Virtual Gourmet

  December 30,  2018                                                                                            NEWSLETTER

Founded in 1996 



By John A. Curtas


By John Mariani

By John Mariani


Part Two
By John A. Curtas

Jerry Colonna circa 1957

    Spring Mountain Road— what the locals call Chinatown—has been a hotbed of Asian eats since 1995, continuing to draw fans of everything from Korean barbecue to sushi to pho parlors. But in the past year, two decidedly non-Asian places have taken the neighborhood by storm, and, like Commodore Perry sailing into Tokyo Bay, the westerners have arrived and they're not going away.


4480 Spring Mountain Road
Photos by Sabin Orr

    Chef/owner Brian Howard's Sparrow + Wolf began the transformation last year when he opened his woodsy-scented, cozy gastropub to great acclaim in the vacated space of an old Vietnamese restaurant. His menu, like the community in which he is located, is all over the map, with more than a nod to his pan-Pacific surroundings. It begins with a house-made charcuterie platter with seasonal pickles and from there directs you to oysters topped three ways—with pineapple mignonette, a cucumber granité and a gelatinized yuzu pearl. These accents change seasonally but never fail to hit the spot.
    Howard references Chinatown with his clams casino (right), baked with an uni hollandaise. Roasted beets come under a tangle of endive, pea shoots, shaved fennel, sheep’s milk blue cheese and “bird seed” (black sesame seeds), while “Butcher Wings” come coated with a burnt-tomato ‘nduja vinaigrette. Chinese-style dumplings are stuffed with beef cheek meat and bone-marrow, and, just to show he’s at home in many arenas, Howard bathes a chunky filet of toothsome halibut with Alabama white barbecue sauce.
    Nowhere is this complicated cooking more rewarding than in his Campfire Duck, gorgeous slices of duck and foie gras resting on dark earthy shreds of wood-ear mushrooms, accented by sharp bites of salted plum in a duck-bone broth. It appears at first to be trying to do too much, but the flavor explosions in your mouth are a sign that a neighborhood culinary revolution is in the process.



3839 Spring Mountain Road

          A mile down the road lies Partage, a haute bistro unlike any Chinatown (or Las Vegas) has ever seen. When chefs Yuri Szarzewski, Vincent Pellerin and manager Nicolas Kalpokdjian (below) came to the United States in 2015, they had a dream. They wanted to bring healthy French food to Las Vegas. And they did, first with their casual EATT Gourmet Bistro a few miles away, and now with a more upscale (but still very laid back) place in a shopping center more at home with nail salons and noodle shops than croque monsieurs and cru Beaujolais.
    Partage means “sharing” and the menu encourages you to do just that. Twenty small-plate options are offered, each amounting to no more than two to three bites of headliners like halibut ceviche (disguised to look like dragon fruit), or a perfect meaty scallop swimming in a dashi broth with seaweed chutney and steamed leeks.
    As good as those are, the real stars of the show are the crispy salmon croquettes, and the squid “risotto”—the risotto in this case being finely diced squid bound together by a barely there pesto—a dish filled with flavor that doesn't fill you up. If it’s richness you’re after, Szarzewski has you covered. His sweetbreads are a godsend for lovers of those morsels of thymus, accented by lotus root and a smooth tonka bean cream.
      But for pure decadence, nothing beats his oxtail croque monsieur (left): long-simmered meat, slicked with bone marrow, served between three batons of the world’s most luxurious toast. Large format fans can tuck into big cuts of 18-ounce rib eye or a 32-ounce tomahawk steak—smoked with either hickory, applewood, or hay (your choice!).
    In keeping with the “healthy French” theme, sauces are kept to a minimum. Not to my taste, exactly—the roast whole duck, Duroc pork, and sea bass en croûte suffered from a lack of liquids, but the presentations are in keeping with how modern French food is evolving these days.
    For dessert, Pellerin’s rolling cart is not to be missed. Whether he’s doing a baba au rhum (injected at table with the high-proof spirit), profiteroles, or a flaming baked Alaska, every one of his classics is hand-tooled and as tasty as anything on the Strip. Pastry chefs are an endangered species these days and it’s great to have a local one working his sweet magic in two restaurants every night.

1130 S. Casino Center Boulevard

    Spring Mountain Road may be having a cross-cultural awakening, but downtown Las Vegas has been undergoing a renaissance of its own for half a decade. Ground zero these days is the Arts District—several square blocks studded with bars, antique stores and suddenly an infusion of really good food. Leading the pack is Esther's Kitchen—open less than a year and now so popular an empty seat is harder to find than a Mario Batali fan. What began with Carson Kitchen four years ago, took a giant leap forward in early 2018 when chef/owner James Trees opened this 80-seat space just off Main Street. Instead of joining the overdone American gastropub craze, Trees goes full Italian, bombarding you with antipasti, verdure, pastas, and pizzas straight from a Roman’s playbook. He even throws in a fish of the day (always worth it), brick chicken (a crowd favorite), and slabs of porchetta.
      As a veteran of the Los Angeles restaurant scene, Trees knows how to grab a diner’s attention. His spaghetti pomodoro, chitarra cacio e pepe (with pecorino cheese and black pepper), bucatini all’amatriciana, and rigatoni carbonara are handmade and portioned to elicit ohs and ahs for their perfection of pasta porn. My favorite, though, is his radiatore with black garlic, lemon, and cream (left)—a palate-coating belly bomb of the best kind.
    Pizzas are far from standard issue either, with beautiful charred cornicione, good cheese and always a surprise or two in the topping department, like salty bacon with caramelized onions or Greek sausage and fennel. All of it amounts to American-Italian comfort food for the 21st century. It may not be like any Roman trattoria I’ve ever been in, but, with a significant cocktail program, amazing amaros, and a wine list where everything is $40 (by the bottle, not glass), it is a modern American version that seeks to do the same thing: feed its customers in a way that will have them returning again and again.

6020 West Flamingo Road

        Las Vegas upped its pizza game considerably over the past decade, but it wasn’t until Pizzeria Monzú opened this year that it had a true Sicilian superstar. Local restaurant scion Giò Mauro (of Nora’s family fame) took over the old Nora’s, and what was once old-school Italian-American now reeks of wood smoke, craft cocktails, and foodie cred. The room is big, bright, and airy; the tables are comfortable and well-spaced. High ceilings keep the noise level down to conversational levels and a small stage off to one side gives you a hint that live (and very good) entertainment will be in the offing. Those wanting upscale spritzers and gorgeous (all-Italian) wines by the glass won’t be disappointed, either. It might be the best short wine list in all of Vegas.
     Once you’re seated, you'll want to get the appetizers, all of them: squash blossoms stuffed with ricotta and mint, ascolane (sausage-stuffed) olives, stuffed chicken wings, agrodolce (sweet and sour) meatballs, and the brightest of all in this galaxy of six stars, the stuffed lemon leaves, which aren’t as much stuffed as they're skewered and grilled in leafy envelopes. Each order is enough for four, so a table full of these plates makes a meal unto itself.
     The only problem is, if you fill up too fast, you won’t have room for the main event: pizza alla pala. As big as a small desk and easily feeding four to six hungry adults, these big boys come in all sorts of combos. We’re partial to the Simple (crushed tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella), but the Regina Margherita gets a deeper sweetness from cherry tomatoes and a certain tang from buffalo mozzarella that’s as far from your average pizza slice as Godfather II is from Sharknado. No matter which one you get (though some of the combos are a tad overloaded for our tastes), you can’t help but notice the chewy, tangy, dense, and satisfying bread providing the foundation.
     This is serious stuff: long fermented dough from an ancient starter that shines on its own. It's almost a pity to cover up this toothsome crumb with toppings. They also offer large format proteins here: polpettone (giant meatball), grilled swordfish, and a 34-ounce rib eye Fiorentina, but you may be too busy grooving on the pizza to notice. If you insist, the Crêpe Lasagna, a.k.a. crespelle al forno, is a meaty, cheesy, béchamel delight.
      Anyone who doesn’t order Sfgini di San Giuseppe (fist-sized Sicilian doughnuts filled with sweetened ricotta) for dessert should be consigned to sleep with the fishes.


By John Mariani


Fulton Market Building
1 Fulton Street

    The restoration of the area once known as the Fulton Fish Market and the upgrading of the South Street Seaport has brought encouraging vitality to a neighborhood that can now depend on a local clientele living in the Financial District. So the implantation of a high-concept Italian design boutique and restaurant makes good sense.  Opened only two months now, the restaurant buzzes after six p.m. with a  bar crowd while the dining room is building a reputation as a place to eat fine Italian food.
    The 10 Corso Como brand began in 1990, when Carla Sozzani, "a former fashion editor and publisher," opened a gallery in Milan. From there it has expanded globally to Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai and two in Tokyo. Usually such endeavors end up being cookie-cutter copies of one another, and all the 10CC designs are fairly minimalist, in black and white, with Op Art-style circle figures to fit with the Monaco font used throughout the graphics.
    The New York operation, with its own large design shop, echoes these motifs in the restaurant, with tables evoking Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings, chrome overhead lamps, and circular booths in dark gray. The bar looks like the inside of the flying saucer in The Day the Earth Stood Still, only much louder.
    All of this worried me that I was in for similar carry-over glitz out of the kitchen, but 10CC is in very good hands via chef Jordan Frosolone (left), whose résumé included Blackbird and NoMi in Chicago, with foreign experience in Spoleto and Florence. In New York he’s worked at Hearth as chef de cuisine, then at August as executive chef and director of operations as part of David Chang’s Momofuku group.  So he’s got a lot of wide-ranging experience that pans out well on 10CC’s Italian menu.   
    There is a section for small plates (I  piatelli) that are perfect after touring and shopping in the neighborhood, including first-rate, creamy vitello tonnato ($16), thinly sliced veal with tuna cream and capers, and a fine tortino of eggplant, parmigiano and mozzarella ($14).  Frosolone fries his fritto misto of seafood ($18) to an impeccable crispness.
    Every pasta of several we sampled was impressive for its authenticity, especially in the ideal texture for each shape and sauce. Gnocchi (above) with butter and sage ($16) had real potato flavor, while ravioli stuffed with spinach and ricotta in a rich bolognese sauce ($18) was immensely satisfying. Panzerotti di funghi ($18), which means “fat bellies,” of pasta stuffed with mushrooms was doubly delicious for including chestnuts and creamy mascarpone. Bigoli, a fat tubular type of spaghetti, had a true Roman dressing of cacio e pepe (pecorino romano and black pepper) so simple that its split-second cooking time was evident ($18). These are very fair prices, by the way.  There are also three risottos, and right now for the season the one to have is with autumn squash and mascarpone ($19).  If you insist on the extravagance of white truffles, the $65 price tag isn’t too bad compared with the $100+ tariffs elsewhere around town.
    Meatballs, without spaghetti (left) are a good, hearty  appetizer for two or more people. The osso buco (right) of braised veal shank with polenta and vegetable gremolata ($40) is particularly pleasing during  this cold weather, as are the lamb chops “scottaditto” ($23)—“finger burners” you pick up by the bone. A grilled branzino ($32) that night was the only disappointment among so many ravishingly good dishes.
    There’s little originality in the desserts, but you won’t be disappointed with the panna cotta with toffee sauce,  the lemon semifreddo or the tiramisù (each $10).
    The spirits list is exceptionally deep, as are the reds on the wine list, with all the big names like Solaia and Tignanello along with some smaller wineries, most at reasonable prices.
    Seen from the outside, 10CC’s over-the-top design elements might make you think it’s not a serious Italian ristorante. Get past the bar and I think you’ll be amazed.
    (Incidentally, good luck trying to navigate the hopeless website for basic information.)






By John Mariani

Rachael Taylor in "Bottle Shock" (2008)

    Among my favorite wines of 2018 I count those that gave me the most pleasure and satisfaction or enlightened me about regions or varietals I either thought I knew or didn’t know much about at all. Some of these included wines that were remarkably well priced for such high quality.  Indeed, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to gloat about old vintages of rare wines, many no longer available, costing hundreds of dollars.

 (All the following should be able to be found at any of the various Internet wine sites like

CHARLES HEIDSIECK ROSÉ RÉSERVE ($70)—My affection for rosé Champagnes grows whenever I drink a new favorite, in this case one in which 80% of the wines of the harvest are blended with one-third of each varietal used—Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier—while 20% of reserve wines from other years—seven or eight years old—are blended in equal proportions of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Then, they add 5% red wine to give more tannin to the blend. It is then matured for three years. The result is a very complex rosé with just the right body, effervescence and fruit to distinguish it from simple rosé blends. 

CHÂTEAU D’YQUEM 2005 ($250)—At a gala dinner in Bordeaux, this was the best wine of an evening mostly devoted to reds from the Médoc. A dessert of mascarpone with a confit of apricots and scented with verveine was accompanied by a Château d’Yquem 2005 Sauternes, as perfect as any wine I’ve ever had. The distinguishing mark of Yquem has always been the backbone of botrytis and oak behind the intensity of sweetness from a blend of 80% Semillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc. It proved again why it is considered one of the greatest wines in the world. 

ABADIA RETUERTA Selección Especial 2014
($26) —Over a dinner of Italian pastas, I tasted the current Selección Especial of this great Spanish estate from a 2014 vintage (bottles dating back to the first vintages of the late 1990s are still available for sale) and found it a remarkable 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. 

($23)—Vintner Gaetano Marangelli's flagship wine, with only 15,000 bottles produced, is the Pietra Primitivo Susumaniello , which I would rank with many of the finest red wines in Italy. If there were such a class as “Super Puglians,” this would be one of them. In this case, only the Primitivo is aged and only for six months in barrique. The Susumaniello does not spend time in oak at all and is only added to the final blend before bottling and aging four months.   It is a very voluptuous wine, and that crucial acidity balances the richness of the tannins and the exuberance of the ripe fruit. By not allowing it to age in oak for an extended period, the wine maintains an elegance it might otherwise lose.  At 14%, it has an ideal level of alcohol. 

JOEL GOTT PINOT NOIR 2016 ($18)— Joel Gott has a catholic approach to making wines through blending of grapes from California, Oregon and Washington, though largely from Santa Barbara, which enjoys cooling breezes from the Gabilan Range and Santa Lucia Mountains.  This means you’re not getting one of those hot, high alcohol western Pinot Noirs; instead the acidity keeps it of light to medium body with nice cherry flavors, at a fine 13.9% alcohol. Being aged mostly in stainless steel helps maintain its freshness before going into new and 2- to 3-year-old French oak barrels to tamp down the tannins.  

MATANZAS CREEK WINERY SAUVIGNON BLANC 2016 ($15)—Matanzas Creek in Santa Rosa has been making wine on what was once a dairy farm since 1997 (now under the Jackson Family group), and since 2010 winemaker Marcia Torres Forno has transformed the estate’s production of Sauvignon Blanc through new plantings and harvesting techniques. They now make five different bottlings from the varietal—highly unusual for a California winery—and the result is wines that are creamier and more refreshing without the cloying punch-like flavors of so many others.  I love this with grilled chicken or seafood during the summer, and it’s excellent paired with cheeses.  

SummuS 2014 ($80)—Made from grapes in the southern part of Montalcino, where stony, calcium-rich soil gives the wine its abundant mineral qualities, this is a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon (35%), Syrah (25%) and Sangiovese (40%)—the blend differs in percentage each year—which are first vinified separately, then transferred to French oak barriques, also separately, for 12-14 months. Only then are they blended and stored away for another 10-12 months and, finally, six months of bottle age. The result is a wine that explains its name—“the greatest”—within the Banfi constellation, for it is indeed a very complex wine.  This one I really do want to keep in my cellar for another two or three years before it reveals all of its finesse, its tannins soften and the fruit and acid come into ideal balance. 

ÉMILE BEYER PINOT GRIS TRADITION 2016 ($18)—As one of Alsace’s premier estates, dating back to the 16th century in Eguisheim, Émile Beyer has 42 acres of vineyards, one-third classified as Grand Cru. This is a Pinot Gris with good body, a pleasing 13.5% alcohol, and a decided sweetness of style with none of the acrid notes of so many Italian Pinot Grigios. It’s made to chill well and be served with melon and ham or with cheeses and fruit.  

SALUTA SALLIER DE LA TOUR LA MONACA 2015 ($40)—Sallier’s La Monaca, a 100% Syrah from the 2015 vintage, is their flagship wine with a production of only 9,000 bottles.  It has a huge nose, as one expects from Syrah, and a fleshy body with a bracing edge and a long, herbal finish. The name comes from the historical winery where it was first planted in 1993, so now, 25 years later, the vines have achieved a maturity that results in complexity.  At 14.5% alcohol, it is a mouthful, but there is great elegance about it that will age well in the next five years.

FÓRRA MANZONE ALOIS LAGEDER BIANCO ($30)—Alois Lageder is one of the very best winemakers in Europe, his estate founded in 1823 and still in the family, with biodynamic grapes from their own well-tended Dolomites vineyards as well as long contracted cooperatives. Though located in northern Italy, they speak German at the estate and the wine’s back label is in that language. The “IGT” means it is a wine made according to the Lageder blend, not in accordance with the DOC regulations, and you won’t find the grapes listed. "Fórra" means “narrow valley" and refers to a canyon in Adige. Made from a cross between Riesling and Pinot Bianco, the Manzoni Bianco grape was created in 1937 and is not widely planted. It has a good deal of weight at only 13% alcohol and a delectable aroma. 

BARON DE BRANE 2010  ($27)—Very rich, very supple, very layered, showing its Margaux appellation beautifully. The blend is 53% Cabernet Sauvignon and 47% Merlot, with no Cabernet Franc. The vintage was a dry year with cool summer nights that helped build up the aroma and phenolics. This is the second wine of Château Brane-Cantenac, a renowned second growth, overseen by Henri Lurton, and a very good price for a Bordeaux of this quality. It’s ready to drink right now.

MARQUÉS DE RISCAL RESERVA 2012 ($13)--An amazing bargain for a rich Spanish wine from one of its most highly regarded producers. A blend of Tempranillo whose grapes date by to 1970s vineyards, Graciano and Mazuelo, the reserva spend about two years in American oak, which makes this one of the benchmarks for a Rioja style followed throughout the region.





Presented by Chim Pom,
a Japanese art collective, Ningen Restaurant featured two weeks' of meals commemorating meals served to death row inmates before their execution, including that of  John Wayne Gacy (right), the party clown for hire and a serial killer who killed  at least 33 boys and young men in the Chicago area then  stuffed them in the crawl space of his home. Known as the "Killer Clown," he also managed KFC chains, and his request for his final meal was for fried shrimp, a bucket of original recipe KFC, french fries, and a pound of strawberries.


“Bonus tip:  Virtually all seats, whether reserved or for walk-ins, are backless stools. Also consider calling ahead if you plan on dining as a walk-in to gauge the wait, though be warned that phone calls are not always answered.”— Ryan Sutton, “Saint Julivert," (11/28/18)




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."

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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© copyright John Mariani 2019