Virtual Gourmet

  August 27, 2017                                                                                            NEWSLETTER


Krug's Bakery Toy Delivery Truck, Jamaica, Queens, NYC (1946)


 Part One
By John Mariani


By John Mariani



By Geoff Kalish


Part One
By John Mariani

    Believe it or not, I actually visited Disneyland in Anaheim, California (below), in its first year of opening, 1955, and as a wide-eyed ten-year-old, I put great food way down my list of interests. Not when there were so many other attractions, from a Jungle Cruise to a rocket ship take-off, spinning Mad Hatter teacups and cool race cars to putter around in.
    Yet I still remember the fried chicken and honey biscuits served at the Carnation Ice Cream Parlor off Main Street as a delectable alternative to the burger-and-hot dog fare found all over the park. It really wasn’t until the opening of Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, in 1971, that the entertainment giant started paying serious attention to food. Then, with the opening of the new international pavilions at EPCOT Centre (below)  in 1982, they really upped the quality and diversity of food—even wine—by contracting established restaurateurs and chefs to open places like Chefs de France, Alfredo the Original of Rome, Nine Dragons and more, with themed restaurants like The Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios) and some highly innovative restaurants in the hotels and resorts like the California Grill at Disney's Contemporary Resort  and Victoria and Albert's at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. The latter were very, very good; the former EPCOT restaurants better than previous efforts.
    When my two sons were little boys I returned to Disney World several times and watched the evolution of the dining segment throughout the vast resort, not least at the annual Wine and Food Festival, which has grown (and is still growing) into one of America’s largest and most respected events of its kind. To be sure, fast food and family restaurants still dominate the landscape, but Disney’s clientele is far more upscale than it was in 1955, and every year older restaurants have been retired or re-concepted and new restaurants opened as whole park attractions are added, like the new Pandora--The World of Avatar, which has a vast Satu’li Canteen built to look like a Quonset hut mess hall and serving dishes like chili-spiced crispy fried tofu bowl and a Sustainable Fish Bowl.
    Disney Springs has expanded to include a plethora of new eateries—52 of them—from Aristocrepes and a series of food trucks to a House of Blues and Raglan Road Irish Pub. When I visited this year I had lunch at the two-year-old BOATHOUSE, which is situated, as you’d expect, on the docks and configured like the kind of seafood restaurant yachtsmen and casual boaters alike would hang out in and celebrate during the America’s Cup races. You can get there in a 1950s Amphicar, and there’s a sleek (immobile) speedboat in the middle of the dining room.  I dined at a handsome white and green semi-open room overlooking the water, which looked like it would fit into the classiest beach club in Palo Alto.
    The Boathouse is run by Chicago’s Gibson Restaurant Group, whose portfolio has always included first-rate seafood menus, and this is their best effort in that genre to date. With several people at my table I sampled a great deal, from “large” Florida stone crabs (priced by the pound) that were closer to “jumbo” or “colossal” in size, and a Maine-style lobster bisque ($8 or $12) that tasted intensely of sweet lobster, not tomato or cream.
    Frying seafood well is not as easy as dunking it in hot oil, but at The Boathouse the panko-dusted cod ($18) was as crisp as it could be, with the white fish beneath steaming hot and juicy. A thick slab of swordfish ($31) was broiled with the same attention to detail, served with a butternut puree, roasted Fuji apples, fingerling potatoes, petite peppers and pearl onions in a rich garlic butter. I applauded the abundance of succulent meat in the New England lobster roll ($29.95), but that day the roll itself was dried out. Soft shell crab, a tad small in size, came with a peach salad, aromatic Old Bay seasoned remoulade and the crunch of pecan-smoked bacon.
    For dessert, you won’t find better Key lime pie or strawberry shortcake in the entire resort.
    This being Disney, there are sandwiches and children’s menus offered, and a whole section of steaks and chops. Except for a few Champagnes, the wine list at The Boathouse is all American, about equally white and red, with plenty of bottlings under $50 in both categories. Mark-ups are overall quite reasonable—mostly about 100% above retail. The bar has a dozen specialty cocktails and about two dozen beers.
    Tiffins is a new restaurant within the Animal Kingdom Theme Park and has an adventure theme fit for “seafarers, fortune hunters and vagabonds,” its walls hung with African elephant art, its ceiling held up by carved wooden totems, with an Asian bar/lounge with rattan chairs, hanging pendants and gauzy curtains, like the coolest Tiki Bar in Florida. Artwork is inspired by actual notes and field sketches of the creators of the Animal Kingdom, and the restaurant’s name refers to the light lunch meal served in tiered containers and consumed by working men in India.
    The food at Tiffins is a great deal more sophisticated than that, however, all of it brilliantly colorful and beautifully presented. (Nothing leaves Disney’s development kitchen called the Flavor Lab without every detail being worked out hundreds of times.) I enjoyed an array of dishes from the international menu that began with a Peruvian dish called  called causa made with mashed blue potatoes, Aji-spiked vinaigrette, lime mayonnaise, cilantro and quail egg ($15); Hokkaido scallops came with a green garlic panisse, peas and smoked bacon ($38), while tender marinated octopus was grilled and complemented by salsify, saffron aïoli and a lemon-caper olive oil ($16).
    These are the kinds of dishes that might be found in modern restaurants both in and out of Asia, and there is an admirable consistency of Far Eastern techniques used in dishes like whole fried yellowtail with fermented black bean sauce and peanuts ($43) or a platter of wagyu beef strip loin and braised short rib with rainbow carrots, Peruvian potatoes and chimichurri hot sauce ($53). Lamb loin is infused with a coffee butter and comes with the South African sausage called boerwors, soubise onion sauce, chakalaka tomato-and-bean sauce, and leek ash ($41). And they are not holding back on the spicing, staying true to the food cultures presented here.
    Desserts are a bit less global but no less delectable, like the chocolate ganache with caramelized bananas and cocoa nib tuile ($12) or the passion fruit tapioca cream with chocolate crumble and citrus fruits ($9).


 Part Two of this story will appear in next week's edition


By John Mariani

60 Greenwich Avenue (near Perry Street)

    Faithful readers of this newsletter’s New York Corner may have noticed that I’ve covered a slew of Indian restaurants lately, which has given me a good idea of just how the sub-continent’s diverse cuisine is now represented in NYC, which is a far cry from the dumbed-down 100-item curry houses of the past.
    For one thing, the owners and chefs of these new Indian restaurants are focusing more on their own regions, from Goa to Mumbai, from Benares to Jaipur, with far less reliance on the entrenched Mogul dishes derived from the days of the Raj that have so long dominated. Rahi in Greenwich Village, opened in May, does not only feature a wider array of Indian cuisine but, thanks to Chef Chintan Pandya, from Mumbai, is doing so in a colorfully modern, individualistic way quite a bit ahead of the pack. The menu is divided into sections called “In-a-NY-Minute,” which are snack-like appetizers, and “Leisurely” main courses.
    There is a five-course tasting menu at $68 and seven courses at $88, with wine pairing available. I’d recommend those routes.There really is nothing on the menu I’ve run across before except for Rahi's riffs on Indian themes like paneer tikka kebabs with mango, ginger, mint and goat’s cheese ($14), and eggplant bharta, a Punjabi dish of mashed eggplant smoked with charcoal, with onion, cumin, coriander and puffy naan bread ($17). Otherwise every dish arrives in a beautiful presentation on individual plate surfaces—ceramic, wood, marble. As the dish arrives, you may puzzle as to which one it is that you ordered. There are no copper pots of brown stews here, no sizzling platters of orange tandoori chicken.
     Instead you’ll find a Madrasi egg roast ($14) made of a yolk set on a lush onion-tomato mousse, spiked with chili oil and sweetened with maple. “Kheera on the rocks” consists of grilled cucumber and yogurt with dehydrated pineapple set atop ice cubes ($14)—cute idea but not really very flavorful. Chettinad octopus ($21), a Tamil dish, also gets mousse-ed, this time with coconut, kataifi crisps and lemon zest. Tulsi chicken is fragrant with basil, hot from Thai chili and spiced with pink peppercorns and sweet orange marmalade ($15). Chorizo seekh ($16) is ground lamb served with pepper jack cheese and berry compote, which could very easily be a dish you’d get in Seattle, and I was intrigued by what a Dalhousie Shepherd’s Pie ($25) would be. Named after a British Governor in the region of Himachal  Pradesh,
it had the look of that British pub staple, only a lot prettier, with cumin-scented mashed potato and roulette cheese to enrich the seasoned ground lamb beneath.  Fragrant chicken steamed in a banana leaf ($25) with fragrant basmati rice and a coconut curry is derived from Kerala on the Malabar Coast.  Juniper berry lamb chops ($28) were all right, but needed the enlivening of the chipotle peppers, jaggery sugar, ginger and salad. The closest thing to a traditional curry was duck kozhi ($32), a Kerala-style dish, with vermicelli noodles and rosy slices of duck breast in coconut milk scented with cardamom.
        Desserts are all done with the same modern flair, not least the lovely cubes of scented cheesecake set with fresh flowers on a vermillion plate (right).
        The façade of Rahi is a pleasing white storefront that could house any kind of West Village restaurant or boutique, but inside it looks little like any other Indian restaurant in the neighborhood. The walls are white brick, flanked by a white marble bar, and beginning at the entrance there is a series of dreamy photos that evoke the name Rahi—traveler—which owner Roni Mazumdar has chosen to distinguish his vision and Chef Pandya’s cuisine. That they have succeeded shows how receptive New Yorkers and Americans have become to these new styles of Indian cooking from a country that is one-third the size of the U.S. but with three times the population.


Rahi is open nightly for dinner, Sat. and Sun. for Brunch




A Bit of Enlightenment

By Geoff Kalish

The Town of Chablis
Photo: Alain Doire, Borgogne Tourism

    Since my first encounter with the term “Chablis”—in the early 1970s in New Orleans, where all dry white wine, usually in jugs, was referred to as “chabliss”—I’ve enjoyed the  “real” stuff with a variety of fare, especially shellfish and grilled chicken breast.  Like most U.S. consumers, however, while I knew that the wine by law must be made of the Chardonnay grape from the demarcated vineyards surrounding the town of Chablis, my knowledge of the differences between Petit Chablis, Chablis, Prémiere Cru and Grand Cru Chablis was  minimal. So, a recent visit to the facilities of William Fèvre and Domaine Laroche in the northern Burgundy town of Chablis was especially enlightening.
    Maps at both vintners showing the position of the various vineyards were particularly helpful, as were examples of the different types of soil found in the vineyards. For example, the soil of the vineyards from which Petit Chablis is produced contains mainly limestone, while that of Chablis and the Prémiere and Grand crus contains a type of limestone dating from the Jurassic age that incorporates fossilized shells of mollusks and crustaceans,  providing the wine made from vines grown in this soil with a particular richness and the characteristic “flinty” taste.
    In addition, while all the vineyards of Chablis face south, Grand Cru sites face southwest,  allowing for the longest daytime hours of sun for maximum ripening. Also, because of its quite northern location and differences in year-to-year climate, vintages of Chablis can vary widely, with very warm years producing wines without much acidity and just the opposite in years that are too cool. And, while most Chablis is now fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, varying degrees of barrel fermentation can markedly alter the aesthetics of the wine—not always for the better.
    Founded in 1959, Domaine William Fèvre (left) owns the largest amount of Grand Cru property (38 acres) of any producer, in addition to 158 acres of other Chablis vineyards; in general the domaine produces about 80,000 cases of wine annually. In my tasting the Grand Crus showed a richness and depth of flavor far greater than the Petit, Domaine Chablis or Prémiere Crus, with the exception of the wine from the Vaulorent vineyard, which abuts the Grand Crus and, to my taste, combined the best features of the Prémiere and Grand Crus.
    For example, while both were totally fermented in stainless steel, the 2015 Petite Chablis ($18) showed a bouquet and very light taste of lemons and apples with a short crisp somewhat acidic finish, as compared with the 2013 Domaine Chablis ($22), which showed a similar bouquet and taste but a fuller finish. On the other hand, the 2015 Prémiere Crus from the Montmains ($44) and Vaillons ($41) vineyards, which had some degree of barrel fermentation, showed notes of apricots and pears and less of the lemony bouquet and taste of the Domaine Chablis and a vibrant, yet less acidic, finish. 
    I found the two wines sampled from Grand Cru vineyards Vaudesir ($63) and Bougros ($80) showing a more fragrant bouquet, but lighter in body than the Prémiere Crus sampled.  And, surprisingly, I found the 2013 Prémiere Cru from Vaulorent ($55), which was 50% fermented in barrels, then aged for 10 months to combine the best features of the Premiere and Grand Crus, showing a very fragrant bouquet and taste of lemons, apples and pears with notes of apricots and a smooth finish with hints of honey. While it would be easy to attribute this difference to the 50% barrel fermentation,  examples of Prémiere Crus from this vineyard from other producers sampled during our visit showed similar aesthetics, which in my opinion makes Chablis from Vaulorent a worthy bargain compared with those of Grand Cru vineyards.
    I found very similar distinctions in the range of Chablis at Domaine Laroche (left) as those at William Fèvre. For example, the 2015 Domaine Laroche Petit Chablis ($18) showed a light bouquet of apples and lemons with a short, crisp finish as compared with the 2015 Chablis ($19), which in addition to a bouquet and flavor of apples and lemons had notes of dried apricots and earthy spice, with a crisp but rather long finish. And the 2014 Domaine Laroche Premiere Cru  Les Fourchaumes Vielles Vignes ($95),  from an area just a bit north of Vaulorent,  had a bouquet and taste of apples, apricots and notes of figs with a crisp, memorable finish, outshining the two  2014 vintage Domaine Laroche Grand Crus that I sampled.
    Of note, I found that independent of whether the wine was simple Chablis, or Prémiere or Grand Cru, they all mated well with not only simple shellfish and chicken but a range of fare from delicate daurade to dishes of shrimp in bold sauces and even pork belly and braised and barbecued duck. And finally, except Petit Chablis, wines with a few years of bottle age seemed to have a more fragrant bouquet and depth of flavor than younger wines.





Police in Albuquerque, N.M., are hunting for a 1,700-pound barbecue pit stolen, from Pepper's Ole Fashion BBQ.  Daniel Morgan, proprietor, said the pit was in use at the time cooking a 200-pound brisket:  “What on God’s earth do you think they would want with it? It’s three-quarter-inch steel, diamond-cut chrome. It’s got burners on it that allows you to boil, sauté and fry fish. Of course, it’s on a trailer.”




“Restaurant Andrew Fairlie is an opulent dining room
with a reassuringly expensive menu.”—Restaurant Magazine (July 2017)



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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.

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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

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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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