Virtual Gourmet

  January 17, 2016                                                                                             NEWSLETTER


"Girl Peeling Potatoes" (circa 1890) by Albert Anker


  & SPA
By John Mariani


By John Mariani


By John Mariani

By John Mariani


By John Mariani


      Sometimes, when feeling lazy, writers fish for some other writer’s brilliant quotation to open an article, and I admit I looked far and wide to find one about the Nutmeg State, but came up real short.  Not even the Yale Book of Quotations offers a single remark about Connecticut, though it has two on Ohio.  And the state motto—Qui transtulit sustinet (“He who transplanted sustains”)—must be the least inspired in the Union.  Not even favorite daughter Katherine Hepburn or Missouri emigré Mark Twain ever said anything noteworthy in print about their state.
    So let me try: Connecticut is Hollywood’s ideal of New England at its prettiest, its richest and its smartest—rather like Hepburn herself—with movies centered on picturesque country homes and inns in films as disparate as “Christmas in Connecticut,”  “Bringing Up Baby,” “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House” (left), “Parrish,” “Summer Stock,” “The Awful Truth,” even “Beetlejuice” and “The Stepford Wives.”  Such idealization is not without foundation, most beautifully evident in eastern Connecticut towns like Essex, Old Lyme and Old Saybrook, all easily visited over a weekend.
    Old Saybrook, which is principally one long Main Street, dates back to
1624, with Dutch origins, then as Saybrook Colony in 1635 it came under English rule.  In 1701 the Collegiate School of Connecticut was chartered there, before moving to New Haven a decade later to become Yale University.
    In 2009 the town fathers converted the old town hall to the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center and Theater (right).  Kate lived in nearby Fenwick, and my wife and I were delighted to stay in a cozy, fireplace-warmed room named after the great lady at the Saybrook Point Inn and Spa, which has been recently
restored and expanded with a main house, a large guest house across the road, and a marina, all of them set on the edge of the fast-running  Connecticut River and Long Island Sound.
    The Inn has been here for 130 years and for a while back in the last century had a rep as a popular spot for show biz stars and mobsters to get far away from it all, thereby lending the Inn a notorious glamour.  But it’s always been an elegantly appointed place drawing guests from all over the U.S. and, increasingly Europe and South America.  With a seasoned pro named John Lombardo as new general manager,  a state-of-the-art Sanno Spa and indoor pool, conference and banquet facilities, and a renovated and reconfigured restaurant called Fresh Salt, the Inn has never been better run or maintained.
    The Hepburn Suite  (left) is in Three Stories, an Italianate Victorian home with eight rooms, each with a private balcony, exquisite furnishings that marry New England tradition to all the modern comforts (including a large bathroom with heated floors, separate bath and shower), and a full breakfast each morning.
    We enjoyed a fine dinner at Fresh Salt, somewhat more casual than it used to be, so there are now a lot more sweaters than blue blazers in the dining room.  Like everywhere else at the Inn, Fresh Salt looks out on the water, and as the days grow longer, the twilights are earlier, the sunsets later, making it an ideal place to dine in the area, whether or not you’re staying at the Inn.
    My wife and I began with Raw Bar offerings in the form of yellowfin tuna sashimi (below) with wonton matchsticks, creamy avocado, ginger soy dressing, mango salsa and cilantro ($14.95); delicious, if a little overdressed.  There are other Asian elements on the menu, such as crisp calamari with a sweet Srirachi chili glaze, spicy cherry peppers and julienne of fresh vegetables and scallions ($13.95).  A Mexican note was found in the juicy duck confit nachos with pear-tomato concasse, micro-arugula greens and Connecticut goat’s cheese, with a port reduction and crispy wonton ($12.95).  You’ll find a great proportion of ingredients used are from Connecticut and New England.
    We managed to sample three main courses, and portions are very generous.  We raved about a dish called Swordfish “Mrs. Tag” style ($29.95), which began with superb swordfish glossed with good olive oil, garlic, a little lemon zest, Italian parsley and fine breadcrumbs, with a Parmesan-spinach risotto and sautéed zucchini—again, a bit of piling on the plate, but it really was a terrific dish in all its components.
    Their devotion to Connecticut ingredients aside, chef John Cortesi and chef de cuisine Gese Rodriguez are to be applauded for using Colorado lamb. Pork osso buco ($25.95) came with a well-wrought polenta sweetened with figs and sided with field mushrooms and a truffle sauce. 
    One assumes that at any time of year New England desserts (below) are going to be homey and irresistible, and pastry chef Stephanie Schroeder’s do not disappoint. “Indoor S’mores” ($9.95) are made with housemade marshmallows, Graham cracker cookie, salted caramel sauce and chocolate Bavarian cream; a vanilla-scented poached winter pear with a Cassis reduction ($8.95) and a ricotta maple-laced cheesecake ($9.95) were wonderful, but you might just want to go with the three chocolate chip cookies dipped in white chocolate ($7.95).  Then sit back and enjoy a cup of cider laced with Jack Daniels honeyed whiskey. 
    Mr. Lombardo is duly restocking what is now a modest wine list, whose prices are very fair and include some Connecticut spirits and beers. The liquor list is a good one, with eight bourbons and six single malt Scotches.
    I’m sure the late Grande Dame Hepburn, who swam in the Sound every day, would have approved of the room named after her and might even have recommended the Inn for a location wherein to shoot a Hollywood movie in rooms once frequented by her peers.  If Hollywood don’t make ‘em like they used to—Kate Hepburn included—the Saybrook Point Inn certainly does its best to epitomize all the old charms and elegance of a state that deserves a much livelier motto.



By John Mariani


    As apparently everyone in the world knows by now, NY Times restaurant critic Pete Wells dropped the acclaimed Thomas Keller-owned restaurant Per Se from four (extraordinary) to two (very good) stars, though the review’s nastiness read more like it deserved zero stars.
    I’m not going to rebut anything Wells said about individual dishes I have not tried, but I do wish to weigh in on what has become a thorny issue among the media and food world, many of whom seem to want “fine dining” to go away and just die.  Others question how, even without ordering the most expensive wines or surcharged items on Per Se’s lofty list, it is justified to spend $3,000 for four people, as did Wells,  even if the amuses, courses, extras, petit fours and takeaway pastry total more than a dozen dishes over four hours.
    So do I.  There comes a point at which the expenditure of an astonishing—I deliberately didn’t say outrageous or obscene--amount of money on one meal becomes a question of things getting way out of hand in today’s entertainment world--and I did deliberately say entertainment.  For me it is not a question of whether a person can afford and does choose to spend so much money (and most people who dine at Per Se spend much more than Wells did) for a single meal.  Some will just shrug and say, if a person has the money and spends it on exorbitant  multi-course dinners it’s his right to do so.  I don’t find it a question of morality, I find it a question of gross, show-off excess and gluttony, which is, of course, based on the fact that restaurants like Per Se, Eleven Madison Park, Masa, Momofuku Ko, Brooklyn Fare, and Blanca, all in NYC, appeal only to such people.  (O.K, we all know a couple that saved their pennies for two years, blah, blah, blah. . . .)
    My point is not the expenditure itself but the one-upmanship behavior of chefs and restaurateurs who believe that more and more and more is always better, and that there are always enough people to gulp it down: the last meal at the now-closed, said-to-be money-losing El Bulli in Spain was fifty courses served over seven hours and was a ticket tougher to get than if Joe Louis had been brought back from the dead to fight a reinvigorated Muhammad Ali.
    You can spend plenty of money at a Michelin three-star restaurant in Paris, but the meal amounts to four, perhaps five courses and is priced accordingly. For the record, when Thomas Keller, whom I still place in the top ranks of the world’s chefs, opened Per Se many years ago, I did not include it among my “Best New Restauarants” that year because I believed that a restaurant whose chef refuses to allow his guests to have any say or leeway in the choosing of their meal is not truly a great restaurant.  The customer is not always right, but neither is the chef.
      Per Se, like a handful of other restaurants around the country that have copied its method of operation, is made for those people Oscar Wilde defined as “cynics, who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”  They are restaurants for those who prefer Kim Kardashian to Grace Kelly, Dolce  & Gabbana to Savile Row,  Las Vegas to Paris.  Words like “refinement,” “taste” and “elegance” have given way to  exclamatory words like “awesome!” “over-the-top!” and “unbelievable!” for people who have no clue what the difference between fashion and style is.
    But Wells’s review was not really about excess or about the death of fine dining; indeed, as far as we know, he still adores Masa, Eleven Madison Park, Blanca, and Momofuku Ko.  It was more of a bludgeon to a restaurant whose food and service should have been perfect for the expenditure of that kind of money and time and clearly wasn’t.  Had everything been delicious and impeccably served, Per Se would gave retained its four stars.
    But for the rest of us, without the largess of the Times, the expense account of a Goldman Sachs CEO, or the bulging pockets of a Russian billionaire, Per Se represents not a drift or complacency but gives reason to re-think what fine dining  truly is: For  catering to the guest is paramount among the reasons one dines at restaurants that have invested enormous amounts of money and time to make an evening out an enchantment, in a dining room where guests feel not just welcomed but special and warmly happy without having to endure the dictates of an ego- and media-driven chef whose childish attitude is, “This is my restaurant and I’ll do things the way I want to!”
    Make no mistake, fine dining flourishes, but it does so only when the food, wine, service, linens, lighting, sound, color, temperature, menus, silverware, glassware, reception and thank-yous all conspire to make a guest feel he or she has been part of something very special at a time when the tawdry and the banal are being mistaken for class and quality.



By John Mariani

73 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT


    Connecticut towns like Old Saybrook, Essex, and Lyme lie too far north of New York to be called bedroom communities, but New Canaan, 45 miles and 65 minutes by train from Grand Central, most certainly is—and it’s also the eighth wealthiest suburb in the U.S. at that.
     Dating back to 1731, the 22-square-mile town has many of the same bucolic charms of those to the north, but New Canaan’s real estate values are in the stratosphere for the old colonials, the pre- and post-war mansions, and modernist houses built by architects like
Marcel Breuer and resident Philip Johnson, whose famous Glass House is here.
    The very tidy town center is mostly filled with Georgian-style red brick structures, and Elm Street, lined with the requisite trees, is a stretch of upscale  boutiques, a movie house, and one of the finest restaurants in the state, which takes its name from the street.  When Elm opened in 2012, the chef-partner, Brian Lewis, was a star on the rise whose cooking I praised; he left in 2014 and this year just open his own new restaurant in Westport named Cottage, which I shall be reporting on soon.
    His replacement at Elm, Luke Venner (left), is a formidable choice, with his own style but one that has always characterized the restaurant’s kitchen, sharply focused on the seasons and the provender available, particularly if it’s from New England's land and waters, with purveyors like Millstone Farms in Wilton and Smith’s Acres in Niantic, listed on the menu.  Venner, a bearded South Dakotan, comes to Elm after stints at NYC’s BLT Fish and BLT Steak, and he’s kept on a number of the old menu's categories, from snacks to desserts (eating at the bar is very popular here, and the bartender is first-rate).  He’s also kept the homey touches like serving warm Parker House rolls with soft butter.
    The slender space is bisected, with a bar to the left and main dining room to the right, with a bright open kitchen to the rear, and it can get extremely loud when packed.  The lighting is kind to everyone, though the décor is minimal, the tables unadorned, which doesn’t help the decibel level.  The crowd is largely composed of locals with a heightened sense of what food in the ‘burbs could and should be, which is the polar opposite of what’s being served in the area’s country clubs.   Indeed, Venner’s cooking reminds me of that at the much heralded Nomad in NYC.
    The night I visited, the kitchen was blessed with bay scallops, which were served proudly raw and delicately sweet.  Burrata had a creamy center, dressed with an interesting pesto made from pulverized nasturtiums, set on grilled bread ($18).  Tuna tartare with Subarashi pear, radish and soy mustard ($21) was nicely seasoned and of good texture, but an otherwise fine pumpkin and apple soup ($14) was ruined by the strong taste of smoked bluefish.
    There were two excellent pastas on the menu—a carnaroli risotto with black truffle and mascarpone ($26) that could not be improved upon for its simple elegance and richness, and a rigatoni with spicy, hot ‘nduja-riddled bolognese sauce dusted with Parmigiano ($24).
    So often these days black bass—or bass of any kind—is a disappointment, sometimes not even bass, but Venner’s had all the flavor you could wish for, along with Littleneck clam broth, a little tarragon and a hit of wasabi to brighten it all ($34).  Just as wonderful was his breast of duck with rye dumplings and a Saskatoon berry jus ($36), as good a cold weather dish as you’ll find, and I loved the marriage of flavors in  the Mangalitsa pork confit with spiced carrot and chimichurri ($34).  As the simplest of  dishes on the menu, Venner’s hanger steak delivers in chewy texture and juiciness, served with roesti potatoes, charred chard and a nice dollop of cool sour cream jus ($36).  I did not try the grass-fed beef burger with raclette cheese and Russian dressing ($18) because it is from insipid grass-fed beef.
    Pastry Chef Kara Koehmstedt, recently of NYC’s progressive restaurant Cosme, turns out exceptionally good desserts (all $8) that balance the homey, seasonal qualities of the area with real finesse, as evidenced in her poached plum with oat cake, plum ice cream, and mascarpone cream;  a pumpkin cheesecake with crunchy crumble and white cheese mousse; a dense but moist chocolate cake with chocolate and orange cream, and “dream sickle” ice cream; and good old-fashioned Italian zeppole fritters filled with ricotta and served with jam and maple ice cream.
    Elm’s wine list is robust, has depth and is very pricey.
    You can find this quality of food in Manhattan, but it’s still rare in the city’s suburbs, and rarer still to find any up there that can match the beautifully balanced cuisine at Elm.  

Elm is open  for lunch Mon.-Fri.; dinner nightly; brunch Sat. & Sun.






    It’s become something of a problem that I’m finding more and more wines either flawed (corked, oxidized, incomplete malolactic) or just not very good to begin with.  The corked or oxidized wines may in fact be just one bad bottle or the whole batch.  Poor or badly made wines, on the other hand, are what they are, and their increase has become so chronic that I’ve started to bring two different wines to my dinner table each night, so that if one turns out to be of poor or flawed quality I just open a different wine and hope for the better. (The bad bottle I taste the next day to make sure.)

    So, here are a slew of wines I’ve been either enjoying or finding to be not worth drinking.  Others are so intentionally stylized to taste a certain way that they are worth mentioning for that alone.  


Renwood Zinfandel Fiddletown 2012 ($25)—Like Longfellow’s little girl with the little curl, Zinfandel can be either very good or very bad.  Renwood makes a wide array of zins, and this well-priced example from the Sierra Foothills has the boldness and boot to please those who love the varietal.  With 94% Zin, 5% Syrah and 1% Petite Syrah, the cherry fruit notes provide a delicious added incentive to drink this wine with dishes that have a bit of sweetness, like the pork ribs with a guava glaze my wife made last night. The 14.5% alcohol is commendable in a varietal that too often goes way higher. 

Amapola Creek Zinfandel Monte Rosso Vineyard 2009 ($36)—As I just said, zins can go into the alcoholic stratosphere, and this Sonoma example sure does, at 16.1 percent. The wine is massive in an overwhelming way and tastes like cherry syrup rather than a fine wine.  Richard Arrowood has always made zins in this style, dense to the point of being cloying.  This might work, as would Port, which has 20% alcohol and sweetness, with some French triple-cream cheeses.  

Red Rock Winery Malbec Reserve 2012 ($13.99)—Over the past few years Malbecs have been among the most impressive wines coming out of Argentina, but now, it seems, following that recognition, the onslaught of lesser examples has begun, as when bad pinot grigio flooded the market after the first really good examples showed that Italian varietal’s best side. Red Rock gets its name from red rocks that point the way to the winery in Mendoza, and it appears to be a deliberate choice to be in English for the American market.  But the flavors are overripe, cloying and out of balance, without saying anything about Malbec’s own particular flavor or Mendoza tarroir.  

Joseph Drouhin Vosne-Romanée 2012 ($80)—I almost hated myself for opening this vintage so soon, but, with a Christmas goose on the table I couldn’t resist, and it was a magical marriage.  This is what a Burgundian Pinot Noir is supposed to taste like—elegant, velvety, with a fruit-acid balance that will only become richer in a year or two.  The wine was aged for 14 to 18 months (20% new oak), which softened rather than affected the flavor too much.  The tannins are already soft, and I‘m already looking forward to next Christmas.  

Gap’s Crown Vineyard Three Sticks Pinot Noir 2013 ($65)—Younger still than the Vosne-Romanée, this Sonoma County Pinot Noir shows off the mid-weight of the varietal from a warm climate. It’s what California Pinot Noir should taste like, rather than an imitation of a Burgundy.  It’s a little pricey—this is only the estate’s second vintage—but the year had a near perfect climatic confluence of heat and cold, rain and dryness.  There’s good spice here and an admirable 14.1% alcohol level.  

Presqu’ile Vineyards Chardonnay 2013 ($45)—The name means “almost an island,” referring to a spot owned for generations by Matt Murphy’s family in the Gulf Coast pretty much destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The 200-acre winery, in California’s Santa Maria Valley, dates only to 2006, but already it’s producing delicious, well-rounded, silky Chardonnay under enologist Anna Murphy (Matt’s sister).  The valley’s cool breezes and modest rainfall help keep the grapes in equilibrium (85% of the grapes used are from the estate), and their choice of clones makes their Chardonnay bright with acidity and refined fruit flavors without the overuse of oak that would make it taste like caramel candy.  

Chȃteau Genins 2013 ($11)—More and more I’m happy to see such wonderful, low-priced Bordeaux come into the U.S. market, and this example, with its quaint old label, is the kind of red blend that the people of Bordeaux drink on an everyday basis.  It shows off the clay and limestone soil components of the region, is medium-bodied, has an easy-to-drink 12% alcohol, and can be enjoyed with anything (except seafood) you might put on your dinner table tonight.   

Petit Chapeau Bordeaux 2013  ($11)—A blend of 60% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Entre-Deux-Mers region, this is said to be from a single estate, though that info is not printed on the back label.  Yet, despite being a Daniel Johnnes Selection (Johnnes is one of the world’s most respected sommeliers), this is a depressingly dull red wine at a time when similar Bordeaux from lesser regions are showing an admirable new character (see Château Genins above).  It has very little taste at all and certainly none of Bordeaux; not a terrible wine, just not much of a red wine at all.  

Ehlers Estate E 1886 Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($100)—When wines arrive in thick-walled, heavy bottles with special closures, I tend to think there might be more in the packaging than inside, but Bernard Ehlers winery dates to 1886 and this 2012 vintage shows its breeding.  At 14.5% alcohol it hits that California sweet spot above which Cabernet Sauvignon gets treacly.  Instead, the tannins are soft, the fruit pronounced but not syrupy, and it is just begging to be drunk with a thick, seared steak or lamb chops with enormous pleasure.  The components are 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc, 2% Merlot and 1% Petit Verdot.  

Torres Mas La Plana Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($60)—Torres has championed Cabernet in Spain for decades now (the number “40” on the label refers to just how many years) and has proven that it is a match for many of the best in France and California. Produced in the Penèdes region, the wine achieves the right, noble balance, with 14.5% alcohol, that gives body, Iberian character, and silky texture, with fruit, tannin and acids getting along just fine. This is a very easy wine to drink at a very decent price for this kind of quality, and it will get even better over the next five years.  

Porrera vi de Vila Vall Lach Priorat 2011 ($65)—When I mentioned “stylized” wines, I meant wines like this Priorat, which the label says “denotes not only a region but celebrates the unique terroir of a particular village,” where old-vine Carignan is produced.  The bottle itself is thick and heavy and the alcohol soars to 15.5%, making this a massive, two-dimensional wine of fruit and tannin (70% Carignan, 30% Garnacha) that raised my eyebrows after the first sip but then I wagged my head after the second.  It is deliberately made to be, as The Donald might say, huge!  As one wine magazine wrote, it tastes of “tar and rhubarb,” while another rightly says, it is “not for the faint of heart’—neither of which sounds to me like a well-made, balanced Priorat



Police in Albuquerque, NM, arrested a 23-year-old named  Jonathan Ray who wanted his mother's homemade stew so badly that he broke into her house and stole it.  Ray said he was stopping by for some of her pozole, but she said no. So he jimmied the gate,  did some damage on the garage door to get inside the empty house, then "He opened the door and grabbed that big pot of posole I had made for my kids," his mom told the Albuquerque Journal. "He knew I had made it." She decided to press charges "due to the fact that he did not have her permission to enter her home and take the pot of posole."


“Under Tuscan lemon chicken ($20) — browned, bone-in and skin-on, natch — an unctuous four-cheese polenta shines in a fond-rich mushroom demiglace. Milky, plump diver scallops ($30), more rustico-protein, are oozy and caramelized from a screaming-hot sear and piled on a farro risotto hill (spared the "farrotto" portmanteau). The light and bright spicy butternut squash sugo sauce mirrors the scallops' sweetness, but the risotto is surprisingly loose, the farro chewy. I marvel that the whole get up looks like a motte-and-bailey castle with a safety-yellow moat.”—Susie Davidson Powell, “Campagna,” Times-Union (12/15).


 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: OSLO'S TOP TEN

Eating Las Vegas JOHN CURTAS has been covering the Las Vegas food and restaurant scene since 1995. He is the co-author of EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants (the fourth edition of which will be published in early 2016), as well as the author of the Eating Las Vegas web site: www.eatinglasvegas. He can also be seen every Friday morning as the “resident foodie” for Wake Up With the Wagners on KSNV TV (NBC) Channel 3  in Las Vegas.


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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