Virtual Gourmet

  September 18,  2022                                                                                            NEWSLETTER

Founded in 1996 


"Chocolates" by Galina Dargery (2016)



By Geoff Kalish


By John Mariani

By John Mariani


By John Mariani


On this week's episode of my WVOX Radio Show "Almost Golden," on Wed. September 21 at 11AM EDT,I will be featuring the most beautiful songs of the great female vocalists of all time. Go to: The episode will also be archived at: almostgolden.


By Geoff Kalish


      In addition to the great art at the Orsay, Pompidou Center, Louvre and l’Orangerie, on a recent visit to Paris we found two not-to-be-missed exhibits. The Elsa Schiaparelli fashion presentation at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (through January 22) near the Louvre at 107 Rue de Rivoli (below) not only shows the drawings and actual fashion creations of the haute couture Italian designer but also provides photos, news clips and other material reflective of her life-long friendships with many surrealist artists and their influence on her eclectic clothing. And the periodically changing, newly opened billionaire François Pinault’s contemporary art collection (1960s to present, currently including a mesmerizing light exhibit and fish balloons that you set afloat) is at The Bourse de Commerce, a grandiose building once home to the Grain Exchange. 
      For lodging, we were quite pleased with our accommodations at the 66-room, 5-star Grand Hôtel du Palais du Royal, only a 2-minute walk from the Louvre. Costing far less than similar accommodations at other 5-star Paris hotels, our room was quite spacious, with a view of the city and an elegant, modern bathroom with a walk-in shower. (It also is opposite the location of the office used in the “Emily Visits Paris TV series.) Seating at a more than adequate buffet breakfast is available on the backyard patio as well as in Café 52, where lunch and dinner focusing on spa-style fare is available. Also, the concierge service, with helpful hints on directions, sightseeing stops and eating establishments was excellent.
      As to dining, while Paris boasts over 100 Michelin-starred restaurants (including 10 with the top 3-star rating), having visited a number of these establishments in the past, in general we found many of them too artsy in their food presentation and way too expensive—some costing almost $1,000 for two, not even including wine (generally at quite inflated prices).  So, instead we “bistro-ed it,” with our top experiences discussed below. Also, while Paris was teeming with tourists, these were establishments primarily frequented by “locals.”


Café de L'Époque
2 Rue du Bouldi

      Located a few minutes walk from our hotel, this unassuming establishment with a turn-of-the-century style interior and a large outdoor terrace offers a wide choice of top-flight French bistro-style fare, with friendly, professional service and a short but above average selection of wine.
      For starters we chose a slice of dense yet moist duck terrine served with crusty grilled bread, heady mustard and cornichons as well as a salad of broiled shrimp and avocado set atop fresh, crisp greens. Our main courses consisted of a large whole sea bass broiled to perfection and served with green beans and a medium-rare charcoal-broiled ribeye steak accompanied by greaseless French fries.
      Desserts were a classic homemade tarte Tatin topped with a large dollop of crème fraiche and an apple sorbet doused with calvados. We accompanied the meal with a 2017 Frédric Mangien Gévrey-Chambertin Vielles Vignes that showed a fragrant bouquet and soft, but ripe flavors of plums and cranberries with a long-lasting finish. (The cost for dinner for two was $225, including wine, tax and service.)


Les Fines Gueules
43 Rue Croix des Petits Champs

      Recommended by our hotel concierge, this “wine bar” (also walking distance from our hotel) was situated inside and on the adjacent sidewalk of a corner building dating from the 17th century. Dinner, with a wide range of choices from a daily-changing blackboard menu, was served on apricot-hued cloths by knowledgeable, helpful professionals.
      We chose a large steamed artichoke stuffed with a crunchy combination of blanched haricots verts, crisp salad greens and a mix of nuts doused in a light vinaigrette, as well as a bowl of barely grilled tuna atop chunks of grilled eggplant coated with a heady sauce containing orange fish roe. Our main courses consisted of a grilled filet of sea perch atop an assortment of seared vegetables and a dish of different cuts of grilled lamb on a bed of diced artichoke hearts and couscous with a sauce of lamb juice and herbs.
      For dessert we enjoyed a lemon tart served with thin slabs of meringue and strewn with a fine dice of fruit and nuts, and an order of  sweet apricot Tartin. We accompanied the meal with a bottle of raspberry-scented 2019 Morgan, served slightly chilled. (The meal, including tax, service and wine, cost $170.)


24 Le Restaurant
24 Rue Jean Mermoz


      Sequestered on a quiet street, a short walk from the Place de la Concorde, this bistro serves fare that’s every bit as good as a Michelin-starred restaurant, and in fact better than some. And, while seating is in a narrow room with dark wood walls, it is most pleasurable to sit on the tented terrace in front of the establishment. Service, China and wine glasses are first class.
      We started with a preparation of thin slices of just-ripe avocado topped with kernels of fresh corn, cuts of red onion and radish, all studded with truffle-flavored popcorn,  and a salad of crunchy, slightly cooked green beans, mixed with slivers of almonds dressed with good olive oil and accompanied by quarter of a hard-boiled egg and two slices of a sweet nectarine.
      Main courses consisted of a thick slice of grilled fillet of Normandy Pollock served with slices of cooked zucchini set atop a foam of seafood and spices. Slices of a medallion of medium-rare veal, served with a grilled baby eggplant and a mousseline of carrots, were all doused with a tangy emulsion of ginger and Indian spices. For dessert we selected a plate composed of a raspberry macaroon accompanied by raspberry sorbet and a white chocolate ganache, with bourbon-vanilla ice cream and a slice of peach doused with a sweet apricot sauce.
      We accompanied the meal with a bottle of 2019 Domaine Maillard Père & Fils Savigny-Les-Bains that had a floral bouquet and delicate taste of ripe cherries and raspberries and a smooth finish, with hints of wild herbs that mated perfectly with both the fish and veal. (The dinner for two  was an amazing $185, including wine, tax and service.)

      And for a falafel fix, head to the Marais area and wait in line at L’As du Falafel (34 Rue de Rossiers) for a pita stuffed with fried balls of falafel (ground chickpeas and spices), tahini dressing plus an accompaniment like grilled eggplant piled on top. If the inside is crowded, take your food out and head down the street to the park and grab a bench. ($8 for the basic falafel.)



Dr. Geoff Kalish writes about wine for several publications. He lives in Bedford, NY.  



                            BENJAMIN PRIME

23 East 40th Street

By John Mariani


      Summer was trying to hold last week when I visited Benjamin Prime on Manhattan’s East Side, whose office buildings are again filling up and whose occupiers are hungry for a great steak dinner. Just past twilight the temperature was in the low 70s, making it a capital idea to dine al fresco within a beautifully designed, well-lighted tent space trimmed in greenery with a pleasing view of passersby.  The moon was in its three-quarters phase, and New York seemed at peace again after the distress of the pandemic. (I’m told the outdoor section, enclosed,  will remain open through winter.)
      There is, perhaps, no better place to celebrate New York’s enduring vitality than at a classic sophisticated steakhouse, and the family-owned Benjamin Restaurant Group, whose first unit opened in 2006, has grown to several others in New York and as far as Tokyo and Kyoto. They also run the Sea Fire Grill reviewed here a few months ago. Benjamin Prime opened in 2016.
      Owners Benjamin Prelvukaj and Benjamin Sinanaj and their staff have a very personal touch with all their clientele, which includes a great number of regulars, newcomers and a large component of Asian tourists. It is a mark of those Eastern Europeans, in this case Albanian, to hire veterans from within who share the same sense of cordiality. No guest waits long for a waiter to appear or for the food to come out of the kitchen.
      Benjamin Prime inside takes over 10,000 square feet with a high ceiling—it can get loud at peak hours, which end around nine—done in dark woods, leather banquettes, sprays of flowers and spacious tables set with white linens. Upstairs are five private party rooms seating 150.
      I don’t discern much difference from Benjamin Prime (hereafter BP) and the other Benjamins, since they all serve USDA Prime beef, as well as Colorado lamb. Some of the dishes may slightly differ, but overall they share the same menu, all steakhouse classics of a kind that never go out of style.
      This is the kind of menu that begs the question, “What am I in the mood for?” You probably came for the beef, which we’ll get to in a moment, but let’s begin at the beginning with a selection of tartares—Scottish salmon and yellowfin tuna with a citrus crème fraîche ($27); filet mignon with black truffle crème fraîche and truffle shavings ($35); or strip loin and foie gras with caramelized onions ($39), all of which are out of the ordinary compared with other steakhouses’. Lobster bisque ($19) rises or falls on how much lobster flavor the soup has and how much lobster meat is included, criteria BP meets generously.  
There is a dish of two lump crabmeat cakes ($29) as an appetizer that would usually be offered as a more expensive main course. These are meaty, creamy and come with a red pepper coulis, beet remoulade, frisée lettuce and tartar sauce. As elsewhere, there is sizzling Canadian bacon “extra thick” ($29) and it’s true. Juicy and full flavored (right), this can easily be shared at a table for two or more because each morsel is so rich.
      BP dry ages its beef in its own cold lockers, and the porterhouse cut that has become a New York signature can be had for two, three or four people ($132 for two, $198 for three, $264 for four), and believe me, any of that number will end up taking some home. The option for two people will readily feed three and three four. The beef takes a good char and remains succulent throughout, suffused with melting marbleized fat. The rack of lamb from Colorado is expertly cooked as well and comes with old-fashioned mint jelly ($65).
      The swordfish ($45) comes from off Montauk, Long Island, and it’s sweet and meaty, with a light blacken seasoning and creamy tartar sauce. The home-fried potatoes ($16) are about average, the “creamless” creamed spinach ($16) delicious and the onion rings ($17) addictive and come in a lavish portion.
      The best of several excellent house-made desserts ($14) is the Key lime pie with just the perfect balance of tang, sweetness and velvety texture throughout.
      BP’s wine list, as at all the company’s units, is outstanding, and it gets a clientele willing to pop for the big Bordeaux, Barolos and California Cabs. Prices, expectedly, are not cheap but tell your budget to the manager and he’ll meet it with the best of breed.
      It is that overall, all-around hospitality that distinguishes BP. Its space is big and convivial, the atmosphere lively and the option of dining outdoors through winter gives an added reason for choosing this among so many East Side beef emporiums. 

Open for lunch and dinner Monday-Friday; dinner Saturday and Sunday.




By John Mariani

To read previous chapters of ANOTHER VERMEER, go to the archive


"September Double Ninth Festival," Taipei National Museum


      The flight to Taipei on China Airlines was going to be close to 17 hours, leaving at the ungodly hour of 12:20 a.m., which Katie thought was just fine because she had no trouble sleeping on a plane, even though they were arriving a whole day later at 5:30 in the morning Taiwan time. David never slept well on an airplane, except when he and Katie flew together to Italy on the Capone case and she fell asleep on his shoulder.
            Katie had booked rooms at Taipei’s most famous hotel, appropriately called the Grand, set majestically on the ruins of a former Shinto shrine at the top of a hill surrounded by a park. The Grand was opened in 1952 by Chiang Kai-Shek, who wanted a five-star hotel to attract foreign ambassadors—Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton had all stayed there—and put his wife, Soong May, in charge of the pagoda-like project, which was expanded over the years and decorated with so many dragon motifs in red and gold that it earned the nickname Dragon Palace.

            On arrival at the Grand, Katie and David were impressed by the immense size of the lobby, with massive red columns and gold inlaid ceiling.
            “I have two rooms booked, under the names Cavuto and Greco,” Katie told the check-in attendant, handing him their passports and her corporate credit card.
            “Ah, yes, welcome to the Grand,” said the man, “but we will not need your credit card. Everything has been taken care of by Mr. Hai Shui. He has booked you in two of our very finest rooms, connected, on the top floor. I’m sure you’ll be very happy with them.”
            Katie and David looked at each other, then she told the attendant, “That’s very kind of Mr. Shui, but I’m afraid I’m not able to accept his largess. You see, I am a journalist here to interview Mr. Shui, and I have to pay my own expenses. It’s a rule of my magazine.”
      The man seemed truly stunned, even embarrassed, not quite sure what to say or do, so he apologized and excused himself for a moment to speak with his manager, who came from his office to greet the two Americans. He was impeccably tailored in a double-breasted, dark blue suit of shantung silk, white shirt and gold tie.
            “Permit me to introduce myself,” he said with a big smile and a small bow.  “I am Mr. Chou, the hotel general manager, and we’ve been expecting you, Ms. Cavuto, Mr. Greco. Welcome, welcome to our little Dragon Palace.”
            Niceties exchanged, Mr. Chou said, “I understand that your magazine does not allow you to be comped for a room. I completely understand. Permit me, personally, at least to upgrade you to rooms on the same floor at no extra cost. It would be my great pleasure.”
            Katie and David thanked him and said he was being very gracious, then she slid her credit card back to the attendant, who had already returned their passports and had their luggage taken away.
            “May I invite you to a tea service?” asked Mr. Chou. “You must be jetlagged.”  Katie and David accepted the offer and were led into a quiet V.I.P. lounge where they settled back on sumptuous couches and enjoyed a beautiful service of tea and Chinese snacks.
            “That was a nice gesture on Shui’s part to want to give us a free room,” said David.
            “Stroking is what it is. He was probably going to throw a banquet dinner for us, too. From what I understand such a thing is always preliminary to any business discussions, or in our case an interview.”
            “Sounds familiar. The mob capos were always inviting cops to restaurants, offering them sports tickets, weekends with the wife at the Waldorf.”
            “And some cops took them up on the offers?”
            “Not me, but yeah, some did. They justified it as a way to get closer to the capos, see how they operated, pick up some info. But it was all really just bribery.”
      “Did it work?”
            “The cops could never be seen with the capos themselves but sometimes might have dinner or go to a Knicks game with the lower wiseguys, and after a few drinks, the cops picked up some leads, usually things the crooks wanted leaked to the NYPD about rival mobsters.  And sometimes the cop might get a little too loose and tip the mob guys off to something. But the tip was more of an intentional leak NYPD wanted spread around. It was all cat-and-mouse stuff that rarely led to much.”
           “So, we have a ten o’clock appointment with Shui tomorow,” said Katie. “How about we explore Taipei a little before then?”
            “Suits me. How’s your Chinese?”
            “I can say  ‘thank you’ in five languages, including Chinese.”
            “That’ll get us far.”
            The two of them set off, having only 24 hours to see the vast, modern city, so they chose the top sights and scheduled dinner. They headed first for the city's proudest cultural monument, the beautiful National Palace museum (left), which houses more than half a million pieces of art and artifacts, not least an extraordinary collection of calligraphic scrolls stored within exquisitely crafted wooden boxes, with holdings dating back 8,000 years up through the Qing Dynasty.
            Upon arrival at the museum, Katie and David hired a private guide named Mr. Wu to give them some background and to show them the finest items in the collection.
            “The story actually begins in 1925, after the expulsion of the last emperor of China,” said Mr. Wu, “when the Palace Museum opened in Beijing. But the Civil War caused many items to be shipped to different parts of the country, and when General Chiang Kai-Shek arrived in Taiwan in 1948 he managed to have an enormous amount brought here—2,972 crates worth, along with most of China’s gold reserves. There was much more left behind on the mainland—close to two million pieces—but Taiwan got, how do say, the cream of the crop?  Ever since, the People’s Republic has insisted our collection is rightfully theirs, and so it goes. We’ve expanded several times since originally opening in 1965.”
            Mr. Wu went on to show Katie and David an astounding array of treasures, including the rarest of ceramics, bronzes and jade, along with gorgeous paintings dating back to the seventh century and the Tang Dynasty.
           Katie was in heaven as they moved from gallery to gallery, and David was duly impressed, but felt increasingly jetlagged.
            “Does the museum get a lot of donations?” he asked.
        “Oh, yes, the wealthy people of Taiwan have been very generous, both lending and donating major works to us.”
            “Do you know of the billionaire here named Hai Shui?”
            “Oh, yes, everyone knows about Mr. Shui. He is one of the richest men in Taiwan.”
            “Has he ever lent or donated any of his collection to the museum?”
            Mr. Wu paused for a moment, then said, “Of course, we would be honored to have art from such an extraordinary collection, but as yet, Mr. Shui has not been kind enough to lend or donate any of his art.  We can always hope, however.”
            The tour over and with the afternoon retreating, Katie asked Mr. Wu if she should try to visit the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall (left), a monumental building of monomaniacal scale, entered through a huge white Gate of Great Centrality and Perfect Uprightness
  and flanked by the National Theater and National Concert Hall.
            Mr. Wu said, “I suppose it is worth seeing if you have the time, but frankly there’s nothing much to see inside, just some rooms devoted to Chiang Kai-Shek and Chinese Nationalist history.”
            “O.K.,” said David, “I say we skip that one. Besides, I’m starving.  Can you recommend a good restaurant around here?”
            Mr. Wu turned up his palms and said, “Oh, there are thousands, Mr. Greco. Many thousands. It depends on what you like. But, if you like seafood, I highly recommend Shin Tung Nan. They have their own market stalls right outside the restaurant, so you know the food is extremely fresh.  Or, you could visit the Night Market on Ningxia Road, which has dozens and dozens of little stalls selling every kind of food.”
            “Shing Tung Nan sounds good for lunch,” said Katie. “That okay with you, David?”
            “Sure. I hope it’s close by. I’m going to faint if I don’t eat soon.  This jetlag has really kicked in.”


John Mariani, 2016







By John Mariani

During the Soviet occupation of Georgia, the communists forced its growers to produce  quantity   rather than quality, and even under Gorbachev’s more paternalistic anti-alcohol directives, he cut the quantity but also the amounts exported to Russia. Since the mid-1990s, however, Georgia, with an 8,000 year-old history of viniculture, has increased its regional and international profile, now with 525 grape varieties grown on 55,000 hectares under cultivation and 1,100 wine companies licensed to sell commercially, with 93.4 million bottles exported to 53 countries for sales of $238 million.

    To gain perspective on this rapidly growing industry, I spoke with George Margvelashvili (left),   who hosted the 10th International Organization for Vine and Wine Congress, the same year his Tbilvino’s first winery was opened in Tbilisi, and a a second in 2008 in Kakheti, the main wine region of Georgia; in 2014, then with his  brother planted 405 hectares in Kakheti. Also, I spoke with Joerg Matthies (right), owner of the Mosmieri Winebar and Shop in Tbilisi. Their comments have been combined.

Georgian viticulture is ancient dating back to 5000 BC, and the Middle Ages were its so-called Golden Age of wine. Why? What grapes did they use?

According to scientists, the first Neolithic grape seeds found in Georgia (Kvemo Kartli) date back 8,000 years. From that time onwards, viticulture and winemaking were continuously carried out on the territory of Georgia. This distinguishes our country from others in the region. There is no era, without archaeological, ethnographic, historical or written material on Georgian viticulture and winemaking from Neolithic to the present day.     

There are probably many varieties that did reach nowadays, of which we know neither the name nor has ever seen anyone born in the 21-20 and 19th centuries. However, all those varieties that are widespread today have a rather long time to come. From sources we know that such varieties as Saperavi, Rkatsiteli, Khikhvi, Mtsvivani, Tsolikouri, Alexandrouli, etc. existed in the Middle Ages. However,  it's very interesting to know what characters did the grapes have before phylloxera. 

What damage did the Soviets do to Georgia’s wine industry? Quantity over quality?

The Soviets had the so-called 5-year plans that pushed quantity over quality. They ignored all those interesting ancient grapes and planted only 3-4 varieties that were most resistant to diseases and yielded biggest quantities. That is why Georgia now has huge vineyards of Rkatsiteli and Saperavi and few vineyards of other varieties, though many interesting varieties like Kisi and Khikivi were almost lost. We are trying to rediscover forgotten grapes and grow them in our vineyards. We [Margvelashvili] have currently 8 varieties that are grown in our vineyards: Rkatsiteli, Saperavi, Kisi, Kakhetian Mtsvane, Khikhvi, Aleksandrouli, Mujuretuli, Kakhetian Mtsvivani. We plan to add more varieties in future because we see that they yield beautiful results that are absolutely worth the effort.


Gorbachev wanted to cut back on production as part of an ate-alcohol campaign. How did this affect the industry?

In general, we feel like any industry should be regulated by the market. It does not do any good when the government artificially and forcefully interferes and tries to change the flow of things governed by the market. This was true for Gorbachev’s forceful attempts at an anti-alcohol campaign, obviously it damaged the industry mainly affecting big state enterprises. However public and farmer families kept practicing viticulture and winemaking


At what point—the 1990s?—did the industry begin to revive?

From the mid 1990s the industry started to show signs of new life and by 2000 began reviving when exports to Russia were not yet banned, which happened in 2006. It was a difficult and painful transition from a centrally planned economy to a market economy but it happened nevertheless. New, private wineries emerged that started to make wines and attempted to introduce them to the world. Closed by the Iron Curtain Georgians who had been making wine for at least 8000 years, had to learn modern winemaking methods, as well as find our own foreign markets Only after 2010 did the industry really gain strength, owing to tourism think that this learning continues today. Since late 1990s we have worked with foreign winemakers and wine consultants from different countries such as Australia, France, Italy to finetune our technological process and get the best out of Georgian grapes and terroirs. Among the challenges remaining is  the huge dependence on the new Russian market (58% in 2021) and the relatively low awareness on western markets. We are the only sizable winery in Georgia to have fully stopped sales to Russia since the start of the war in Ukraine. All of our efforts are now focused on entering and increasing our presence on western and Asian markets (UK, USA, Germany, China, South Korea, etc.).

Am I correct that there are 10 recognized areas now? Kakheti, Imereti, etc. 

What you list are the regions of Georgia (Kakheti, Kartli, Imereti, Guria, Samegrelo, Afkhadzia, Adjara, Racha, Lechkhumi, Meskheti-Javakheti). In almost every region of Georgia you have vineyards with different soil composition, climate, grape varieties and winemaking techniques. Throughout the regions there are the so-called PDOs (Protected Designations of Origin) or micro zones that are designated for this or that particular wine. Currently there are 25 of them. Our 405 hectares of vineyards are located in three of leading Georgian PDOs (all in Kakheti): Tsinandali (famous for white dry wines), Mukuzani (famous for red dry wines) and Kindzmarauli (famous for medium sweet wines).
 The biggest wine producing region is cut Kakheti in the east which makes up 70% of all production.

What are qvevri? Are they it widely used?

Qvevri is an egg-shaped clay vessel with a pointed bottom where the wine is made. The qvevri is buried in the ground. Grape juice together with skins and seeds is poured into the qvevri where it is fermented and macerated for 5-6 months. During this time, the wine is with skins thus greatly impacting the wine, which acquires amber color, structure and rich bouquet of aromas. Such wines are becoming popular in the world under the name of Amber wines. In 2013, UNESCO recognized qvevri as part of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. What is important is that qvevri has been alive throughout the history of Georgian people and is still very much alive today. This is a living tradition counting 8000 years. Many families around Georgia make wine for themselves in qvevri. We started producing qvevri wine in 2011. It was just one wine and in very small quantities. Now we produce five different wines in qvevri. It is still a small part of our production but is growing. 


How much wine is made semi-sweet?

George is actually don’t drink semi sweet wines. These wines such as Alazany valley, Kindzmarauli or Khvanchkara became popular during the Soviet union. Even today Russia along with most other post-Soviet countries in China are the most important destinations for semi sweet wines.  At Château Mosby area we produce less than 10% semi-sweet or semi-dry wines because dry wines are much more demand of the premium sing.

At our wineries [Margevelahvili] it is difficult to say exactly but a lot. In our portfolio the share of dry wines is increasing due to the reason that the share of western countries in our export geography is widening. Plus, as I said earlier, we had to exit the Russian market and increase our focus on more stable markets where dry wines are more appreciated. 

What is the current production?

I can say that wine production in Georgia is booming. There are hundreds of wine producers from tiny, one-man operations to family wineries to big, large-scale producers. Last year Georgian exported more that 90 million bottles, plus local consumption. We managed to sell more than 5.5 million bottles in 30 different countries.  Chateau Mosmieri they current production capacity of 130,000 bottles per year made from more than 21 ha


Where are Georgian wines exported?

The biggest export market for Georgian wines was Russia (58% of all Georgian wine exports in 2021 went there). Other top markets include Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Poland, China, Baltic States, etc. We are working a lot to increase presence and sales in other markets such as the UK, USA, Germany, South Korea, etc. It is a difficult process, but we feel that being successful on stable markets is the right way to develop.


Has climate change affected the vineyards?

Yes, of course and that’s why all our vineyards are equipped with drip irrigation systems. Also harvest shifted closer to summer and many other factors to which our vineyards must be adopted and our viticulturist team have to consider.    

With what other countries do Georgia’s prices compete?

Depending on the markets Georgian wines share shelves with numerous other country wines such as Spain, Italy, New World, etc. Georgian wines cannot compete by price because there are plenty of lower-priced wines on the world market. Georgian wines should compete with quality, uniqueness, and history behind it.  In mass wine segments Georgia competes with countries such as Moldova and other Eastern European countries as well as low price wineries from major wine producing countries like Australia, Argentina, Chile in South America





"Few dining occasions feel as high stakes as your birthday party. What if nobody comes? Is everyone happy with the venue? Are the vibes correct? Are we having fun yet? After working through the above concerns with my therapist, I celebrated my July birthday at a charming wine bar in Brooklyn."—Becky Hughes, "It's Your Party and I'll Dine Out If You Want to." NY Times (8/30/22)


 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 two 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 scene since 1995. He is the author of EATING LAS VEGAS - The 52 Essential Restaurants, and his website can be found at You can find him on Instagram: @johncurtas and Twitter: @eatinglasvegas. 


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 2022