Virtual Gourmet

August 1,  2010                                                                   NEWSLETTER

          Perrier Poster by Bernard Villemot (1977)



➔ ARCHIVE:  Readers may now access an Archive of all past newsletters--each annotated--dating back to July, 2003, by simply clicking on

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GOOD NEWS! now has a new food section  called "Eat Like a Man," which will be featuring restaurant articles by John Mariani and others from around the USA.

THIS WEEK: The Ignorant American's Guide to Eating Better Chinese Food


In This Issue


The Mark Restaurant by Jean-Georges
by John Mariani

by Christopher Mariani

NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: Dolcettos Are Sweet in Price Only by John Mariani



by Misha Mariani

 Each year Barcelona seems ever able to marry the very old with the very new, a flux that keeps this beautiful city vibrant and always a place to return to. The grand main street, La Rambla (or  Las Ramblas in Spanish), the Gaudí architecture, and the fine restaurantes and hotels look fresher than ever, added to with new entries that keep this a very modern Spanish city.
         For those not traveling on a budget and wanting to experience Barcelona  in a lavish, luxurious manner, I would enthusiastically  recommend the  new  Mandarin Oriental Barcelona, entered via a floating atrium  ramp (below).  Less than a year old, this 98-room hotel  is done in a modern design not seen much in the city until now,  staffed with personnel who seem to have been honing their skills for far longer than a year.
       Were it a destination hotel outside the city, it would be worth the trip, but the hotel sits conveniently on Passeig de Gracia, one of the main boulevards,  lined with designer names that define couture, and a hop, skip, and jump to all the main tourists sites.
Spanish architect Patricia Urquiola designed the hotel, retaining the general theme of Mandarin-Oriental Hotels, while showcasing her own  contemporary style relating  to the city. The building once housed
a bank’s head office,  which Urquiola took advantage of by crafting a bar out of the safe deposit room and designing doors for the guest rooms  as thick as a bank safe door. The  rooms are done in tones of whites, creams and beiges, with beautiful wood floors,  frosted sliding bathroom doors, and waterfall showerheads.
         Outside in the inner courtyard lies the Mimosa Garden, 660 square meters of specially roped furniture, mimosas and other outdoor plants, making it a relaxing and tranquil location to get away from the busy streets and to enjoy a small bite to eat and perhaps a glass of sparkling cava. If that isn’t relaxing enough, than make sure to take advantage of the spa with a swimming pool, steam bath room, gym, or have a massage therapy session. And definitely make stop at the Banker’s Bar for one of their signature cocktails.
         When it’s time to sit down and enjoy dinner, the Mandarin Oriental has two restaurants, Blanc and Moments. Blanc (right) is an open, airy dining room that can be seen from the lobby, fashioned with a “hanging garden” and throne-like furniture. The menu offers classic Spanish dishes as well as Southeast Asian dishes, from Peking duck spring rolls with hoisin sauce to Indonesian stir fries with shrimp, chicken, and kebabs. Moments, with  50 seats, is a much more refined and elegant restaurant offering traditional Catalan cuisine by Michelin  star chef  Carme Ruscalleda. Diners can choose from either an à la carte menu or a dégustation tasting that focuses on local dishes and stays true to neighboring products.
     For a place to stay that is not quite that high on the hog, consider Hostal Goya,  a quaint three-story  hostel located in the center of the Ciutat Vella, the Old City. Upon arriving, we were greeted warmly by our obliging host, who pointed out all the places we should see and recommended some tapas bars and restaurants to eat at. The room was small but cozy with a queen size bed, and a modern touch to its homey design and  bathroom. Rooms are available with or without bathrooms; we paid €90 a night, which is a great rate for those traveling on a budget.

     Barcelona is filled with restaurants and fabulous cuisine. During the day, I recommend doing a little sightseeing and stopping at a few places for some small quick tapas bites.  One of my favorites is Tapas, 24, owned by Chef Carles Abellan, a modern and chic tapas bar with its name written in large white print across its black glass window. Inside is a brightly designed interior (below) with a lively and energetic staff; this place is always busy, so don’t be surprised if you have to wait for a space to eat, and when you do get an inch or two of the counter or a table, the food comes flying out so  as to get you out.

      But even though you might feel rushed, the food is well worth it. Things to try? The Iberico ham and cheese sandwich with black truffles is decadent, or the same ham as a croqueta (very traditional to this region) with its light and crunchy outside and a creamy béchamel inside, with little nuggets of jamon. Papas Bravas is another traditional dish of fried potatoes with a slightly smokey hot sauce and mayonnaise, or try the sliced bacalao served with thinly sliced raw onions, diced tomato, lemon, olive oil and a tapenade.  In many of these tapas bars, you will be given a complementary dish of toasted or grilled bread spread with the juices and pulp of fresh tomatoes--pan con tomate--olive oil and sea salt. Tapas, 24 offered the best example of this traditional starter of any we tried on our trip.
     Other notable tapas bars in Barcelona, located in the Boqueria Market off of the city’s main drag, La Rambla, are Bar Boqueria offering either standing room or bar stools to sit at, where you enjoy true Catalan tapas such as razor clams à la plancha
(on the griddle) with minced fresh garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and chopped parsley, or charred pimientos with sea salt, olive oil and lemon juice. (Make sure to specify which ones you want because they offer red, large green and the classic small green pimientos.)
     Unlike most of the world--Greece and Brazil excepted--where people eat dinner between seven and eight o’clock, Barcelonans don’t eat until at least nine or ten. Lunch usually doesn't begin till two PM, and you can literally wait outside the restaurant door until they open it at that late hour.  When the clock strikes nine, make sure to make it to Can Majo, one of several seafood restaurants located down by the harbor called Barceloneta. Con Majo has a very minimal décor,  with wooden floors, white walls adorned with Spanish paintings and a vibrant sky blue trim.
    To start off our meal there, we ordered steamed barnacles drizzled with just a little olive oil, and the grilled tender octopus with potatoes, paprika, and olive oil, both simple and unpretentious, but perfectly done. For our main course, we had the seafood paella of mussels, clams, langoustines, and shrimp. The rice was well cooked, as was the seafood, with a fair amount of olive oil but slightly aggressive with the salt—not the only time we found local cooks to have  a heavy hand with that seasoning. Perfectly cooked was the rodaballo (turbot), cut like steak, with the bones still in it, keeping the meat moist and tender through cooking, dressed with olive oil and accompanied with simple vegetables.  To complement the food, we had a bottle of Pazo de Señorans 2009 Albariño, which was bright, crisp, minerally, and  slightly fizzy.

     A s much as we enjoyed Barcelona,  it was time for us to move on and see aBilbao, the city that is home to the world-renowned Guggenheim Museum (right), designed by architect Frank  Gehry. Bilbao is the largest city in the Basque country, with a very high population in comparison to others, and a very active financial sector, although it sindustry has languished and its arts scne filled in the gaps. It definitely  feels much more modern than the rest of the Basque cities.
      We checked into the  Hotel Miro (below),  a fairly new boutique hotel that runs parallel to the river and is located five minutes walking distance from the center of town. Ask for a  room on the street side and you’ll enjoy a perfect view of the Guggenheim 200 yards away. Inside, the hotel is decorated with an art collection by artists like Tessio Barba, Concha Prada, and Alberto Peral. There is also a courtesy bar downstairs where complementary wine, sodas, and espresso are available. The Miro Hotel has fabulous rooms, superior service and hospitality, reasonable rates, and near perfect location.  An Urban Double room currently goes for €255, but upgrades are currently being offered  if booked online.
     Bilbao like its neighboring cities, has pintxos bars and restaurants that can stand beside the best. A few places to note are El Globo, La Viña  and Bitoque. El Globo and La Viña happen to be right next to each other, but it’s friendly  competition; each is known for its own items and there’s a good chance that a couple or a group you see at one, you’ll see again at the other shortly after. At El Globo be sure to have the morcillo de leon, a blood sausage rolled with peanuts and fried; platanos with an apple chutney and bacon served warm, spider crab gratinado on a crostin; or queso cabra con cebolla contitada,  fried goat’s cheese with onion confit. El globo has a large inside bar dressed with dark lacquered wood, but if you prefer to sit outside, they have a dining area of about 30 seats where you can enjoy just some drinks or a small bite to eat. Try pretty much anything you see on the menu but hold off on the jamon, which is better at La Viña.
     La Viña (below) is a slightly brighter  establishment with a lot of activity and a great energy. Here you’re served promptly and won’t have to wait long to catch a bartender’s attention. La Viña seems to be known for their jamon, served in a variety of ways. The crostini with tomato, garlic and olive oil, were so good I ordered four.  Another tasty dish was a soft poached egg with béchamel, mushrooms, and foie gras terrine, very good but very rich. Don’t eat this first or you might not be able to eat as much of the jamon as you’d like.
     Spain is country built on the love of  food, friends, wine, more food,  so to fully experience it, don’t just fill up on their splendid architecture and  rich history, but save plenty of room for its wonderful, vibrant gastronomy.


by John Mariani

The Mark Hotel
25 East 77th Street (off Madison Avenue)

    The name Jean-Georges Vongerichten has justified world recognition in culinary circles for advancing good taste in myriad forms, not least at that mid-level  that is, these days, where most people like to dine out.  I say "dine out" as opposed to nosh., for the media's infatuation with burger bars and sandwich shops, pizzerias and cupcake stores has made the existence of a good dish or two reason enough for hyperventilated praise.  Vongerichten, whether conceiving an Asian noodle house like Matsugen in New York or an over-the-top steakhouse like Prime in Las Vegas, has never done less than give an entire menu enormous his total thought and individuality.  His flagship in NYC, Jean-Georges, is still one of America's finest and most inventive dining experiences, and although not every foray into this or that genre has met with success or critical approval, they are always exciting and quite unlike any place else.

     So the opening of  The Mark Restaurant by Jean-Georges, in a space that has seemed doomed for years as a restaurant space, is again cause to understand Vongerichten's flexible focus on refinement.  Indeed, it's been called "Jean-Georges light," but that really has nothing to do with anything. The dishes may be somewhat less complex than at Jean-Georges but they are no less tasteful and are always beautifully presented.

     The awkward space--which used to be part of the problem here at the Mark Hotel--requires passage through a small bar lounge, down a dark hall and down a couple of steps to an interconnection of rooms that must cause panic attacks among those who fear they might be seated at a "B" table.  I, for one, can't quite figure out which the "A" tables might be except that those in the room nearest the steps are probably the most sought after.  Décor has New York swank to it, a kind of posh moderne as easily found in London or Paris these days, and the Mondrian lighting and color sof the rooms make it always convivial, if somewhat loud. Its crowd seems mostly locals from the Upper East Side, with a lot of pretty, well-bronzed young people just back from the Hamptons and a lot of others who look like Bernie and Ruth Madoff.

     The menu is simply laid out to please everyone, from "Raw" to appetizers, pizza, pasta, fish, meat, "Simply Cooked" and sides, all under exec chef Pierre Schutz's hand. Nothing I tasted on two visits was anything but very good and most of it rose to levels of real excellence, beginning with a shooter of well-spiced gazpacho that I count as one of the best things I've tasted all year--I'd love a whole bowl of it.  Sweet pea soup with parmesan foam almost acts like a balm after that jolt of pepper-laced tomato, and it as delicious as summer itself.  Roasted beets might have been a cliché had they not come with a fondue of goat's cheese, the crunch of walnuts, the spurt of grapes and a little bitter endive.  Steamed shrimp salad as tender as any in the finest Chinese restaurant are a good beginning, too, with sweet avocado and an enoki Champagne dressing.                         photo: Julie Glassberg

    Foie gras is silky and finely textured, calamari come simply, crisply fried, and a peekytoe crabcake comes with pink grapefruit, avocado and ginger. There are four pizzas and they're all right--try the black truffle and fontina version--if nothing illustrious, and while the angel's hair spaghetti with asparagus, shiitakes and parmesan is a lovely light dish and the three-cheese ravioli with spring peas and basil its equal, they could use more punch.  The very best of the pasta was fresh fettuccine with Meyer lemon, parmesan and black pepper, all incorporated in perfect equilibrium.

     The "simply cooked" dishes are just that--scallops, veal chop, and so on, with a succulent chicken for two. More interesting is the grilled black sea bass with braised fennel and carrots and Cerignola olives, while that veal chop can be enhanced with a spring onion fondue of wondrous lightness along with rhubarb and English peas.  Hefty juicy grilled lamb chops (below) come with roasted vegetables and the sprightly crust of black olive crumbs. And yes, the French fries are just about perfect.

     Desserts, surprisingly, were a tad tame, more classic than anything else, especially the selection of good, if not thrilling, cakes and tarts, along with Grand Marnier soufflé and mandarin sorbet.

     The winelist, overseen by the very knowledgeable and cordial Branden McRill,  is marked by a judicious selection of good bottles under $50, along with some trophies for those who need them.

     The only real disappointment at The Mark is the service staff, which on two occasions neglected to clear tables (cocktail glasses were not removed until dessert), wipe away crumbs, pour wines, or pay attention.  One evening I watched as three captains stood on the entryway steps chatting with one another while a full house needed to be taken care of.  I said to my wife, "Let's see how long it takes for one of them even to glance to their right to see if our section of the room requires attention."  Nearly a minute went by, with all three gaily chatting away.

      That said, JG at The Mark is a very good, very modern, and very sophisticated place without any of the superciliousness that might obtain elsewhere.  Dress is all too casual, though most people dress well and appropriately, and the upper east side crowd is here in full platoon, both young and old. If you want to taste how Mr. Vongerichten has evolved over twenty years, The Mark is an ideal spot to test the waters.


The restaurant does breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily.  Starters at dinner run $11-$27, entrees $18-$46.




Piedmont’s Dolcetto Is Only Sweet to the Budget

by John Mariani
     No wine name seems more of a misnomer than Piedmont’s dolcetto, which in Italian means “little sweet one.” Piedmont does make sweet wines, like Asti Spumante and brachetto d’aqui, but dolcetto is a very dry red wine made from a namesake early-ripening, low acid workhorse grape that grows easily in soil where the more refined nebbiolo does poorly. Dolcetto is sweet only in the colloquial sense of the ripeness of its grapes and softness of its tannins.
     Because of its versatility, dolcetto is widely planted in Piedmont, with seven mini-appellations under the dolcetto umbrella, including dolcetto d’aqui, dolcetto d’alba, and dolcetto d’asti. Its light acids allow the fruitiness of the wine to come to the fore on the palate, so it’s easy to drink early after vinification and many bottlings are made in a light beaujolais style at a cheap price.
      References to the grape date to the 15th century, but only in the last decade has the varietal and the wine made from it acquired much of a reputation for real quality. As with Piedmont’s other commercial varietal, barbera, dolcetto is now the focus of the region’s finest and most expensive barolo and barbaresco estates, aware that a quality dolcetto sells well in the international market if priced right.

      A stunning example of how a famous barolo vintner can produce a dolcetto of such quality is Aldo Conterno’s Masante 2007 from the Langhe region, where the vineyards were established in 1969. When I tasted the wine last week I was amazed at the depth and complexity that followed the expected deep purple color.  It has aged impeccably, its fruit, acids, and tannins in perfect harmony, and at $20 a bottle a wine that represents extraordinary value.
      (By the way, there are three other dolcetto-making Conternos in Piedmont—Fantino, Paolo, and Giacomo, who is related to Aldo—but they are completely independent of one another.)
      Bruno Giacosa (above) is another of the top guns in Piedmont, famous for its big, bold long-lived barbarescos and barolos, so I was not surprised by the tannic backbone of his Dolcetto d’Alba Falletto ($20), which Giacosa’s website describes as having a “bitterish aftertaste typical of this variety.” Up front, however, is a nice wave of fresh fruit flavors.  It’s a wonderful wine to have with a saffron risotto with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
      Still developing its character, even after nine years, was Pio Cesare’s Dolcetto d’Alba 2000 ($20), whose tannins are still firm but whose flavors blossomed when paired with a thick, rare ribeye scented with a little rosemary. Pio Cesare goes back five generations, to 1881, and while they cling to traditions they themselves pioneered, their winery takes advantage of the most modern technical advances. Their dolcetto is made from grapes from several of the best terroirs in Serralunga d’Alba (The Ornato Estate), Grinzane Cavour (Cascina Gustava), and Treiso (Il Bricco Estate).
      The late Pasquale Pelissero, who started making wine in his garage in the 1970s, is self-described as a “very conservative wine producer,” but always open to new technologies. Now, under total control of his daughter Ornella, the winery (left) is  still a small boutique winery, which makes only 15,000 bottles annually. The estate’s Dolcetto d`Alba Cascina Crosa 2008 ($15), made in the Langhe region, has a very deep color and rich tannins, but the process of microxygenation enhances the fruit so obvious in the bouquet.  At 13 percent alcohol this is a lovely, easy-to-drink expression of 21st century dolcettos.
      Stefano Farina, which has holdings in Piedmont, Tuscany, and Puglia, makes Dolcetto di Diano d’Alba 2008 ($10), a remarkable buy, for while it lacks the complexity of others I tasted, it is sturdy, with good dark fruit flavors and becomes looser and  more interesting after a half hour in the glass.
      Dolcetto is unlikely ever to achieve the status of barolo and barbaresco, but for a dry red wine that complements the complete range of meats in summer and winter, dolcetto has come a long way at a price level that makes perfect sense right now.
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.



by Christopher Mariani


Education in any form is a very good thing, and I, of course, have a soft spot for food. So it is great to see hotels taking an interest in not just feeding its guests, but enlightening them on what they are eating.  Here are two hotels who do just that.

Montage, Laguna Beach


      The Montage Laguna Beach hotel has used many of its resources to put together an educational culinary and wine program highlighted throughout the hotel's three restaurants, The Loft, Studio,  and the Mosaic Bar and Grille. The Loft (right), headed by chef de cuisine Casey Overton,  focuses strictly on American cuisine, but beyond the dining experience, the restaurant offers guests a chance to expand one's palate by hosting an interactive cheese tasting of over 150 selections.  The "Artistry of Wine" program is also held in the Loft, and offers guests an opportunity to partake in a tasting of some of the hotel’s 2,200 different wine labels to understand the differences between multiple wine varietals and regions found around the world.

    The Studio is run by executive chef Craig Strong, showcasing modern French cuisine with California influences, incorporating dishes like sautéed Hudson Valley Farms duck and roasted Monterey calamari that both re-affirm his claim to a commitment to local fisherman, growers and farms. The last of the three restaurants is the Mosaic Bar and Grille, located on the bluff-top terrace and serves nothing more than high-end poolside dishes like local halibut tacos and grilled Maine lobster sandwiches.

    The Montage also conducts special culinary programs like the "Epicurean adventure," a thee-night cooking and wine excursion by way of yacht to Catalina Island for lunch and dinner, and a private flight to Napa Valley to taste and compare some of its fantastic wineries all for around $25,000 for two, who said education was cheap.


Petit Ermitage, Los Angeles


        The Petit Ermitage Hotel is a boutique hotel that promotes a Bohemian way of life, and like the Montage, does its fair share of events to culture its guests about food and wine. Executive chef Joseph Antonishek shares all of his culinary talent and knowledge at the hotel's Private Rooftop Club, which is split into two different spaces, the Butterfly Bar and the English Garden,  both with a 360-degree view of the Hollywood Hills and focuses around a butterfly and hummingbird sanctuary that is registered with the National Wildlife Federation.

            The garden hosts monthly culinary, wine and spirit events like vodka and caviar tastings, sake and scotch tastings paired with food prepared by Chef Antonishek.  The Summer Supper Series takes place each Thursday, and offers a limited menu that never repeats, created with separate items never found on the regular lunch and dinner menu, forcing guests to venture out of their comfort zone.  The Garden also has special wine dinners that offer the guests a chance to learn a bit more about goes into the  decisions involved with pairing the right wine with food.

     Chef Antonishek is a firm believer in farm-to-table ingredients and has put together an interestingly diverse menu for the garden with items like oysters on the half-shell, beef carpaccio, terrine of foie gras, coconut-crusted crab cakes, rainbow trout with lentils and wild mushrooms, and a lamb cous cous in coconut milk with fresh mint leaves, candied kumquats, pistachios and cheese.

             According to the Petit Ermitage, it looks like the Bohemians truly valued food and wine.



by John Mariani

      Back in 1978, Michael Batterberry made me wait interminably to see him in the reception room of Food & Wine Magazine, which he had recently founded. Just as I was about to leave in frustration, Michael came bounding from the office door, his jacket buttoned, apologizing with such sincerity that I knew I was in the presence of that rare thing in publishing, the true gentleman.  Not for him the rough house antics of the cynical newspaperman or the effete snobbishness of a style editor. Michael was a man of exceptional intelligence, honed through life experiences (he dropped out of Carnegie Mellon) that included being a painter, an interior designer, and even a saloon singer in Venezuela, Rome, and other international settings where his rich mid-Atlantic baritone fit him as well as his impeccably tailored double-breasted suits and English spread collars.
     With his wife Ariane he wrote one of the finest chonicles of New York social life (still in print), On the Town in New York, From 1776 to the Present (1973), and the couple seemed part of a charmed circle that included everyone from New York's fashion industry to Hugh Hefner, who put up some of the money to found what was originally called the International Review of Food & Wine, later Food & Wine, a magazine that took a different tack from other food monthlies,  more sophisticated than the supermarket variety but not as elitist as Gourmet at the time.  Food & Wine, which they later sold to American Express, was the first to explore and promote Americans' new fascination with foods of all kinds, and it helped make stars of young chefs like Wolfgang Puck, Larry Forgione, Jeremiah Tower, and so many others, while championing good trends and sending up bad ones.  I was very proud to write for the magazine on occasion, not least because Michael Batterberry's editorial  apporoval was something worth cherishing.
     The Batterberrys then went on to publish Food Arts for M. Shanken Communications, a magazine that served the restaurant industry in a way that veered away from competitors whose coverage of food products and restaurant chains was guided wholly by food corporation ads.  Food Arts was newsy, gossipy, and full of stories about what was going on in top kitchens around the world, written by the top food writers of the day.  The introduction to each issue, which Michael and Ariane wrote, was always an insighful focus on something that was burgeoning and important to restaurateurs, almost always a subject others had yet to notice.  The writing was always urbane, the style witty, the level of scrutiny canny.
      Which is all that Michael was, for while he always stood out in any room he entered, whether it was an art museum, an opera lobby, or a meatpacking plant, he was professionally curious about everything, seeking both to educate himself as well as provide new information for his readers.  And although he could be momentarily off-putting to newcomers, his wit and self-effacement put them all at ease, which is the true mark of a gentleman who is never unintentionally rude. I recall once saying he looked very well and newly slim, and in that low-pitched James Earl Jones voice of his, he replied with Shakesperarean gravity, "Smoke and mirrors, smoke and mirriors."
      Michael had been ill for some time over the past year but while drained of energy he was never less than himself. Losing his radiance, elegance, and disarming wit is to lose something unique in the true sense of someone whose qualities were nonpareil. Like all the truly good ones, there may well never be another like him.



"We drink down a Tenuta delle Terre Nere, grown in the rocks of the Etna volcano, with an aromatic complexity that boggles the mind and leads to comments along the lines of `the filthiest wine I’ve ever had' and “it tastes like a very dirty child.'
  Another night, we head for Ristorante Lombardo. . . . The egg-yellow tortelli lucchese are a meaty double threat—there’s beef and pork and bread crumbs inside, and beef and pork (and tons of vegetables) in the sauce. Lombardo’s pillowy specimens are so rich, eating them feels like biting into a Swiss franc."--Gary Shteyngart, "Undiscovered Tusdcany," Travel & Leisure (July 2010).


The Oak Bar in the Plaza Hotel in New York is serving a “bi-polar cocktail” called the Mel Gibson that costs $19.



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

* From Aug. 2 – 15, in NYC, El Porron will be offering a Paella Festival Special.  For $30 pp, diners get 1 tapa of their choice from the menu + Paella Valenciana + a glass of sangria.  Call 212-207-8349.

* On August 7 in New Orleans, the Southern Food and Beverage Museum will host Ted Breaux as he discusses how he brought the American absinthe ban to an end and the history of the potent beverage. Tastings follow the lecture. $10 pp. . . . On  Aug. 8 the  Museum will hold its third annual fundraiser, Eat! Drink! SoFAB! Tailgating party. Local chefs will prepare sophisticated riffs on tailgating foods and local athletes are invited. Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue will play. $75 pp. Visit  or 504-569-0405.

* On Aug. 9-15 in San Francisco, CA, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association and Visa Signature present SF Chefs 2010, to  encourage attendees to “Taste,” “Mix, “Pair,” and “Engage”.  25-$125 pp. Visit Call 415-781-5700.

* From Aug 9-14 and 16-21, restaurant Aquavit in NYC will host its annual Crayfish Festival., incl. 1lb. of peel & eat crayfish and a crayfish smörgåsbord, available in the Bistro for lunch ($28 pp) and dinner ($35 pp). Visit or call 212-307-7311.

* On August 14 in San Diego, Mistral at Loews Coronado Bay Resort will host an On the Farm lunch in the middle of Suzie’s Organic Farm with a reception and 3-course menu by Chef Marc Ehrler and Chef Patrick Ponsaty. $75 pp. Call 619-424-4476.

* On Aug. 16 in New Orleans, LA, Louisiana Cookin' presents the 201 Chefs to Watch Awards Dinner at the Theatre at Harrah's New Orleans. Champagne with 5-course dinner at  $125 pp. Visit  Black tie optional. Call 888-884-4114.

* On Aug. 19 in Chicago, IL, Chef Stephen Wambach of Epic restaurant will host the first of his monthly Epic Table series, consisting of an in-kitchen demo and multi-course lunch surrounding the theme of scallops.  $29 pp., call  312)-222-4940.


* On Aug. 25 in New Haven, CT, the New Haven Food & Wine Festival will showcase 20 local award-winning and internationally-diverse restaurants at the 2010 Pilot Pen Tennis at Yale, featuring special guest Chef Jacques Pepin. $125 pp. Call 203-776-7331.

* On Aug.  27-29 in Napa Valley, CA, Calistoga Ranch is offering the exclusive "Ultimate Napa Valley Weekend" incl. two nights accommodations in a  one-bedroom spa lodge, two spa treatments, reservation for two at the iconic French Laundry with special menu paired with wine and private tour and tasting by town car at three Napa Valley cult wineries.  $4,495 per couple.  Call 800-942-4220 or visit

* From Aug. 28 – 29, the 1st Annual Big Aspen Barbeque Block Party presents pitmasters from across the country for a weekend of BBQ and events. Free admission with live music, educational barbeque seminars, and grilling demos; barbecue for only $8 per plate. Visit <> or call 970-920-4600. Proceeds support the Aspen Community Foundation.


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: Walk in the English Countryside with Everett Potter and The Wayfarers


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: Christopher Mariani, 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