Virtual Gourmet

  February 12,   2017                                                                                            NEWSLETTER

Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in "An Affair to Remember" (1957)



DUBLIN, Part One
By John Mariani

By John Mariani


By John Mariani


By John Mariani


Part One 
By John Mariani


    Anyone who has not been to Dublin in the past five years will find the old city reborn, yet again.  For after the Celtic Tiger’s growl was reduced to a meow by the global recession of 2008, plenty of fingers had plenty of targets to point at for causing the collapse of the Irish economy.
    It may well be argued that outside of Dublin the Irish are still not faring all that well, but walking around Dublin on a sunny day reveals that the city is booming again. Of course, the nation’s capital has always been the driving force for progress, lifting the economy as a whole, quickly becoming the envy of many other European nations.  And tourists have responded with enormous enthusiasm, not least since the euro is now so weak against the U.S. dollar.
    The fact is, American tourists have always had great affection for Ireland, in particular Dublin, largely, I think, because of the importance and effects of its literature and how its authors—-Jonathan Swift, W.B. Yeats, Padraic Pearse, Brendan Behan, and many others—-have always been tied to a rebellious streak not unlike our own.  Ireland, broken in two, North and South, suffered for so many centuries under British rule and, as expressed in Dominic Behan’s ballad “The Patriot Game,” Dublin’s traitors, as surely as the British, betrayed their people even as the IRA’s numbers grew stronger.
    Irish-Americans’ fealty to the Old Country has never flagged, but now Dublin teems with visitors from everywhere, so that while The Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton and Le Meridien hotels all closed during the recession, there are now 30 hotels due to open in the city in the next five years. Most of those already open are packed, and places outside of Dublin, like Ashford Castle in Cong, where rooms go for 900 euros per night, are almost always full.
    Dubliners will always complain about anything that brings change to their fair city, bisected by the storied River Liffey (left); currently the object of their wrath is the highly disruptive tram system excavation in the center of the city.  But along each side of it and along Merrion Square, Nassau and Grafton Streets, and, happily, on the north side of the river, new businesses, boutiques and restaurants are opening (and driving up rents), while the established businesses, like the marvelous Sheridan’s Cheesemongers (below) on St. Anne Street and Kevin & Howlin tweed shop (below), have never been busier with new customers.
    This last institution, on Nassau Street, has long been a favorite of mine when I am in mind to buy a new Donegal tweed jacket, suit, vest, slacks or scarf, and, while I’ve seen the prices rise, the quality has never slacked, and now the tweeds can be had in a somewhat lighter weight wool than in those days when central heating was all but unknown in Dublin.  Wearing one of the traditional weight tweeds meant you could endure anything the Irish weather gods could throw at a man, requisite for everything from hunting grouse to herding sheep.
    I will have more to say about the hotels and restaurants in other articles, as well as mention of a good pub or two, but for now let me speak of the attractions of this beautifully restored city of Dublin, beyond the inevitable—-and very impressive—-state-of-the-art tour of the Guinness Storehouse, with its vast, panoramic view of the city. There is also an Irish Whiskey Museum on Grafton Street worth a visit. The best way to get around town is with a Hop-on/Hop-off bus ticket, which is always available at a discount if you book on-line.
    Incidentally, I inquired, relentlessly, about those famous gaily painted Georgian townhouse doors along Merrion Street (above), a poster of which hangs in every Irish pub in America.  After getting fanciful stories, I was finally enlightened by a ruddy-faced scholar at the Irish Georgian Society on South Williams Street, whose knowledge of every brick in the city was daunting. He said that once all those doors were painted black—-the cheapest color of paint in the 19th century.  Then, in the 1960s, Valvoline Paints asked residents to paint their doors using the company’s new resilient outdoor colors-—they donated the paint, of course—-and in 1970 New York’s Irish Tourism offices featured a collage in their windows that became so popular that the head of the tourist board commissioned what became the iconic poster. (Oddly enough, many of those doors have gone back to black, I found.)
    I hardly need to tell any prospective visitor about the requisite stops like the majestic Trinity College, with its magnificent Library (right), which houses the Book of Kells; the National Museum and National Gallery; St. Patrick’s Cathedral (where Jonathan Swift was Dean); Dublin Castle; and Temple Bar, with its youthful buoyancy evident in every pub, pizzeria, and boutique, makes for a morning’s stroll. Also, there’s the fine Gallery of Photography. Dublin’s principal public garden is Merrion Square, now more beautifully kempt than ever, with a statue of a lounging Oscar Wilde giving the passersby what is either a wry smile or a critical smirk (left).
    Dublin’s food sector is now so large and diverse I would highly recommend taking on the three-hour, guided Fabfoodtrail,  on which you’ll visit bakeries, food halls like Fallon & Byrnes, cheesemongers, wine shops, the cavernous Covered Market between Drury and South Great George streets, and the Powerscourt Townhouse (below), which dates back to 1774, now with 40 fashion, antique, jewelry and food shops.  I’m particularly fond of The Pepper Pot there, known for organic products, soups, seasonal tarts—-even the bagels are good—-and the very best buttery scones in Dublin.
    My real surprise on my recent trip was to find Dublin north of the Liffey, across the quaint Ha’Penny Bridge (below), coming to life so quickly, for while there are still derelict streets—-not to mention bullet holes in the walls left over from the Easter Rebellion of April 1916—-its main thoroughfare, O’Connell Street, is changing into a vibrant shopping venue, with many historic buildings saved from destruction by being transformed, as was the old St. Mary’s Church, now a vast pub and restaurant called The Church, where you may pat the bronze pate and drink to the name of beermaker Arthur Guinness.
     Farther along there is now the 390-foot stainless steel Spire of Dublin, which no one sees the significance of beyond replacing an 1809 pillar topped with British Admiral Horatio Nelson, whom the Irish loathed and who the prescient Irish poet Louis MacNeice said was “watching his world collapse.”
    And, if you wish to learn the history of the doomed Easter Rebellion, you must visit the splendid General Post Office, now restored, but during those violent days commandeered as a rebel stronghold from whose steps Patrick Pearse read the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, just before the British began shelling the building.  Today there is a recreation of the activities that day in what looks like a little boy’s playhouse (below), with wooden figures and cannons and Proclamation sheets strewn in the street, a  quiet reconstruction
with echoing voices sounding in the great postal hall of a day when, in Yeats’s famous phrase, “A terrible beauty was born.”
   Like so many Dubliners, Louis MacNeice, born in Belfast, saw Dublin as a city constantly in flux between “the glamour and the squalor,/The bravado of her talk.” That is still true today, perhaps more than ever, for as the city is built and paved and scrubbed and lain with tram rails, bravado has given way to a justified pride that it is a free city of a free people whose current Millennial generation knows little of the time of the troubles past while keeping a hopeful eye on the future.
    I used to think a visitor could get to know Dublin well in three days. Now that would barely cover the city south of the Liffey.  No one who now comes to Dublin really wants to leave any time soon.

For info on Dublin go to



By John Mariani

    I can’t say I was ever a regular at any of the Trader Vic’s restaurants around the world, which, until this week, had 19 locations from Atlanta to Abu Dhabi, but I was always happy at the thought of going to one.  They were designed to be pure fun, but, contrary to their kitschy décor, they had very good faux-Polynesian food long before anyone was doing Pan-Asian cuisine.
          Sadly, the Beverly Hills branch of Trader Vic’s, resident in the Beverly Hilton Hotel, closed last week after 62 years.  In its heyday, as in the original San Francisco flagship--where even Queen Elizabeth once dined, in 1983--and the NYC location in the Plaza Hotel, the Beverly Hills TV was a requisite stop not just for tourists but for generations of celebrities and what used to be called high society, not least on Sunday evenings, when their usual swank hang-outs were closed.
   The décor was part of what became known as Tiki culture, which transformed simplistic ideas of bamboo furniture, woven palm leaves, sculpture, war canoes and totems into a version of Populuxe design.  So, too, the food, much of it cooked in specially crafted Chinese ovens, mimicked dishes based on Hawaiian, Chinese, and Malaysian food and ingredients, including creations like crab Rangoon, terrific barbecued pork ribs and coconut prawns.  Rum cocktails like the mai tai, invented at TV, were the specialties, some served in ceramic cups shaped like skulls. The menu covers featured cartoons of topless Polynesian girls straddling rum barrels at luaus.  It was all a hoot.
     TV was founded by Jules Victor Bergeron Jr. (left), born in 1902  in San Francisco to a French-Canadian hotel waiter, who gave his son a taste for the business.  Contrary to Bergeron’s story that he lost his left leg to a shark, actually it had been amputated when he was six years old to prevent his dying from tuberculosis of the knee.
        Borrowing $500 in 1934, he opened a small saloon in Oakland he called a “glorified beer parlor” named Hinky Dink’s, which two years later evolved into Trader Vic’s (right), with a pseudo-Polynesian décor based on what he’d seen while sailing through Polynesia. 
The restaurant thrived, particularly among servicemen in World War II, for whom Bergeron smuggled liquor on board supply ships bound for the South Pacific. So popular was the place that Bergeron began franchising his restaurants in 1940, first in Seattle, then in Hawaii.  In 1951 he opened a unit in San Francisco that became the flagship of the chain, which grew at its height to 25 locations.
        My own fondness for TV was based on two disparate experiences.  Back in 1977, at the San Francisco location (now closed), I almost got into a fight with a parking valet in the lot, which was a novel moment. The second was at the NYC location a few years back, when William Randolph Hearst Jr. (I was writing for Hearst magazines back then) hosted the restaurant’s closing night dinner with friends who had a history at the place.  It was both a sad and happy night to reminisce.  All I really remember was that Hearst tipped the men’s room attendant a quarter. 
So, if you’ve never been to a TV, you still have plenty of options, most in Asia these days, but you can’t replicate the glamour and frivolity of the two California locations and the one in NYC, where you could be as star struck by the arriving guests as by the over-the-top giddiness of the evening and jungle drums.  Sitting and sipping a mai tai under the gaze of a Tahitian totem pole was as much fun as any restaurant at any amusement park.  And don’t think Walt Disney didn’t know it when he put the Enchanted Tiki Room in his own.




By John Mariani


"The Fountain of Youth" by Charles Dana Gibson

      The building in which The Leopard resides—the Hôtel des Artistes—has a rich history, a residence once full of artists who included Howard Chandler Christy, the man nationally famous for his wholesome “Christy girl” cover art, but in New York he’s also known for his risqué 1930s murals of 36 young women romping in woods that look a lot like Central Park, gaily swinging on vines, dancing rapturously or showering under a waterfall, all of them decidedly in the buff.
    For decades the restaurant was called the Café des Artistes, and when it closed there were fears it would never again be a dining room, and even the murals were under siege. Fortunately, veteran restaurateurs Gianfranco (below) and Paula Sorrentino, who also own Il Gattopardo and Mozzarella & Vino across from the MOMA, took over the space, buffed everything to a new sheen, carefully lighted the room and returned it to one of the most elegant restaurants in NYC as The Leopard at des Artistes, which evokes the Sicilian prince of the novel of the same name by Giuseppe di Lampedusa.
    Gianfranco Sorrentino (right)—he’s the one in the pin-striped suit and the artfully flopping shirt collar—is from Naples, with 30 years in the business. Chef Vito Gnazzo, also in the kitchen at Il Gattopardo, is a partner. He hails from Sicily, whence come many of his recipes, and a good way to appreciate his cooking is with the $50, three-course “A Taste of the Leopard” menu, with wine pairings at an additional $30.
    But the extensive à la carte menu, which is seasonal, shows much, much more, beginning with luscious antipasti like grilled butternut squash with winter wild radicchio salad, garnished with pomegranate seeds ($18); an unusual eggplant “in tegamino” oozing with caciocavallo Ragusano and stracciatella cheeses ($18);  grilled octopus with heart of escarole salad, celery, Castelvetrano olives and pickled onions ($19); or a lavish board of Italian salumi and cheeses, chicken liver crostini and organic vegetables alla giardiniera ($28).
    Housemade pastas—eight each night—are always outstanding, from the fat agnolotti filled with creamy ricotta and sweet Italian pumpkin in a walnut and butter sauce ($26) to an impeccably made Sicilian classic—rigatoni alla Norma in tomato sauce, with sautéed eggplant and aged ricotta cheese ($23).  The flattened pasta tubes called paccheri come with a lusty “Genovese” sauce of beef, onion and white wine ($26); matagliati (left), a Modena pasta, are lavished with wild game and porcini mushroom ragù ($27), and Gnazzo does a great Roman dish, too—spaghetti alla carbonara (right) with guanciale, egg yolk, Pecorino Romano and cracked black pepper ($23).
    As I’ve often mentioned, the antipasti and primi courses are usually the most enticing in Italian ristoranti, but at The Leopard, main courses are every bit as savory, from quickly grilled lamb chops “scottadito” (finger burner) scented with tarragon and served with roasted potatoes and sautéed mushrooms ($49) to a flattened, breaded veal chop alla Milanese with organic arugula salad, oven dried cherry tomatoes and pearl onions (quite expensive at $54).
        Pan-seared, rosy duck breast is done in a rolled “porchetta” style (below)with fennel pollen, cipollini with aged balsamic vinegar, pickled raisins and peppery vegetable caponata ($42).  The only disappointing dish I had was Sicilian couscous with shellfish ragout, served in a skillet ($36); it was a bit dry and needed more seasoning.
    The very fact that The Leopard offers eight desserts indicates they will not be the usual clichés.  All of them are impressive and show a Sicilian hand in dolci like almond frangipane tart of seasonal fresh fruits on vanilla custard ($13); a traditional torta di mascarpone “tiramisù” style ($14); bigné fried pastry puffs are filled with hazelnut cream and wild berry sauce ($14), and a Nutella chocolate mousse comes with hazelnut crunch and banana gelato ($13); chestnut and ricotta semifreddo with chocolate sauce is perfectly rendered ($14), and if you want the whole show, they do a traditional whipped-up zabaione with fresh mixed berries ($18).  And here is a restaurant where the espresso will be made short and rich.
    The wine list is excellent, built around artisanal wineries, and for once the white wines, like the superb Trebbiano D’Abruzzo “Altare” Marramiero, match the refinement of the better-known reds.
    The Leopard is, by the way, conveniently down the street from Lincoln Center and a little south of the Beacon Theater, so it’s perfect before or after the entertainment, and weekend brunches are always packed before the matinees.  Whenever you go, Gianfranco and Paula make sure you relax, eat well and enjoy their sophisticated hospitality without a flicker of pretension.  For this is Italian fine dining, a true ristorante not a trattoria, and nowhere will you find such lovely women looking over you from a forest, tempting but never taunting, enchanting and as young as they will always be.

The Leopard at Des Artistes is open for dinner nightly and brunch Sat. & Sun.

The Leopard at des Artistes
1 W 67th Street (near Central Park West)




By John Mariani

Château Grand Puy Lacoste

    I will readily admit to being a Francophile over a wide range of topics—history, art, architecture, land- and seacape, food and, not least, wine, which is something of a first love because when I was in my salad days it seemed appropriate to drink French wine, after getting over a transient infatuation with Mateus Rosé, Blue Nun Liebfraumilch and Bolla Soave.
    Of course, back then a bottle of Château Lafite-Rothschild would run me $7.50 (I split the cost with a college buddy), and I savored every drop of it, truly realizing that this was very superior stuff to what I’d been cavalierly drinking before. So, within the bounds of my budget, I drank Bordeaux—basic appellations, many with a “Monsieur Henri Selection” or “Frank Schoonmaker Selection” sticker on the label.
    By the late 1970s, though, not only was more and more interesting wine coming in from Italy, but the California wine revolution was in full swing, given an enormous boost by the blind match-up of California cabs against French Bordeaux at the so-called “Judgment of Paris” tasting of 1976 (below), when the former beat out some of the latter in overall points.  As open as I was to persuasion, I had by then developed what a West Coast wine writer said was my “East Cost palate,” meaning French and Italian wines. (I hadn't the heart to tell him he'd lost his palate drinking high alcohol California fruit bombs.)
    The problem was, as my interest in wine and wineries grew, the really good Bordeaux soared out of reach in price, and even lesser crus were getting hard to justify on an everyday basis.  Of course, today, Bordeaux’s top wines—the First Growths, Pétrus, Château d’Yquem—are beyond most wine lovers’ budgets, though the Bordelais seem quite happy selling  the crème de la crème for hundreds of dollars in good times and bad, strong and weak vintages.  The idea was that, if the Americans didn’t buy the best wines, the Japanese, then the Russians, then the Chinese would.
    This, however, did little to help the not-so-famous labels from wineries hundreds of years old keeping proud traditions of Bordeaux blending alive, despite sagging sales.  Stupidly, those same wineries believed that by raising the prices, without justification, more wannabe wine lovers would want the wines.  Most of the time that didn’t work.  For, except for wealthy connoisseurs and restaurant sommeliers (who never had more than a bottle or two of a label on their massive lists), wannabes with real money, or an expense account, sought to impress guests by continuing to buy the top labels, ignoring hundreds of other fine Bordeaux simply because the names were less familiar.  Who was going to pay $50 or $60 for a Château Smith Haut Lafitte (left) when it doesn’t sound like the real McCoy, Lafite-Rothschild?
    Things turned around—not radically, but to a sure degree—when the euro weakened and the global market became glutted, leading Bordeaux vintners to drop their prices and lesser appellations—spread over 7,375 château, like Côtes de Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur— began shipping more selections to the U.S., where they went into the wine shop bargain bins.  This has really resulted in a great boon to Francophiles like myself, for never has there been more variety available at such reasonable prices.

    According to data to be discussed in June at VINEXPO in Bordeaux, the industry’s premier annual event, with regard to overall (not just Bordeaux) wine sales: 

• Premium wines expected to see the most growth in 2017.

• Spurred by a burgeoning wealthy class, China is projected to drive global consumption of still and sparkling wine to 2020, at a growth rate of 4.5 percent. 

• Asia-Pacific is expected to be the key growth region in absolute volume terms, ahead of previous leader, the Americas. 

• Still, the Americas will drive value growth (from $44 billion in 2016 to $49 billion in 2020), with the premium segment to see the most short-term gain.

    Over dinner in New York, Xaviar de Eizaguirre (left), president and chairman of VINEXPO,  confirmed to me that while the U.S. is the largest consumer of French red wine, China is indeed the market of the future and had helped cushion the damage done by the world-wide recession of 2008.
    “At first the Chinese were buying only the prestigious First Growths [of Bordeaux],” he said. “But as of 2008 they began buying up a lot of the Second through Fifth Growths, too, and they even bought Bordeaux estates and shipped their entire production of wine back to China.” 
    He did note that the French, who before World War II drank 150 liters of wine per year per person, now consume only 50 liters. “Of course, the pre-war consumption was largely plonk; the French drink much better wine now, spending on average five to six euros for a bottle.”

    What’s more, improvement not only in viticulture but in investment by new owners has not just restored many lagging châteaux but brought them to levels of quality they may never have had.
    More important, for those who have not shown much interest in Bordeaux in the past, now is the time to find out why, even in the lesser appellations, they are such satisfying alternatives to monster cabs out of Napa Valley, fruit bomb pinot noirs out of Russian River Valley, and sweet, grassy sauvignon blancs from New Zealand, Spain and Washington state.
    A good Bordeaux does not give its charms away full frontal.  Some seem quite shy, restrained, even one-dimensional.  But they do taste like wines carefully blended by tradition from several varietals—usually cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, and petit-verdot—in percentages that change each year to achieve a consistency in the chateau’s style.
    A good Bordeaux goes well with myriad dishes, although a marriage with seafood must not be rushed into. They are wines one should uncork any night of the week, for a dinner of roast chicken, hamburgers, calf’s liver, veal stew, rack of lamb, cassoulet.  They will rarely be the star of the evening, evoking the “oohs” and “aahs” and absurd winespeak saved for First Growths or California cult wines.  They don’t necessarily need long aging, but patience can be a virtue. These are Bordeaux to be enjoyed, not discussed ad nauseam.  If discussion is initiated, it is usually about the new vintage.
    This was evident at a recent Wine Media Guild lunch in New York, where the winemakers Patrick Maroteaux of Château Brainaire-Ducru (a 4th Growth from Saint-Julien), Fabien Teitgen of Smith Haute Lafitte (a Cru Classe from Graves) and Eméline Borie of Grand Puy Lacoste (a 5th Growth from Paullac) brought various vintages of their wines and talked about the 2016 vintage, which won’t be released for years.
    All three insisted 2016 will be even a better year than 2015, which itself was considered a very fine vintage. “The 2016 was not an easy vintage,” said Teitgen, “because we had frost in the spring, rain in June, various problems in August.  It could have been a disaster.  But early autumn favored the grapes, and it has turned out to be very good.”
   One must always take such pronouncements with a degree of skepticism, for it is extremely rare for winemakers anywhere to denigrate a vintage.  Instead, they might describe a poor vintage as “classic, with some very good individual wines made,” which means it was not a good year but that you might find some exceptions; the hope is, by the time the vintage is in the stores, years hence, buyers would forget the bad years and only remember the really great ones, which occur far more often than they used to.
    Almost all the wines tasted that day were of very high quality—the vintages carefully culled (though one bottle at our table was corked).  Some of the wines, from 2009, 2010, and 2011 were still in their youth and hadn’t revealed much beyond their fine breeding.  But all the bottles from 2000 were outstanding; the Brainaire-Ducru (a 4th Growth Saint Julien) and Smith Haut-Lafitte were bright and fleshy, delicious on all points of the palate, strikingly Bordeaux and not ever to be mistaken for anything else.  But the Grand Puy Lacoste 2000 was magnificent, the epitome of layered fruit, tamed tannins, lively acids, and robust texture—this from a 17-year-old red wine.  And when a decanted 1985 bottle of the same chateau was gingerly poured, it revealed the undeniable truth that, even without being a First Growth, a fine Bordeaux is a remarkable experience, in its bouquet, in its first sip, in the way it mingles with food.  In so many ways it seemed to mirror the beauty of the city of Bordeaux itself (above), stolid but elegant, classic but vibrant, and convincing reason to become a Francophile.






A new study from UCLA and Loyola Marymount University finds that 47 percent of LA sushi is mislabeled. After conducting DNA tests of fish from 26 restaurants from 2012 through 2015 in the L.A. area, they found that the most reliable orders were salmon and  tuna. Halibut and red snapper "are almost assuredly being deceived," finding restaurants were served imposters when ordering these fish. “Half of what we’re buying isn’t what we think it is,” said Paul Barber, a UCLA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and senior author of the study.



“As I walked through the entryway of Little Frog, a large, modern and vibrantly colored painting on the opposite wall caught my attention. In the middle of the painting, a woman’s dark eyes underneath a raised eyebrow stared down at me. It was clear what the eyes would say if they could speak: ‘Welcome, here you will find things you expect and things you do not.’”-- Manhattan Sideways (1/12/17)



 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: 5 MYTHS ABOUT ROOM SERVICE.

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,;;

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