Virtual Gourmet

  October 31, 2010                                                                   NEWSLETTER

    Adam Sandler and Kevin James in "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry" (2007)

Happy Halloween!



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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.


In This Issue

A Snake, Saguaros, a Spa and Shopping:  The Boulders by  Suzanne Wright

Osteria del Circo
by John Mariani

MAN ABOUT TOWN: Colombia Colors by Christopher Mariani

NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: Sherry, Baby!  by Brian Freedman



A Snake, Saguaros, a Spa and Shopping:  The Boulders

 by Suzanne Wright

    It’s just after 9 p.m.   I’ve just finished a very satisfying dinner in the Latilla restaurant (below) at The Boulders:  creamy corn chowder; blackberry and pistachio salad with goat's cheese; flat iron steak with pasilla jus and a huckleberry emulsion, roasted Brussels sprouts and patty pan squash; and strawberry shortcake washed down with an icy, wine-kissed margarita.

     In September, the air is still scorching by day, climbing over 100 degrees.  But at night it softens as a blanket of black covers the sky, punctuated only by scattering of stars and a half moon.  And though a golf cart is always at the ready to whisk guests back to their casita, I’d rather walk.  Just to the left of the entrance, I see four staffers gathered.   I advance slowly, then I see it:  a western diamond back rattlesnake curled on the dirt.

       The snake is magnificent; apparently not agitated, silent.  Still, says one staffer, he sometimes makes a “big noise.”   Another staffer estimates him at three-and-a-half feet in length.  He says I am lucky to see a rattlesnake, they’ve been scarce this summer.

       I look down, smiling to myself:  I’m wearing a snakeskin-printed blouse.  Have I sartorially summoned the snake with my choice of clothing?  I am secretly thrilled.

     “Snakes are misunderstood.” I say.  “They are transformative, a good omen.”

     There’s a division of opinion on this. An employee has been radioed to wrangle the snake into a pail.   It will be released nearer to the mountain, further from the resort’s skittish guests.

      “Would you like to feel how heavy he is?” he says, thrusting the pail to me. My heart quickens as I reach for it.  It is surprisingly heavy.  Minutes later, I head down the illuminated path to my casita.  I don’t see any more snakes, just the majestic silhouette of the saguaro cactuses in the moonlight.   For all its low-key elegance, The Boulders is still a wild place, the habitat of desert creatures.

      Twenty years ago, I first visited this celebrated resort, a favorite hideaway of celebrities and power brokers.  Its impact was indelible and all these years later my memory of The Boulders remains crystalline.  Of course, I was far less traveled then, so I wondered if a return visit would impress me as much.

       It does.

      Of course, Carefree, located 45 minutes north of Phoenix, has grown more populated—and popular—over two decades.  There’s a new highway, a clutch of restaurants and shops in nearby Cave Creek.   But the stunningly singular landscape of the Sonoran Desert seems untouched. Unlike so many Arizona resorts, there’s a real sense of place.  It’s the granite boulders said to be 12 million years old, the giant saguaros, the rattlesnakes.   I feel like an extra on a movie set. 

      Simply put, The Boulders is iconic. I’m an urban gal who loves the wide open spaces of the desert.   The Boulders boasts 160 casitas and 60 villas tucked into the natural terrain.  There are the expected top-notch amenities:  two golf courses, six restaurants, a 33,000-square foot spa, two swimming pools. My spacious casita has been recently renovated with a marble bathroom and cowhide accents.  There’s a fireplace and a wet bar.  But what I like best is the patio’s view of a pile of rocks as the sun streaks the sky amethyst and papaya.   I like the silence broken only by the nasal call of the Gambel’s quail or the hopping of desert cottontail rabbits.  In a wash near my suite, I’m mildly startled to spy a pack of javelinas, wild pig-like animals.  How incongruous—and how utterly fantastic—is it to be headed to a spa appointment and see all this wildlife!  It’s a natural tonic for a city-weary traveler.

     The spa complex includes a pool, gift shop, fitness center and 24 treatment rooms; in addition, there’s a meditation labyrinth and an organic garden.   And everywhere, boulders dominate the view, sharing it with tree-sized, armed saguaros.  Frankly, it’s too surreal to read a book when I’m surrounded by this deeply unusual landscape.  I simply surrender into it, floating in the pool, stealing glances of those looming rocks.

     It takes something special to rouse me at the ungodly hour of 5 a.m.; a hot air balloon ride qualifies.  After we tumble out of the van, we watch as the balloons are inflated.  When fully inflated a balloon is more than seven stories tall; the fabric weighs over 700 pounds.

     Twelve of us climb into the basket, giddy with excitement.  The sun is up and soon we lift off, hot blasts of air keeping us afloat.   From 5,000 feet, we have the proverbial bird’s eye view, gliding over saguaro and washes, even the interstate at rush hour.   Back on the ground, après ballooning, the crew lays out a breakfast spread of quiche and pastries from acclaimed Phoenix chef Vincent  Guérithault.  We toast with mimosas as Captain Mike passes out our certificates and points out the circling coyotes that await the leftovers.

     From my base at the Boulders, there’s plenty to explore north of Phoenix. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West (below) has been called a “man made desert masterpiece”   for the way it blends and blurs the line between indoor and outdoor spaces.  Wright first came to Arizona in 1927 and by 1937, at the age of 70, had established his winter residence in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains, his so-called organic architecture is integrated into the surroundings. (Perhaps the Boulders’ architects took their cue from Wright).   There’s an interesting tension between the expansive, light feeling in the desert and the low, dark interiors.  During the 90-minute Insights Tour, I learn about the cantilevered roof, the hexagonal doors, the desert masonry and the “compress and release” sensibility that make this residence unique. This National Historic Landmark still serves as a vibrant center for a community of architecture students, artists and teachers.

     After touring Taliesin in the heat of the day, lunch at The Greene House at Kierland Commons (a shopper’s paradise) offers California-inspired cuisine in cool, chic surroundings.  The herb hummus is bursting with flavor, thanks to the chopped tomatoes, raw onion and feta; I lap it up with thick grilled pita bread.  Two creative pasta dishes floor me:  fresh pea dumplings stuffed with bok choy and enoki mushrooms dunked into a sweet chili broth, and corn cannelloni with baby tomatoes and a basil salad.  Grilled baby artichokes brushed with parmesan and lapped with balsamic vinegar round out a fine meal.  A basil gimlet is a fine herbaceous liquid accompaniment.

     The Heard Museum North Scottsdale is an outpost of the renowned downtown museum, featuring two exhibition galleries, a café and a terrific gift shop.  In addition to eating, Scottsdale is known for great shopping.  Though too much of the space is empty (recession woes), El Pedregal, near The Boulders, offers a couple of notable boutiques: Conrad’s for beautifully handcrafted handbags and interesting jewelry.  In the same shopping center is The Spotted Donkey (right), where the nachos are stacked with pulled pork, roasted tomatillo salsa and Mexican crema; the mac-and-cheese is spiked with chiles and applewood smoked bacon.

     After the day’s exertions, some spa time is in order.  I mindfully walk the labyrinth following a dip in the pool, then I’m ready for my 80-minutes massage at the Golden Door Spa.  I’m booked for a Thai massage, but I’ve forgotten to wear loose clothes, so Aaron adjusts the session to a combination of deep tissue, cranial-sacral and Swedish with some much-needed stretching.  He’s intuitive and offers a plethora of advice about the persistent pain in my sacrum:  from walking backward to pressing a  lacrosse ball into my back to juicing and drinking grapefruit to lessen inflammation. Tonight, I’ll order room service, but I make a note to breakfast at the spa café for a goat cheese and asparagus omelet and cranberry pecan muffin.

     It’s a short walk back to my casita as I step into the glory of the Sonoran desert:  a hawk overhead, a javelina, rabbits, the quail, the saguaro, prickly pear, those marvelous boulders.  I pour myself a glass of wine, open the balcony door and take it all in.






120 West 55th Street

    Osteria del Circo has been one of the West Side's best Italian restaurants for a decade now, always under the ownership of the Maccioni family that also owns Le Cirque (with branches of both restaurants in Las Vegas), and for most of those years the refined maitre d' Bruno Dessai. Adam Tihany's  design still evokes the gaiety of dining under a circus tent, and Egidiana Maccioni still makes sure everything of the menu is of top quality.
     There's a new chef onboard, so it seemed good reason to return to this ebullient, very colorful ristorante. Michael Galata (below), a 30-year old Jersey boy, grew up in his family's restaurant and followed his culinary star, joining Le Cirque 2000 to rise to sous-chef there, now chef de cuisine at Circo. As with previous chefs at the restaurant, the signature dishes are still on the menu--God forbid they should think of taking them off!--to which Galata has added his own ideas.
      The thrust of the menu is Tuscan (whence originated the Maccionis), so you can begin with a generous Antipasto Toscano "Del Circo," a platter of mixed salumi, crostini with chicken liver puree, pecorino cheese, and marinated vegetables. There is sushi-grade tuna sliced and served with bottarga roe and a spiced oil to bring the flavors into focus, capers and orange for tang.  Zuppa alla Frantoiana is an old favorite here, a "thirty vegetable  and bean soup" ideal for the cool weather now drifting into New York. The thin pizzas here are excellent, one big enough for the table to share.
       You cannot go wrong with any of the pastas, housemade, of course, from Egi's ravioli di Mamma stuffed with buffalo ricotta and spinach, simply dressed with butter and sage. The straightforward spaghetti alla chitarra with tomatoes and basil is as bright and savory as any in town, the the pappardelle with duck ragù and porcini is a triumph of autumnal Tuscan flavors.  (You can have a duo of pastas as a main course for $29.)
      Simplicity is the key to Tuscan cooking and it is the style of most of the main courses, including wonderful scallops and shrimp with a parsnip, fennel, mussels, and bouillabaisse-like reduction. You won't find a better rack of lamb, Italian style, than Circo's, dusted with pecorino and thyme and served with chickpeas and roasted red peppers.  As you might imagine, the bistecca alla fiorentina is a singular rendering here, thick, succulent to the bone, served with tortellini filled with shortrib meat, charred green onions and broccoli di rabe--all this for the same price, $45, you'd pay at a steakhouse for just the meat alone, and you can share this one easily enough, cut into thick slabs.  A Tuscan ribeye, served for two tableside, is $39 per person (left). There is also a side of Tuscan fried potatoes you might consider.
    Those who would skip dessert at an Italian restaurant should not do so at Circo, for just as much care is lavished on the gelati, panna cotta and chocolate desserts as on everything else on the menu.
     Circo is convenient for lunch on the West side, perfect for pre- and after-theater  (it's next to the Ziegfeld Theater), and always a frothy, happy place for dinner, which may well include theater people, the fashion crowd, and any star who's in town this week.  The bar (right) is a primo watering hole from five o'clock on and in fair weather the outdoor tables are much desired. And by the way, the white truffles have just arrived!

Circo is open Mon.-Fri. for lunch and nightly for dinner. Antipasti run $11-$19, pastas (as full portions) $24-$29, and main courses $28-$45. 
Seven-course tasting menu $68, with wines $95; Prix fixe $38, from 5 PM-6:30 and 9:30-closing.



by Christopher Mariani

The Colors of Colombia


This September I was in Colombia visiting the cities of Cali and Bogotà; both will be reported on in depth in the next month or so. 


    Whether I was walking the streets of Calí or Bogotà, watching the famous salsa show named Delirio, eating my way through the open street markets, attempting to dance salsa after many shots of aguardiente, or simply dining at some of Colombia’s fine restaurants, I witnessed an explosion of beautiful, bright colors throughout every inch of both cities.  I was told by one Colombian that colors express emotion and life, and that is why the cities are blanketed in color.  The Colombians are very happy people and seem to always find the positive in any situation; maybe it’s the beautiful colors that affect their mood, or maybe it’s their positive attitudes that create the colors, regardless, the visual effect is stellar.

     I started in Cali, and immediately after checking into my hotel, drove to see the Los Gatos sculptures near El Peñon along the Cali River.  Many of the cat sculptures were created by Colombian artist Hernando Tejada in the mid-90’s.  The first cat of the collection was named “El Gato del Rio.”  My guide stated that the first cat had become lonely, so Tejada and other artists began painting more cat sculptures, to keep “El Gato del Rio” company.  The sculptures reminded me immediately of NYC’s cow  and London’s elephant collections.  One of the cats is painted almost completely yellow with black ears, striped baby blue and white legs, and blue and white eyes.  My favorite (above) was covered in multiple shades of blue, scattered gold stars, and an all-white face with tiny red lips. 
      After the cats,
along the mountainside of Cali where the skinny road winded  for  turn after turn as we ascended, we stopped to take pictures of a roadside art exhibition (above) sculpted by street artist Carlos Andres Gomez.  The pieces were sculpted out of the mud and dirt rising 25 feet above the roadside,  then painted every shade of the rainbow.  The pieces range from butterflies to insects to the human body, and my favorite, the face sculptures, all wearing head pieces.

         For lunch that afternoon I dined at a restaurant called Ringlete, that served very traditional Colombia food specific to the city of Cali.  The outside of the restaurant was covered from the base of the building to the roof in a bright pink with white lettering.  The walls of the interior were covered with oil paintings containing intense shades of tangerine orange, lime green, and deep blue.  The tablecloths are the color of a fresh watermelon and the trim of the rooms were a key lime green, not to mention each table was decorated with small vases filled with flowers, a nice classy touch.  The lunch itself consisted of many colorful items like bright yellow plantains, green hot sauce and red onion. 
  The following day, I visited the Plaza De Mercado Alameda street market.  Inside there were entire sections of beautiful flower stands, entire rooms dedicated to colorful produce (above), cooked meat stations and butchers where entire racks of ribs hung from giant meat hooks.  There were amazing pork sausages and cured meats that filled glass cases, endless rows of fruit and vegetables found in every color, and tiny empanadas filled with potatoes, pulled pork, and salty beef, all sided by spicy green dipping sauces made with chopped raw onions and cilantro. The peppers and tomatoes were deep shades of red that made American supermarket items look like rubbish. It was also the constant aroma of sweetness from the fruit, spice from the dried peppers, smokiness from the cured meats, oil form the empanadas, and Colombian coffee  permeating the café sections that made the experience so wonderful.

     That evening at the Delirio salsa show (above), performed monthly, I sat back at a long table as I ate empanadas, chicharrons (deep fried squares of pork belly), and drank shot after shot of aguardiente as I watched in awe because the salsa dancer’s feet seemed never to touch the ground while they performed traditional salsa underneath a giant red and yellow circus tent.  The night was so vibrant and the imagery  spectacular, not to mention how gorgeous the Colombian female dancers were.  Even the servers and drink girls were amongst the most stunning beauties I have ever seen;  I need to go back to Colombia.

     The following day I was on a  flight off to Bogotà , where I dined at one of Harry Sasson’s restaurants,  Harry Sasson, and was immediately brought a colorful plate of ceviche (above, right), so pretty I almost felt guilty cutting through its culinary design with my knife.  The next day at Andres Carne de Res  located just outside of Bogotà, I entered what appeared to be a museum of craft art.  The entire restaurant was filled with wood furniture and densely decorated with little pieces of colorful art work, painted bottles (left), bright ornaments, shiny signs, and red heart -shaped lanterns individually named above each table.  I could go on and on about the multitude of colors in Colombia, but I must save some of this for my piece on Colombia that will be featured in the near future.


To contact Christopher Mariani send an email to


by Brian Freedman


   I recently returned from an exceptionally eye-opening trip to Jerez, Spain, and throughout the five days I spent exploring the Sherry-producing districts, one thought kept on creeping into my mind: I cannot believe I never drank more of this wine before. This was one of those paradigm-shifting trips that not only opened me up to Sherry in particular, but that also forced me to reconsider what I thought fermented grape juice was capable of.

         No matter where they’re from, the best wines are firmly rooted to a specific geographical location. And, indeed, the standard classifications and appellations of Europe are based on the idea that the same grape variety can be harvested from two neighboring villages, for example, yet the resulting wines will express themselves in completely different ways as a result of the changes in the geology of the vineyards and the micro-climatic shifts from one place to the other.

         In Jerez, however, things are a bit different, while still inextricably tied to this particular place. Travel to Bordeaux or Burgundy, by way of contrast, and you’ll hear the constant drumbeat of the importance of the land; great wines, they tend to say, are made in the vineyard. In Jerez, however, we were told time and again that the best wines, while certainly requiring good fruit and vineyard sites, are generally made in the winery and over the years in the barrels as they age and evolve.

         Unlike standard dry wine, most of which is sold year after years in vintage-designated bottlings, Sherry is the result of the region’s famous solera system (left). Put simply, the solera system facilitates the progressive blending of new wines and older ones, which layers the flavors and aromas, adds depth and nuance to wines as the blends accumulate, and results in a finished product that is as intimately--and literally--tied to the past as any wine in the world.

         The success of these fortified wines--the fact that they can be produced at all, in fact--is a result of the unique geographical location of the legendary Sherry Triangle and the nature of the grapes that grow there, as well as of the specific strains of yeast that flourish and the flor that results. (For specifics on the region, the solera system, flor, and why real Sherry can only come from here, visit, the excellent web site of the Sherry Council of America.)

         Over the course of my time in Jerez, we had the chance to visit nine bodegas and to taste dozens of samples both on their own and during meals. Perhaps more than anything else, I was flat-out astounded by how well Sherry pairs with food.  Some of this success at the table is a result of the range of styles in which Sherry is produced, from dry, supremely refreshing Fino and more caramelized but still lithe Amontillado to rich, structured Olorosos and the dessert-in-a-glass Pedro Ximénez. My favorite style, however, and the overall consensus favorite of the group of six American journalists I traveled with, was the mysterious, relatively rare Palo Cortado, a Sherry that starts out its life as a Fino but whose early-disappearing flor (the protective layer of yeast that prevents a young Sherry from oxidizing) ultimately turns it in the direction of an Amontillado. These wines were consistently among the most expressive, evocative examples we tasted each day.

         Yet perhaps more important to food-friendliness than the range of Sherry styles is the nature of the wines themselves, the unexpected ways in which they frame the foods they’re being sipped alongside. For even though differences between, say, a Fino and an Oloroso are vast, Sherry has the ability to handle a range of ingredients that precious few other wines do. Over the course of our week in Jerez, we paired various styles of Sherry with everything from sardines on tomato bread  to garlicky, nutty baby eels --the famous, and famously expensive, angulas (right) to steak with mushrooms, foie gras, and even notoriously wine-unfriendly artichokes. Sherry made easy work of them all, highlighting the flavors we wanted, minimizing the ones we didn’t, and rendering every dish not only more delicious than it otherwise would have been, but also a flavor and texture odyssey as enjoyable on an intellectual level as it was on a sensory one. The nature of these wines, and the ways in which their flavor profiles differ from the ones most wine writers experience on a more regular basis, force a reconsideration of the vocabulary employed to describe them.

         When I travel to a wine region whose wines I’m more or less familiar with, the tasting notes I accumulate over the course of my stay tend to utilize a fairly familiar collection of descriptors. Notes on Champagne lean in the direction of words like toast, brioche, lemon curd, acidity, minerality, and so on. My notes from a visit to Bordeaux last year show words like leather, tobacco, spice, tea, currants, and the like. But this trip to Jerez forced me to change the vocabulary I used to evoke the flavors and aromas I experienced dozens of times a day.

         Over the five days of this particular journey, we visited nine bodegas throughout the Sherry Triangle, and from larger ones like Harveys to smaller, more boutique operation like Hidalgo-La Gitana, every visit challenged, instructed, and ultimately charmed me in its own unique way, and introduced me to flavors or textures I hadn’t expected before arriving. (As an aside, Sommelier Aldo Sohm brilliantly paired the Hidalgo-La Gitana Manzanilla with a rich pastrami-cured tuna at a recent, astounding dinner I enjoyed at Le Bernardin. in NYC. The food-friendliness of these wines knows no bounds.)

         The Harveys Amontillado VORS, for example, a Sherry whose average age is more than 70 years old and whose solera system was started way back in 1914, forced me to make comparisons to everything from cardamom and turmeric to dry honey and peanut skin. Bodegas Tradición’s Pedro Ximénez reminded me of a humidor filled with Cuban Montecristo cigars. La Guita Manzanilla smelled of apples, briny ocean air, and soy sauce. Sánchez Romate’s Moscatel Ambrosia evoked garam masala and blueberry compote. A barrel sample of Hidalgo-La Gitana’s Palo Cortado started off with a hint of salty caramel and ended on an unexpected flutter of fennel pollen.

         This intellectual and linguistic stretching, it seems to me, is both the definition of a successful in situ wine education and one of the great underlying justifications and benefits of travel, regardless of its stated purpose.

         Regarding this particular trip, however, there was one lesson learned above all others: Though Sherry is not yet as widely consumed on this side of the Atlantic as its unfortified cousins, more and more of it is being imported, added to wine lists, and used in cocktails, and seeking it out and stocking your cellar with a broad enough range of styles and producers to start the process of learning more about it will not only put you firmly ahead of the curve, but will prove to be one of the most interesting, delicious voyages of discovery you can take.

Brian Freedman is a food, wine, and travel writer, wine consultant, and speaker. He writes the blog for Wine Chateau, is  restaurant critic for Philadelphia Weekly, South Jersey Magazine, and Suburban Life Magazine, wine columnist for Affluent Magazine, and contributes to a number of other publications, including Philadelphia Style Magazine.



A Chinese man named Li Liuqun, 58, says he has become addicted to eating live scorpions and has gulped down at least 10,000 over the last 30 years.  Liuqun recalls getting addicted to the bugs when he was stung by a huge scorpion. "I was so angry I picked it up and bit its head off. It tasted sweet and nutty and I never looked back.," he says.  "To me, they're delicious - like fried beans. I still get stung but they have no effect on me."


"I'm all for giving the undereducated, over-Budweisered campus crowd a chance to learn their Tucher from their tuchus."--Craig LaBan, "City Tap House," Philadelphia Inquirer.




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


* On Nov. 1 and continuing through Dec. 31, Le Perigord in NYC, will launch a series of 5-course prix fixe menus by Executive Chef Joel Benjamin as part of their Game Festival.  $95 pp.  Call 212-755-6244 or visit

On Nov. 4 the National Parks of NY Harbor Conservancy hosts a dinner at Ellis Island Great Hall   incl. a panel discussion with food luminaries, immigrant readings, and a copy of author Molly O’Neill’s cookbook, One Big Table: A Portrait of American Cooking. Transportation by Statue Cruises ferry and departs from Battery Park, Gangway. $130 pp. Call 212-668-2321 or visit



* On Nov. 4 in Berkeley, CA, Amanda’s Feel Good Fresh Food Restaurant will host an Eco-Local Holiday Party with free food samples and displays by local eco-friendly, socially responsible gift purveyors and producers. Call 510-548-2122.


* On November 5-7, the inaugural FOOD & WINE All-Star Weekend, hosted by  Gail Simmons will take place in Las Vegas at Bellagio, ARIA, and Vdara.. incl.  Bravo’s Top Chef cheftestants Fabio Viviani, Carla Hall, Jennifer Carroll, Hosea Rosenberg and Stephen Hopcraft, Top Chef Masters Rick Moonen and Hubert Keller and FOOD & WINE Best New Chef Vinny Dotolo.  All-Star Tasting featuring Bravo’s Top Cheftestants showcasing the  restaurants of ARIA: Jean Georges Steakhouse, AMERICAN FISH, Sirio Ristorante, Julian Serrano, Bar Masa and Sage. Visit

* On Nov. 6 in NYC, Missy's "Negozio Gastronomico" lunch at A Voce Columbus, will feature  4 market-driven courses plus an assagino (a starter), inspired by the Italian grocery.  Executive Chef Missy Robbins will l explain where to source her favorite specialty ingredients - from artisanal pastas and olive oils to regional ingredients, gourmet Italian products, meats, cheeses and fresh produce - and learn insider techniques and recipes. Lunch $95 pp,  with wine pairings $125 pp. Call 212-823-2523or visit

* From Nov.  5-13,  in Portland, OR, East India Co. Grill & Bar will celebrate Diwali, the Indian New Year, with a special tasting menu featuring traditional dishes like Hydrabadi Biryani and Ras-Malai. $22 pp. Call 503-227-8815 or visit

* On Nov. 8 in NYC Tom Colicchio & Sons presents a 5-course dinner of foods he dioscovered in South Australia and will chat with guests during the meal.  S. Australian wines served. $250 pp. Call 212-400-669.

*On Nov. 9, ChicagoGourmets hosts Amanda Hesser, author of The Essential New York Times Cookbook will be at Kendall College in Chicago, IL celebrating her book launch with local chefs: Matt Eversman of Saigon Sisters, Dirk Flanigan of The Gage and Henri, Leonard Hollander of Marion Street Cheese Market and Kendall College chefs. $15 pp.

* On Nov. 12, Tuscany Restaurant in Oak Brook, IL will host a 5-course Buena Vista Carneros Winery dinner featuring seasonal menu items paired with wine. $65 pp. Call 630-990-1993 or visit


* On Nov. 13 in Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales, UKThe Real Ale Wobble marks the start of the Mid Wales Beer Festival. Call (+ 44) (0) 1591 610850; On Nov. 20 in Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales, UKThe Real Ale Ramble is also part of the Beer Festival. Call (+ 44) (0) 1591 610850.

* On Nov. 13 and 14, the Empire State Plaza in Albany, NY, will hold the Pride of New York Harvest Fest.  Growers and producers  offer the opportunity to taste and purchase the State’s award-winning wines and beers, as well as a wide variety of food products. Also,  cooking demos by  NYS restaurateurs and educational seminars by the New York Wine and Grape Foundation. $25 for adults, $5 for children 12;  Advance sale tix $20 .  or call 518- 457-7229.

* On Nov 13, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, NJ, will host "Savor Borgata: A Taste of France, Spain & Italy." Guests walk from station to station to taste the Mediterranean flavors of Wolfgang Puck, Michael Mina, Michael Schulson, and more, while interacting with the star chefs. Author Julie Powell of Julie and Julia will host a book signing. $100 - $150 pp. Call 1-866-900-4TIX or visit

* On Nov. 17 in Chicago, "Share Our Strength A Tasteful Pursuit Chicago" and host Chef/Partner Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia invite guests for a multi-course  dinner with wine pairings to raise funds to end childhood hunger in America. Both a silent and live auction. Participating chefs incl. Marc Vetri of Vetri in Philadelphia, Sarah Grueneberg of Spiaggia, Paul Kahan of Blackbird, Avec and The Publican, Takashi Yagihashi of Takashi and Pastry Chef Megan Neubeck of Terzo Piano. $150 pp or $5,000 for table. Call 888-273-6141 or visit;

* On Nov. 18 in Napa, Ubuntu Restaurant will host its first monthly “Garden Tour & Dinner.” Guests will meet at Ubuntu at 4pm, then drive up to the gardens for wine tasting and a tour., then return the restaurant for a family-style, 6-course dinner from Chef Aaron London and his team, beginning at 5:30pm. Price inclusive of garden tour, dinner, wine pairings, dessert, tax and gratuity. $120 pp, call 707-251-5656.

* On Nov.  18 at the Left Bank Brasserie locations in San Jose, Menlo Park and Larkspur, CA, the release of 2010 Beaujolais Nouveau wines will be celebrated with a la carte dinner specials prepared with and/or designed to complement the new releases.

* On Nov. 20 & 21 in Seattle, WA, the new Seattle Food and Culinary Arts Show at Seattle Center’s Key Arena will showcase food, beverage, people, retailers, restaurants and tools of the trade. Chef, entertainment expert and bar chef Kathy Casey will emcee at the event’s Culinarium. $20 pp;  or 206-852-3366.

* From Nov.  19-21, the Oregon Olive Mill in Dayton, OR, will host the 2nd annual Olio Nuovo Festa “New Olive Oil” Celebration. Tasting and tour are  or call 503-864-2200.

* On Nov. 21 in Cayucos, on California’s Central Coast, the Cass House Inn will host a “Harvest Dinner” to celebrate Fall and pay homage to the pig. Executive Chef/Owner Jensen Lorenzen creates multiple courses featuring the Duroc pig, specially raised for the event.  $75 pp, $99 pp with wine pairing.  Call 805-995-3669 or email



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: The Worst Airlines for Cancelling Flights; The Last Great Brasserie in Paris?


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.

 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