Virtual Gourmet

  July 30, 2017                                                                                            NEWSLETTER


Portuguese Travel Poster by Alberto de Souza (circa 1959)



By John Mariani


By John Mariani


By John Mariani


By John Mariani

Beachside Dinner at Cap Juluca

    As annoying as the trip from any airport to one’s destination always is, the hiatus provided by taking a short boat trip to an island is never less than inspiriting. The loading of the baggage, the start-up of the motorboat, the bouncing along the sea and the usual offer of a beer or punch conspire with the wind and the salt air both to calm the stresses of the plane ride and airport passage and to remind you that you will soon arrive in a different world.
    In the case on Anguilla my wife and I boarded a fast-moving boat at
the St. Maarten Ferry Terminal on a choppy cerulean blue sea and disembarked on the island to grab a taxi to our resort, Cap Juluca on  Maundays Bay, spread over two curving coves with a mile-long white-sand beach (right). As one of the island’s first luxury properties, Cap Juluca (named for the rainbow spirit of the original Arawak Indians) opened in 1984 and set a very high standard, not least in personal service of a kind still rare in the Caribbean.
    The choice of the property’s whitewashed Greco-Moorish architecture
was also a radical break from the ordinary resort style, and the spaciousness of the 95 apartment-like rooms, with louvered shutters and state-of- the-art bathrooms, make each unit quite separate from another. There are also some extraordinary private pool villas than run up to 5,200 square feet in size. Add in the resort’s location being a good distance from the road and its seclusion becomes one of its principal allures.
    The resort was run for three decades by Charles and Linda Hickox,
who just this year sold it to the London-based Belmond Ltd., which expects to close  it in January and renovate the property, so what I say here about specific restaurants and cuisine may in fact change when it re-opens. Plans are for 25 new villas or suites, increasing the number of rooms to 121 by the end of 2018.
    For now, there are several dining spots on property, all drawing as
much as possible from the resort’s own gardens. Pimms is Cap Juluca’s fine dining restaurant, romantically lighted, with a civilized bar and, of course, a panorama on the sea that makes it as beautiful at twilight as under moonlight. The wine list is one of the best in the Caribbean and the Wine Room may be taken for private parties with a five-course meal and paired bottlings.
    It should be noted that getting the best seafood out of the Caribbean is
not as reliable as anyone would like, for Anguilla does not have a commercial fishing industry, so buyers must rely on individual fisherman to show up when they choose. One goes out on Tuesday, another on Wednesday, some stay home when they feel like it. One fishes for grouper, another for mahi-mahi, another for lobster. So few menus on the island offer more than two or three species.
    Having said that, my wife and I enjoyed the some of the finest quality
seafood we’ve had in the Caribbean at Pimms, right on the beach itself at a candlelighted, linen-draped table on a starry, cloudless night. We began with a nice, chunky tuna tartare (below), then big eye snapper with Asian spicings, then impeccably broiled lobster, accompanied by well-chilled wine from that superlative list. It seemed a good idea to have a well-aged rum at evening’s end.
     Also at Cap Juluca, Blue (below) is a casual patio eatery used for a buffet
breakfast and light bites like conch fritters and mahi-mahi wraps, while Spice (above) is a cocktail lounge with small plates. Afternoon tea is served at Maundays.
  Anguilla is a flat island without the kind of mountains like on Martinique
that attract the great thunderclouds. Anguilla is very dry, in fact, and hurricanes are a rarity—the last big blow was Luis in 1995. Its coral is protected, and there are laws against residents leaving unsightly, rusting    furniture or old cars on their property—a blight that plagues other islands.
    There is evidence of the Zika virus, which continues to hurt tourism,
though to a lesser extent than many other islands. And while Anguilla has not entirely recovered from the 2009 recession, the tour boat business is booming and boat racing is now a huge enterprise here.
    I had lunch with the Honorable Cardigan Connor, Parliamentary
Secretary for Tourism, Sports, Youth and Culture, who told me, “Anguilla is really still a village. Most property is still owned by the locals, even though the governor is always British. Sadly, there has been a mass emmigration abroad to seek work, but there has always been a remnant of citizens who act as an anchor to preserve the culture here.”
    Only recently have any serious attempts begun to grow fruits and
vegetables on Anguilla, whose arid climate is difficult. One of the most promising developments in agriculture is Sensational Flavors, an agro-tourism venture opened last year in Mount Fortune. There the passionately committed founder Salih Abdur Raheem (left) and his cousin, Owen, have planted food plants most doubted could ever grow on the island, and the enterprise is supported by a weekend market tent selling the farm’s organic wares as well as drinks and fried fish. “I don’t do this for the money,” says Raheem. “It is a passion for me that I hope someday will make profits. I wanted to prove that it can be done and should be copied.”
    Of particular interest to visitors digging into the island’s history is the
Anguilla Heritage Collection (right), whose devoted owner, Colville Perry, shows off artifacts dating to the Arawak era and seafaring days, continuing on to the colonial and post-colonial days. Perry remembers the days when Anguillans drank brackish water for lack of fresh sources.
    The island itself is dotted with historic structures as part of Anguilla’s
National Trust and includes the quaintly eccentric St. Gerard’s Catholic Church in the Valley, a small parish whose original church was destroyed in a hurricane in 1961 and, along with a conference center,  rebuilt into three Gothic arches composed of island stones with a red door.   
One of the best ways to appreciate Anguilla is to sail away from it on
a shuttle called “Happiness” to Sandy Island ($10 round-trip). First opened in 1984, the little boomerang-shaped  isle (left) has been rebuilt every time a storm has blown it away, but for the time being it functions as a very popular thatched roof barbecue grill complete with live music and steel drums. You can bake in the snow-white sand or sit back under the roof and drink JoJo’s all-too-easy rum punch while feasting on a menu of baby back ribs, drunken coconut shrimp, spicy shrimp kebabs, and grilled lobster with coconut and ginger sauce.
    Across the water is little Anguilla, which somehow seems so big
when you’re on an islet so small. As long as the punch holds out, it’s a tough place to leave.


By John Mariani

60 Thompson Street

(212) 219-8119

      Let me tell you how much I enjoyed Sessanta.
     It should have been a 45-minute drive from my house to SoHo,  but because of traffic from the moment I left straight through to getting entangled in the commuter rush to squeeze through the Holland Tunnel, that trip took me two agonizing hours, expletives included throughout.
    When my wife and I staggered into the restaurant, to be seated on the patio on a perfect summer’s night and find my friends waiting, I was exhausted and still enraged. Then, after some kind words from the owner and manager Gina deMasi and the timely delivery of a perfectly made daiquiri, everything that had occurred before vanished into nothingness. I was so happy again. The two-year- old Sessanta seems to have that effect on a lot of people.
    The space, in Sixty Soho Hotel, had long been a shadowy Thai restaurant, but its transformation into a Southern Italian style with striped maple walls, sky blue couches, colored tile floors and a skylight above the main dining area has changed the ambiance to something more welcoming.
    Owner John McDonald, who also runs Lure Fishbar nearby, originally had a Sicilian-born chef, but his replacement, Adam Leonti, from Italian background and raised in Maine, has maintained many of the Mediterranean flavors on his menu while scouring the rest of Italy for good ideas. One delectable item but from Valtellina is gli sciatt ($14), a kind of ravioli in a sour beer batter and containing bitto cheese, pomegranate and pear; its crisp shell crunches to reveal all that gooey goodness inside. Farinata, a chickpea pancake (burnt that night) served with asparagus, smoked salmon ($15,) is a Ligurian specialty. The artichoke lasagne ($16) was Roman-inspired, with mint, parsley and lemon, while quail was more Lombardian for being accompanied by foie gras, and touched with sweet melon and summer’s zucchini flower ($18).
    Every one of the pastas I tried was very good to excellent, both in form and cooking texture. Tagliatelle with a Genovese basil pesto ($17) was pleasingly traditional (right), while lasagne verde was layered with an admirable—for once!—ragù bolognese and béchamel ($19). Braised rabbit plumped up savory Ligurian fazzoletti crȇpes ($19); conchiglione was a large pasta shell filled with four ounces of lobster in its own shell, lavished with a rich sauce americaine ($22)—a sloppy plate but very good.
    So, too, Leonti’s way with brook trout is not pretty but it’s one of the best renditions I’ve had of this freshwater fish ($26), served with wax beans, cockles and lemon—an outstanding dish. Saltimbocca, usually made with veal that doesn’t taste like much, is here made with pounded chicken, a slice of prosciutto and sage ($28) served with soft polenta and braised “Tuscan kale” (true cavolo nero is close to kale).
    Nicely crisp outside with a good rosy flesh, grilled duck breast took on the sweet-sour accents of cherry and a bitter onion agrodolce to fine effect ($32), and Leonti has clearly acquired a good pork supplier, for Sessanta’s grilled pork chop was juicy and had a good amount of fat ($32), served with chanterelles and baby onions. On the side I enjoyed the very Roman dish of crisply fried artichokes alla giudia ($12), good for the table to share (below).
    Desserts ($12) are simple in the best Italian sense: Lemon tart with blueberry Prosecco sauce; panna cotta with ginger cookie and raspberries; a flourless chocolate cake with strawberry balsamic gastrique; and sheep’s milk ricotta cake with burnt caramel.
    Sessanta offers a whole page of cocktails, beers, and wines by the glass. Young sommelier Colin Burke is still building his wine list, so he’s a good man to trust to help choose a wine to go with your food and according to your budget.
    Were Sessanta just a tiny Soho storefront serving the kind of out-of-the-ordinary food Leonti does, it would be well worth any Italian food lover’s while. But the fact that it’s a casually elegant spot with one of the more appealing patios in a less frenetic part of Manhattan puts it a lot closer stylistically to Milan than it does to NYC. 

Sessanta is open nightly for dinner; Caffe Sessanta is open for breakfast and lunch daily.




By John Mariani

    As summer red wines go, I think that correctly aged Beaujolais is easily the most versatile match for summer foods. I say “correctly aged” because Beaujolais still labors among some wine drinkers under the outdated fad for Beaujolais Nouveau, which crested more than a decade ago, as well as a misguided notion that Beaujolais is little more than a cheap, low-alcohol wine drunk in house carafes throughout France.
    There was considerable truth to the idea that most Beaujolais used to be produced in bulk from Gamay Noir grapes for the bistro market, drawn from more than 55,000 acres in Southern Burgundy and sold by distributors called negoçiants. But since the 1990s the better Beaujolais have come from vineyards brought to modern standards of viticulture, especially in those appellations granted status as Beaujolais-Villages, whose wines must have a minimum of 10 percent alcohol and now constitute about one-quarter of total production.
    Overall the region produces about 13 million cases of Beaujolais annually. The best Beaujolais, whose alcohol tilts more towards 13 percent, come from ten regulated crus—Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliènas, Moulin-à- Vent, Morgon, Saint-Amour, and Régnié—usually costing between $10-$15 a bottle. By common agreement, Beaujolais Nouveau cannot be made from these crus.
    Distancing themselves from the Beaujolais Nouveau hysteria has become an important marketing point for the crus. The crus most certainly improve with age, but age is relative; the crus develop best at two to three years old. After that many become risky, either losing their fruit or tasting muddled. Some aficionados claim that some ten-year-old Beaujolais show amazing complexity, but very few connoisseurs would bother to cellar Beaujolais for such lengths of time.
    By far the largest negoçiant, who is sometimes called the “King of Beaujolais” (left)  is Georges DuBouef, 84, who still ships 2.5 million cases annually.  Over a week of home-cooked meals I found most of the Beaujolais tasted—all from the 2016  and 2015 vintages—had characteristic Gamay charm, which means a little spicy, a great deal of fruit, and an alcohol level that rarely goes above 13%.
    Brouilly is almost always a crowd pleaser, with good body, plenty of flower scents in the nose, and an earthy vibrancy of fruit that knits it all into good balance—an ideal wine with grilled salmon or a terrine of foie gras on toasted country bread. Domaine du Riaz ($19.99) was also delicious with mild cheeses, much better than a bigger, bolder red. Domaine Pontheux ($18.99) is a Chiroubles, lighter than Brouilly but with more complexity than Fleurie wines. You smell lavender and violets in the nose, and it’s the kind of wine that goes well with charcuterie dabbed with a little mustard and accompanied by gherkins. It adds to those flavors and this domaine draws from 50-year-old vines that give more structure to the wine.
    Juliénas is considered one of the better regions for aging Beaujolais, and Chȃteau des Capitiane 2015 ($21.99) demonstrates the truth of that opinion. The vines at this chȃteau date back at least half a century and the hillsides get a lot of sun, giving the wine 14% alcohol and more complexity. Some of the wine spends 8 months in oak, unusual for Beaujolais, so on a warm night it takes very well to just about anything off the grill, not least a nicely fatted veal chop we enjoyed that night.
    Morgon can be among the heartiest of Beaujolais cru, and Domaine de Javernières Côte du Puy 2016 ($19.99; left) produces only 400 cases. The tannins are now loosening up, revealing the dark fruit of Gamay and a richness that makes it a great match for marinated lamb dishes with herbs like rosemary.  In much the same style, Jean Ernest Descombes 2015 ($21.99), with its extra year of age, manifests a terroir rich in minerals, so it’s a good match-up with pork, sausages, and hot dogs in summer.
Another night my dinner was seared and roasted veal chops, cooked pink, and with this the Morgon ($11.95) stood out for its bold Beaujolais spirit and its ability to age well, still with soft tannins and creamy fruit flavors.
    Moulin-à-Vent (below), whose name refers to the windmills in the area, is often considered the best of the crus, though this varies widely depending on the estate and negoçiant. DuBouef buys his from Domaine des Rosiers, and the 2015 costs $23.99, on the high side of Beaujolais prices. But the body, the complexity, and the softness of the wine puts it in strong competition with more famous red Burgundies of the Côte d’Or, so that you might mistake it for a Mercurey or Fixin, which means a well-seared sirloin is going to taste even better when married to this Moulin-à-Vent.
    As for Fleurie, I think they are likeable wines, light, undemanding and better as an aperitif or with a summer salad. The 2015 Clos des Quatre Vents ($21.99) gained from aging, and the granite soil of the vineyard gives it a bit more interest than other Fleuries.
    A Chiroubles was the driest of my sampling, showing the minerality of its 1,200-foot hillside altitude and granite soil and the richness of even some mightier Burgundian pinot noirs. The Georges Duboeuf Flower Label wine line includes Saint-Amour ($13.49) and the Chenas ($12.49) were very feminine compared with the heft of a Chiroubles ($12.49) and Julienas ($12.95). I scribbled “gamine” on the Saint-Amour label, the very well-fruited cherry-like soul of Gamay at its best, a wine that could be served with anything from pork to roast chicken, which was stuffed under the skin with herb butter. The Chenas—supposedly Louis XIII’s favorite wine—was more complex than one might think about Beaujolais, with plenty of the village’s ripe fruit atop spicy, green flavors.
    I wasn’t very fond of the Julienas, whose unimpressive, flat bouquet was followed by a one-dimensional metallic flavor I don’t think would be a match for many foods above the hamburger level.
    For those not aware of the range of aged Beaujolais cru, summer is a good time to try them all and find how diverse they really are.



A 26-year-old woman in China (right) trying to make a live stream video for the Internet about the health benefits of eating aloe vera leaves was poisoned and hospitalized after she consumed the wrong kind of plant.


“At times, Italienne is like somebody who starts to tell you a joke about a priest, a rabbi and an imam in a rowboat and ends up talking about Maimonidean law.”--Pete Welles, “Italienne,” NY Times (5/24/17)



 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 Photographer: Galina Dargery. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.

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