Virtual Gourmet

  April 22, 2018                                                                                            NEWSLETTER


Photo by John Margolies (Library of Congress)


By Edward R. Brivio


By John Mariani

By Geoff Kalish


By Edward Brivio
Photos by Robert Pirillo

Fairmont Le Château Frontenac

    Blanketed in snow during the winter months, Vieux Quebec, founded in1608 by Samuel de Champlain, is not only one of the oldest European settlements in North America but also the most charming. Joined by a steep funicular, its upper and lower town are each a warren of cobble-stone streets filled with mansard-roofed stone townhouses from the 17th and 18th centuries, giving it a pleasing architectural harmony. Add to this the original fortified ramparts that still surround the Old Town, and it’s easy to see why it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985. In the evening, the view of the lower town --festively lit for Quebec’s annual Winter Carnival--from the upper town's Promenade was enchanting.
    The first, and grandest, of the château-style hotels erected by The Canadian Pacific railroad, the Château Frontenac (now the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac was built to provide travelers with luxurious lodgings on a par with their opulent life style. Often cited as the “most photographed hotel in the world,” this grande dame of Quebec hostelries is celebrating its 125th anniversary.
    The original hotel as designed by architect Bruce Price, who drew inspiration from the Renaissance chậteaux of the Loire valley, was a true chateau, planned around an inner courtyard, with massive circular turrets and polygonal towers. Renovated many times since its opening in 1893, it still retains an overall harmony with its asymmetrical profile and numerous wings, all with similar steeply pitched roofs, corbels, decorative, two-story dormer windows, tall chimneys and brick-red outer walls of Scottish Glenboig stone, all held together by a tall central tower, added in 1926. The sprawling, fortress-like structure we see today is an imposing reminder of the strategic importance of this site atop Cap-Diamant with its commanding view of the St. Lawrence river at its confluence with the St. Charles.
    The Seven Years’ War fought between France and England for supremacy in Canada ended in a decisive battle in Quebec on the Plains of Abraham, just to the its southwest. where some 1,200 men died and both the French and English generals, Montcalm and Wolfe, were mortally wounded.
    As we turned off the snow-covered Rue St.-Louis, under the arched porte cochere and into the courtyard, through the heavy brass revolving doors of the entrance, I found the warm, welcoming lobby bathed in a golden glow beneath its coffered ceiling. Rich mahogany paneling, fluted pilasters topped with gilded Corinthian capitals, crystal chandeliers, floor-to-ceiling drapes and a gleaming white marble floor and a dramatic double- staircase with an ornamental wrought-iron balustrade.  All give one the feeling of having "arrived" somewhere out of the ordinary, this impression of being a privileged chatelain reinforced by the hotel's capable, efficient staff who fulfilled our every request with grace and alacrity.
    Our room had a comfortable king-size bed, an immaculate marble-clad bathroom, and most of all, a large window overlooking the Dufferin Terrace Promenade, the lower town, and the massive ice floes jamming the St. Lawrence river. What a splendid view, especially at night with the shimmering lights of the town of Levis across the way, and the Québec/Levis ferries threading their way laboriously through the ice-clogged river.
    The hotel's signature restaurant, called simply Champlain (above), has two beautiful wood-paneled dining rooms with a luxurious contemporary feel. One long glass wall is used to display a the best bottles on the wine list. Gorgeous leather arm-chairs surround well-spaced, well-appointed tables. We sat in the upper room, where large windows overlooked the Dufferin Terrace.
    Our waiter suggested the five-course tasting menu ($77), most of which is available separately à la carte. Snow crab from Ste.-Thérèse de Gaspé (right) with pine tree mayonnaise was a simple, refreshing dish as an appetizer, with a flax-seed cracker adding an interesting crunch. Arctic char with mushroom mousse followed. Salmon was cooked sous vide--my least favorite cooking method--which rendered it slightly rubbery and rather bland; a mushroom mousse, and a wild-carrot horseradish fortunately provided some real flavor.   
    Things picked up dramatically with seared foie gras-- crispy on the outside and buttery within-- from Marieville just outside of Montreal--served with marinated Northern fruit: cranberries, blueberries and maple caramelized almonds. Roasted lamb filet with rutabaga puree, hazelnut mushrooms and glazed beets was all together fine. Our dessert was Melilotus panna cotta with bitter chocolate ice cream (left). Melilotus is another name for sweet clover, which gave a delicious hint of new cut grass to the dessert.
    Five wines accompanied the meal: a delicious, uncomplicated Sauvignon Blanc from Domaine de Haut Bourg in the Loire with the crab; a round, flavorful Canadian Chardonnay from Inniskilin with the char; and a luscious, sweet, and slightly botrytized 2010 Sauternes from Château Amajan des Ormes was a perfect accompaniment to the foie gras. Along with the lamb came a 2015 Château Ste. Michelle Indian Wells Red Blend from Washington state, made from seven varietals: Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, Grenache, Cabernet Franc, Mourvèdre, and Petit Verdot, that was full-bodied and delicious without being overdone. And with dessert, the justly renowned Vidal Ice Wine from Inniskilin, its luscious sweetness balanced by a fine acidity,  the wine that put Canada on the oenological map.

Appetizers $11-$22, main courses $25-$36, desserts $11-$12. (All prices are in $US.)
    A less formal dining venue is the hotel's Bistro Le Sam, with a brightly lit, spacious lower room and another a couple of steps up.  Here we were given what must be the best seat in the house, a large demi-lune banquette in royal blue set right up against a window with a full view of the Saint Lawrence below. Superb Oysters Rockefeller, just heated through, with spinach and a touch of foie gras for added richness, got lunch off to a splendid start, as did a four-square, satisfying soupe à l'oignon, which the snow drifts outside and the frigid weather–three degrees that day--seemed to call for. Next came a lovely, textbook confit de canard (right) with delicious rösti potatoes, and the day's special, osso bucco (which needed salt) with dense and chewy gnocchi that even the rich brown gravy could not redeem. Le Quebec, a wonderful maple-flavored version of Paris-Brest, and a layered chocolate gâteau with three different intensities of chocolate, brought things to a delicious close.
Appetizers $8-21, Mains: $15-$32, desserts $7-$8.

           Dining outside the hotel, one could do no better than to choose L'Initiale (55 rue St.-Pierre, 418-694-1818), located in a former bank building with a rather mercantile, yet monumental exterior. The main dining room (above) at this member of the Relais and Château collection is a chic, understated, contemporary space, and its muted palette and pared-down, elegant décor allow the artfully arrange colorful dishes to stand out in all their glory.
    Overseeing the front of the house is Madame Rolande Leclerc, the epitome of Gallic chic and graciousness, while her husband, Yvan Le Brun, mans the pots and pans in the immaculate kitchen with its small brigade of four chefs.
    At lunch, our dégustation started with foie gras in various guises-- en terrine and as a mousse with warm, freshly made brioche, thin slices of quince, and a small tuile made from the duck juices and reduced to a thin sheet, an ingenious idea that was also delicious. The chef's creativity can be slightly playful, but always with a sureness of touch and a finesse, each plate like a variation on a theme.
    Our next course was shellfish: a roast scallop and morsels of lobster napped with lemon beurre blanc (left), alongside endive, a puree of cauliflower and mullet roe. The shellfish were both perfectly cooked as well as beautifully arranged. A curlicue grissini added a whimsical twist.
    The main course, or Résistance as it's referred to here, was halibut meunière with hen-of-the-woods mushrooms and pearl onions. The halibut was simply a marvel. I don't think I've ever had a piece of fish so carefully cooked and delicious, firm yet juicy, tender yet cooked through, and the mushrooms were a savory accessory.
    Desserts were a trio of lemon delights (right), lemon ice cream, super lemony but not astringent, and a sphere of lemon cream in a thin candy shell that was another marvel, as well as candied zest and candied chestnuts, and a chocolate extravaganza, once again with five delicious variations on the main theme, and a scoop of passion fruit ice cream added for contrast.
    This is contemporary haute cuisine at its best, while the attentive Madame Rolande, who lovingly describes the components of each course, and the flawless, seamless service made a memorable meal even more so.
    Lunch was $46, a bargain for food of this caliber, and with it we drank an exemplary 2016 Sancerre Les Caillotes ($12) from Jean Maxime Roger, followed a 2009 Baron des Galets St. Julien ($18) well-balanced, with good structure but still fresh and youthful.

    Chef Jean-Luc Boulay has been delighting guests since 1978 at his signature restaurant Le Saint Amour (48 Rue Sainte-Ursule; 418-694-0067) located in an historic 18th century townhouse in the upper-town. In late January the façade and its window-boxes, still in their holiday finery, were adorned with a profusion of fresh evergreen boughs powdered with snow. We dined in the front, a rather nondescript dining room. If only someone had thought to seat us in the gorgeous backroom, which is part red Belle Epoque salon and part Victorian conservatory.
    Dinner began with a delicious terrine of foie gras (below) sourced from the highly reputed Ferme du Canard goulu in Saint-Apollinaire across the St. Lawrence to the southwest. It was served with candied black currants and grilled brioche. A deceptively simply named Shellfish bisque was a velvety smooth, creamy version with a heavenly aroma and profound flavor. 
We followed these with sweetbreads and a Turlo Farm squab. The sweetbreads were served with a large wild shrimp, excellent gnocchi and a celeriac puree, all bathed in a delicious creamy sauce based on apple cider with just the slightest bit sweet to complement the subtle sweetness of the ris-de-veau. The squab, from a farm in the tiny hamlet of St. Gervais arrived as a leg confit stuffed with foie gras --talk about gilding the lily- alongside the breast cooked to a precise medium rare, with seared fava beans and wild mushrooms in a rich, deep brown reduction of the bird’s natural juices flavored with the giblets and a bit more foie gras.
    After all this wonderful food, we both shared one dessert, aptly named L'Oasis, comprised of a slice of seared pineapple stop a round of cake, with mascarpone Chantilly cream and a scoop of passion fruit sorbet--the perfect finale, rich yet light, sweet yet thoroughly refreshing.
    We drank a 2015 Morgon from Jean-Paul Brun Domaine des Terres dorées ($53),  one of Beaujolais’ most traditional examples from one of its best vignerons. Now that most red Burgundy has become prohibitively expensive, I’m delighted at what a good, rich, wallet-friendly red wine Gamay--especially in the crus Beaujolais-- can produce when handled with care.

Soups and starters: $14-$28, mains $36-$40, desserts $12.

    Finally, we searched out a wine called Italus, the first Nebbiolo- based wine to come out of Quebec province. Carone Wines, founded by Pietro Carone and since his passing, run by his son Anthony, pioneered the cultivation of vinifera grapes in Quebec in the early 1990’s, and he is now considered an expert in cold-climate grape growing. The 2015, just recently released, is the first vintage of Italus, following on the success of the winery’s cabernet sauvignon and its pinot noir.
    Aged for a year in stainless steel and then for an additional one in medium toast French oak, the wine is all about youthful exuberance. In the glass, Italus is a vivid, limpid, ruby-red color, with a nose of bright red fruits with a touch of smoke and spice; the red cherry flavors are pronounced without being sweet. Bright acidity gives it freshness; an overlay of sweet smoke softens the edges, and fine-grained tannins introduce the finish. This delicious, medium-bodied wine begs for food to show at its best; it’s also a bargain at $23.



By John Mariani


330 Malcolm X Boulevard (off Bainbridge Street)

    A stretch of Malcolm X Boulevard in Brooklyn’s quickly gentrifying Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood is becoming something of a Restaurant Row, with more than a dozen spots well worth knowing about, from coffee shops to Italian restaurants, from soul food eateries to Southern bakeries.
    One of the best of the storefronts is Nana Ramen (there’s another elsewhere in Brooklyn, both owned by Eric Ong), a slip of a room with an outdoor patio just now being put to good use as spring struggles to settle in.
    The room itself is fairly barren of décor aside from wood wainscoting, hanging filament lights and spidery chandeliers, and a big red Japanese Rising Sun on a white brick wall. The tables are bare but painted to look as if Jackson Pollock had scribbled on them while waiting for his food.  The service staff couldn’t be nicer.
    The short menu lists ramen on one side and small dishes on the other, all at amazingly good prices, so we ordered several of the latter and three of the former. Inari sushi with seared eel ($8) is named after the Shinto god of fertility, rice and foxes, and comes as a trio of tofu-wrapped pouches packed with deliciously seasoned sweet eel and topped with fried scallions.  Karaage chicken ($8), battered and seasoned with soy sauce and garlic (right), was wonderfully crisp, not unlike Cajun popcorn but with bigger pieces, set atop a tamale-like corn husk and served with a creamy dipping sauce and slice of lemon. The gyoza ($8) are irresistible pan-fried pork dumplings I could eat platters of for a full meal.  A rich dashi broth underpins a bowl of golden fried tofu ($7).
    An unusually good dish unfamiliar to me was a Japanese egg pancake called okonomiyaki  (okonomi means “how you like it”), made with bonito, flour, vegetables, seaweed and oyster sauce ($14). Those flakes of bonito actually waft in the steam of the dish, and it’s weird to watch.
    Good ramen must begin with a good broth, not overly seasoned or overly salted, with slightly chewy noodles; from there the rest of the ingredients build on those requisites. Nana’s ramens succeed on all counts, whether it’s the spicy miso with corn, bok choy, scallions and chashu braised pork belly ($13); tan tan of minced pork, scallions, sesame and bean sprouts that packs a little punch from chile ($11); or yasai shoyu, teeming with vegetables like arugula, scallions, bean sprouts and baby bok choy ($11).  You may request additional toppings ($1-$3), but that would be gilding the lily.
    Japanese beer or sake goes splendidly with this food, and Nana carries an array.   
    It’s a cash-only business but, this being 2018, they have an ATM in the back.

Open daily for lunch and dinner.  



By Geoff Kalish

    It’s said about California wines that the only reason to know the vintage date of a bottle is to figure out who made the wine at a particular winery, since the California weather is more stable than the position of winemaker, who are often “drafted and signed” by facilities like prized sports figures.
    Whether that’s fact or merely witticism, the situation with the quality and quantity of wine from a particular vintage in France, particularly in Burgundy, is certainly more dependent on the vagaries of the year-to-year changes in weather, with the same winemaker at the same facility for long periods of time. With that in mind, the Wine Media Guild (a New York-based organization of professional wine communicators) sought to determine the quality of the 2015 vintage of Burgundy with a luncheon tasting at Manhattan’s Il Gattopardo of 14 whites and an equal number of  reds from a widespread range of Burgundian locales.
    Overall, the consensus was that this was an excellent year for Burgundian wines, with the whites ready to drink now or in the next few years, since the climactic conditions generally produced ripe, full-flavored Chardonnay grapes with less acidity than found in a number of other recent harvests. On the other hand, these same weather conditions also allowed the Pinot Noir to ripen fully, yielding red wines best to consume a few years from now and expected to be quite long-lasting. Unfortunately, these days most good Burgundies are not geared to the faint of wallet, so in order to guide consumers about purchasing these wines, the following are my notes on what I considered the top ten bottles presented.


Château Fuissé Pouilly-Fuissé “Les Clos” Propriatire Récolant  ($64)Made from Chardonnay grapes grown on a vineyard with vines dating to 1929, this wine had a bouquet and rich taste of apples and honey with notes of almonds and hints of apricots and orange in its long finish. It’s an ideal white to mate with risotto or roasted chicken.  

Bouchard Père & Fils Chevalier Montrachet 1er Cru ‘La Cabotte’ ($560)While a bit much for most pocketbooks, this memorable wine is aesthetically a cut or two above many of the 2015 white Burgundies. It has a distinctive bouquet and taste of pears with hints of marzipan and a touch of lime in its vibrant finish. Expect it to drink well with the likes of lobster, scallops, or tuna tartare for the next 5-10 years. 

William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros “Côte Bouguerots” ($98)This full-bodied wine, with a bouquet and taste of peaches and citrus, has a crisp, fruity finish perfect to pair with seafare, especially grilled dorade or branzino.

Maison Joseph Drouhin, Chassagne Montrachet, 1er Cru “Les Embazées ($90)Grapes for this wine hailed from vineyards noted for a complex soil of limestone and clay. Following harvest this wine was fermented using natural yeast and aged for 12 months in French oak barrels. It has a bouquet and taste of apples with undertones of honeysuckle and hazelnuts and should drink well over the next 10 years with ripe cheeses and grilled seafare, particularly swordfish or tuna. 

Domaine Laroche 1er Cru Les Vaillons Vielles Vignes Chablis ($41)Very well priced for a Premier Cru Chablis, this wine is made from grapes grown in a vineyard composed of fossilized oyster shells. It shows a bouquet and taste of apples and peaches with notes of apricots and zesty lemon in its finish. Unlike many 2015 Chablis, this wine contains enough acidity to age well and pairs perfectly with bivalves or shellfish.



Bouchard Père & Fils Nuits-St-George 1er Cru ‘Les Cailles’ ($108)This wine shows a fragrant bouquet and taste of ripe berries, with hints of oak and earthy spices. And, while lighter in taste than many other Nuit-St-George reds, it harmoniously matches with lamb or veal and is expected to gain complexity with a few years of bottle age. 

Domaine de Bellene, Beaune 1er Cru Cuvée Cinquantenaire ($90)This blend of grapes from five different premier cru Beaune vineyards shows a bouquet and taste of plums with notes of ripe cherries and toasty oak. A bit young to drink now (although it marries well with grilled lamb or beef), expect this wine to become more complex and elegant with 5-10 years of bottle age. 

Louis Latour Gevrey-Chambertin ($80)Made from hand-picked Pinot Noir grown on 30-year-old vines in vineyards noted for chalk and limestone soil, this wine was aged for a year in oak barrels following fermentation. It has a distinct bouquet and taste of black currants with notes of anise and a smooth finish that mates well with grilled chicken or ripe cheeses. 

Vincent Giradin, Santenay, Terre d’Enfance ($34)A good bargain, this hand-harvested Pinot Noir grown in limestone-rich soil has a bouquet and taste of fresh strawberries and plums with hints of almonds in its smooth finish. It makes a good wine to match with summertime barbecue, especially grilled ribs, chicken or hamburgers. 

Domaine Antonin Guyon, Savigny-Les-Beaunes ‘Les Goudelettes’ ($40)This well-priced wine was made from hand-harvested Pinot Noir fermented over 15 days in open vats and aged in oak barrels (15% new) over 15 months. It shows a fruity bouquet and taste of ripe plums and blueberries with a long, smooth finish that matches well with duck or grilled pork.





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, 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 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.


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, and Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographer: Galina Dargery. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.


If you wish to subscribe to this newsletter, please click here:

© copyright John Mariani 2017