Virtual Gourmet 

April  8,  2007                                                       NEWSLETTER


The Last Supper Before Easter

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In This Issue

A Little Outside of Vegas by John Mariani

NEW YORK CORNER: Jean-Georges by John Mariani

Gordon Ramsay: The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Chef? by John Mariani

NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLARU.S. Wine Exports Soar by John Mariani


A Little Outside of Vegas

1610 Lake Las Vegas Parkway
Henderson, Nevada
(702) 567-4700

       wvfeSome very stupid people in Las Vegas think for some uninformed reason that I hate their city's restaurants, despite my having written more in praise of Sin City's gastro-scene than any other food & travel writer outside of Vegas itself. Indeed, many of my "Best New Restaurants" in Esquire Magazine over the last few years have been Las Vegas restaurants, including Picasso, Bartolotta, Alex, Guy Savoy, and Joël Robuchon. In other articles I have written with high praise of Brad Ogden, Sea Blue, La Verandah, Valentino, and many others.  It is true that I have little regard for chain eateries like Olives, Emeril's Fish House, Il Mulino, and others that epitomize the idea of a "tourist trap," and I can't get too excited about the 400th steakhouse to open on the Strip.
     I readily admit that staying at a hotel on the Strip is not my favorite form of relaxation.  Life beyond the Strip has, obviously, a less intense profile than the hustle downtown, so the location of the
Ritz-Carlton, Lake Las Vegas golf and spa resort, opened in 2003 on the shores of the largest privately-owned man-made lake in the U.S., 25 minutes southeast of the Las Vegas Strip in Henderson, Nevada, is a very definite oasis from the flagrant architecture north of it. (Incidentally, the nearby Red Rock country is some of the most beautiful in the West and a far cry from the desolation of the desert around Las Vegas itself.)io3
  Nevertheless, the grotesque attempt at this golf-dominated development  to reproduce Florence's Ponte Vecchio (above) at the
adjoining MonteLago Village and 40,000-square-foot Casino MonteLago makes me wince: Everything about it is out of scale and lumbering, as if it had been designed by background artists for "The Simpsons."  The Ritz-Carlton itself (right), however,  is an example of tasteful civility, with 349 guest rooms, including 35 suites. The Ritz-Carlton Club Level  hosts 65 Club rooms and suites decorated with a balanced sense of the kind of good taste lacking in Las Vegas proper, where bigger is better than any other consideration.
     The Medici Café & Terrace is a beautiful golden-yellow dining room (below) overlooking the lake, decorated with pleasant reproductions of Renaissance artwork. It features breakfast and lunch service, including Sunday Brunch, and dinner nightly. Executive Chef Stephen Marshall has, therefore, a lot to put on the plate, from daybreak to midnight, but at dinner Chef de Cuisine Truman Jones (below) shows an exceptional flair for fine Mediterranean and American flavors. The ideas are sound and well conceived for taste and texture, the presentations smart but not showy, and the service at the Medici is excellent.
       222222For  my most recent meal I began with an amuse of fig, pancetta in a foamy Parmesan broth with a pastry twist with more fig purée--a tad sweet and a little fussy for an amuse, but good.  This was followed by a delicious pumpkin bisque that was properly sweet, with a little maple syrup,  and balanced with spices like cinnamon and thyme and toasted pumpkin seeds baked into a crisp cookie, with pumpkin oil and some grated chervil. Then came  excellent, garlicky grilled quail, very meaty, with simple frisée, smoked bacon, and a sherry vinegar jus. Alongside was a delightful onion tartlet. Next came a single pan-roasted scallop with too many other strong flavors on the plate--cauliflower and orange and almonds and crème fraîche and lemon verbena--which compromised the delicate mollusk.  Foie came in two forms--one hot, one cold: The first was seared and placed on brioche with Port syrup, and the cold was a fabulous crème caramel of foie gras garnished with a duck fat tuile sprinkled with toasted hazelnuts, the two preparations divided by a purée of pears scented with white wine and vanilla. The fresh foie gras was a bit sinewy, but I'm told Medici has since changed suppliers.
      I love chicken every which way and am always happy to see what a fine chef can do with it.  In Jones's case, it was a perfectly pan roasted organic chicken breast wrapped in thin slices of smoked bacon, served with Yukon Gold potato purée, and baby vegetables with diced truffles. It was simple and very very good, as was a generous portion of braised short rib that absorbed the intense Barolo wine used to make the sauce; a braised brunoise and cipollini onion confit added more intense flavors, and it came with that guiltiest of pleasures, truffled mac-and-cheese.598
     Desserts did not flag a bit, really an assortment of them--strawberries with a light mascarpone sabayon and strawberry consommé; a vanilla parfait with bananas, caramel and warm fudge sauce; a bittersweet chocolate cake with raspberry ganache; and, just when I thought of retiring, a plate of warm donuts with coffee cream and raspberry jam. Nothing on the breakfast menu is as wonderful.
      The winelist is a solid, if not great one in a town of first-rate lists. There are dozens of good choices for wines by the glass.
         So if you're not up for the caterwauling and hustle of The Strip and the ba-da-bing of the casino floors, the Ritz-Carlton is where you might want to settle down. Play some golf, do some shopping, don't worry about DWI.  And if you do stay downtown, a trip out to Lake Las Vegas for a superb dinner is definitely a drive I'd highly recommend.
  At dinner appetizers run $10-$17 and entrees $30-$40, with a 6-course "Farmer's Market" tasting menu at $80, with matching wines $110.

by John Mariani

Trump International Hotel and Tower
1 Central Park West

      vioIf Jean-Georges Vongerichten were a jazz musician, I'd compare him to Miles Davis, who brought the "birth of the cool" to jazz while other, equally talented musicians like Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker had earlier given it sharp angles and intense heat.
     I have followed JG's career since he was chef de cuisine, under Louis Outhier, at Boston's Swisshôtel, then its branch in NYC,  where he did a daring but highly focused French nouvelle cuisine I was eager to praise lavishly at the time.  Both restaurants made Esquire's Best New Restaurants of the Year when they opened.
       He then broke away from Outhier's employ and opened his own place, Jojo on East 64th Street, not a radical departure from the bistro genre but one that freed it from its stagnation.  That year in Esquire, I named JG "Chef of the Year." Vong followed, and then his flagship, Jean-George at Columbus Circle.  It, too, made my Esquire list, primarily for JG's  daring but exquisitely simple cuisine as well as for the modernity of Adam Tihany's beautifully restrained design.  Accolades from every quarter made Jean-Georges one of the toughest tables in town to obtain.
         Ten years have gone by and JG has had his successes (mostly) and flops (a few), and I have been critical of his backers' attempts to float his name on so many waters, from NYC to the Bahamas, from Paris to Vegas.  49But unlike those other celebrity chefs who have inflated their reputations by never cooking at any of their restaurants (you know their names), somehow, miraculously, JG seems more often than not in the kitchen at his namesake restaurant in NYC.  Every time I have dined there, he has been there.  Which either means he doesn't pay all that much attention to his other restaurants or he is truly committed to maintaining his reputation here.  I'm pretty sure it's the latter, and for that I am very very glad, as evidenced in a meal I had there with my wife and sons last week.
      The dining room is entered through a door (right) from the more casual Nougatine, which has a bright open kitchen where you can watch JG and his brigade work.  You are cordially greeted by a highly professional staff and shown to a table civilly separated from the rest, including an alcove table many find quite cozy (I find it closes you off from things).  The sparkle at night, especially now in springtime,  partakes of New York's own glittery lights and colors, and the gregarious sound level is exemplary.  Tablesettings are clean and in muted colors, the chairs and banquettes extremely comfortable. Silverware and stemware are of the finest quality.  Fresh flowers are de rigeur.
     One odd thing about reservations here:  You may well be told  well in advance that the place is booked on the night you wish to go, but when you do get a table you may find several others empty throughout the night.  This may be an attempt to cadence the evening's production capabilities to provide a seamless meal, but it can be very puzzling to see empty tables in the room.
       I am on frequent record that I am weary of long, endless tasting menus, but there is a handful of chefs into whose hands I always put myself, including Daniel Boulud, Eric Ripert, Thomas Keller, and Alfred Portale,  most of  the time, and this night was my wife's birthday, so I just asked JG to cook whatever he wished.  We were not disappointed, beginning with a shirred egg with caviar as an amuse, followed by one of the few sea urchins--this one from Santa Barbara--I've ever actually enjoyed:  its mildness mingled with a bite of jalapeño and yuzu on a bite of black bread.
      Vongerichten has always been a master of sashimi, and, after the late Gilbert Lecoze's trailblazing efforts at Le Bernardin to serve raw fish in French restaurants, JG has been as imaginative as any chef in this genre.  That evening he served us sea trout draped in trout eggs, with lemon, dill, and a touch of horseradish.
Silky ribbons of bluefin tuna came with the subtle taste of avocado and the spicy ones of radish and ginger marinade, while sliced hamachi, was just barely tinged with Meyer lemon.
    The palate well engaged, we then spooned into a foie gras
brûlée with dried sour cherries, candied pistachios for texture, and a gelée of white Port. Another foie gras idea was to char-grill very quickly wontons stuffed with the liver and serve them with green apple "cracklings" and a smoky froth.   Red snapper, impeccably succulent, came with a lily bulb-radish salad, with white sesame and lavender, while poached black cod was sided with delightful lemon spaetzle (JG is Alsatian) and crispy portobellos. We were far from done.
lobster came in an enchanting Gruyère broth with herb-scented ravioli, dashed with a little green chile, and a lobster tartine was perfumed with lemongrass in a fenugreek broth with pea shoots. Smoked squab à l’orange, with Asian pear and candied tamarind was a far cry from those gooey, cloying old orange ducks of the continental cuisine era, and the last savory course, caramelized beef tenderloin with steamed bok choy, foie gras and rhubarb was remarkably not in the least heavy after so much that preceded it, thereby leaving us open to the prospect of several innovative desserts, including a birthday cake for my wife (who made me swear to keep any of the staff from singing to her).
       Quibbles are hardly worth mentioning in a menu of these dimensions, but for the record, dill, an assertive herb, was used in at least two or three dishes, and some of the dishes seemed fussier than JG's cuisine used to be. And what's the deal with the foam?
Quite honestly, I was surprised that more than one dish that evening used that passé  concept.
       That said, the evening was glorious, festive without frou-frou, with an array of superbly chosen wines by the sommelier from a stellar (if pricey) list.  JG proved himself on the modern masters and a chef of real cool, nuance, and subtlety, without repeating himself while at the same time staying true to his own style, even as it evolves into the 21st century.
      By the way, there is a remarkably priced 2-course lunch at $28, three courses at $40; the 4-course fixed price dinner is $98, with tasting menus at $128 and $148.

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Chef?
by John Mariani

      rtrtrtrtIn the Feb. 11 edition of the Virtual Gourmet, I reviewed Gordon Ramsay at the London, his NYC outpost that has garnered lukewarm reviews, including my own, as a serious French restaurant doing fine but lackluster food in a room much in need of warmth.  At that time, based on an interview I did with Ramsay in January, he swore to me, despite having so many irons in the fire at once, just how serious he was about this new venture.   He said that the NYC restaurant is the only restaurant outside of his London flagship and Claridge's that bears his name, while his other restaurants actively promote the on-premises chef, and that he would be flying at least twice a month between London and New York to be in both kitchens as much as possible, with Chef de Cuisine Neil Ferguson overseeing day-to-day operations in New York.
      Actually, neither assertion happens to be true: Ramsay has his name on  Gordon Ramsay at the Conrad in Tokyo, along with twelve other restaurants around the globe that allude to his particpation.  As for his promise to
spend a week in and a week out of NYC, he has not.  And, in the same way that Alain Ducasse fired chef de cuisine Christian Delouvrier at the Essex House then closed the restaurant (due to re-open in the St. Regis sometime this year) after the NY Times dropped Ducasse's namesake restaurant a star, Ramsay, having failed to get ecstatic reviews, including the Times's Jan. 31 review, relieved Neil Ferguson of his position in NYC as well as sommelier Gregory Condes--which puts all critiques of the restaurant into limbo for the time being.   
       In the April 2 issue of The New Yorker, Bill Buford (author of  the bestselling book Heat about Mario Batali) wrote an article about Ramsay entitled "The Taming of the Chef," which may be a bit of overstatement because Ramsay comes across as the same foul-mouthed abuser of his staff as ever, calling them things I choose not to print in this newsletter, mostly variations on the "F" Word (title of one of his TV shows in Great Britain).  Buford quotes Ramsay as saying, "Basically I'm a prostitute. I prostitute myself so I can have a restaurant [in NYC]. But I don't fully take off my knickers."
      Buford chronicles how, during what anyone would perceive as the most crucial period for a new restaurant, Ramsay was not often in New York: He was not, apparently, there from mid-December till New Year's Eve; he then returned to London, then went on to California to film the third season of  his Tv series "Hell's Kitchen," then to Las Vegas to film its finale, then began a new series, "Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares," then back to the East Coast for four more episodes, not returning to his NYC restaurant until March. As Buford notes, "He had been away for two months."
      Somewhere, during all the turmoil, all the TV shoots, and a bout of food poisoning, Ramsay also managed to open yet another restaurant in London, called Narrow in the East End and plans a gastro-pub later this year in the Maida Vale neighborhood.  This is, in addition to somehow keeping tabs on his nine other restaurants in London, one in Tokyo, and one in Dubai, with another due to open in Boca Raton.2e2ed2e
      The question then becomes, how much input--forget about hands-on cooking!--does Ramsay have in any of his restaurants any longer?  If he goes around firing his best chefs--who are doing his bidding--who is there to step into the fire
after his restaurant gets weak reviews?  Apparently not Ramsay.  Does Ramsay take responsibility or does he merely shrug and say, "Well, I'm a very busy man and can't stand over my cooks all the time."
     I despise the kneejerk reaction so many journalists have in calling anyone a prostitute, but that, sadly, is Ramsay's own assessment of what he does in order to fund a project like his NYC restaurant.  Perhaps he should be reminded that all whores grow old and lose what made them attractive in the first place; perhaps now is the time for Ramsay (whose autobiography with the telling title Humble Pie is due out May 1 in the U.S.) to devote himself with his whole heart and fiercesome intelligence to what he does best and to get back in the kitchen to do what he fell in love with twenty years ago.  If he truly wants to do his best, then he should do it himself.


California Leads Surge in U.S. Wine Exports
by  John Mariani

     0After a drop in 2005, U.S. wine exports soared 30 percent in value and 4 percent in volume last year, according to a new study based on Department of Commerce data by the Wine Institute, which represents more than 1,000 California wineries and affiliated business throughout the state. Exports in 2006 totaled $876 million and 404.5 million liters, with California wines taking 95 percent of that market.  In Europe, where the U.S. ships more than half of its sales abroad, exports surged 48 percent by value, while exports to Canada grew 29 percent.
     "This dramatic sales growth in 2006 must be placed in perspective as they do follow a decrease in 2005 compared to the 2004 shipments," noted Joseph Rollo, Director of the Wine Institute International Department, in a phone interview.  "Nonetheless, the long-term trend of California wine exports shows steady expansion in all major markets and growth in new, undeveloped markets.  The 2006 number represents a 106 percent increase in exports by value in the last decade."

The growth is particularly encouraging because
Europe has long had a highly protected wine industry with very high tariffs that can run two and a half times the U.S. rate. "The exports growth is impressive considering the trade barriers that California wineries face in markets worldwide,” says Rollo, “where they have distribution restrictions and the wineries receive production subsidies from their governments.”
     It was also good news when a recently signed U.S./EU wine agreement gave California wineries the assurance that the EU market will remain open to them and that trade requirements will be consistent, providing producers in both markets with a stable environment.
     In order to reduce the freight costs of shipping bottles, a growing number of major California producers, like Blossom Hill, have taken to shipping their finished wines to Europe for bottling and distribution there.  There also seems to be a trend toward providing American wines with special labels to appeal to the European market.thye
      The value of U.S. wines grew by value in the United Kingdom by 8 percent in off-premises sales (grocers and retail stores), a figure greater than any other major country’s and amounting to a market share of 16 percent, compared to Australia’s 22.3 percent and France’s 16.4. On-premises sales (restaurants and hotel accounts) grew a whopping 18 percent by value.
      Until recently American wines were a tough sell in Canada because of the strong U.S. dollar, but they enjoyed 29 percent growth in 2006.  Increased promotional campaigns by California wineries and a desire on the part of Canadian liquor boards to add premium wines to their portfolios have helped in that market.
      There also seems huge potential for American wines in Asia. Singapore was up 68 percent by value last year, Hong Kong up 19, and China 53 percent. With the help of the Wine Institute, U.S. trade missions have increasingly been showing off American wines there. Hong Kong in particular holds great promise right now because its 80 percent import tariff has been recently cut in half.
      Nevertheless Rollo is cautious about the Asian market: “We think it may be enormous some day, but don’t ask me what year. There have been a lot of false hopes in the past. But Asia does seem to becoming more consistent and steady rather than explosive.”
     Despite the report’s good news, there is a lot of room for growth. American wines still only claim a 5 percent market share in Europe.  “I can’t say there is a large number of Europeans demanding our wines yet,” admits Rollo. “The real growth there is in popularly priced wines, not premium wines. Unfortunately Europe has trended downward in quality wines, so that sales there are based more on price rather consistent quality. Blossom Hill, Mondavi, and Gallo are doing well there.”
       As yet high-priced California boutique wineries do not yet have much cachet on foreign shelves. “The world could buy up all the Screaming Eagle and other cult wines made in California,” said Rollo, “and it wouldn’t make a dent in the import numbers.”
     To view the Wine Institute’s Report, click here.

John Mariani's weekly wine column appears in Bloomberg Muse News, from which this story was adapted. Bloomberg News covers Culture from art, books, and theater to wine, travel, and food on a daily basis, and some of its articles play of the Saturday Bloomberg Radio and TV.


"In the sexy world of cured meats, much attention is given to Montreal-style smoked meat and New York pastrami."--David McGimpsey, "The Corn Beef Sandwich," enRoute (March 2007).

An unnamed  San Francisco company has launched a product called Meth Coffee, aimed at coffee drinkers who need more of a jolt. Its website reads, “Mental clarity! Mind-altering euphoria! Nail your ass to the chair with Meth Coffee, a smooth, rich roast supercharged with maximum caffeine and dusted with yerba mate, a powerful natural stimulant kept secret by shamans of the Amazon until now. This vibrationical catalyst for upstarts, earthquakes, and brain shifts is roasted for you by a master druggist, bionicalbrain chemist, and coffee viscologist within hours of receiving your order to guarantee maximum potency. E-Z re-sealable interlock bag keeps product fresh for repeated consumption."



* On April 9 “Il Ritorno di Ca' del Solo,” a winemaker dinner celebrating the rebirth of Bonny Doon Vineyard¹s Italianate portfolio, with winemaker Randall Grahm, will be held at Incanto in  San Francisco, CA, $100 pp. Call 415-641-4500 or visit

* From now through May 31, Restaurateur/chef Pierluigi Sacchetti on NYC’s  La Cantina Toscana has introduced a special 5-Course Wild Boar Tasting Menu, with dishes like housemade prosciutto,  sausage, bruschetta, head cheese, pappardelle with wild boar  ragù, wild boar stew,  and tenderloin of wild boar, dusted with fennel  pollen, prune sauce. $59.95, or $89.95 with paired wines.

* On April 16 NYC’s Tribeca Grill will featuresome of Spain's top wines from  Rueda, Rias Biaxas, Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Toro, Priorat and Campo de Borja.  150 pp. Call 212-941-3900.

* April 17, The Chef in the Hat will host Woodward Canyon Winemaker Rick Small at Rover's  in Seattle for a 5-course menu.  Mr. Small will bring a 1987 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon to celebrate the restaurant's 20th anniversary. Also present, Michael Ginor, CEO of Hudson Valley Foie Gras.   $125 pp. Call 206-325-7442.  Visit

* On April 20 & 21 Wine Rave NYC, created in 2005 by Ian Warren, President of  Mouthwater, will be held at Guastavino’s, with tastings of a wide variety of wines from the USA, France, Spain, Greece, Australia,  New Zealand, and South Africa, with programs and  seminars, incl. “Sips of Wisdom” led by some of the industry’s top experts. $65 general  admission, or $100 for a VIP ticke.  Call 212-352-9900.
* On April 23, four of California's top wine makers from Sonoma County-- Erik Olsen, Clos du Bois;  Mick Schroeter, Geyser Peak Winery; Michael Scholz, Wattle Creek;  and Jeff Stewart, Buena Vista Carneros-- come to the Omni Interlocken Resort, located just outside Boulder, CO, to pair their wines with food prepared by 4 Colorado mountain chefs--Tim McCaw, Zach's Cabin, Beaver Creek; Aaron Taylor, Keystone Ranch Restaurant; Jake Linzinmeir, Bluepoint Grill & Noir Bar, Telluride; Bob Burden, Beaver Run Restaurant, Breckenridge.   $100 pp. Call 303-464-3213.

* On April 24 The South Jersey Independent Restaurant Association and Philadelphia Magazine partner to present the 4th Annual Dishes for Wishes to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation of New Jersey, at The Falls at Double Tree Guest Suites in Mount Laurel, NJ.  There will be 20 South Jersey chefs, including wish child Jason Warren and his brother Josh, providing sample-sized tastings of their cuisine, along with area personalities serving as Celebrity Servers, incl. Rick Williams, 6-ABC; Larry Mendte, CBS-3;  Terry Ruggles, NBC 10; Dawn Stensland, Bill Vargus,  and Rob Guarino, FOX 29. Open bar, silent auction, and raffle. Tix in advance for $75 and $85 at the door. Call 888-600-WISH or visit

* L.A. chefs Angelo Auriana, Valentino;  Michael Cimarusti, Providence;  Josiah Citrin, Melisse; Christophe  Emé, Ortolan; David LeFevre, Water  Grill will hold a series of five “5X5” tasting dinners at their restaurants, priced at $130; $190 with wine pairings.  By working together as a collaborative, 5X5 plans to build beneficial interaction with mutual inspiration through  working, supporting, and learning as a collaborative team of talent and  resources. The schedule:  April 25: Providence, 323-460-4170;; May 22: Ortolan, 323-653-3300; ; June 24: Water Grill, 213-891-0900;;  July 29: Melisse, 310-395-081;; Aug. 26: Valentino, 310-829-4313;

* From April 27-29, The 25th annual Astoria-Warrenton Crab and Seafood Festival will be held  held at the Clatsop County Fairgrounds outside of Portland, OR,  featuring live music, Pacific NW wine and beer, and  200+ artisan vendors. The highlight is its traditional crab dinner, plus varietals from 50+ of Oregon's wineries and craft beers. Admission $7 pp. Fri. & Sun., $9 on Sat.  Call 800-875-6807 or visit

* On April 28, eat, drink and shop at Wine, Women & Shoes in Boston, with proceeds to benefit the Virginia Thurston Healing Garden in Harvard, MA. The evening will incl. a shoe salon by Nordstrom, a live auction, live fashion show, food by 11 of Boston’s chefs and 7 women vintners from California. .  $150 and $250 pp.   Call  978-456-3532 or visit

* On April 28th, Salt Lake City’s Metropolitan will host Share Our Strength’s A Tasteful Pursuit - Chefs on Tour for Hunger gala dinner  and auction. Metropolitan’s Culinary Team, Jed Banta, Chris Durfee,  Chad Horton and Justin Shifflett will join Chef Robert Barker of Salt  Lake’s Bambara and touring chefs Michelle Bernstein of Michy’s in  South Beach, and Matt Gennuso of Chez Pascal in Providence, in support of Share Our Strength. Jill Cordes of HDTV and Food Network will emcee the evening. $150 pp. Call 801.364.3472. Visit

* On April 28, eat, drink and shop at Wine, Women & Shoes in Boston, with proceeds to benefit the Virginia Thurston Healing Garden in Harvard, MA. The evening will incl. a shoe salon by Nordstrom, a live auction, live fashion show, food by 11 of Boston’s chefs and 7 women vintners from California. .  $150 and $250 pp.   Call  978-456-3532 or visit

* The 25th annual Astoria-Warrenton Crab and Seafood Festival will be held  held at the Clatsop County Fairgrounds outside of Portland, OR, April 27-29, featuring live music, Pacific NW wine and beer, and  200+ artisan vendors. The highlight is its traditional crab dinner, plus varietals from 50+ of Oregon's wineries and craft beers. Admission $7 pp. Fri. & Sun., $9 on Sat.  The crab dinner is available for approx. $14. Call 800-875-6807 or visit

* On April 29 diners all over the country will come together and take a stand against the genocide in Darfur. Dining for Darfur  coincides with the release of actor Don Cheadle and Africa expert John Prendergast's new book,  Not on Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond. Participating restaurants in NYC (The Harrison, Mercadito, BLT Prime, Five Points, Cookshop, et al) and the nation have pledged to donate 5% of sales to help save the people of Darfur with all proceeds to the International Rescue Committee. Thanks to the sponsorship of Dining for Darfur by The Michelin Guide, diners who make a contribution of $50 or more will receive a free 2007 New York City Michelin Guide. For more info on restaurants or to become a participating restaurant, visit

* On April 30 in Southborough, MA,  Giovanni Manetti, owner of the Fontodi Estate in the Chianti Region, will serve his wines at a 5-course Tuscan  wine dinner by Chef Tony Bettencourt at  Tomasso Trattoria & Enoteca. $125 pp. Call 508-481-8484.

NEW FEATURE: I am happy to  report that the Virtual Gourmet is  linking up with 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."  To go to his blog click on the logo below:


Tennis Resorts OnlineA Critical Guide to the World's Best Tennis Resorts and Tennis Camps, published by ROGER COX, who has spent more than two decades writing about tennis travel, including a 17-year stretch for Tennis magazine. He has also written for Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, New York Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, Money, USTA Magazine, Men's Journal, and The Robb Report. He has authored  two books-The World's Best Tennis Vacations (Stephen Greene Press/Viking Penguin, 1990) and The Best Places to  Stay in the Rockies (Houghton Mifflin, 1992 & 1994), and the Melbourne (Australia) chapter to the Wall Street Journal Business Guide to Cities of the Pacific Rim (Fodor's Travel Guides, 1991). Click on the logo below to go to the site.



MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly.  Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Contributing Writers: Robert Mariani,  Naomi  Kooker, Kirsten Skogerson,  Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Suzanne Wright. Contributing Photographers: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery,  Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.

 John Mariani is a columnist for Esquire, Wine Spectator, Bloomberg News and Radio, and Diversion.  He is author of The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink (Lebhar-Friedman), The Dictionary of Italian Food and Drink (Broadway), and, with his wife Galina, the award-winning Italian-American Cookbook (Harvard Common Press).

 Any of John Mariani's books below may be ordered from by clicking on the cover image.

6y6My newest book, written with my brother Robert Mariani, is a memoir of our years growing up in the North Bronx. It's called Almost Golden because it re-visits an idyllic place and time in our lives when so many wonderful things seemed possible.
    For those of you who don't think of the Bronx as “idyllic,” this book will be a revelation. It’s about a place called the Country Club area, on the shores of Pelham Bay. A beautiful neighborhood filled with great friends and wonderful adventures that helped shape our lives. It's about a culture, still vibrant, and a place that is still almost the same as when we grew up there.
Robert and I think you'll enjoy this very personal look at our
Bronx childhood. It is not yet available in bookstores, so to purchase a copy, go to or click on  Almost Golden.
--John Mariani

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copyright John Mariani 2007