Virtual Gourmet

  August 6, 2017                                                                                            NEWSLETTER


"Anna Karenina" (1967)


By John Mariani


By John Mariani



By John Mariani


By John Mariani

Four Seasons Anguilla Hotel

    As much as any island its size in the Caribbean—35 square miles—Anguilla has its fair share of high-end resorts, not least the Four Seasons, Mallihouhana and CusinArt.
    The Four Seasons, with 181 luxury accommodations set on 35 acres of beachfront on Barnes Bay and Meads Bay, was last year taken over from what had been the Viceroy, and the Toronto-based hotel group has carefully been renovating the property while keeping the dramatic, solid modernism of the original design of low-lying buildings banked away from the sea. The manicured and angular spread of the property has the cast of a futuristic world afloat in a sea of serenity, right down to the great carved heads (above) set as totemic protectors.
     Tall glass walls and thick beige and white travertine marble columns play with the shifting light, while the extensive greenery provides slow-moving shade. Rows of palm trees sway drowsily in the warm, omnipresent trade winds above sun-flecked infinity pools. The outside off-white colors are echoed in the spacious rooms and large marble bathrooms. With considerable devotion to the environment, the resort has an on-site reverse osmosis plant to produce fresh “spring” water for the  resort that is then recycled to irrigate the native flora.
    The resort’s principal restaurant is called Coba (left), windswept and open to the sea, serving a menu by Chef George Reid, with some of the best seafood I had on Anguilla, including local red snapper ($36), spiny lobster ($46 per pound), and crayfish ($30), along with silky, char-grilled octopus with an aïoli, capers and hot spicing.  You may well enjoy these simply grilled, but there are also eight different sauces you can add. The Parker House rolls are addictively good.  For dessert go with the Key lime tart and the crème brûlée.  Breakfast is also served at Coba, but be aware it is not complimentary with the room charge but a whopping surcharge of $36 plus 15% service charge.
    I didn’t stay at the newly refurbished  Malliouhana, an Auberge Resort which opened in 1984, set above rocky beach crags and ultramarine waters.  I did, however, enjoy Chef Marc Alvarez’s Caribbean menu at The Restaurant there (below), which impressed me most for the exquisite quality of the raw seafood, like conch and watermelon ceviche with spicy popcorn and cilantro ($14) and the mahi-mahi ceviche with lime and chile leche de tigre marinade and cassava chips ($14). Grilled octopus was excellent, too, served with yucca, heirloom chickpeas and a crumble of chorizo ($18).
        Among my favorite entrees was a pan-roasted snapper (left) with crisp bok choy, shrimp and plantains, and curry coconut emulsion ($37). A good choice is  sake-marinated and grilled ahi tuna with quinoa, braised greens and a spicy wasabi-soy vinaigrette ($37).  Triggerfish and spiny lobster were on the printed menu but not available that evening, which points back to the availability problem of seafood on the island and how the chef here won’t serve what is not freshest. For dessert you’ll like the apple and strawberry shortcake. Service was dismayingly slow throughout an evening with very few tables taken. The Restaurant has a first-rate wine list.
    Italian food of quality and authenticity is not that easy to come by on Anguilla, but Italia at the CuisinArt Golf & Spa Resort impressed me on both counts, although here, too, service was as slow as any I’ve experienced in the Caribbean.  (We waited 40 minutes for three pasta dishes.)  Fortunately, Chef Biaggia Lungo, from Sorrento, is very serious about his food, so bucatini alla carbonara (right), lasagna alla bolognese, and agnolottti stuffed with pumpkin in a butter and sage sauce were all delicious. The wine list is modest, and the Italian bottlings all too familiar.  You need not bother with the hum-drum desserts. Note that CuisinArt’s website says that a new menu will be in place November 1, so take my comments in the context of my springtime meal.
    Blanchard’s (below
), which is unassociated with a resort, is on Meads Bay and has long been one of the upscale favorites of both transient visitors and local property owners, not least for  its daunting array of shelves stocked with rums from all over the Caribbean, and tasting flights—a good idea with dessert—are certainly encouraged.  The wine list has more than 500 selections; the average wine by the glass is $15, with a dozen half-bottles, and mark-ups are among the more reasonable I found on the island.  Bob and Melinda  (she’s the chef) Blanchard have run this colorful, cordial restaurant since 1994, and the ambiance on the dining patio, surrounded by a thicket of tropical greenery, has always been at its best at sunset.
    Our dinner’s highlights included corn chowder with vegetables ($16) and pappardelle pasta with the meat of pulled short ribs, olives, zucchini, peas and roast tomato ragôut (though at $38 a  high price). Sesame-crusted mahi-mahi with curried rice, caramelized onion, Saigon stir fry and Dijon caper sauce ($46) was all right, if overwrought.  There is also a three-course menu at $49 (plus 15% service charge).
    Prototypically Caribbean for its outdoor location—an afternoon shower broke out and soaked the patio tables while we were having lunch, which was not in the least disturbing in such a setting—is da’Vida’s outdoor restaurant, Bayside, which complements its more staid indoor restaurant open for dinner.
    The first thing to know about is the basket of johnnycakes ($2), like cornmeal bagels and absolutely addictive. This is a family place, popular after a swim or sun-bake. So there’s pizza and burgers. The grilled fish with Creole sauce ($25; right) is dependable if a little pricey.  Do share a warm brownie with ice cream ($8) or a very good carrot cake for dessert ($8). An ice cold beer goes best with this kind of food and sun.


By John Mariani
Photos by Milica Koceva.

1018 Amsterdam Avenue (near 109th Street)

    When I was in grad school at Columbia University in Harlem, the only real options for lunch or dinner were a very high-end continental restaurant called The Terrace atop a dormitory and a little Hungarian restaurant that had more charm than good food.  Now, with another Harlem Renaissance in full swing, the neighborhood west of Morningside Park has a remarkable array of new restaurants of every stripe, and the eight-month-old Marlow Bistro is one of the best recent arrivals. Owners Marjanne Motamedi and Dragan Ristovski have gotten the mix just right in both menu and décor for this quickly gentrifying area.
    For one thing, with its white façade, wide windows, and tables outside with flower boxes set on broad Amsterdam Avenue in full view of the magnificent Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the restaurant has a capital location.  Inside it has a rough-hewn look of brick walls, wood-beamed ceiling, and industrial light fixtures, with a bar to one side.  The room could certainly use some sound-proofing, and there’s no reason to turn down the lights when the sun goes down.  The crowd is largely neighborhood and university people and a cadre of Millenials, so dress is casual, without anyone dressing sloppily, though.  Cloth napkins would be nicer than paper.

    (By the way the attractive young service staff, many from eastern Europe, are as affable as you’d hope, at least until they drift out of the dining room at nine o’clock and need to be flagged down.)
    Belgrade-born Executive Chef Zivko Radojcic (left) has worked in fine dining spots like Picholine, the Korean eatery Jungsik, and Alta, from which he’s drawn a lot of the Mediterranean flavors for his menu at Marlow.  He lists his farm sources on a blackboard—wild mushrooms from Foraged & Found Edibles, seasonal vegetables, fruits and meats from Local Bushel Farm, organic specialty greens from Blue Moon Acres, and organic eggs from Sauder's Amish Country Eggs. Their quality shows in Radojcic’s cooking, whose imagination and range is well-suited to the size of his kitchen and
50-seat dining room.
    The Mediterranean slant is fully realized in a dish of very tender octopus (below) with French beans, cherry tomatoes that add sweetness and acid, olives and a lovely lemon-potato foam ($17).  When you have great ingredients no improvement need be made to a dish of summer squash, basil feta cheese and babaganoush ($15).   
    There are five pastas, every one carefully thought through and each out of the ordinary.  Ricotta cavatelli (below) comes with asparagus, cherry tomatoes, ramps pesto and pickled rhubarb ($19), while spinach-rich girasoli with sunchoke cream and a mushroom fricassee is a fine, bright idea ($20).         

       “Chicken duo” sounds pedestrian but is actually a splendid mix of different parts of the bird—breast rolled with a brown butter mousse and legs stuffed with a porcini puree and asparagus, all graced with a glistening creamy parsnip puree, wild mushrooms, brown butter Béarnaise and brown butter crumbs (at a very reasonable $25).
    You certainly expect a spot like Marlow to have a good burger and the addition of a roasted pepper spread, coleslaw and paprika potato ($18) atop a delicious ground beef blend shows Radojcic’s ability to make a burger his own.
Foie gras “rocher” ($15) needs re-thinking: cherry puree, cocoa granola and white chocolate powder is a modernist turn I’ve seen before—the first time at London’s Fat Duck, where I was served near-raw squab with a melted Cadbury chocolate bar on top.  Not a great idea. 
And I don’t know why, in a town where everybody does it,  a restaurant called Marlow Bistro is serving flaccid, flavorless pizza.
     It is a sign of our times that small restaurants transcend the obvious when it comes to dessert, so Marlow’s crème fraîche pannacotta with strawberries, aged balsamic, and Brown butter ($9) and something called volcano Edna with mascarpone moose, coffee granola and chocolate lava ($9), which taste like one of the best tiramisùs in New York, are good choices, as is a chocolate hazelnut parfait with passion fruit diplomat bread, and white chocolate snow ($10).  Here the kitchen’s fancy shows well.
        I wish I’d had a place like Marlow set just where it is in this neighborhood when I was a student. Back then, it would have been a place well worth saving up for to take a girl out for a good meal.

Marlow Bistro is open for lunch Mon.-Fri. and dinner nightly; Brunch Sat. & Sun.





By John Mariani


Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello di Montalcino  2011 ($78)—Brunellos used to take a long, long time to mature, and there is still a good case to be made for that style, but, upon release, contemporary versions can have their charm. This example, from Gaja,  is not from a single vineyard but is a blend from the estate’s top growing sites in Sugarille, Santo Pietro, Castagno, and Pian dei Cerri.  It spent 12 months in barrique  and 12 months in botti (large thirty-year-old casks). I’d certainly wait for this 2011 to come around, but it’s worth sampling this year and seeing how it develops.

Domaine Drouhin Laurene Pinot Noir 2004 ($150)--I can't say I have much experience with 13-year-old Oregon Pinot Noirs, but given the provenance of this wonderful example, from Burgundy producer Joseph Drouhin, which was the first French company to see the possibilities in Oregon many year ago, I'm not at all surprised that it has held up as well as a fine Burgundy. It is a flagship cuvée (named after Véronique Drouhin's eldest daughter) from the best wine produced in a vintage from 32 different blocks in the Dundee Hills.  Drouhin says 2004 had an ideal growing season but low yield, spending 20 months in barrel before release in 2009.  Now in its second decade it proves the potential for Pinot Noir from the Pacific Northwest and should be a standard others should try to meet. By the way, the current 2014 vintage is out and costs about $75. 

Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage 2015 ($32)—Another style of Rhȏne wine, this from a very young—1985—domaine, where grapes are harvested by hand and the wines are aged in old Burgundy barrels.  Graillot is highly regarded among his colleagues in the Northern Rhȏne for the balance he achieves in his wines, so this is a red with plenty of flexibility when it comes to summer foods off the grill. 

Champagne Jean Laurent Blanc de Noirs Brut ($40)—Champagne, at least non-vintage, of real quality need not cost a fortune, as this lovely, full-fruited example proves.  You can readily find it—when you can find it—for less than $40, and it’s a real crowd pleaser, especially as an aperitif or a wine to go with poached fish. 

Viticcio Prunaio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013 ($24)—The producer calls this “A Chianti Classico made unexpectedly in Super Tuscan style,” which apparently means no other traditional grapes were used in the blend, only Sangiovese Grosso selected clones, as in a Brunello or Vino Nobile. So does it qualify as a Chianti Classico?  The laws have been so bent in recent years that it’s hard not to be whatever a winery says it is.  Nevertheless, this is a fine red Tuscan wine by any name, aged in barriques for 18 months and then large barrels for six. Alcohol is 14%. 

Donelan Nancie Chardonnay 2014 ($48)—Producer Joe Donelan names this after his mother, Nancie, and it is made from grapes from three vineyards, one from Russian River using 30-year-old vines.  Ten months of aging in new oak and three years of age before release might seem to make the wine too woody, but there is a good amount of fruit and acid to make it a nice clean California-style Chardonnay, good to go with seafood of any kind. 

Votre Santé Pinot Noir 2015 ($18)—Don’t be fooled by the French name; this is an Anderson Valley appellation Pinot Noir but made as close as possible to a Burgundy style, with only 13.4% alcohol.  It spends 9 months in French oak and 30% in new oak, and wine maker François Cordesse (he’s definitely French) does not filter his Pinot Noir—tricky business for this finicky grape—so without upping the alcohol he gets good body and tannin with some varied spicy notes, ideal for lamb dishes.  By the way, this is one of Francis Ford Coppola’s many wine lines, this one paying tribute to his grandmother, Maria Zasa. 

Mount Veeder Reserve 2013 ($100)—The label calls this Bordeaux-style blend “red wine,” which sounds like something of an injustice at a $100 price tag.  It’s a complex and concentrated wine, with 14.5% alcohol, blended from 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Fran and 2% Malbec.  The vineyards are at high elevation and the harvest was picked early, so you don’t get the jammy texture of so many Napa Cabernet blends.  I’m not sure about the statement that “a Mount Veeder harvest is a Zen-like art of moving across a three-dimensional chessboard,” but whatever it is, it works.  Bring out the porterhouse, open the bottle and chant “Om….” 

Mauritson Zinfandel 2014 ($35)—The vineyard was planted in 1884, so the family has a long history making Zinfandel at its best.  This is a luscious example, without  the cloying overripeness of so many others, despite a 14.7% alcohol level.  You should expect Zins to have this kind of body, but the harmony of the fruit and acids is as it should be.  It will take as well to barbecued meats as to roast prime rib and cheeses.

Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Chenin Blanc 2015 ($13)—What a great price for one of the most delicious Chenin Blancs out of Sonoma County!  It’s a grape too many vintners ignore, and even the better producers make grassy examples.  This is beautifully textured with the fruit abundant, showing the commitment of Dry Creek Valley, which has been making this wine since 1972.

Cobb Pinot Noir 2014 ($80)—Pricey, but a solid effort that shows the admirable Cobb style that begins with an effusive bouquet and a lighter-style lovely Pinot Noir flavor with substantial body that buoys it right through the long finish.  And it proves that a Pinot Noir at 12.5% alcohol can be far more enjoyable than those pushed above 14.5%.  A mature Pommard clone, planted in 1998, adds brightness to the wine.  It can age but it’s hard to pass up right now.  I drank it with black bass done on the grill and it worked well.

Saint Cosme 2015 ($19)—A pleasing, well-priced Cȏtes-du-Rhȏne, very creamy but with a big body and ruby color, from Gigondas, whose winery dates to two years before Columbus sailed the ocean blue. It’s made from 70% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 14% Mourvèdre and 1% Cinsault.  The fact that it’s unfiltered gives it that body in its youth, and it is a very good wine with pork dishes. 




States including Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Montana now permit their residents to collect and eat roadkill, and West Virginia holds its own annual Roadkill Cook-Off.  Oregon's bill states,  that “salvage is allowed only for human consumption of meat and that antlers must be turned over to the ODFW.” PETA says of the bill,  "PETA has no ethical objection to states that allow and arrange for the collection of an animal’s remains discovered at the side of the road. Roadkill is a superior option to the neatly shrink-wrapped packages of meat in the supermarket."


“‘We try to run our kitchens in a decidedly female way,’ says Sarah Hymanson [of Kismet in LA]. ‘I try to talk about emotion and give space for processing.’”—Food & Wine (7/17).




 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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