Virtual Gourmet

March 21, 2010                                                                   NEWSLETTER

                                         Menu sketched by Maestro Luciano Pavarotti at a dinner in his honor
                                                         at San Domenico Restaurant, NYC, 1992


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In This Issue

NEW RESTAURANTS IN ATLANTA, Part Two by Suzanne Wright

NEW YORK CORNER by John Mariani

NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: Tracking the All-American Wine List by Mort Hochstein



Part Two (with a Decatur Detour)
by Suzanne Wright

1397 N Highland Avenue Northeast

    This plot of Morningside real estate has never been culinarily charmed. But as I approach the front door, there’s the unmistakable smell of barbecue—always a good sign.  Turns out Chef Ron Eyester is smoking a pork shoulder on the patio for an event the next day. The scent wafts down the sidewalk tempting other would-be diners to take a peek.

     Rosebud has a serious commitment to food quality and sourcing, evident on their website, the backside of their menu, and from their servers. Whether the bread comes from the bakery across the street or the fish from Boston, you’ll know it.
     The interiors are handsome, with a monochromatic color palate that is warm and comfy but nicer than your average neighborhood bar. Oversized black and white photographs on canvas hang on the walls and chalkboards list specials. The service is similarly down-to-earth. My only complaint is the rather erratic music, which was too loud and veered toward punk at one point.
     The food is affordable and wholesome. Tangy housemade pimiento cheese was served with cayenne-spiked housemade saltines and served in a mini cast iron skillet—great grazing.  We sipped zinfandel by the glass, but there’s a menu of specialty cocktails for $8 a pop.  Curry ketchup provides a fruity note for dipping fried tempura eggplant chips.  We were split on this appetizer:  my gal pal gobbled them up but I felt the texture was a bit odd.  However, we agreed that the chicken liver bruschetta was obscured by an off-putting, acidic balsamic and bacon topping, while butternut squash soup with the surprise of roasted fig was a successful twist on a classic.
     The fabulous fork-tender, slowly braised Painted Hills pot roast with butter poached potatoes and glazed carrots was aromatic and better than many moms’. Eyester says he’s spent ten years making shrimp and grits, and it shows:  his version with andouille sausage is less gummy and more flavorful than most.
     For dessert, we tried the sweet and salty sundae, which tasted like a rice crispy treat (and that’s not a complaint) and the drunken cherry bread pudding, fluffier than many sodden versions and goosed with bourbon-soaked cherries.
     When we left it was SRO at Rosebud.  Perhaps this patch of real estate is charmed at last.

Rosebud is open for lunch and dinner and weekend brunch.  Dinner appetizers range from $6-11; entrees from $13-31.

The Iberian Pig
121 Sycamore Street
Decatur, GA
404- 371-8800

     According to writer Bill Addison of Atlanta Magazine, Federico Castellucci III resembles an “olive-skinned Clark Kent.”  He does indeed.  And the fifth generation restaurateur has Kent’s charm.
     I took a friend who lived in Spain for seven years on my dinner visit, the only person I know who owns a churro maker; she knows Spanish food, or, as our server dubbed it, “Spanish with benefits.”  (That’s tapas to you and me).  Located in downtown Decatur on the square, the room was pleasant if unremarkable, with dark woods and overly obtrusive music.
     I’ve dined here before, when it was another restaurant,  but I can’t recall how much it has or hasn’t morphed.  We sipped Mas Igneus by glass, an intense and enjoyable blend of granache, cariñena and cabernet while pondering the menu’s errors (which my friend graciously offered to correct).  Kent/Castelluci remained charming, if a bit…clueless.  The same might be said for some elements of the meal.
     Sadly, the Jamon Ibérico, from the famous black-footed prized pig, wasn’t melt-in your-mouth silky, as it should be. In fact, it was forgettable, strangely devoid of flavor.  Call yourself the Iberian Pig and you ought to have top-notch ham. We fretted and refilled our glasses.  Ditto the #1 selling pork tacos, which were greasy.  And though it’s not a literal interpretation, the albóndigas—wild boar sausage stuffed with piquillo peppers, dates, and roasted tomatoes, and finished with a crèma sauce—were simply delicious, a much-needed rebound for our bellies. The heirloom tomato composition was dearly priced at $13, but it was a beautifully presented plate of smooth-blended gazpacho, fresh mozzarella, watermelon foam and a white balsamic reduction.
     The cabrito carbonara was our favorite thing on the menu.  Slow-roasted goat’s meat tossed with chitarra (egg rich pasta), Benton’s bacon, fresh cream and topped with a poached egg. This dish nailed nouveau—and would be the perfect hangover antidote. Merluza y gambas, flaky Gulf of Maine hake with Madagascar prawns on a sherry-spiked bed of Spanish ratatouille was perhaps a tiny bit undercooked, but was true to its roots.
     The housemade churros, dusted in sugar and finished with a cinnamon chili-infused chocolate dipping sauce, were perfect dipped in espresso as Catellucci bid us goodnight, his smile never wavering.

Iberian Pig serves dinner seven nights a week. Appetizers from $4-13; entrees from $ 13-29.

560 Dutch Valley Road

     For some reason French-inspired restaurants are a tough sell in Atlanta, though the High Museum had no trouble attracting art lovers with its much-ballyhooed three-year Louvre partnership.  Arnaud Michel of Anis and Andy Alibaksh of Carpe Diem are banking that theirs is “the little bistro that can.”  After dining there, I hope they are right.  It’s a cozy, priced-right spot run with real heart.
     The location doesn’t afford them much room for error, tucked away as it is on a destination street on the bottom floor of a condo development.  The night I visited, it rained torrentially, but the room was welcoming and whimsical, with bowler hats over the bar and belts lashed around pillars throughout the room.  A roussanne by the bottle was an easy and inexpensive accompaniment to a host of starters:  charred chile and mint octopus (a bit tough), luscious, chilled hummus-like roasted cauliflower with candied pistachios, fine mussels marinière and puckery, vinegar-roasted wild mushrooms.  Steak frites, in a nod to local (and global) titan Coca-Cola, were marinated in the beloved beverage, an unusual and tenderizing marinade.  The ahi tuna with bok choy was a special that pleased a seafood-eating companion, though I found it ho-hum.  The chocolate ganache torte with sour cherry gelato and the saffron crème caramel both reawakened my palate.
     May Amuse fare better than the last tenant, which was an Italian restaurant already faded from memory.
    Amuse serves lunch and dinner seven days a week and brunch on weekends.  Appetizers at dinner run $4-13; entrees $12-21.

LUPE Tacqueria
905 Juniper Street

     If there’s a theme to this collection of restaurants it’s this: banish all memories of previous inhabitants.  In this case, owner Riccardo Ulio (of Fritti and Soto Soto) has had to scrap his own failed concept (Cuerno, Spanish) less than six months in.  Will re-christening it Lupe—named for the patron saint of Mexico, our Lady of Guadalupe--do the trick?
    The patroness makes for a striking icon:  a wall of her fragmented likeness lit by candles. Under her watchful eye, I nipped at a kicky cocktail with creeping heat: the chipotle gimlet made with Hangar One chipotle vodka, fresh lime juice and agave nectar.  Sharp and satisfying, it whet my appetite.  My beau and I sopped up frijoles charros with their rich, homey, soup-like consistency.  The ceviche de pescado, a fine dice of tilapia with red onion, cilantro, tomato, jalapeño, and lime was a bit too mannerly and dry for my taste.  When questioned about other, wetter, chunkier versions, Ulio claimed the chef, who hails from Acapulco says it is a regional recipe.
      The pollo en mojo, chicken with red mole was juicy, though the Mexican rice was uninspired.  The evening’s standout dish was durados de pollo:  crispy chicken taco dips in chicken consommé, comfort food for a cold night.  Sorry to say to my vegetarian friends that the portobello and zucchini tacos were poorly seasoned.  Stick with the gimlet.
     I hear Lupe is doing so well Ulio is thinking of expanding into his own Beleza, next door.  You might say success is for the faithful.

   Lupe Tacqueria serves dinner seven night a week, with appetizers from $6-12 and entrees from $9-14.

60 Andrew Young International Boulevard

photos by Ed Seiber

Truva means “Troy” in Turkish, according to our charismatic server, Yusuf.  Truva is a long way from that fabled land, having taken over a former Steak and Ale in downtown Atlanta. Gone are any remnants of the dark steakhouse interiors—it’s now cosmopolitan but in an accessible way.  It’s astonishing what the designer has fashioned from a palette of Mediterranean colors:  curved turquoise banquettes, gold patterned wallpaper, red and sand accents.  I just hope it will be discovered by locals, not just convention-goers.
     My dining companion (who lived in Iran for several years) and I found plenty here to love.  Cold and hot mezes (appetizers) fill the front side of the menu.  Order a variety:  The shepherd's’s salad with tomato, green pepper, cucumber, red onion, parsley, olive oil and lemon juice is refreshing, especially when paired with the haydari, a tangy strained yogurt, walnut, mint and garlic dip.  Salsa-like acili ezme is a hot tomato dip that pairs well with earthy rice and raisin-stuffed grape leaves.  We lapped everything up with excellent house-baked bread and washed the lot down with a bottle of food-friendly Skuros chardonnay from the Peloponnese region of Greece (think mineral, not oak).
     Borek, cigar-shaped phyllo dough stuffed with feta cheese and parsley then deep-fried, are faithfully executed, crispy on the outside and yielding inside.  Though momentarily dismayed by news of the sold-out Albanian-style chopped liver, I opted for adna kebap, traditional hand-chopped lamb with red bell peppers, paprika and onion.  The flavor was great, thought the meat was a bit overcooked.  Not so the lamb shank, which was falling-off-the-bone tender, braised in coriander and mint and served atop roasted eggplant.
     Though we were full, we nibbled on baklava; dibi, caramelized milk pudding, and our favorite dessert, irmik helvasi, a sweet cake made with semolina and pine nuts enrobing ice cream (a concession to Armenian tastes, explained Yusuf).
     The owners, brothers Muzo and Ali, are affable, offering continuous service from 11 a.m.-11 p.m., belly dancing nightly and a (cold) lunch buffet on weekdays.  A doner (the rotating roast used to make gyros) is promised soon.
      I was born in Istanbul of Armenian parents, so I’m pulling for Truva.  The big evil eye over the entrance will ward off bad spirits; may it also beckon area foodies.  I’m already planning a second visit soon to try the flatbread.

Truva serves lunch and dinner seven days a week.  Appetizers are $6-11; entrees $14-32.

908 Brady Avenue
photos: David Naugle

     Miller Union’s publicist emailed me the news: Miller Union was nominated as “Best New Restaurant” by the James Beard Foundation.  After a long-delayed visit, I was looking forward to sampling their gastronomic artistry.
    The Westside restaurant (once the site of the Miller Union stockyards) is intelligently designed, with several small-ish dining rooms and a bar.  By breaking up the space, the noise level—even when packed as it was on the mid-week day I dined—is manageable for conversations.  The décor is subdued—our room was farmhouse rustic—attractive and unforced.  Ditto the menu, which Chef-owner Steven Satterfield has tightly edited; dishes are based around the weekly harvest.

    Co-owner Neal McCarthey works the room with aplomb, his English accent and dapper attire charming guests.
   “It’s Miller Thyme” is how to order the well-balanced signature cocktail, made with Miller gin, lemon and thyme syrup; the Manzanilla Sour, chamomile-infused pisco, and lemon made frothy with egg whites is another all-season winner.
     We tried nearly a dozen plates and not one faltered. Among my favorites were three kinds of unadorned radishes simply served with a whipped feta spread; grilled rustic bread dipped into a luscious farm egg baked in celery cream (we sopped up every bite); velvety chicken liver mousse partnered with pickled radish and cranberry-walnut toasts; and fat, greaseless fried Apalachicola oysters dipped in a hot pepper vinegar. Our server boasted that the griddled poulet rouge was the “best chicken we’ll ever eat” and the boast is earned, its crispy skin and succulent meat accompanied by slow simmered white beans and sautéed greens.
     The slow-braised rabbit with wild mushroom and creamy grits was another slam-dunk, as were grilled new Vidalias, whose stalks looked like asparagus and tasted like leeks. Over mild protest from my fellow diners, I ordered the orange cornmeal cake with buttermilk sherbet and it was the evening’s must-try.  Dense, but not heavy, it brought to mind pineapple upside-down cake, the tangy sherbet a clever foil to the rich citrus glaze.  The rhubarb tart with its excellent crust is another honest, non-gimmicky dessert.  A trio of herb ice creams:  rosemary, thyme and an odd, slightly oily sage (I write this with admiration) shows a willingness for the kitchen to take risks.
     Word has apparently gotten out:  author Salman Rusdie was in the house (he’s now a professor at Emory University). Rusdie didn’t cause the sensation of, say, a Ludacris or Usher (I’m not sure how many diners recognized him).  But clearly, Miller Union is worth flouting a fatwa.

Miller Union is open for dinner six nights a week with appetizers from $4-11 and entrees from $17-32.

To read Part One of this article, click here.

Suzanne Wright is a writer living in Atlanta and founder of


by John Mariani

The Pod Hotel
230 East 51st Street

ast Side Social Club is not the first attempt at recapturing a time when Italian-American food ruled New York. Carmine's, opened in 1990, did this to great success, even if the food was no better than at most of the mediocre of restaurants in Little Italy.   East Side Social, owned by Billy Gilroy,  his brother Jim, and Patrick Fahey, does what it does with enormous exuberance and a wink of the eye suggesting that this is all to be taken in fun.
     It's got the looks: Roomy tables and booths with red checkered tablecloths, a radiant crystal chandelier, wood-paneled walls hung with old photos of Italian immigrants and celebrities, and shiny wood floors--not unlike the revered décor at Rao's uptown.  The place is loud, and people seem to want to shout rather than speak to their fellow diners.  The service staff is well informed, the prices right, with no main course over $38 (and most in the $26 range).

      Gilroy has managed some of NYC's hipper nightclubs, including
Nell’s and Lucky Strike, and there's a  clubbish whiff about ESSC, which its website describes as "a family-run restaurant, based on our Italian-American heritage. It hearkens back to the days of wise guys, Sinatra, Marciano, and the races. . . a private Italian-American club—open to the public." I'm O.K with most of that reverie but I would urge the owners to take out reference to "wise guys," which  perpetuates the despicable stereotype of Italian-American restaurants as friendly to mobsters who in real life would as soon torch this place for the insurance money as eat here.
       With that caveat, I can heartily recommend the place for its food, under Chef Devon Gilroy (the owner's son), who has worked at Chanterelle and A Voce. His own pedigree has an Italian bloodline via his maternal grandmother, and he is deft at all the old favorites, done with a good modern spin in terms of ingredients and flavor.  Proof positive is his appetizer of stuffed eggplant, as fine a rendition as I've ever had, spiked with red pepper, pecorino, and a dash of balsamico.  Also exemplary are the arancini, mozzarella-stuffed croquettes that, were it not for their huge size, would become an addiction preventing you from going on to anything else.  Curiously enough, Gilroy deviates from the expected by offering a finely grained terrine of foie gras with radicchio.

   There is a sensible number (six) pastas offered, from a hoity-toity raviolo enclosing an egg yolk that gushes out when cut into; good mushroom ravioli with black trumpets, arugula, and a veal jus; a plate of spaghetti with as delicious a tomato sauce as you'll find in the city; and ricotta gnocchi with a nicely rendered bolognese ragù.
      For a main course, the grilled chicken is simple, crisp, and juicy,  its leg stuffed with kale, pancetta, and garlic, accompanied by cannellini beans and garlic jus--a steal at $24.  The Berkshire pork chop shows its pedigree well, tender, nicely cooked, with chanterelles, chestnuts, and farro grain; There's a 30-ounce porterhouse ($78) for two or more people, and a very good sirloin, dry aged for 28 days, with rich flavor and a side of braised radicchio, baby onions, and vin cotto.  The only disappointment was grilled swordfish, an anemic, flavorless slab, with cherry tomatoes, olives, capers, and golden raisins. Broccoli di rabe with garlic also showed signs of long overcooking.
      Desserts are of the usual Italian-American kind and perfectly all right.  There is also a choice of cheeses.
      ESSC's winelist is just long enough for the kind of place this is, not too many high-priced trophy bottlings and enough in the mid-range.
      No one is going to come away from ESSC raving about novelty, but it's hard to complain about food with such soulful goodness and the air of retro-cool in the place makes for a night of fun, more for those who better appreciate the  nostalgic charms of a play like "Jersey Boys" than a piece of decaying flotsam like "Jersey Shore."

East Side Social Club is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, till 4 A.M. Appetizers runs $7-$14, pastas (full portions) $17-$22, and entrees $24-$38.



Tracking the All-American Wine List

by Mort Hochstein

   “When we started in ’93, we carried a wine from every region in the country, even if some of them weren’t very good.  The restaurant is in our nation’s capital and it seemed the right thing to do.”
    Charlie Palmer, the innovative chef whose Aureole in Manhattan is now the flagship for 13 restaurants in New York, Washington, Texas, Nevada, and California, was talking about his steakhouse a few blocks from the halls of Congress. “We’ve trimmed that list and while it no longer represents every state, it shows the best of what is being produced across the country. There are surprises here for people who think good wine comes only from California, or the Pacific Northwest.”
       Nadine Brown, the   knowledgeable sommelier at Charlie Palmer Steak in Washington (left), gave me one of those surprises. She opened   a   sparkling wine by L. Mawby, from Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula, made in true French méthode champenoise style.  Mawby, which makes only sparkling wines, has been producing bubblies since 1978. The Michigan house also fields  a less expensive   line under   the  M. Lawrence label,  produced in the cuvée close method,  where wine  ferments in a sealed tank rather than a bottle and comes to market sooner  than the traditional méthode champenoise wines.
   The Mawby sparkler was a revelation, rich, full-bodied and surprisingly complex with citrus and apple overtones, making me sorry this was my first exposure to this label.  Ms.  Brown also put us onto a lively 2008 Tablas Creek Viognier and a 2001 Jarvis Cabernet, a cult favorite, accompanying a selection of oysters and a 16-ounce ribeye, which was more than enough for the two of us.  Because many of these less known wines are limited production and in short supply, the steakhouse wine list changes frequently. Mawby, for instance, makes only 8,000 cases a year.
   When in Rome, as the saying goes, do as the Romans do, particularly with wine lists which seldom offer anything but Italian wines and are even more tightly wrapped when it comes to wine regions. It wouldn't be all that easy in Tuscany or the Piedmont to find wines from Sicily, or the Alto Adige or southern Italy.  Similarly, wine lists in France or Germany, or other winemaking nations, would be almost 100% local.
  That hardly follows in this country, perhaps because this nation came to wine in a major way only in the last 30 years and had hardly any winemaking tradition.   Even the most celebrated restaurant in Napa, the French Laundry, allots barely more than half of its list to domestic wines.
     Back  in ’07, Tina Caputo, now editor of Vineyard and Winery Management, then a columnist for the trade journal Wines and Vines, wrote : “It appears that the United States still suffers from a wine-inferiority complex." Citing  instances of wine lists heavily favoring  imports, she asked,  “While I understand their reverence for the great wine regions of Europe, I couldn’t help but wonder:  Would this happen in any other world-class wine producing country? Can you imagine opening a wine list at a top restaurant in Paris to discover that 80% of its selections were produced in California?”
   There are about 60 American restaurants that go the All-American route, primarily in wine-producing regions.  At one point, the New York area had five restaurants waving the flag in that manner, but closings have brought their number down to three, including Brooklyn’s Buttermilk Channel, where owner Doug Crowell focuses on local foods and “so it seems natural to concentrate on American wine. People are always surprised at the variety. I have great options, from Oregon, Washington, California and, closer to home, Long Island, the Hudson River Valley and the Finger Lakes.”
      On the upper west side of New York City, Henry Rinehart at Henry’s seeks out American wines made in the European style.  His list features wines from small producers such as Stephen Vincent of Sonoma, Ponzi in Washington State, and Barboursville in Virginia. For patrons uneasy about trying unfamiliar labels, Henry’s runs a generous return policy: “If you don’t like it, we’ll drink it.” Rinehart notes that he had to conquer his own liking for imports before he switched to an All-American wine list.
    If Americans do have a wine inferiority complex, it’s primarily about  Champagne.  At Henry’s, and on similar all domestic lists, the exception to the rule is that the customer can indulge a taste for the imported label.   Sparklers such as Schramsberg and Roederer Estate  from California, and Doctor Frank from New York, may have excellent reputations, but French champagnes have built an image that is hard to displace.
   Like  Henry Rinehart, Cleveland restaurateur Marlin Kaplan of One Walnut keeps “some Moët and some Dom around for special occasions,” but otherwise it’s all domestic wine. “People may come into One Walnut predisposed to a European wine,” he says, “but we’re able to convince them there’s plenty to choose from here in the United States."  It’s a mixed list at his other shop, Lux.”I’m more flexible there, “ he says,  “and it allows me to offer some great values from Chile and Australia, even Bordeaux, which I cannot list  at One Walnut.”
    Mushroom maven Pennsylvanian Jack Czarnecki cultivated his wine palate at school in California, but when he closed “Joe’s” in Reading, PA, and moved to the west coast, he became an Oregon chauvinist. His Joel Palmer House in Dayton, in the heart of  wine country, offers an all-Oregon list and, he boasts, “We’ve got 500 Pinot Noirs” in our cellar, the largest Pinot Noir list in the nation.”
  Similarly, the Lark Creek Restaurants in San Francisco and the Bay area offer huge all-American wine lists emphasizing, of course, California.  Visitors to the Bay area can find many hard to get small producers at One Market, Lark Creek restaurants on the peninsula and at the original Lark Creek Inn in Larkspur.   Fittingly, The Kitchen In the state capital, Sacramento, serves only California wines as do Bistro Ralph and Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg in Sonoma.
  Alex Sebastiani at the Wooden Angel in Beaver (left), a Pittsburgh suburb, one of the first restaurants outside of wine country  to go all-American, says the biggest problem is making choices from all the wines available to him “We   have all fifty states on the list and they get better each year.”
   Until recently, Jay Kazlow, owner of Dan Tanna's’s Downtown and Dantanna’s Buckhead in Atlanta, would not touch Kendall Jackson Chardonnay, known familiarly in the trade as KJ, and sold in a majority of the nation’s restaurants. “It was too sweet and too popular. I don’t want a wine that I’ll see on an endpack at the supermarket.  I have two guidelines: I want wines that I like for my customers and the wine must be reasonably priced.”  But he tasted KJ recently, found it no longer too sweet and put it on his list. “You have to be flexible, and it’s a lot easier if I like the wine,” the sports bar operator observed.
    In the nation’s most chauvinistic state, one restaurant deep in the heart of Texas wine country sells only local wines. At the Cabernet Grill in Fredericksburg, chef-owner Ross Bortwell lists 75 wines from the Lone Star State, and says he gets no resistance from people visiting the Hill Country. Does he cater to the occasional visitor with a taste for  champagne? “No way,” Bortwell responds. “We lacked a  bubbly until just recently when Messina Hof, one of our neighbors,  released a trio of sparkling wines. We jumped all over it.” The eyes of Texas are upon Fredericksburg.  Bortwell  covered  his sparkling wine gap  with a brut, a raspberry  and an almond bubbly.  Now, could that happen anywhere but Texas?

Mort Hochstein, former editor and producer for NBC News and the Today Show, and former managing editor of Nation's Restaurant News, writes  on wine, food and travel.


Alcohol May Help Fight Weight Gain In Women:
According to a study published in the March 8 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, women who drink moderately gain less weight despite alcohol's calories.Women of a normal weight who consume alcohol in moderation appear to gain less weight over time than nondrinkers. But those who didn't drink alcohol gained on average 8 pounds, while the women who reported drinking alcohol gained less, with those who drank 30 to 40 grams of alcohol a day (the equivalent of around three to four 4-ounce glasses of wine) gaining the least, at an average of 3.3 pounds.


In an interview with Time Out New York Magazine, restaurant entrepreneur Alain Ducasse (left) said of New Yorkers, "What makes them the most difficult?
 There’s so much diversity; they’re like spoiled children. A spoiled child is never happy. They’re a very demanding clientele. There’s a sense of struggle; it’s not a quiet relationship. There’s a certain rush to have to satisfy their demands. That’s a positive facet to it. New Yorkers are demanding but all the while still pleasant. In Paris, they’re demanding and unpleasant. New Yorkers, if they’re satisfied, are much more responsive than a Parisian."



Guidelines for submissions:  QUICK BYTES publishes only events, special dinners, etc, open to the public, not restaurant openings or personnel changes.  When submitting please send the most pertinent info, incl. tel # and site, in one short paragraph as simple e-mail text, WITH DATE LISTED FIRST, as below.  Thanks.  John Mariani


* During Mar. and April in Dallas, TX, Lavendou Bistro Provençal presents Celebration of French Culture prix fixe dinner.  Three courses featuring traditional classics from Grenoble, Normandy and Southern France, prepared by Chef François Soyez and paired with wines recommended by Owner Founder Pascal Cayet.  $34.95 pp.  Call 972-248-1911 or

* On March 24 in San Francisco, CA, Urban Tavern hosts a Samuel Adams beer dinner with six paired courses and 5 hours of free parking, $45 pp. Call 415-923-4400

* On Mar. 25, in Miami Beach, China Grill’s executive chef Tim Nickey invites you to partake in a “Bring Your Own Wine” 8-Course Tasting Dinner. $60 pp.  Call 305-534-2211.

* On March 26, in Atlanta, David York, of Fulton County Animal Services and owner of Barking Hound Village, will host the final week of the "Celebrity Chocolate Buffet" at Park 75 Restaurant at Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta with Chef Robert Gerstenecker  with over 20 other  chocolate desserts.  $20 pp.;

* On Mar. 27, in New OrleansThe Southern Food and Beverage Museum will host Lolis Eric Elie,  of Smokestack Lightning for a viewing of the movie and a Q&A session exploring all the varieties of BBQ throughout the South. Free for SoFAB Members, $10 for non-members. Call 504-569-0405 or email .  . . On Mar. 28, The Museum celebrates the opening of 3 new exhibits. Spoiled: Tom Varisco's post-Katrina photographs of personalized refrigerators, Food Photography by Eugenie Uhl, and an exhibit devoted to Galatoire's Restaurant.  Free and open to the public. Call 504-569-0405 or email

* On Mar. 29, in Delray, FL, Henry’s on Jog Rd. is celebrating Passover with a traditional 4-course dinner, starting at $35.95 pp.  Kosher wine available upon request.  Call 561-638-1949.

* On Mar. 30, in San Francisco, at EPIC Roasthouse, Chef Jan Birnbaum will prepare a special 5-course Passover menu with wine pairings featuring contemporary interpretations of his childhood favorites passed down from his mother, aunts and grandmother.  The meal will begin with a short Seder service with Cantor Hilda Abrevaya. $95 pp. person (Children 10 and under, $45). Call 415-369-9955.

* On March 31 in Larkspur, CA, Left Bank Brasserie hosts a French-German Friendship Dinner with three courses, $34.00 pp. Call 415-927-3331;

* On Apr. 6, in Williamsburg, NY, Aurora Williamsburg is hosting a  wine dinner, highlighting the flavors of Lombardia, in Northern Italy.  Enjoy 4 courses of chef Adam Weisell’s interpretation on traditional Lombardy fare, each course  paired with 4 wines from Lombardia selected by wine director Gianluca Legrottaglie.  $60 pp. Call 718-388-5100.

* On Apr. 7 in NYC, the Celebrity Chef Tour Benefitting the James Beard Foundation will feature a dinner with Award-Winning Chef Michael Lomonaco of Manhattan's Porter House Restaurant at The Renaissance New York Hotel Times Square. $175 pp. Call 720-201-1853. . . . On Apr. 8 in , the Celebrity Chef Tour Benefitting the James Beard Foundation will feature a dinner with Award-Winning Chef MIchael Schlow  of Boston’s Radius, Via Matta and Alta Strada together with  Host Chef Ben Pollinger at Oceana Restaurant. $175 pp. Call  720-201-1853.

* On April 10 in Oakland, CA, the East Bay Vintner's Alliance kicks off their 3rd annual "Passport to the East Bay Wine Trail" tasting event where 19 East Bay wineries will pour their wares. Seven distinct tasting rooms located in Emeryville, Oakland, and Alameda will showcase the best of California winemaking.  Call 510-473-2821 or visit

*April 21-May 15, and Sept. 20-Oct. 30, in Capri, Italy, the Capri Gourmet Package will be available at Hotel Caesar Augustus.  incl.: 3-night accommodations incl. breakfast daily, welcome amenity of fresh fruit and flowers, candle-lit Dinner for two at Lucullo Terrace, private boat or taxi tour of the island, 3-hour cooking lesson with the hotel’s Executive Chef, personalized apron, and transfer from and to the port of Capri. Rates starting at €2,161 in a Deluxe Seaside accommodation; based on double occupancy.


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."  THIS WEEK: Is This the Best Travel Bookshop in the US? Atlantic City: An Affordable Winter Escape by the Sea


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).

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

nickonwine: An engaging, interactive wine column by Nick Passmore, Artisanal Editor, Four Seasons Magazine; Wine Columnist,;;


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 2010