Virtual Gourmet

  April 23,   2017                                                                                            NEWSLETTER


Brigitte Bardot at Cannes, 1955



By John Mariani


By John Mariani

By John Mariani


Part Two

By John Mariani

"The Fish Market, Patrick Street" (1893) by Walter Osbourne

    As I wrote a few weeks ago, Dublin has an impressive fine dining scene, but I assume visitors will also be looking for something more in the Irish culinary tradition. Fortunately, gastropubs and bistros have popped up to meet the demand. Here are some you should consider. (Just don’t ask for corned beef and cabbage.)

1 Coppinger Row

    The owners of the casual and cozy Coppinger Row, near Grafton Street, don’t brag or even explain much about their establishment on their website, letting the “Mediterranean plates, bold wines & signature cocktails” speak for themselves.  Apparently, they have been heard loud and clear, for this is one of Dublin’s overnight hits.
    Chef Troy McGuire sets a menu of six appetizers and six mains, whose brevity is expressive of knowing what he can do best with what he obtains that day (his suppliers are listed). This might include garlic and chili prawns cooked à la plancha (11.50€ or 14.50€) and delicious dressed crab and crayfish with basil, lemon and chili oil (13.75€).  Irish seafood is truly wonderful when treated simply.
    Portions are generous, and I’d certainly recommend one of the fish dishes for an entrée, like the pan-fried hake with mussels, baby potatoes and a light curry broth (26.5€).  But it would be difficult for a true trencherman not to order either the crispy pork belly with mustard mash, caramelized apples and black pudding (26€), or the salt marsh duck breast with fondant potato, pickled cabbage and Muscat (27.50€).
    Ordering sticky toffee pudding seems to me requisite in a Dublin restaurant, but there is also a selection of farmhouse cheeses to consider.         
     The best deal here is the 42.50€ fixed price dinner. Sunday through Wednesday there is an early bird dinner with two courses at 22.5€ and three courses at 25.5€ with wine additional. A 12.5% service charge is added to the bill.

Open Mon.-Fri. for lunch; weekends for brunch, Nightly for dinner.


15 Dame Street

    Of course, eating out in Dublin will inevitably drive one to more traditional fare, and while most upscale pubs around town serve decent versions of the usual grub, The Front Door, which is very pub-like up front, is less than 18 months old and quite serious about its menu.  Nearby Trinity College, it draws a young crowd; a stone’s throw from The Olympia Theater, it gets a pre- and after-theater clientele; and the place has caught on with visitors from other countries, so you get a good mix and a lot of conviviality.  The Irish are constitutionally incapable of talking to the next person over without clinking glasses.
      There’s traditional Irish music every Sunday to bolster an already ebullient atmosphere, but one that is, surprisingly, not raucously loud, as elsewhere.
    I opted to try both the first-rate fish and chips with a pea puree, tartar sauce and country fried potatoes (15€) and a hefty Irish beef stew (above) with buttered mashed potatoes (14€).
    The wine list is short, the beer list mounting to two dozen labels.

Open for lunch and dinner daily.



Fleet Street East

    A good indication of the global reach of Dublin’s modern restaurants will be found at the new Medley, in the old Irish Times building, set on two levels, downstairs for a hearty lunch or take-out, and upstairs for events and catering. It’s been called by the local press a “bustling New York-style café bistro,” which seems to make sense.
    The highly entrepreneurial Andrew Rudd has built his career on
cooking demonstrations, private catering and he is to be found on both TV and radio, with some episodes taking place at Medley.  (His mum taught him everything he knows about cooking.) It’s likely he will be coming by your table to work his charm and make sure you’re happy with your experience.
    All the ingredients at Medley are locally sourced by Chef Vincent Blake, including Irish beef dry aged for 28 days, lamb, pork, duck, game and chicken. 
    Every day there is an extensive buffet offering an array that begins with sirloin steak in a brandy cream sauce and goes on to red chicken coconut curry, charcuterie, navarin of lamb casserole and much else.  At breakfast there is potato hash with bacon and sausage; Cullen skink (a breakfast soup with smoked haddock, potatoes and leeks that is an acquired taste); and excellent artisanal breads. The wine list is surprisingly meager.

Open for breakfast and lunch daily.



    After a real slump in 2008, Dublin’s hotels have started to bounce back and increase in number. Since it is not a large city, staying central is easy enough. (A Four Seasons Hotel a wee bit outside of town foundered and was turned into an Intercontinental.)  On my last trip I could not have been better located than at the boutique Brooks Hotel on Drury Street, and just a block or two from everywhere you’d want to visit, shop or dine, including Grafton and Nassau Streets, Trinity College and St. Stephen’s Green. There’s also a parking lot right across the street, which comes in handy.
    Opened  in 1996 and still celebrating its 20th anniversary, Brooks Hotel now has 100 rooms, a bright modern restaurant named Francesca’s (which sounds Italian but is more Irish, and they make a fine club sandwich in the lounge), and even a very comfortable cinema room you can rent.
    The guest rooms are commodious, the bathrooms well equipped, the WiFi complimentary, and the service staff eager to assist you with that special kind of Irish cordiality not easy to reproduce anywhere else.
        This is epitomized by the figure of Conor O’Connell (left), a tall, white-haired Dubliner who looks like  an affable version of Samuel Beckett. His eyebrows rise when he spots a new guest or a regular—eight out of ten are repeat visitors.  He is the greeter and the one who bids you goodbye, always in his concierge dark blue vested suit, his Les Clef d’Or gold pins on the lapels, and his well-tied club cravat.  Within seconds, you will be on a first name basis with Conor, and there’s nothing you can request of him that he seems not to have already anticipated, including a lot of inside info he readily volunteers, like the easy-to-miss Little Museum of Dublin.




                                                                                                            Fish and Chips at The Front Door

    As a staple of food culture throughout the UK and Ireland, fish and chips, like all prole food, can be a great balm to the spirit or a real let-down. I most certainly recall in years past enough examples of ammonia-smelling fish, mushy breading and oozing grease to put me off fish and chips for good, but that was then.These days, you’ll find that Irish cooks are expending the same energies on fish and chips as American chefs are hamburgers. The key to getting the best is to go when a place is at its busiest and turn-over high.
    From what I learned, 95 percent of the fish-and-chips shops in suburban Dublin are run by Italians, for no particular reason, under an unofficial group calling itself the “Irish-American Chipper Association.”  In Dublin itself you’ll get into an easy and fierce argument as to which shop is the best, but few seem to dispute that Beshoff Bros Seafood Restaurant, with several branches,  would rank near the top of most lists. 
Our story begins in 1905, on the sea-washed decks of the Battleship ‘Potemkin,’” reads Beshoff’s website, “when Ivan Beshoff (right) first set sail with the famous Russian Imperial Tsarist fleet. Eight years later he arrived in Dublin and began building what, by 1939, would be the origin of a legacy that has so far spanned three generations, Beshoff Bros fish n’ chips.” Ivan died at the age of 104, but this is still proudly a family business.
    Some men were born to create beef Wellington, others to perfect fish and chips.




By John Mariani

 Red shrimp in garlic at Lamano

265 West 20th Street

    While Chelsea has long had a slew of good, small restaurants and eateries, like Alta Linea, Cull & Pistol and The Red Cat, it has largely avoided becoming a caterwauling hipster foodie destination like the Lower East Side and Bushwick.  Lamano is small, but surprisingly not all that loud, a very friendly and fast-paced storefront closer to a Basque-style tapas (or pintxos) wine bar than other Spanish spots around town, although here you don’t belly up to the bar to order, as you would in San Sebastián.
    Lamano is owned by Jorge Guzman Hospitality with chef-partner Mario Hernandez, who is Mexican born. From a tiny kitchen area in full view of  the tall chairs and elevated tables that encourage sharing, Hernandez works feverishly to send out dish after dish, more or less when they’re ready, and the only real problem is to avoid ordering too much. Just about everything is so savory you’ll need to prove your camaraderie by not scarfing up the food on each other’s plates.

    It’s the kind of place you begin with either a glass of sparkling cava or, as we did, a pitcher of way-too-easy-to-drink sangria, while you nibble on morcilla blood sausage  ($8) and boquerones (anchovies) with caramelized onions, Idiazabal cheese and garlic chips splashed with Riesling wine ($8).  The classic tomato-smeared country bread called pan con tomate ($7) is requisite—but be aware that you get a lot of bread on every dish—and then you must decide on an array of items that go well beyond what you might find in the average tapas bar:  croquetas with Serrano and aïoli ($10); marvelous and very pretty gambas red shrimps in garlic sauce ($16);  poached octopus with potatoes ($18); or course crispy hot patatas bravas ($8).
    The wine list is well selected for this kind of food, compact but all you really need, with no wine by the glass more than $12.
    It’s hard to imagine anyone leaving Lamano not feeling quite happy, perhaps with a little buzz on.

Dinner nightly.

435 Halsey Street

    Brooklyn has never wanted for good pizzerias, and the hyper-praise heaped on Roberta’s has made it seem that eyesore-ugly Bushwick eatery invented pizza. The fact is, there has always been great pizza of various stylizations all over NYC, and the endless debates about which place serves the best pie has become a tiresome cliché.
    The owner of Saraghina Bakery & Restaurant in Bedford-Stuyvesant handily proves the point, having attracted a young, appreciative clientele, with lots of kids in tow, by following a childhood dream. “As kids, we wanted to eat pizza every day,” owner Edoardo Mantelli writes on his website, “and as adults we are able to make our dream a reality and can obsessively eat (and make) pizza without reprimand. . . . We aim to recreate the food we ate growing up in Italy, the food we craved as we rushed home from school or a good soccer game, the kind of meals our mothers prepared with love and the freshest ingredients from the local mercato. As in any good Italian casa, our home was always filled with sound, but when the aroma of mamma’s cooking filled the air, we would race to the table and then there was nothing but silence. . . . We are not looking to re-invent the pizza-wheel, rather we continue on in the tradition of our mothers using a very simple and pure way of cooking and, of course, amore.”
    That’s as good a description as I could give of the atmosphere at Saraghina, which, in addition to two rustic dining rooms, has a splendid bakery and pasta shop attached.  For weekend brunch the place is packed, and the staff couldn’t be nicer about letting you know when a table will turn over, taking your cell phone number to call you in advance.
          The place has plenty of charm—whitewashed brick walls, wood beams, hanging lamps, a long communal table, and a bar-counter in front. The waiters are fast on their feet and very friendly, the noise level is moderate, and starting up a conversation with the party next to yours happens easily.
    The Neapolitan-style pizza, with ten toppings—ranging from a specialty with ricotta, housemade mozzarella, bok choy, guanciale and garlic chips ($20) to one with mozzarella, hot coppa salami, roasted spicy artichokes and basil ($17)—are as good as any you’ll find in Naples, or elsewhere in Brooklyn. The huge brunch omelets and egg specials ($11-$16), along with an array of well-made panini ($10-$15), are easy to share.  At dinner, three pastas ($15-$18) and three main courses ($28-$30) are offered. This kitchen knows just how much it can accomplish well.
    The wine list is solid and fits this kind of food to a tee; mark-ups can be reasonable or on the high side.
    Saraghina has both sauce and sass; La Saraghina (left) was the wild, fat rumba-dancing puttanta in Fellini’s film 8 ½. It’s all in fun, and you should feel right at home in what seems like Mantelli’s own tasty version of Amarcord

Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily; Brunch Sat. & Sun.


By John Mariani


    A Canadian construction company entrepreneur who buys a vineyard in Napa Valley to make Bordeaux-style wines and names them after his favorite rock songs is about par for the course for the idiosyncratic investors in California viniculture. That’s what Cliff Lede (pronounced lay-dee) did fifteen years ago when he built a state-of-the-art winery and cave system on 60 acres in the Stags Leap district, giving his vineyard blocks names like “Dark Side of the Moon” and “My Generation.”
    Lede (right) also acquired Breggo Cellars in Anderson Valley  in 2009 and re-launched in 2014 as FEL Wines in the Anderson Valley, in homage to his mother, Florence Elsie Lede; then two years later he acquired Savoy Vineyard.  Everything was to be first class, so, of course, Lede had to have a place for guests to stay, which in 2005 turned out to be the five-room Poetry Inn, designed by Howard Backen.
    Texas-born Christopher Tynan was hired to carry Lede’s banner of Bordeaux-style wines and commitment to the environment.  Just as significant is the estate’s insistence on as little intervention in the vineyards as possible and how the grapes are treated, in contrast to a far more manipulative approach that is the general rule in Napa Valley.
    “We pay for acreage rather than tonnage,” Lede’s VP and GM Remi Cohen told me over dinner at Union Square Café in New York, meaning that the small-lot winery does not encourage production as much as it values perfect grapes, consistency and loyalty to growers.  As brand ambassador, Cohen is the public face of Lede and her résumé indicates the kind of knowledge, professionalism and marketing canny Cliff Lede is seeking at every level of his enterprise.
    Born and raised in New Jersey, Cohen set her sights on becoming a doctor or genetics professor at U.C. Berkeley, graduating with a degree in molecular and cellular biology—a discipline that later gave her significant segue into studying viticulture and enology at UC Davis, tagging on an MBA at Golden Gate University along the way.
    By 2001 she was working the harvest at Saintsbury in Carneros, then became vineyard manager at Bouchaine and soon was the VP of operations at Merryvale.  In 2012 Cohen founded her own viticultural and winemaking consultancy called Vines to Wine, which led to her introduction to Cliff Lede.
    Cohen is a very impressive person: She lectures on agricultural sustainability, writes a column for Vineyard & Winery Management, serves on the board of the Napa Valley Grapegrowers and the Stags Leap District Winegrowers Association, and is a Court of Master Sommelier certified sommelier.
    Like winemaker Tynan, previously at Colgin, Cohen shares Lede’s belief in low-yield vines from select sites whose wines express their individual terroir.  The wisdom of this process may be best sampled in Lede’s 2016 Sauvignon Blanc ($25), composed of 82% Sauvignon Blanc, a sizable 14% Semillon, 3% Sauvignon Vert and 1% aromatic Muscat Canelli, with only 7,700 cases produced.  The 14.4% alcohol is high for Sauvignon Blanc, but the balance and richness of the wine distinguishes it entirely from the thin, grassy, punch-like flavors of so much Sauvignon Blanc that has become both the New Zealand and California style.
    FEL Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2015 ($38) is actually a little lower in alcohol than the Sauvignon Blanc, and that is all for the good.  Anderson Valley has a rep for overripe, brawny, inky Pinot Noirs, but FEL’s has far more finesse, the tannins soft, the fruit not overly ripe, the acids in balance. Sixteen months in oak barrels, 34% of which were new, give just enough of that component to increase the complexity further.
    I did not have a chance to taste the flagship Lede wine, Poetry 2013, because it is sold out, even at $250 (only 822 cases were made).  I did, however, enjoy the pricey 2013 Songbook ($190), which is very much a Bordeaux blend, with 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit Verdot, matured for 21 months in French oak barrels, almost all new.  At 14.9% alcohol it skirts being one of those massive California cabs, instead delivering plenty of dark berry fruit and spice, with a slight tannic grip at the finish, which should loosen further in a year or two.
    It is easy enough to recognize a wine that was manipulated in the vineyard and crafted in the winery, but in tasting Lede wines it reminds me that true craftsmanship begins with a respect for the source of the main ingredient, which is as true of fine grapes as it is of the wood used in making a fine guitar.



 Apollo Peak says it's sold $500,000 worth of catnip-infused colored water called "pet wine" at T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, and 200 other stores in just the past year, and now has a competitor in Florida-based  Pet Winery, now in 40 stores.  Names of beverages includ Catbernet, Moscato, and Purrgundy, and Mëow & Chandon.




"At first glance Corridor seems like any other buzzworthy San Francisco restaurant: low lights, curated playlists, thoughtful wine list, reclaimed-wood tables set with stemmed glassware, artisanal china, fine flatware and a California-inspired American menu of on-trend plates .  . . . It’s a fairly standard fine-dining operation in most respects, really, except for one little thing. There are no waiters. No one will take your order. Instead, when you arrive, you’ll walk up to a counter to order your entire meal there. You’ll be handed a discreet GPS device (it does not buzz), which locates you in the restaurant so a runner can deliver your food. Once seated, floor staff will refill water glasses, reorder drinks and add desserts as needed. Welcome to `fast fine,' a hybrid dining phenomenon sweeping San Francisco.”—Andrea Strong, “The Way to Save the Restaurant Industry? Put the Fast in Fine Dining,” Food Republic (1/25/17)


 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:

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 (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, Geoff Kalish, Mort Hochstein, and Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographers: Galina Dargery. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.

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