Founded in 1996
Marcello Mastroianni in "Marriage Italian Style" (1964)
IN THIS ISSUE
STAYING AND DINING IN LAUSANNE
By John Mariani
NEW YORK CORNER
By John Mariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
By John Mariani
STAYING AND DINING IN LAUSANNE
By John Mariani
The Hotel Royal Savoy
Photo: Robert Miller
It would actually be difficult to find a dining room table in Lausanne that does not have a glorious view of Lake Leman and the Alps. Certainly, restaurant and hotel owners know how to take advantage of this, one of the most romantic vistas in Europe.
(Prices below are in Swiss francs, which at the moment are nearly at parity with the U.S. dollar. VAT and service are included.)
Rue du Grand Chêne 7-9
+41 (0)21 331 31 31
The grand Belle Epoque building and garden take up a lot of ground in the middle of the city, yet the hotel has only 140 rooms, with 44 suites. Opened in 1915, it has long served as the official hotel of the International Olympic Committee and has a large complement of business travelers who appreciate the quiet ambiance and privacy afforded them.
La Brasserie Grand Chêne, serving classic Parisian fare and plats du jour, is open throughout the day, and the Bar 1915 and Havana Cigar Bar are as popular with locals as with visitors. La Côte Jardin is a Mediterranean restaurant with a wonderful verandah, and Sushi Zen—unusual for a Lausanne hotel—is considered one of the city's finest Japanese restaurants.
But the hotel’s
most illustrious restaurant is La Table d’Edgard (below), under
Chef Edgard Bovier and
young Chef de Cuisine Andres Arocena (he’s from
the Basque country and worked
under Martin Arzak). The menu is Iberian and
Mediterranean, beginning with
bite-sized tapas of jabugo
ham and ricotta with truffled parmesan; pissaladière
flatbread with an aïoli, and an unexpected Indian
pastries of juicy beef cheeks confit. Lobster “primavera”
comes with fresh peas and stuffed zucchini flowers
Everything had the brightness and freshness of dishes obviously made à la minuit, and, over a ten-day visit to Switzerland, this was one of the finest, most inventive dinners I had.
menus, a prix fixe at CHF78, a “Mediterranean Sun”
dinner at CHF145 and a
“Signature Menu” at CHF185. (Wine pairings
available at extra cost.)
HOTEL ROYAL SAVOY LAUSANNE
41 21 614 88 88
Opened in 1909, the Royal Savoy, done in a spirited Art Nouveau style, was bought in 2009 by Qatar-based Katara Hospitality and underwent a much-needed five-year renovation, to re-open in 2015 with 196 rooms, indoor and outdoor pools and spa, so that it is now as up-to-date as any hotel in Europe. For years the Spanish royal family stayed there while in exile; these days everyone comes and goes as they please.
The Brasserie du Royal is composed of four connected dining venues, all featuring the food and wines of the Vaud region. The Lounge Bar and Lobby Bar are pleasantly secluded and open for breakfast and all-day dining, and in the Sky Lounge international cuisine is offered from noon till midnight.
The Brasserie du Royal’s signature fine dining restaurant is overseen by renowned Strasbourg chef Marc Haeberlin, of Auberge de L’Ill, with a menu that evokes many of the famous dishes of that longstanding three-star restaurant. You approach the restaurant through a hall leading to a temperature-controlled vitrine, where Executive Chef Sebastian Cassagnol proudly shows off the grass-fed beef and meats aging for up to four weeks, which includes tenderloin, prime rib, veal flank and Angus ribeye.
You then enter a room in soft colors of gray and beige, the lighting fairly low. My wife and I chose a menu that began with scallops and leeks and creamy risotto with truffles, foie gras and butter—an exceptionally rich dish very much in the Haeberlin style. Our main courses included Swiss beef and a chicken breast with a “carbonara” of celery. Dessert was a strawberry tart with almond cream and a scent of tarragon with strawberry sorbet; and a preserved “Pear Haeberlin” in a Champagne zabaglione and pistachio ice cream (right).
By the way, the wine list at the Brasserie is rich with Swiss bottlings. Sommelier Vincent Planche says that “Out of 270 different wines on our list, 70 percent are Swiss and 70 percent of those are from the local Vaud region.” The hotel also uniquely offers a “Vintage Lavaux” package that features an excursion to a local Lavaux vineyard, a picnic lunch with the winemaker and a wine and chocolate pairing. The one-night package starts at CHF1,220 for two people.
Chemin de Beau-Rivage 21
+41 21 613 33 33
The Beau Rivage is one of Lausanne’s oldest grand hotels, dating to 1861, and its impressive straddling of the waterfront gives its colonnaded terraces glorious views of the passage of time and light on the lake and mountains throughout the day. You may dine on these terraces at lunch and at twilight, which is particularly romantic as the skies turn myriad shades of orange and violet. The great lobby, with its huge marble columns and vast corridors connecting the hotel’s wings, is as impressive as any in Europe.
All the rooms were renovated between 2012 and 2014 by interior designer Pierre-Yves Rochon in soft pastels with careful placement of mirrors.
The hotel has an extensive array of children’s activities too, from a treasure hunt to pastry making and a tour of the hotel behind the scenes.
breakfast, I did not have a chance to dine at the
Beau Rivage, but it is worth
noting that their main dining room is under the
helm of noted French chef
Anne-Sophie Pic (right),
whose own restaurant in Valence has three Michelin
chef de cuisine is Paolo
Boscaro, who has earned two stars for Beau Rivage.
There is a business lunch
menu at CHF95, an “Emotion” menu at CHF260 and a
Pic Collection at CHF350.
TOUT UN MONDE
Place du Village 7
Just fifteen minutes from Lausanne, in the Vaud wine country that rambles in terraces down to the lake, is a darling small restaurant named Tout un Monde hovering above the vineyards on a kind of promontory in the little village of Bourg-en-Lavaux. Chef Yohann Magne cooks very much from the provender in the area in a lovely dining room enclosed by glass, all kept running with simple grace by partner Celine Gsponer. It’s an ideal getaway from the city and a chance to visit a vineyard and then have a lunch that is guided by what those estates provide.
We had a leisurely lunch there, beginning with little pastry balls with baby spinach called malekoff, followed by a risotto with lake trout and a surprising sprinkling of popcorn. Boutefass was a hearty sausage of pork, carrots and herbs with potato gratin, and there was an equally homey rabbit stew with polenta. Dessert was a cold coconut mousse and a classic poire Belle-Helene. There are daily specials at lunch with recommended Lavaux wines.
Menus are à la carte, with main courses averaging CHF45, with a set menu at CHF59.
NEW YORK CORNER
By John Mariani
Photos by Dan Krieger
The idea that a chef or restaurateur should always be in his restaurant has for years been dismissed as out of touch with the way the industry now works.
Thus, chefs like David Chang and Jean-Georges Vongerichten have joined the ranks of TV celebs like Giada de Laurentiis, Bobby Flay and Guy Fieri in simply signing management contracts, then going on to the next one, while international steakhouse chains like Smith & Wollensky, Ruth’s Chris, Palm and Del Frisco’s open unit after unit with little more than a commissary game plan and chefs whose names you’ll never hear. The name on the door in no way indicates that person will be within a thousand miles of the restaurant.
Ken Aretsky (left), as owner of Aretsky’s Patroon, which vies for the same carnivorous clientele as a slew of established New York East Side steakhouses, put his foot down, quite literally, by committing to being in his restaurant on a daily basis.
Aretsky has been in the game for a long time now. Starting in his family’s restaurant supply business at 16, he opened his own successful restaurant Truman’s on Long Island in 1971. Eight years later he opened Oren & Aretsky’s on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, attracting a considerable sports star clientele. Next came the New America-style restaurant Arcadia with chef Anne Rosenzweig at a time, 1983, when there were virtually no women chefs in New York. He then did a ten-year stint as CEO of the ‛21’ Club, and afterwards opened Butterfield 81.
When the space that was previously a gritty, old-line steakhouse called Christ Cella became available in 1995, Aretsky and two partners took over the townhouse, naming it Patroon, after Dutch gentry who founded Manhattan. The first chef was Geoffrey Zakarian; the Times gave the restaurant three stars.
Ten years later Aretsky and his wife, Diane Lyne, bought out his partners and attached his last name to Patroon, “under the assumption that my earlier restaurant history might bring some additional customers.”
Now, on any given night, he knows at least a third of his guests, whom he cordially greets and schmoozes with. To add to the familiarity, maître d’ Stephane Legouill has logged 22 years at Patroon.
Given his longevity in a tough industry, Aretsky is considered by peers as one of the masters of form and substance. Always impeccably dressed—and it must kill him to allow men to be seated without jackets—Aretsky fits well among his clientele and knows what they expect, which is neither novelty nor pandering, and the restaurant’s décor of brown leather banquets, polished wood and classic black-and-white photographs of New York looks as fresh today as when Patroon debuted.
The restaurant maximizes its three floor-structure. The main dining room is on the first floor, private rooms on the second (a cigar bar is history), and on the third an open roof space (right). “Although there is overlap, the rooftop bar attracts a young, professional clientele looking for more casual after-work fun,” says Aretsky. “The ability to offer a slider and a cold beer under the summer skies, or in the cozy enclosed winter roof, is an advantage over the other restaurants you mention. The roof also offers the best al fresco lunchtime dining during the summer months, as we are up two stories from the sidewalk, so we offer a bit more of a respite than the usual outdoor scene.” Proximity to the U.N. doesn’t hurt either. And on Fridays there is a prix fixe dinner with live jazz, which appeals largely to a neighborhood clientele.
Originally, the menu was in the sacrosanct mold of New York steakhouses, like nearby Palm, Smith & Wollensky and Spark’s—none of them known for warmly greeting new customers. Aretsky realized that in such a competitive market, “Getting the food right is common sense, but getting service and the experience right is the utmost important factor in running a successful restaurant.”
Today seven-year veteran chef Aaron Fitterman’s menu slants away from the steakhouse template. You might begin with an array of both East and West Coast oysters, but there are also unusual additions like chicken and foie gras meatballs with apple and Calvados chutney ($15) and arancini rice balls with uni and a jalapeño jelly ($18). Among recommended appetizers, I often order the foie gras torchon (left) with strawberry, ginger and pistachio on brioche ($25), and the crab cake contains plenty of jumbo lumps, with a dressing of lobster tarragon aioli ($23).
Kudos to the kitchen for using American lamb for its rack with smoked eggplant, goat cheese polenta and grape tomato ($59), and I know of no New York steakhouse that has a confit of suckling pig on a nightly basis; here it comes with a mustard spaetzle, guindilla pepper and apple cider jus ($46).
In the New York market all the principal contenders can rightly claim they buy the best Prime beef available, and Aretsky’s Patroon is clearly in the big show. Its 40-day dry-aged ribeye not only has the enormous, mineral-rich flavor that distinguishes great aged Prime but also the perfect searing, carved tableside with pommes soufflé, tomato harissa jam, mushroom jus, grilled baby gem lettuce, black olive vinaigrette and massive marrow bones. It’s priced at $163 for two, but no other steakhouses in the area gives you even a single potato with their ribeye.
The menu also features crisp roast duck with cashew-apricot wild rice and grilled scallions ($49), and for seafood there’s steamed black cod with carrot dashi, soba noodle and enoki mushrooms ($42), and a two-pound smoked lobster Americaine with buttered pommes fondue and spinach ($78). So, too, Dover sole (below) gets an accompaniment of a butter-braised leek & roasted tomato tart ($72), so you’re not really going to need any side dishes, though it’s hard to turn down the spinach and lobster gratin with leek and tumbleweed cheddar ($16).
Desserts go well beyond the cheesecake-and-pecan-pie formula, including a chestnut torte with dark chocolate, whipped panna cotta, spiced white chocolate and pear sorbet ($14) and a Creamsicle baked Alaska (for two) with pistachio cake, buttermilk ice cream, tangerine sorbet and Grand Marnier ($21).
you go to Aretsky’s Patroon, you’re going to
get a steak as fine as any in New
York and better than most anywhere outside of
it. But these days you get a good
deal more, not least the kind of hospitality
that is still, sadly, missing in
so many other places that are far less
Mon.-Fri. for lunch and dinner.
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLARRAMON BILBAO SALA CALAS
By John Mariani
Back in the 1990s the wines of Rioja were a game-changer in the way the world perceived Spanish wines, after decades when most being exported were indifferently blended reds without vintages, along with commercial sangria poured over ice.
Early in the 20th century phylloxera devastated vineyards, then came the Civil War and World War II, and modern viticutural techniques like stainless steel took time to appear in Spain. By the 1960s the industry was rebounding and expanding, though many of the tintos (reds) were blends without vintage dates until well into the 1990s and more than 30 cooperatives made the abundance of Spanish wine. In fact, it is still legal to use up to 15% from another vintage from the one listed on the label.
Probably the only name known to serious wine lovers that would rank with the best French and Italian wines back in the late 1980s was Vega Sicilia, a single estate that later acquired a Rioja appellation.
Rioja, which received DOCA status only in 1991, is now Spain’s leading wine region, with three zones. Bodegas Ramon Bilbao is located in Haro, within the prestigious La Rioja Alta region, spread over 185 acres, with vines averaging 35 years of age. The vineyards are never irrigated, largely non-trellised and hand-harvested. The grapes are 80% Tempranillo with various amounts of Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano, and spend time in stainless steel, concrete tanks and oak barrels that are 60% American and 40% French. Production averages 365,000 cases per year.
Rodolfo Bastida (above) has been Technical Director and General Manager of the Bodegas, and has assembled a team with women in top positions—Sara Buñuelos as Technical Director and Rosana Lisa as Director of Innovation and Deputy Technical Director.
I had the opportunity to interview Bastida over dinner at New York’s Aretsky’s Patroon restaurant, where a massive, well-seared ribeye was the perfect accompaniment with Ramón Bilbao’s big red wines. But first we enjoyed an Albariño, a sprightly white wine (not a Rioja) with fine minerality and acidity, usually poured at tapas bars.
Bastida explained, “Albariño is best known in Galicia,” to which it was probably brought by French Cluny monks as of the 12th century. “The word means `white’ (alba) and `Rhine’ (riño), and is thought to be a clone of Riesling. It grows best in a granite soil, so you get those flinty flavors that make it so refreshing.” Ramón Bilbao’s Albariño sells for only $13.
He also poured a delicious Bilbao Lalomba Rosé ($50), the result of a singular early harvest in 2015 with a very hot summer. “The name means ‛the hill,’ and it’s a single vineyard rosé made from 90% Garnacha and 10% Viura [a Rioja name for the Macabeo]. The high acidity gives it a long life you don’t often see with rosés.”
Bastida was born in Rioja, attained a degree in Technical Agricultural Engineering, a Master’s in Viticulture and Oenology and a Master’s in Business Management. He first worked in an experimental winery in the Cariñena region, then at Domaine Breton before joining Bilbao in 1999, when he innovated growing in higher altitude vineyards than is usual for Tempranillo, which Bastida says gives the varietal more complexity and finesse without losing the boldness that characterizes Riojas.
He says that, “Winemaking can be like painting. You can use a big brush and a big pot of one color to obtain something that’s pretty bland and uninteresting. Or you can use a small brush, with lots of small pots of different colors to give character and complexity.”
He has also witnessed how global warming is rapidly changing the way viniculture will be pursued in the future. “My grandfather used to pick 25 days later than we do now,” he said, indicating that the grapes get to full ripeness much earlier than they used to.
The Rioja Gran Reserva 2011 ($40), made from 90% Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo, is big, sensual, voluptuous, yet it has only 14% alcohol. I told him it is the Penelope Cruz of Spanish wines.The grapes go through cold maceration and fermentation over eight days, then a final nine days of maceration on the skins, then racked from the stainless steel vats and placed in American oak barrels for 30 months. After bottling it spends an additional 36 months aging.
One of Bilbao’s more unusual wines is called Mirto, meaning “myrtle,” made from 100% Tempranillo. We sampled the 2014 vintage ($65) and one from 1999 (Bastida’s first, no longer available), about which he waxes poetic: “We feel the beat of things from the heart. We pump our dream, now converted into wine, from our stock into your glass. A wine inside, from the deepest part of our homeland, from what truly moves us.” Maybe so, but what I tasted were two very beautiful wines with their own character.
The 2014 harvest went very well, with grapes showing heterogeneous ripeness. It spent 19 months in new French Allier oak casks and was bottled without any fining or filtering, which certainly explains the rich, deep character. The 1999 had aged impressively, and still is evolving, tasting of wine whose every element of tannin, fruit and acid have melded into an intense velvety rush that envelops the palate and lasts a long time in the finish.
Despite its output, Ramon Bilbao wines have achieved an international reputation and sell a good amount in the U.S. and a small amount in China. I asked Bastida if China was going to be an expanding market for Spanish wines. Like many vintners I’ve asked the same question, he shrugged, wary of all the vagaries of cultural differences and economic forces in constant flux. “I will tell you this,” he said. “The U.S. buys wines and drinks them; the Chinese buy prestige wines to show off and the rest to drink with ice cubes and Coca-Cola.”
a badly kept secret among us coddled, gouty,
52-columns-a-year restaurant critics that we fear and
avoid the lengthy, fine-dining tasting menu. No fact
sends onlookers into more effervescent conniptions.
But it’s not that we’re ungrateful for, say, our tiny
amuse-bouches of blow-torched mallard lamella with a
12-hour Izumo Province nori reduction, or its delivery
under cloche with all the rapidity of Julie
Walters serving up two soups. No, it’s just that we have to do that
kind of thing a lot, and it’s often done badly: too
pompous, too many petals, too few carbs, not a lot of
laughs."--Grace Den (left),
Guardian (March 2019).
EXCESS NO. 4,557
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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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
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