Virtual Gourmet

  April 15, 2018                                                                                            NEWSLETTER


"Kitchen Scene" by Diego Velázquez (circa 1620)



By John A. Curtas


By John Mariani

Spain’s Abadia Retuerta Wins Renown
 Without a Regional Appellation

By John Mariani



Text and photos by John A. Curtas



    The trouble with a great food city is that temptation is always around every corner. Two dinners aren’t nearly enough to satisfy anyone’s hunger or curiosity about all the good things to eat in Toronto, but with a little research, and the help of Chris Nuttall Smith, the former restaurant critic for The Globe and Mail, I recently squeezed as much noshing into 48 hours as I could—including two stunning meals on opposite ends of the restaurant spectrum.
    Before my wife and I got to those restaurants though, two obligatory stops were in order: first, at the world famous St. Lawrence Market, home of Canadian artisan cheese purveyor Olympic Cheese Mart (left). Even for an old caseophile like me, the selections at Olympic can be overwhelming. It displays hundreds of wheels from every cheese-producing country in the world, but the things to sample are the artisanal Canadian cheddars. A giant board lists these in-house-aged beauties, some of which have been two decades in the making—and you will want to sample every one. (Try to go early, before the lunch rush, and you’ll find the cheese mongers very generous and informative.) There is even a "guilt-free cheese" section for those who recoil at the thought of lactose-laden, animal rennet-coagulated real cheese. Be forewarned, however, that having those aversions and coming here is like swearing off sex and strolling through a bordello.
      Our second stop was at the more bohemian Kensington Market, where, interspersed among the raggedy storefronts and vintage clothing shops, are two foodie meccas next door to each other: the Blackbird Baking Co. and Sanagan's Meat Locker (right), both founded within the past five years by local chefs looking for a career change. Simon Blackwell worked in the iconic River Café in London before becoming inspired by the work being done at Amy's Bread and the Sullivan Street Bakery in New York, while Peter Sanagan took an old butcher shop and turned it into a showcase for the exceptional meat and poultry being grown by small Ontario farmers. We were trying to save our appetites for dinner, but our willpower faded as soon as we confronted the European-inspired charcuterie, pâtês and terrines of Sanagan’s, and the aromas wafting from Blackbird.
    Resistance was equally futile when we stumbled upon Aloette (
left; 163 Spadina Ave.), just a few blocks from Kensington Market. which Smith had urged us to check out, and at that point it would've been rude not to. Besides, by then it had been at least thirty minutes since we had munched on the succulence of Sanagan's lemon and mustard headcheese and the tangy crust of Blackwell’s sourdough.
    Billed as an upscale diner serving "comfort food with a twist," Aloette is long narrow room that seats only 38, but it oozes serious foodie cred from the bow-tied bartenders to the bustling staff eager to give you the provenance and technique behind every dish. As we were only there for an aperitif, the delights of the menu were mostly seen rather than tasted, but there was no faulting the warm brioche bread with brown yeast butter, or the briny, sparkling oysters—both raw and grilled—that paired perfectly with a crisp Pearl Morissette Chardonnay from the Niagara-on-the-Lakes wine region.
     By then it was time for dinner. Given our carb and charcuterie consumption, we probably should have walked up the 54 floors to Canoe, (
66 Wellington Street W) but instead we elevated to this spectacular room in the TD Bank Tower and were lucky to catch a dramatic sunset over Lake Ontario. What showed up on the plate was every bit the equal of the scenery. Canoe is now over twenty years old, but the room, service, and cuisine feel as fresh as they did when I last visited in 2001. Executive Chef John Horne uses the entire palette of Canadian flavors to craft a cuisine that is classically rooted but very much of its place. Seasonal and local are the watchwords that guide this cooking, and even if those terms are overused these days, they seem right at home when the bounty of Ontario is laid before you.  Everything from the vibrant green bean salad with wild ginger, pickled onion and sweet pea hazelnut vinaigrette to locally foraged roasted mushrooms had that hand-picked brightness that shines through when the vegetables come from no farther away than the next county.
     Horne's take on s'mores was also a relevation, as he parked a generous slab of Canadian duck liver (right) on a Graham cracker "crumble" (more of a small square cake) beside which sat a generous dollop of toasted marshmallow cream. Some swirls of chocolate sauce completed this grown-up, lip-smacking deconstruction of the campfire classic.
    The main courses—Great Lakes pickerel with smoked oyster mayonnaise, and Québec red stag with foie gras sausage, beetroot and berries (left) were also so on point it was a bit astonishing, as were the premium Canadian cheeses that finished our meal. Cooking this high up is not supposed to be this focused, this much fun, or this good. Calvin Trillin once famously remarked that the higher you get off the ground the worse the food gets, but the cuisine of Canoe is all that and more.
    From the tallest meal in town to a humble cottage, our second dinner in Toronto couldn't have provided a nicer contrast. Where Canoe is a philharmonic of panoramic sights, giant open kitchen and a thriving cocktail bar, Edulis (right;
169 Niagara St.) is more like a pitch-perfect string quartet playing in a minor key. The impression upon approaching Edulis (another name for the cepe mushroom) is one of a prettified small inn where the family cooks everything from the farm and cossets you from  the moment you enter. It may look casual but the food is super-serious, and the feeling you get is of peaceful expectation—a gentle knowledge that you're in the hands of chefs in full control of their vision of the perfect restaurant.       
     Those chefs—the husband-wife team of Michael Caballo and Tobey Nemeth—created Edulis as an homage to the French-Spanish food that they love. It is small (32 seats) and very personal (when Caballo and Nemeth can't be in the kitchen, they close). Nuttall Smith told me I'd be blown away by the food, and I was.
    Fresh-off-the-boat Nova Scotia Albacore tuna (left), hinting at the lightest of cures, began our meal, followed by chunks of sweet lobster adorned with tomatillo bits and wood-roasted poblano peppers.  Sanma (Pacific Saury fish) grilled over binchotan charcoal showed a light hand with both the grilling and the use of fresh green chili, and seaweed-smoked coho salmon in sorrel sauce (a sly Troisgros-meets-Toronto reference) was further evidence of why you should never order salmon below the 49th parallel, this specimen being breathtaking in its mahogany hue and fork-dropping in its intensity.  Ling Cod with cherrystone clams was followed by tender young goat cooked with wild grapes and served with Brussels sprout leaves and chanterelles.
    Everything came with a different sauce—a real sauce, properly proportioned beneath the star ingredient, not bare schmears or ribbons from a squeeze bottle—each a marvel unto itself, with no repetition of spice, liquid or accent. "Absolutely stunning," was all I could think through the progression of dishes. Three Canadian cheeses at the peak of ripeness ended the savory courses; raspberry sorbet with buffalo yogurt was the ideal intermezzo and the finale was a simple-yet-exquisite baba au rhum with Chantilly cream (right).
    The food was simple but not too much so, and the progression of dishes so seamless and balanced that we regretted ordering the shorter tasting menu ($90). The wine list is as eclectic as the food, with interesting, well priced bottles from all over Europe and Canada.
     Edulis is one of those rare finds: a place where you can feel the passion being served on the plate. These young chefs are at the top of their game, and their game is nothing less than an almost preternatural sense of how to blend the best European technique to their own refined, delightfully Canadian idea of what a restaurant should be. There are very few restaurants in the world I can imagine jumping on a plane for, just to see what the chef is cooking up, but Edulis is now one of them. 



By John Mariani

1 Hanover Square (off Pearl Street)


    There’s nothing I like more than a good restaurant with a history, and I’ve lived long enough to dine at many of them, especially in New York, home to places that date back to the 19th century, like the Bridge Café, Delmonico’s, McSorley’s Old Ale House and Pete’s Tavern.
    Harry’s has only been Harry’s since 1972, when Greek immigrant Harry Poulakakis (right, with son Peter) turned the premises of what had been an eating house as early as 1875 into a 20th century financial district institution, and you can still see the lineaments of that history in the woodwork of this below-street-level room.
    Through several boom and bust cycles Harry’s was always there when Wall Streeters were ready to exult or when they needed to drown their sorrows; in the boom times when the brokers and bankers were flush and ordered $500 Burgundies on their expense accounts, and also when they were down on their luck, when they’d order wine by the glass.  Harry’s has figured in novels like Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities, Brett Easton Ellis’s American Psycho and Colm McCann’s Let the Great World Spin.

arry’s son Peter has recently altered the look of the rooms, now seating 240 guests, including a handsome bar (left), with very roomy suede booths with alligator trim and polished tables. There are photos of celebs who have dined there and an odd, glowing light fixture that made me think the Mother Ship had landed in the middle of the dining room, which is otherwise softly lighted.  Loud music no one actually listens to intrudes out of the background.
    Executive Chef Joe Mallol’s menu has a cast that a Wall Street restaurant might well have had a century ago, a sumptuous screed of seafood and meats from American waters and farms of the highest reputation. The lobster bisque ($13) is not thickened with flour but instead has the consistency of a velouté enriched with seafood and a touch of tarragon.  The French onion soup ($12) came piping hot, its golden crown of Gruyère seared, and beneath it a rich broth of caramelized onions. A seafood tower is massed with lobster, clams, oysters, shrimp and crab with several dipping sauces to choose from.  Using Jonah crab does not make Harry’s crabcake among the best in the city, though Peter says they may soon switch to lump crabmeat.
    The beef is, as you’d expect, USDA Prime, dry aged for 28 days and served sizzling in a hot pan, perfectly cooked, impeccably seared, with the deep flavor of fine beef.  Harry’s serves some of the best and most generously proportioned rack of lamb ($115 for two) around town, of a kind that makes you wonder why more Americans don’t appreciate our native lamb. Roast chicken with green beans amandine ($27) is a very reasonable, very juicy alternative to the beef and lamb. The strozzapreti pasta with short rib Bolognese ($24) would make some of  the better Italian trattoria chefs in New York jealous.

    Apparently for a very long time now, beef Wellington ($48) has been one of Harry’s top-selling items (left), though it is one I usually shy away from because the pastry crust is never as crisp as it should be and the interior beef gets steamy. But Peter urged me to try it and I’m glad I did. It will never be among my favorite dishes, but this was a well-crafted version and I trust it will stay on the menu for ages.
    Just as much attention is paid to side dishes like hash browns ($12), French fries ($10), a confit of fingerling potatoes ($11) and fat tempura-fried onion rings ($11) with just the right ratio of batter to sweet onion.
     Harry’s desserts ($10-$15) are legendary for their taste and largess, from a warm Dutch apple crumble to a lemon meringue pie, but the signature item, for good reason, is a monumental presentation of Harry’s ice cream sundae, which comes with enough additions of crisp, crunchy, salty, sweet, luscious bites and pieces—not to mention a jigger of Abelour Scotch—to supply a vintage pharmacy soda fountain for an afternoon.
    I could spend paragraphs going on about Harry’s wine list, built up since 1972 with what were once new vintages that have now become historic ones, with plenty of trophy wines left among the good values from around the globe. The bar collects its own rare bottlings, and guests are invited to purchase and store them at the restaurant in their own personal chamber.
    Harry’s remains where it is and attracts the clientele it does because it caters to people who like to eat and drink with gusto and depend on Harry to deliver everything with the same quality and bonhomie as ever.  Not even the horrors of 9/11 were able to snuff Harry’s out. Dusted off, cleared out, refinished and opened for business as soon as possible, it is still as much a beacon of New York endurance as any institution in the area. And it’s not moving anywhere else. 

Harry’s is open for lunch and dinner Mon.-Sat. 




Spain’s Abadia Retuerta Wins Renown
Without a Regional Appellation

By John Mariani


    The Iberian Peninsula has produced wine since prehistoric times and its Port and Sherry were long valued in the British trade market, after centuries of being made in bulk. But it was not until the 1970s that Spanish table wines took on much interest outside of sangria, and only after Spain’s entrance into the European Union in 1986 were the country’s wine regions classified into 17 autonomous appellations by the Instituto Nacional de Denominaciones de Origin.

    And that was something of a problem for the estate of Abadia Retuerta, which built its winery in 1996, twenty miles from the city of  Valladolid.  The problem was that all of its 1,750 acres—500 planted as vineyards—lie outside the official Ribera del Duero appellation and therefore cannot print that appellation on its label.
    “It was a little bit frustrating at the very beginning,in the 90’s because we did not have an appellation to facilitate our international distribution," says General Manager Enrique Valero (left). "Vega Sicilia is 5 miles away from us and belongs to the Ribera del Duero appellation and we were Vino de la Tierra. Now almost 30 years later we have developed our own Pago (terroir) wines and we are very proud of the personality they have and the international recognition they have gained thanks to a very consistent way of working  that respects the Duero soils and the climate conditions in one of the best parts of Spain to produce top wines. Time has demonstrated we were right."   

        Over dinner in New York, Valera explained that “Even though we’re on what is called ‘the Golden Mile,’ we have had to distinguish ourselves wholly on the quality of our wine, not our location. We’ve only been planting since 1996 and can only call ourselves a Vino de la Tierra; but in 2005 our Selección Especial 2001 won the International Wine Challenge in London as the world’s best red wine.” That deserved a toast.

    If not quite so soon, it might have been expected that Abadia Ruerta would compete well in the European market, for when the Swiss multinational pharmaceutical giant Novartis purchased the property, it brought in consulting enologist Pascal Delbeck, proprietor of the illustrious Premier Grand Cru Bordeaux Château Ausone, who was given the money and technological carte blanche to create a completely modern facility, which uses a state-of-the-art gravity flow irrigation system.  The vineyards are planted with Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot, and the wines are aged in combinations of stainless steel, French and American oak.

    “The good thing about being outside the Ribera del Duero DO,” said Quintana, “is that we can use drip irrigation if needed.”  He went on to say that climate change and global warming have affected the way the grapes are grown and harvested. “We’ve also thought about starting to grow other grapes, which we can do outside the DO. So there are several advantages to our location.”

     Indeed, the location has allowed the estate to build a deluxe hotel and spa called Le’Domaine, contained within an abbey founded in 1146 by Premonstratensian monks, who were originally from France. Swiss-Italian architect Marco Serra did a total renovation of monk’s cells into intimate bedrooms, with the hotel opening in 2012, retaining much of the abbey’s decorative features and sculpture.  The Sanctuario Spa covers 10,000 square feet and offers “oeotherapy treatments” recommended by a “spa sommelier.”

    Over a dinner of Italian pastas, I tasted the current Selección Especial from a 2014 vintage (bottles dating back to the first vintage are still available for sale) and found it a remarkable Spanish wine with Bordeaux levels of flavor, soft tannins and, even so young, very pleasing to drink and only likely to get better over the next five years. At about $26 to $30 a bottle it is justly a contender against the rest of the best Spain has to offer right now.

    Sorry to say, most of Abadia Retuerta’s wines are sold directly to restaurants, but a check of pulled up a good number of wine stores around the U.S. that carry the wine. One of these days I’d like to drink the wine with dinner after a oenotherapy treatment at Le’Domaine, but for now it’s good to know I can find the wine on American soil.




Toronto-based Sweet Jesus Ice Cream is facing boycotts from a Christian organization call An Citizengo over its name for being "blasphemous." “Choosing the name of our Lord for a brand of soft-serve ice cream is totally offensive and revolting,” says the petition’s creator. “Both in their promotional materials and menu selection, it is plain to see that [founders Andrew] Richmond and [Amin] Todai have every intention of mocking Christ and Christianity." A disclaimer on the company's website contends that the name “was created from the popular phrase that people use as an expression of enjoyment, surprise or disbelief,” and that Sweet Jesus does not intend to “offer commentary on anyone’s religion or belief systems. After a lot of thought, we have decided that we will not make a change.”


Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President and coordinator of efforts to fight the opioid epidemic, told the Generation Next forum in Washington, D.C.,  that college students could avoid addiction by indulging in junk food instead of  opioid drugs.  “On our college campuses, your folks are reading the labels, they won’t put any sugar in their body, they don’t eat carbs anymore,” said Conway. “They’re very, very fastidious about what goes into their body. And then you buy a street drug for $5 or $10 and it’s laced with fentanyl, and that’s it. So I guess my short advice is, as somebody double your age, eat the ice cream, have the French fry, don’t buy the street drug. Believe me, it all works out.”



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.


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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