Virtual Gourmet

  August 13, 2017                                                                                            NEWSLETTER


Bird's Custard ad, circa 1928



By John A. Curtas

BY John Mariani


By John Mariani

By John Mariani


Part One
By John A. Curtas

Photo by Lee Russell (1940) from Library of Congress

    Back in the day, you went barbecue hunting with only your nose as a guide. If you were lucky, you had an address or a scrap of newspaper (or a weather-beaten magazine article) in your pocket, and the best you could hope for was to find a local and ask for directions, which were always of the "go down 'bout two miles and look fer Pete's Garage and take a left" variety. Mostly though, you just drove around until you saw the cars and smelled the smoke. Your nose told you you were pointed in the right direction, and the cars (always a mix of everything from beat-up pickups to brand new Mercedes), let you know you'd found the real deal.
    These days, as Texas Monthly has noted, a "tectonic shift" in barbecue has occurred -- a shift that coincided with the rise of social media and the economic recession, seismic events that led everyone to seek out cheaper eats, and lots of out-of-work young chefs to look for inexpensive ways to stay in business. Today, everyone is an expert. Google "Texas barbecue" and get ready for information overload. There are barbecue trail maps, learned academic essays, and more blogs than you can shake a hickory stick at.
    But I wanted to dive a little deeper, and to do that we started where it's been going on the longest: a quaint little town in Central Texas that fairly reeks of smoke and soot of the most delicious kind. Our plan was simple: fly to Austin, rent a car, head to Lockhart and start eating all the smoked meat in sight.
     Lockhart is only a half hour drive from the Austin airport and within an hour of touching down, we were chowing down in the “
Official Barbecue Capital of Texas.” There's not much to see en route;  the landscape is fertile but depressingly flat, and about the only thing to get excited about is the big barn-looking Kreuz Market that looms on your right as you enter the town. The other thing to get excited about are its two competitors,  Black's and Smitty's Market, each located at opposite ends of the quaint town square.
    The smokehouses around Lockhart began in the mid-19th century as German butcher shops opened by immigrants who settled in the area. Sausage making is a natural by-product of cattle and pig slaughtering—and the best way to sell all the tidbits left on the chopping block—and smoking these leftovers was the fastest way to preserve the meat in the days before refrigeration. The proximity of these three icons of smoked meat to each other—you can walk between Smitty's and Black's, and Kreuz is a two-minute drive from either of them—makes for quite the 'cue consumption conundrum. Where do we start? How much do we eat? What if we love one so much we don't want to leave?
    These questions went out the window as soon as we saw the sign that said "Giant Beef Ribs" at Black's.  These were huge:  24 ounces of spoon-tender, juicy, smoky beef with a bark so sweet, black and peppery it could be sold as meat candy (left). Black's is more conventional than its two neighbors, and ordering is done on a cafeteria line that leads you to the meat station, where you choose how much, per pound or slice, you want of the meat. Instead of the butcher paper that most joints use, here you get real plastic plates and utensils. It may not be as authentically "old school" in appearance as Smitty's, but that beef rib is worth a special trip all by itself.
    Black’s sausage was stellar as well. These fresh-made farm sausages are a sub-specialty of Texas barbecue unto themselves. Minimally seasoned and loosely packed (sometimes very loosely packed), they’re not the fine, dense sausages you find in central Europe, where long curing and various spicing develops an entirely different product.
We were also nuts about Black’s mac-n-cheese and its enormous dill pickle,  although in the interest of limiting our consumption we left most of them barely touched on the plate. About the only thing we found lacking was the sauce—slightly thin, standard issue stuff—but the meats, including the brisket, were so amazing we quickly forgot about it.
    It’s the antiquated, authentic details that separate Texas barbecue from other pretenders. All of your meat is sliced to order, and every person taking your order lets you be as particular as you want, whether you want fatty brisket or lean or a combo or a thin slice of this or a thick helping of that. Nothing looks or tastes like it's been sitting around in a steamer tray for hours (because it hasn't), and the intensity of the meat, smoke, bark and seasonings is front and center with every bite.

    Something else front and center are the pits themselves. At Smitty's (right), and Kreuz, they are in the room where you do your ordering. Smitty’s is literally a trip back in time. It's housed in a structure built in 1924, untouched by modernity, dripping with authenticity, and covered in a layer of fatty soot that's been a century in the making. You walk down a long hallway lined with benches where the trenchermen of years past would sit eating their lunches of smoked meat, taken right from the butcher shop on paper, and sliced and stabbed with knives hanging on chains from the walls. These days, things are slightly more modern (there's a dining room to chow down in that's straight from the 1940's, replete with wobbly benches and an old-fashioned soda fountain), but you still go into the smoke room to order your meat sliced, and good luck finding a fork.
    Unfortunately, Smitty’s brisket didn't hold a candle to Black's. The former’s is on the dry side and without the seasoning or smoke of its rival. What saved Smitty's for us was the vibe and the beautiful sausages (left), loaded with black pepper, steaming with fat and the snap;  they were a beef/pork blend of uncommon toothsomeness, and, my favorite "hot guts" of the trip.

      Finally, on the heels of those great meals, there was Kreuz Market (below). It's as big as a barn (actually several barns), and seats hundreds in its several dining rooms. You do the same order-in-the-smoke-room thing here, but then you repair to one of its massive feed halls to eat. What shows up on the plate would, no doubt, be the best damn barbecue in 44 States. Unfortunately, in Texas, the competition is pretty stiff, and Kreuz’s stringy, tepid brisket didn't meet the challenge. Kreuz (pronounced “Krites”) is famous for stubbornly maintaining since 1900 that its brisket is so good it needs no sauce. It needs sauce. On the plus side, the smoked prime rib was ethereally good, attaining an almost cured-ham-like texture while maintaining its beefy integrity, and the sausages were the stuff smoked sausage dreams are made of.  Kreuz has been world famous for over half a century and does a bang-up mail-order business that moves mountains of meat, but we expected the proclaimed godfather of Texas barbecue’s brisket to knock us out of the saddle and it didn't.
    Undaunted, we were up and at ‘em the first thing the next morning, for an hour-long drive into the Texas hinterlands, in search of the best barbecue breakfast on earth.


By John Mariani

    Christian Millau might actually have preferred to be remembered as the erudite author of award-winning books like Galloping with the Hussars: In the Literary Whirlwind of the Fifties, but instead he will always be the man who championed la nouvelle cuisine in its infancy back in the 1960s.  Millau died last week in Paris at the age of 88.
    Along with his partner, Henri Gault, Millau published an irreverent alternative to the stultified Michelin red guides under their names as well as a magazine called Le Nouveau Guide Gault-Millau, which was awaited at French newsstands as much as Paris Match and L’Officiel.
Millau was the flamboyant one, the front man, Gault the shy business manager of enterprises that poked large holes in the moribund style of so many old line French restaurants while encouraging young chefs—young back then—like Paul Bocuse (below), Roger Vergé, Michel Blanc, Michel Guérard and others to follow the “Ten Commandments of La Nouvelle Cuisine,” which included: Avoid unnecessary complications; shorten cooking times; return to regional cooking; investigate the newest techniques; consider diet and health; and invent constantly.
    Unfortunately, media concentrated on the last two as the signal constructs of the movement, ignoring the perfectly commonsensical suggestions that preceded them.  Gault and Millau never railed against classic French cuisine, and the idea that modern cuisine be so light as to qualify as diet food was completely blown out of proportion.  Indeed, only Michel Guérard offered a cuisine minceur (“slimming” cuisine) at his restaurant, but it was in addition to his regular menu that was full of butter, cream, foie gras and caviar.
    I met Millau a few times, both in New York and Paris, and he hired me as a contributor to the Gault-Millau Guides to  NYC and Boston.  He was truly a bon vivant but never an idle flaneur, for he was an extremely well-educated man whose interests went far beyond the gastronomic.  He hated pretension, raged against high prices, and got behind regional wines that cost far less than the classified crus of Bordeaux and Burgundy.  He loved California, even did a guide to Dallas, and was amused by how serious the American food media took their subject.  He found absurd the idea that a critic needed to go to a restaurant three, four, five times before making a decision to give a star rating. Gault-Millau never copied Michelin’s stars; it gave out chef’s toques as symbols and rated on a scale of 1 to 20.  No restaurant ever received 20 points because, he said, no restaurant is perfect.
    I learned a lot just dining with Christian, not least to enjoy oneself at the table as much as possible rather than whisper into hidden recorders, write notes under the table and steal menus out of sight of the captain.  I also learned from him that food and wine are a complement to the good life, but not everything; but if you could make a good living writing about them, so much the better.
    After enjoying such a long life, Millau reminds me of the man whose doctor told him, “If you keep eating and drinking like this you are going to die a slow death,” to which the man replied, “I’m in no hurry.”


By John Mariani

1136 First Avenue (near 63rd Street)

    Just two months old, Imli is focusing on the small plates traditions of regional India and the results are exciting. Owners Mervyn Winston, Ram Reddy and Albin Vincent, along with Chef Manuel Butler, are channeling the all-day cafés of Mumbai, but doing so in one of the most stylish interiors on this restaurant-rich stretch of First Avenue.
    There are two doorways, one to the bar area, beyond which is a patio for summer dining, an open kitchen and a long dining room with one wall stenciled panels of sanded old barn wood and the opposite wall a shimmering coating of gray.  Open-bulb chandeliers cast a pretty light, the floor is a rust-colored lacquer and the tables are made of black concrete.  No bronze figurines or posters of the Taj Mahal adorn the place.  The only odd intrusion is a Spotify mix of disco and other techno music.
    Chef  Butler has consulted or worked for a number of notable NYC Indian restaurants, including Sahib, Dhaba,  Awadh, and Chote Nawab. At Imli (which means tamarind) the most enticing items are what he calls “Indian tapas”; main courses not so much.  (Brunch is inspired by the cuisine of the Parsi population, who fled from Persia in the 8th and 10th centuries to established successful communities in India.)
    Once you are seated, the waiter brings you a selection of six different condiments for use throughout the meal—coriander, yogurt, pear-apple, tamarind, mustard, and more—some mild, some hot. Then you’re handed a multi-page menu that can boggle the receptive mind.  I just asked Reddy to ask the chef to send out anything he wished until we screamed “uncle!”
    The array was really amazing in that most dishes differed from any I’ve had in Indian restaurants around town.  All are prettily presented on various plates and you won’t need any Indian breads until later in the meal.
        When I mark up the menus obtained from a restaurant, I put little asterisks next to the dishes I liked most, and my Imli menu is full of stars for tapas items ($5-$12) like achari mushrooms seasoned with garam masala and a Southern Indian spice blend; crispy okra shredded like zucchini and deep-fried (above), a welcome alternative to the slimy texture of many okra dishes; Kerala beef marinated in yogurt with onions, pepper and cardamom; chicken chaat, a classic Mumbai street food; and shrimp Koliwada (left), battered with spices and fried, with chili and peppers.    Also delicious was cauliflower tikki, and from the tandoor oven, basil-scented chicken morsels ($15) and saffron-dusted chicken tikka   ($15).
    There are dozens more of these small plates and I highly recommend you and your party make an entire meal of them, because the main courses ($16-$23), while good, do not much differ from similar ones you’ll have around town.  Chicken curry with ginger, fennel and coriander seeds was good, but lamb rogan josh’s meat was overcooked, as was a beef curry. Duck is an unusual dish and it’s actually cooked closer to a French style—very, very rare breast—than you’d otherwise find in India.
    As for the Indian breads, they are some of lightest and flakiest I’ve had in NYC, the texture perfect, one with garlic that was nicely subtle.
    The wait staff will ask you what your desire is for the level of heat and spice in your food, and, out of one to five (the hottest), ours measured about a three, which brings out more levels of flavor.  I might request in the future some of the dishes be made hotter.
    Except for an odd crème brûlée with kulab jamun dumpling plopped on top, the desserts like ras malai and rice pudding are fairly standard at Imli.
    Indian beer goes well with this food, but the management has put a lot of effort into choosing wines that marry with the spices, none marked up very high.  There is also the requisite cocktail list containing some Far Eastern spices and herbs.
    So, if you think that so often the first courses in a restaurant, be it Indian or French, Italian or Japanese, are the most interesting, you’ll be very happy at Imli, where it would take several visits to cover just the tapas alone.  No need to hurry. Prices are very fair and portions good. If I lived in the area, I’d be there once a week.

Imli is open for lunch Mon.-Fri.; brunch Sat. & Sun.; dinner nightly.





By John Mariani


Louis Pommery California Brut Sparkling Wine ($24)—This is actually the first California sparkling wine created by Champagne Pommery—just released—which is careful not to call it Champagne.  Made of 96% Chardonnay and 4% Pinot Noir, it is in the vivacious style of Pommery, with good effervescence, and at $24 a terrific sparkler indeed.  Taking advantage of the warm sun—which France’s Champagne region wishes it had more of—boosts the fruit, including a lemony acidic freshness that buoys the peach flavor.   An excellent party wine, if your parties have a sophisticated guest list. 

Casillero del Diablo Chardonnay Reserva 2014 ($8)—This Chilean estate is among the vast holdings of Concha y Toro and is located near the cooling breezes of the Pacific Ocean in the Limari Valley.  The minerals in the soil do well by this remarkable Chardonnay, easily as fine as others three or four times the price. It spends time both in French oak and stainless steel tanks and shows very pleasing acidity alongside good tropical fruit. A real bargain in every way. 

RoseRock Chardonnay 2015 ($27)—French vigneron Joseph Drouhin has been making wine in Oregon since 1987 and led the way for the scores on Americans to follow the company into the Willamette Valley.  This Chardonnay is made in the high elevation of the Eola-Amity Hills, cooled by the temperatures within the Van Duzer corridor. The vintage of 2015 was an exceptional year weather-wise, and this wine came from three blocks as each found its own ripeness. It is the antithesis of over-oaked, sweet West Coast Chardonnays and more in the subtler Burgundian style.  

Symmetry Meritage 2013 ($40)—I’m a big fan of what Rodney Strong produces at reasonable prices and this, one of his finest, has all the bright fruit you expect from a Bordeaux-style blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec and 4% Merlot.  Sixteen months in French oak has mellowed its tannins and now, four years old, it is ready to enjoy but will last a long while into the next decade.  

Pio Cesare Barbaresco Bricco di Treiso 2013 ($129)—Pio Cesare has a history in Piedmont that stretches back 135 years, and today their Barbaresco takes the best of the traditional methods of making this long-lived wine and new techniques that keep it fresh and fruited. Winemaker Paolo Fenocchio, here since 1981, knows every inch of soil on three plots of land from the family property, Family Vineyard Cascina Il Bricco, in the village of Treiso.   Made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes, the wine is vinified at unusually high temperatures in steel tanks, with skin contact maceration for 25 days, and 30 months in oak, which gives both complexity and real character to the wine, taming the tannins along the way. 

Vietti Nebbiolo Perbacco 2014  ($20)—This Piedmont wine from the Langhe is a lighter, less complex bottling than Barolo or Barbaresco, both made from the same grape (some wine from Vietti’s same vineyards actually goes into their Barolo Castiglione), and for that it is well worth drinking sooner rather than later. The 2014 is just fine right now, with a sensible alcohol level, 13.8%.  It’s certainly not lightweight but not heavy in texture either, making it ideal for game birds this fall.  

Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino 2012 ($80)—Castello Banfi was not just instrumental in revolutionizing the staid vineyards around Brunello but shared all the knowledge Banfi acquired and shared it with their competitors in Tuscany.  This is their flagship Brunello of 100% Sangiovese, which depends on careful grape selection followed by vinification in temperature-controlled hybrid stainless steel and wood tanks, with skin contact for 10-12 days, then ages for two years in various sizes oak barrels, then for another  8-12 months in bottle before release. The result is a wine that has mellowed and begun to reveal its special qualities of balance and finesse, though it will go on for decades.




White Castle is giving one lucky couple a chance to win the fast-food chain’s version of a royal wedding through a new contest. More than 75 couples have already tied the knot at White Castle locations over the past decade. These winners will be the first to get hitched at the chain's new Las Vegas location. “Getting married at a White Castle in Las Vegas is a bold move for those people looking for something new, different, exciting, and memorable,” Jamie Richardson, vice president at White Castle, said in a statement. The event will include a rehearsal dinner, wedding ceremony, cake,  a professional photographer, and  a five-night honeymoon stay at a real Belgian castle. Contest entrants must upload two to three portraits of the prospective royal couple and answer one of four short essay prompts to demonstrate the suitability of their love for the prestigious honor. 


“Everything is bigger in Texas.”
-- “A Comprehensive Guide to Road Tripping to Texas," (6/17).

"Los Angeles is a huge city." (9/17).


Sponsored by Banfi Vintners


    As Summer winds its way to autumn, we are reminded of the fragility of Mother Earth and her bounty.  As an importer representing several family wine makers from around the globe, I often like to point out that all the wines that we represent are green, some of them greener than others.  The greenest of all are classified as Biodynamic or certified Organic.  One of the most interesting selections of eco-balanced, organic and biodynamic wines comes to us from Chile and the vineyards of Emiliana. 
     Emiliana was founded by our friends, the Guilisasti family, who have a long and proud history of winemaking with their Concha y Toro brand.  Three decades ago, well ahead of the curve that has made organic wines all the rage today, they set up dedicated and, most important for organic farming, isolated vineyards for this type of agriculture.  Many may picture the small farmer as being the most “organic,” but in the reality of our wine world, sometimes it takes the “big guys” to act as a locomotive to get a movement such as this on track.
    Organic farming is a form of agriculture which avoids or largely excludes the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, plant growth regulators, and livestock feed additives.  

       Organic farmers rely on crop rotation, crop residues, animal manures--including llamas (below)--and mechanical cultivation to maintain soils productivity and health, to supply plant nutrients, and to control weeds, insects and other pests.  To call a wine organic in the US, government regulation says that it must be produced from 95% organically grown ingredients with no added sulfites.  If you add sulfites in the relatively minimal amount of 100 parts per million, you can only say that the wine is “made from organically grown grapes.”  Now, not to go into a chemistry lesson, but it is virtually impossible to make a wine without that modest dose of sulfites, at least if you want to drink it beyond ten feet of the cellar it was made in and wish it to survive any moderate amount of aging.

       Biodynamic farming adheres to the same principles, but takes it one step further by relying on the cycles of the moon and the sun to dictate much of what is done in the field, and uses animal treatments such as compost teas, horns buried with fertilizer, deer bladders, etc., to treat the soil.  It may sound a little hocus pocus, but in reality it is very comparable to homeopathic medicine, using the body’s (in this case, the earth’s) own energy to heal itself.
    Emiliana has four distinct collections of lovingly crafted organic wine now available in the US – the base line of Natura, the next step up in Novas, a stand-alone wine in Coyam, and the ne-plus-ultra of bio-dynamic wines, Ge.  One taste of any of these and you too may find yourself turning green – not with envy, but for a newfound love of organic winemaking!

    Recommended – green wines for Spring:


Natura Chardonnay In the cool coastal Pacific climate of the Casablanca Valley, organically grown grapes are hand picked during the last week of March, and vinified in stainless steel tanks, free of the domineering influence of oak.  On the nose, tantalizing citrus aromas of grapefruit and lime blend with notes of pineapple, all of which reappear on the palate and finish with balance thanks to the wine’s freshness and natural acidity.  Delicious with spring salads and seafood dishes.

Natura Carmenere –  From the rustic isolation of the Colchagua Valley, this intense and voluptuous offers aromas of cherries, chocolate and spice, coming together in ramped up volume on the palate with soft, round tannins and firm, well-balanced structure.  Great balance between fruit and oak, with a long, juicy finish.

Novas Sauvignon Blanc Gran Reserva – Hailing from the San Antonio Valley’s thin rocky and clay soils, the organic grapes for this wine are harvested by hand in March and undergo fermentation in stainless steel to preserve their bright fruit character.  Herbal notes mixed with citrus and soft floral hints fill the bouquet; the taste is medium bodied with grapefruit flavors joined by a delicate acidity and a touch of minerality.

Novas Pinot Noir Gran Reserva – The grapes for this wine are grown in the cool, coastal Casablanca Valley’s permeable sandy loam soils, and harvested by hand.  After a cold soak on the skins, the wine is aged for 8 months in French oak barrels to add character, depth and roundness. 

Bright ruby red in color with attractive aromas of berries, strawberries and notes of spice and cocoa, this wine bursts with fruit flavor, layered with earthiness. Delicious with white meats, light sauces, full flavored fish and shellfish, cured ham and sushi.

Coyam –
A blend dominated by Syrah with nearly equal parts of Carmenere and Merlot balanced by “soupcons” of Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvedre and Petit Verdot, from the Colchagua Valley estate called Los Robles – Spanish  for the oaks, called “Coyam” by the native Mapuche people in their own language. Hand harvested certified biodynamic grapes are naturally fermented in French oak barrels.  Coyam is largely unfiltered and aged for 13 months in barrels.  Aromas of ripe red and black fruits integrate with notes of spice, earth and a hint of vanilla bean.  Elegant expressions of fruit are delicately interwoven with oak, mineral and toffee.

Ge –
Chile’s first certified biodynamic wine, the name Ge is a nod to Geos, the earthly environment pulling together all the elements that surround us.  Ge is a blend of nearly equal parts of Syrah, Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon grown in the deep soils of colluvial origin in the coastal range, which lends mineral complexity. Naturally fermented in oak barrels, Ge is deep plum red with violet tones; it offers intense aromas of black fruits and berries alongside mineral notes and a soft touch of tobacco leaf.  Generously fruity with cedar notes, Ge is well balanced with tremendous volume, well rounded tannins and a long finish.

For more information please visit



 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: BEST NEW RESTUARANT IN PARIS 

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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