Founded in 1996
Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell in "Ground Hog Day" (1993)
IN THIS ISSUE
JERUSALEM: A NEW CULINARY MECCA
By Geoff Kalish & Jack Spinak
NEW YORK CORNER
By John Mariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
FINE SPARKLING WINES
FOR ST. VALENTINE'S DAY
By John Mariani
The 21st century has witnessed a
culinary revolution in Israel. For example,
while 30 years ago street food in
Tel Aviv was primarily pita bread filled with
falafel, often cooked in
frequently re-used oil, on a recent visit to Tel
Aviv’s historic Rabin Square,
we ate kosher poke—bowls brimming with rice or
quinoa and slices of raw tuna or
salmon, topped with fresh greens and a tasty
sesame-based sauce. And the area
is now chock full of numerous small storefronts,
each featuring food ranging
from cronuts, to wood-fired gourmet pizzas to
hamburgers and, of course,
classic Israeli salads (a mix of diced cucumber,
tomato, onion and parsley
doused with oil and lemon juice).
(Prices listed are based on a U.S. dollar at the current—and fairly stable—rate of 100 shekels equals $27)
Open Monday through
Saturday for dinner with service into the wee
hours: expect dinner for two to
cost a very reasonable $100-$120, not including
wine, tax and tip.
Like Shanty, this restaurant
located just outside the ancient walls, but
sitting atop the Mamilla Hotel.
This open air, very popular kosher dining spot
overlooks not only the old but
the “new” city, providing memorable views from all
dining areas, albeit on the
rainy night we were there a plastic enclosure
decreased the magnificence of the
And there’s a choice of creative salads, like a mix of fresh sprouts and herbs, almonds, sun-dried cranberries with strips of crispy tortilla and a pomegranate vinaigrette. We accompanied the meal with a light, raspberry-scented 2014 Evitar Syrah from Israel, and for dessert we shared a decadent chocolate tart, filled with peanut butter crème on top of which was poured hot salted toffee, playfully listed as “Snicker” on the menu.
Open daily for lunch and dinner (with special Friday night and Saturday lunch cold “Shabbat” menus); expect dinner for two to cost $120-$130, excluding wine, tax and tip.
4 King George Street
Located down a pathway off King George Street, on the outskirts of Independence Park in Jerusalem’s “city center” area, this establishment has a New York Upper East Side vibe, with dining on a covered outside patio or around a large, crowded, semicircular bar and an open kitchen. The fare from a daily changing menu can be described as New York Steakhouse meets an Israeli chef—Eran Peretz—with appetizers like crispy calamari and artichokes served with a Moroccan-spiced aȉoli and smoked eggplant topped with tahini, accompanied by a tomato salad, as well as typical oven-roasted cauliflower served with not so typical goat cheese labeneh.
Main courses of note were a sliced charcoal oven-roasted ribeye steak for two, and a whole charcoal oven-roasted sea bass topped with green salsa.
For wine we chose a Clos de Gat Syrah that had the bouquet and taste of plums and cherries with notes of apricot in its finish.
Desserts range from homemade pistachio ice cream to tiramisù.
Of note, our only complaint with this establishment was the very long wait between the appetizers and main course.
Open daily for dinner and lunch on Saturday; expect dinner for two to cost $140-$150, excluding wine, tax and tip
4 Ha-Eshkol Street
Located in the Iraqi Section of the Mehane Yehuda market, often referred to as “the shuk,” this kosher breakfast and luncheon spot is a favorite with local foodies. They do have a phone, but reservations are not accepted. But the wait is worth it to dine at this storefront site inside a small, non-descript rectangular room with red-and-white-checkered tablecloths or at tables outside the restaurant along an alleyway.
Along with the thick bread and hummus, notable choices were the Kurdish-inspired sweet and sour kubbeh soup, with beef-infused semolina dumplings and a beetroot broth (left), as well as the eggplant Azura, the vegetable grilled and topped with a thick layer of ground beef, pine nuts and a tomato-based, cinnamon spiced sauce The thick beef goulash (right) was like Jack’s grandmother from Safed used to make.
10 Beit Ya’akov Street
As opposed to Azura, this very popular non-kosher restaurant accepts reservations via phone or an on-line booking site. But to get one at a reasonable time for dinner takes booking at least two months in advance, which we did, and during the height of the tourist season (around Christmastime), as they say in Brooklyn, “fuggetaboutit.”
It’s located on a side street near the Mahane Yehuda market in a casual space that features an open kitchen and upstairs balcony, with walls lined with wine bottles whence at least a partial view of the kitchen is afforded most tables. As to the food, it’s sublime, a mix of the fare of many different global areas with a bit of updated spicing and cooking techniques.
And, as advised by the friendly yet very professional waitress, the way to go is to share. So we did, with appetizers of a decorative mix of three varieties of tomatoes, labeneh, arugula and a tangy vinaigrette called a Bandora Salad; an order of tuna sashimi topped with pomegranate and pistachios and dabs of crème fraîche; a large octopus tentacle served with sweet potato and zesty chimichurri glaze; shikshukit, tahini and yogurt atop ground kabob beef seasoned with a hint of cinnamon; and the piéce de résistance, a jar filled with truffle-flavored polenta mixed with earthy mushrooms and topped with slices of parmesan.
Main courses were orders of lamb T-bones with lamb crumble, pumpkin and labneh, as well as a dewy fillet of sea bass atop a mélange of vegetable and a tomato-based sauce.
We enjoyed a bottle of Galil Brut sparkling wine that had a floral bouquet and taste of apples and strawberries, and for dessert we shared a rectangular tin filled with rich Bavarian cream coated with gooey toffee, and a take on the British Banoffee Pie as a slice of creamy cheesecake, with a graham cracker crust, topped with toffee and a whole banana (left).
Open nightly for dinner and daily for lunch except Saturday; expect lunch or dinner for two to cost $120-$130, excluding wine, tax and tip.
NEW YORK CORNER
By John Mariani
3 Hanover Square (off Old Slip)
a civilized ambiance, attentive service,
generosity of spirit. It seems such virtues once
associated with good restaurants have been
replaced by cramped, naked tables,
ear-shattering noise, a “who-gets-what?”
attitude and portions of food the size of a shoe
Open for lunch and dinner Mon.-Fri.
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR❖❖❖
St. Valentine’s Day, A Good Sparkling
long ago won the image battle for
bragging rights about sparkling wine, but
just in the past decade a number of
countries have produced excellent bubblies
that can vie with much more
expensive Champagnes for St. Valentine’s
Day. Here are several.
de Codorníu Brute Rosé ($14)—Codorníu was
one of the first to proudly show that Spanish
cavas could be first-rate
sparklers at a very decent price. This
charming rosé, in a distinctive white
bottle, at such a good price is made
from 70% Pinot Noir and 30%
Chardonnay, and according to the Champagne
method, emerging as a well-aged,
citrusy, floral wine that begins and remains
refreshing on its own or with
The owners of Paris’s first nudist
restaurant, O’naturel, will close in February, 15 months after opening,
offering a three-course menu for $57.50. Owners Mike and
Stéphane Saada, who are not nudists, posted on
Facebook: “We will only remember the good times.”
ARTICLES WE NEVER FINISHED READING
"How Restaurants Are Working to Destigmatize Menstrual Products: By offering free tampons and pads in bathrooms, operators are creating more inclusive spaces" by Naomi Tomky, Eater.com (1/8/19).
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.
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.
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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.
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❖❖❖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, ForbesTraveler.com 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
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
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