Virtual Gourmet

  May 9, 2021                                                                                            NEWSLETTER

Founded in 1996 


Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (1961)


By John Mariani


By John Mariani

By John Mariani

The 2016 Vintage
By John Mariani


On this week's episode of my WVOX Radio Show "Almost Golden," on Wed. May 12 at 11AM EST,I will be interviewing John Coleman who will talk about the crazy days of working at NYC's TV station WPIX. Go to: The episode will also be archived at: almostgolden.

Also: On May 12 on the TV Show Celebrating Act2 I'll be speaking about the origins and evolution of Irish food and drink in Ireland the the US.




By John Mariani


        Most people would not want to go to a restaurant where he or she would not feel comfortable, which ranges from places that are way too loud to those where an attitude of snobbism reigns. Yet many people do. The loud restaurants are now legion, usually by design, so as to give the evening a sense of excitement and razzle dazzle. Indeed, some chef-owners deliberately want the piped-in music to blast the glassware off the table. Many such places may well have good food, but so often they are simply more a restaurant-of-the-moment that the media have declared “hot.” The food hardly matters to the crowd, mostly on the young side, who care more about seeing and being seen.
        This applies just as readily to the extreme opposite: a restaurant where the restaurateur believes you should feel privileged to dine at his or her establishment and passes that information off to a staff paid to act more like gatekeepers than captains and waiters. Fortunately, even before Covid, this kind of behavior had pretty much faded away, even at those temples of French haute cuisine where there really was a Siberia, as well as places like ‘21’ Club (now closed), whose doorman was once quoted about newcomers, “Why should I be nice to these people, when I don’t know them?” Most of those places are now gone.
        Today, rare is the snooty maître d’ who puts you in your place rather than your seat; long gone are the Louis XV trappings that were dated the day they went up; and though it still goes on, bribing the head waiter for a “good table” is the surest way to get you marked as a patsy.
        Still, many people are intimidated at the thought of going to a truly fine dining restaurant in fear that they may be made to feel ill at ease and discomfited. Such people ignorantly contend that “nobody wants to eat at those places anymore,” when in fact, both pre-Covid and after, those dining rooms are always packed.  Indeed, the chances of getting a snub are higher at an expensive steakhouse with a big expense account clientele than at a stunning French or Italian restaurant that may only serve 100 people each night.
There will always be those people who, simply, feel ill at ease dining “fancy.” Correction: Americans who feel intimidated by posh décor and menus with unfamiliar fare. French men and women may prefer their local bistro or Italians their neighborhood trattoria, but will not feel out of place in a high-end dining room. The reason is simple: They were raised with basic ideas of manners, dress and taste, whereas many Americans are not. The days of required, even requested, jackets and ties for men are, sadly, gone, because so many men bristle at the thought of buttoning their shirt or throwing on a jacket. Unfortunately, this translates into showing up at a high-end restaurant wearing jeans, t-shirt and sneakers on the moronic rationale that “clothes don’t make the food taste better,” which is like saying that wearing shorts and a tank top to a funeral doesn’t make the honoree any less dead.
        These same men also seem obtuse to women’s appreciation of men in a suit and tie, especially since most women tend to dress up to go out to dinner. It’s more an insult to these women than it is to the restaurant. Put another way, who doesn’t like to see a man appropriately well dressed? Wearing a t-shirt and shorts to a pizzeria or crab shack is perfectly appropriate; wearing the same at an upscale restaurant of any kind is not.
        So, too, Americans who were not brought up to act appropriately in a restaurant never will. Not too long ago, people would exit church on Sunday and have lunch at a nice local restaurant wearing their Sunday best. Parents would choose the outfit their children would wear for a meal out, which was always a special time. The idea of a grown man wearing a baseball cap in a restaurant would have been shocking—a trend that began when California casual chic turned into Adam Sandler slovenliness.
        Children were also taught basic manners at the table, to say “please” and “thank you” to service staff, where to place their napkin when leaving the table, which fork to use for seafood: Little things, really, that don’t make the food taste better but make the whole experience far more appealing and comfortable for everybody.
        Way too many Americans become terrified at the prospect of de-boning their own fish, sipping the wine when first poured, consulting a sommelier or even making a cordial complaint about a dish or service out of fear of being wrong. And, if one is so easily intimidated by such small things, of course, one will feel uncomfortable and blame it on the restaurant as being “too fussy,” when it is not so at all.
        Too many Americans—male and female—also believe that speaking very, very loudly in some way makes them more interesting. In ultra-loud restaurants such braying adds and builds on the in-house noise. I swear that if the same exact restaurant in America with a cacophonous decibel level were transported to anywhere in France, Spain, Italy or Belgium, the decibel level would be half as high because European people do not scream in the dining room.
        There’s no doubt that the restrictions on going out during Covid and the consequent decrease in people dining at an upscale restaurant have loosened everyone up, just as many insist they will never surrender their sweatpants for slacks to go back to the office. Suit yourself, but by allowing yourself to feel awkward you do yourself no favors and are missing some wonderful meals in fine restaurants.






The Acclaimed Eleven Madison Park

Restaurant Is Going Vegan. But $335 Is A Lot Of Lettuce—For Lettuce

By John Mariani

         A few years ago Daniel Humm, chef-owner of the much praised New York restaurant Eleven Madison Park, had his waitstaff perform card tricks at the table, a frivolity that was soon abandoned after criticism that it was a bit twee, if not downright silly. Now he has announced that upon re-opening the restaurant the menu will be 99.99% vegan, the exception being honey and milk for tea and coffee. Bees, you see, make honey.
        The price won’t change: $335 (including tip but without drinks or wine), which in the past got you an 11-course meal that included dishes like dry-aged veal with bone marrow; a soft egg with farro, corn and frogs’ legs; suckling pig with blackberries; and a New England clambake dumped on a brown paper mat. Now, though Humm has not released his new vegan menu, all those dishes will be banished.
        "The current food system is simply not sustainable, in so many ways,” Humm told The New York Times, an extreme generalization for a chef who all his working life purchased the finest meats, seafood and dairy products available from sustainable farms. “I wanted everyone who comes into contact with Eleven Madison Park to become a part of doing good,” Humm said, which is a real slap in the face of anyone who might dare eat a burger or butter their bread.
        Eleven Madison Park has shape-shifted often since it was originally opened by restaurateur Danny Meyer in 1998 and sold to Humm and a partner (with whom he later split) in 2006, and, owing to his tremendous talent and creativity, managed to wow the critics—the restaurant has three Michelin stars and four from the Times—and a public willing to pay top dollar for a four-hour meal of the most sumptuous luxury backed by an extraordinary wine list. So odds are being taken on whether going total vegan—not just vegetarian—will actually draw enough people who once would have paid $335 for foie gras and caviar but who might wince at that price for peas and carrots.
       Humm is betting on a trend many chefs have picked up on by offering alternative vegetarian menus alongside their meat and seafood menu, which makes capital sense, whether it’s Alain Ducasse at the Plaza-Athenée and Alain Passard at L’Arpège in Paris or Massimo Bottura at Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy. But few have attempted to go total vegan.
       At the very least Humm’s commitment is based on some tricky dynamics. For starters, why serve honey and milk for tea and coffee when there are perfectly decent non-animal substitutes? Also, many vehement vegans believe that wine is anathema because many wines are filtered through skins containing animal products and others with egg white, which sinks impurities to the bottom of the barrels. How does he justify a wine list of such dimensions as he now has when it’s impossible to know which wines have been thus treated? And since so many vegetables, like asparagus and artichokes, are notoriously difficult to match with wines, it becomes a big question whether anyone is going to pop for a $5,000 red Burgundy that will go with anything on the menu. Is any wine lover going to order a $500 oak-rich, high tannin California Cabernet with a dish of arugula and rutabagas? And, since it is very much a vegan proclivity to shed leather shoes and accessories, will Humm and his staff follow suit?
     Business-wise, one has to wonder if a company executive is going to invite a big out-of-town client to a vegan restaurant, unless everyone at the table is vegan. I’m sure there are many who would happily enjoy the adventure of such a meal, but the number of eager vegans is not close to the number of vegetarians, who may eat some seafood or have no problem with cheese-rich lasagna.
       Humm is not being so sanctimonious as to accuse those who continue to eat hamburgers of having moral failings; in fact, he is being remarkably disingenuous, because, at his London restaurant Davies and Brook, he continues to serve a chicken burger with truffled mayo and cheddar cheese, a seafood plateau of shellfish, and a dry-aged ribeye steak. I don’t doubt his commitment but I wonder if he has hopped on an extremist bandwagon, and, as bandwagons like la nouvelle cuisine, the Mediterranean Diet and molecular cuisine have passed on by, I wonder if Eleven Madison Park will become a significant beacon or a snapshot of the current era, when Americans are being made to feel guilty about taking pleasure in all kinds of food. Or as Chris Rock once put it, “People are starving all over the world. What do you mean, ‘red meat will kill you?’ Don't eat no red meat? No, don't eat no green meat. If you lucky enough to get your hands on a steak, bite the shit out of it!”





By John Mariani 



       Sunday after Mass, Katie got to David’s on the dot of one and could tell he was cooking from the aroma of onions and garlic coming from the kitchen exhaust fan.  She poked her head in the open door and said, “Hello? Am I on time?”
       “Right on the nose,” said David. “Hope you’re hungry.  How was Mass?”
       “It was nice.  I found a rustic little church nearby the motel, very quaint, good sermon, nice attendance.” She wasn’t expecting David to say anything like, “I should get back some time.”
       “Sit down, sit down. Some wine?”
       “White wine, okay?” David opened a bottle of Fiano di Avellino and poured some into her glass. “This wine comes from outside of Naples.  I thought it appropriate since Big Al’s family came from that region.  Salut’!”
       “Mmm, it’s delicious.  So you’re a wine connoisseur?”
       “Not really, but now that I’m retired I drink it every day, a glass at lunch, the rest of the bottle with dinner.”
       “All by yourself?”
       “Sometimes a friend comes by and helps me.”
       Katie didn’t—yet—think it right to ask if the friend was a man or woman.
       He’d been sautéing onions and garlic with a little red pepper and added some crushed tomatoes.  Then he tossed some spaghettini into a pot of boiling salted water. “This cooks in like five minutes,” he said. “Can you grab some plates from that counter?  There are forks in the vase on the counter.”
       Lunch was ready and Katie was again impressed with David Greco’s handiwork as a cook.  “It’s really delicious," she said. "Simple, quick, very Italian. Y’know, I’ve sometimes wondered if guys like Capone ever cooked anything themselves.
     David said, “
They were all mama’s boys, y’know, and nobody could cook like their mother!”
       “Also very Italian,” said Katie, twirling the al dente spaghetti. “My father’s the same way. But you learned to cook?”
      David just nodded, not telling her something.
       For the rest of the lunch they just chatted, getting to know each other a little better to see if this joint project was going to work out. Katie told him where she’d grown up, what her parents and sister did, and how she got into journalism. 
“I knew your father when he was a D.A., then as a judge,” said David.  “First-rate at both.  He worked mostly in the Bronx, of course—put a lot of bad guys away—so our paths didn’t cross too much because I was working more in Brooklyn and Manhattan.  I would’ve liked to have a few more guys like your father where I worked.  He must be a pretty heroic guy to you.”
       “He was and is,” said Katie. “What about you? You have any heroes?”
       “Aside from the obvious, a guy like Frank Serpico (above), who they made a movie about.  Pacino again. Also a bad cop turned good cop to catch the bad cops, name’s Robert Leuci (below)—another Italian.  He started out taking graft, then volunteered to root out the bad cops in narcotics, who were not only taking bribes but selling the stuff themselves.  I remember that of seventy guys who worked in the Narcotics Division back in the late ’60s, fifty-two of them were indicted because of Leuci’s going undercover and exposing them.  One of them was his former partner.”
       “Sounds like a brave guy,” said Katie, lifting her glass of wine in tribute.
       “Tough as nails, fearless, but supposed to be really charming.  He once talked his way out getting murdered after they found a wire on him. Made a movie about him, too: Prince of the City.”
       “What happened to him?”
       “He’s still alive,” said David. “For a while he was in the Witness Protection Program.  There were a lot of cops who would have killed him on sight.  He and I were in different units of NYPD, but if I had a guy like Leuci with me, my job would have been easier, especially towards the end.”
       “Why’s that?” asked Katie, sipping her wine.
       “Well, as I might have told you, I was recruited by Giuliani when he was D.A., and he was very determined to destroy the mobs, especially the Italians, the so-called `Five Families’ that started back in the 1930s. He wanted to wipe out that association of Italians as all being gangsters or of even knowing gangsters. I didn’t know any wise guys while I was growing up, did you?”
       Katie shook her head and said, “Nope, except for the ones my father spoke about.”
       David continued.  “By the time I arrived on the scene, the crime syndicates’ territories were pretty much carved up: the Bonanno family  had the most range, mostly Brooklyn and Queens but out to Long Island, the Bronx, and up to Westchester. The Colombos were also in Brooklyn and Queens, with tentacles in New Jersey and Florida. The Gambinos had a bit more presence in Manhattan, along with Brooklyn and Staten Island, but they even established a branch in L.A.  The Genoveses were most powerful in Manhattan but pushed up into Rockland County and New England. The Luccheses were in all the boroughs.
        “They all had their turf and they were always in dispute with each other over expansion.  That’s when you saw the very public murders of  `Crazy’ Joey Gallo at Umberto’s Clam House, Joe Colombo at a public rally in Columbus Circle (above), and Paul Castellano outside Spark’s Steakhouse in midtown.
“The capos were constantly shifting allegiances.  All that honor among thieves and taking oaths—it was all a bunch of bullshit.  Those guys would kill anyone who got in their way.  Joe Valachi once told a Senate Committee that if you went to Vito Genovese and told him some guy was doing wrong within his mob, Genovese would have the guy killed, then he killed you for ratting out the guy.”
       Katie was fascinated by David’s recall of who ruled what and where and who killed whom.  “Did any of these guys come out of the Capone gang?”
       “A few, not many.  Remember, Capone was not Sicilian, and most of these other guys were.  I’m not sure about Genovese. I think he came from Naples.”
       “So what happened with you and Giuliani?”
      “Let me put it this way: when Rudy became mayor, he was like Fiorello LaGuardia in his first term, everybody loved him—except the mob—in his second term he’d gained so much ego he turned into Benito Mussolini.  Went bald and even started to look like him.  He was tough during both terms, but, like someone once said about a zealot, ‘He redoubled his efforts after losing sight of his original goal.’”
       “That’s good.”
       David went on. “Rudy came down hard on the mob and he finally got Gotti, who was a real thorn in his side, but in his second term he was more concerned about reducing street crime while the mobs were still festering.  He says he reduced crime significantly—and it did drop, but it was dropping in every big city by the beginning of the ‘90s.  Like I said, he got to be like Mussolini, bragging about minor achievements and thinking the Presidency of the United States was fucking owed to him.  ‘Scuse my French. Anyway, it’s a long story.  I was there for the best of it, but I got out when I saw I was no longer an effective part of it.”
       Katie said, “You sound . . . conflicted.”
     David winced. “That doesn’t actually sound much like me. Pissed off, maybe.  Disappointed.  Not conflicted.  I did what I was trained to do until I couldn’t do it the way it should have been done. You get to know when a case is closed and the doors are shut in your face.  More wine?”
       Katie blinked her eyes and said, “Not if we’re going to get any work done today.  It’s already two-thirty.”
“Guess you’re right. Let me clear these dishes away.”
       “No, I got ‘em,” Katie said, grabbing the plates and silverware.
       “Leave the wineglasses,” said David.  “We may get thirsty.” 

      “So as a reporter I know how I go about researching a story,” Katie said over espresso.  “How do you go about your investigations?”
       “You tell me your process first,” said David.
       “Ah, well, I’ve never done any crime investigation stories—that’s why I’m here with you—but I usually begin by reading everything I can on the subject, go back to old newspapers and magazines for clippings, then start making calls to the subject under scrutiny and his or her friends and people who have worked with him or her. Then I check stories against others’ versions.”
       “Okay,” said David, “I do some of that, but I spend a lot more time on the street, talking to sources and cultivating new ones. Every cop knows a guy who owes him a favor and vice-versa.  If you’re lucky, you get an undercover cop to infiltrate, but that can be very dangerous.  Plus the mob hates that!  Wiretaps are a cop’s best friend, but you need a warrant for those.”
       “Are they easy to get?” asked Katie.
       “Usually, unless the judge hates your guts or is being paid off.  There’s always another judge you can go to.”
       “And can you trust your sources?”
       “Well, I suspect that’s one big difference between yours and mine.  If you’re doing a story on, I don’t know, a movie star or a politician, people fall over themselves to talk, even if they’re making it up. My sources invariably lie through their teeth or give as little information as possible.  You get to know when the information is true by comparing it to other guys’ stories, which may also be full of lies.”
       “Excuse me for asking, but, uh, is it like in the movies where the cops beat a confession out of a guy?”
       David squinted at her.  “If you’re asking did I ever beat it out a guy, the answer is no.  The main reason is because there’s a good chance nothing you get will hold up in court.  If you’re asking me if some cops make it rough on a guy, the answer is yes, not by physically beating them but by psychologically intimidating and threatening them, so, more often than you’d like to believe a lot of guys cop a plea in the station house or even plead guilty to something they didn’t do.”
       Katie shook her head. “What about the Miranda Rights thing?”
       David laughed. “Ha, some of these guys recite it right along with you, some of the time they even sing it.  Even so, before the guy’s lawyer arrives or is appointed, a good cop—you know, ‘good cop’-‘bad cop’—can get a lead out of a suspect.  Anyway, with the mob guys, they knew Miranda cold and wouldn’t talk unless they were in deep shit and could get out of it only by ratting out the higher-ups.  That’s the only way we got Gotti in the end.  Believe me, a lot of murderers walk because they are willing to talk.”
       “It would have been different in Capone’s day?” Katie asked.
       “The penalties for ratting on a boss were probably the same back then, and I have no idea what the cops or the feds could offer a guy to turn state’s evidence.  They didn’t have the Witness Protection Program back then. In any case, no one ever ratted on Capone.”
       They returned to the files for the next few hours, then Katie noted the lateness of the hour and said, “Well, David, you’ve seen just about all I’ve got on paper and up here”—tapping her temple—“but I’m not sure how to proceed.  I have some names and numbers to call.  And I thought I’d go to Chicago to do some more research and snoop around.”
       “Snoop around? Let’s leave the snooping around to me for the time being.  It’s fine to go to Chicago, check the archives, look at the places things happened back then. Good for background and what do they call it—‘color’—for your story. And while you’re out there I’ll start snooping around here with some of my older colleagues who might have some leads on Capone.  Tell you what, I’ll call a cop I know in Chicago to kind of smooth the way, if you need assistance.”
       “That would be great,” said Katie. “I’ll leave in a day or two and report back to you by phone.”
       David shrugged. “Suit yourself. Expect me to keep things close to my vest at the beginning. I don’t like to speculate too much unless I have something solid to go on.”
       “Fair enough,” said Katie. “So, thanks for lunch and the wine. I owe you one.”
       “Let me know if you find any good restaurants in Chicago.”
       “Happy to, if I have the time to find them.  I wonder if any of Capone’s old restaurants still exist?”
       “I doubt it.  But have fun.”
       David was sorry to see Katie leave.  Nice girl, good head on her shoulders. She’s going to write a good story.


John Mariani, 2015



The 2016 Vintage
By John Mariani



        A few weeks ago I wrote that Italian wine laws, which began in 1966 to make sense of all the grapes and regions of the country, had become so suspiciously generous in awarding the highest appellation of DOCG (denominazione di origine controllata garantita), guaranteeing the wine in the bottle was among the finest in its region, that it has become almost meaningless as a guide. I noted that DOCG started out with only five wines, among which was Tuscany’s Brunello di Montalcino, at a time when there were only a handful of producers making it according to a 100-year-old tradition of viniculture. Yet, today there are more than 200 producers in Tuscany pumping out Brunello.
        While that creates considerable doubt as to how many of them could be guaranteed superior wines, it is worth taking a look at what some of the best are doing with this wine long known for its ability to age 50 years or more in the bottle. Indeed, back in 1976 at the estate of Biondi-Santi, whose progenitor created the Brunello using 100% Sangiovese grapes, I tasted an example that was a 75 years old, and I was amazed by its excellence and freshness.  The same cannot be said for most of today’s Brunellos—and I’m not going to live long enough to find out—but, as in everything, not least the global wine world, Brunellos have evolved, and the best of them do indeed deserve their DOCG and recognition as among the finest wines of the world.
        The 2016 vintage, though only four years old and just released this year, is a good starting point with which to examine the array of Brunellos out there, some of which are now reaching alcohol levels rarely seen but increasingly problematic as global warming affects the vineyards and grapes. Corte Pavone at 15% is edging into the zone of no return, I’m afraid, and too many from 2016 are already at 14.5%.
        The basics of Brunello are as follows: It is made from the Sangiovese grape, which is not at all a rarity and not exclusive to Tuscany, but that’s where it grows best. It has other names: Morellino, Prugnolo, Nielluccio and, in Algeria, Toustain. Sangiovese Grosso is the clone used for Brunello, though decades ago few Tuscan vineyard owners knew exactly what they were planting or harvesting.
        At the beginning of the 19th century Sangiovese Grosso (also called Sangioveto and once called Brunello) was pretty much limited to Tuscany and Romagna, and not all over Tuscany in any case. Today there are 102 different clones registered in the Italian National Registry. When Biondi-Santi began producing Brunellos, the tannins took a long while to release their grip, but, after a decade or more, the wines came into a magnificent, elegant harmony of fruit, acid and tannins.
        The 1997 vintage, which was declared a “vintage of the century,” went through a dumb period after about ten years in the bottle, but finally emerged as a bold, sumptuous wine in the old style. Wines from 2001 can still take more age, while 2004 is a classic; 2006 was fruit forward and now more than ready to drink, while 2010 promises a long life. Current rules decree that Brunellos must age in barrel for two years and at least four months in bottle, which is quite a short minimum. Still, they are not released until four years after harvest, and riservas five.
         The 2016 has great vivacity even now, and there were a few I recently sampled that I wished I’d waited a while to taste. Brunellos made around and north of the town of Montalcino, where it is warm but dry, tend to be a bit lighter, while fleshier examples come from south and southeast of the town.
         In 2008 a scandal broke, which the press called “Brunellopoli,” in which the government accused several major producers of adulterating their wines with foreign and domestic varieties. U.S. importers blocked any Brunellos without an approved “100% Sangiovese” label. In the end not much happened but a rap on the hand. But it brought into focus what many other non-Brunello Tuscan producers had been doing with pride: blending varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to make a distinctive wine that did not meet the standards of the DOCG appellation but that nevertheless, as single-estate wines, did very well in the market.
        What to look for in Brunello for 2016? There are some always dependable, often prestigious names, including Biondi-Santi, Barbi-Colombini, Il Poggione, Vostanti, Col d’Orcia, Lisini, and Mastrojanni. Of newer producers I like Val di Suga, whose first vintage was in 1977, it has 14.5% alcohol but shows well for its cherry fruit; Cava d’Onice is now restrained but shows real promise five years from now; Ridolfi is a pleasure right now. Some have not yet been shipped to the U.S., and the riservas will not be here until next year.
        Right now there is so much discounting going on in wine stores that a wine that may listed at $60 may now be found for $45, and there are plenty of Brunellos selling in the $35 range, which is the price of a fine Chianti Classico. 



“How I Ate My Way Through 14 Days in a Korean Quarantine Facility” By James Park, (4/29/21)


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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