Virtual Gourmet

  October  28,  2018                                                                                            NEWSLETTER

Founded in 1996 



MIAMI, Part One
By John Mariani


By John Mariani

By John Mariani


Part One
By John Mariani

Three Restaurant

    Finding good restaurants on Miami Beach isn’t easy, and a lot of the real excitement is on the Mainland, particularly around Wynwood and downtown.  Curiously enough, modern Cuban restaurants are almost impossible to find outside Calle Ocho, but the best new restaurants take full advantage of the bounty of farms and sea that surround the city.


1331 Brickell Bay Drive
Photos by Miami Chefs

      The best new restaurant—opened last spring—I found downtown was happily very much in the Latin style, though not Cuban, and looked it. With its wide expanse of windows overlooking Biscayne Bay and its subtle modulations of white and light blues, the room seems to be floating on water and the dishes arrive looking like sea anemones or floating flowers.
    Carlos Garcia is proudly Venezuelan, as is his sous-chef, Estafania
Andrade (who is only 23), and just about everything I tasted was teeming with their personalities.  You can tell when a chef creates a dish he wants his guests to love, not just admire, and the color and presentations are simply gorgeous.
    My meal began with something called “Vuelve à la vide” ($12),  which means “return to life” after a hard night of revelry. It’s often the name of a soup but here it is a shrimp escabeche with avocado and crisp shredded chicken arepas called “reina pepiada,” named after Venezuelan Susana Dujim, who was Miss Universe in 1955. Yellowtail kingfish of exacting freshness was served in the Peruvian tiradito sushi style ($17), with pineapple-flavored rum and a soffrito paste with crispy kale. Of so many favorites on the menu I was bowled over by a millefeuille of yuca and bacon with sautéed foie gras ($37) of very fine quality.
    There is a section of pasta and rice that includes a wonderfully al dente corn and avocado risotto ($22).  Among the seafood was a grouper confit ($32.), similar to a Spanish pil-pil’s creaminess, with a fried arepa.

y now you can readily see that there’s nothing predictable on Obra’s menu, including a generous dish both luscious and homey of bone marrow and a traditional Venezuelan stew ($30).     Dessert was a Venezuelan flan called quesillo ($12).
    If you're going to Miami this season, Obra is not to be missed.

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



50 NW 24th Street

Photos by Open I Studio

    Most of those Miami chefs who created the so-called “New Floridian (or Floribbean) Cuisine” have either decamped or abandoned the genre they made famous.  One who has not is Norman Van Aken (left), who first distinguished himself back in the ‘80s at Louie's Back Porch in Key West, then went on to open a series of restaurants that still show why he is one of the region’s most innovative and respected chefs. (He’s also a first-rate harmonica player.)
    The name of the restaurant, set within Wynwood Arcade, has several connotations: There are three principal partners and three “endeavors”—the Cooking School (below, right), the Rooftop No. 3 Social cocktail lounge (right) and The Restaurant—and three is a sacred number “
representative of past, present and future and is considered the number of harmony, wisdom and understanding.” Whatever.
    That Rooftop starts thumping after nine o’clock, but the dining room below is a far more sophisticated and glowingly lighted space, with an open kitchen and counter.
    Van Aken and Chef de Cuisine Juan Garrido are doing a dazzling job of showing what Floridian Cuisine can and should be in 2018, albeit with some Asian inflections. Sometimes there’s too much happening on the plate, and eliminating at least one ingredient wouldn’t hurt a bit.  But by and large each ingredient does  make itself apparent beyond just looking good. Thus, first-rate hamachi is subtly enhanced by a mango aguachile of lime and chile peppers, Sichuan cucumbers and a Peruvian cream of black mint called huacatay.  Chilled royal red shrimp get a boost from tomatillo-green apple salsa and smoked Japanese red caviar called ikura.
    One of the best and homiest items is the creamy cracked conch chowder with citrus-flavored saffron, star anise and coconut milk, which is the essence of Florida flavors. Asparagus huancaina comes with smoked egg, crispy yuca, gem lettuce and preserved citrus, while grilled papaya “al pastor” is a marvelous mélange of foie gras, radicchio, agave and pickled mustards seeds.
    Sort of simple—meaning it takes real skill to produce—is the escabeche of spiced yellow jack with a coconut creamed kale and smoked carrots.  Florida grouper swims with Cedar Key clams, salt-baked turnips, grilled cucumbers, dill relish and Meyer lemon for a very tangy dish. A chicken is poached and served with grilled trumpet mushrooms, artichoke gargoyle and tarragon cream.
    A delicious rice dish, arroz calasparra, made with a Spanish rice, came with a  black garlic soffrito, tender grilled squid, salt cod and roasted pepper conserva you’d hope to find on a Caribbean seashore. Barbecued cabbage with hoisin, yuzu kosho, a crush of citrus zest, garlic, chile, and salt with a decided acidic edge and cress salad was pleasant enough, as was grilled saddle of lamb with roasted peaches, favas and Sea Island red peas.  Slow-roasted short rib was, as expected, falling from the bone, with a plantain miso, preserved peppers, guasacaca (form of Venezuelan guacamole) and aji Amarillo jus—all flavors that belong together to complement the rich meat.
    There is a plate of cheeses ($15)—none from Florida when I dined—but you’ll want to see how Pastry Chef Mame Sow is right in tune with Van Aken’s style in desserts like the corn pudding a nicuatole with corn ice cream and almond mole ($12) and Miami mango roulade with lemongrass ganache, rice crisp and an olive oil cake ($12). Three is not the last gasp of Floribbean cuisine; it is the cutting edge of a genre that van Aken helped create


Open Tues.-Sun. for dinner. Sun. for brunch.




By John Mariani
Interior photo by Eric Laignel
Food photos by Melissa Hom

448 West 16th Street (near Eighth Avenue)


    New York’s Chelsea Market is a warren of food shops and eateries where you can find pretty much everything and anything. Just wandering around it is half the fun. Now a new place that is an offshoot of one in NoMad has taken a space as both a café and a furnishings-kitchen store named Blackbarn.
    It’s a very pretty place, brightly lighted, with the goods arrayed in the entry room (you can apparently buy many of the utensils, glassware and linens used in the café) and the spacious dining area overlooking the street.  It’s casual in the most unaffected way, although the pillowed banquettes’ backs are set so far back from the table that you have to slouch down on them like a pouty child for back support. The wicker chairs are quite comfortable, the noise level moderate, the lighting buoyant and there’s a counter at the open kitchen.
    Chef-owner John Doherty (right), who looks a lot like either a young Tommy Lee Jones or the main character actor in "Bette Call Saul," has been a pro in the New York restaurant business since the late 1980s, mainly as the long-running executive chef overseeing all the food service at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, beginning at the age of  19 and becoming executive chef at 27. (Oh, the stories he could tell!) He left that job a decade ago and two years ago opened the first Blackbarn on East 26th, a much larger, much louder restaurant than the Café, with a longer menu.  At the new branch, opened last December, Doherty has re-fashioned the menu along the idea of “healthy eating,” a moniker that makes me wince, simply because I don’t know of any foods that are un-healthy if consumed in reasonable amounts.
    Nevertheless, Blackbarn’s menu is heavily dependent on vegetables and grains, with most of the proteins saved for the main courses. The results, I’m happy to report, are impressive on every level.
    Let’s pretend it is a vegetarian restaurant for a moment, in which case those so inclined to such a diet will be as thrilled as I was by Blackbarn’s mushroom toast spread with Robiola cheese, Taleggio, Parmigiano and watercress ($15), and the smoked eggplant hummus with roasted vegetables, fried plantain and gremolata ($16). The charred Brussels sprouts salad with apple butter, roasted red onion, apple and jalapeño chutney ($16) was a big hit at my table of four, as was a stack of fat Portobello mushrooms atop a polenta cake with crispy kale, roasted carrots and frisée lettuce ($17).
    Doherty adds crunch and creaminess, smoke and sweetness to most everything, so the pan-roasted artichoke hearts with hen of the woods mushrooms, eggplant hummus and tahini-lemon dressing ($17) marry well together in a very hearty dish.  The white pizza with truffle oil, porcini and sweet caramelized onions ($18) is something the whole table will gobble up fast.
    All portions are generous, with main courses even more so, from Spanish octopus with a black bean puree, zucchini, a touch of chili and gremolata ($19). For the decidedly non-vegetarian there is a hefty New York strip streak doused with garlic and served with asparagus, buttery fingerling potatoes, baby onions and an assertive salsa verde ($25). It’s like a more flavorful version of carnitas and remarkably modest in price. Only a chicken Milanese with arugula, green beans, asparagus and balsamic dash ($20) was run-of-the-mill.
    All the desserts ($9) we tried were homey and good, including chocolate crèmeux with rich vanilla mousse (right); almond cake with an autumn cherry compote; forbidden black rice pudding with passion fruit mousse and pineapple compote; and a terrific rum-laced, butterscotch-lavished bread pudding with vanilla ice cream and toffee sauce.
   Blackbarn’s wine list is disappointingly limited both in scope and labels, but the prices, averaging about $64 a bottle, are welcome indeed.
    Blackbarn Café is trying hard for all the best reasons to be a very good, very economical, very comfortable restaurant, and even if sticking little “GF” (gluten-free), “VEG” (vegetarian) and “V” (vegan) symbols next to each dish may be a little too “PC” for the omnivore, just ignore them and have a wonderful night out in Chelsea.  You may even take home some forks and knives or place mats on your way out.

Open daily from 11 AM-9 PM.




What’s Too Hot, Too Cold, Just Right for Wine

By John Mariani


    I have drunk enough 80 degree red wines in overheated apartments and enough ice cold, headache-inducing white wines to know that many people’s idea of the right temperature for a wine is woefully misguided. 
    They go wrong in swallowing the shibboleth that red wines should be served at room temperature and white wines stuck in an ice bucket for an hour. Wines at those extremes will be robbed of their flavors and nuances.
    Like Goldilocks’s porridge, wines have an optimal temperature based on common sense and a long history. Ever since man began making wine, about 7,000 years ago, he has looked for ways to preserve its flavor and soundness for as long as possible. Nomadic desert people like the Israelites drank new, unaged wine carried in animal skins. And, since intense heat is wine’s enemy, Mediterranean people aged their wine in thick pottery jugs called amphoras (right). Later, wines were stored below ground in cool stone cellars with a constant temperature. To serve red wines at “room temperature” is ridiculous, if an air-conditioned dining room is set at 75 degrees.
    A wine cellar in Paris (like La Tour d'Argent's, left), London or Brussels is usually located in the basement and year round remains at an ideal temperature of about 55 degrees, perfect for proper aging. An additional 10 degrees over that will double the speed of the aging process, without the benefit of slow, proper aging. All finesse will disappear.
         At  many restaurants wines are stored in a temperature-controlled wine cellar; when a wine is ordered, it is brought up to the dining room: pinot noir is served at 58-60 degrees; cabernet sauvignon and merlot at 65 degrees; an oaky California Chablis or chardonnay will be chilled in an ice bucket to 50; a white wine with less oak, closer to 45 degrees. Champagne and sparkling wine will be poured at 40 degrees.
        You need not worry too much if your glass of rosé enjoyed poolside, or out of an ice chest at the beach, isn’t at an ideal temperature, but well-aged red and white wines need a good deal more care, especially if you’re bidding on rare wines at auction.
        Red wines age faster at higher temperatures but may develop chemical compounds that give the wines flabby, cooked or jam-like flavors, while white wines near freezing develop high deposits of white tartrates (right), harmless and tasteless but wholly unappealing in a wine bottle.
    Upscale restaurants usually have some kind of refrigerated wine units—many proudly display them, with hundreds of bottles arrayed—but restaurants with thousands of bottles often keep them in storage houses.
      Sommeliers will often insist that many Americans still complain their white wines are too warm. Unfortunately, some guests want their white wine ice cold. I feel more comfortable with whites at 50 degrees, although Champagne is best at 40.
        If a restaurant serves its red wine too warm, it is a telltale sign of negligence and improper storage. If so, ask the captain or waiter to stick the bottle in an ice bucket for five minutes.
    So, too, white wines served from a dripping ice bucket will be bone-chillingly cold after 30 minutes, so ask them to take it out and put it on the table.
Assuming most people don’t have temperature-controlled cellars, the cost of converting one can be either nominal or extravagant. In my house, the cellar’s natural temperature never gets above 75 degrees in summer or below 55 in winter, which is fine for most bottles; my expensive, long-aging wines are kept in a refrigerated 50-bottle unit.




“It must really annoy the owners of The White Bull, a new Decatur restaurant, when other spots call themselves hyper-local. These guys infuse Georgia ingredients into everything they serve, from the butter (made with Sweetgrass Dairy cream) to the pasta (milled in-house with Georgia red wheat) to the green goddess dressing (prepared with local herbs).”—Allison Weiss Entrekin, “The 22 Best Restaurants in Atlanta,” CondeNast Traveler (Aug 2018).

In Oceanside, California, a restaurant called Wrench & Rodent Seabasstro Pub serves health food and beverages called "Social Lubricants."



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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