Virtual Gourmet

  September 25, 2016                                                                                             NEWSLETTER


Audrey Tatou in "Amelie" (2001)


By John Mariani

By John Mariani



By John Mariani

By John Mariani

    As noted in my article last week about Kohler, Wisconsin, The American Club opened in 1918 as living quarters for the Kohler company’s factory workers, complete with pub, bowling alley and barbershop, all surrounded by 500 acres of lush woodlands and rivers.  In 1978 the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
       After being closed for three years, The American Club was reconfigured in 1981 as a grand inn, and it is as splendid a Late Gothic-Victorian structure as may be found in the nation.  The original 1
00-foot flagpole still flies an American banner, and the magnificent blue slate roof has been carefully maintained.
    Every inch of the building was restored to contemporary standards of luxury, its oak paneling buffed and expanded, and each guest room was created to honor Americans of unique achievement, including
George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Mary Pickford, Ernest Hemingway and Lou Gehrig. My wife and I stayed in the John James Audubon room, decorated with reproductions of the artist’s work and memorabilia. All the rooms are  spacious, many with gas fireplaces, all with minibars, and, since this is a Kohler showcase, you can only imagine how luxuriously the bathrooms are designed and appointed.  You could hardly conceive of a better advertisement for good plumbing.
    I particularly loved the Library (left) , where I could spend days on end picking through volumes of classic American and European literature from the shelves, settling down in a comfortable chair and ordering tea or a cocktail as I wile away hours ripping through a volume or two of James Fenimore Cooper or boning up on Wisconsin wildlife.
    Amenities are first rate throughout, and I had no trouble with WiFi.  Kohler has also initiated a children’s program, and while this is very much an adult hotel in cast and sophistication, younger children can sill enjoy it; teenagers will probably sit in their room and play with their iPhones (as they always do).  Shuttle carts take you wherever you wish on the property,
including four world-class golf courses designed by the noted (some say notorious) architect Pete Dye.   
  There are six dining rooms in the Club, and where the bowling alley once stood there is now the cheery Horse & Plow Pub, decked out with antique farm tools—the tabletops are made from the bowling alley planking—and serving very good American fare. Here I wholly enjoyed a beer-and-cheese soup, a juicy burger piled high with Wisconsin sharp cheddar on a housemade Stieber bun (right), and some hearty grilled bratwurst served with bacon-studded sauerkraut, grilled onions and Stout-spiked mustard on a toasted hard roll.
    The most formal dining venue in the Club is the Wisconsin Room (below), where seasonality invests a continental-style menu featuring items like Great Lakes perch and Wisconsin char along with bison tenderloin and grass-fed Prime rib, with main courses ranging from $25 to $54 and a three-course “Farmer’s Tasting Menu” at $45.  Dishes tend to be overwrought, when simpler renditions would be better.
    A former laundry room has been converted into a warren of small, intimate dining areas called the Immigrant Restaurant & Winery Bar, each reflecting a different ethnic heritage of the Kohler workers of the past.  This is the most ambitious of the restaurants at the Club, with entrée prices from $46 to $62, and wine pairings are crafted from a stellar 40-page list, also featured at The Winery bar next to the restaurant.  Here wine and cheese tastings are part of the nightly fare, and it’s a beautiful, secluded spot in which to end an evening with a glass of Port or Brandy and talk about one’s experience on the golf greens that afternoon.
    Outside the main building are other venues where one can stay or eat, some geared to the golf courses on which they sit: Black Wolf Run (right), magnificently timbered, features an American grill menu with dishes like corn-and-sausage chowder ($7), dill and citrus walleye pike on sourdough bread ($14), and stuffed cheese steak ($11); if still warm, outside on the terrace you can enjoy your meal and drinks in front of a grand fieldstone fireplace.
    My favorite of the estate’s smaller restaurants was River Wildlife’s Lodge Restaurant, set in a log cabin (below) for which the term rustic is a bit ingenuous. Still, notes its brochure, "Everything carried in must be carried out." For, although it has all the lineaments of a cabin in the woods, it is also the epitome of an American style that evokes Beretta shotguns, Irish tweeds, Ralph Lauren boots, stacks of magazines like Sports Afield and Field & Stream,  a copy of Hemingway’s Nick Adams stories and a good stock of rare Scotches. Here the menu is happily Midwestern, with excellent, hearty soups  glaze ($6),   pheasant BLT with applewood bacon ($16), and autumn fruit crisp ($8).  Dinner is served at the Lodge on weekends.
        Off site, in a village called the Shops at Woodlake, Kohler also runs the Craverie Chocolatier Café, using the resort’s own recipes for fancy chocolates—tastings are available—and also offering a light but substantial menu of soups and sandwiches, as well as freshly baked pastries and ice creams. The dishes include roasted cauliflower soup and Waldorf chicken salad wrap, and for breakfast an egg and Wisconsin cheddar cheese croissant. 
    Also at the Shops is Cucina, a good-looking modern Italian restaurant that needs improvement in the kitchen; the best way to go is with the variety of steaks and chops cooked over a wood grill, with main courses $21-$35.
    Kohler also has some superb private clubs, including the baronial Riverbend, with two dining rooms.      
   Destination Kohler is well named, for although it’s only an hour from Milwaukee, it seems remote in the sense of being of another, quieter, slower paced era, buoyed by Midwestern hospitality, far from the bustle and rush of a big city.



By John Mariani

1 Little West 12th Street (near Hudson Street)


    When entrepreneurs Aymeric Clemente and Remi Laba opened the first Riviera-styled Bagatelle location in NYC's Meat Packing District in 2008, it was decidedly intended to be a scene—or, as Clemente put it, “a vibe restaurant”—whose decadent Saturday brunch was the talk of the town, even during the height of the recession.  Seven branches followed in ports like Rio, San Tropez and St. Barts.
    “As the waiter soars through the air, he does so against a backdrop of patrons fist-pumping Champagne flutes, flashing cameras capturing pictures ripe for Facebook and a dozen young women clad in sequins, stilettos and Chanel bags climbing onto chairs, banquettes, even tables—any elevated surface that is sturdy enough to dance on.” So wrote a New York Times reporter in 2009, noting that, “Through the window this afternoon, Mr. Laba observed two young men talking to the doorman about securing a table. `They will be turned away,’ he predicted. And, if they had been two beautiful women? `They’ll be sent to the bar,’ he said. `I may even seat them.’”
    Music via a D.J. began after 11 p.m. Purely as a stunt, a $1,000 “Mauboussin Mega Sundae” consisting of vanilla ice cream, Dom Pérignon Rosé and sorbet topped with chocolate truffles, macarons, whipped cream, chocolate vodka sauce and "gilded brownies" with gold  leaf and a ring of gold and black steel was promoted on the menu.
    So evident was the intent of Bagatelle’s owners to make their operation a scene in the days when Eminem and the Black Eyed Peas were all the rage that the restaurant was largely ignored by the food press (the Times reported on but never reviewed it). Now, in a new location a block away and light years from 2008, Clemente and Laba are trying to garner more respect for the food, and in hiring young Nicolas Frezal (below), a native of the South of France, the menu most certainly deserves more serious attention.  Frezal is a graduate of top Michelin restaurants like Le Taillevent, Restaurant Le Meurice, and L'Ami Jean in Paris, before moving to NYC to work at Restaurant Daniel and as sous chef at Jean-George Vongerichten’s The Mark. Now, at Bagatelle, Frezal intends to make his own mark.
    His steak tartare ($20) shows him as his elemental best, gambling everything on the freshest, finest chopped beef, set on crispy rice cakes to add more texture.  The tomatoes in his tomato salad with goat’s cheese, kimchi lime paste and a vinaigrette ($16) are as sweet as they come right now, while his grilled octopus ($19), done à la Niçoise with Kalamata olives, is of just the right tenderness without being overcooked and the acidic addition of tomato confit, along with potatoes and aïoli, makes this one of the best in town. He also does a few creditable pizzas—really more flatbreads—one with so-so Australian truffles shaved on top ($27— but more about this price later).  Gnocchi Parisienne ($25, $36 with truffles),  which more often than not is a floury, mushy mess, was a textbook example of how they should be made, with a truffle sauce (left).
    Among the main courses I enjoyed were impeccably sweet scallops with sautéed quinoa, English peas and a lush Parmesan saffron sauce ($39).  So, too, large prawns came with a delicious herbed risotto and a light but rich Pastis-scented  cream sauce ($48).  A simply roasted half chicken ($35, $69 whole), wonderfully crisp, was also treated to truffles (below).  
    A bavette of Australian wagyu ($45) showed why it is just not worth the price or effort to import beef that doesn’t come close to the flavor of a USDA Prime strip steak.
    Desserts ($13) are very traditional, but all very good—crème brûlée, chocolate mousse, peaches and cream.
    Frezal has made his intentions clear that he wants people to love his cuisine, but the management does not make it easy for a guest to want to return.  Sad to say, they gouge: five bottles of water, not ordered, were $50 on the bill, and somehow for four people the waiter managed to shave four of those inferior Australian truffles onto our food for a total of $156, with no mention of price!  The mark-ups on the wine list also are very high, with few bottles under $100.  (Incidentally, Bagatelle’s bill lists percentages for tipping, apparently  because so many Europeans pretend they don’t know they’re supposed to tip in America.)
    These deliberate overcharges marred what, up until then, had been an enchanting evening in a place I’d certainly go back to for Frezal’s food—he said he’d make me a classic bouillabaisse this fall—but it seemed clear that the owners believe their clientele are of a kind that doesn’t bother to look at their bill.  They really, really should. 

Bagatelle is open for lunch and dinner nightly; Brunch on Sat.






By John Mariani
Photos by G. deLaubier

For me the best part of being a wine writer is not the opportunity to taste so many wines in so many places but to meet the passionate winemakers who have devoted their lives to maintaining a long history of excellence, whether it’s an Italian like Angelo Gaja or a Californian like Michael Mondavi.  So, being invited to lunch in New York at Le Bernardin by Stéphanie de Boüard-Rivoal of Angélus in Saint-Emilion was an occasion I would not have traded for a thousand tasting sessions.

    Angélus takes its name from a centuries-old Catholic tradition of reciting prayers three times a day, often marked by the pealing of church bells in the morning, at midday and in the evening.
        The estate itself dates to 1795, when Charles Souffrain de Lavergne and his wife, Catherine-Sophie, made their home in the wine region of Saint-Emilion.  At the beginning of the 20th century ownership passed to the Laforest family, which runs it today under Hubert de Boüard de Laforest, Jean-Bernard Grenié and, as of 2012, Stéphanie de Boüard-Rivoal, who is part of the eighth generation of the Boüard family; her cousin ,Thierry Grenie-Boüard, has recently joined her.
    It was Hubert who elevated Angélus’s status in Saint-Emilion, which had enjoyed the Grand Cru appellation since the first classification of Saint-Emilion wines in 1954, but rose to Premier Grand Cru in the (albeit controversial) 2012 re-classification.  (The others are  Château Pavie and Château Ausone.)  Angélus’s 96-acre vineyard lies in a natural amphitheater with concentrated sunlight and good drainage, where the Merlot grows well on a clay-rich hill, while the Cabernet Franc enjoys the clay and limestone at the foot.   The blend at Angélus is usually around 60% Cab Franc and 40% Merlot, without the Cabernet Sauvignon that distinguishes most of Bordeaux’s red wines, although the estate grows a small amount of the grape.
    At one time Angélus wines spent no time aging in oak, but Hubert and oenologist Emmanuele d’Aligny-Fulchi now ferment in stainless steel, concrete and oak vats, with 18-24 months aging and bottling taking place 20 to 26 months after harvest, for a production of about 100,000 bottles. (The estate also makes a second label, Le Carillon d’Angélus.)
    Stéphanie de Bouard-Rivoal, 34 (below), has all the breeding of what would otherwise be called a “gentleman vigneron,” but she is actually the third woman to preside over the estate.  Tall, with long honey-brown hair, she speaks fluent English and enjoys telling of how fiercely committed her family is to Angélus, noting that, “My great uncle was proud that he had never set foot on the Left Bank of the Garonne River,” which bisects Bordeaux.
    Stéphanie, on the other hand, is a global ambassador for the estate, insisting with fervor, “
The commitment for me is almost like a priestly vocation, which I take up with faith, passion and gratitude. We are only the guardians of a history that preceded us and will survive us, so our role is to sustain it in the best conditions we will be able to achieve.”  Prior to her taking over, the estate was able to coax James Bond to drink L’Angélus in Casino Royale (2005) and she made sure he did so again in Spectre (2015).
        Over a lunch of tagliatelle noodles with crab, scallop and lobster in a black truffle emulsion, then pan-roasted squab with truffled Savoy cabbage and a red wine salmis sauce, w
e tasted two vintages of L’Angélus, 1999 and 2004. Both reminded me of the distinctive flavor of Saint-Emilion at its best: robust but velvety, supple but with good tannins, fleshy but well textured, always revealing an identifiable brick-like aroma. They mature earlier than many Bordeaux and are, therefore, easy to love long before the wines of the Médoc.  The 1999 was a difficult vintage because hail forced early picking,  but it is nevertheless a wine of real character that shows off its limestone-clay terroir well.  The depth of the wine is now in its glory, and this is a vintage to drink now.
    The 2004, which Angélus characterizes as “Le Savoureux,” began and continued to worry vignerons through summer, but by the time of harvest in mid-October conditions had improved greatly, resulting in a wine still showing a freshness of fruit and a mellowing of tannins, all rounded by the Merlot and given spice by the Cabernet Franc, which makes the estate’s suggestion that the wine should be at its best in 2025 to 2035 disappointing to all, like myself, who would love drinking this every year till then.
    Angélus has a new label, but in the very best sense, it’s the same old wine in a brand new bottle.  The label is a nod to the 21st century, but the wine is testament to more than two centuries of good soil and good stewardship.




The Manchester Evening News
reported that the The Greater Manchester Police Trafford South posted an incident that, “Whilst shopping, the lady was challenged by an unknown female who grabbed her trolley and demanded the money she had withdrawn. The 86 year old lady then defended herself by repeatedly hitting the female offender over the head with a packet of bacon. The offender then retreated and made off from the supermarket.”



"The rum-and-cola at BlackTail, a new Cuban-themed bar in lower Manhattan from the Dead Rabbit team, is poorly named. It is not a rum-and-cola because, let’s be honest, it is not merely rum plus cola. It’s more like rum times cola. Rum to the power of cola. It’s Coke, at home in Atlanta, receiving rum-scented love letters from a paramour abroad. On a scale of 1 to 10, this rum-and-Coke is an 8, but that’s not an “8.” It’s an infinity symbol, standing at attention, full of wokeness."--"This Rum-and-Coke Might Be New York’s Most Sophisticated New Drink" By Richard Morgan, Grub Street NY Magazine.


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

   The Hound in Heaven (21st Century Lion Books) 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 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:

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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