Virtual Gourmet

  September 24, 2017                                                                                            NEWSLETTER


"Still Life with Ham" by Philippe Rousseau (c. 1870)



By Misha Mariani


By John Mariani



By John Mariani


Prestige. Luxury. Glamour. Grandeur.
This is Monte Carlo

By Misha Mariani


    On my recent trip scouring the Riviera, where I began in Italy and drove the coast into France, I had the luxury of spending two glamorous nights in Monte Carlo, a ward in the principality of Monaco, whose history wasn’t always as glamorous it is today. In the 19th century, after troubled times, the principality of Monaco lost control of two nearby towns, Menton and Roquebrune, which were the main providers of revenue through citrus and olive crops. On the verge of bankruptcy, they turned to developing casinos, which at the time were showing great returns in small towns in  Germany. This, coupled with a new railway providing direct access from France and the rest of Europe began to turn around the solvency of Monaco. Quickly after, Monte Carlo became a haven for the wealthy, powerful, influential and celebrities.
    As I arrived into Monaco, hugging the tight winding streets in my modest vehicle, I imagined myself behind the wheel as James Bond in Goldfinger driving an Aston Martin DB5. Now, I didn’t have an Aston Martin that day, but if I looked in any direction, there was a Ferrari 488, Bentley Continental, Porsche 911 Turbo S or a Lamborghini Huracán on the road. 
    If you are into high-end and luxury sports cars, grab a seat at Café de Paris, order a martini or a beer and sit back and watch as if you had your own personal car show. Monaco is, of course, home to one of the greatest Formula 1 Races, the Monaco Grand Prix.
    For our two nights in Monte Carlo, we basked in the super luxe Hôtel Metropole, just a two-minute walk from the famous Monte Carlo Casino, the chic Café de Paris and along Avenue de Spélugues, where the famous Monaco Grand Prix Mirabeau corner is located (above).  It is also in view from a number of suites within the hotel and from the patio of Joël Robouchon’s two Michelin Star restaurant.  
    Hôtel Metropole was built in 1886 and went through a full renovation  in 2004. It wouldn’t be in the spirit of Monte Carlo to be subtle or modest, so for their renovations, they commissioned some of the biggest names in their fields to design what is one of the most lavish and competitive hotels in Monaco. For the hotel’s architecture and interiors, French designer Jacques Garcia took a contemporary spin on the Baroque style, all sumptuous, keeping traditional elements like richly textured tapestry, plush fabrics, gold trim, ornate decorative, classical portraits, deep colored woods, and checkered stone floors.
 All this is highlighted and complemented by his use of more modern hard lines and brighter warm lights to add life and energy to the rooms,  not usually associated with mid 17th century décor. These design elements permeate throughout the entire hotel and even into Restaurant Joël Robuchon.

    Hôtel Metropole also teamed up with the German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, currently the creative director for Chanel and Fendi.  Lagerfeld was responsible for the design of their outdoor pool area  and for the restaurant Odyssey  located within (below). The star lineup continues with interior designer Didier Gomez  in charge of designing Robuchon’s Japanese restaurant Yoshi, as well as the design of  the newly opened spa facility in collaboration with House of Givenchy.

    On our first night’s stay, my wife and I had the privilege of dining at Restaurant Joël Robuchon (below), one of four restaurants on property.  Throughout, the dining room is done in the same polished modern baroque style of Jacques Garcia with slightly softer tones, using dove grays, creams, light beiges, soft ceiling-to-floor drapes, rounded pillars and open airiness that exude an embracing welcome. In addition to the dining room, as is a hallmark with Robuchon, there is his chef’s counter, designed in his trademark black and red modern motif.

    We wet our lips with a glass of Champagne while settling into our table outside on the patio, taking in the sea air kissed by the setting sun and listening to the purr of sports cars as they took the same Mirabeau corner as those Formula 1 race cars do every year at the Grand Prix. Before moving into our meal, we were giddily impressed by their bread guéridon (below), showcasing more than a dozen breads to choose from all baked on premises in their boulangerie. After anxiously making our menu decision, we watched the gentleman manning the guéridon work a quenelle of butter to lather on some of the best bread I’ve ever had.

    We started our meal with their le tourteau releve de fines herbes e l'avocat et tomate confit,  a roulade of sweet crab meat enhanced with confit of tomato, wrapped with creamy avocado and accented with a touch of fresh fine herbs (below). My wife enjoyed a warm salad of artichokes accented with a touch of spice of the chorizo, squid, and cooked and served in a tagine, a dish with definite North African influence but done with classical French technique. This was followed by a dish of suckling pig, served simply with pork jus and Robuchon’s famous butter-drenched pommes purée.  Perfectly cooked filet of sole à la meunière came with a puree of herbs, tomato confit and pine nuts to add additional richness and texture. To finish off our evening, similar to the bread guéridon, a pastry cart was wheeled before our eyes. We selected the Baba au Rhum and the classic réligieuse, created by Carême in the 18th century, filled with a café pastry cream and lavished with a chocolate ganache.

    It was eleven o’clock and by then we were both ready to head back to our hotel room, although a night in Monte Carlo was waiting for us to  explore.

    Although year-around shopping, restaurants, hitting the casino or just relaxing at Hôtel Metropole are the main attractions everywhere in Monte Carlo, the city is constantly putting on seasonal entertaining events, whether it’s the Grand Prix, Equestrian Games, kickboxing competitions or a free citywide musical festival that happened to be going on while we were there. Monte Carlo is nothing short of excessive and lavish in the most glamorous way. So if you feel like pampering yourself and experience a stay of the likes of James Bond, arrive in Monaco and stay at Hôtel Metropole.


By John Mariani
28 East 63rd Street (near Park Avenue)
212- 935-2888


    I’m happy to find that my consistent contention that fine dining is thriving in NYC is borne out by the arrival of Majorelle, not just one of the most elegant new dining rooms but one whose French cuisine is as classic and contemporary as you will find in Paris. Not that it should come as a surprise when you learn who’s overseeing and cooking at Majorelle. Foremost in setting the style is Charles Masson, Jr. (left), whose long tenure as partner and host of La Grénouille maintained that illustrious 55-year-old restaurant as a bastion of good taste, even if the menu was ever unadventurous.

    (Let me not waste much space on how Charles and his brother, Philippe, parted ways in 2014, after their mother retired to Brittany. Whatever the reasons for the break-up, they have affected neither La  Grénouille’s business under Philippe’s continuance nor the flourishing of Majorelle, which opened in May.)

    Charles Masson, who had a brief stint as general manager of the defunct Chevalier, has settled in at Majorelle as owner and he is always on premises to greet old friends and new, for it was he who helped loosen the entrenched snobbery that once ruled NYC’s French restaurants. He is a very gracious host, often performing tableside duties, and he has been smart to hire many veterans of the city’s fine dining segment, including maître d’ Jacques Le Magueresse, formerly of Le Bernardin, along with some young staff who are learning the ropes of service at this level.

    The bisected dining room is a couple of steps down from the handsome lounge named Jacques (right) and enters onto a small outdoor dining area. All of it is suffused with light, both day and evening, and the requisite vases of roses for a French restaurant are here on every table, together with cobalt blue water glasses and first quality linens.
    The three-course dinner is fixed at $110 (which is a far cry from La Grénouille’s current $172), and—thank heavens!—there are no annoying supplements, except for American caviar ($185). The bread rolls, baked on premises, are so good I begged for any leftovers at the end of the night.
    Chef Richard Brower, whose résumé includes The Four Seasons and Le Bernardin, shows a light touch with the classics as well as an affinity for dishes beyond the French borders, as in an appetizer of carrots and oranges braised with Moroccan spices and served with an orange salad. 

    When Masson mentioned the evening’s special was gazpacho, I winced, but he said, “I promise you this will be a very different gazpacho than what you’re used to.” And it certainly was—a rich, dark red with far more depth, reduction and seasoning than this cold soup usually shows.  A good slice of fresh foie gras (left) was carefully sautéed with the sweetness of Sauternes buoying the richness of the dish. Brower’s saffron and lobster risotto showed he knows how to make a risotto with perfect texture, though it was light on lobster flavor except for some morsels on top.

    Of the main courses there was a fall-from-the-bone oxtail braised in red Burgundy with shallots. A red snapper was cooked Moroccan-style and served in a white tagine; with the removal of the pointed lid releasing the aromas of lemon, fennel and olives into the air, and the flesh of the fish was still succulent and suffused with spices. Lamb chops were nicely grilled and scented with rosemary with a good rice pilaf studded with almonds. Masson also persuaded me to try the caneton à l’orange, a dish rendered so mundane over decades of rote that I was reluctant to do so, but it was a revelation of just how delicious this classic can, and should, be; served with nutty brown rice scented with orange blossom water, it ranks with the best duck dishes in town.
    You must pre-order the soufflés, which I heartily recommend. Our pistachio version was perfect, the puffed-up top crisp until imploded by the insertion of a spoon into the velvety, not eggy, interior graced with a silky crème anglaise. Given that success, we ordered other traditional desserts like a dark mousse au chocolat with Grand Marnier sauce; a baba au rhum that struck the ideal balance of rum and vanilla throughout the soaking sponge of the pastry.

    I’ve always been in thrall to ouefs à la neige, with egg-shaped whipped meringues floating in crème anglaise; at Majorelle it is a singular oeuf as big and round as a tennis ball, snowy white and tender, napped with that light vanilla-rich sauce.

    Majorelle seems closer in spirit and sophistication to contemporary Paris restaurants than to NYC’s, and in dashing the stuffiness that once

characterized the “La” and “Le” dining salons of the past, it is not only to be commended but signals what elegant dining can and should be in 2017.

Photos by Nico Schinco



By John Mariani


    I don’t think I’ve ever done an interview with a California wine company executive—owner, wine maker, marketing director—who didn’t say pretty much the same exact things about their wines: "We only buy the best grapes; We care deeply about terroir; We work with and respect Mother Nature; We have no desire to be a commercial winery; And, our wines are expressions of ourselves."
      You’ll find the same contentions on their websites as well as on their back labels. I’m not often enlightened.
  Cushing, Tripp and Joe Donelan

    So it was an evening of refreshing conversation over dinner in New York with Cushing Donelan, Director of Marketing for Donelan Family Wines, who is as candid as he is possibly because he lives not in Sonoma but in Los Angeles. For, although he is intimately involved in the family winery, he was until 2012 an executive at actor Matthew McConaughey’s production company, and now has his own oneinarow production company.  So he talks more like a Hollywood guy than a Northern California winemaker, saying things like, “Conditions in the vineyards were so good in 2007 even an untrained monkey could have made a great wine.”

    Born in Connecticut, Cushing learned about wine when his father, Joe, a paper industry broker, co-founded, with Pax Mahle, PAX Wine Cellars, known for its high-end Rhône varietals. Cushing Donelan attended Amherst as a fine arts major, which led him to Southern California and into the film production industry. But his involvement with his family’s wine interests has always been intense. He joined the business in 2012, three years after the founding of Donelan Family Wines, which has sourced its grapes on long leases from cooler vineyard sites like Kobler, Richards, and DeVoto; in 2015 the family acquired Obsidian Vineyard in Knights Valley.

    “It’s like real estate,” says Joe. “If you have a great location, then you should be in good shape. We believe that the best wines are not made, they are discovered. Site really trumps all variables.” Another son, Tripp, oversees all sales for the winery.

    The choice to join the so-called Rhône Rangers, who make Syrah (in addition to Pinot Noir, Roussane and Viognier) was, according to Cushing, based on the belief that, “Syrah (left) has had a couple of false starts in California. Napa is too hot, but

    Sonoma is not as affected as Napa by heat. From the Obsidian site there’s little topsoil, and we get smaller clusters and therefore intensity in the fruit. We take Robert Frost’s ‘the road less traveled’ (which is also the name of their 75-minute

Tasting Tour at the winery). We don’t make those overripe Australian-style Syrahs. And we don’t make Pinot Noirs that are massive and have too much alcohol. I always say, if I can’t see through a Pinot Noir in the glass, I don’t want

to drink it.”

    Cushing is frank about his competitors, and, while not naming labels, insists many of them adulterate their wines to give them body, adding juice from grapes not listed on the labels. Cite some of the biggest names in Napa, and he says flat

out, “They once made excellent wines, now they are getting more and more commercial.” And he waves away notions that outrageously priced cult wines supposedly on allocation ever actually sell every bottle they say they do.

Eighty percent of Donelan’s wines are sold through direct mailing lists and at the winery.

    “Whether a customer buys a bottle or several cases, he or she can count on receiving a handwritten note from my dad after each purchase,” said Cushing. “My father was always a commission guy when he sold paper, so we get a bigger cut of the sales by not going through distributors, although we do sell 20 percent at retail or in restaurants. Our business lives and dies by word-of- mouth.”

    I had a chance to taste several of Donelan’s wines over a dinner of steak and lamb chops at Sparks Steak House, starting with seafood and a bottle of Nancie Chardonnay ($48), named after Joe’s mother, which showed body and fruit but had enough acid to make it ideal for lump crabmeat and shrimp in garlic sauce.

    I did not love the Two Brothers Pinot Noir ($55), which, while I could see through it, I thought lacked varietal character. The Syrahs, however, were some of the best I’ve sampled from California, and the best will never be cheap. The La Cuvée Christine 2012 ($48) is Donelan’s “front line, the most value-driven wine we produce,” a blend of wines from different sources.

    It is indeed a good introduction to the winery’s talent for making fine Syrah without the cloying style of so many others. Walker Vine Hill Vineyard 2013 ($75) had a much richer body, very fruit-driven but multi-layered, a delicious example of what the terroir of California soil does for the grape.

    I also tasted the Obsidian Vineyard 2014 ($105), which is still tight, its tannins unyielding, so I withhold judgment until I have a chance to taste it two or even five years down the road. Right now it’s not all that it will be.



The president of Brooklyn police labor union Detectives’ Endowment Association, Michael Palladino, called for a boycott of the Dunkin Donuts chain after two plainclothes NYPD officers with visible badges claimed they were denied service at a shop by an employee who told them he doesn’t serve cops.  The store manager disputed the incident but Corporate Dunkin also issued a statement saying that the franchise owner has personally apologized to the officers. “Our franchisees are committed to serving each and every guest with respect and courtesy,” the statement said.


“Unlike SCR’s sweet-barbecue-bacon and pico-guacamole toppings — which have become fairly commonplace on burgers — the sriracha-and-kale combo smacks of desperation. It reeks of a corporate attempt to capitalize on two of the biggest food trends of the past decade (although far after each has peaked). It’s the fast-food equivalent of watching your Dad sport rompers and pledge his undying love for Drake.”—Tim Carman, McDonald’s new sriracha-and-kale burger is an aging hipster’s cry for help,” Washington Post (8/2/17).





Wine Column Sponsored by Banfi Vintners



   Wine is a joy year-round but in this month in particular, one grape varietal has really taken center stage in my daily activities – that most Italian of grapes, Sangiovese, and its ultimate expression – Brunello di Montalcino.  

First, we are approaching the days when the first Sangiovese grapes will be harvested. From mid-September through mid-October, the Sangiovese grown for our various styles of red wines will be harvested, culminating with the top selection for Brunello di Montalcino.

    Second, cooler weather here means it is time to start enjoying more red wines and especially Sangiovese based wines.  That includes Banfi’s cru of Brunello, Poggio alle Mura, literally the cream of the crop of our Sangiovese vineyards. Alongside our Poggio alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino, this year we introduced two more wines from the cru Poggio alle Mura – a Rosso di Montalcino and a Riserva of Brunello.  Rosso is sort of like the younger brother of Brunello, also made from 100% Sangiovese grapes but usually a selection from younger vines and the wine is aged only two years compared to the four required for Brunello.  The Riserva, on the other hand, is an even more selective harvest of Sangiovese, and ages for an additional year before release.

    What is so special about this cru Poggio alle Mura?  Well, it is the result our over 30 years of ongoing research at my family’s vineyard estate, Castello Banfi.  When we first began planting our vines there in the late 1970s studies from the University of Bordeaux indicated which strains of many varietals we should plant, based on the soil type and microclimate of each vineyard.  But when it came to the region’s native Sangiovese, there was only local lore, no scientific research.  So we took it upon ourselves to figure out this vine, and set off on three decades of incredibly detailed research. 

    We started with 600 apparent variations on Sangiovese, because it is so susceptible to variations in weather and soil, and narrowed that down to 160 truly genetically different clones.  We planted a vineyard with two rows of each type, made wine from each of them, and charted the differences – remember, you only get one chance a year to make wine, so this took time.  

    It took about ten years to get some concrete results, though we continue to experiment today and always will – you never stop learning in science and nature!  Once we determined which were the best, complementary clones that could be planted together to make the best Brunello, we chose to plant them in what we determined to be the optimal vineyard sites.  Coincidentally, the best soils and climate conditions are in the slopes surrounding the medieval fortress today known as Castello Banfi, known since Etruscan times as Poggio alle Mura – the walled hilltop.  Hence the name of our most special “cru” of Brunello, representing a synthesis between tradition and innovation.

    Though the focus of this study was our Brunello, all of our Sangiovese-based wines, including the super Tuscans SummuS, Cum Laude, and Centine, benefited from this work.  And that’s the third reason for celebrating Sangiovese this month, for the range of wonderful reds that usher us into autumn!  One wine in particular was inspired by our research – the BelnerO, a Sangiovese dominant blend with what I like to call a kiss of Cabernet and a whisper of Merlot.  We grow the grapes a little differently for BelnerO than for Brunello, make the wine with less oak aging and released it earlier from the winery, providing a counterpoint to Brunello and a lovely terroir-driven wine in its own right.

     If you know Italians, you know that by nature we are multi-faceted, varying in mood, and always passionate.  As a nation, we span from the hot sunny beaches of Sicily near the African coast to the rugged mountains and Alpine ski slopes of Trentino-Alto Adige in the north.  Sangiovese is grown in almost all of Italy’s regions and reflects the unique nature of each; it is most famous (rightfully so) in Tuscany, yet even there it reflects the nuances of each hilltop, valley and subzone.  It has something a little different to say in Brunello than Chianti, Morellino than Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Rosso di Montalcino than Super Tuscan blends.  

    Here is a smattering of Sangiovese-based wines that you may wish to get to know better, reflecting a spectrum that appeals to every occasion, every taste, and every budget.  We can assure you that the conversation will never become boring.

Recommendations for Celebrating Sangiovese 


BelnerO Proprietor’s Reserve Sangiovese – A refined cuvée of noble red grapes perfected by our pioneering clonal research. This dark beauty, BelnerO, is produced at our innovative winery, chosen 11 consecutive years as Italy’s Premier Vineyard Estate. Fermented in our patented temperature controlled French oak and aged approximately 2 additional years. Unfiltered, and Nitrogen bottled to minimize sulfites.  


Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino – Rich, round, velvety and intensely aromatic, with flavor hints of licorice, cherry, and spices. Brunello di Montalcino possesses an intense ruby-red color, and a depth, complexity and opulence that is softened by an elegant, lingering aftertaste. Unfiltered after 1998 vintage.  


Castello Banfi Rosso di Montalcino – Brunello's "younger brother," produced from select Sangiovese grapes and aged in barrique for 10 to 12 months. Deep ruby-red, elegant, vibrant, well-balanced and stylish with a dry velvety finish. 

Poggio all’Oro Brunello di Montalcino Riserva – A single vineyard selection of our most historically outstanding Sangiovese, aged five years before release, the additional year more than that required of Brunello including 6 months in barrel and 6 months more in bottle to grant its “Riserva” designation.  Incredible elegance and harmony. Intense with lots of fruit and subtle wood influence. Round, complete, well balanced with hints of chocolate and berries. Unfiltered after 1998.


Poggio alle Mura – The first tangible result of years of intensive clonal research on Montalcino’s native Sangiovese grape.  Estate bottled from the splendidly sun drenched vineyards surrounding the medieval Castello from which it takes its name.  The Brunello di Montalcino is seductive, silky and smoky.  Deep ruby in color with an expressive bouquet of violets, fruits and berries as well as cigar box, cedar and exotic spices. The Rosso di Montalcino is also intense ruby red.  The bouquet is fresh and fruity with typical varietal notes of cherry and blackberry, enriched by more complex hints of licorice, tobacco and hazelnut.  It is full bodied, yet with a soft structure, and a surprisingly long finish. The Poggio alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino Riserva is deep ruby red with garnet reflections and a rich, ample bouquet that hints of prune jam, coffee, cacao and a light balsamic note.  It is full and powerful, with ripe and gentle tannins that make it velvety and harmonious; this wine is supported by a pleasing minerality that to me speaks soundly of that special hillside.


 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: WHITE SANDS, NM

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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