Virtual Gourmet

  June 10,  2018                                                                                            NEWSLETTER


"Farm boys eating ice-cream cones. Washington, Indiana" (1941) photo by John Vachon


Part Two
By John Mariani


By John Mariani


By John Mariani


Part Two
By John Mariani

  It would take a while even to list the mediocre restaurants on Miami Beach, where second-rate branches of wheezing originals elsewhere replace anything even vaguely indigenous. So, on a recent trip I was very happy to find a few newcomers that are dedicated to rise above the ordinary.




1 Hotel

2395 Collins Avenue



    Puerto Rican-born José Mendin’s lengthy résumé includes the opening of Nobu Miami and Nobu London, and a stint in Spain, where he steeped himself in both traditional and modern Iberian cuisine. Upon his return to the U.S. Mendin helmed Sushisamba Miami Beach and a branch in Las Vegas, followed by Mexican concepts in Chicago and Miami.

      All these culinary influences inform the menu at Habitat, the first venture of Mendin’s Food Comma Hospitality Group, a large, rambling space that avoids looking like a hotel dining room by being broken up into a bar and lounge that leads to the rustic main dining area, as well as to a much-desired 60-seat outdoor patio.  There are also two private dining areas, The Tambourine Room and The Wine Lounge.

    The menu is ambitious, so the best way to gauge its range is to go with the seven-course tasting menu at $90, within which, thankfully, you’ll have some options, rather than those chosen solely by the chef. (Otherwise, à la carte prices are high.)

    From the raw bar comes first-rate cobia sashimi (right) graced with brown butter soy sauce, samphire, lime and “sea water” ($18,) and a bracing hamachi aguachilies with a lemongrass romesco, guajilla peppers, radish and cilantro ($22). The Florida stone crabs with a yuzu dijonnaise (market price) could have been larger and meatier.

    Ordering a mess of the small plates is a wise move. Intensely sweet Medjool dates are graced with a crema cabrales, almond powder and butiferra Catalan sausages ($14), while Mendin serves creamy mozzarella balls (left) with baby tomatoes, sweet melon, and basil ($16). Silky foie gras takes a salt cure well, served with tomato chutney and milk bread ($27).

    From the woodfire grill comes tender monkfish—a species often overcooked—with katsuobushi-flecked barbecue sauce, pickled fennel and radish (not cheap at $55), and a juicy, crisp-skinned baby chicken asado with aji panko and lime ($31).  Simply grilled, the langoustines are irresistible ($23). The skirt steak with shisho chimichurri is as good as any around town (but again, not cheap at $55 for ten ounces).

    Patricio Sanchez’s desserts include joyously decadent chocolate s’mores ($14) and “Habitat” ($13) of mint basil financiers, dulcey mousse, mango and coconut.

    Habitat’s success belies the notion that vacationers in Miami only want to go with the expected. Few restaurants around are doing food of this sophistication and global reach and fewer still with such flair and imagination based on wide experience.

Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Brunch on weekends.




Carillon Miami Wellness Resort

6801 Collins Avenue



  Set between the hotel lobby and the pool, with the beach beyond, The Strand Bar & Grill is a spacious, long room, about half of which is taken up with a swank, very comfortable bar with a serious cocktail program (drinks are $14). Although recently renovated and opened last Autumn, with soft, sandy colors, potted plants, banquettes, 1950s-style light fixtures and open kitchen, it still has the feeling of a hotel dining room serving three meals a day, but I enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere, and the tables so well set apart from one another. 

    Chef Patrick Ochs (left) follows an original chef who didn’t last out the year, and Ochs has added a few more of his own ideas to a menu he originally had a hand in, which is a mix of Floridian cuisine and an all-American cast meant to please any appetite. But there’s much you won’t find elsewhere on South Beach. 

    For the moment, the menu is broken into raw, one (appetizers), two (pastas), three (entrees), grilled, sides and desserts.  When I dined there this spring, the best of the first was the octopus with lightly smoked potato cream, olives, marble potatoes and smoked paprika vinaigrette ($27), and I loved the roasted foie gras with an apple soubise and a well-conceived hard cider gastrique ($28).  Carpaccio ($18) gains little by being wagyu grade; the provenance is not listed.

    Ochs goes just far enough in making his pastas all his own, adding fava beans, artichokes, cherry tomatoes and basil to spinach bucatini (right; $19), and braised rabbit, saffron, dandelion greens and charred peppers to garganelli  ($25). King crab fettuccine with a sweet-sour gremolata, tomatoes and lemon-herbed breadcrumbs ($27) was quite good, but the campanelle with foraged mushrooms gained nothing from insipid summer truffles ($21). (Caveat: the current website menu lists different pasta dishes than those described here.)

    The entrees are impressively simple: roasted chicken with asparagus, morels in a vin jaune reduction ($38), and a terrific smoked duck with English peas, carrots, luscious foie gras purée and baby onions ($32). Okay—but not as good as it might be were it made from American lamb—was a trio of New Zealand lamb items with smoked yogurt and za’atar ($38).  Branzino, now ubiquitous on American menus, took on added flavors from artichoke, eggplant, a confit of sweet tomato, and a zucchini sofrito ($32). One has to wonder why, beyond being expected, a farmed Mediterranean fish—as well as King salmon and Maine lobster—needs to be on a Florida menu. 
    The coconut panna cotta is the way to go with dessert (left).

    The short wine list is badly in need of expansion.

    I hope Ochs stays right where he is and gets to show more of his own talents, and I doubly hope the management can keep the menu prices as reasonable as they are.


Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Brunch on weekends.





By John Mariani


400 Fifth Avenue



    Ai Fiori does not mean “out of the fire” but “among the flowers,” and this enchanting dining room is Chef-owner Michael White’s finest tribute to la cucina italiana.

    That Ohio-born White has achieved so high a reputation among New York’s toughest critics would be remarkable had he come by his knowledge of Italian food only cooking on this side of the Tyrrhenian Sea. But in fact his study for seven years at the illustrious San Domenico in Imola, Italy, provided the ballast he needed to do what he now does so splendidly, equally well at Ai Fiori in midtown as at the seafood-centric Marea on the Upper West Side.

    True, White’s signature, via his Altamarea Group, is on far too many management contracts worldwide, including restaurants in London, Istanbul and Hong Kong, which he could hardly visit with any frequency, but in New York his high-end ventures and his lower-end Osteria Morini and Nicoletta pizzeria have a consistency that indicates he is a presence at them. 

    Ai Fiori is located up a winding staircase on the second floor of the Langham Hotel, so its separation from the lobby diminishes any sense of being a formulaic hotel dining room.  The entire staff also shows no signs of the usual forced attitude of hotel employees.

    A superb use of lighting and a tamping down of noise—the tablecloths are nice and thick—has made the dining room as ideal for a business lunch as a celebratory evening, and it’s packed every night, with a surprisingly large contingent of Asian visitors. All women guests dress well; most men make an effort.

    Rome-born Wine Director Alessandro Piliego oversees a 1,000-label wine list, with dozens of Champagnes, and the sophisticated Bar Lounge is always crowded. Unfortunately, you’ll look in vain for any white wine priced under $52 or red under $75, and even those are rare.

    Scott Schneider has been Chef di Cucina since June 2016, and he translates White’s ideas impeccably; his 4-course $108 fixed price menu is quite reasonably priced, especially since à la carte prices are very high, with pastas at $37 and too many supplements. (There are also a 7-course menu at $150 and a vegetarian menu at $125.)

    You’ll begin with very good bread and butter, and at my dinner this week an amuse of flawless fluke crudo with a cucumber pepinato set on a silver spoon. A nod toward French cuisine is the foie gras torchon ($30) that I found oddly without flavor. There is also a selection of caviars prettily arrayed on the plate (left).

    White’s pastas have always leaned towards being very rich and very satisfying—he does not stint on the butter, cheese and cream—the exception being a superb signature item, cavatelli with blue crab, lemon, bottarga roe and a shot of diced chilies. The agnolotti are big and each makes for two mouthfuls, stuffed with ricotta and mascarpone with sottocenere cheese from Veneto and a lushly reduced red wine glaze. Tortelli, filled with braised lamb, mustard greens, pecorino and fennel with a crack of black pepper, are more bite-sized and very good.  There is always a risotto; ours came with summer asparagus, chanterelles, prosciutto and Lagrein wine (right).

    I am not one who likes long waits between courses, but at Ai Fiori, they are rushing things. Our main courses arrived within one minute of the pasta courses being removed, before we’d even had a chance to savor another sip of wine.  They’re not kidding about the meaning of service à la minute.

    Nevertheless, there was a great deal to savor in main courses like the butter-poached lobster (left) with porcini, pea leaves, tarragon soubise ($46); the tender breast of duck with a sweet-sour mostarda, chicory and ripe blackberries ($44); and a roast saddle of baby lamb with al dente farro, squash and a salsa verde was a triumph of summery flavors ($48).

    Desserts, all $16, are of a kind all upscale Italian ristoranti are now serving, and Ai Fiori offers several beauties like a plum semifreddo on buttermilk cake, lemon crèmeux and ginger granita; an out-of-the-ordinary cheesecake tinged with lemon verbena, olive oil sided with a blueberry gelato; and a tarteletta almond cake with citrus foam and a pomegranate-tarragon sorbetto. Still, these desserts are so complex that it's not always easy to discern the main ingredient among the flash.
    I’m glad to see a fine selection of cheeses offered, three for $18, six for $29.

    I’ll give the espresso a “B”—when it should have been an “A+.”

    While I hate the idea of awarding stars—most food critics do—the fact that the Michelin Guide has never awarded Ai Fiori, now seven years old, more than a single star is consistent with its annual snub of the city’s Italian restaurants. (It was among my choices for Best New Restaurants of the Year in Esquire in 2011.) I would certainly put Ai Fiori in a higher firmament, for the kind of la cucina italiana it serves is available at no more than a handful of Italian restaurants in America.  While Marea may get more publicity for its seafood-centric menu, Ai Fiori has a far wider one to entice you.


Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.





By John Mariani


    Up until 1963, when it came to Italian wines it was hard to tell your Asti from your Elba. Before then, there were few rules or regulations even overseeing which wines were made where, much less what grapes were actually in any given bottle.

    Wineries with reputations to protect proudly listed their grapes and their origins on their labels, but even so, it was not really possible to tell if anyone was telling the truth.  To make matters worse, for centuries vintners really did not know what grapes were growing in their vineyards, because seeds of various grapes were self propagating—a situation called la coltura primiscua, or promiscuous cultivation.  Ampelography—the science of grape identification and classification—was not widely used until well into the 1950s.

    Then, in 1963, under the laws of the European Union, Italy had to identify and classify its wine grapes and regions, causing the Italian Ministry of Agriculture to create two designations for labels: D.O.C. (denominazione d’origine controllata: a denomination of controlled origin) and D.O.C.G., in which the “G” stood for “garantita” (guarantee).  It was a bureaucratic attempt to make sense of the maverick way Italians grew grapes and made wine, and it forced vintners to adhere to strict rules about which grapes must be used to make a particular regional wine like, say, Chianti in Tuscany or Taurasi in Campania.

    The appellations that resulted were remarkably comprehensive and allowed consumers to find out what they were actually drinking—a Barolo from Piedmont, a Bardolino from Veneto or a Marsala from Sicily.  The basic D.O.C. designation made no claims as to the quality of the wines, except to restrict the areas in which they could be made.  The D.O.C.G. was an attempt to recognize the finest wines from the finest regions of Italy and to guarantee them as such.  Originally, only five wines were so designated—Barolo, Barbaresco (both Piedmontese), Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (three Tuscans)—all made in northern regions. 

    The uproar from other regions was immediate, and, as things go in Italy, the bureaucrats’ response was to stick the D.O.C.G. appellation onto dozens of wines from all over Italy. The issue came to a head in 1986, when Albana di Romagna, a wine from Emilia Romagna few Italians had ever heard of much less tasted, was given a D.O.C.G.; from then on, a whole slew of mediocre wines have been so designated, including esoteric wines like Colli Bolognesi, Rosazzo, Offida,  Val di Cornia and many others. Some of those wines were made by only a handful of vintners in those regions.  Today there are an astounding 74 wines that hold a D.O.C.G.

    Even more of a blow to the integrity of the D.O.C. and D.O.C.G. appellations were pioneering and very independent winemakers like Marchese Piero Antinori (right) of Tuscany and Angelo Gaja (left) of Piedmont, who began making wines with grapes not sanctioned for D.O.C. status within a region.  From these producers came some extraordinary wines; in Tuscany they were marketed, with no official status, as “Super Tuscans” like Tignanello and Sassicaia. But, according to the Italian wine laws, they could only be labeled as lowest-of-the-low appellation, vino da tavola, “table wine.”

    Clearly, this was an embarrassment for the bureaucrats and an insult to the winemakers, whose new style wines were in any case winning international renown and making lots of money for the producers, without even a D.O.C.  As a result, the Ministry came up with the designation called Indicazione Geografica Tipica (I.G.T.), awkwardly meaning “an indication of geographic typicality,” but it still did not guarantee quality.

    It all remains a mess. Obviously, the Italian wine bureaucrats cannot designate an individual estate like Gaja or Antinori as a source of one of Italy’s finest wines, even if connoisseurs and the market recognize them as such. Instead, it seems the wine regulators threw up their hands and started tossing D.O.C.G. appellations to wines with little or no pedigree, just to satisfy the industry. Today there are an astounding 74 wines that hold a D.O.C.G.

    As a result, while a D.O.C. on the label at least tells you the wine is made from grapes grown within an approved region and according to traditional methods, the D.O.C.G. no longer tells you much of anything at all.  If you should ever run across a bottle of Rosazzo, made in the province of Udine, or Colli Euganei Fior d’Arancio from Padua, drink it and make up your own mind about its quality.  I daresay you’d have trouble finding a sufficient number of different bottlings to compare in a tasting. You may well find you love the wine and wonder why it’s not better known; or you may think the stuff is plonk and wonder how the wine ever got a D.O.C.G.

    The way things now work, you’ll get little help from the bureaucrats in the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, who seem far too busy rubber stamping the labels of obscure wines from regional producers who protested loudly enough to obtain a once-coveted, though now discredited, D.O.C.G.




Fudgie the Whale, a Carvel ice cream cake marketed under the slogan “For a whale of a dad”  is now available through Father's Day as a stout beer with  “hints of Carvel chocolate," called Fudgie the Beer.




Action movie actor Vin Diesel has been  accused of stealing a glass dish from an ice cream shop in Hartford, Wisconsin, while in town visiting family.  According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Diesel allegedly visited Scoop DeVille, where he ordered a hot fudge sundae with nuts and whipped cream in an old-fashioned tulip bowl and left the shop with the dish. Owners Carrie and Ray Stelzer told the outlet that he’s welcome to keep the dish as a souvenir.



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.


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


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