Virtual Gourmet

  October 17 ,   2021                                                                                            NEWSLETTER

Founded in 1996 


        Joan Crawford      



By John Mariani

Greenwich, CT
By John Mariani

By John Mariani

Brancott of New Zealand
By John Mariani


On this week's episode of my WVOX Radio Show "Almost Golden," on Wed. October 20 at 11AM EST,I will be interviewing the indefatigable chanteuse, aged 93, Marilyn Maye about her career and the history of cabaret.  Go to: The episode will also be archived at: almostgolden.



By John Mariani

"Still Life with Raspberries" (c. 1770) by Luis Meléndez


     Some years ago I watched while the late French chef Joël Robuchon stood outside his namesake Paris restaurant with a vendor of raspberries. Looking over the flats with the eye of an eagle, Robuchon said, “That one, not that, not that, yes, that one. . .” and accepted perhaps four out of the twelve cartons. Mind you, vendors would not dare to bring a chef like Robuchon, whose restaurant then had three Michelin stars, anything but their absolute best. Yet among those flats Robuchon picked the best of the best.
      I also once accompanied the late Tony Cortese, owner of Amerigo’s, one of the best Italian restaurants in New York, down to what was then the Meat Market District on Manhattan’s West Side (now occupied by boutiques and Millennials’ restaurants). As he did every week, Tony tipped his butcher generously for helping to choose precisely the carcasses he wanted cut up for his kitchen, and they were as delicious as any in New York, which at the time meant better than anywhere else in the country.
      Both Robuchon and Cortese are gone, but I’d like to think their spirit lives on in demanding chefs and restaurateurs who truly want, seek out and pay for the best ingredients available. Sadly, with rare exception, that spirit has dissipated, even among well respected chefs, at a time when they blithely sign management contracts to put their names on so many restaurants in so many cities and countries that they have no say in what is actually being purchased by their minions miles away. Yet the claim of just about every restaurant in the U.S. above the level of a Macaroni Grill that it serves only the finest ingredients has become sheer nonsense, especially when those claims are based on ingredient names that once held a certain well deserved prestige but that have now been spread around as ubiquitously as Idaho potatoes and Maine lobsters (neither of which is an actual species but only a marketing label).
      To begin with, Russian and Iranian caviar has been banned for export since 2007 because the sturgeon were almost wiped out in their Caspian Sea habitat. Yet many high-end restaurants are now charging the same price that Caspian Sea caviar once commanded for fish roe from sturgeon raised in China—whose reputation for fraudulent labeling is notorious—Malaysia, Moldova, Madagascar, Uruguay, even Saudi Arabia. Yet, the tins they are packed in will read “Russian,” “Royal” or attached a Czarist name like Romanoff. Much of it is culled from a sturgeon hybrid called Kaluga. It is even being served at many of France’s three-star restaurants. Does it compare favorably to true Russian or Iranian caviar? Possibly, but more in the way that a hybrid sports car compares to a Maserati.
        Then, of course, there is wagyu beef, which has become a farce of marketing magic.  Even five years ago only a handful of restaurants in the U.S. could claim they serve the authentic wagyu from a renowned Prefecture in Japan, especially Miyazaki A5, whose production was minuscule and whose export was infinitesimal (only A3 to A5 grade is certified for sale in Japan). Today, however, with exports risen 500% in the last five years, just about any restaurant that is willing to pay a bit more can obtain it and put it on its menu. Still, according to Nikkei Asia, the biggest importer is Cambodia, followed by Hong Kong and Taiwan with the U.S. fourth. (Much of Cambodia's imports are believed to be re-exported to China, which still bans Japanese beef.)
Most chefs and butchers fudge on the term “wagyu” (which means merely “cattle” in Japanese) to mean anything from a lesser quality Japanese beef to that grown more or less from a similar steer, usually a hybrid with another breed. The fact is the Japanese breed is not allowed to be exported (some live cattle did come through briefly before 1997).  Most British, American, and Australian wagyu are only 50% purebred; true wagyu calves can cost 40 times the price of U.S. cattle, and it is estimated there are less than 30,000 head of pure wagyu in the U.S. —that’s about 0.029% of all American beef cattle — and tacking on the name “Kobe,” which is the Japanese city where much wagyu is raised, means nothing at all. So any restaurant selling you a $25 wagyu or Kobe hamburger is really just selling you a bill of goods. That said, it is a rare thing today to find an American high-end restaurant, especially steakhouses, that does not put some facsimile of the wagyu name on its menu.
        “Wild game” is often seen on menus, yet in the U.S. by law no wild game, including freshwater fish, can be sold or served, because the fish in even the most pristine stream in Alaska may carry dangerous bacteria. The exception is wild game from places like Scotland, where the animal must be professionally examined before it is approved as safe to eat. Wild salmon is hard to find, whether from the Atlantic or Pacific, and then it is usually either flash frozen or Cryovac-ed for sale, so that even the most expensive restaurants use farmed-raised salmon in lieu of the wild version. Many are labeled on the menu as from Faroe Islands, but that is not a wild sanctuary; it, too, is a fish farm. Recently a gourmet friend insisted to me that he was told that wild salmon was caught, gutted, packed, trucked to an airport in Seattle for a plane leaving for Las Vegas that afternoon, which seems more than impossible to achieve day after day, especially if the salmon aren’t biting within their seasonal spawning.
      So, too, it is nearly impossible to find wild branzino out of the Mediterranean. “Dover sole” is not a separate species of sole, but only indicates a fatter, finer quality sole that may or may not come from British or Scandinavian waters. There are three stocks of Dover sole in the United States on the Pacific coast, in the Gulf of Alaska, and in the Bering Sea.
          Any time you see truffles on a menu before or after the fall season, you are not getting the famous black truffles from France’s Périgord region (dug up by pigs) or the astoundingly expensive white truffles from around Alba in Italy (sniffed out by hounds). Agriculturists have been trying for decades to produce truffles via inoculation but results have been modest at best. Other countries do harvest truffles (those from New Zealand are pretty good) and “summer truffles” are just that, but it is rare their flavor approaches that of autumn’s gems.
        The same might be said for any number of foods, from those raspberries Joël Robuchon picked out so carefully to white asparagus, whose finest examples only appear in certain European countries like Belgium in spring. Eating any fruit or vegetable out of season is not going to provide the best of them, even if the northern and southern hemispheres have opposite seasons and some places, like California, can eke out two or more. Really wonderful raspberries, strawberries and blueberries simply cannot be offered on a menu year-round. Asparagus have their peak period, bay scallops are unique to New England waters in season, the shad do not run all year and the Chinese stone crabs bear little comparison to the sweet ones from Florida waters, available only October 15 through May 1.
        There is no doubt that agriculture and animal husbandry has provided much more, and often better, products on a regular basis. (Let’s face it, you once had to be lucky to buy delicious summer’s corn at a farm stand, whereas as now, even supermarket corn is dependably sweet.) But unless you can frequent a local farm whose crops are small and carefully tended, will you ever get a tomato of any real taste later than mid-September. Wild mushrooms like porcini are almost never found fresh in U.S. markets.
       I do know that in Europe chefs with a feverish commitment to quality and seasonality may still be able to buy lamb and chickens raised  in their community along with lettuce and herbs, while the forests may be rich with wild mushrooms and the fish markets teem with the morning’s catch.
        The very best costs a great deal of money, and a menu claiming to serve the finest should reflect that. There are no bargains in wagyu, white truffles or caviar, but far too often, whether it’s in a princely hotel in Dubai, a Las Vegas high rollers steakhouse or a restaurant in the Eiffel Tower, you really have to ask, “What’s in a name?” before you pay for what you get.



2 South Water Street
Greenwich CT


By John Mariani


      Greenwich, Connecticut, has long needed both a high quality steakhouse and a fine Italian restaurant. Macelleria, which debuted in Pelham, New York, two years ago, with a second in Armonk, has managed to provide both to this suburban city on the Gold Coast within one splendid looking space.
     Owner Anthony Lala (left, with chef Joe Fusco) is one of those Albanian immigrants who will be the first to tell you that the American dream is alive and still very possible for anyone who wants to work hard and work his way up. Along the way he has learned every aspect of the business and the ideals of hospitality, so that no guest is ever less than pampered and every one  will be very much impressed by the finesse of the whole operation. It’s one of those take-your-time kind of places to linger over dessert and coffee and maybe an after-dinner drink.
      Macelleria is a big place, with 200 seats, but so divided to seem more intimate, with widely spaced tables, wooden floors and a stone fireplace now being put into operation as the colder weather takes hold. The smaller details are the finer ones: The tables are large, the linens of good quality, the stemware thin, the knives by Laguiole. If a little spot of food drops from your fork, within seconds it will be covered by a fresh napkin. All portions are large, and sharing or taking food home is a high probability. The wine list has real substance, and, by the glass, you get a very generous pour.
      Chef Joe Fusco’s menu doesn’t push the standard envelope, so the focus is on impeccable ingredients and well-honed technique. Fried calamari, so often either fishy or tasteless, are flavorful and perfectly cooked to a light golden crispiness ($12). The seafood salad ($24) is a bargain for such a bountiful catch of shrimp, scallops, crab meat, octopus and calamari with arugula and lemon vinaigrette. The Maryland crab cake ($14) is a good, meaty one, but the menu’s promise of “colossal jumbo lump crab” was a big stretch.  I was told that the meatballs (below) were extraordinary and they lived up to the hype. At $12 it’s a massive portion of braised mini meatballs with bright tomato sauce, the aroma of basil and an ice cream scoop of mascarpone cheese.  The Iceberg lettuce wedge ($12) with an abundance of blue cheese, crispy bacon, red onions and heirloom tomatoes makes for a splendid lunch all on its own.
     All the pastas are made on premises, and I highly recommend the cavatelli with broccoli di rabe and sausage and a good dose of garlic and oil ($16). The spaghetti alla carbonara ($16) with  bacon, onions, egg yolk and parmesan cheese achieves the requisite creaminess without the addition of cream at all.
      You may want go easy on the antipasti and pastas, because the size of the main courses is astonishing. You get six succulent lamb chops ($48) that are tender, beautifully cooked and eaten right off the bone. Braised short ribs with mushrooms in a very rich brazing sauce ($29) is as hearty a dish  as you’ll find in October, and the veal chop was equally satisfying and a buy at $30.
       The branzino was one of the largest whole fishes I have seen on an individual plate ($26) and, although a bit overcooked that night, it was a dish that really needs to be shared, along with its seasonal vegetables, rosemary flecks and virgin olive oil glaze.
     The prices on side dishes at most steakhouses have gone through the roof elsewhere— Smith and Wollensky charges $14—but not at Macelleria, where they all cost five dollars. Sautéed spinach, broccoli di rabe, buttered corn, fat crisp french fries, perfectly textured whipped potatoes and very sweet shoestring fried onions rings are not to be missed.
     Nor are the housemaid desserts that include the inevitable tiramisù and an extremely well-made crème brûlée.
     At a time when so many people are complaining about the rise in prices at restaurants on top of the high prices steakhouses usually charge, Macelleria proves itself both a first class steakhouse and a solid Italian restaurant, so to have both in one place for very gentle prices and food well worth sharing is a rare thing indeed, especially in tony Greenwich, Connecticut.    


Open for lunch and dinner daily.





By John Mariani

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


Basilica di San Francesco di Paola, Naples


      The flight landed in Rome, where Katie and David had a quick brioche and cappuccino before getting the fast train to Naples that took barely an hour, arriving in the city center terminal.
      It was still warm in Naples in late September and the sky was patched with silver-white cumulus clouds that sent fast-moving shadows over the landscape of the city, whose outskirts were as grim as any suburbs in Italy; rows and rows of drab apartment buildings constructed of the cheapest materials that had aged badly almost immediately after completion.  The city sprawled over eleven hilly neighborhoods, from the most historic center down to the port and the vast Capodimonte park.  Built up by so many different invaders over millennia—Romans, Byzantines, Goths, Swabians, Austrians, French and others before native son Garibaldi liberated the city—Naples was a mismatch of every form of architecture since the first century A.D., when the city was completely destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the year 87.
      Greco-Roman architecture gave way to Byzantine and that to the Romanesque and Gothic, then Spanish and Bourbon baroque and on through the Neo-classical, one city built on top of another, with extrusions that made neighborhoods both a jumble of rotting architectural styles and barbaric modernity after the Unification of Italy in 1861.  No Italian city suffered more from Allied bombings in World War II, concentrated on the ports, the Bagnoli steelworks (right) and other industrial sections but managing to kill more than 20,000 inhabitants.
      Naples had never recovered from the war as did northern Italy, and it was only the prospect of hosting the 1994 G7 Economic Summit that forced city officials to clear out and clean up the most public areas in the city, like the Piazza Plebescito and the Palazzo Reale, where the conclave met.
      By ten o’clock—it was Sunday—Katie and David were dropped off at the hotel on the Via Depretis (below), very near the Palazzo and not far from the Bay of Naples.  At the front desk Katie asked if there was a convenient church where she could go to Mass and was told that the Basilica of Francesco di Paola was just five minutes away and had a mass every hour on Sunday morning.
      Perfetto,” said Katie, then, “David, how about coming to Mass with me?”
      David thought for a moment that spending even more time with Katie was something he’d enjoy, but his jetlag got the better of him.  
“Thanks, Katie, but I’m just going to collapse until lunch. Wake me up when you get back.”
      Katie tossed her things in her room, freshened up and brought a beret with her, believing that the women in Naples must still cover their heads in church. She headed down the broad Via San Carlo to the vast Palazzo Reale, where the Basilica stood at the eastern end.  Approaching it, Katie felt it looked like a distended version of the Pantheon in Rome, half-ringed like St. Peter’s with colonnades.
      Inside Katie marveled at the immensity of the space, which included a dome three times the height of the Pantheon, circled with Corinthian columns, bright, recently restored marble floors, its chapels and altarpieces rich with Neapolitan baroque paintings of the saints and gleaming gilded candlesticks and monstrances that held the consecrated Eucharistic host. 
The eleven o’clock Mass was well attended, though, as at home, mostly by the elderly and most of them women. There were young families together and several altar boys in red and white aiding in the ceremony by a priest clad in the liturgical season’s green vestments trimmed with gold thread. 
The basilica’s bells rang, its organ bellowed, the priest solemnly entered and everyone rose in their pews. Except for the size of the basilica, all was as it would have been at home, even the use of Italian, which one of the churches Katie sometimes attended in the Bronx also offered its parishioners.
      Intoning an echoing kyrie, the priest shook an incense holder by its chain and the pungent perfume of incense smoke, lit by charcoal and infused with frankincense, myrrh, and Damascus rose uncoiled in the sunlight. Katie breathed it all in, as she had thousands of times before, but this time, with her jetlag taking hold, she knelt and almost went to sleep on her arms. 
After Mass Katie returned to the hotel and called David’s room.  The phone rang six times before he answered, sounding as if he’d just risen from the dead.
      “Up for lunch?” asked Katie, who herself desperately needed some refreshment and energy.
      “What time is it?” asked David.
      “Half past noon. You going to sleep all day?”
      “No, no, give me . . . ten minutes.  Meet you in the lobby.”
      It was more like fifteen minutes before David came down, his hair wet from a quick shower. 
“I feel a lot better now,” he said. “How you doing?”
      “I think I dozed off at Mass. Just a venial sin, I think.  But I am hungry.  Got any place in mind?”
      “I remember a nice little trattoria near here where the police liked to eat.  I hope it’s open Sunday.”
      David inquired—in English--of the concierge if Taverna dell’Arte was open. The concierge shook his head.  After trying two more names to no avail, David said to Katie, “Maybe we can just grab a pizza?”
      “Fine with me for a first meal on land,” Katie said.
      “Is that Ciro a Santa Brigida place open?” David asked the concierge.      It was and it was nearby, on Via Santa Brigida, so they had the concierge make a reservation—he said it was just a three-minute walk—and soon they were at the colorful two-story structure with a ristorante downstairs and the pizzeria upstairs. Katie and David chose the latter, with a verandah table overlooking the street, which was quiet because it was Sunday.  The tables were set with crisp white and maroon linens, the wine glasses were thin.
      “How about we order one pizza and some pasta to follow?” asked David, who was very hungry.
      “Sounds good to me,” said Katie, “but, you know, in Italy it’s not cool to take food back with you.”
      “That, I guarantee, will not be a problem,” said David, feeling very well now.
      They ordered a classic pizza alla margherita, which had been created in Naples back in 1889 to honor Queen Margherita (below), its ingredients’ colors, green basil, red tomato, and white mozzarella, those of the new Italian flag. David also ordered linguine with tiny vongole clams and Katie a seafood risotto, with which they drank a fruity white wine from the region named fiano di avellino.
      “We’ve nothing planned after this, do we?” asked Katie, enjoying every morsel of her meal.
      “Nope. No agenda today.  We see my old cop friends tomorrow. We’re off today.”
      “Well, after this meal and the wine, I want to stretch my legs until I collapse this afternoon, then rest until dinner.”      “I like the rest part, but I’ll tag along with you, do some sightseeing on the company dime.” 
David had no idea how long they’d be in Naples but hoped it would be a week or more.  Katie and he seemed at their best lingering over a good meal and a bottle of wine.



*                         *                         *


      The next morning, after coffee and brioche, Katie and David were feeling wholly refreshed, excited by what lay ahead, believing that the last piece of the puzzle might soon be found.  And it was all to happen in Naples, which was sun-filled and clear that day after a midnight rainfall. 
Katie had boned up a bit on Naples’ history, while David’s experience in the city would help them navigate the maze of streets, the traffic, the street hustlers, and the women selling black market cigarettes. Which streets to avoid at night. 
Katie had read how a succession of foreign powers had both shaped and mismanaged the great sprawling city beside the yawing bay on the Tyrrhenian Sea.  After its destruction by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, Naples was an antagonistic host to each successive conquering power, including Mussolini’s Fascisti. 
   For centuries the Camorra lurked, shifting allegiances and preventing improvements to a city again impoverished by the damage done to it in World War II.  Afterwards, the Italian government gave both short shrift and wide leeway to Naples to fester as a city built on criminal underpinnings that shored up the rich and powerful and creaked and cracked under the poor.
      David had arranged to meet one of the Neapolitan police captains, now retired like himself, he’d known when last in Naples.  Over dinner the night before he’d explained the set-up of Italy’s police forces to Katie.
      “First, you’ve got the Carabinieri,” he said. “They have the nicest uniforms, black with red stripes on their pants and high boots (left).  They have a lot of history behind them and are considered the elite force and they won’t let you forget it. They mostly deal with national crimes, including the mob. They have helicopters and speedboats, the works.
      “Then there’s the state police, who are like our highway police. And they oversee trains and airports, too. Then there’s the local police, who are little more than traffic cops, and, last, there’s the Finance Police, who can be very helpful to us because they’re the ones who monitor international financial dealings, smuggling, counterfeiting and money laundering. They also have some really impressive powerboats to chase the bad guys. Their other big responsibility is to check if you leave a restaurant with a receipt.”
      “Sounds a bit disjointed,” said Katie.
      “Not really.  Think of the Carabinieri as the F.B.I., the state police as state police, then the local guys, and last, the I.R.S.  More or less.” 
“So which one did your colleague belong to?”
      “His name is Giovanni Lucadamo and he was with the most elite section of the Carabinieri, called the ROS—Special Operational Group—which is less than ten years old. They’re the specialists on organized crime and terrorism.  I met him right after he was appointed to the ROS. He’ll fill us in on mob connections.      
“We’d better hurry, grab a taxi; we’re supposed to be at his apartment by ten.”
      “I thought nobody hurries in Italy.”
      “You’re right. We’ll walk over.”


John Mariani, 2015




By John Mariani


      I would hardly be the first to say that Brancott Estate was the pioneer of New Zealand winemaking, beginning back in 1973 in Marlborough, showing that the terroir was excellent for viticulture and at least as good as Australia's (which is 2,500 miles away) and growing into the country's largest producer.  The brand was adopted in 2010 by Pernod Ricard. This month Laura-Kate Morgan, who grew up in Marlborough, was appointed the first woman to hold the position of winemaker. I checked in with her as to Brancott's heritage and future and that of women in the wine world.


How did you get to Brancott Estate and how did you rise to the position you now have?
Coming back to Marlborough was really a full circle moment for me. I grew up here in the region and fell in love with the beauty of the land at an early age. Growing up on my family’s small farm, I found a deep appreciation for the ability to walk out my front door and pick something fresh, which is where my love for produce and Mother Nature stems from.  I followed this passion to University to hone my skills and learn more about the science behind wine growing before heading overseas to expand my knowledge and get a first-hand take on how other regions approach wine growing. Growing up in Marlborough, I’ve always admired Brancott Estate and their presence, leading the way, and shaping the future of the wine industry, so it was an obvious decision when the opportunity arose.


How long has Lincoln University offered a dedicated wine program?

1998 was the first year Lincoln University offered the bachelor’s degree in viticulture and oenology. While the one-year Postgraduate Diploma in Viticulture and Oenology was up and running several years prior and currently both the postgraduate diploma and bachelor’s degrees are still offered. Grape and wine research at Lincoln University dates back until the early 1970s.


What are the main differences in terroir within NZ? How do they differ from Australia’s or California’s?

Here at Brancott Estate and through the New Zealand wine industry, our wines reflect and explore our unique Tūrangawaewae, literally translating as “a place to put your feet” or the place where the grape finds itself — the soil, the climate, the people — all woven together. This is what differentiates NZ Sauvignon Blanc from other countries’ Sauv Blanc. We have amazing soils, fantastic sunlight hours and UV exposure, lovely warm days and cooler nights (diurnal temperature), amazing culture and people. 


New Zealand, being a cooler climate, has longer, cooler growing conditions that promote vibrant and expressive fruit flavors and higher acidity. The diurnal temperature is fantastic and there is slow ripening, freshness is retained and acidity. The resulting wines are pungent, crisp with passionfruit and tropical overtones, citrus, and herbaceous notes not to forget the freshness lingering acidity on the palate — this is Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. 


How did canopy management radically charge viticulture in NZ?

Mechanical leaf plucking practices were first presented to the New Zealand wine industry in the late 1980s. The results promoted benefits for managing disease and increasing ripe fruit flavors. This created a change within the industry, shining a spotlight on the beneficial impacts that canopy management has on wine quality. The increase of vineyard area in New Zealand and the subsequent pressure on labor resources meant that the industry could adopt creative solutions for leaf removal, including the use of sheep like the ones Brancott Estate has in our vineyards.


Is the NZ wine industry male dominated still? Who are some of your female colleagues?

The industry has really evolved. Twenty years ago, there were fewer women in winemaking as it used to be seen as manual, hands-on work for men — which is definitely not the case now. There are so many opportunities and interesting roles from winemaking, to sales, and management. It is an exciting time for New Zealand wine. It is an incredibly diverse industry to work in. The wine industry is a giant platform and there is a lot that goes into producing a bottle of wine. Across our sites and operations, the company represents great diversity, within our winemaking team alone we currently have 70% female occupying winemaking roles.  A handful noted below are women that are working within the wine industry and specifically for Pernod Ricard for a while and have worked their way to their various roles/positions, including Jo-Anna Partridge, with various roles across various countries within our organization and industry; Lesley Boon,  Viticulture manager South Island, and Trina Smith,  Group White and Sparkling Winemaker Pernod Ricard Winemakers Australia


What innovations have you been making for the future within such a large company?

The adoption of technology is huge. It is allowing us to have more visibility and be able to capture more data as it's happening. This means we can be more reactive and make decisions a lot faster, we can be more agile and troubleshoot problems before they arrive. Examples in the vineyard include AVT (autonomous vineyard tractors), which has allowed us to protect ourselves from a shortage in labor, real time data with soil moisture monitoring, and therefore, irrigation, which has given us the ability to act precisely rather than on instinct and new constantly, improving harvesting technology. Examples in the winery include real time data, with tank analysis using probes and sensors, a catwalk-less winery helping to eliminate risks involved with earthquakes, lights out processing, which maximizes technology while offsite through the night and use of machine learning and predictions with a intelligent, integrated software system.


What is the company’s commitment to sustainability and climate change?

As a company that has such a strong focus on the beautiful land of New Zealand and the bounty it has to offer, Brancott Estate understands the importance of sustainability and climate change. Brancott has been dedicated to advocating sustainable wine practices from adopting screw caps to advocating for stainless steel over oak.  Beyond the liquid and bottle, as a founding member of New Zealand's original sustainable wine growing initiative, we’re dedicated to nurturing and protecting the Marlborough region, including the wildlife.
     Specifically, we’ve worked to help preserve a wetland that’s located on one of Brancott's vineyards, the Kaituna wetland, which is one of the largest remaining spring-fed wetlands in Marlborough. In 2019, the company undertook a project to identify exactly what species are living in our wetland so we can better understand and protect the ecosystem. As a result, 85 different species were identified.
     I hope I can look back in years to come and people are still farming the same land and it is just as productive — the environment and land should be treated with respect. You do not want to take more from the land than what you need.  I was very enthused to find Brancott Estate already had a number of projects in the works towards this goal as well.




 "If a ruby-red Beamer screams panic for a certain breed of middle-aged men, do soulless corporate digs for a guerrilla outfit turned establishment darling signal anxiety about identity for an iconic culinary empire?"—Jiayang Fan, "Momofuku Ssäm Bar," The New Yorker (10/18/21).


 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." 

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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© copyright John Mariani 2021