Virtual Gourmet

  January 17,  2021                                                                                            NEWSLETTER

Founded in 1996 


Jack Nicholson and Shirley MacLaine in "Terms of Endearment" (1983)


By John Mariani




By John Mariani


By John Mariani






By John Mariani


         Like much else in contemporary society, the food media are trying to right wrongs in the way they are staffed and what their focus will be in the future. The result has been an admirable number of new appointments with an eye towards diversity. Last June the staffs of Bon Appetit and Epicurious (whose parent company is Condé Nast) co-published “A Long Overdue Apology, and Where Do We Go From Here?” after the resignation of Bon Appetit editor-in-chief Adam Rappaport (below, 2nd from right, with staff) when a “deeply offensive” photo of him “mocking Puerto Ricans” in costume appeared in the news. 
        “We have been complicit with a culture we don’t agree with and are committed to change,” said the apology. “Our mastheads have been far too white for far too long. As a result, the recipes, stories, and people we’ve highlighted have too often come from a white-centric viewpoint. At times we have treated non-white stories as ‘not newsworthy’ or ‘trendy.’... Black staffers have been saddled with contributing racial education to our staffs and appearing in editorial and promotional photo shoots to make our brands seem more diverse. We haven’t properly learned from or taken ownership of our mistakes. But things are going to change.”
        Indeed, within two months, Bon Appetit appointed a black woman, Dawn Davis (right), as the food publication’s new editor-in-chief. Davis, when a vice president at Simon & Schuster, founded Inkwell Book Club online, celebrating Black authors. Before that, she had been the publisher of HarperCollins imprint Amistad Press, “devoted to multicultural voices.”
        Many other media, including The New York Times, have scrambled to recruit female, Black and Asian editors and writers in an applaudable attempt to diversify their food staffs, which will increase attention on international foods that might once have been written about by white authors with no connection to the traditions of a country’s food culture. But in their urgency to distance themselves from past errors, some media are adopting highly questionable, politically correct assertions that contend there is only one way to make a particular dish and the only person to write such an article must be verifiably from a particular region where everyone makes that dish a specific way.
        David Tamarkin (left), the white digital editor of Epicurious, made his own mea culpas recently “after a lot of consciousness-raising among the editors and staff” by admitting that in the past, "We have purported to make a recipe ‘better’ by making it faster,  or swapping in ingredients that were assumed to be more familiar to American palates, or easier to find . We have inferred [sic] (and in some cases outright labeled) ingredients and techniques to be ‘surprising’ or ‘weird.’ And we have published terminology that was widely accepted in food writing at the time, and that we now recognize has always been racist.”
        As a result the staff went through a trove of 35,000 recipes from Bon Appetit, Gourmet, House & Garden and Epicurious for offensive words that included “authentic” and “exotic.” Ironically, the highly respected black chef Marcus Samuelsson (below), who was born in Ethiopia but raised in Sweden, was roundly criticized and forced to apologize for publishing a recipe in Bon Appetit for a soup named joumou, adapted from his cookbook The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food, because the magazine referred to it as a Haitian staple that symbolizes the country’s violent liberation from its French colonizers. Samuelsson’s only crime was that he is not Haitian.
        The problem with such re-casting or deletions is that the editors seem completely to misunderstand how food cultures form and evolve and why certain dishes are made certain ways only because of a lack of availability of ingredients or  kitchen tools. After all, ingredients like tomatoes, potatoes, corn, chile peppers, cocoa, pineapple, squash, vanilla and wild rice were native to America and only gradually entered into the food cultures of Europe, Africa and Asia, which then adapted them in their own ways.
        Portuguese traders brought the idea of tempura to Japan, while Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa (left) created a new form of sushi in Peru. A Hong Kong chef created “Singapore noodles” in the 1950s. Benihana of Tokyo originated in New York. Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches are “correctly” made with French baguettes, brought to what was then Indo-China in the 1860s. Hawaiians, introduced to SPAM during World War II, now claim it as their state food, and Austrians and Italians still argue about which came first, Wienerschnitzel or vitello alla Milanese.
        Is the bagel an Eastern European food item or a Jewish-American one? And, further, are the quickly disappearing, firmer, denser bagels of a century ago in New York—once called “belly bombs”— the only ones Epicurious would consider giving a recipe for, despite bagels evolving into a lighter, moister variety that most people enjoy everywhere? And what of the variants made by traditional Jewish bakers in Montreal that are quite different from New York bagels? (So, too, Jewish-American smoked salmon is unknown to Jews in Europe.)
        The Neapolitan pizza alla Margherita, created by Raphael Esposito for Queen Margherita in 1864, became the template for pizzas there and in the U.S. (although most Italians north of Naples had never heard of pizza until after World War II). And the official Neapolitan tradition is to make it by certain strict rules—as sanctioned by the Associazione Pizzaioli Europei e Sostenitori—as to the ingredients in the dough (no fats allowed), which must be kneaded by hand, the diameter, the kind of oven, the temperature and so on. Yet, the Neapolitan pie has a soft center that bears little resemblance to the crispy, thin-crusted pizzas now ubiquitous in the world, or the square Sicilian style. Would Epicurious refuse to print a recipe for the latter and insist on only hand kneading the former?
        Tamarkin’s suggestion that making a recipe “faster” somehow compromises the integrity of a prepared food completely ignores how every food culture in the world now uses food processors and electric mixers. Coal-fired stoves were abandoned decades ago in Europe, and not all French or German or English bakers cook with wood-fired ovens any more.
         May Chinese vegetables only be chopped with a cleaver, not a knife? I recall when the late Julia Child on her PBS TV shows in the 1960s insisted the only correct way to whip egg whites was with a big wire whisk—an outmoded French cook’s idea that Child herself ultimately abandoned. I also recall the late North Carolina food writer James Villas taking me to his favorite barbecue place in Charlotte, where he swore they still “properly” chopped the ‘cue by hand with a hatchet, but there wasn’t a hatchet to be found anywhere near the chopping block.
        Tamarkin’s disdain for recipes using “ingredients that were assumed to be more familiar to American palates, or easier to find” is an absurd example of p.c. overreaction. It would be exceptionally rare these days to find squirrel in Brunswick stew, game birds hung in barns until they turn green with rot, or Sardinian cheeses containing worms (now forbidden by law). Since Bon Appetit (despite its own Euro-centric title touting a French connection) is, in fact, an American-based magazine published for an American readership, will all future recipes really insist its readers try to ferret out the potentially poisonous Japanese blowfish called fugu, which Japanese cooks train years to master? Or order what the Chinese themselves call “stinky tofu” (left) from a Taipei market? And, if you can’t obtain the revered (and very expensive) poulet de Bresse, can one ever hope to make a decent roast chicken? Not too long ago, an American couldn’t even buy true prosciutto di Parma, balsamic vinegar from Modena or buffalo milk mozzarella in this country.
        Of course, the idea that only a Sichuan chef should be allowed to write about a Sichuan dish with Sichuan ingredients or a Languédoc chef should be the only one to write about what goes into a cassoulet (below), when even in Languédoc, there are three types, is senseless. Should one forget about trying to make a Daiquiri without being shown how by a Havana bartender using only Cuban rum, long banned in the U.S.? Doesn’t that fly in the face of Tamarkin’s distaste for the word “authentic,” when that’s exactly what these editors are aiming for?
        He and others in the food media have also tried to delete the words “ethnic” and “exotic,” whose dictionary definitions they obviously have not consulted. If you are an American, it is no stretch or slur to think of monkey brains or cobra hearts (which Anthony Bourdain once wolfed down on TV) as “exotic” within the definition of being “of foreign origin” or “of a uniquely new or experimental nature,” as per The Random House Dictionary of the English Language.
        The fact is, many of the best, most knowledgeable food writers who have had the most influence in encouraging Americans to eat food from all over the world do not have the blood of those countries in their veins, beginning with Julia Child, who was not French; Paula Wolfert, who is not Moroccan; Elizabeth David, who was not Italian, and Diana Kennedy (left) who is not Mexican. Apparently Bon Appetit and Epicurious would ban such authorities from their pages because they are all white people, albeit women, who could not possibly show the same intimate knowledge or soul for a cuisine as would a cook born in those countries.
        Which is, of course, a troubling form of reverse racism and implies that anyone eating a modified form of any culture’s food makes one a racist as well, as if Tex-Mex or Chino-Latino are slurs against the food of the Yucatan or Canton. And, if there are two chefs in Bologna who would agree on how to make lasagne alla bolognese, it would be a miracle.


By John Mariani

        I was very saddened to hear that one of my dearest and oldest friends, Ellen Brown, died at her Providence, Rhode Island, home last  week at the age 0f 72. I knew her for most of her forty-year career as one of the seminal food writers of the 20th century, whose mission to cover the entire United States culinary scene, lavishly funded by her employer, USA Today, was unique at a time when food writers were almost entirely parochial.
         As author of 43 books, which included primers on everything from sausage and cast-iron cookery to vegan and gluten-free diets, no one showed a greater range and grasp of her subjects, which she rigorously researched and repeatedly tested. Her Cooking with the New American Chefs (1985) was the first to showcase what was going on during the most fertile period of American gastronomy, championing the diverse contributions of young chefs like Lawrence Forgione, Lydia Shire, Paul Prudhomme, Anne Greer, Wolfgang Puck, Barbara Tropp and many others whom she had gotten to know and work with while traveling the country.         
And, as a woman of broad interests, she could tie in what chefs were innovating with the work of Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art. In her book she wrote, “The new American chefs have no sense of inferiority. When they draw from the American cookery of the past, it is because it is a component of their philosophies. ... While it may be impossible to define America’s cuisine, it is quite easy to describe new American chefs. They are cooking creatively with a personal style. They are concocting dishes nightly bearing personal signatures as large as John Hancock’s on the Declaration of Independence.”
        She was the artistic director for the Great Chefs TV series long before the appearance of the Food Network, and was one of the first honorees to receive the “Who’s Who of Cooking in America” award. After residence in Washington DC and Nantucket, she moved to Providence and wrote the Providence Journal’s “Cost-Buster Cooking” column for seven years.
         Having been the food writer for the Cincinnati Enquirer, owned by the Gannett Company, she and several others at the paper were hand-picked by chairman Al Neuharth, who simply pointed to people in the newsroom and said, “
You, you, you and you. Pack up, you’re moving to Washington,” where Ellen became the groundbreaking food editor at USA Today.
         Ellen had battled many medical problems over the years, and her death followed cardiovascular surgery this month—an operation she shrugged off as “another of those pesky procedures” when I spoke with her a couple of weeks ago. Ellen was a battler throughout her life, feisty but always fair, ever self-effacing and a damn good gossip. She was easily the funniest woman I’ve ever met and the one who coined the phrase “the Department of Sales Prevention” to describe the anemic efforts publishers’ marketing departments made on behalf of their authors.
         Known as a hostess extraordinaire and staunch member of the Commanderie de Bordeaux, she used her guests as guinea pigs for her latest projects, and her guest lists were always chosen to be people of achievement and true personality. And, although she never had children, her amiable interest in others’ kids was always warmly sincere. On the phone with me her first questions was always, “So, how are the babies?”
        Those who knew her well or even slightly marveled at her knowledge, her expertise, her wit and her willingness to help her colleagues in any way she could. She was one of the few in a back-biting industry I never heard a shallow word about.
         At a time when the current food media are directed to report trends and avoid historical context and to do so on minuscule budgets, it is unlikely we shall ever see the likes of Ellen Brown again. The woman knew her stuff and wanted everyone who read her to trust her as someone who would never let them down, whether it was baking Christmas cookies or making a grilled cheese sandwich.



    Since, for the time being, I am unable to write about or review New York City restaurants, I have decided instead to print a serialized version of my (unpublished) novel Love and Pizza, which takes place in New York and Italy and  involves a young, beautiful Bronx woman named Nicola Santini from an Italian family impassioned about food.  As the story goes on, Nicola, who is a student at Columbia University, struggles to maintain her roots while seeing a future that could lead her far from them—a future that involves a career and a love affair that would change her life forever. So, while New York’s restaurants remain closed, I will run a chapter of the Love and Pizza each week until the crisis is over. Afterwards I shall be offering the entire book digitally.    I hope you like the idea and even more that you will love Nicola, her family and her friends. I’d love to know what you think. Contact me at
—John Mariani

To read previous chapters go to archive (beginning with March 29, 2020, issue.


By John Mariani

Cover Art By Galina Dargery


         It was a week after New Year’s when Nicola picked up the phone to find Marco di Noè on the other end of the line.
Nicola, song je! Nicola, it’s me!” he said in Neapolitan dialect.

Nicola had not put Marco out of her mind in the previous three months but for some reason she was surprised that he’d actually followed through on his intention to come to New York to work as a private chef.

“Marco,” she said, “It’s great to hear from you.  Where are you?”

“I am staying with the family I’m cooking for.  They’ve given me my own studio apartment below their apartment.  They have a duplex, and my room is not big but has a kitchen and a little place to put my easel and paints.  And, Nicola, you know where it is?”


“Right across the street from the Metropolitan Museum of Art!”

“Oh, Marco, that is fantastic!  You are so lucky.”

“So, now that I’ve shown you the Museo in Napoli, perhaps you can show me the Metropolitan.”

Nicola was ecstatic.  “There’s nothing more I’d rather do.  What’s your schedule like?”

“Well, I always have at least two days off, though they vary depending on when the family is here.  There’s really only one daughter—I think she’s about ten—and they have a son at boarding school.  Mr. Harrison—that’s my boss—usually comes home late and his wife has many parties and dinners to go to, so things are flexible, especially during the day.  Since I arrived, I’ve made lunch twice, for the daughter. I made—what do you call them?—chicken fingers, twice.”

“Then pick a day,” said Nicola. “I am pretty free right now.”

The two of them decided on the following Thursday and Nicola said she’d meet Marco on the steps of the museum.

That day it snowed, blanketing the sidewalks and steps, although they were well swept before the museum opened at ten o’clock.

When Nicola arrived at the museum, Marco was standing out front. “I had to buy a coat!” were his first words. “This is incredible.  I’ve never seen snow like this.”

The two of them hugged and kissed each other on the cheeks, and Marco pointed to a window on the eleventh floor of the building across the street. “That’s where I live,” he said.

“Marco, you are really living very well.”

“I think so. The people—when I see them—they are very nice. Mr. Harrison says very little but Mrs. Harrison tells me exactly what she wants and when she wants it, days in advance. So, Signorina Santini, please show me the Metropolitan Museum of Art.”

And with that the two of them walked arm in arm briskly up the still slippery steps and entered the magnificent entrance hall.        

    “This was not a palazzo at one time?” asked Marco.
         “No, this was built from scratch just for the people of New York. Actually for the people of the whole world.  You’ll probably hear as many other languages as you’ll hear English.”
         “Ah, va bene, I will practice my languages then.”
         Nicola could not have conceived of a more enjoyable task than to show Marco around the vast museum, from the Egyptian exhibits to the American wing, then up the grand staircase to the European galleries, rich in every great artist of the Renaissance.
         They spent two hours in those galleries, Marco constantly shaking his head at the astonishing masterpieces, one after another, in room after room, many of which he’d only seen in books.
         “And now I want to show you something very special,” said Nicola, taking Marco by the hand to the great Christmas tree and créche (right), soon to be taken down after Twelfth Night. “Guarda, Marco.”
         What Marco saw was a towering fir tree adorned with lights and more than fifty cherubic angels. The créche had at least as many figures—Madonna and child, Joseph, the Magi, and the peasants of Nazareth, sheep, camels, horses, all carved by the Neapolitan artists Giuseppe Sammartino, Salvatore di Ranco, Giuseppe Gori, and Angelo Viva.
         Marco could hardly believe what he beheld, almost brought to tears, both by the grandeur of the tree and the sculptures and by the graciousness of Nicola for bringing him there.  Marco looked and looked and looked, then, turning to Nicola, said “Tante grazie, cara,” and kissed her passionately on her lips.  Surprised but thrilled, Nicola kissed him back with just as much vivacity.
         “I’ve missed you,” said Marco. “I think of this moment many,  many times.”
         Nicola demurred and said, “I’m very happy you’re here, Marco.  We have so much to see and do.”
         “Are you hungry?”
         “As a matter of fact, yes I am.”
         “Good. I fix you lunch. The Harrisons are not home tonight.”
         Nicola loved the idea of having Marco cook for her and wanted to see his apartment right across the street.
        Marco’s studio was part of the first level of the duplex.  It was a little larger than many New York studios, with a decent sized kitchenette with a narrow four-burner stove.  There was a sofa bed and a small bathroom.  And there was a terrace, overlooking Fifth Avenue.  Marco had already set up his easel and put out his painting equipment, though there were no paintings visible.
         “Make yourself comfortable, Nicolina,” he said.
         Well, that was the first time he’d use the diminutive for her name, she noticed.  Nicola put her coat on the sofa and asked if she could help. Marco said,  “Yes, you can.  Would you light the oven to 180 degrees?  I don’t know what that is in Fahrenheit.”
         “I think it’s about 350 degrees.”
         “Okay, that sounds good.  Now please peel six garlic cloves for me.”
         “Not much of a job,” said Nicola, who proceeded to smash the cloves with the blade of a knife to remove the paper-like peel. Marco took out a sauté pan, splashed it with olive oil and she began cooking the garlic very slowly.  “Don’t let them burn, Nicolina,” he instructed, “just a little gold color.”
         “I know, I know. Then you want me to take them out of the pan, right?”
         Marco opened the refrigerator and took out two filets of sole wrapped in paper and a bottle of white wine.  He then gave Nicola one chile pepper and asked her to remove the seeds, then mince the flesh.  He spread out a sheet of aluminum foil, placed the fish, garlic and chile pepper on it with two basil leaves, added a few sliced cherry tomatoes, splashed the ingredients with olive oil, folded its sides up and poured in some of the wine, then sealed the foil to make a package he placed in the pre-heated oven.
         “Now we have a glass of wine and wait fifteen minutes.”
         He poured the wine—a Campanian Falanghina—and the two of them clinked glasses, “Salute.”  Nicola almost said “Cent’anni!” but then thought that was something personal to her and her Columbia friends.
         Marco took Nicola to the window, his arm around her waist. A light snow was falling and the museum’s façade was already lighted. “Look at my beautiful view,” he said, “The Metropolitan Museum, Central Park, magnifico!”
         Nicola thought to herself that it certainly was and that the view from her own apartment just looked out on other old apartment buildings. Then she pointed out some other landmarks in the distance, down Fifth Avenue to the south edge of the Park, and to the north they could just see the rounded bulging shape of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum jutting out.    
        “That’s our next visit, Marco,” said Nicola. 
          “My God, there is so much to see in this city,” said Marco. “It could take a lifetime!”
         “I certainly haven’t exhausted it yet.  And when you finish with Manhattan, there’s Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx.  I would love you to see the Botanical Gardens and the Bronx Zoo.”
         Marco said, “And there maybe you can cook for me.” Then, glancing at his watch, said, “Ah, the fish is cooked.”  He took the foil package out of the oven, placed it on a platter and brought it to the small dining table where Nicola had set two warmed plates. Marco carefully peeled back the aluminum foil and a fragrant whoosh of steam—garlic, tomato and basil—ascended into the air.
        Nicola inhaled the perfume and said, “Oh, my God, that smells so wonderful.”
         “I hope you like it,” Marco said and served her a portion of fish, spooning the rest of the ingredients onto her plate, then served himself.  As on Capri, Marco’s cooking was direct, simple, but intense with the flavors of each individual ingredient. 
         “Is this the kind of food the Harrisons eat every night?” asked Nicola.
         Marco shrugged and replied, “The daughter wants to eat American—the burgers, the chicken fingers—the parents, they hired me for my cooking but they don’t want to eat Italian all the time.  Mrs. Harrison, she seems to live on nothing but salads.  Il Signore is not picky, but, to tell you the truth, I don't really know why they needed to hire me.”
         Sounding like her friend Catherine, Nicola said, “Rich people like the Harrisons hire people like you for the prestige of being able to say to their friends, ‘Oh, we have the best chef from Capri as our personal cook.’ It’s not about what the Harrisons eat, it’s about who you are and what you serve their friends.”
         “I understand that, and I’m not complaining. I have an apartment in New York, I have plenty of time to myself, and, now, I have you with me, Nicolina.”
         The young couple embraced and began to kiss each other passionately.   Marco alternated his advances, kissing her forcefully then tenderly, pulling her close then releasing her,  just to look at her.  Nicola responded to every move, as if they were dancing, then with two swift motions, Marco tossed the pillow off the sofa and yanked open the bed, easing Nicola onto it, undoing the buttons of her blouse. Nicola pressed him to her by his waist and when he knelt over her for a moment, repeating “bella, bellissima,” she slowly unclasped his belt.
         Nicola had little to compare Marco’s lovemaking to,  but if Giancarlo’s movements had had the rhythm of waves, Marco’s were like those of surging surf.  He was not rough but his movements were charged as much with pure lust as with emotion, and Nicola was deliriously happy to respond to both.
         Afterwards,  Marco sat up and smiled like a little boy who had just won a prize, which Nicola was very pleased to have given him.  Then Marco said, “Ah, cara, I have thought about us in bed for many weeks. Ever since your visit to Napoli.  And now we have all the time in the world.”
         Nicola would wait to see how that played out, so for the time being, she thought she’d lighten the electricity in the air and asked, “Marco, are you the only Italian guy who doesn’t smoke a cigarette after making love?”
         Marco was surprised by the question, laughed and replied, “Maybe so.”
         “One  more thing I like about this man,” Nicola said to herself.

John Mariani, 2020





        My response: The best wine in the world is the Champagne with which you toasted your new bride. It is a crisp Chablis drunk with bracing, saline oysters in a Parisian café. It's Sangiovese from a carafe on a Tuscan hillside. Or a muscular Cali cab that washes down a Flintstonean rib eye in a clubby American steakhouse.    
The best wine is the one that captures the mood of the moment, and the essence of itself, along with the place where it is drunk, be it a Puligny-Montrachet quaffed in the town of Puligny-Montrachet, or an amontillado sherry sipped between bites of jamon Iberico in Andalusia.

    Nothing tastes better than drinking a good wine in the place where it is made, alongside the people who made it, be it in the Piedmont hills, on the slopes of the Côte d'Or, or beside the Mösel, in the shadow of the Bernkasteler Doctor vineyards (left).

The best wine in the world is whatever fits your mood that moment. People love to sneer at over-oaked California Chardonnays, but many is the meal I’ve begun with such a glass (especially in the cooler months). (And shhhh ... don't tell anyone, but big, flabby whites also go well with salty, robust cheeses.)
`Nowhere does the law of diminishing returns apply more sharply than when you evaluate the price-to-value paradigm of wine. Absurdly priced trophy wines do not reflect tastes/flavors/sensations that are orders of magnitude greater than similar products. A $500 bottle of wine is not five times better than a $100 bottle. The cost reflects hype and scarcity, not quality. Screaming Eagle, DRC Burgundy, and Château Haut-Brion can be transporting in intensity and complexity, but even experts, in blind tastings, have trouble distinguishing them from bottles costing a fraction of their hefty tariffs—a failing they rarely admit.
    At best, wine is a discovery, a journey, a marathon if you will, that lasts a lifetime. You never "master" wine (even Masters of Wine admit this), all you do is form an appreciation for it—an ever-evolving admiration that changes every year, every vintage.
The best you can do when learning about wine is to broaden, then narrow, your focus. Broaden your horizons by trying new things, then narrow your gaze to wines that appeal to you and then learn more about them. The best wines then become the ones you love and that continue to intrigue you. Think of it like a composer (or band or artist) whose work you love: the more you experience them, the deeper your knowledge and esteem.
    But you don't have to do any of this to enjoy "the best wine in the world." Because the best wine in the world (like "the best song in the world") is the one you are really, really enjoying at that moment.





"Why Is Everyone Obsessing Over Bucatini? By Katherine Martinelli, (1/7/21)


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 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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