Virtual Gourmet

  November 20,  2016                                                                                             NEWSLETTER




By John Mariani


By John Mariani


By John Mariani



Part One

By John Mariani

Brennan's Wine Cellar


    Not from the ashes but from the muck did New Orleans rise after Hurricane Katrina, nowhere more evident than in its restaurant sector, both in and out of the French Quarter.  Older restaurants that needed serious rehab got it and new ones had an opportunity to shake up the city’s entrenched Creole cuisine.  Here are some of both.

417 Royal Street

    Saving Brennan’s from both Katrina’s ravages and a massive prior debt was a risky proposition for any restaurateur, for as venerable as the old place was, many thought its time had passed.  But, if anyone was going to do it, it would be Ralph Brennan (below) and his partner, Terry White.  Brennan, whose success as owner of Ralph’s on the Park, The Redfish Grill, Napoleon House and several other restaurants around the city showed he had the clout and the will power to bring Brennan’s back to life, not by resuscitation but by vast improvements in every detail, from bar to private dining rooms, from staircase to courtyard, from kitchen to provender.
    Now, with the opening of Brennan’s Wine Cellar dining room (above),  Chef Slade Rushing will be doing tableside service and dishes not necessarily on the daily menu in the main dining room (below).  As you can see from the picture, the cellar is one of the city’s most elegant new rooms.  When Katrina hit, damage was not from water (the French Quarter is above sea level) but from a long power outage that created mold and rot, destroying provisions and the rarest vintages of wines.  Antoine’s lost 16,000 bottles, Emeril’s 6,000, but Brennan’s lost 30,000 bottles, some cellared for decades in a 1795 carriage house that is now the new cellar and dining room, seating 16.  Today, under beverage director Joe Billesbach, the cellar strength is back up to 1,700 labels and 13,000 bottles.
    Soon after the opening of the cellar I had a chance to dine there with assorted other journalists to sample the kinds of dishes Rushing is offering, all matched with wines.  We began with a Caesar salad made with duck egg, shaved truffles and Creole-spiced croutons, all tossed tableside and served with a Gaston Chiquet Special Club 2007 Champagne.  Showing off both classic French and classic Louisiana traditions, Rushing did a clear gumbo consommé with oysters, to be enjoyed with Philippe Colin Chassagne Montrachet 1st Cru 2008 and Deux Montille Les Épenottes Beaune 1er Cru 2008.
    The fish course was a carefully poached wahoo from Gulf waters in a Mediterranean style, with Castelvetrano olives, herbs, baby vegetable ratatouille, preserved lemon and chicken jus, with which we enjoyed an outstanding Italian wine, Emilio Pepe Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2010. Beef Wellington—a dish rarely seen anymore and rarely made well—had the requisite crispy pastry crust covering a layer of foie gras and truffles,  made in individual portions and served with baby carrots, roasted garlic and a sauce Bordelaise; the wine was a Silver Oak Alexander Valley  Cabernet Sauvignon 2007.
    Baked Alaska is not nearly as rare in New Orleans as elsewhere, and, although it’s a rather childish display, its flaming meringue peaks are always fun and it went well with a glass of Taylor Fladgate Port 1977.
    So, in the end, Brennan’s was not only saved from destruction but imbued with a vitality it had not had in years, and all credit to Ralph Brennan and his crew for championing good taste, respect for tradition and all the best hallmarks of New Orleans hospitality.

Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner.


5908 Magazine Street

    This charming Uptown newcomer adds to the growing number of modern Italian restaurants in a town that used to have almost none even five years ago.   Owner-chef Nick Lama is a local boy with roots in Sicily, and Avo means “forefather,” so Lama has acquired all the cooking secrets from his mother and grandmother’s kitchen as well as an understanding of seafood from his father and grandfather, who ran St. Roch Market.   This is honest cooking, generous in spirit and portion, culling the best from Gulf waters.
    Avo’s very tender charred octopus has cool watermelon, mango and radish in tandem with an assertive Calabrian chili glaze ($10), and, although rather salty when I dined there, the ricotta and porcini gnudi pasta are light and nicely sauced with a fontina fonduta ($12).  Classic lasagna alla Bolognese with a béchamel sauce and short rib ragù ($21) was as hearty as it was deeply flavorful, and although the rice in the lobster risotto with peas ($19) was a bit overcooked, it was a good dish.  Bucatini alla carbonara ($15) veers from traditional preparations by placing  a poached egg on top to be mixed with the pancetta and pecorino ($15).
    Main portions are gargantuan in size: A massive, succulent lamb chop with Parisian gnocchi, onion puree, radicchio, olives and balsamic ($33) absorbed all the flavors on the plate, while a New York strip steak ($32) took well to a lush covering of Gorgonzola, with tomatoes, grilled lemon, arugula and Yukon gold potatoes.  Despite unexpected complexity,  there’s no disputing the enjoyment of veal milanese adorned with cherries, fregula, mint, olives, arugula and charred onions ($31).  But my favorite dish of the evening was shrimp and pork cheek, deftly married with eggplant, garlic-raisin agrodolce, pine nuts and mint ($27).  Lama wants you to love his generosity with ingredients, but Italian food by its nature should be simpler and concentrate on two or three; I suspect he will evolve in this regard.
    As dessert,  s’mores seemed a little out of character but they were good.  Avo’s cocktails run $10-$12, and the wine list is very well chosen and very fairly priced, with a judicious number of bottles under $50.
    (By the way, since Avo is a ways from downtown,  I found using Uber much cheaper than New Orleans taxis for distances like this.)

Open Mon.-Sat.


2301 Orleans Avenue

    In no uncertain terms, Leah Chase, now 93, is a patron saint of New Orleans cuisine, one of 14 children, who in 1945 married musician Edgar "Dooky" Chase II, whose parents owned a sandwich shop, Dooky Chase, that evolved and eventually expanded to take over the entire block.  During the 1960s black and white civil rights activists met at the restaurant at a time when New Orleans was still highly segregated. She was also an early patron of African-American artists and serves on the Board of the New Orleans Museum of Fine Arts.
    Known for wearing a red kerchief, which some said made her look like the cereal box Aunt Jemima figure they felt was racist, Chase would reply: “She had her face on every cereal box in the country.  She had that fat, round face, so beautiful and happy. I’d like to have my picture on all those cereal boxes. [Women like] Aunt Jemima were good, clean, working people [with] nothing to be ashamed of.”
    In 2005 Hurricane Katrina shut down her restaurant, but the city’s restaurant community vowed to help Chase re-open two years later by holding a benefit that raised $40,000.  So I was deliriously happy to return to Dooky Chase and to find Leah still in the kitchen, as welcoming as the day I met her forty years ago. 
    The place was packed as usual with a mix of white and black residents, slickly dressed local pols and ministers, and tourists who came for New Orleans Southern cooking perfected long before the words “soul food” were coined.  The buffet lunch is lavish with Creole gumbo (left), red beans and lima beans (oddly different from the usual red beans), po’ boy sandwiches, shrimp Clemençeau, and superb fried chicken. For dessert there's peach cobbler and one of the city's best read puddings.
    The waitstaff couldn’t be more cordial, ever smiling, clearly as happy to be working at Dooky Chase’s as they are to be a part of Leah Chase’s great legacy to her beloved city.  Feisty, glowing with energy to spare, she is a unique presence and a giant of American cuisine.

Open for lunch Tues.-Fri.; dinner Fri.; prices at dinner are $7.95-$12.95 for appetizers, $19.95-$24.95 for entrees.


By John Mariani

17 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT

    The much-hyped phrase “farm to table” has become so empty of meaning that when you come upon the real thing, you can still be amazed at the idea.  For while all food has to come from some farm or body of water, most restaurants only pay lip service to the commitment to obtain the finest provender from the most local purveyors.
    Sandy and Angela Baldanza (below) have not wavered in that search, a path that began, ironically, in the fashion industry, where the couple met (he had his own label, she worked at Bloomingdale’s).  They left all that behind to open Baldanza for breakfast, lunch and dinner to a very faithful and appreciative clientele who are assured that everything on the changing menu is as fresh, organic and well-sourced as possible, always at a very fair price.  Indeed, their Americana Menu, served Wednesday and Thursday is fixed price at $28 for three courses. Of course, they do take-out, too, and New Canaanites in their Range Rovers pull up to the curb to collect their evening meal. Baldanza’s has even launched a range of soups they call Soup Kitchen for sale at Walter Stewart’s Market, with two percent of sales going to the Connecticut Food Bank.
    The restaurant is small, L-shaped, with a bar behind which the Baldanza’s son Alex works as bartender.  It’s a comfortable, if slightly cramped, spot but it can get very loud when it fills up at night, and midday seems to be a prime time for ladies to lunch. 
    It is highly likely Sandy will be coming to your table throughout the night to check on every detail, and be aware that asking him a question about his culinary philosophy may elicit a very, very long answer. His passion for what he does is more than palpable.
    The à la carte menu is ambitious for such a small kitchen, but almost everything I tasted along with three friends showed remarkable consistency of taste and preparation.  Hand-cut tuna with Himalayan salt, skinny French fries, lamb’s lettuce and cilantro ($18) is similar to other versions around the area, but Baldanza’s tuna has deep flavor, and cutting it to order makes a huge difference, while the lamb’s lettuce and cilantro add additional savory notes.
    Buffalo mozzarella—so often a hit or miss item—is here impeccably creamy with the right pliant texture, served with organic tomatoes, a strawberry balsamic, and—surprise!—New Canaan olive oil ($15).  A light lentil soup was absolutely delicious, full of vegetable flavors ($8).  Crispy fried calamari with lemon garlic aïoli and roasted tomato sauce ($16) was  not so special. 
    There are several pastas—the Baldanzas are Italian-Americans—including very good butternut squash-stuffed ravioli glossed with sage and brown butter ($24) and ricotta gnocchi, slightly too firm, with a rich sauce of tomato fillets ($24). Freshly made pappardelle comes in a fine meat sauce with freshly made ricotta ($24), while fragrant saffron risotto is melded with Gulf shrimp and asparagus, both a tad overcooked that evening, rendering the shrimp without flavor ($28).
    Everything the Baldanzas make evokes the idea of comfort food, and what could be more comforting than crispy Parmesan-crusted organic chicken with kale, wild mushrooms and mashed sweet potato ($27), one of the best dishes on the menu? The same goes for a juicy double-cut pork chop, grilled and served with pan-roasted asparagus and wonderful mashed potatoes ($36).
    Whatever local fish is the best in that day’s market gets a treatment of parmesan crust similar to the chicken, with sautéed spinach and lovely, silky beurre blanc ($28), while a snowy white Maine halibut with risotto, wild arugula and a citrus wine sauce ($32) takes a delicate hand to render so flawlessly.
    Sandy Baldanza raved about his wife’s carrot cake for good reason. This old classic, lost in culinary hippie history after overkill in 1970s, shows what a wonderful American idea it is to combine carrots, spices and cream cheese to such wonderful effect.  The crème brȗlée was all it should be—crackling golden caramel crust and creamy, vanilla-rich center. A bowl of autumn berries and cream was as charming an idea for a simple dessert as you’ll find. Key lime pie was all right, but not a winner in its category.
    This being a small place, there’s no room for a huge wine list, but the selection of whites, most under $40, is a good one, though the red wine list could use amplification. Nine wines are offered  by the glass, all at a very reasonable $10. There are also a dozen craft beers.





Star Lane Vineyard

By John Mariani 

    It’s not everyday a vineyard owner tells you where to find the keys to the estate and the house where you’ll be living.  But when Tyler Thomas and his wife arrived at the Dierberg and Star Lane Winery in Santa Barbara County in the summer of 2013, that was his introduction to his life as the estate’s new winemaker.
    The winery had been founded in 1996 by bankers Jim and Mary Dierberg (left) of Hermann, Missouri, where they have for forty-two years owned the Hermannhof Winery and brought it to prominence as one of the best in the Midwest.  But the region didn’t support traditional European varietals of a kind the Dierbergs favored, so, after exhaustive—and, one can imagine, quite pleasurable—searches throughout France and Napa Valley, they finally settled on the cool climate of Santa Barbara County, where they now produce wines under the Dierberg, Star Lane and Drum Vineyard labels.  Now, with Jim, 79, retired as Chairman of the Board of First Banks Inc. (his son Michael is still on the board) and having more time to devote to his wine passion, he intends to make the finest wines in a region that often plays second fiddle to Napa and Sonoma.
    “The family was happy with the wines they were making,” says  Thomas, who had worked in the Central Coast in the past but spent most of his career in Sonoma, “but they recognized they had not yet reached their potential. They knew what they had and what they had accomplished and they told me, `We don’t care if you’re Einstein.  If you come in and disrupt the culture, we don’t want you.’”
     When the stars aligned, the Dierbergs and Thomas (below) came together with a common goal: “The entire valley made its imprint on me as I sampled vineyards in Santa Maria Valley,  Happy Canyon and Santa Rita Hills.  To be returning after 10 years to make site-driven estate wines is thrilling.”
    Thomas,  39, himself born in Missouri, looks like a young Hoagy Carmichael and has some of the same ironic wit. Taking on the job at Dierberg was daunting but he had never turned down a challenge: he and his wife always took the road less traveled, to New Zealand and Europe, often with next-to-no money in their pockets. But eventually Thomas fell in thrall to the world of  viticulture, completed his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Botany at Colorado State University, and received a masters in Viticulture and Enology at U.C. Davis.
He took a full-time harvest internship at Fiddlehead Cellars in Santa Barbara, where he had his first taste working with Happy Canyon fruit. He then joined Hyde de Villaine (HdV) winery, learning Burgundian-style winemaking there with Stéphane Vivier, who showed him how to focus on what’s most important and to discard all that is not.  He took a full-time harvest internship at Fiddlehead Cellars in Santa Barbara, where he had his first taste working with Happy Valley fruit.  With grant money from U.C. Davis Tyler d research in Germany, then returned to HdV,  then worked as winemaker at Donelan Family Wines before returning to Santa Barbara to work at Dierberg and Star Lane Vineyards. 
    “My friends in Sonoma told me that if you want to make movies, you don’t leave Hollywood, but I liked the challenge of going to the Central Coast. My goal—and that of the Dierbergs—is to make wines that please by their compelling nature.  That is, you find yourself both hedonistically and intellectually compelled to go back to the wine over and over again.  Many wines can draw your first glance, but I want one that can sustain your desire.”
        While in synch with the Dierbergs' ideas that their wines should taste distinctly theirs, Thomas insists a winemaker should always “fear the house palate,” meaning that forcing a vintage always to adhere to a set style is wrong-headed.  “We need to find what the wine will taste like from the grapes of an individual lot, and if it does not meet my expectations, I’ll sell it to someone else.
    “There is an architecture to wines—bones, scaffolding, structure—so you have to be careful not to manipulate it back at the wine or it crumbles. I look for balance, length, and, because Santa Barbara can be 15 degrees lower than in Napa or Sonoma, the fruit ripens in its own way and time. Great wines start in the vineyard, not in the winery.”
    Over dinner in New York at Ai Fiori restaurant, Thomas and I spoke about his methods and philosophy, and of course we tasted some of Dierberg’s current releases, which went very well indeed with shavings of fresh white truffles over risotto, and vice-versa.  The 2013s were the first he oversaw in the vineyards.
2013 Dierberg Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay, Dierberg Vineyard ($32) is a big chard, spending 16 months aging, 12 in new French oak, and its 14.6 percent alcohol is more than a tipping point for me, by which the wine tastes too ripe, with too much oak.  A bit of subtlety is to be preferred, even though Chardonnay is a grape that for some winemakers is a tabula rasa.
    The 2013 Dierberg Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir, Drum Canyon Vineyard ($52) comes from an early ripening vintage, and its lovely spice came from “stem inclusion” and it structure from 15 months in new French oak.  But here the 14.1 percent alcohol is a virtue, keeping the freshness of the Pinot Noir fruit foremost, with no cloying aftertaste.  This is a good price for a wine of this caliber.
    The 2014 vintage of the same wine ($52) is a lighter Pinot Noir but in some ways closer to fine Burgundy, as is its 13.2 percent alcohol,  so that there is still a fullness that is somewhat more refined and bodes well for aging in the bottle, while still a lovely wine of the moment, perfect with those white truffles.
    Dierberg’s Star Lane vineyard makes Cabernet Sauvignons that tend not to be as muscular as those from Napa Valley, and the 2013 Star Lane Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara ($50) is something of an experiment in that 30 different Cabernet lots were assessed before actual production.  Thomas says of the wine, which has 84% Cab, 10% Cabernet Franc, 4% Merlot and 2% Malbec and spends 20 months aging, “There is certainly a `mark’ to Star Lane [but] describing it is no easy task.  This youthful expression of Cabernet currently shows a floral, sage-like quality that seems to mask darker fruits we observed in the cellar prior to bottling.”  At 14.4% alcohol it has excellent balance of fruit, acid and developing tannins. It went impeccably with a two-inch thick veal chop.
        At a time when most California Cabernet producers now blend in other varietals, as in Bordeaux, the 2013 Star Lane Vineyard “Astral,” Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara ($120) is the winery’s entry into the higher stakes of 100% Cabernet Sauvignons, with fruit pulled from a plot at the highest altitude (1,500 feet above sea level), which is sunny but cooler. The floral qualities are now in bloom, emerging from the density of the wine.  The sensible 14.5% alcohol will help improve the balance rather than dry the wine out, and it’s going to take a few years to come to its full maturity. 




The village of Kesten in southern Germany just elected its first male "wine queen" after it failed to find any women willing to do the job. According to NBC News, Kesten, with 25 wineries, has long relied on “wine queens,” to act as brand ambassadors for the wines produced in their villages, so 24-year-old law student named Sven Finke (right) said he’d be the wine queen, and the town took him seriously.  Wine queens traditionally wear dirndls and tiaras, but Kesten has decided to  wear a gold laurel wreath and a toga while carrying out his wine queen duties.


“Much of the cooking revolves around glossy, spoon-coating, cream- and butter-reinforced sauces that some younger diners have never tasted. These sauces aren’t remotely heavy or deadening, two of the charges hurled at them when they were led to the guillotines by the Robespierres of nouvelle cuisine.”—Pete Wells, “Le Cou Cou,” NY Times (11/1/16)


Sponsored by Banfi Vintners

Exclusive First Look at Brunello 2012

By John Fodera, Tuscan Vines

    Yes, I said 2012 and it's not a typo.  I am pleased to provide this exclusive early look at what is likely to be a rather excellent vintage for Brunello di Montalcino.  The wines below are finished blended wines, not barrel samples, and are waiting patiently for January 2017 when they will be officially presented at Benvenuto Brunello.  These bottles were provided to me directly from the Castello Banfi cellar in Montalcino and had pristine provenance. 
    When I attended Benvenuto Brunello as the 2009s were released, what accompanied them were the delicate and delicious 2012 Rosso di Montalcino. At that time, I began anticipating what the 2012 Brunello would become.  This, albeit miniscule sampling, provides a bit of insight.     Recently, at an intimate trattoria in Manhattan, we sampled the following wines with Enrico Viglierchio, the General Manager of the Castello Banfi Estate, who will be the subject of a future interview. 

2012 Castello Banfi Estate Brunello:  The first word in my tasting notebook is "Wow!"  This is a deep, dark cherry red that is nearly opaque clear to the rim of the glass. The aromas from the wine are very expressive with fresh flowers, baking spices and vibrant fresh tobacco leaf notes. There's tons of red fruit here and amazing freshness.  Soft vanilla notes appear on the finish where this stays ripe and lively.  95 points

2012 Castello Banfi Poggio Alle Mura Brunello:  Ever so slightly darker than the estate Brunello, this wine exhibits wonderful aromas of crushed cherry and soft vanilla notes.  It's restrained somewhat on the nose.  On the palate, the wine is much more exuberant and is absolutely loaded with spicy, ripe cherry fruit, fresh herb/anise notes and hints of vanilla. Long, long finish that trails off delicately with more black pepper on the end.  Definitely built for aging.  95+ points.

    It was very interesting to check in on these wines and I'll be curious to taste them again in January.  While it's not surprising that these wines exhibited very vibrant fruit profiles and a bit more pronounced attributes from oak,  I do expect that they will soften and integrate a bit before their official debut in January and further still by the time they arrive on the market.  Although this was a small sample size, they displayed everything I remember from tasting the 2012 Rossos and then some, which is exactly what you'd expect.  Despite not decanting any of the wines, they were very forward and not shy with their character, even if they were mostly driven by primary fruit. What's more, they were accessible, without loads of tannins obscuring their balance, finesse or elegance.
    All were served with a variety of appropriate foods including various pastas, cheeses, chicken, porterhouse steak and even fish!  They were elegant and fresh with and without the food, though on their own, you could sense the structure from the tannins much more noticeably.

Visit  for more coverage!  Salute!



 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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