Easter Eggs in Salzburg, Austria
IN THIS ISSUE
Dining Out with Confidence
By John Mariani
NEW YORK CORNER
What All the Hipster Food Media Are Missing
By John Mariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
By John Mariani
AN ANNOUNCEMENT: On April 13 at 7 PM at the Westchester Italian Cultural Center in Tuckahoe, NY, John Mariani will give a convivial talk on "The Enduring Presence of Mamma in the Italian Kitchen." A light reception is offered prior to the beginning of the presentation from 6:30-7 PM. Members: $25, non-members $25. For details click here: www.wiccny.org
Dining Out with Confidence
By John Mariani
The above photo of Cary
Grant shows him in full, confident stride—as he
always looked—a man for whom the world is his
oyster, a gentleman in excelsis,
brightening every room he enters.
NEW YORK CORNER
What All the Hipster Food Media Have Missed
By John Mariani
It is tempting to call the hipster
food media that now occupy desks at the NY Times,
York Magazine, Bon
Appetit, and Eater.com
pathetic when they go ga-ga over what they
proclaim to be unique restaurants of a kind
that NYC has never before seen.
Of course, so many of those
media are at a number of severe disadvantages: 1.
Their experience usually averages less than five
years of dining out around NYC. 2. They have little
idea of and have read nothing about NYC restaurant
history. (May I suggest my book America Eats
Out: An Illustrated History of Restaurants,
Taverns, Coffee Shops, Speakeasies, and Other
Establishments that Have Fed us for 350 Years?).
3. Those employed by most newspapers, magazines or
on-line food sites are rarely given expense accounts to allow
them to dine out above a certain level of eatery. 4
They have an adolescent view that whatever is
refined and elegant is therefore to be avoided. 5.
They ignore any restaurants not frequented by their
Last November a group of Providence artists decided to do a send-up of hipster media and foodies by announcing on social media--complete with reviews--the opening of a hip new restaurant named Lura (Swedish for "trick") located in a long-closed coffee shop, eliciting media queries from Eatglobe, Eater, CityLab, and Washington Post. According to one of the participants in the hoax, "On opening day, we had sat across the street from Lura for about an hour just to people-watch. We were actually able to predict who would stop to look at the installation—young people in flannel, dudes with mustaches and tattoos, women with loose top buns. Everyone else not completely fitting the millennial description hardly noticed Lura at all."
The hipster media might be shocked to find out that Ferdinand’s Focacceria opened in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, in 1904; that back in 1939, according to Dining Out in New York by G. Selmer Fougner, NYC had a slew of Scandinavian—now referred to as “Nordic”—restaurants that included Gripsolm on East 37th Street, Kungsolm on East 55th and Stockholm on West 51st. Those in high praise of new places like Ed’s Lobster Bar and The John Dory Oyster Bar may know about the Grand Central Oyster Bar (above), opened 1912, but not about Billy the Oysterman (right; East 20th) or Libby’s Oyster House (Fulton St.) of the same period. In 1939 there were plenty of German restaurants, especially in Yorkville, and down in Greenwich Village a Basque place called Jai-Ali served bacalao à la Vizcaina. There were a dozen Austrian restaurants like Huber’s (East 82nd) and Sacher’s (Madison Ave.) and Hungarian places like Zimmerman’s (West 6th Street). Teresa’s (1st Ave.) was where you’d go for Polish cooking.
Ten years later Knife and Fork in New York by Lawton Mackall (1949) listed Lottie’s Dogwood Room (East 58th) and Francis Bell (West 55th) for made-to-order fried chicken and other Southern fare. For Indian there was the East India Curry Shop (East 55th); for Czech, Sokol (East 71st) and many others; for Mexican, Xochitl (West 46th); for Brazilian, Semon’s (East 58th); several Armenian places like Izmir (Lexington Ave.), and Asian, like Singapore (on Broadway).
When I first began compiling restaurant guides in the mid-1980s, I could recommend Wong Kee and Noodletown for Chinese noodles in Chinatown; Texarcana (West 10th) for Gulf Coast cooking; Smokey’s Pit Barbecue (9th Ave.) and Austrian cuisine at Vienna 79 (East 79th).
The food hipsters rarely venture north of 14th Street in Manhattan, preferring to discover tamale shops and sushi bars on the Lower East Side, tacquerias in the East Village, and ramen storefronts in Brooklyn. But had they been around as of 1990, they might have discovered some of the most innovative restaurants in NYC were in fact downtown. The Odeon (West Bway), which opened up TriBeCa as a restaurant destination; Le Pescadou (King St.), Jour et Nuit (West Bway), Felix (West Bway), Jean-Claude (Sullivan St.), and Provence (MacDougal St.) for authentic French bistro fare, as well as Chanterelle (Spring Street) and Montrachet (West Bway), which brought contemporary French to NYC; Soho Charcuterie (Spring St.), Alison on Dominick (Dominick St.) and Union Square Café (East 16th) established templates for modern American cuisine and service; Can (West Bway) and Indochine (Lafayette St.) for Vietnamese; Po (Cornelia St.) was Mario Batali’s first trattoria venture; and Benny’s Burritos (Greenwich Avenue) is still as popular as ever.
In the 1990s Soho Kitchen and Bar (Green St.) was serving more than 100 wines by the glass--the Cruvinet wine dispenser and preserver appeared in 1978--along with thin-crusted pizzas and house-made pastas, while Da Silvano (6th Ave.) clued New Yorkers into what Tuscan food was. Florent (Gansevoort St.)—one of the hipster eateries of its day—kick-started the food scene in the Meat Packing District as of 1985; the area has now become a street of fashion boutiques and frequently changing restaurants.
So forgive me if I take the pronouncements of the hipster food media as ill-informed when they suggest that all the culinary excitement is now south of Union Square and that places in Brooklyn like Gran Eléctrica, serving “California-style Mexican” food, or the Michelin one-star La Vara (where “hip urbanites get down to business around the sleek marble bar”) are the first of their kind.
I will admit that, given the quality of ingredients now available to chefs and the evolution of cooking over the last half century in NYC and elsewhere, food everywhere is better than ever. But the concocted phrase “farm-to-table” used by hipster restaurants and their p.r. machines would mystify a cook in any other country in the world, where such a claim would be meaningless.
Once, when asked his opinion of old-timer Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington (who was actually older than Satchmo by two years) paid him the highest compliment, saying, “No he, no me.” It’s a humble homage the hipster media should learn before they extol the next big thing out there.
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
By John Mariani
Beloved but so often
neglected, Sauternes are among the world’s most
respected wines that few people drink with any
degree of frequency. Best known as the
accompaniment with foie gras (a match I think is
overrated), Sauternes, owing to
their sweetness, are otherwise relegated to the
dessert part of the meal, sometimes sipped all on
their own. Still,
there are interesting match-ups with savory dishes
where Sauternes show remarkably well.
was a honey parfait with beeswax ice cream, a far
more traditional kind of match-up for Sauternes like
the 2002 ($81), made from a difficult harvest that
produced a small crop; it had great depth but not
enough acid to cut through its sweetness, resulting
in flavors more like maple syrup but not cloying
GOOD THING HE DIDN'T INVENT THE CUISINART
When Renato Bialetti, whose father invented the Moka coffee pot, which has sold more than 300 million units, died last month at the age of 93, his children, in accordance with his wishes, had his ashes interred in a giant Moka pot displayed and prayed over by a priest during Bialetti's funeral mass.
HE HAD US SOBBING AT “SUNCHOKE.”
“`I grew those sunchokes,’ our waiter said, referring to the puree under my son’s grass-fed, espresso-cured hanger steak. Then he grabbed his phone to show my daughter pictures of a mushroom he had foraged. `There it is now,’ he said, pointing to a frilly orb resting on her black gnocchi. `See, that’s love, right there.’”—Ceil Miller Bouchet, “Foraging Fuels the Kitchen,” NY Times (Jan. 24, 2016).
Column Sponsored by Banfi Vintners
co-CEO of Banfi Vintners America's leading wine importer
April Showers of Red and White Goodness
As Spring finally kicks into gear, we
are reminded of the fragility of Mother Earth and her
bounty. As an importer representing several
family wine makers from around the globe, I often like
to point out that all the wines that we represent are
green, some of them greener than others. The
greenest of all are classified as Biodynamic or
certified Organic. One of the most interesting
selections of eco-balanced, organic and biodynamic
wines comes to us from Chile and the vineyards of
Recommended – green wines for Spring:
Natura Chardonnay In the cool coastal Pacific climate of the Casablanca Valley, organically grown grapes are hand picked during the last week of March, and vinified in stainless steel tanks, free of the domineering influence of oak. On the nose, tantalizing citrus aromas of grapefruit and lime blend with notes of pineapple, all of which reappear on the palate and finish with balance thanks to the wine’s freshness and natural acidity. Delicious with spring salads and seafood dishes.
Natura Carmenere – From the rustic isolation of the Colchagua Valley, this intense and voluptuous offers aromas of cherries, chocolate and spice, coming together in ramped up volume on the palate with soft, round tannins and firm, well-balanced structure. Great balance between fruit and oak, with a long, juicy finish.
Novas Sauvignon Blanc Gran Reserva – Hailing from the San Antonio Valley’s thin rocky and clay soils, the organic grapes for this wine are harvested by hand in March and undergo fermentation in stainless steel to preserve their bright fruit character. Herbal notes mixed with citrus and soft floral hints fill the bouquet; the taste is medium bodied with grapefruit flavors joined by a delicate acidity and a touch of minerality.
Novas Pinot Noir Gran Reserva – The grapes for this wine are grown in the cool, coastal Casablanca Valley’s permeable sandy loam soils, and harvested by hand. After a cold soak on the skins, the wine is aged for 8 months in French oak barrels to add character, depth and roundness. Bright ruby red in color with attractive aromas of berries, strawberries and notes of spice and cocoa, this wine bursts with fruit flavor, layered with earthiness. Delicious with white meats, light sauces, full flavored fish and shellfish, cured ham and sushi.
Coyam – A blend dominated by Syrah with nearly equal parts of Carmenere and Merlot balanced by “soupcons” of Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvedre and Petit Verdot, from the Colchagua Valley estate called Los Robles – Spanish for the oaks, called “Coyam” by the native Mapuche people in their own language. Hand harvested certified biodynamic grapes are naturally fermented in French oak barrels. Coyam is largely unfiltered and aged for 13 months in barrels. Aromas of ripe red and black fruits integrate with notes of spice, earth and a hint of vanilla bean. Elegant expressions of fruit are delicately interwoven with oak, mineral and toffee.
Ge – Chile’s first certified biodynamic wine, the name Ge is a nod to Geos, the earthly environment pulling together all the elements that surround us. Ge is a blend of nearly equal parts of Syrah, Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon grown in the deep soils of colluvial origin in the coastal range, which lends mineral complexity. Naturally fermented in oak barrels, Ge is deep plum red with violet tones; it offers intense aromas of black fruits and berries alongside mineral notes and a soft touch of tobacco leaf. Generously fruity with cedar notes, Ge is well balanced with tremendous volume, well rounded tannins and a long finish.
For more information please visit http://www.banfiwines.com/winery/emiliana/
Cristina Mariani is not related by family or through business with John Mariani, publisher of this newsletter
Any of John Mariani's books below may be ordered from amazon.com.
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.
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❖❖❖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, ForbesTraveler.com 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: Five Myths about the Galapagos Islands.
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
nickonwine: An engaging, interactive wine column by Nick Passmore, Artisanal Editor, Four Seasons Magazine; Wine Columnist, BusinessWeek.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.nickonwine.com.
MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET
NEWSLETTER is published weekly. Editor/Publisher: John
Editor: Walter Bagley. Contributing Writers: Christopher Mariani,
Robert Mariani, Misha
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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