiques and endless corridors to get to my flight gate.  Miami is even worse, though you'll get plenty of cardio exercise along the way.

Unlike so many larger, more modern airports, LGA requires no monorail or train trips to get from terminal to terminal.  I find DFW, Atlanta, Denver and Las Vegas’ airports unbearable for the amount of time I have to spend getting from my gate to the main terminal.  I loathe that droning robotic voice barking “YOU ARE NOW APPROACHING TERMINAL 9,” knowing I have three more stops before I get to the main terminal exits.  

    The very fact that LGA is old means that there is very little distance between the entry doors, the airlines desks and the gates.  Once through security it takes no more than a minute or two to reach any gate. Today LGA takes up 680 acres and has 76 gates.  And increasingly there are more and better options for food and drink at LGA, with more on the way.  And let’s face it, how many people want to sit down to a long dinner at an airport? 

       LGA, which was built for the World’s Fair of 1939-1940, has, of course, been updated continuously since then, including the control tower, parking lots, and extensions and additions, including the Delta and USAir Terminals.   It is certainly ridiculous that there is no modern subway to LGA, but there are more than enough buses, taxis, and discount parking lots to make access pretty easy.  If I park at one of the discount long-term parking lots –some run by rental car companies--just across from LGA, a shuttle bus gets me to my airline in under five minutes. 

And then there is the uniquely beautiful, very old-fashioned Marine Air Terminal (above), opened in 1940 as a landing base for the great flying boats like the two-decker Pan Am Clipper (left), its first departure on March 31, 1940, carrying just nine passengers.  The outbreak of war and the demise of the flying boats meant the closure of the Marine Air Terminal in 1950, though it was re-opened in 1985 for the Boston and DC shuttle and other flights.  There was, for a while, a water taxi linking the airport to Wall Street.

        Since 1940 the basic shape and décor of the Marine Air Terminal—now called “A”--has changed little, so its allure lies in its small size and in the illusion that you are entering a terminal built when passenger flights were still a glamorous fantasy for most people.  It was designed by the architectural firm of Delano and Aldrich in a distinctly 1940s art déco style within a circular room containing a 235-foot long Social Realist mural by James Brooks (1906-1992) titled “Flight” (below) and a bust of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. Brooks worked for four years on the mural, yet in one of those paranoid acts of insane modernization (some say because the mural contained Left Wing symbols), it was painted over, not fully restored to magnificence in 1980.

   There’s a small concession stand and restaurant in the room, and nothing more. But stand there in the center of that historical rotunda and look up and around at the Pantheon-like circumference and you’ll see a panorama that exalts Man’s age-old desire to lift off from the earth like an eagle—figures of Daedalus, da Vinci, the Wright Brothers, and the Pan Am Clipper, mixed in with abstract motifs.  

   Looking at that mural in that fine building, I am reminded of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s sentiments at the end of his novel The Great Gatsby, when man felt “compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.”

LaGuardia Airport may not be the most modern airline terminal in the world, but for those who remember a time when flying was a wonder, not sheer agony, there’s still something of the old spirit there.






by Macy MacDonald

Le Cirque Café
One Beacon Court
151 East 58th Street (off Third Avenue)


On the coldest night of the year, Le Cirque was jumping.  

       Not exactly the kind of thing one says about one of the most elegant of New York's great restaurants, but since the opening of its new performance space, Le Cirque Café,  it's become the coolest new hotspot in town.

       Its  enormous portholes suggest the kind of Old World ocean liner crossings that made the long-defunct White Star Line come alive.  Sculptural umbrellas of all sizes hang upside down from the high ceiling.  And when young crooner, Cole Rumbough, sang “Pennies from Heaven,” gourmands at almost every table looked up.  Just 23, Rumbough comes to this exclusive world naturally: his grandmother, actress Dina Merrill, was brought up in the 1950s,  and now her grandson has a repertory of 500 songs from the period. He is finishing his last year of music study at The New School and uses his accomplished classmates as his small back-up orchestra.

       Le Cirque’s owner, the Maccioni family (Mario, Mauro and Marco, left) and wait staff are so professional that only they knew what was coming--three hours of music from pre-appetizer to post-dessert that recalled the days of luxury living of a bygone age    As soon as we were seated, our waiter served warm  rolls warm  and took our drinks and wine order.  The gin-and-tonic was perfectly tart, the Puligny-Montrachet Bernard Bonin Les Folatières 2009 and a bubbly Laurent Perrier, Cuvée Rosé Brut, were served as cold as frigid air outside.

       Le Cirque is famous for so many dishes that we mixed our tastes with old and new entries.  The Caesar Salad "Le Cirque" never disappoints as it perfectly replicates the intentions of the original to which the kitchen adds strips of chicken that enrich but don't dominate the rest.   The Fall Garden Greens of radicchio, endive, sesame with a raspberry vinaigrette, was perfectly dressed, delightfully crunchy.  

     A simple shrimp cocktail is anything but here—six-inch jumbos with a cocktail sauce with the extra snap of Tabasco.  "Tempura-Style" fried calamari was new to us, the batter light and crunchy, and Burgundy truffle risotto made with Vialone Nano rice with shaved truffles, was impeccably  executed.

      I could have survived on the breadbasket alone, but there were several main courses to consider, and different wines to imbibe.  The grilled petit steak might have been just another strip steak, but, ordered black-and-blue, it was crisp on the outside and almost still mooing on the inside.  Served with wild mushrooms, the jus was perfect for dipping the pommes frites.   We ordered Peter Michael Les Pavots Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, which rounded off the dish perfectly. 

       Scottish salmon was served medium-well, exactly as requested, soft without being rubbery.  Accompanied by acorn squash, watercress, orange, and tiny rutabaga made it even more decorative and tasty,accompanied by a crisp Philippe Colin Chevalier-Montrachet 2007.

    And who could resist the Mini Cheeseburgers "Le Cirque" (right), with  like three kinds of mustard, paired with a nice Rocca di Frassinello Baffonero Merlot?  Either you love duck, as in duck confit, or you don't.  Too often the  abundance of duck fat congeals into grease in a confit, but here it was wholly rendered and enhanced with the flavors of the rye berries and apple.       For this we chose a dry rosé, Nationale 7 Domaine Rimauresq 2012,. A surprise dish, croque monsieur—French grilled cheese--transported us back to school days in Paris, but now eaten with knife and fork and cloth napkins.      
Le Cirque’s famous chocolate soufflé was served with vanilla gelato, and a traditional crème brûlée "Le Cirque" is justly famous. You to crack the sugar glaze on the top to get to the eggy custard beneath it.  Apple frangipane was warmed to bring out the fragrance of the almond filling and fruit, accompanied by green tea-lime and the green apple sorbet.  We chose a Canadian Icewine Pearl Inniskillin Vidal 2007, made from frozen grapes picked  a few days between Christmas and the New Year.

      Coffee? Only if you want to stay awake; the decaf (with a shot of Drambuie) if you don't have far to go.  That and Cole Rumbough's songbook warmed this freezing night from the inside out.

Cole Rumbough (left) performs once monthly on Wednesdays.

Le Cirque Café is open for lunch Mon.-Fri., for dinner Mon.-Sat.; Menu 2 Course Lunch $28, 2 Course Dinner $38.




by Andrew Chalk  

    San Antonio, which you might be surprised to find is the nation’s seventh largest city, has become something of a factory for cocktail innovation since the advent of the San Antonio Cocktail Conference two years ago. Having just returned from the third annual conference, I can report that it is bigger, better and ever more national in attendance.
     Trade support extends from multinationals, down to local distillers with just one pot still to their name.
  Adventurous, specialized cocktail bars have sprung up all all over town. I used some recent trips to check them out and come up with a list of my favorites.

James Stewart, Marlene Dietrich and Brian Donlevy in "Destry Rides Again" (1939)

Ocho--This bar in the Hotel Havana on the River Walk may be Cuban-themed, but manager Sandra Puente describes it as very much pan-Latin.The airy street-level bar is paired with a dark and mysterious basement counterpart. Upstairs (right) the glass and steel conservatory looks rather like a birdcage, with the river just outside. Among the spirit selections behind the bar are Republic tequila and Tito’s vodka, both made in  Austin. The most popular cocktail is the mojito but they also do specialties like the “Trace of sin,” a Buffalo Trace bourbon-based drink with lime juice, simple, cinnamon simple syrup and grapefruit juice.   Bartender Hector also demonstrated the ‘Hemingway Daiquiri’, classic  built around white rum.

1½.oz Mount Gay Silver Eclipse rum

½ oz Luxardo Maraschino liqueur

½ oz lime juice

½ oz simple syrup

¾ oz grapefruit juice

In a shaker, add all ingredients, shake on ice  and double strain. Garnish with a slice of the grapefruit.

The Brooklynite-This San Antonio bar has the look and feel of the classic speakeasy: there is the windowless room, over-the-top period chandeliers, everything except secret passwords for access. Situated halfway between downtown and Pearl (a new and up-and-coming entertainment and residential complex in the old Pearl brewery), The Brooklynite gives the lie to those who claim the two entertainment centers of San Antonio are too far apart to walk from one to the other. Just stop for libations here on the way. Owner Jeret Peña is a veteran of the  San Antonio bar scene having worked, among other gigs, at the oldest bar on the River Walk, The Esquire Tavern. 

     The theme here is constant innovation and and an autarchic approach to ingredients. They make their own cordials, ginger beer, tinctures, bitters and vinegars. Maple vinegar, cranberry vinegar, and others are everyday components here. Peña is a big fan of using vinegars instead of citrus to add depth in the acid component of a drink, with new cocktails coming out weekly. The most popular are rewarded with a place on the regular menu.       

     Rather than turn over part of the small building to a kitchen, The Brooklynite supplies food through an ever-rotating selection of food trucks that park right outside the front door.

      Not surprisingly, the place gets packed at weekends “85 percent locals”, says Peña. It is good to know that they take reservations if you want to be sure your party can get a particular table.  Peña demonstrated the ‘Gibraltar’ to me,  a cocktail he devised based on a Champs Elysées.

1 ½ oz Calvados

3/4 oz pear liqueur

½ oz fresh lemon

1/4 oz simple syrup

Mezcal in a spray container.

Add Calvados, pear liqueur, lemon and simple syrup to a shaker with ice. Shake and double strain. Serve in a Champagne coupe glass sprayed with Mezcal.

BAR 1919Named in memory of the year that saw the ratification of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, instituting Prohibition,  1919 is located in the Blue Star arts and entertainment complex on the river walk a mile south of town. The bar itself is easy to miss, being at basement level on one end of an undistinguished mixed use strip. Inside, the atmosphere is in the “not see and not be-seen” genre of design; the lights are low, the windows covered over’ all light projects out from the bar.

      Owner Don Marsh is a 24-year veteran of the San Antonio cocktail scene, having worked at numerous bars, including Bohanan’s, and self-taught at each stage. The specialty at 1919 is dark liquor, that is, whisky. Marsh claims to have the largest selection in the city.  Yet he is also a fan of tequila and mezcal and shows a large selection of each. To illustrate where he is less of a fan, he offers up that he only has two vodkas. He is also a fan of beers and has over 100. A back room functions as an event space for seminars by distillers and brewers to avid fans of the drinks.

     1919 runs an unusual loyalty program. Customers with coins minted for the bar can obtain discounts on a different drink each week.

For a taste of 1919, Marsh made me a True Azul and served it in a vintage glass (left), from 1944 in fact.

1 1/2 oz infused tequila (1919 uses a reposado infused with poblano, serrano and  red bell peppers),

1/4 oz crème de violet

1/2 oz honey syrup

1/2 oz fresh lime juice

Smoked sea salt

Add all tequila, creme de violet, honey syrup and lime juice  into a pint glass with ice and shake. Strain into a cocktail glass half lined with smoked sea salt and a lime wedge garnish.



Bohanan’sA candidate for ground zero in the San Antonio cocktail scene,  this steakhouse owned by Mark Bohanan is regarded as one of the best in Texas. The bar was opened in 2008 in the downstairs space of the same building. In 2011 he did a serious makeover, bringing in Sasha Petraske of New York and London’s Milk and Honey to remake the cocktail list to give it an edge. Extensive staff training and the purchase of a specialized ice-making machine were part of the upgrade, as were quarterly return visits by Petraske to check on progress. The cocktails here take on a number of genres but they have in common a certain refined swagger in their composition.
     The décor here is the most upscale of all the places surveyed here. If Ocho is Hemingway’s Havana and The Brooklynite a speakeasy, then Bohanan’s is a private club replete with overstuffed sofas and bookshelves. During most of the year the off-street courtyard affords a place for those who want to smoke cigars. The bar’s location on downtown Houston Street also makes it a convenient stop before or after the theater.

      Bartender Alex Smith showed me how they make an Old Fashioned at Bohanan’s. This is a cocktail built in the glass.

1 sugar cube

3-4 dashes Angostura bitters

1 spoonful club soda

2 oz Buffalo Trace bourbon

Ice to chill

3-4 inches of orange zest

Place the sugar cube in an Old Fashioned glass and sprinkle Angostura bitters on top. Add club soda. Muddle to a paste so that the sugar cube is fully broken up.

Add bourbon  and ice cubes. Garnish with orange zest.


Wine Column Sponsored by Banfi Vintners

Looking for Love in All The Right Bottles

by Cristina Mariani-May,
co-CEO of Banfi Vintners                                                                                        
America's leading wine importer

    Charming day, Valentine’s is.  Who can argue with romance, candlelight, treats and seduction?  My only argument is why we relegate this celebration to just once a year.  Love is never redundant, after all, nor should be the ways we express it.  Much like the range of wines available and the myriad of occasions in which to enjoy them.

    One of my personal favorite wines can best be described as pure romance in a bottle.  Rosa Regale, a sparkling red from Italy, is the poster child for a Valentine’s Day wine.  Sparkling, heart-colored red, festive, relatively low in alcohol, fruity, Rosa Regale goes great with savories such as ham and quiches, and is a sensual pairing with chocolate, especially dark chocolate as well as raspberries and strawberries.  There’s even a legend that Julius Caesar, when competing with Mark Anthony for Cleopatra’s affections, sent the Egyptian monarch a shipment of Brachetto, the exclusive grape in Rosa Regale.  For those same reasons and more, it is also a great wine for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and new year; Mother’s Day, Easter, graduation, summer pool parties, and, as a matter of fact, every day.  And in my book, none of those days are short on love. 

But with that said, let’s look into other wines that are suitably romantic, for February 14 or any day either side of the calendar. 

    Another appropriate Valentine wine is Principessa Gavia Gavi, a crisp, dry, elegant and flavorful white wine made from Cortese grapes and backed by a romantic tale.   
    This wine is named for Principessa Gavia, a 6th century noblewoman who eloped with her lover after their father, Clodimir, King of the Franks, forbade her to marry a commoner.  They settled in a tiny village on the far side of the Alps to live in obscurity, but, enticed by the charming local wine, the couple let their story slip out.  The King brought them back to his court for punishment, yet upon looking into his lovely daughter’s eyes, he could not help but forgive her.  He blessed their marriage and as a gift gave them the town in which they had chosen to settle (it’s good to be the King!), which, along with the local wine, was then named in her honor – Gavi. 

    If red calls to your heart, though, try L’Ardí, a Dolcetto d’Acqui redolent of berry fruit flavor and as easy to drink as your lover is to look at.  In the local Piedmontese dialect, “L’Ardí” (pronounced Lar-DEE) means “bright, bold and brave,” specifically referring to a fun and adventurous young man.  And what could be more romantic than that?

    Rosa Regale - Aromatic with a hint of rose petals and raspberries, a unique sparkling ruby-red wine – great with savories and especially well suited to desserts, particularly chocolate. It is also delightful as an aperitif. 

    Principessa Gavia Gavi – Piedmont’s premier dry white wine with an intriguing  crispness which exalts the fruitiness of this historic and noble wine. 

    L’Ardí Dolcetto d’Acqui – A lively and quaffable red wine made from Dolcetto grapes from Piedmont. Ruby colored and redolent of fresh grapes and ripe cherries, with a dry finish. 

Note: Cristina Mariani is in no way related by family or in business with John Mariani, Publisher of the Virtual Gourmet.






South Philadelphia sushi-bar owner Ryan Zheng of Terryin Sushi Bar used a sushi knife to  stab a  robbery suspect who entered the restaurant and put a gun to Zheng's face. Police say the suspect had already robbed the restaurant twice in the last three weeks.  The gun turned out to be a fake.


“`Who doesn’t want to sleep with Sheryl?'” asked the man to my left. `But Rick?'
The man shuddered at the thought, and the piece of barbecue beef clutched in his chopsticks dangled like a modifier, terrified. `Even the thought of Rick watching from the corner turns me off,' agreed the man’s friend, who sat opposite him at the communal table at the new RedFarm on the Upper West Side."-- Joshua David Stein, "Jewish Christmas Sublime: Ed Schoenfeld’s RedFarm Perfects the Upper West Side’s Only Native Cuisine," NY Observer


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

The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink by John F. Mariani (Bloomsbury USA, $35)

Modesty forbids me to praise my own new book, but let me proudly say that it is an extensive revision of the 4th edition that appeared more than a decade ago, before locavores, molecular cuisine, modernist cuisine, the Food Network and so much more, now included. Word origins have been completely updated, as have per capita consumption and production stats. Most important, for the first time since publication in the 1980s, the book includes more than 100 biographies of Americans who have changed the way we cook, eat and drink -- from Fannie Farmer and Julia Child to Robert Mondavi and Thomas Keller.

"This book is amazing! It has entries for everything from `abalone' to `zwieback,' plus more than 500 recipes for classic American dishes and drinks."--Devra First, The Boston Globe.

"Much needed in any kitchen library."--Bon Appetit.

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: HOW TO INTRODUCE YOUR CHILD TO SAN FRANCISCO

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 2014