Virtual Gourmet

  October 8,  2017                                                                                            NEWSLETTER


Audrey Hepburn and Gary Cooper at the Ritz Paris in "Love in the Afternoon" (1957)


By Geoff Kalish


By John Mariani


By John Mariani


By Geoff Kalish

    Inspired by a lecture on “Great Museums of the World” by art historian Joan Jacobs that included the Condé Museum in Chantilly, my wife and I recently visited the city, located less than an hour’s car ride from Paris.  The trip unexpectedly brought some outstanding dining as well as an unforgettable art experience.

    First the art, then the food and wine. Briefly, the Condé Museum (www.domainedechantilly),  built in the late 19th Century to house the private collection of Henri de Bourbon, son of the last king of France, Louis Philippe, is situated in the midst of a picturesque 285-acre park abutting a historic horse racing course. The museum owns three Raphaels and room after room after room of paintings by Delacroix, Watteau, Géricault, Van Dyck, Ingres, Corot and other notable artists, all hung, as stipulated in Henri’s will, side by side in rows, regardless of their period or subject. In addition, there’s display after display of exceptional furniture, ceiling murals, sculpture, stained glass (over 40 panels) enamels, miniatures, “illuminations,” silverware and dishes.

     The grounds also contain a Museum of the Horse, with equine-related displays and a daily dressage demonstration; just a ten-minute walk from the entrance of the museum there’s another park, Le Potager des Princes, loaded with plants, flowers and farm animals.

    Now for the food and wine.


Le Jardin d’Hiver

4 Rue du Connetable



    Located within the ultra-luxurious 18th Century-style  Relais & Château Auberge Du Jeu De Paume  Hotel, built five years ago by the Aga Khan alongside the museum park ground, there are two dining options there, both overseen  by Clément LeRoy, this year named a Gault & Millau “Future Grand Chef of the World.”  The hotel’s Michelin-starred Rue de Connetable restaurant was closed for August vacation, so we had to make do at the more casual Le Jardin d’Hiver. And make do we did, at what we found to be one of the most outstanding, sensibly priced upscale hotel eateries in this region France. Seating is in beautifully upholstered chairs at polished beige wooden tables situated around a central courtyard. Also, our table afforded us a view of chef de cuisine Charles Benôit-Lacour and his staff at a long prep table putting the finishing touches on many of the plates.

    From a choice of five appetizers we chose a classic cut of foie gras terrine accompanied by a confit of sweet wild blackberries, and an assortment of ripe heirloom tomatoes drizzled with a zesty vinaigrette, sprinkled with bits of green scallion (left), all topped by a puff of decadently rich mozzarella cream that provided just the right acidic balance  of the tomatoes and vinaigrette.   
     A main course of a perfectly roasted Corsican corvina fillet was accompanied by a mix of fresh zucchini and plump cherry tomatoes doused with a delicate verbena and butter sauce.  A large grilled fillet of dewy dorade was served  with a tasty mix of crisp rice and mangoes.

    For dessert we opted for a creamy chocolate mousse topped with black currants and, of course, Chantilly cream, and an order of puff pastries loaded with fresh berries and more Chantilly cream. For wine, from a  short but well-chosen list of French offerings,  we selected a 2014 Domaine Bachelot-Monnot “Les Patrons” Santenay that showed a bouquet and  flavor of ripe cranberries, raspberries and cherries with a smooth finish that complimented the fare quite well. 

  The restaurant is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner; expect dinner to cost $105 for two, including service but not wine or tax, which we felt was quite reasonable considering the setting and quality of the fare and service.)


Auberge Le Vertugadin

44 rue Connetable




    Located on the main street of Chantilly and less than a ten-minute walk from the Condé Museum, this restaurant features well-prepared classic French fare made with fresh local ingredients as well as high quality, friendly yet professional service. Dining is at well-spaced, dark wood tables in a number of small wood-beamed rooms featuring statues of horses and white walls adorned with books.  Also there’s a small garden out back for dining in dry mild weather, which was not the situation on the evening of our visit.

                            Appetizers range from a salad of shrimps, salmon and crayfish, to a terrine of rabbit with hazelnuts and onion jam, to a delicious salad of crisp lettuce adorned by two small, slightly oven-roasted plump tomatoes stuffed with local goat’s cheese.  For main courses (from a choice of ten), we enjoyed the moist, grilled sea bream with a tangy pesto-based coating and simply grilled fillets of red mullet doused in a tasty sauce laced with Provençal herbs.

    The bread pudding dessert with ice cream came and a generous portion of Chantilly cream, as did a dessert of two puff pastries with strawberries. As to wine, we drank a light, pleasant 2014 Domaine Michel Joillet Mercurey with a bouquet and flavor of raspberries and strawberries, which had more than adequate acidity to complement the fish main courses.  

    The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner from Tuesday through Sunday;  expect a 3-course dinner to cost an extremely modest $70 for two, including “service,” but not tax or wine.


La Grange Aux Loups

8 rue du 11 Novembre, Aprémont



    Situated along a rural road-- a ten-minute car ride from the Condé Museum --this is your typical upscale “French country restaurant.” Dining takes place at white-clothed tables in an elegant rectangular room with grey wainscoting above which one wall shows exposed stone and the others gray wallpaper. Service is provided by a maître d' and two rather harried but quite efficient waitresses.

  In addition to à la carte dining, three separate menus are available: three courses ($38), five courses ($66) and a three-course lobster menu ($82).
    From the last we choose a juicy duck pastille (duck pressed with apricots and red cabbage surrounded by filo dough) accompanied by a small salad of crisp assorted greens, and a portion of a buttery terrine of duck foie gras cooked with white Port wine and served with a strawberry marmalade (right).

     Main course choices ranged from a thin mackerel tart accompanied by roasted squid, chorizo and a smooth ratatouille, to a roasted veal fillet

with a pungent pepper sauce, to a serving of large prawns, with saffron-infused risotto and an assortment of vegetables. For dessert we chose a selection of regional cheeses and an apple tart with vanilla ice cream coated with Calvados-laced Chantilly cream (left). Our choice of wine was a 2014 Bouchard Chambolle-Musigny, which was a bit light but filled with flavors of ripe cranberries and herbs and mated quite well with the fare.

    The restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner.


    Also, there are two luncheon dining spots at the Condé Museum itself: Le Hameau  offers  indoor and outdoor seating for French regional cuisine, a large choice of salads and desserts topped with Chantilly cream; La Capitainerie (right), located inside the Museum, “celebrates” the cooking of the 17th Century chef at Condé,  François Vatel, and offers a range of fare from hamburgers to roast veal with chestnut gnocchi, and, of course, coffee topped with a mound of Chantilly cream.


    And  a note about Chantilly cream and lace.  The cream, created by François Vatel in the 17th century on his appointment as chef to the original Condé Castle, is  crème fraȋche beaten with a dash of vanilla and light brown sugar, and like the similar schlag of Vienna, it’s piled high on ice cream, coffee and most desserts.

    The famous black lace of Chantilly isn’t manufactured any more, but there’s a small museum in town on the  rue d’Aumale that provides examples and explaining the process.




By John Mariani

99 East 52nd Street

    It was the big restaurant story of the year when Major Food Group, headed by chefs Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone with partner Jeff  Zalaznick (below), took over the lease of what had been The Four Seasons restaurant and turned it into two separate restaurants, The Grill and The Pool. It seemed an odd choice by the landlords, German real estate developer Aby J. Rosen and Michael Fuchs, to sign on Major Food Group, which up until then had been doing much smaller, much less extravagant restaurants around NYC that included the Parm sandwich shop and the retro Italian-American Carbone.

    Fortunately, the NYC Historic Landmarks Commission had long ago granted protected status to the interior, which was located in Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building and designed by Restaurant Associates and architect Philip Johnson. When it opened in 1959, there was never a restaurant as spectacular, both for its look and for its role in the city’s social history, which I, along with managing partner Alex von Bidder, compiled in the book The Fours Seasons: A History of America’s Premier Restaurant (1997). Thus, the new owners could do little but polish the premises, which included 20-foot-tall beaded metal curtains, a Richard Lippold bronze sculpture above the bar, and a babbling pool in the middle of the dining room. There had been a Picasso tapestry in the hallway connecting the two dining rooms, but that is now safely at the New-York Historical Society.
    I shall not get into the debate as to whether the Four Seasons needed to be rescued from neglect or opine on whether the faithful regulars will return to The Grill and The Pool (von Bidder and his partner Julian Niccolini plan to open a new restaurant not far from their former one). Things seem to be going very well with a curious new crowd who have been lured by a three-star review of The Grill in the NY Times. Having only dined at a private wine dinner in an upper room, I can only comment that the food was far from special, including a pâté with olives that looked and tasted like the ones in Betty Crocker cookbooks and a filet mignon so heavily crusted with crushed peppercorns as to demolish the taste of the beef and wine.
    I can’t say I was happy to see that the new clientele in The Grill was given to shirt sleeves and even t-shirts, for there is no longer a dress code that once upon a time required a jacket for men (if you arrived coat-less, the restaurant had a rack of blue blazers to choose from). I can report on The Pool dining room, which looks pretty much the same, except that the seasonal potted trees (fake) are no longer arrayed around the pool--no great loss--and the lighting is unconvivially lower. The trees have been replaced by a large Alexander Calder mobile that works beautifully in this space, although the patterned carpet seems to evoke a failed attempt by Jackson Pollack to create a fabric line. The introduction of throbbing music is a travesty in a setting like this.  Guests at The Pool were overall far better dressed than in The Grill.
    I am happy to say that the dining rooms staff could not be friendlier, more knowledgeable or more professional, a vast improvement over the often dour service of the past by captains and waiters who had been going through the motions for too long.
    Apparently Torrisi is in charge of The Pool menu, and he’s kept it relatively simple, not unlike its predecessor at The Four Seasons. Seafood figures large on the two-page menu, beginning with a selection of raw fishes (a whopping $60 for three, five for $95), crudites ($23), foie gras ($32), and “toast,” referring to seafood atop slices of toast. The yellowfin tuna with harissa and olive oil ($21) that I tried was superb (left).
    There’s no denying the excellent overall quality of the ingredients, which included a huge portion of Portuguese turbot a la plancha ($53) as good as any I’ve had in Europe, with all the requisite gelatinous texture intact (right), although the presentation could have been prettier.  A sea bass tartare with oyster sauce and celeries ($22) made for a good appetizer, and wholly unexpected was Dungeness crab rice with green olive oil and bay leaf ($36), which was quite good but might have been had at any number of Chinese restaurants around town. So, too, at this point, charred octopus has become something of a cliché in NYC restaurants, here done with aji dulce and onion blossoms ($26).
    Lobster with orange and coconut vinaigrette ($48) was pleasant enough but a sea bass with a tomato and white mousse ($ ) needed more flavor. There is a whole fish of the day for two (MP) and black pepper duck ($1) and a NY strip steak ($65).
    For this kind of money you still need to order side dishes, not listed on the menu and including duck fat-fried potatoes—six strips of them—and a plate of unattractive slices of eggplant.
    When you open the dessert menu you’ll find a list of 54 vintages of Château d’Yquem Sauternes by the half-bottle, glass or bottle, ranging from $675 for a 2000 up to $19,000 for a 1900. I’m not at all sure why this collection was compiled, since the sale of Sauternes everywhere has plummeted in recent years; this seems more of a Las Vegas high roller wink than a sensible way to spend your money.
    Desserts, all $18, were very disappointing. Strawberry shortcake (left) with corn and lychee took a simple American favorite and gussied it up to be unrecognizable as such, and a chocolate custard with cupuacu fruit and tonka bean was both odd and unsavory.
    Incidentally, The Pool’s website does not list prices, usually a sign the management is testing how much they can be pushed in the near future. The shock of the bill may be cushioned by the grandeur of the room and the superb service staff that makes you feel very welcome. Still, $60 for three pieces of raw fish and $65 for a steak without potatoes is going pretty high into the stratosphere.
    I do look forward to going to The Grill sometime, if only to soak up that uniquely marvelous look that has dated not at all since 1959. For now I’m glad to go back to The Pool, but not rushing to return for the food alone.






By John Mariani

David Edmonds, Nobilo Wines

    Funny thing is, New Zealand’s finest maker of Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t get out and about. He’s never been to France’s Loire Valley, where the standard for the varietal is set in wine like Sancerre, nor has he seen much of California’s Sauvignon Blanc vineyards. Maybe that’s worked in David Edmonds’ favor. As winemaker at New Zealand’s Nobilo Wines, he has managed to focus all his energies on improving Sauvignon Blanc’s image as a varietal in the shadow of Chardonnay.
    “I’m constantly trying new things in order to dispel the myth of Sauvignon Blanc,” he said over dinner at Gabriel Kreuther restaurant in New York. “Most people think of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc as being the overly fruity, punch-like wines that have had so much success worldwide, like Cloudy Bay.”
    Indeed, Cloudy Bay and Oyster Bay in Marlborough and Monkey Bay in Malawi established a sweet, grassy, pungently aromatic style for the varietal that has made them best-selling wines and pushed winemakers from the U.S., Chile and South Africa to copy them. (Most NZ Sauvignon Blancs are exported.)
    Edmonds, tall, bearded and with a voice not unlike Sean Connery’s, is a good representative of New Zealand’s wine industry, believing that Sauvignon Blanc should be a far more refined wine, which he has been working at since joining Nobilo in 2002. The estate itself was founded in 1936 by Croatian emigres, Nikola and Zuva Nobilo (right), whose family had had more than 300 years of winemaking tradition. In 1943 they planted some of New Zealand’s first commercial vines at Huapai, west of Auckland, this, at a time when wine was not very popular in the country. By the 1970s, Nikola had moved from hybrid grapes to Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, and in 1994 he was awarded an Order of the British Empire medal for his contribution to the New Zealand wine industry. He died at the age of 94 in 2011. Today the winery is owned by Constellation Wines.
    Waxing poetical, Edmonds says what he wants you to taste in his wines is “the mineral smell of the breeze from an approaching thunderstorm.” By blending wines from five vineyards (Nobilo has holdings in both the northern and southern islands of New Zealand) he can express the individual terroirs—what the Māori call tūrangawaewae, a “place to stand.” “There’s been an evolution of our style,” says Edmonds. “There used to be more minerality ten years ago. We’re finding, perhaps thanks to global  warming, the sun’s ultraviolet rays are giving the grapes higher flavor and concentration now.”
    Nobilo also makes a superb Pinot Noir with more nuance than many of the bigger-bodied Australian styles. And he does not plant Shiraz, one of Australia’s most successful varietals, because “New Zealand doesn’t have the right temperature or soils.”
    In any comparison with Australia’s wines, Edmonds hastens to remind people that New Zealand is more than 2,000 miles from the huge continent to its west, so that comparisons are largely irrelevant. He does keep his Pinot Noir’s alcohol levels at around 13%—more in line with Burgundy models—than the 14% or more of hotter climates like Australia and California.
    Over a very varied meal that ranged from hamachi with black truffles and foie gras and an Alsatian sturgeon and sauerkraut tart to grilled lobster with cashews and tenderloin of pork with grilled radicchio both of Nobilo’s wines showed beautifully. The 2016 Icon Sauvignon Blanc ($22) is certainly the best I have tasted from the New World, closer, to be sure, to Sancerre but also possessing a brightness and tamed grassiness that made it very easy to drink through appetizers and with seafood.
    The 2015 Icon Pinot Noir ($22) was a lush beauty, highly expressive of what happens when that troublesome grape is not pushed too far in trying to build up sugar into alcohol. Nobilo’s is velvety and lightly textured, with levels of light fruit and just the right amount of acid to keep it refreshing. All the more remarkable are the prices on wines of this quality, which, if they came from Oz or Sonoma, might easily cost twice as much.



"For context, Lucky Peach issues [originally] cost $12 at newsstands, excluding the flagship issue, which sold for $10. An annual subscription to the magazine cost $28 per year. This means that collecting all 24 issues of LP would have cost $274 at the newsstand and $168 by subscription during its run: That’s a steal considering that a full collection is currently worth between two and seven times its initial value. For the most avid fans seeking pristine copies of each issue, buying individual copies to make a complete Lucky Peach collection costs as much as $1,109.60, total, on eBay (as of this writing). Meanwhile, buying used copies of each issue will cost as little as $499.50."



According to a recent 
study, up to 81 drugs and personal-care products were detected in the flesh of salmon caught in the Puget Sound, including Prozac, Advil, Benadryl, Lipitor, and cocaine. The Seattle Times suggested the levels are believed to be so high because either people in the area use more of those drugs or because waste water plants are unable to fully remove the chemicals during treatment.




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, benefitted 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 in southern Montalcino.

SummuS –
A wine of towering elegance, SummuS is an extraordinary blend of Sangiovese which contributes body; Cabernet Sauvignon for fruit and structure; and Syrah for elegance, character and a fruity bouquet.  An elegant, complex and harmonious red wine. 



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: LAKE COMO

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,;;

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