MARIANI’S

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  December 5,  2021                                                                                            NEWSLETTER



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IN THIS ISSUE
FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC TOURISTS ARE BACK!
HERE ARE SOME AMERICAN
CUSTOMS AND MANNERS TO KNOW
By John Mariani


NEW YORK CORNER
WICKED JANE

By John Mariani

CAPONE'S GOLD
CHAPTER  36
By John Mariani


NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
ERNEST HEMINGWAY
ON WINE AND SPIRITS

By John Mariani




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On this week's episode of my WVOX Radio Show "Almost Golden," on Wed. December 8 at 11AM EST,I will be interviewing  a biographer of folksinger Peter Seeger and The Weavers. Go to: WVOX.com. The episode will also be archived at: almostgolden.















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FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC TOURISTS ARE BACK!
HERE ARE SOME AMERICAN CUSTOMS AND MANNERS TO KNOW

 
By John Mariani





"Animal Crackers"  (1936)


 

      There is no better news about travel than to hear that foreign tourists are on their way back to the U.S. by the millions, which for American hotels and restaurants will bring a boom. (As I write this the new Covid-19 variation Omicron may change current policies for entry.) We welcome them all, but we also understand we have some odd customs—or at least different ones—they may not know about. Here’s a guide for our foreign friends (as well as American out-of-towners) they should follow.

 


GET HOLD OF SOME CASH.
Europeans are far, far ahead of Americans when it comes to paying by credit card, and they do it by flicking their iPhones in front of readers. In the U.S. you may have to spend a minimum amount of money, say, ten or fifteen dollars, in order to use your card, whereas abroad, consumers pay for a cup of coffee or croissant with a credit card. And UPC readers are not ubiquitous here.
     ATM machines in airports and train stations usually issue U.S. money in tens and twenties, and foreigners should know that a lot of American store owners don’t want to take fifties and never have change for a hundred. Coins, here and abroad, are pretty useless, especially since you never see anything but a twenty-five cent coin, which doesn’t even buy a newspaper.

 

PARKING RULES. Nothing, absolutely nothing, are as byzantine and deliberately mis-leading as parking signs and parking meters in big American cities whose bureaucrats actually want you to mis-interpret what seem to be contradictory signs and meters so as to issue fines or tow cars away (which can cost you a large fine plus transport costs). Foreigners’ best bet is to ask a cop or someone in the neighborhood, but don’t count on even them to know the skinny. Note well: On the majority of NYC streets it is permitted to park after 7 PM without charge, although sometimes with two-our time limits you must pay for. You need to read the signs very, very carefully. Doormen at apartment buildings are good people to ask. Many restaurants in the U.S. have parking valets, which charge a fee for the service and you are expected to tip the valet, too. Usually this is a couple of bucks but in Los Angeles the locals pay out $5 to take care of their Porsches.

 

TIPPING. Tipping in continental Europe is, largely, not a custom, because there is a service charge on the hotel or restaurant bill. In the U.S. we tip everyone in sight, it seems, because we want to be recognized for our generosity. Here are the guidelines, however dizzying they seem to foreigners:

- At a hotel, tip the porters who take your bags after they deliver them to your room, about a dollar per bag.

- Doormen who hail a cab get a buck.

- Depending on the posh of the hotel, maids should get between three and five dollars a day, presented at the end of the stay with a thank you note.

- There will be a room service charge for the delivery of food and drink, so there’s no need to tip further once you sign the bill.

- In restaurants it has now become the custom to tip 15%-20% on the entire bill, minus the tax, but including beverages. No need to tip the maître d’ unless you wish to be a regular customer with accrued preferences. Bartenders get a couple of bucks at the bar but not at the dinner table, because the captains and waiters tip out the busboys and bartenders. You may ask for separate checks for a party of two but no more. Note well: Many Europeans pretend not to know they have to tip, and it is truly bad form not to, and you may be told so by the management.

- In taxis it’s best to pay with a credit card, and the meter will show you various amounts for tips (15%, 20%) to be automatically added. Uber drivers love it if you tip but it’s not a given.

- Shoe shiners get two or three dollars tip even if they own the stand.

- Hairdressers at women’s salons and men’s barbers get a 20% tip.

- There is no tipping in museums or movie theaters.

- You do not tip shop personnel (thank heavens!) in clothing or food stores, but you do give a couple of bucks to theater ushers and coat checkers (per coat).

     Oh, hell, just carry a lot of dollar bills and tip everybody and you’ll be okay.

 



EATING/DINING OUT. These days the definition of “fine dining” has become as shifting as oily currents of a river.

- No longer should a foreigner expect tablecloths at even the fanciest of restaurants.

- Not a single restaurant in America (except, perhaps, at a private club) are men expected to wear a jacket and tie. Shorts and flip-flops are discouraged and “shirts with a collar” encouraged. T-shirts have become ubiquitous and women, who usually dress up a tad, can still wear slashed bluejeans and tank tops, except where otherwise posted.

- You should always make a reservation! Peak hours for dining start at 6:30 and end by 9 PM, so tables are much easier to get after 8:30.

- Lunch in the U.S. is usually a short respite and menus are abbreviated and sometimes bear little resemblance to dinner menus. The so-called “three martini lunch” is a thing of the past, and few business people drink alcohol at lunch any longer. Maybe a glass, not a bottle, of wine.

- U.S. restaurateurs expect to turn tables at least once or twice in an evening, so do not expect a table to be yours “for the night.”

- Ninety-nine percent of restaurants in the U.S. do not offer any kind of cheese after the main course.


- Portions in America are generally huge, and taking the leftovers home in a “doggy bag” is common practice (as it is now directed in France).

- Except for obvious foods like soup, steak and fish, eating with one’s fingers is largely acceptable. That goes not only for sandwiches and French fries but for BBQ ribs and chicken, just about anything that’s fried, like shrimp, as well as pizza (folded), tacos, sushi and, in Hawaii, poi.

- Of course, Americans do switch knife and fork after cutting their food, for no discernible reason, but foreigners should pay no attention.

- Americans toast with phrases like: “Down the hatch.” “Here’s looking at you.” “Bottoms up,” and others that bear no relation to “Santé” or “Salut.” “Cin Cin” will do fine in all circumstances.

- Depending upon the state or city rules, you may have to show proof of a Covid vaccination.

 

GETTING ON LINE: More like the Japanese than Europeans, Americans will pretty much respect a line to get into or obtain something. Shoving and pushing ahead is likely to get you ejected or worse.

 

ASKING FOR HELP: Americans by and large are among the most willing to help people on earth, even in the big cities. The problem in the big cities is that so many people are newly arrived or don’t know the city or speak English or may themselves be tourists. They’re not being rude in not answering a question, they just haven’t a clue. Best chance is to ask a person entering or exiting a building for directions or where to find a pharmacy who looks like he or she works there or, better yet, go inside a shop and ask a staff member or inside a building and ask the security guy or receptionist.

 

TAXIS: In most American cities haling a cab from anywhere on the curb is the way to get a taxi. In some places there will be specific taxi stations where the cars will quickly arrive, pick up a passenger and go. At airports there are signs posted as to the taxi stand, and, sometimes, a person who will ask your destination so as to give you the right taxi to take or call one on the line.

 

EMERGENCIES: If you have an emergency, dial 911 and know the address or cross streets of the place you are calling from. 

 

 



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NEW YORK CORNER



WICKED JANE

15 West Eighth Street
646-329-5767


By John Mariani



Chicken Cheese Cake

 


         It is difficult enough for a well-trained chef to master a classic dish, no matter how simple, so the challenge of creating innovative dishes based on proven techniques can be a very slippery slope and one that can easily push a chef out of the limelight he so eagerly sought. And when a chef is not professionally trained, menus can be mere ego trips instead of soul satisfying.
       Once in a great while, however, a new star twinkles without much of a professional history and chef Zod Arifai appears to be someone with a bright future in the New York galaxy. Looking like Russia’s mad monk Rasputin (or perhaps a shaggier version of John Wick), Arifai seems to possess an intensity tempered by very careful scrutiny, choosing his ingredients carefully and filtering his creativity through balance and restraint. Where some chefs merely wish to show off in modernist frenzies, Arifai aims to please his guests with legitimate flair and culinary intelligence.
      Arifai hails from Kosovo, but has been here since he was eight years old, and grew up to be a rock musician who toured around the world. But he found a second, all-consuming vocation in cooking and had success with his own restaurants in New Jersey, including Juniper, Blu, Next Door and The Duke and Elephant, all now closed.
     
Wicked Jane, whose name doesn’t mean anything but just popped into Arifai‘s head while driving, is set on a restaurant-rich street in Greenwich Village, all with outdoor seating for the moment. Inside Wicked Jane there is a bar-lounge space where, at least for the moment, the menu is à la carte. Up a few steps to the rear is a spartan dining room meant to show off Arifai’s food not the décor. The music—clearly a musician’s, not a chef’s, list—plays way in the background for once, to be enjoyed if one wishes to hear it. The problem is that the lighting in the room is so low that the beauty and color of the dishes are subdued to the point where a flashlight is needed to see just how pretty they are. Low lighting is never really romantic in a restaurant where people want to see the rest of the guests.  Photo: Layne Able
      The tables are big, round and well set with double linens, candles, fine silverware and a range of excellent stemware for various wines. The wine list, which is well chosen if modest in size, is due for an infusion by well-dressed sommelier Alvaro Mondaca (previously at Gramercy Tavern), whose own passion for the labels he buys makes for a quick education about sometimes obscure bottlings. Allow him to choose the wines to best accompany Arifai’s food.
         The prix fixe menu of six courses is quite reasonable —make that a bargain—$125 ($75 extra for wine pairings), with the addition of three hors d’oeuvres that include a small foie gras-stuffed cannoli, chicken cheesecake and duck skin with yogurt and pomegranate (left), none of which sound all that remarkable on their own but are all carefully incorporated as bite-size bon bons and have their own textures and seasoning to make them exciting openers.
         Our first course was a lustrous mackerel with a light edamame purée, and subtly spicy ginger cumin sauce, served with an Austrian Grüner-Veltliner 2018. With this arrived generous slices of house-made sourdough bread with brown butter, chicken jus and olive oil for  dipping (below). We were off to a very good start.
      The next course was called “onion carbonara” but bears scant resemblance to that classic Roman pasta, here sauced with a creamy Parmigiano-pecorino foam and slices of autumn’s black truffles. It might have been far more savory had the onions not been so raw and crunchy. This came with a Sassella 2016. Next came Canadian (farm-raised) salmon of very good quality, though the vanilla oil and soy caramel was a bit too sweet.
      After that came three superb dishes. Velvety skate—a fish you sadly do not often see in restaurants—was served with soft, buttery sautéed leaks in an herbal seafood broth, accompanied by a Givry  Prémier Cru 2019. Exceptionally flavorful swordfish also had a sweet component in a cranberry sauce but balanced with dried olives and chive oil. The wine was a Mercurey Prémier Cru 2019.
         Apparently Arifai’s roasted duck breast has become his signature item, and it’s easy to see why: the duck (left) is cooked so as to have the crispiness and fat of the skin complementing the rosy meat, and as a fall dish, the braised cabbage and fig-red wine emulsion worked beautifully, not least with the choice of a Château Ormes de Pez 2012.
       At this point in the meal we were not sated, which says a lot about the portions and lightness of Arifai’s cooking, so we were happy when a cheese course arrived in the form of a house-made fresh white cheese in a grape soup with fig, slightly compromised by what seemed to be the taste of celery. The Quinaterelli Amarone della Valpolicella 1997 made perfect sense then.
      Bigaro granita with spiced apples was both refreshing and bracing before a finale of  a seasonal pumpkin custard that was such simple goodness, served with walnut and caramel.
     Wicked Jane, by any name, would be an impressive debut, especially since it is such an ambitious restaurant and Arifai is such a highly creative chef, doggedly set on making it a success downtown with the kind of cuisine more usual uptown.  Arifai may well turn out to be a chef’s chef, even among those with more training than he’s had. That is a very rare thing to find and one to be gratefully applauded. 

 

Dinner is served Tues.-Sat.

 


Note: NYC Health Dept. rules require both staff and guests 12 or older to  show proof they have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

 


 

 


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CAPONE’S GOLD


By John Mariani

To read all chapters of Capone's Gold beginning April 4, 2021 go to the archive
 

CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX



"God of the Nile," Naples



         Katie and David called the harbor police and told them to come out to their location, where within thirty minutes they found Iacobello and Frascella, his head bandaged with his own t-shirt, sitting tied up on the deck.
       The switchblade was still stuck in the bulkhead and Frascella’s blood left as it was.  The boat pilot was bound and locked below deck.
         It didn’t take long for the police to see what had happened, and, with Katie’s recording to back up their side of the story, she and David felt relieved when the police officer said to Iacobello, “We’ve been waiting a long time for you to do something stupid, Frankie.”
         Back in Naples the following day Katie and David received phone calls from both Lucadamo and Primerano congratulating them and expressing relief that their American friends were safe. Both said that the  couple would have to stay in Naples for a few days during the indictment and preliminary depositions and have to return for the trial, which would be months away.
         “We never really took our eyes off Iacobello,” said Lucadamo, “but I’m sorry he had to try to murder you two in order to catch him at something.”
         “Did you know he was Mafia, not Camorra?” asked David.
         Si, and we knew he kept contact with some of his old friends. But the Camorra doesn’t like to see Mafiosi anywhere on their territory, so we felt Iacobello was not going to make trouble.”
         Primerano told David that if he and Katie had gone to Palermo, Sicily, looking for the gold, they might not have made it to their hotel.  
 
   “You’re lucky you two chose Naples,” he said. “There’s never been any evidence that the Camorra was involved with the transfer of the gold to America, even though Vito Genovese was Neapolitan by birth.”
         After receiving the news that she and David would have to stay in Naples, she called her editor and told him the story of the attempted murder and why they’d have to remain in Italy.
         “What’d he say?” asked David.
         “He’s ecstatic that we almost got killed!  He said it was going to be a fabulous part of the whole story.  There’s an old expression in the news business: ‘If it bleeds, it leads.’”
         “So he’s fine with us sticking around Naples for a while?”
         “Absolutely, especially since I told him the Neapolitan police would pay for our room and board while we’re here. Then he said, `Well, don’t waste your time there just eating and drinking. Get back on the Capone story.’”
         David laughed and said, “Ha, I’m happy to oblige, but I haven’t a clue where we turn next. Our attempted murder will make a good story, but it turned out to have nothing to do with Capone’s gold. One good thing, the Mafia will probably not send anyone up here to knock us off after what happened with Frankie and Johnny.”
         Katie smiled with relief and said, “True, and now we’ve got carte blanche, for a while at least, to look under every cobblestone in Naples and maybe get some new leads.”
         David said, “I know, that’s terrific. But I have to tell you, I’m not too hopeful. If Capone kept back some gold from Mussolini—and we’re pretty sure he did—where the hell could he stash it in Italy? It could be anywhere.”
         “Maybe, except that Al himself never set foot over here and he had no known connections with anyone in northern Italy and he would never have sent it to the Mafia in Sicily.  I still think the gold is somewhere here in the region of Naples. Some bank account. Maybe even a branch of the Vatican Bank (above).”
         “I’m pretty sure Primerano and Lucadamo would have investigated those possibilities over the last fifty years. But it would be very difficult otherwise to hide that much gold—we’re talking about hundreds of ingots.  I doubt it’s stuffed under some relative’s mattress.”
         “Do you think it’s possible some of the gold was never off-loaded from the ocean liners?” asked Katie.
         “Hard to imagine it just sitting there for years, undiscovered.  And, if it was, it’s joined the gold from the rumrunner at the bottom of the sea because those ships were sunk in the war.”
         “You don’t have any other friends in the police forces here you might contact?”
         “Nope.”
         “Well, then let’s use this weekend to do a little sightseeing, have some good meals, and relax after our charming outing on the Stella di Mare.”
         “Can’t argue with that. How about I show you a few places I knew while I was here, and you can plan the rest of the sightseeing.”
         “Deal.  You know, I really want to see Capri and the Amalfi Coast.”
         “Fine with me. We can rent a car and drive down the coast, then take a ferry to Capri. (above).  Or we could take a ferry from Sorrento, then catch one to a town like Positano.”
         “I like the first idea. Rent a car, drive down the coast, save Capri for last.  Hey, maybe Capone sent the gold to Capri!”
         “Gee, how lucky can we get?”
         Kate and David made plans, first to do some sightseeing in Naples, then on Saturday to rent a car and drive down the Amalfi Coast.  The former began with the requisite tourist stops—for this they rented Vespa scooters—churches like Santa Maria degli Angeli and Santa Chiara and monuments like the "Statue of the Nile," Castel Nuovo, and underground Naples, and the great museums of the city, rich with Neapolitan baroque and painters who followed the dramatic style of Caravaggio.  They also booked tickets for the opera at San Carlo one night (right).
         Meanwhile, they ate well in small trattorias and drank coffee at Caffè Gambrinus (left) on the Piazza Trieste e Trento.
         On Saturday they rented a Fiat Cinquecento—David said its small size was better for navigating the narrow, serpentine roads of the Amalfi Coast—and headed south on the A3 highway, stopping at Pompeii to see the ruins caused by Mount Vesuvius more than two thousand years before.
         “You know something,” said David.  “We should at least stop for a little while at Castellamare (below). It’s on the way to Sorrento. It’s where Capone’s family moved from Angri before leaving for America.  It’s also famous for what was called the Castellamarese War between two Mafia families in Chicago and New York back in the 1930s. Very bloody business.”
         “I’m happy to visit Castellamare,” said Katie, “but that Mafia war you mention referred to another Castellamare, in Sicily, not here.  I’d also like to visit Angri, where Al’s story really did begin.”
         “Well, that’s fine with me.  We can do Angri tomorrow. It’s close to Castellamare. ” David looked at the road map they bought at a newsstand. “This looks like it’s only about fifteen kilometers from Castellamare.  That’s what, ten miles?”
         “Good,” said Katie. “I can go to Mass in the same church where Al Capone’s mother prayed for him.  I think even you would enjoy that.”
         David shrugged and said, “I guess I can last an hour at Mass . . . for the sake of our investigation.”

 




©
John Mariani, 2015





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NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR


ERNEST HEMINGWAY
ON WINE AND SPIRITS

By John Mariani


Ernest Hemingway in Key West, c. 1937


 

 

      "As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans."A Moveable Feast (1964)

      Life's greatest gifts to Ernest Hemingway were his appetite and being born in a century that allowed him to indulge it. No one travelled more widely or immersed himself so deeply in the culture of a place, picking up the language on the street, so that he could say with certainty, "If a man is making up a story, it will be true in proportion to the amount of knowledge of life that he has and how conscientious he is."
     Hemingway knew every café in Pamplona, every hotel worth staying at in Switzerland, every concierge in Paris, the perfect recipe for a Bloody Mary (which he said he introduced to Hong Kong in 1941) and what price marlin roe goes for in the Havana markets.  His page-by-page descriptions of the meals, wines and spirits he and his fictional characters consumed were so exquisitely crafted as to become quintessential moments readers have ever after sought to evoke on the same exact spot.
      He knew a tremendous amount about wine, which he called "one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing which may be purchased." He had an amazing capacity without getting drunk, though he often did, and he could write descriptions with great exactitude about drinks like the sugar-less frozen daiquiri at the La Floridita bar (left) in Havana: "The frapped part of the drink was like the wake of a ship and the clear part was the way the water looked when the bow cut it when you were in shallow water over marl bottom. That was almost the exact color." He held the official record for the largest number of daiquiris (which he liked without sugar) at La Floridita.
      He liked his Martinis made with 15 parts gin and one of dry vermouth, a mix he called a "Montgomery" after the British Field Marshall, who liked to outnumber his enemy by that ratio before attacking. Hemingway preferred Russian vodka, Gordon's gin, and Bacardi rum, and called deusico, a Turkish coffee he tried in Constantinople, a "tremendously poisonous, stomach rotting drink." 
     
While an ambulance driver in Italy during World War I, he drank cheap wine, writing, “On a retreat we drink barbera.” Decades later, staying at the Gritti Palace in Venice, he enjoyed Valpolicella and drank it frequently with his friend Giuseppe Cipriani, owner of Harry’s Bar there (right). He learned about French wines while a correspondent in Paris, enjoying the cafés of Montparnasse like La Rotonde, La Cloiserie des Lilas (left) and Lipp. Aside from good Champagne, his taste ran to cheap, hearty red wines like Cahors, of which said, “If I had all the money in the world I would drink Cahors and water.” Equally so, Chablis was a cheap white wine back then, and he enjoyed that with sandwiches at lunch, but he did not consider Châteauneuf-du-Pape “a luncheon wine.” His favorite rosé was Tavel. He was, however, duly impressed when a waiter in Madrid brought him a bottle of Château Mouton-Rothschild 1906.
      After Hemingway started making good money from his writing, he stayed at the two hotels that are still among the very finest in Paris—The Ritz and the Crillon. While on assignment in 1944 for Collier's, Hemingway and a group of G.I.s "liberated" the Ritz on the Place Vendôme, clearing out a pocket of German soldiers and celebrating by ordering 50 Martinis. After the war he frequented the "Little Bar" (right) at The Ritz, since enlarged and re-named "The Hemingway Bar," where bartender Colin Field still keeps Papa's memory burning and where they play old 78 RPM records on the phonograph.
     Hemingway craved the glamor of The Ritz, which opened just a year before he was born, recalling the unalloyed pleasure he took "always haveing [sic] at least two bottles of Perrier Jouet in the ice bucket and the old Kraut Marlene [Dietrich, left] always ready to come in and sit with you while you shave." One night at The Ritz he stayed up until dawn drinking Scotch with Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.
     But when Hemingway just wanted to meet friends for drinks, he, like every American since 1919, headed for Harry's New York Bar at 5 Rue Daunou (printed on the window, for Americans' benefit, as "SANK ROO DOE NOO").  Festooned with American college pennants, this birthplace of the Bloody Mary (under the name "Red Snapper") was where Hemingway once dragged an ex-welterweight and his defecating pet lion into the street for disturbing the customers.
     Of course, Hemingway was happiest in Madrid, and his spirit is palpable in that great city. Walk up the street from The Palace to the Plaza Santa Ana and you'll find one of Papa's favorite surviving tapas bars, Cerveceria Alemana, decked out with photos of famous bullfighters he knew well. Papa would drink with them while gobbling up a platter of Iberian ham, boiled shrimp with mayonnaise and crisp potato salad, sweet squid fried with vinegar, and wash it all down with white mugs of Mahou beer. Cerveceria Alemana remains just like that, scruffy, fast-paced, unforgettable. His favorite Madrid restaurant was the ancient Botin, where he said he once had the wonderful roast suckling pig with “three bottles of Rioja alta.” Botin, too, is as popular and dependable as ever, though now packed with tourists still attracted by Hemingway’s recommendation.
   Alcohol was fuel to Hemingway but also his foe; he endured stretches of drunkenness and periods of abstinence. In Cuba and Florida he rose early in the morning, wrote until noon (unless he was out fishing or U-boat hunting on his boat the Pilar) and didn’t start drinking till early evening with dinner. Hardly a page of Hemingway is turned without reference to his characters drinking, but that was an era when drinking was standard behavior among Americans abroad.
      He sometimes drank just to drink, but in his prose, no one ever wrote better about the pleasures of good wine and spirits.











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FOOD WRITING 101:
BLOCK THAT SIMILE!

"Very few of a restaurant critic’s working meals have a sense of occasion, but this one did, and Francie fit the moment like a pair of Lululemon ABC pants."--Pete Wells, "Francie restaurant," NY Times (Nov 17, 2021).














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 Any of John Mariani's books below may be ordered from amazon.com.



   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. 

WATCH THE VIDEO!

“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.




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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, thedailybeast.com

"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 Meal.com.

"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.

                                                                             






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FEATURED LINKS: I am happy to  report that the Virtual Gourmet is  linked to four excellent travel sites:

Everett Potter's Travel  Report

I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the  web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury  Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and  a frequent contributor to National  Geographic Traveler, ForbesTraveler.com  and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their  travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special  places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of  staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star  places as five-star experiences." 






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,  Misha Mariani, John A. Curtas, Gerry Dawes, Geoff Kalish. Contributing Photographer: Galina Dargery. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.

 

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