Virtual Gourmet

  DECEMBER   6,  2015                                                                                             NEWSLETTER



By John Mariani

By John Mariani
By Mort Hochstein  

What's Old Is Now New in Bordeaux
By Brian Freedman



    View from the Epic Hotel, Miami\

    Anyone who does not live in Florida right now may find the thought of visiting enticing.  Not just because of the warmer weather but because, unlike most of the Caribbean islands, the state of Florida and, in particular, the city of Miami have far more attractions than mere sand, sun, and duty-free trinket shops.
    Also, Miami is riding one of its periodic booms, with the inevitable bust nowhere in sight.  And a lot of the activity and culinary flavor is coming out of the mainland city, not Miami Beach, now more than ever a tourist lure and a location for regional magazine photo shoots.

    One of the best new restaurants in Miami proper is MIGNONETTE (210 NE 18th Street; 305-374-4635), near Biscayne Park, devoted largely to high-quality seasonal seafood and a good time for everyone. Executive chef-owner Daniel Serfer also runs Blue Collar, serving American comfort food, and Mignonette does the same with seafood, drawing on his experience cooking at
The 15th Street Fisheries & Dockside Café in Fort Lauderdale. Mignonette is co-owned by local food writer Ryan Roman; chef de cuisine is Bobby Frank.
    The restaurant is carved out of a 1930s gas station space, and feel free to drop in wearing whatever you’re wearing, sit at the counter and just slurp down the shellfish, or take a table, order some craft beers or a bottle of wine (from a too short list) and feast on apps like charred octopus with tazzo ham, pigeon peas and crisp hoppin’ john fritters ($15).  The crab cake ($17) is much in need of lump meat.  Your table of four may want to go for the lavish “fancy” seafood tower of the day’s best shellfish ($95).
    You can be very be happy with the plain, simply grilled Caribbean and Gulf red fish ($23), crisp-skinned snapper ($24) or grouper ($21), so don’t bother with frozen South African lobster tails ($35).  A far better choice is the lobster roll with a generous amount of meat piled high on a Portuguese roll with drawn butter and served with fried potato chips ($25), or the seared redfish with green beans, piquillo peppers and brandy pan sauce ($25). 
    Why, then, would anyone go to Mignonette for bone-in prime rib ($37)?  Because it is really, really delicious and has become justifiably popular with the regulars.
    Mignonette is a very casual place but it’s got serious intent, and its location near Artopia brings in an eclectic, and attractive, crowd.  You’ll enjoy the hell out of the place.

   On Miami Beach, THE SOCIAL CLUB at SURFCOMBER HOTEL (1717 Collins Avenue; 305-53-7715) is one big, open room with an engaging and very colorful bar/lounge, where you can also get some of the best breakfasts on Miami Beach.  The challah French toast is fantastic, and the buttermilk pancake is worth neglecting your beach diet for.
    This is a Kimpton hotel, so they’re not holding back on a brightly colored contemporary design aimed at a youth market. They call it “Trendy, Funky, Modern, and Cool,” packing delightful retro elements into the skeleton of an old art deco hotel.  This means, however, that the average room is only about 200 square feet, and you’ll be hard put to squeeze two people into the bathroom at once, even with a very close shave. The windows have Venetian blinds, some with a view of the pool and beach, but I suspect few people spend much time in the rooms.
    Downstairs in The Social Club, Chef Wilson Blair is showcasing modern Cuban cuisine, which, from what I can tell, is probably much better here than in Havana.  Blair tends to put sweet elements in most of his food, as with alligator with shaved Brussels sprouts, barbecued pecans and honey ($16), and his “96-hour” ribs are lashed with sorghum-sesame glaze with a jicama slaw ($16).  Onions are caramelized and put to good use in plump, hot beignets with cotija corn and a jalapeño-laced ranch dressing ($14).
    Plump local grouper was cooked impeccably, served with squash, tomato, corn and a richly satisfying beurre blanc ($28), as was a Caribbean red snapper with a shot of pico de gallo and chorizo-flecked fried rice for bite and a creamy black bean puree ($35).  Caramelized onions play a part in a dish of chicken with farro risotto ($25), while the cast-iron seared ribeye is the most savory of the main courses, served with Cabrales butter, roasted fingerling potatoes and bitter greens ($38).
    For dessert, there’s no way to refuse the fresh donuts with dulce de leche, but the maple croissant bread pudding ($10) should be right beside it. 

    If a case could be made—and it cannot just yet—that Peruvian food is the next hot trend, LA MAR in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel (500 Brickell Key Drive; 305-913 8288) on the mainland seems well in the vanguard in America. The consultant here is Gastón Acurio, chef, writer, and promoter of Peruvian culinary arts, whose “500 Años de Fusión” was voted the best cookbook worldwide at the 2008 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.
    On site is Executive Chef Diego Oka, born and raised in Lima,  who credits his grandmother’s cooking and his Japanese-Peruvian heritage as  principal influences. Working for Acurio, Oka has helped open La Mar restaurants in Lima, Bogotá and San Francisco.
    La Mar Miami is a handsome restaurant set on the level of the bay (upstairs is the hotel’s fine dining restaurant, Azul), with jewel-like colors and a long Anticuchos Bar set in front of the cooks. The dishware is folkloric, the tables bare, the lighting set in a beautiful fishnet configuration.  I dined at lunchtime, so I cannot comment on what seems would be a pretty loud room of hard surfaces.
    Those anticuchos ($10-$15) are a good way to go here, choosing a slew for a meal that will include unusual dishes like veal heart with potatoes, chocli, tari sauce and chaleca (I’ll let you look all those up; they were new to me).
    There are eight cebiches ($16-$18, with a $29 sampler) that include a “clasico” with fluke and aji limo pepper, red onions and leche de tigre citrus marinade, and a delicious “barrio” of yellowtail, mussels, shrimp, crispy calamari and more leche de tigre.  The influence of Japanese sushi on Peruvian kitchens is evident here in sashimi spiced with much the same ingredients as the cebiches, and the nigiri dishes include items like yellowtail with sweet potato and pepper sauce ($9).
       There’s a lot of invention in the cooking here, plenty of counterpoint flavors and textures, including very good snapper with dry potato stew, peanuts, salsa criollla and a complex ocupa sauce of peanuts, onions, peppers and cheese ($25). Odd then that Oka serves farm-raised salmon—not a fish big in Peruvian cuisine—with trendy veggies like kale and bok choy ($29).  I loved the “chaufa aeropuerto” of aji panca fried rice with seafood ($26).
    There’s still more to learn from desserts like Peruvian chocolate mousse with caramelized Andes grains and lucuma fruit bombs ($11).
    With such a panoply of flavors and exotic preparations, if Peruvian food is really to take off in this country, La Mar is a convincing place for it to begin in earnest.

    Set on the 16th floor of the Epic Hotel, AREA 31 (270 Biscayne Boulevard Way; 305-913-8358) has a panorama of striking beauty throughout the day and night, but most breathtakingly at twilight, when the lights come on in the shimmering new buildings and play against the silver splashes of flowing water.  Here Executive Chef Wolfgang Birk, once chef at the Versace mansion, is offering some of the most sophisticated food in Miami right now, much of it with Asian notes.
    Unfortunately, the restaurant has chosen deliberately to be a very, very un-sophisticated, loud room, so much so that our party of six chose a private room with its door shut to the din.
    We started off with a cold corn shooter with pine oil foam (not as bad as it sounds), then moved on to very good mahi seviche with hibiscus and grilled nori  seaweed ($21). Although overcooked, the pappardelle with a rich oxtail sauce ($23) was a fine, hearty dish, and the Berkshire pork with watermelon ($42) was as refreshing as it was delicious.  A whole  fish—hogfish that night—done tempura style, with wild fennel salad and black bean sauce ($40) was expertly fried crisp and came in a huge portion big enough for two.  The very best of the side dishes were some fingerling potatoes with a Parmesan cream, scallion and garlic ($11).
    Desserts toe a less imaginative line with macaroons, chocolate mousse, panna cotta and cheesecake with Graham cracker crust.




By John Mariani

1078 1st Avenue (at 59th Street)

    Il Valentino had had a long, 20-year tenure and a very faithful clientele at its first location on East 56th Street, a stretch much in need of a good Italian eatery. Fortunately, the owners have moved a few doors away to new quarters in what had long been a faded Turkish restaurant with kitschy décor, now replaced to look more like a rustic trattoria of white brick walls, cafe chairs,  and leather banquettes.
    It’s a cozy, casual place, has the requisite TV screens for those ordering a pizza and a glass of wine, along with wholly  unnecessary piped-in Italian music no one is listening to.  Perhaps because the staff is still in training, my party found that getting their attention required some doing, and the owner of the place sat all night chatting with his friends, his back to the dining room.
    There’s plenty of good food here, starting with the pizzas that have just the right heft of crust and melding of ingredients, brought steaming from a new brick oven, and the menu is long, though not, as claimed, particularly Tuscan.  The “macellaio” pizza with sweet sausage, red onions,
 tomatoes, and  homemade fresh mozzarella ($17) was a hit at our table, as was another, with black truffles, fontina, ricotta, mozzarella and truffle oil, well worth it at $26, serving for as a starter.
      There are nicely fried, crispy calamari and zucchini ($14) and carpaccio of raw beef ($18), along with generous portions of pastas like rigatoni alla buttera with sweet and hot sausages, peas and tomato ($13/$18); bucatini all’amatriciana with a lusty sauce of onion, tomato, and pancetta ($13/$18); delicious butternut squash ravioli with a light brown cinnamon and sage sauce ($17/$22), and a lasagna “of the day” that will easily feed two as a pasta course.
        They also use that brick oven to cook chicken breast marinated with potato and tomato, giving it all a smoky flavor and succulent texture ($22).  Braised lamb was equally juicy, served with figs, carrots, quinoa and almonds ($28)  and it evoked Mediterranean flavors of the South;  striped bass cooked on the griddle came with a similarly Mediterranean grilled eggplant and cherry tomato accompaniment ($28).
        For dessert there’s a pizza--now served all over town-- topped with rich hazelnut-chocolate Nutella ($18).  The wine list is quite modest and needs bolstering.
        It’s good to have Il Valentino back in this neighborhood near the 59th Street Bridge, especially for anyone headed home wanting a bite or a pizza to go.  Otherwise, those faithful to its original location seem to have found its new address and its menu intact.

 Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.


By Mort Hochstein

337 W 14th Street (off Ninth Avenue)

      Not so very long ago it was wise to avoid much of West 14th Street called the Meatpacking District, once home to huge butchering firms, jammed with giant trucks and men in blood-spattered aprons in the daytime, dotted with ladies of the evening after dark.
      That’s now ancient history.  The butchers are gone, replaced by fashionable restaurants, art galleries, hidden clubs, high style boutiques and upscale international retailers.  The dividing line might start on the corner of Ninth Avenue on the west toward the more prosperous blocks, and on the east toward an area in transition.
      Mulino a Vino is on the east and is a secluded cellar restaurant.  But for Paolo Meregali, owner and a member of the family that produces Fertuna Estate wines, the location hasn't been a problem.  New York’s Italian ex-pats have found the place.
      Coming downstairs,  you pass an open kitchen and small bar before entering the dining room, framed by open brick walls, oak plank floor of and painted concrete.  A soft glow from vintage-style industrial lighting gives warmth to the dining room.  At the back of the house, a large table for groups sits off the wine storage area neighboring on a more intimate space for lounging in leather chairs.  The room has the feel of an upscale farmhouse restaurant in Tuscany, albeit one with an extraordinary wine list curated by Meregali.
      Chef Davide Scabin, who made his name with the ultra-experimental restaurant Combal.Zero near Turin opened the NYC restaurant but has since returned to Italy, leaving his surrogate, Massimiliano Eandi to run  Mulino a Vino,  the name a pun on mulino a vente,  the Italian name for a windmill.
      Mulino is a wine-focused restaurant, emphasized on the menu and by the tableside pouring of wines by the glass.   Ordering can be complicated: Dishes are classified as "Bright and Lively" and "Big & Luscious," and can be requested in three sizes. Esoteric? Oh yes. Think about
Bombolone Amatriciana, an Italian “Pasta Doughnut” filled with Amatriciana cream, or "Garden of Eden," a mushroom and broccoli tempura, or black truffle "Caviar," with vegetables on leaves of baby romaine. The wine list is  equally exotic with by-the-glass selections ranging from $17 to $500.  
      Our initial visit had two purposes, first for exposure to the restaurant and second to  sample the wines of the Fertuna Estate, founded by wine merchant Guiseppe Meregali, father of the restaurant’s proprietor, and enologist Ezio Rivella, in partnership with Tenuta San Guido, producer of Sassicaia.
      On a recent weekday evening, the house was full, largely with guests speaking Italian. Our group was treated to several extraordinary presentations from Eandi. The key appetizer was a dish he called "Cecina on the Rock," a chickpea crêpe with a scattering of zucchini, tomatoes, pickled red onion, mint and olive tapenade on a rock of pink salt.
      It was attractive to the eye and pleasing on the palate, as was a striking wine from Meregali-- Droppello, an unusual wine termed Toscana Bianco Sangiovese, resembling a normal white, though slightly heavier on the palate.  
Eandi also served up another esoteric starter: spaghetti that had never been in water. cooked instead  in a large heirloom tomato, which formed a natural edible serving dish. I wouldn’t say it was tastier or more appetizing than normal pasta, but the presentation was striking.  This was was mated with Fertuna Pactio-IGT, largely Sangiovese,  with 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot, a wine whose acidity heightened the flavors of the tomato and the spaghetti.
      Meregali also proudly introduced us to his top-of-the-line super Tuscan, Lodai-IGT Maremma Toscano Rosso, which had the same components as the Pactio, but in different proportions, 50% Sangiovese, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot.  It was paired with the main course, "Lamb Volcano,"  a slow-cooked roasted lamb, dressed with green pepper and parsley foam, and dehydrated black spaghetti powder, oyster mushrooms and a smattering of pecorino fondue, a far cry from traditional Italian cooking.
    The dessert list is limited, and we settled on tiramusu, with soft mascarpone cream, white chocolate crumbles and chocolate mousse. 
                  Tasting through the flavor pairings and multi-ingredient plates, I occasionally longed for something more basic, less embellished. Eandi, like his mentor, is given to pushing the envelope, overdoing the flavor combinations. The homemade pastas are a saving grace.
      The restaurant, with its subterranean site in the basement of an apartment building, turns out to be a buried treasure, though digging for the gems may be arduous.

 Menu items are served family style, and come in three sizes, depending upon the number of diners. Menu items range in price from $10 to $50.Mulino a Vino is located at 337 W 14th St. and is open daily for dinner from 6 p.m. to midnight.




By Brian Freedman

    Rosé de piscine, rosé de piscine: This past June, during a weeklong trip to Bordeaux, I kept on hearing mention on this mysterious “swimming-pool rosé.” For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what it meant. This being Bordeaux, home of some of the most lauded, expensive wines on the planet, my initial assumption was that rosé de piscine referred to a white wine that could be enjoyed by the swimming pool in the springtime warmth, a complex-yet-lithe vin blanc whose subtlety was exquisitely matched by its unselfconscious Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon layers of citrus, herb, and lanolin.
    Or something like that.
    I could not have been more wrong. Because once I finally asked what this mysterious, perhaps mythical rosé de piscine was, I was told this: It’s a rosé that, in order to chill it down to temperatures more appropriate to swigging by the pool, is served in a glass with ice cubes.
    This was Bordeaux? Indeed it was. And I had much to learn.
    I had been to the region before, and had marveled at the grands vins of the great châteaux. I’d stood in awe at the colonnades of those totemic structures, and gently wended my way through the cellars of some of them, imagining how, hundreds of years earlier, the founding fathers of my own country had done the same (though, ostensibly, in knickers and ruffle-cuffed shirts, as opposed to my Pumas and jeans). And not once during those previous visits had anyone mentioned a concept even remotely approaching swimming-pool wine. I had always perceived a deep sense of joie de vivre in Bordeaux, but of the more subtle sort, and usually it was in the context of a more serious and hide-bound wine culture. This, then, was completely, utterly unexpected.
    Is it possible that Bordeaux is changing?
    Well, no. And also: Yes. Bordeaux occupies a very special place in the world of wine, which is an understatement akin to me writing that Al Pacino is a pretty decent actor, or that the "Mona Lisa" is not too shabby as far as portraits go, or that Ben Carson’s views on history and geopolitics are perhaps a little off-kilter. Indeed, Bordeaux is more than a wine region; it’s a symbol of the glories of French wine, and for many wine lovers, it has achieved a level of importance far beyond simply that famous juice in the bottle. Bordeaux is a beverage and symbol and an aspiration all in one. As a child, I knew we were celebrating an important occasion whenever my parents opened up a bottle of Bordeaux and poured me a splash. Even today, the importance of its role in the history of my family is impossible to overstate: My high-school graduation was toasted with a glass of Château La Louvière. My father’s 65th birthday was celebrated with a Château Ducru-Beaucaillou 1982. My nephew’s bris was consecrated with Giraud-Larose.
    But this past trip to Bordeaux introduced me to another side of the region—to its more playful, perhaps flirty side. The trip was sponsored by Planète Bordeaux, a consortium representing and promoting the glories of Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur, including its seven AOCs and the infinite range of expressions within them. There was a whole world—indeed, a planet—to explore.
    Château L’Isle Fort was a fantastic place to begin, a Bordeaux Supérieur producer whose history goes back only to 2000, and whose wines won me over from the start. Their L’Isle Douce 2014 was a crunchy, strawberry- and watermelon-tinged rosé that I wish I’d had more of this summer to quench my thirst in the season’s heat. They also produce a number of quite serious reds with real potential for aging in the cellar—they are benefiting from the help of consultant and wine star Stéphane Derenoncourt—and the savory, mulberry-bursting Chapelle L’Isle 2011 and the structured, high-toned L’Isle Fort 2011, among their other bottlings and vintages, are well worth seeking out.
    The range of styles in these AOCs is far broader than Bordeaux often gets credit for. Côtes de Bordeaux producer Chȃteau Lamothe de Haux’s 2014 blanc, a beautiful blend of 40% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Sémillon, and 20% Muscadelle, was both crisp and aromatically lifted, and its honeyed and orange blossom flavors made it an excellent sipper on its own and a great accompaniment to foie gras on crostini that we enjoyed alongside it. For a more classic foie gras pairing, Chȃteau du Cros, in Loupiac, owns the oldest Sémillon vines in Bordeaux—their “Centenary Plot” is 108 years old—and their 2004 “La Tradition” bottling, crafted from the fruit of those century-old vines and only produced in the best years (they’ve done four in the past 12 years), is intensely delicious, with smoky aromas anchoring flavors of charred lemon skin, honey, and tropical fruit.
    In addition to my now-beloved rosé de piscine, there are a range of pink wines being produced here. Château Jean Faux’s 2014 rosé, for example, is a product of saignée, and is a big, amply structured wine with flavors of melon and fennel. (They also make a number of standout reds, including the stellar Château Jean Faux 2013, which speaks of oolong tea, eucalyptus, red-berry fruit, and licorice, and will continue evolving until 2024 and beyond.)
    Château Turcaud’s Entré-Deux-Mers 2014, with 2% Muscadelle and no residual sugar, is a bracing, almost briny white offering, whereas their Bordeaux Blanc 2014 “Cuvée Majeure” is more exotic, with pineapple, vanilla pod, acacia, jasmine and orange blossom. Château Laville produces a tremendous assortment of wines, from the 2010 “Eximus” bottling, with its bright acid, clove, and dark cherry notes to the Clairet, whose gentle extraction is the result of 72 hours of low-temperature maceration. The result is a wine that made me actively hungry with its dill, saline, cranberry and fresh orange characteristics. Château des Arras, with its 21 hectares under vine, produces wines that we soon discovered have serious aging potential. Their 2000 “Cuvée Préstige” was supple and savory, with plum, cassis, and forest floor notes (and easily another five-plus years of life to it); and the 2005 was still remarkably young in character, with serious tannic structure framing plum skin, cherry, spice and peppercorn.
    Chȃteau Maison Noble, 10km north of Pomerol, near Blaye, produces four wines: A traditional red, a “préstige” red, a Clairet, and a white. Their Bordeaux Blanc “Cuvée Maurice” 2014 was crisp and creamy at one, which resulted in terrific tension. Flavors of lemon and lime, as well as yeast and a bit of spice, would be phenomenal at the table. The clairet there is as light as is permitted on the color spectrum for the style, and the wine itself is fresh with cherry and spice, yet anchored by excellent concentration. And the Bordeaux Supérieur “Cuvée Prestige” 2012, with its dark cherry, excellent structure, and finish that hints at lavender and meat, is a knockout.
    Finally, there was Château Recougne, (left) which, in addition to being notable for its selection of remarkable reds, is also a significant grower of Carmenère—with 2 hectares under vine, they are the largest producer of the variety in the region. Like so many of the other producers we visited, they craft an excellent Bordeaux Blanc and a remarkable rosé, but it was the Carmenère-expressive Bordeaux Supérieur 2011, with its round fruit, black licorice, cherry liqueur and floral peppercorn notes that won me over, as well as its Vieilles Vignes 2010 Bordeaux Supérieur, a notably spicy wine with bakers chocolate, mineral, and roasted coffee notes.
    Our visit there concluded with a wine that I still think about: The Château Recougne 1952, a bottle that proved to me that classic, age-worthy Bordeaux doesn’t only come from the fabled châteaux of the 1855 classification and its equivalents. This silky, majestic Bordeaux Supérieur, singing an aria of mint, sandalwood, old leather, and eucalyptus on the nose and bursting with otherworldly flavors of graphite, blackberry and blueberry compote, cassis, dried figs, incense, violets, plum cake, clove and allspice, was one of the great privileges of my wine life to taste. It was still, 53 years after the fruit was harvested, stunningly powerful and perfectly balanced. And it stood as a regal, utterly delicious testament to Bordeaux—not just the part that so many consumers think of when mention of the region as a whole comes up, but its other, equally worthy parts, too. The wines I tasted over the course of that week this past spring were as eye-opening as any I’ve had in quite some time. And seriously delicious, to boot.




“Fried soft-shell crab with burrata sounded weird on the menu and was weirder on the plate. It was like watching a bad date. I kept waiting for one of the ingredients to get an urgent text from a roommate who’s locked out of the apartment.”—Pete Wells, “Chevalier,”  NY Times (8/12/15)


London-based breast milk ice cream makers The Licktators are being allegedly sued by the lawyers for Lady Gaga,  for using the company's flavor "Royal Baby Gaga," contending that it is confusing to consumers who might think Gaga endorses the product.  Nadine O'Connor, a representative for The Licktators contends that "neither names nor features Lady Gaga, nor are her trademarks infringed. However, we will send complimentary tubs of our ice cream to Lady Gaga for chilling out to, as a gesture of peace and goodwill."




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

   I'm proud and happy to announce that my new book, The Hound in Heaven (21st Century Lion Books), has just been published through Amazon and Kindle. 
     It is a  novella, and for anyone who loves dogs, Christmas, romance, inspiration, even the supernatural, I hope you'll find this to be a treasured  favorite. The  story concerns how, after a New England teacher, his wife and their two daughters adopt a stray puppy found in their barn in northern Maine, their lives seem full of promise. But when tragedy strikes, their wonderful dog Lazarus and the spirit of Christmas are the only things that may bring back his master back from the edge of despair. 


“What a huge surprise turn this story took! I was completely stunned! I truly enjoyed this book and its message.” – Actress Ali MacGraw

“He had me at Page One. The amount of heart, human insight, soul searching, and deft literary strength that John Mariani pours into this airtight novella is vertigo-inducing. Perhaps ‘wow’ would be the best comment.” – James Dalessandro, author of Bohemian Heart and 1906.

“John Mariani’s Hound in Heaven starts with a well-painted portrayal of an American family, along with the requisite dog. A surprise event flips the action of the novel and captures us for a voyage leading to a hopeful and heart-warming message. A page turning, one sitting read, it’s the perfect antidote for the winter and promotion of holiday celebration.” – Ann Pearlman, author of The Christmas Cookie Club and A Gift for my Sister.

“John Mariani’s concise, achingly beautiful novella pulls a literary rabbit out of a hat – a mash-up of the cosmic and the intimate, the tragic and the heart-warming – a Christmas tale for all ages, and all faiths. Read it to your children, read it to yourself… but read it. Early and often. Highly recommended.” – Jay Bonansinga, New York Times bestselling author of Pinkerton’s War, The Sinking of The Eastland, and The Walking Dead: The Road To Woodbury.

“Amazing things happen when you open your heart to an animal. The Hound in Heaven delivers a powerful story of healing that is forged in the spiritual relationship between a man and his best friend. The book brings a message of hope that can enrich our images of family, love, and loss.” – Dr. Barbara Royal, author of The Royal Treatment.


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,  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: 5 MYTHS ABOUT TERRORISM AND TRAVEL INSURANCE

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. Editor: Walter Bagley. Contributing Writers: Christopher Mariani, Robert Mariani,  Misha Mariani, John A. Curtas, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Andrew Chalk,  Dotty Griffith and Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographers: Galina Dargery,  Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.

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© copyright John Mariani 2015