Estate H
NY: ArmaniWine: Alsatian Wines


                    Virtual Gourmet

May 10, 2009                                                                  NEWSLETTER

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In This Issue

SCOTTSDALE and Beyond Part One by John Mariani

NEW YORK CORNER: Armani/Ristorante Fifth Avenue by John Mariani

NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: Alsatian Rieslings make for ideal, well-priced white wines for summer by John Mariani


by John Mariani

7137 E. Stetson Drive

    Each time I go to Scottsdale I am struck by the quality of the cuisine and sheer energy of the restaurateurs and chefs who give the cities such an admirably high culinary standard.
   One of the true innovators in Scottsdale has been Peter Kasperski, the prime mover and partner at exciting restaurants that include Sea Saw and the funky but not-at-all silly, Cowboy Ciao, which mixed Italian food with Arizona spice, these days more contemporary America, with lavish portions of dishes like slow-roasted short ribs with cherry-barbecue sauce and pecan grits;  buffalo carpaccio with red onion marmalade; and old-fashioned fried chicken with corn waffles.
     Kasperksi and his partners’ newest hit is Digestif, not perhaps the most appetizing name for a dining spot but the casual ambiance and right-on-the-mark contemporary food have made it one of the most popular.
     Located within the Southbridge Village,  Digestif’s décor is self-described as a “1960s suburban beatnik basement” with brick walls, exposed ductwork, dark wood and stainless steel—which would describe the colorful pad of a rather stylish, well-off beatnik like Shaggy Rogers in “Scooby Doo.”  The piped-in music runs from Amy Winehouse to Radiohead, and nothing—except Chef Payton Curry’s food—is taken very seriously.
     Curry’s résumé includes some of San Francisco finest—Ame and Quince—and Napa Valley’s Martini House, so he knows how to cook the kind of Mediterranean-Northern Cal grill food that adapts so easily to the sunny Southwest.
     Start off with his charcuterie platter, which includes pâtés, hot soppressata, Kurobuta pancetta bacon, and an array of fine cheeses and panini sandwiches, available throughout the day.  At dinner he adds in hearty dishes like “knife and fork bruschettone,” big, well-crusted pizza-like breads packed with eggplant, cream-filled burrata mozzarella, and sautéed baby onions.  He does a marvelously light but luscious pasta with Dungeness crab, bacon, peas, and onions. And he sears duck breast to perfect pink and confit to a garlicky crispiness, accompanied by radicchio and parsnip puree.
       Among a slew of wonderful desserts don’t miss the mint chocolate ice cream sandwiches lavished with dark chocolate sauce and a mint praline.

Digestif is open daily for lunch and dinner; Appetizers run $9-$13, main courses $13-$29.

Estate House
7134 East Stetson Drive

    One of the big gambles in the current economy is Estate House, a splendidly handsome, three-level restaurant also in the Southbridge Village, whose developer, Fred Unger, also owns the restaurant. Estate is definitely the grandest scheme on the new restaurant scene, a mansion-like setting with a broad bar and dining room, polished floors, good linens and tablesettings, a unicyle on one wall and a spidery chandelier hung from the beamed ceiling.
     Chef Gio Osso, who cooked at Cowboy Ciao, is proving himself one of the finest interpreters of modern American cuisine in the west, and he does so with a very generous hand in dishes like his grilled baby lamb with thyme –roasted figs and a reduction of pinot noir and hazelnuts, and his date-stuffed elk loin with toasted cumin tabbouleh, Moroccan-spiced eggplant “caviar,” and minted yogurt.  His showpiece dish is hamachi dressed with yuzu and aïoli and sweet-sour daikon served on a thick, solid slab of Himalayan salt, so that as the fish sits atop the jade green block, it  absorbs the salt into its flesh. For dessert, definitely go with the maple pot de crème accompanied by cream-filled donuts.  Osso’s food is buoyed by a very fine winelist well-priced in every category, and I for one want to see this level of fine dining without the pretense succeed in the city.
Estate House is open nightly for dinner. Appetizers range from $7-$15, main courses $22-$42.

InterContinental Montelucia Resort & Spa
4949 E. Lincoln Drive

Easily the best new restaurant to open in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area in the past year, Prado is distinctive in that no one else in the region is doing quite what Chef Claudio Urciuoli is doing at this expansive dining room with open kitchen and open fire grill in the InterContinental Montelucia Resort & Spa. Prado's décor is supposed to echo that of the Villa San Michele resort in Fiesole, Italy, though it may take several centuries to acquire that patina of historic age to achieve a true evocation of that marvelous property's ambiance.
     It is, then, a style I'd call "Brand New Rustic," with arched ceilings, columns, a big wooden prep table and an open wood grill fireplace. It's also quite casual: the day I was there three audibly blond women had come straight from the spa in their bathrobes and plunked themselves down in front of the kitchen to have lunch. I cannot say whether Urciuoli was dismayed or delighted.
      The theme here is basically Spanish, and the menu lists a slew of dishes you will not easily find anywhere else in the region, not least the delicious fideua, a specialty of Valencia that is like a paella made with thin spaghetti rather than rice. It came in a lobster broth with chunks of scallops and langoustines, the whole cooked over an open fire.
      Urciuoli most recently was chef at the fine  Different Pointe of View in Phoenix, before that at the Pointe Tapatio Resort, and prior to that at Taggia in Scottsdale, Il Fornaio in San Francisco, Osteria del Circo/Le Cirque in Las Vegas, and one of the pioneers of  La Brea Bakery Café in L.A.
Urciuoli does a good deal of la plancha griddle cooking here, and there's a wonderful aroma in the room of good cooking from the fiery oven.
     I told him to serve us whatever he liked, and we in turn loved almost everything he served, starting with lovely marinated anchovies that had the deep flavor of sea in them, served with baby Romaine lettuce on grilled  country bread. There was also manchego cheese with quince paste, a Basque staple, and marvelously fat Santa Barbara spot prawns of a flavor and texture I've rarely savored in these parts. What else to praise? An antipasti platter of cured meats with grilled lamb merguez sausage, Marcona almonds, and fig cake; roasted Sonoma chicken with lemon and rosemary;   John Dory with greens and lemon and a benediction of olive oil; a luscious rare ribeye with burrata cheese and hot piperade sauce; a flavorful Korubuta pork chop with pinenuts and figs, served with nutty brown rice; a fabulous, richly seasoned Basque cod stew with piquillo peppers; and Colorado lamb chops, accompanied by saffron scented baked rice.  Spanish cheeses came before dessert, then a lovely  budino chocolate tart.
      With starters $7-$15 at dinner, and entrees $17-$31, Prado is offering outstanding food and very reasonable prices, and you won't find this kind of cooking replicated anywhere soon, unless you find a chef as well versed as Urciuoli.

Prado is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily.

3815 N. Brown Avenue

  Scottsdale is awash in Mexican restaurants at various levels of design, food quality, and service, but The Mission, opened last fall by Terry Ellisor, Brian Raab and chef Matt Carter,  is in  fact set next to an historic Spanish mission, and the trio is serious at every level about giving guests a handsome decor, high-quality "Modern Latin Cuisine,"  and cordial service. The bar stocks 54 tequilas, which even in these parts is a high number--start with the terrific coconut margarita-- and the bar is as convivial as any in the area. What The Mission does not need is loud, booming music of a type the destroys conversation and makes eating a rushed job.
      The most admirable point of the design is the
backlighted, amber translucent bricks of Himalayan rock salt that throws a soft glow into the interior as well as, according to the press materials, "effectively improves the quality of air by killing bacteria, removing dust and allergens." Nice idea.
       It's nothing novel these days to do mashed guacamole tableside but it's rare you find it made this well, incorporating pumpkin seeds and cotija cheese that adds piquant and nutty flavors.  The botanos plates meant for sharing include a delicious Peruvian clam stew teeming with rock shrimp, spicy chorizo, yucca, and roast corn, while the tacos section has a slew of solid items, including one stuffed with mahi-mahi, a citrus escabeche, and olive cream, another with pork shoulder, pineapple glaze, cilantro, and cotija cheese, and yet another with skirt steak, green chile salsa, avocado, and lime.
       From the la plancha griddle comes a Kobe hot dog (I didn't try this) with bacon and brioche, and a roasted chicken with oregano and lemon, which seemed like an afterthought in a place with so many finer choices. Among my favorite dishes at The Mission were the beef anticuchos--skewers of beef with aji panca, oregano, a nice touch of soy, and black pepper--only nine bucks, and, if you want to go whole hog, add foie gras for only another five!
     If you've room for it, have dessert, the best being the heavenly, crispy espresso churros with Ibarra chocolate and a fabulous milkshake. Also good is the pumpkin bread pudding.
    Then you can sit around and sip one of the añejo tequilas at the bar all night. Tomorrow you can go to confession.

The Mission is open daily for lunch and dinner. Prices here reflect many dishes that are shared, so you may order many under $10 and none over $16.

SCOTTSDALE and Beyond Part Two will appear in next week's issue.



ARMANI/Ristorante Fifth Avenue
717 Fifth Avenue (at 56th Street)

      Once upon a time NYC department stores like Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue,  Arnold Constable, and Best & Co. had ladies' lunch or tea rooms, where, after a hard morning of shopping, women would sit at the counter or at tables in restaurants usually made to look like a page out of House & Gardens. They'd nibble on sandwiches of egg salad, chicken salad, and date and nut bread, and drink tea and coffee. The one at Lord & Taylor was called The Bird Cage.
      As time moved on and diets changed, so did department store restaurants, but Europe has for decades now been in the forefront of exciting, first-class dining options for patrons and anyone else who wants to dine well at places like Harrod's, Marks & Spencer, and Harvey Nichols in London, Galeries Lafayette in Paris, and KaDeWe in Berlin.  Up till now NYC has not had much in the way of really good restaurants in its department stores, despite the options of the vast food basement at Macy's.  Attempts at high-end dining within the (defunct) Nicole Fahri store (now occupied by the delightful Rouge Tomate) and Fred's at Barney's have been feeble.  So when designer Giorgio Armani, who has always looked as if he could gain a few pounds, announced he would put an authentic Italian ristorante in his new Fifth Avenue flagship store, I stifled a yawn, thinking that it would be stylish but vapid, offering its willowy, starved customers dishes like angel's hair spaghetti with vegetables and poached salmon with pesto.  I could not have been more surprised by what has materialized at Armani.
      I expected grand style, ad the two-level top floor dining room has plenty of it, especially in the seductive lighting from the bar and the lights of the city. Walls and banquettes and surfaces are curved, a little Star Trek-y, the floors and ceilings black. Yet it is not a dark restaurant at all, and the sound level is exceptionally civilized. The bar (left) is just small enough to deter a raucous bar "crowd," yet it is a capital place to meet friends for a finely made Italian cocktail.
     Armani brought to NYC one of his favorite chefs, 
Lorenzo Viani, of Ristorante Lorenzo in the seaside Tuscan town of Forte dei Marmi, and I had a chance to chat with him a bit and learned just how serious he is about having this restaurant be an expression of himself (he's a partner here) and he intends to be in NYC as needed.  Right now he is still sourcing the best ingredients, not least the seafood, which I found rather lackluster on the night I visited. He nodded and said he'd continue his search.
     But everything else my guests and I tried was outstanding, starting with beautifully presented antipasti like the small fillets of sole in a light curry sauce with apples. And the featherweight flan of Swiss chard served with Mahon cheese fondue. Or the marvelous torta of a "thousand layers" of grilled eggplant, buffalo mozzarella, and a reduction of tomatoes.  Truly addictive are the shrimp croquettes with a seasonal salad, though you simply don't get enough of them on one plate for $23.
     Moving to the pasta section, I was delighted to see a menu so free of NYC Italian clichés. Instead, Viani's touch is evident in every one of his creations, from the superb vegetable risotto with shaved Castelmagno blue-veined cheese to the sautéed bavette noodles with seafood. I think I will wait a little later in the summer, when the basil is at its peak, to taste again the tagliolini with pesto, now being made with arugula and shrimp.
     As noted, the meat dishes are currently the better option, from fillet of milk-fed veal sautéed in butter with fresh sage over a bed of vegetables with a "dry martini" sauce.  The loin of lamb stuffed with olives is equally as good, bathed with a reduction of vermentino wine.
     This cuisine is fairly light, so dessert is certainly required to show the true mettle of the kitchen. You will be enchanted with sweets like the pistachio semifreddo with tangy clementine sorbet and chocolate "caprese," and the "three Super Tuscan chocolates mousses" with pretty guava rose sorbet. the happy appearance of Napoleon puff pastry with rich pastry cream and a berry compote is old fashioned in the best sense, as it is delectably modern in texture and lightness.
      Armani's winelist is very strong and there is an admirable array of wines under $50 here, all well chosen. Trust the well-trained service staff to guide you.
     Now, you would think, given the Armani label, this would all cost a fortune, but the prices here are amazingly fair, starting with the $40 three-course + coffee  menu, with several choices--this is for dinner, not lunch. Otherwise, antipasti run $12-$23, full portions of pasta $18-$30, and main courses $16-$40. Which will allow you to return to your shopping and buy that ensemble you had your eye on.  Assuming you can fit into it after the sumptuous meal here at Armani ristorante.

Armani/Ristorante 5th Avenue is open for lunch and dinner daily. P.S.: The website is one of the most impenetrable you'll ever try to use. It takes 60 seconds just to load, then forever to find anything.



Alsatian Rieslings make for ideal, well-priced white wines for summer

by John Mariani

    If your idea of a white wine for summer is one that is crisp, fruity, modest in alcohol, and priced under $25, you’d do well to run out and buy the latest vintages of Alsatian rieslings. For while Alsace also makes good sylvaner, pinot gris, pinot blanc, Gewürztraminer, and muscat, the first three in that list tend to be fairly bland, the last two highly aromatic.
      Alsatian rieslings, on the other hand, have all the brightness, fruit, and perfect acidity to go well with summer food and anything on the grill short of beef or lamb.  Because most are vinified dry (very sweet late harvest wines in Alsace are called Vendange Tardive and Sélection des Grains), they are exceptionally refreshing as an aperitif and work right through dishes like trout, salmon, chicken, and cheeses.
     The fact that some of the best rieslings are now selling in the range of $15-$20 puts them at a delectable distance from oaky $30-$50 California chardonnays and $150 Grand Cru Burgundies. France’s Institut National des Appellations d'Origine does recognize 50 Grand Cru Vineyards (visit, with about 4 percent of the region’s total wine production. Still, some of the top producers, including Trimbach and Léon Beyer, do not use the Grand Cru appellation on the labels of their best wines.
      Riesling originated in Germany, probably the Rhine Valley, and, since Alsace was for so long German territory, it was natural for vignerons to plant German varietals like riesling, which thrived in the dry, cool climate, where the grape ripens late in the season, making up about 20 percent of the area under vine.
      Over a dinner at a Greenwich Village restaurant named 10 Downing that began with spot prawns with olives, garlic, and Valencia orange and a plate of charcuterie, I thoroughly enjoyed a brisk, bracing bottle of Paul Blanck Riesling 2007 ($45 at the restaurant, about $20 in stores), whose wonderful aroma of citrus and apple was ideal for such appetizers, and it went on being ideal with an entrée of herb-roasted chicken with almonds, currants, and preserved lemons.
      Back home I decided to collect some more Alsatian rieslings to serve with a lavish dinner for Russian Easter, when only cold foods are served, including baked ham, pork sausages, potato-beet salad, carrot slaw, lentils, and a dessert of vanilla-scented farmer’s cheese and saffron raisin torte. With the savory dishes a Trimbach 2007 ($17), with 12.5 percent alcohol, was just as thirst-quenching as it was the very flavor of spring itself, a perky, lemony balance of fruit and acids.
      Along with Trimbach, which dates back to the 17th century, the name Hugel is one of the best-known vignerons in Alsace, and their 2007 ($19) with 12 percent alcohol showed great breeding, a really lovely wine with peach and lemon flavors.
      One of the current darlings among Alsatian aficionados is Albert Boxler, a small, 300-year-old winery in Niedermorschwihr, now run by Jean Boxler. Its Grand Cru vineyards are named Sommerberg and Brand, and the grapes are grown organically. The 2005 Riesling Reserve epitomizes the Boxler style of rich minerality along with enchanting aromas that reveal Alsatian riesling at its very best, even classiest, restrained and refined throughout.  It does cost about $35 but with the celebratory dessert, which is not overly sweet, it was a beautiful match-up.
      Big chardonnays tend to cause people to nod and mumble; very sweet dessert wines make them close their eyes and murmur; but Alsatian rieslings just make me smile, and that’s all I really want to do over a long, hot summer when I open a bottle of wine.

John Mariani's 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 on the Saturday Bloomberg Radio and TV.


Who can take a rainbow, wrap it in a sigh,
Soak it in the sun and make a groovy lemon pie?
The Candy Man can 'cause he mixes it with love
 and makes the world taste good!

“The firmament [of Paris] looked good enough to eat. I wished for a knife and fork to plunge into the cool candy planets, the vast blueberry orbs.”—Cristina Nehring, “Isn’t It Romantic?” Conde Nast Traveler (April 2009).


The city of Copenhagen has a new ad hoping to attract gay tourists from all over the world to Denmark. especially the  30,000 gay men and women to celebrate a festival of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) sport, culture and human rights taking place this July and August.



* Restaurant ‘42’ in White Plains, NY, introduces a new "Prix Fixe Market Special Menu: of 4 courses for $42.  The restaurant also opened its Small Plates menu area that features a selection of casual dining options at lower prices. Call 914-761-4242; Visit

* On May 14 in Lakewood, FL, A Taste of Argentina’ Winemaker Dinner will be held at the Polo Grill – Forks and Corks 2009 Event. Winery director Leandro Lowi will fly in from Argentina to pour Familia Zuccardi/Santa Julia wines. $75 pp. $15.95 adults, $9.95 children; 941-782.0899

* On May 12 in San Francisco, Citizen Cake will host its 2nd annual Green Dinner by Chef de Cuisine William Pilz and Elizabeth Falkner, Executive Chef, incl. fava been hummus and house crackers, asparagus salad with slow cooked egg, pea ricotta gnudi with pea shoots and pea consomme and for dessert, green sweets. $45 pp, $65 with wine pairing. Unique Visit  or call 415-861-2228.

* In LondonLe Bouchon Breton launches La Fête de St Tropez, a celebration of the culinary delights of Le Sud de France and on the terrace overlooking Spitalfields Market, with rosé wines, as 3 options:  Plateau Rainier III £68 (for 2 people); Plateau Croisette £45; and Plateau du Vieux Port £40. Call  08000 191 704; visit

* On May 13th in NYC, Le Cirque’s chef Craig Hopson serves the cuisine of his homeland, Australia, for a
3-course "Greg Norman Estates Wine and Wagyu Dinner." Wine director Paul Altuna has selected wines from the Australian vineyard of professional golfer Greg Norman to complement Hopson’s menu. $80 pp. Call 212-644-0202.

* On May 15 & 16 Chef Guillaume Bienaimé at Marché in Menlo Parl, CA, will offer a special 5-course menu featuring the season’s finest wild mushrooms from forager Todd Spanier, owner of King of Mushrooms warehouse. $75 pp. Call 650-324-9092 or visit

* On May 16 the American Lamb Cook-Off debuts at Taste of Tribeca in NYC--Amanda Freitag of The Harrison and Kurt Gutenbrunner of Wallsé, Café Sabarsky and Blaue Gans. to be judged by Gail Simmons of Food & Wine magazine; Josh Ozersky of Citysearch; and Lauren Glassberg, from “Neighborhood Eats” on WABC-TV. Also,  60+  downtown restaurants, incl.  Chanterelle, Bubby’s, The Odeon, Macao Trading Company, and Bar Artisanal; “The Kids’ Zone” and live entertainment. Tasting Cards $45 ($40 in advance); Premium Ticket Market Table Seats  $175 pp;  Taste Table Reserve for a table of 6,  $750; Tribeca Grand Taste Package,  $1200, incl. one-night stay in a King room for two at the Tribeca Grand Hotel, reserve table  for 6, a $50 gift certificate from the Bubble Lounge, and a gift bag. Proceeds to fpublic elementary schools, P.S. 234 and P.S.150.  Visit

* From May 16-17  the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance holds the 3rd annual Passport to Sonoma Valley,  at 50+ wineries and vineyards, incl. some of  California’s oldest and most coveted artisan wineries.  $55/weekend, $50/day and $10/designated driver when purchased in advance or $65/weekend and $60/day when purchased at the event. The events incl.: Holiday in the Vines; VINOLIVO; Passport to Sonoma Valley; and Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, featuring the Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction. Visit  or call 707-935-0803.

* On May 18 NYC's `21' Club will hold a 5-course winemaker's dinner hosted by Robert Foley Vineyards. $150 pp. . . . On June 11, Champagne Taittinger dinner with national director Jerome Jeandid. $195 pp.  Call 212-582-7200.

* On May 18 in Houston, Arturo's Uptown will hold a wine dinner spotlighting the Piedmont region of Italy, hosted by Dale Robertson,  Wine Columnist for the Houston Chronicle, and Chef Arturo Boada.  $125 pp. Call 713-621-1180.

* On May 18 Careers through Culinary Arts Program  is holding its 2nd “Heavy Medal” culinary competition at the Marriott Desert Ridge in Phoenix, AZ, with two of Arizona’s top chefs - Oliver Reschreiter of Marriott Desert Ridge and Michael deMaria of Michael’s Catering and Heirloom – An American Restaurant. Last year’s competitors, Beau MacMillan and Mark Tarbell will emcee as  guests  enjoy  dinner with wine.  Three audience members will have the chance to join our celebrity judges in determining the winner, with proceeds to benefit Arizona C-CAP high schools. $200 pp. Visit or  call 623-594-0117.

* From May 19-23, the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience will feature 1000 different wines from over 200 winemakers. A Premium Wine Dinner will be held May 19 featuring Chef John Folse, Winemaker Pierre Seillan and his wife Monique, from the Chateau Lassegue winery in Bordeaux.  $125 pp.  For all events info, visit or call 504-529.

* On May 20 The Olde Stone Mill in Tuckahoe, NY, will hold a Jordan Wine dinner, at $85 pp. Call 914-771-7661.

* In Calabasas, CA, Saddle Peak Lodge, is offering a new 3-course menu by Chef  Cuisine Adam Horton for Malibu and Calabasas neighbors at $55 pp and incl.  a glass of wine selected from the  600-label cellar. Call 818-222-3888; visit

* On May 20 in Philadelphia, Chef Michael Solomonov and restaurateur Steven Cook of  Zahav  will celebrate its first birthday with belly dancers, live Middle Eastern music and special pricing on their acclaimed food and drinks.  Call (215) 625-8800 or visit

* On May 21 in NYC, at Bar Boulud, Chef Damian Sansonetti will hold a 4-course wine dinner of Willamette Valley wines from Seven Springs Vineyard,  at $95 pp. Call  212-595-0303;

* On May 21 in San Francisco, Foreign Cinema Chefs Gayle Pirie and John Clark collaborate with Cowgirl Creamery Owners Sue Conley and Peg Smith continue their 10-year anniversary celebration and the 2009 Guest Chef Series,  offering a select number of dishes highlighting favorite Cowgirl cheeses. Wine Director Zach Pace will offer Northern California wine-pairing options for each dish. Call 415-648-7600.

* From May 22-24 the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach, CA, will hold its Wine & Food Festival, incl. The Grand Tasting features 60+ wineries, with food by Chef Joseph Lageder. $135 pp.  Call  949-630-4145; visit

* Beginning May 22 in Bedford, PA, the Omni Bedford Springs Resort & Spa will feature a new series of Weekend Wine Dinners in the 1796 Room, incl.  May 22: Wines of South America; June 26:  California; July 24: Pacific Northwest, and more throughout November. $90 pp.  Call 814-623-8100 or visit

* Nana at Hilton Anatole in Dallas now hosts its monthly wine and food flight trio, Friday Night Flights,  between 6pm – 8pm, for  $20 pp--3 wines paired with 3 dishes created by  Chef Anthony Bombaci.  Call 214-761-7470; visit

* Remy Martin Cognac has introduced "Les Rendez--Vous Rémy Martin," a tour of the Cognac region and grounds of the House of Rémy Martin, a tailor-made program, for a half-day, full day, evening or weekend visit where every detail of the journey is organized by Rémy Martin. Guests are invited to appreciate the cognacs, chosen by the only female Cellar Master, Pierrette Trichet, and offered the chance to learn how to blend Cognac to their preference.  Guests can also opt to experience the family estate, Le Grollet and take a tour of the wine pressing hall and view the historic stone stills. Guests will also enjoy the food of Rémy Martin’s  Chef Philippe Saint Romas. Visit


NEW FEATURE: I am happy to  report that the Virtual Gourmet is  linking up with 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."  To go to his blog click on the logo below: THIS WEEK: Amsterdam: Where Yankee Spirit Got its Start.


Eating Las Vegas is the new on-line site for Virtual Gourmet contributor John A. Curtas., who since 1995 has been commenting on the Las Vegas food scene and reviewing restaurants for Nevada Public Radio.  He is also the restaurant critic for KLAS TV, Channel 8 in Las Vegas, and his past reviews can be accessed at Click on the logo below to go directly to his site.


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). THIS WEEK:

Family Travel Forum: The Family Travel Forum (FTF), whose motto is "Have Kids, Still Travel!", is dedicated to the ideals, promotion and support of travel with children. Founded by business professionals John Manton and Kyle McCarthy with first class travel industry credentials and global family travel experience, the independent, family-supported FTF will provide its members with honest, unbiased information, informed advice and practical tips; all designed to make traveling a rewarding, healthy, safe, better value and hassle-free experience for adults and children who journey together. Membership in FTF will lead you to new worlds of adventure, fun and learning. Join the movement.

Family Travel Forum

All You Need to Know Before You Go


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

 John Mariani is a columnist for Esquire, Bloomberg News, 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.

My 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. It was 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

© copyright John Mariani 2009