Virtual Gourmet

  March 11, 2018                                                                                            NEWSLETTER


World War I Poster to discourage food waste




By John Mariani

By John Mariani




Photo by John Mariani

         Largely unaffected by hurricanes Irma and Maria, Barbados remains very much open to tourism this winter and spring, and for that reason bookings may quickly leap among those seeking a Caribbean vacation this year. 

    (Incidentally, the Barbados dollar is worth half the U.S. dollar, so don’t be too astonished by the prices below.)




Prospect Road, Prospect


    CinCin is easily one of the more elegant restaurants to open recently on the island. Windswept, of course, the dining room has clean, minimalist lines and white sand colorations accented by upholstered pillows with native motifs. The sleek, comfortable bar (left) has become very popular, and they stock a wide array of spirits and wines. The piped-in music, however, is dreadful stuff.

      CinCin has a more international flavor than most places on the island, including not-to-miss pork buns and shrimp buns ($27) and a crisp vegetable fritto misto ($27). More island-based are the very good crabcakes with pickled mango and a nicely spied rémoulade ($37).

    You never know each morning what the sea might bring in terms of seasonal fish in the Caribbean, so I respect CinCin’s not claiming to have wahoo or grouper every night of the week. Whatever the day’s fish, it can be pan-fried, served on leek and potato purée with almond butter and a vegetable ragôut ($59) or as fillets fried and accompanied by artichoke, roasted pepper, asparagus, and a tomato and mushroom salad ($59).





St. James


    It’s not easy to see The Sandpiper from the road because by design it is enwrapped in a well-manicured jungle of palms and tropical flora that leads to a white sand west coast beach beyond. The pathways meander through the grounds, past a wooden deck and pool, and wildlife likes nestling on the property. I even saw a small mongoose on the outdoor patio of my suite, which made me feel safe from the native snakes.

    The resort was built in 1970 by Brits Budge and Cynthia O’Hara, and today their sons Patrick and Mark and a daughter, Karen, run the place on the strength of their own personalities and love for Barbados, where they spent so much time growing up. Karen’s husband, Wayne Capaldi and fellow Director and General Manager, Russell Croney run the day-to-day operations of The Sandpiper and get to know every guest very quickly.

    Much of the charm of The Sandpiper is due to its seclusion and the way it’s laid out the  way Candyland might be were it in the Caribbean.




Port Ferdinand

    Port Ferdinand resort has the same owners as the Saint Peter’s by the Bay and fits snugly within the sheltered marina slip off Six Men’s Bay that serves as much as a safe haven for wildlife as it does for the fleet of yachts in 90-foot berths docked here. Even if Barbados was to get hit by a hurricane, the marina is equipped with a “floating wave attenuation system” designed to prevent storm-driven waves from causing hull or craft damage.

    All the homes here are as luxurious as any in the island, with marble and limestone finishes, coral detailing and excellent lighting throughout, including a full kitchen open to the living room overlooking the slip. Outdoors the Pool Island is a quiet spot to swim or lie back with a piña colada or rum punch in hand and let the sun work its wiles.

         The Quarterdeck Bar & Pizzeria here serves light fare and pizzas, and you can catch a water taxi that takes you along the coast to Saint Peter's Bay's lagoon pool.

         There is also an indoor Golf Simulator where you can pretend to play 18 holes if you haven’t access to the island’s regular courses.

         The upscale restaurant on property is named after Barbados’s latitude and longitude—13º 59º—where Chef Kevin Shawcross has won as many accolades as anyone on the island. There is even tableside service. It’s a sumptuous menu with classic dishes like a rich gratin of five onion soup with Comté cheese ($25) and beef carpaccio with onion cream, mustard leaf, aged parmesan and lemon ($45). When available, red snapper comes with a fine seafood chowder and a little smoked ham ($75), and, almost always available, the sweet aromatic curry of lobster with coconut rice, and purple basil ($105) is one of the stand-outs here. For dessert I’ll go for the mango and blueberry crumble ($22) or three different chocolate preparations on one plate ($28). One of the favorites here is the Mount Gay-rum infused and raisin studded ice cream ($11).   A service charge of 10 percent is added to your bill.

         There is a real sense of seclusion at the resort, not least because the villas are well spaced from each other, so that you could happily hole up here for your entire stay and shed every stress in your day-to-day life to point of banishing all thought of them.





St. Peter Parish



         Saint Peter’s Bay is one of Barbados’s prime beaches, situated between Speightstown and Holetown on the northwest coast, and the St. Peter’s Bay Resort and Residences, on four acres with 500 yards of beachfront, takes full advantage of the natural beauty of the green and sandy land and blue-hued sea.

         All the rooms here are in private owned villas--the management calls them “homes”—but fortunately many of the individual owners rent them out to tourists. All have two or three spacious bedrooms with king, queen or twin beds and fully equipped kitchen with dishwasher and dryer; you can also arrange through the concierge for a cook to come to your room and prepare your meals. The bathrooms are as large as many city apartments’ living rooms, and each has a Jacuzzi,  The only surprise is the fake flowers in the rooms!

         The resort also has its own water taxi to take you restaurants nearby and to the Port St. Charles Yacht Club. On premises the al fresco Gazebo Bar & Grill serves good Caribbean fare like blackened mahi mahi sandwich with sweet potato fries, as well as breakfast and children’s menu.




St. James



             Above the Cliff Beach Club is the more luxurious dinner venue called The Cliff, but I prefer the airy, casual chic of The Club, set into the rocks that rise above the west coast beach. 

         Chef Jeremy Dupire is doing an outstanding job with an eclectic menu that is every bit as pretty as it is delicious.  He has a very fine hand and shows finesse in dishes of a quality you don’t often except to see in the Caribbean, like his octopus carpaccio with a citrus dressing, fruit and herbs ($50);  chorizo-stuffed squid in a pesto sauce with a confit of sweet peppers $45); and goat’s cheese croquette with grilled zucchini and sweet peppers ($40).

             He also renders a spicy lobster ($85) with aplomb, the rice cooked impeccably, the lobster meat tender and sweet.  He applies the same careful technique to the fish and chips with tartare sauce  ($70), as well to the day’s catch nicely seasoned and topped with a lace of potatoes and onions set on deep green arugula in a rich beurre blanc ($80).

             I could return here several times in a week and probably not exhaust Dupire’s repertoire or imagination for stylish, high-quality food. It’s a place to go to find something always new and expressive of the chef’s culinary passions.




Skeetes Hill, Christ Church



             While Champers has the same, balmy, wave-lapped waterfront look so many other upscale restaurants on Barbados do, it is uniquely the most colorful, via walls of Caribbean artwork for sale, curated by Veronica Comissiong.  The restaurant staff is also one of the most affably hospitable.  From the moment you are greeted by the cheery host, you feel very warmly welcomed.

             The menu is perhaps a little too long for both lunch and dinner, but the cooking is solid and often elaborate, from a caramelized onion and goat's cheese tart with toasted sunflower seeds finished with a beet emulsion and roasted pepper essence ($22) to queen scallops quickly pan-seared and served atop a risotto cake with creamy leeks, finished with shiso greens and a light saffron cream $39).  There’s coconut shrimp with chili sauce ($36.50) and a very good crab au gratin ($36.50).

             And those are just the appetizers.  For main courses you should consider the sautéed prawns in a Thai chili sauce and coconut over jasmine rice ($68.50) or the seared ahi tuna served on warm soba noodles with a ginger salad accompanied by tempura vegetables and laced with the wasabi mayonnaise and sweet miso dressing ($69.50).





Mount Steadfast



             I did not have a chance to stay at this small boutique hotel of only seven suites and penthouses and one villa, but I was happy to have dined in the restaurant, set down a long flight of stairs and flanked with a swank bar  that attracts a very well-dressed crowd on what’s called the Platinum Coast.

             The dining room itself is smart, very open to the water and its seaside night sounds. Prices are among the highest on the island for dishes like crispy shrimp in a hot Thai curry ($85); tuna tartare ($48) and open ravioli with wild mushrooms, butternut squash and balsamic beurre noir ($46).  The menu’s self-proclaimed classics include a shepherd’s pie  ($70) and a roasted rack and braised shoulder of lamb with sweet potato gnocchi, French beans and mint-infused jus ($96).

             Asian notes are to be found in the mirin and soy-glazed barracuda (when available) with sautéed potatoes and sesame ginger sauce ($80).  They also do a Cajun-style blackened fish of the day ($85). For a side dish have the truffled mac-and-cheese ($18).

             Desserts ($33) are quite traditional but done with flair, including an espresso crème brûlée on short bread crumble with coffee ice cream and a terrific coconut and rum bread pudding with run raisin ice cream.




The Careenage, Bridgetown



             My last meal in Barbados was appropriately on the marina in Bridgetown, giving me a final appreciation of the island’s history.  Opened in 1984 by Sue Walcott, who is still a real presence here, this is a place to settle in or, better, outside, for a round or two of rum punch, check out the island artwork for sale, then order for the group at your table, sharing dishes like the crisp Bajan salt cod cakes ($26), a ceviche of kingfish marinated in lime, cucumber, onion and sweet pepper ($30), or one of the “melts” made of fish roe that is breaded and fried ($30).

      This is far more traditional fare than at the resorts, where you also won’t find  the national dish—flying fish and cou-cou ($54), a big plate of three steamed fillets in a Creole broth served with fried plantain and cucumber pickle ($54), or slow roasted pork shoulder glaze with a fennel jus served with sweet potato mash and vegetables ($60).

      The wine list is minimal, but the Waterfront Connection cocktail of rum, piña colada, Galliano, white crème de cacao and orange will make you forget that lapse.

       The Waterfront Café is a good introduction to Barbados local food, but it’s just as good a place to say goodbye to the island with the memory of its food culture logged into your fondest memories.

             Live entertainment Thursday, Friday and Saturday. 




By John Mariani
41 West 42nd Street



    When Gabriel Kreuther opened his namesake restaurant across from the New York Public Library on 42nd Street in 2015, the food media were busy declaring fine dining—especially French fine dining—to be dying a slow death.

    Of course, there were plenty of New York restaurants to disprove such a notion—Le Bernardin, Per Se, The Modern, Nomad, La Grenouille, and others—but Gabriel Kreuther was to serve as a reminder that fine dining both thrives and evolves in wonderful ways and in numerous styles. 

    In Kreuther’s case it was a shift away from his previous work at Jean-Georges and at The Modern, for at this new restaurant with his name on the door he was able fully to showcase his proud Alsatian heritage, not by merely serving up hearty platters of choucroute, baeckeoffe and coq au Riesling, but by using the traditions and flavors of his region to express his personality in what have become signature dishes always on the menu.

    Three years later, now with a new handcrafted chocolate shop adjacent to the restaurant, tables are still full at lunch and dinner, including at the bar, where everyone orders the Alsatian tartes flambées.  And Kreuther, along with chef de cuisine Joe Anthony and patîssier Marc Aumont, is cooking better than ever, with more complexity yet wonderfully subtle, as in a velouté of smoked eel with seven grain tuile,  saffron tapioca and black truffle coulis, which was my favorite dish of a recent evening, though it didn’t sound very promising because I thought the intensity of such flavors would conflict and confuse. Yet every ingredient was used to produced a perfect harmony of luxurious flavors and textures on the tongue.

    GK’s flowing dining spaces, including a chef’s table near the kitchen, are inspired by town squares in Alsace, with street lamp light fixtures, huge wooden beams; a glass wall is etched with stork imagery, the retro-style chairs are extremely comfortable and the lamp-lighted tables are set with thick white linens and napkins, so the acoustics make for very civilized conversation. The elongated and awkward silverware still strikes me as more apt for a fondue set.

    Right from the selection of amuses, the range of GK’s kitchen was revealed in a light, flakey pierogie with spinach and blue Cabrales cheese, and the most popular item from the bar menu, a flatbread with cashew hummus and watercress salsa verde.  Even a marinated kale salad with mustard, hazelnut and kumquat won me over to that trendy cabbage.

    GK is not unusual in offering a selection of breads, but here they do it by the course, so with our appetizers we enjoyed savory Alsatian Kougelhoupf with softly whipped chive fromage blanc, then whole grain ficelle with cultured butter, and with the main course rosemary buckwheat rolls with whipped pork lardo and spices.  

    The first of our four courses was one that has become a signature item, the applewood smoked sturgeon and sauerkraut tart with a light mousseline topped with American caviar (left), a marriage that really explains everything about Kreuther’s refinement of traditional ideas.  A velvety foie gras terrine with pistachio praline came with Medjool date jam, a dash of Strega liqueur and fennel pollen waffles. Fresh foie gras of first-rate quality was quickly seared and spiced with mustard seeds, pickled turnip for tang, and a sweet pearl onion marmalade. There is always a raw seafood dish on the menu, that night subtly flavorful pressed hamachi.

    Charcoal grilled lobster, with tomato confit, the aroma of eucalyptus and artichoke ravioli (right), was much simpler but very good, and squab served “en cassoulet” showed how impeccably the kitchen can turn out a tender, juicy bird, accompanied by kohlrabi choucroute, coco beans and the surprise of duck sausage.

    Given the excellence of all ingredients on the menu, it is surprising GK serves Australian lamb (for two) when it is no match for the best American lamb.

    Desserts lived up to their billing—“Decadent” with a “mixed media” crumble, chocolate mousse and caramel ice cream, while “Crisp” (below) involved an apple-vanilla parfait, pineapple sphere and herb sorbet. And, of course, you finish off with GK’s gorgeously rich chocolates, filled with unexpected flavors. 

    Head sommelier Philippe Sauriat features about 1,500 unique selections on a list that ranks with the best in NYC.  Of course, there are plenty of Alsatian bottlings, along with three ciders and a slew of half-bottles and dozens of Champagnes. There’s little on the list below $100, however.

    At GK you will have one of NYC’s finest dining experiences, beaming with elegance from the moment you set foot within its expansive dining room. And in Gabriel Kreuther you have a master chef who is cooking at his personal best, buoyed by a kitchen and service staff of young professionals dedicated to his unique vision of modern gastronomy.


Prices for the four-course prix fixe dinner have angled upward since opening, now $155, though supplement prices have vanished. Options are a seven-course dinner at $195 and nine courses at $235. Lunch, depending on the number of courses, runs $68-$87.

Open for lunch Mon.-Fri., for dinner Mon.-Sat.




Irish Whiskey Sales Soar Well Beyond
 St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations

By John Mariani



         While selections of Single Malt Scotches may still get the most space on the priciest restaurants’ liquor lists, Irish whiskeys are cutting into their market share, with almost 20% annual growth in exports.  According to a report by the Irish Food Board, last year’s sales were about $830 million. Top markets are the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Germany and France. The Japanese market was the best performing of the Asian countries, with sales rising by 30 percent to $9 million. The Irish drink up about 6 million bottles on their own.

         Such success is clearly not just the luck of the Irish. The country’s whiskey industry has been canny about both marketing and promotion, and just last month the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland, the representative body for drinks manufacturers and suppliers in Ireland, welcomed the progression of the Breweries and Distilleries Bill, which will allow craft brewers and distillers to sell their produce onsite to visitors, which in turn they believe will increase tourism to Ireland.

         This is in contrast to 30 years ago, when Pernod Ricard bought Irish Distillers, which was then selling less than half a million cases a year. As of 2016 those sales had soared to 2.83 million nine-liter cases of Jameson Irish Whiskey alone.

          “Irish” is a grain whiskey, mostly blended, though there are also Single Malt, Single Grain, and Pure Pot Still styles. Unlike Scotch, Irish does not use peat in its malting process (exceptions include Tullamore and  Connemara Peated Malt), so there is less smokiness in the bottle.

      In the late 19th century more than 150 distilleries produced more than 400 different brands of Irish, but the industry was crippled by the onset of Prohibition in the U.S.  Weak grain supplies and lack of marketing money stifled sales, which abroad were a niche market among Irish-Americans at a time when most Americans drank other “brown goods” like bourbon, rum, rye, Canadian, and Scotch. 

      The promotion of Irish coffee, created as a welcoming drink at Irish airports in the 1950s, was boosted by American newsman Stan Delaplane when he featured it at San Francisco’s Buena Vista Bar, where a plaque outside tells the story. Ever since it’s been a huge factor in Irish whiskey sales.

      As recently as 2011 there were just three distilleries in Ireland making all the brands’ whiskies. Today there are 18, with 16 more planned. This has resulted in fierce competition among new producers looking for their own niche in the expanding small-batch market, with the kind of novel claims Scotch producers began making in the 1980s.

      Some are sold exclusively at The Irish Whiskey Collection at Dublin Airport.  Cooley’s makes a “Single Cask” and a “Cask Strength.”  Knappogue Castle makes a 16-year-old "Twin Wood" single malt aged in old bourbon casks, followed by nine months in oloroso sherry butts, as well as a Master Distiller’s Private Selection vintage. Midleton bottles its “Very Rare.” Michael Collins is a bottling named after the beloved Irish political leader played by Liam Neeson in a 1996 biopic. Some producers have even tried flavoring their whiskies with spices and citrus. Many of these oddities are sold only at Dublin’s airport; some are sold only in the U.S.

             Bushmills still dominates the market, with Jameson next (left), but the newcomers are gaining ground. Prices for Irish whiskey, even for the best of them, used to be well under $40 a bottle—there are still fine ones to be had for $25—but some new entries in the market can match those of premium Scotches and Cognacs.  Today, prestigious small-batch labels cost upwards of $200.


Among the newer ones in the market I’ve been impressed by Tullamore Dew’s good basic label, a 12-Year-Old ($30).  Cooley’s Connemara now makes four small- batch whiskies, including a 12-Year-Old Peated Single Malt ($72-$90) and the heavily peated Turf Mor labels ($55). Midleton Very Rare ($140), arriving in an elegant oak box and labeled “Supreme Selection,” is deliciously complex.

         Bushmills’s standard “White Label” ($19), once the favorite of Czar Peter the Great, is still a fine intro to the spirit, and its malty Black Bush ($24), aged in old sherry casks, has long been a big seller in the U.S.  Their 10-Year-Old Single Malt ($40), matured in bourbon barrels for at least 10 years, has a lively smokiness in the bouquet, with level after level of complex spices and fruit, finishing like velvet on the back of the throat. The 16-Year-Old ($25) is a brawnier whiskey, quite nutty, with a dark chocolate and dried fruit component.

     Kilbeggan Single Grain Irish Whiskey ($29.99), just released this month, refers to a whiskey made in a single location using malted barley and at least one other grain, in this case 94% corn plus 6% malted barley and distilled at 86 proof, aged in bourbon barrels. That corn component adds a light and pretty sweetness that evokes bourbon, and the finish is very smooth, with light tannins.

         Tyrconnell has also just released to select U.S. markets a 15-Year-Old Madeira Cask Finish Single Malt Irish Whiskey ($100) aged for 15 years in American White Oak ex-bourbon barrels then finished in Madeira wine casks, making it the oldest Madeira cask finished Tyrconnell has released. They also do Pork cask and Sherry cask expressions of Irish whiskey. The spirit is made of just two ingredients: Irish barley and spring water, utilizing double distillation (46% alcohol), which sustains richer flavors. It has an enchanting spicy nose that follows through with a bite of heat, then piney notes and Madeira sweetness.




“Sen Sakana’s best dishes refuse to sit still. The mostly small plates are laced with vigorous flavors that dance, bounce and surprise.”—Daniel Meyer, “Sen Sakana,” TimeOut New York (9/27/17)




Donald Trump’s  Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach,  whose members pay $200,000, was found in violation of 15 health regulations in its kitchen, including a failure to properly track the freshness of some foods; curry sauce that reportedly had a use-by date of October 21, which was allegedly improperly marked and in the freezer during the November inspection; milk stored at 49 degrees instead of 41 degrees, and cases of hot dogs reportedly found being stored on the ground in the walk-in freezer. Still, the kitchen passed inspection.



Wine Column Sponsored by Banfi Vintners


    Wine is a joy year-round but in cooler weather
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. 

From mid-September through mid-October, the Sangiovese grown for our various styles of red wines are 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. 

Cum Laude – A complex and elegant red which graduated “With Honors,” characterized by aromas of juicy berries and fresh spices.


Centine – A Cuvee that is more than half Sangiovese, the balanced consisting of equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  Vinified in a firm, round style that easily accompanies a wide range of dishes, this is a smooth and fragrantly satisfying wine with international character, and a perennial favorite at my own dinner table. 

Banfi Chianti Superiore – The “Superiore” designation signifies stricter government regulations regarding production and aging requirements, as compared to regular Chianti.  An intense ruby red wine with fruit forward aromas and floral notes.  This is a round wine with well-balanced acidity and fruit.

Banfi Chianti Classico – An enduring classic: alluring bouquet of black fruit and violets; rich flavors of cherry and leather; supple tannins and good acidity for dining. 

Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva – Produced from select grapes grown in the "Classico" region of Chianti, this dry, fruity and well-balanced red has a full bouquet reminiscent of violets.

Fonte alla Selva Chianti Classico – This is our newest entry into the Chianti arena, coming from a 99 acre estate in Castellina, the heart of the Chianti Classico region.  The wine is a captivating mauve red that smells of cherry, plum and blackberry with hints of spice.  It is round, full and balanced with very good acidity.  

Col di Sasso – Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Luscious, complex and soft with persistent notes of fruit and great Italian style structure.


 Any of John Mariani's books below may be ordered from

   The Hound in Heaven (21st Century Lion Books) is a  novella, and for anyone who loves dogs, Christmas, romance, inspiration, even the supernatural, I hope you'll find this to be a treasured  favorite. The  story concerns how, after a New England teacher, his wife and their two daughters adopt a stray puppy found in their barn in northern Maine, their lives seem full of promise. But when tragedy strikes, their wonderful dog Lazarus and the spirit of Christmas are the only things that may bring his master back from the edge of despair. 


“What a huge surprise turn this story took! I was completely stunned! I truly enjoyed this book and its message.” – Actress Ali MacGraw

“He had me at Page One. The amount of heart, human insight, soul searching, and deft literary strength that John Mariani pours into this airtight novella is vertigo-inducing. Perhaps ‘wow’ would be the best comment.” – James Dalessandro, author of Bohemian Heart and 1906.

“John Mariani’s Hound in Heaven starts with a well-painted portrayal of an American family, along with the requisite dog. A surprise event flips the action of the novel and captures us for a voyage leading to a hopeful and heart-warming message. A page turning, one sitting read, it’s the perfect antidote for the winter and promotion of holiday celebration.” – Ann Pearlman, author of The Christmas Cookie Club and A Gift for my Sister.

“John Mariani’s concise, achingly beautiful novella pulls a literary rabbit out of a hat – a mash-up of the cosmic and the intimate, the tragic and the heart-warming – a Christmas tale for all ages, and all faiths. Read it to your children, read it to yourself… but read it. Early and often. Highly recommended.” – Jay Bonansinga, New York Times bestselling author of Pinkerton’s War, The Sinking of The Eastland, and The Walking Dead: The Road To Woodbury.

“Amazing things happen when you open your heart to an animal. The Hound in Heaven delivers a powerful story of healing that is forged in the spiritual relationship between a man and his best friend. The book brings a message of hope that can enrich our images of family, love, and loss.” – Dr. Barbara Royal, author of The Royal Treatment.


The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink by John F. Mariani (Bloomsbury USA, $35)

Modesty forbids me to praise my own new book, but let me proudly say that it is an extensive revision of the 4th edition that appeared more than a decade ago, before locavores, molecular cuisine, modernist cuisine, the Food Network and so much more, now included. Word origins have been completely updated, as have per capita consumption and production stats. Most important, for the first time since publication in the 1980s, the book includes more than 100 biographies of Americans who have changed the way we cook, eat and drink -- from Fannie Farmer and Julia Child to Robert Mondavi and Thomas Keller.

"This book is amazing! It has entries for everything from `abalone' to `zwieback,' plus more than 500 recipes for classic American dishes and drinks."--Devra First, The Boston Globe.

"Much needed in any kitchen library."--Bon Appetit.

Now in Paperback, too--How Italian Food Conquered the World (Palgrave Macmillan)  has won top prize  from the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.  It is a rollicking history of the food culture of Italy and its ravenous embrace in the 21st century by the entire world. From ancient Rome to la dolce vita of post-war Italy, from Italian immigrant cooks to celebrity chefs, from pizzerias to high-class ristoranti, this chronicle of a culinary diaspora is as much about the world's changing tastes, prejudices,  and dietary fads as about our obsessions with culinary fashion and style.--John Mariani

"Eating Italian will never be the same after reading John Mariani's entertaining and savory gastronomical history of the cuisine of Italy and how it won over appetites worldwide. . . . This book is such a tasteful narrative that it will literally make you hungry for Italian food and arouse your appetite for gastronomical history."--Don Oldenburg, USA Today. 

"Italian restaurants--some good, some glitzy--far outnumber their French rivals.  Many of these establishments are zestfully described in How Italian Food Conquered the World, an entertaining and fact-filled chronicle by food-and-wine correspondent John F. Mariani."--Aram Bakshian Jr., Wall Street Journal.

"Mariani admirably dishes out the story of Italy’s remarkable global ascent to virtual culinary hegemony....Like a chef gladly divulging a cherished family recipe, Mariani’s book reveals the secret sauce about how Italy’s cuisine put gusto in gusto!"--David Lincoln Ross,

"Equal parts history, sociology, gastronomy, and just plain fun, How Italian Food Conquered the World tells the captivating and delicious story of the (let's face it) everybody's favorite cuisine with clarity, verve and more than one surprise."--Colman Andrews, editorial director of The Daily

"A fantastic and fascinating read, covering everything from the influence of Venice's spice trade to the impact of Italian immigrants in America and the evolution of alta cucina. This book will serve as a terrific resource to anyone interested in the real story of Italian food."--Mary Ann Esposito, host of PBS-TV's Ciao Italia.

"John Mariani has written the definitive history of how Italians won their way into our hearts, minds, and stomachs.  It's a story of pleasure over pomp and taste over technique."--Danny Meyer, owner of NYC restaurants Union Square Cafe,  The Modern, and Maialino.



FEATURED LINKS: I am happy to  report that the Virtual Gourmet is  linked to four excellent travel sites:

Everett Potter's Travel  Report

I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the  web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury  Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and  a frequent contributor to National  Geographic Traveler,  and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their  travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special  places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of  staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star  places as five-star experiences."  THIS WEEK:

Eating Las Vegas JOHN CURTAS has been covering the Las Vegas food and restaurant scene since 1995. He is the co-author of EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants (as well as the author of the Eating Las Vegas web site: www.eatinglasvegas. He can also be seen every Friday morning as the “resident foodie” for Wake Up With the Wagners on KSNV TV (NBC) Channel 3  in Las Vegas.


nickonwine: An engaging, interactive wine column by Nick Passmore, Artisanal Editor, Four Seasons Magazine; Wine Columnist,;;

MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly.  Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Editor: Walter Bagley. Contributing Writers: Christopher Mariani, Robert Mariani,  Misha Mariani, John A. Curtas, Geoff Kalish, Mort Hochstein, and Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographer: Galina Dargery. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.


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© copyright John Mariani 2017