Virtual Gourmet

  JULY 28,   2019                                                                                            NEWSLETTER

Founded in 1996 


Ingrid Bergman and Ernest Hemingway at Jack's Restaurant, San Francisco,
in 1941,  prior to her agreeing to star in "For Whom the Bell Tolls"


By John Mariani


By John Mariani

By Geoff Kalish


By John Mariani

Photo by Gerry Dawes

    Tordesillas is not likely to show up as a prime destination for most tourists in Spain, but in its own way, both historically and in character, it is a calm waystop between larger towns like Valladolid  and Burgos, with Madrid a two hours’ drive to the south. With only 9,000 residents Tordesillas is a pleasantly quiet place that gets some tourists on weekends, and market days draws a crowd to the center. You can walk for blocks through the narrow streets and not meet more than a few people along the way.
    The Romans built a bulwark here along the Douro River, and Alfonso XI built a palace on the site in 1325;  it was here that The Catholic Monarchs signed the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494 that set the Line of Demarcation dividing the globe between Spain and Portugal for future colonization. 
    You enter Tordesillas over a Gothic arched stone bridge, park your car wherever you can find a spot, and then just begin to wander its lovely streets. The farther in you go towards the beautiful Plaza Mayor, with its 17th century colonnade and arcade, the more local people you’ll find shopping in the old food and clothing shops. The small 16th century Church of Santa Maria is but a few steps away, wedged into place, along with several other churches, including San Juan, San Pedro, Santiago, and San Antolín, this last, dating to the 15th century, now holding a museum of religious artwork of the area.
       The Convent of Santa Clara, near the river, is a striking example of 14th century royal architecture (right), once palace to Alfonso XI, later a nuns’ residence. Sadly, it was here that Joanna I, daughter of Queen Isabella and Queen of Castile and Aragon, was imprisoned by her father, Ferdinand II, in 1509 and kept in the convent by her own son, Charles I, until her death in 1555.
    The winding streets leading to the river are lined with new cafés and bakeries, and at every turn you’ll meet a saint’s statue or crucifix. There is also a statue of a raging bull, the animal central to the controversial annual Torneo del Toro de la Vega, in which horsemen drove a bull to a meadow across the Douro, slaughtered it with lances, cut off its testicles and paraded them on a spear through the town. I have neither seen nor wish to see something as senseless as this, however traditional the event is, and am happy the town’s mayor banned it in 2016.
    Tordesillas has many good hotels, not least the sprawling El Parador (left) across the river (Ctra. De Salamanca; +34 983-770-051), set within woods whose pine trees slant gracefully toward the sun.  Its Castilian architecture and Doric columns are distinguished, its garden beautifully landscaped, and it’s a welcoming place for families, with a heated swimming pool, sauna and gym. I hadn’t the chance to dine at the award-winning restaurant, but it is as lovely as the rest of the property. 
    The two best restaurants in the area are El Torreón  (
Av. Burgos-Portugal 11; +34-679-155-046) and two doors away Alquira (at number 15; +34 983-77-0640). The former, here for more than four decades, is a flamboyant place with an equally flamboyant chef-owner, Jeremias de Lozar, a big, ever smiling exponent of the good life as he sees it. Everything is big, from the fiery open grill kitchen to the padded armchairs to the portions of food; tablecloths are thick, wine glasses ornately etched, the china gilded, the artwork eclectic, the walls red, the historic ceiling gold; there are heraldic motifs everywhere and cow’s hides hung about; and there is a carving of giant wooden hands holding a mound of sea salt. Everything is created to make the guest a little giddy, and no one leaves El Torreón hungry.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Photo: Gerry Dawes
    As is customary in Spain, pa amb tomàquet, a toasted piece of bread with tomato spread on top, opens the meal. There are also freshly cooked potato chips, warm mixed vegetables and cheese patties with peppercorns (6€). Those were merely first bites. Next came translucent carpaccio of beef with foie gras, shavings of cheese and chopped pickles (16.50€) . More foie gras follows, this time with a reduction of raisins as a sweet foil (28.50€).
    The table filled up with portions of well marbled, very rare beef served with perfectly ripened tomatoes and onions (23.50€); and tender lamb riblets with red peppers and tiny nubbins of garlic (23.50€). For dessert was a simple dish of vanilla ice cream with a cinnamon wafer (6€).
    The wine list is a paean to modern Iberian viticulture with prices for every budget.
    De Lózar, in his leather butcher’s apron, will be bringing the food, pouring the wine, making sure all is okay with your meal. And he’ll probably tell you your next meal should be at his sons’ place next door.
    As vocal and operatic as de Lózar is, his sons, Cristobal, Adolfo and Leo, are more genteel, quietly passionate but no less devoted to their guest’s pleasures at Alquira (left). The dining room and brightly lighted open kitchen are as restrained as El Torreón’s are dramatic. As modern as it looks, the wine cellar downstairs is ancient and well worth a look-see.
    I left our meal in the young men’s hands and began with luscious, barely cooked sea scallops (right) with their coral in their shells (20€), then simply grilled calamari with a verdant mayonnaise and dusted with plankton powder (19€). Flaky merluzo (hake) was grilled juicy with a judicious amount of garlic (21.50€).
    For dessert there was a flan made without milk, only eggs, so it was exceptionally rich, and a dish of puff pastry filled with whipped cream.                                    Photo: Gerry Dawes
    Alquira also serves the family’s beef, but if seafood is your wont, it is every bit as delicious as the meats, and the brothers are obviously very proud of that kind of balance.




By John Mariani

Photos: Matthew Mancuso
2 Kirby Plaza
Mt. Kisco, NY

    One of the best things about New York City is that it stops at the northern edge of The Bronx and has never intruded, as in so many newer cities, into what was once countryside and now is more mundanely referred to as the suburbs.  Westchester County to the north is itself home to large cities like New Rochelle, Mount Vernon and Yonkers, all with their own urban problems, but the farther you head up the Hudson and Harlem lines of Metro North, the more the frantic pace of the city recedes away from towns like Mount Kisco, which was incorporated as a village in 1875.
    It was once a cliché to say that restaurant options in ‘burbs like Mt. Kisco were usually second-rate versions of similar restaurants in Manhattan. But Locali, which is handily located within the Mt. Kisco train station, proves that the right owners with a commitment to a high level of quality and service both pays off and gives them bragging rights as one of the best Italian restaurants north of the city.
    It’s a great-looking room, appointed with dark red brick, tile floors, dark wooden beams, evocative black-and-white railroad photos, a handsome bar and bright red banquettes. Locali is a very handy place to get a pizza or other take-out food if you’re coming off the train, but it’s a familial spot to dine as well, with a service staff that gets to know the neighbors.
    The pizzas are very good indeed, with a dozen options ($13-$21). The crusts are both pliant and crisp, with nicely charred bubbles of yeasty dough beneath very fresh-tasting toppings that range from a basic "Queen Margarita" (with “New Canaan olive oil”) to a spicy Calabria with ‘nduja and jalapeño, and a Gladiator pizza with egg, tomato and bacon.  I recommend ordering one for the table, if you’re going to have pasta and a main course next.
    I sampled three out of the six pastas ($17-$21), all generously portioned, from a hefty plate of garganelli with a veal, beef and pork ragù; linguine with clams in the shell and with plenty of garlic (as requested) and chili flakes; and luscious eggplant ravioli with a fine marinara, citrus-garlic oil, pecorino and basil.
    In so many Italian restaurants, main courses are sometimes an afterthought, but you wouldn’t want to miss the flattened, crispy Milanese-style pork chop with greens, capers and pickled shallots ($26) or the 24-ounce short rib with polenta, sweet-sour gremolata and a delicious salsa verde ($28). If you prefer seafood, the kitchen knows well how to treat branzino grilled over a woodfire, making the skin crispy while leaving the interior very juicy, served with a summer pesto of basil and tomato, potatoes, herbs and lemon ($26).
    There’s Nutella pizza ($15) for dessert, but the tiramisù ($8), chocolate budino pudding with hazelnut crunch and whipped cream ($7) and ricotta cheesecake ($8) are better choices. The warm olive oil cake gets its real flavor from sun-dried orange peel and a citrus sorbet ($8).
    There are 12 wines by the glass and 16 beers at the well-stocked bar, but the wine list is only adequate, with a weak handful of whites and a very safe selection of reds, though the management is smart to keep the prices per bottle largely under $50.
 Is Locali worth a drive from Manhattan? Very much so, if you combine it with a lovely afternoon in Westchester County’s lake country and Hudson Valley. And, if you live in Westchester, you may find Locali a first choice among Italian restaurants north of the city.

Open daily for lunch or brunch and dinner, except Monday.






By Geoff Kalish

Rodney Dangerfield in  "Back to School" (1986)

    À la Rodney Dangerfield, “some wines just don’t get no respect,” particularly whites best suited to sip poolside or seaside with the likes of cheeses like brie and camembert, crudités, pretzels, chips and dips of guacamole, hummus or salsa. Not that these wines can’t accompany a meal, especially one dominated by seafare, but they are generally not wines to ponder or pontificate about—rather to quaff and just enjoy.
    Also, while generally well-priced, many of these “super sippers” are often overlooked, because they are less well known than their more elegant (and much more expensive) cousins like Chablis, Sancerre and Chardonnay. So, rather than just settling on a rosé, here are some whites to sip when wearing a bathing suit. Although there are more than a few light, innocuous Portuguese whites available that seem like bargains on store shelves and restaurant lists, many are bland and dull and best used for Sangria. However, I can recommend the following three bottles as perfect to mate with poolside and/or seaside hors d’oeuvres.

The 2017 Herade do Rocim Mariana Branco ($14) is named for Mariana Alcoforado, thought to have written the classic book Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun, and grapes for this wine (60% Antao Vaz, 30% Arinto, 10% Alvarinho) hail from the Lower Alentejo region in southern Portugal. It shows a bouquet and taste of ripe melons with a hint of pineapple and notes of lemon in its smooth finish.

The 2018 Fita Preta Branco ($22) was made from a blend of hand–harvested Antao Vaz, Roupeiro and Arinto grapes grown in the schist soil of the southern Alentejo region. It has a bouquet and taste of ripe citrus fruit with notes of honey in its long finish.

The 2017 Esporão Reserva White ($20) is a blend of Antao Vaz, Arinto and Rouperio grapes from the Alentejo region. It shows a Sauvignon Blanc-like bouquet and taste of grapefruit, lemon and a touch of honey in its crisp finish.

Also, often overlooked are the fragrant whites from the area surrounding Lake Garda in northeastern Italy. Two of the best are the 2017 Benedictus ($24) from Le Morette that’s made from Turbiana grapes grown on a single vineyard and has a bouquet and taste of toast and pears with a crisp finish; and the 2018 Eufrasia ($23) from Sgreva,  also made from Turbiana grapes, that has a bouquet and taste of  ripe honeydew melon with a soft, lemony finish.

Although many top-quality German Rieslings are too full-bodied and/or too sweet to just sip with food, the 2018 Nik Weiss St. Urban’s-Hof Dry Mosel Riesling ($21) has a bouquet and crisp flavor of ripe pears, honey and lime with a zesty finish that mates perfectly with salsa and other spicy hors d’oeuvres.

And fans of summertime seafare favorites Sancerre and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc  (often too full-bodied to sip on their own), should try the light, organic 2019 Domaine Bosquet Sauvignon Blanc from Argentina ($22) that has a bouquet and mild taste of grapefruit and spice, with a crisp, refreshing finish.

And while Cantina Montelliana is better known for its highly acclaimed full-bodied Asolo DOCG Proseccos, they produced a 2018 Treviso Prosecco Frizzante ($8) with just a bit of fizz and a taste of vanilla and lemons that’s perfect to pair with seafare or as an apéritif.





Breaking Bad's 
co-stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul are now marketing a new mezcal brand called Dos Hombres, which they call "real, artisanal Mezcal made by hand in Mexico."



“This paper highlights the social significance of humor in everyday interactions with food within families and related household contexts. The paper approaches humor in relational terms, emphasizing its role in negotiating the way power is exercised within the moralized context of 'feeding the family.' Having reviewed previous work on the social significance of humor, the paper provides some examples of food-related humor from recent research with British food consumers, illustrating what such occasions reveal about participants’ relations with each other, with us as researchers, and with the food they consume. Specifically, participants were found to use apologetic and self-deprecating humor to negotiate the moral ambiguities of food and to cover potentially embarrassing situations; to express familiarity and disgust regarding their current consumption practices; and to excuse potentially shameful behavior or guilty pleasures. The paper argues that an understanding of the 'background disposition' through which consumers make sense of their multiple encounters with food is critical to the analysis of food-related humor and that ethnographic methods are particularly adept at revealing the social context in which humor occurs.”—Peter Jackson, "Taking humor seriously in contemporary food research," Food, Culture & Society (2019)


 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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