Virtual Gourmet

November 28,  2010                                                                   NEWSLETTER

Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in "An Affair to Remember" (1957)



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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

POTPOURRI by Rob Mariani, Suzanne Wright,  and Edward Brivio

by John Mariani

MAN ABOUT TOWN: JW Marriott Marquis and DB Bistro Moderne in Miami by Christopher Mariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: Israeli WinesSo What’s Not to Love? by John Mariani



by  Suzanne Wright, Edward Brivio and John Mariani

This week, a potpourri of short pieces by Virtual Gourmet's writers on a variety of good things.


By Rob Mariani

"Bull Buffalo" by George Caitlin (1846)

For 364 days of the year, the little Vermont Town of Bradford chugs sleepily along in its anonymity, just one of many diminutive, unpretentious New England villages along the Connecticut River. Other than some deer hunting and some skiing, not too much really happens here. Then, every November on the Saturday afternoon before Thanksgiving, the cars, the pickup trucks, the vans, and the tour buses start showing up in droves at the stately white United Church of Christ on Rt. 5, Bradford’s main drag.

         It’s the weekend of the infamous Bradford Wild Game Supper. Between the hours of 2:30 pm and 10 pm, traditionally a thousand or more people from nearly every state and several foreign countries appear here to wait patiently in the church pews until their number is called for their seating in the basement.

         After several years of ritualistic attendance at The  Supper, my buddies and I have come to call it “the beast feast.” None of us quite knows why we drive four hours from Rhode Island to get here. It’s not like you can’t find a good piece of venison where we live. But the Game Supper has become a kind of ceremonial rite with us, just as it has with many others.

     Surprisingly, this obscure event has been covered in the New York Times, The Boston Phoenix, Diversion, House & Garden, The Washington Post, Yankee Magazine, Sports Illustrated, the AP and UPI, and many other magazines and papers--not to mention a score of TV shows.

         Down inside the church basement, I'm elbow to elbow with local loggers, dairy farmers, politicians, and shade tree auto mechanics; the florescent lighting instantly bleaches all ambiance from the place, accentuating every blemish, every grease circle, every gravy lump. We cue up in an army chow line and a team of 10 or 12 people plop dollops of game onto our plates.

         We start with the venison chili--a nice balance of heat and meat. The buffalo jerky, which looks like a wallet that’s been run over by a tour bus, is not bad, but it sure gets in between your teeth. The bear sausage is surprisingly mild and tender. The shredded moose is watery and tasteless. The grilled venison medallions are mild and not too gamy tasting. The wild boar sausage (always a favorite) is a delicious smoky blend of flavors. The goose with rice is moist and one of the tastier items, as is the moose sausage.

         My more intrepid friends who like really gamy meat tell me that the beaver is great again this year. (The off-color jokes that go with it of course, are not always conducive to a great culinary experience.) I tried it one year and have not gone back for seconds.

         Church members in rumpled aprons hover around the tables filling our paper cups with sweet apple cider and de-caf. Dessert is a square of homemade gingerbread with a swirl of hand-whipped cream. A good finish. The whole meal takes maybe 25 minutes to consume but you’re still digesting it for a good three hours afterward. And talking about it for the next twelve months.

       And that’s about it. Not exactly a religious experience (even though it takes place in a church).”The Beast Feast” is over for another year.

For info on next year's supper, call 802-222-4670. Seats are very limited and the reservation process very strict. Requests
cannot be postmarked BEFORE Oct. 19, but wait much longer and you may not get a seat. Prices are $25 for adults, $12 for children under 10. Send a check made out to Bradford United Church of Christ (or BUCC),
UCC Wild Game Supper, P.O. Box 861, Bradford VT 05033,  along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope and a note indicating when you’d like to eat. Seatings are at one-hour intervals from 2:30-6:30 p.m. (Be sure to note if you’re willing to eat at any time if your slot is full.)


"Underground” Supper Club:  The Four Coursemen

By Suzanne Wright
Photos by Chrissy Reed


    Although I’ve tried twice, I haven’t snagged a reservation at the French Laundry in Yountville, CA.  So when I discovered an “underground” supper club cleverly dubbed The Four Coursemen operating in Athens, Georgia, I had a sense of guarded optimism.  Seats quickly sell out once an email is sent and diners RSVP at the appointed hour.  Only 28 patrons are admitted; a suggested donation covers costs.

The Four Course men and One Lady: Nancy, Matt, Eddie, Damien, Patrick, Randy

       The response window may be small and the odds daunting, but  it’s well worth the effort to gain admittance.  Once you are “in,” it’s not nearly such a cloak and dagger affair.   Rather, like the laid-back college town in which it exists, the Four Coursemen (there are actually more than four culinarians and they are not all men involved in the concepting, preparation and serving of the multi-course meal) is a decidedly genial affair, free of pomp and circumstance.  Rather, there’s an unpretentious earnestness and enthusiasm for feeding food lovers that underpins the operation.

     The Four Coursemen is a labor of love in its purest sense.  “Love, community and occasional profit,” is the phrase that Damien, one of the founders, uses to describe the effort.  An infectious cooking camaraderie exists between these great-looking 20- and 30-somethings and the diners gathered with an air of reverence you might expect at a Baptist church. 

     The evening was made more endearing because it was not fettered by typical restaurant trappings. The actual location of the meal—a rented shotgun house used for the twice-monthly meals—is not revealed unless you make the cut.  We arrived at 7 p.m. on a sultry summer evening, cars lining the road for a third of a mile. Candles flickered on dark-stained picnic-style tables; they burned out before the food and conversation did.   Wine flowed during the 30 minutes or so before we were seated. 

     The charming woman sitting next to me—a vegetarian—never revealed herself as the mother of Michael Stipe (lead singer of Athens’ beloved REM), but my dining companion cleverly pieced it together later with the aid of the Google. Many of the other diners in attendance were students, restaurant workers or affiliated with the University of Georgia.  Our host, Damien, praised the conviviality of the group, which chattered easily, bound by a shared appreciation of the cuisine.  Sommelier, Nancy, who looked like a fresh-scrubbed 13-year old, offered expert, yet down-to-earth advice on pairings.

     Athens is an agricultural area with farms providing the ingredients for our five-course dinner, which spotlights seasonal bounty.  In fact, the “friend who provided the lamb” was in attendance. The first course was a terrific kickoff: chilled chicken and chanterelle terrine topped with squash blossoms, with   blueberry mostarda and pickled green beans cutting the terrine’s richness.  A floral, faintly sweet-ish Pedro Ximenez Sherry was poured as an accompaniment.  The second course, a smoked heirloom tomato gazpacho featured the heat of charred jalapeños and the brightness of basil pesto—call it a bowl of summer.  A slightly oaked Pouilly Fumé was an ideal foil for the acidity of the soup.  The third course, while still mighty fine, made less of an impression on my taste buds:   delicate (under-seasoned?) peekytoe crab atop corn cakes with grilled peaches and pea shoots.  The brown butter, advertised on the printed menu, somehow was left off the dish and perhaps it would have pulled the ingredients into focus.   Still, Nancy’s wine advice was so right-on:  “pair fried food with a rosé,” (in this case, a rosé d’Anjou) that it tempered my slight disappointment.

     The fourth course was my unabashed favorite:  “cute lil’ lamb chop,” as it was described, served with a roasted sweet and tart cherry tomato and raspberry compote, dusted with truffle salt.  The meat, which had a slight bit of fattiness, benefited from the surprise of cabbage. A round merlot with a hint of tannin perfectly complemented the dish.  
      The fifth course was a pull-out-all-the-stops dessert: milk and cookies served three ways. Unfortunately, the heat in the house combined with summer's humidity outside conspired against the tangy buttermilk sorbet (which melted quickly) and cat’s tongue cookies (which were limp).  Still, I give the chefs points for their moxie; the crowd seemed to dismiss the weather-related gaffe, lapping up the ice cream and cookies with gusto.  And the pairing was simply brilliant:  a beer infused with chocolate and coffee.

     The “formal” dinner finally ended around 11 p.m.  Then various guests shared their own offerings with the remaining patrons, who seemed hesitant to leave:  a wedding gift of patxaran, a Spanish liqueur, and homemade watermelon vodka. There was singing, there was dancing.  

     “This is ridiculously special,” said the young woman to my right, as we said goodnight at a quarter to midnight.

I couldn’t have said it better.

  During our overnight in Athens, we stayed at the Foundry Park Inn & Spa.  The rooms are clean if unremarkable, but the low-key Southern hospitality, combined with a hydrating massage scored points during our short stay.



NEW YORK: The Relais & Châteaux Cookbook
by Edward Brivio


     “Haute cuisine dead?”  Not if Thomas Keller and his équipe at Per Se have anything to say about it.

A recent press lunch at the restaurant in the beautiful Time-Warner building celebrated the publication of the new Relais & Châteaux Cookbook. For the first time, all 85 of its chefs in North America collaborated on a cookbook. Beautifully presented and very delicious, the meal was a good “trailer” for the book itself,  defining just what contemporary haute cuisine is all about: sourcing the very best ingredients, as much as possible locally, minimal manipulation in the kitchen, maximum attention given to every detail of the dish, the unexpected here and there, and inspired, and original, yet still appetizing presentations. 

     The cookbook is actually two volumes, the first 85 Inspirational Chefs showcases recipes for Relais & Châteaux chefs’ signature restaurant dishes, while in the second, Chefs at Home, you’ll find recipes for what the chefs might make for the “family” on their rare night off.  The set is more than just a beautiful artifact testifying to R&C’s pride in having 85 top chefs on its roster, many, the absolute best in their field. True, some of the recipes are for such masterworks --involving so many steps, or an arcane ingredient or two-- that they will be tried only by the most adept and intrepid home cook. For most of us, such recipes are, simply, “the stuff that dreams are made of.” They’re responsible for that little question mark always nagging at the back of any good cook or chef’s mind.

     Lavishly illustrated --if the photo of snow-covered Glendorn Inn on  of 85 doesn’t give you wanderlust, or the glossy image of chef Christopher Brooks Slow-Roasted Pork in Chefs at Home, inspire you to get up and cook, nothing ever will-- beautifully bound, coffee-table sized, and slip-cased to boot, this is a much better “working” cookbook than any this opulent would lead one to believe. Well laid out, with gorgeous full-page pictures of the properties and of the finished dishes, the volumes also sit flat without damage to the binding (no matter what page you‘ve opened it to), that is, if you can find the 18 inches of spare counter space it requires.

     If you’ve ever wondered just what went into or how to achieve the look of those elaborate creations served at some of North America, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean’s finest eateries, all the intricate details and little secrets are laid out for you here. For the most part, these are exquisite set pieces, dramatic enough --some very High Drama indeed-- for very special occasions, or for anytime you want to turn a meal into a feast. Certainly, Maine lobster with sweet pea puree, potato fondant, and a vanilla-grapefruit beurre blanc, from chef Jason Robinson of the Inn at Dos Brisas, in Washington, TX,  the Pan-seared Sea Scallop with caramelized endive, leek puree, and shaved black truffle (optional) by chef Patrick O‘Connell from the Inn at Little Washington, or the Lemon Meringue cake by Claire Chapman, pastry chef at the Planters Inn in Charleston are ambitious, elaborate labors of love, designed to be the highlight of any personal or family gala, no matter how grand, or contrived to win the gratitude and perhaps the heart of a diffident significant other. Even in the full-blown, haute cuisine extravaganzas there are a elements: purees, fondants, coulis, emulsions, vinaigrettes, etc. that are easily prepared and could be used regularly to liven up the nightly meal.

     Years of hard, occasionally Herculean, work on the part of the chefs, led to the mastery needed to put together these, their most imaginative creations, and here in clear, highly legible recipes, they are laid-out, step by step --albeit often quite a few steps--for anyone who takes the time to read through and then follow the recipes.

    The Chefs at Home volume, on the other hand, just as its name suggests, gives you less complex recipes, more or less easily doable, but refined through the inspiration of some of the best chefs around. Butternut squash soup, Slow-roasted Pork, Falafel, Pappardelle alla Bolognese, or White Chocolate and Coconut Mousse are all recipes that are quickly and conveniently prepared, and anyone who screws up Jean-George Vongerichten’s delicious Roast chicken with potatoes should perhaps just avoid kitchens altogether. Ditto for the Olive Oil cake  of 85, which is, besides, a great little addition to any cook’s repertoire. (Although, Jean-George must have access to chickens with a lot less fat that what’s available to the average consumer, for unlike him, at least according to the instructions given, I had to drain the roasting pan a few times to keep the potatoes from swimming in grease. And while we‘re on the subject, don’t the sweetbreads in the recipe on page 118 need the usual, requisite, preliminary handling clearly outlined in the recipe on page 168?)

     So let these elegant volumes grace your coffee table or book shelf, but remember they’re for more than just vicarious pleasure, and do occasionally expose them to the “heat” --and spatters--of the kitchen.


Published by Network Publishing Ltd, UK, and available at, or :$60 for 85 Inspirational Chefs, $30 for Chefs at Home, and $90 for the Set.




by John Mariani

       The pizza mania that has gripped cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, exalting the once humble Neapolitan pie to the culinary sublime is sure to ebb sooner rather than later, and the debates will, I hope, cease as to who makes the best. It is refreshing, then, to find a good new pizzeria that has its own twist to things. NYC's new  San Matteo (212-426-6943), located at 1739 Second Avenue at 90th Street--not a neighborhood with great pizza options--is unique, I believe, for serving a panuozzo (left).
    According to the owners of San Matteo, it's really only familiar to those who live within a few towns in the Salerno region of Campania, like Gragnano and Agerola, which draw people there just to eat the hot, soft pizza-like items. "
The panuozzo starts as would a pizza," they say, "raw, fresh, well-raised dough, wonderfully springy and with all the right levels of different flours and seasonings.  Once an order has been placed, a small amount of dough is lopped off,  stretched and filled with a variety of items.  The dough forms a pocket and it is quickly baked in a wood-burning oven.  The result is a type of panino but with freshly baked bread.   The bread, with its beautiful honeycomb-like crumbs, is moist and permeated with the scent of smoked scamorza or the sweetness of porchetta, just to name but a few of the ingredients that can be had."

     There is also mortadella, eggplant, escarole, anchovies, buffalo mozzarella, buffalo ricotta, soppressatapecorino romano, and much more.    The pizzaiolo and partner is Giuseppe Paciullo, who came from the well-known Zero Otto Nove in the Bronx. His cousin, Fabio Casella, worked for years at the equally famous Mike’s Deli on Arthur Avenue, while their partner Vicenzo Scardino built the pizza oven for the narrow little corner eatery.
      In addition to the panuozzi, there are 15 Neapolitan-style pies ($11-$16) with terrific crust, just the right height, crispiness, and chewiness,  and the variety of toppings are very Italian (not Californian or New Wave New York), like  chiodini mushrooms, soppressata, prosciutto, potato (above) and Speck bacon, all seasoned with good herbs and tomato. The owners order from the best ingredient suppliers from here and Italy, including Alps Provision in Queens for charcuterie; flour from Antonio Amato, Salerno, olive oil from Colline Salernitane,  and Italian canned tuna.
      You can begin with a good-sized platter of Italian charcuterie and cheeses, and, to end off the evening, there is a pizza with the rich, luscious Nutella hazelnut-chocolate spread, no longer a novelty but still irresistible.  Also, don't miss the caffé crema, like granita with cream.
      So, San Matteo is not your typical
New York pizzeria, though these days there are hardly any that are.  But  San Matteo's owners' commitment to authenticity, honest cooking,  and the best ingredients show throughout the menu, and the introduction of the panuozzo to NYC food culture can only be a real good thing.

San Matteo is open for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, daily



by Christopher Mariani

JW MARRIOTT MARQUIS  Grabs DB Bistro Moderne, Miami

45 Avenue of the Americas

Miami, FL
JW Marriott Marquis  Hotel


     Two weeks ago I was in Florida, quickly becoming one of my favorite states, for the third time in two months, staying in Miami to check out the brand new JW Marriott Marquis  Hotel.  My biggest attraction to the hotel was the presence of master chef Daniel Boulud’s latest restaurant, DB Bistro Moderne, but I was also enticed by the opportunity to meet the entire Miami Heat basketball team at their Tip-Off event, along with many other celebrities for a charity event held during the hotel’s grand opening celebrations. 

     The JW Marriott Marquis looks to be a  project that will have a  dominant presence in the downtown Miami hotel scene, only 15 minutes from Miami International Airport.  I entered my room on the 22nd floor and was instantly impressed with the view overlooking the downtown bay area; of course it helped that it was a perfectly sunny day.  The standard guest rooms have a very open feel to them, largely because  of the room’s floor to ceiling windows, and the higher the floor the better the view.  The rooms are simple in design yet extremely high end, obviously owing to the Marquis brand's influence in terms of quality.  The amenities  are  typical of a deluxe property, with free internet and business friendly services, which nowadays better exist without question when claiming to be a premiere hotel; also worth a mention, the 52-inch plasma television.

    That evening I was invited to attend the Miami Heat Tip-Off event, held within the hotel’s full-size basketball court on the 19th floor, a clear sign that JW Marriott intends to attract professional athletes staying in Miami, not to mention gaining access to the hotel's gym, the largest and most well-equipped fitness center I have ever seen inside a hotel, with free weights  exceeding 50 pounds.  The event was put together to offer high-end season ticket holders an intimate, interactive experience with the ball players, a very nice gesture considering I caught wind of the obnoxious figures some pay for season tickets--God bless those making that kind of money; then again, as Dorothy Parker once observed, "If you want to know what God thinks of money, look at the people He gave it to."
    Throughout the night, as the drinks were served in excess, the Heat players split up into the hotel’s multiple entertainment rooms where they casually played Wii bowling, pool and hit golf balls into a simulation driving range screen, quite an entertaining spectacle to watch a seven-footer swing a driver, I must say.  Just for the record, it turned out that I am a better bowler than Lebron James and a better putter than Dwayne Wade, possibly because the hotel clubs were not exactly built for 6-foot-4 basketball players who appear like giants when playing with what look like children’s putters; regardless, I did beat two of the world’s most high profile athletes in a sports competition. 

    The following evening I was invited to the hotel’s charity event, where NBA legend Tim Hardaway, Yankee star Alex Rodriguez, tennis title winners Ana Kournikova and Venus Williams, and the beautiful Brooke Shields were all in attendance.  Shamelessly, I attempted to hit on Ana Kournikova after a few Grey Goose vodkas on the rocks, which did not exactly go to well but at least I can sleep at night knowing I tried.
After a long night at the charity event, I had the luxury of sitting just one table from Brooke Shields at one of the hotel’s restaurants, ThreeFortyFive.  After that pleasant breakfast, I sat down with chef Daniel Boulud to discuss his vision behind the new DB Bistro Moderne, a branch of the original in Manhattan's Theater District.  I am not one to grill a chef (no pun intended) as some journalists lunge at the opportunity to do, because I would rather let the chef speak through his or her food. But a question that always enters my mind when a chef opens multiple restaurants in different locations is, how do you sustain the same quality of food and service at restaurants you cannot physically be at all the time?  Boulud stated very clearly that, no, he cannot be at all of his restaurants, even though he would like to be, but it’s all about having the right people in place. Besides some of the service staff and line cooks working at the restaurant, all of the top chef positions and front-of-the-house managers at DB Bistro have all previously worked at one, if not more, of his restaurants. For instance, general manager German Alvarado has worked with Boulud for over 12 years at Daniel, Café Boulud and Bar Boulud, all in NYC, so it is  evident he knows what is expected.  Executive chef Jarrod Verbiak (left, with Boulud) had worked under Boulud for many years upon his graduation from the Culinary Institute of America in 2002, working at Daniel, Daniel Boulud Brasserie in Las Vegas, Café Boulud in Palm Beach, and most recently at Maison Boulud in Beijing.  I was also happy to hear that Boulud feels Miami has been ready for his type of cuisine for many years now, a city that some critics have denied culinary praise. After the interview I went off  with great anticipation for my dinner that evening at DB.

     The restaurant is located just off to the side of the hotel’s lobby and is grand in every sense of the word.  The bar area is almost the size of the actual restaurant, filled with giant lounge chairs, sleek lines, dark grey coloring, and a sunken polished black bar that stretches the length of the room.  The restaurant itself (right) is split into three rooms where guests dine within a very chic and elegant atmosphere surrounded by washed oak floors and walls.  Chef Boulud began the evening with a rich ballotine de caille et foie gras en crôute served with Brussels sprouts, porcini confit, and sweet raisins adding a wonderful balance of flavor to the dish.  For our mid-course we were served a flavorful grouper tagine Mediterranean-style, surrounded by braised peppers, chickpea panisse and a refreshing hint of cilantro.
    The main course was a direct reflection of chef Boulud’s classic style, the boeuf aux carottes, a roasted tenderloin sided by a hearty oxtail ragoût.  Dessert was a terrific, quite traditional French golden pineapple Tatin, dotted with raisins and lavished with rum ice cream.  Although this may have only been a preview dinner before the actual opening just days later, it was a clear indication that Boulud is serious about having one of the finest restaurants in Miami, where French cuisine is not easy to find.  As Boulud said, Miami is quickly becoming a very food savvy city, and I foresee DB Bistro will be a superb addition to the thriving gastronomy of Miami.


To contact Christopher Mariani send an email to



Israeli WinesSo What’s Not to Love?

by John Mariani

      A decade ago I would never have written a sentence like, “On a recent trip to Israel I was very enthusiastic to order Israeli wines with my meals.” For despite the biblical claim (Psalms 104:15) that wine was a gift of God “to gladden the heart of man,” at least two millennia went by before truly good wine came out of Israel. Indeed, when the fourth edition of The Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia appeared in 2005, Israeli wines received only one skimpy paragraph.

      But there I was  this autumn eating “Jacob & Esau’s biblical red lentil stew” and a wild mallow herb called hubeiza “eaten during the ’48 siege on Jerusalem” as part of the “King David’s Feast” at one of Jerusalem’s finest restaurant, The Eucalyptus, happily drinking a 2009 merlot from the Samson Hills made by the Efrat Winery, which started making wines in a Jerusalem alleyway back in 18970, now a leading wine company making more than 100 wines and grape juices.

Noah ties one on after 40 days and nights at sea (Gen. 9:18-29)

      A day later at the very modern non-kosher restaurant named Segev, located in Tel Aviv’s business district (Microsoft’s new skyscraper is right across the street), I feasted on grilled duck breast with sunflower seeds and ground sesame, and fresh shrimp cooked in butter and green garlic along with a wonderful bottle of Yarden 2007 Katzrin Chardonnay that I’d swear was right out of Napa Valley; it’s actually from the volcanic soil of the Golan Heights.

      In 636 A.D. the Muslims conquered Jerusalem and ripped out the vineyards, restored in the Twelfth  century by the Crusaders. During the Diaspora the vineyards were abandoned, but upon the Jews’ return to the Holy Land in the nineteenth century, Baron Edmond de Rothschild of France replanted vineyards with European varietals and founded Carmel Winery, and Jewish vintners have continued to make wine, both kosher and non-kosher, ever since. Today Israel now has more than 120 wineries producing wines made from cabernet sauvignon, merlot, sauvignon blanc, semillon, grenache and other varietals.

      Overwhelmingly, Israeli wines are made by cooperatives, with 50 percent made by Carmel; the other big players are Barkan Wine Cellars (vineyards shown right) and Golan Heights Winery. The U.S. is the biggest export market.

      Kosher wines still must meet stringent requirements, e.g., no wine may be made before the vine is four years old; vineyards within biblical lands must be left fallow every seven years; only vines may be planted in the vineyard land; and the grapes, after arrival at the winery, may only be handled by certified “Sabbath-observant Jews” using approved materials. Non-Jews may not even handle kosher wines unless they’ve been flash pasteurized  (a process called mevushal).

      Few kosher wines, however, taste anything like the cloyingly sweet Manischewitz that some American Jews still serve on holidays. The wines I tasted in Israel and many more for the purposes of this report were all clean, well-made, and dry.  They can also compete with good wines now coming out of Lebanon, Eastern Europe, Spain and Portugal.

       In my tastings back home I concentrated on red wines, which seemed to offer more distinctive varietal character.  Some of the cabernet sauvignons had an assembly line style about them, with no suggestion of terroir beyond being heavy and dense. I preferred the regular cab made by Recanati 2009 ($16), in Upper Galilee, to their intensely inky Special Reserve 2006 ($45). The former was an excellent young cab, with a high 14.5 percent alcohol but none of the burn of similar California examples.

      I did enjoy the 2007 Reserve from Bazelet HaGolan ($40), unfiltered and aged for 20 months, which seemed to ameliorate its high 14.9 percent alcohol level, making this a creamy cab. The more modest 13.8 percent of a 2007 Barkan Altitude Series “+720” ($33) brought out its lush fruit, and its medium body goes very well with lamb chops. A very pricey 2006 cab and petit verdot blend by Yatir ($56), a highly regarded vintner in the Judean Hills, had a peppery component that would enhance Middle Eastern-style mezes. The surprisingly named Domaine du Castel Grand Vin 2007 Haute Judee ($76) was a Bordeaux-style blend I found had a rubbery nose, big tannins,  and little pleasure about it.

      Tishbi is also among Israel’s star boutique wineries, dating back to 1882, run since 1984 by Jonathan Tishbi. Their wines show careful attention to terroir, blending and aging, and I was impressed by their 2006 Estate Merlot, with 5 percent cabernet franc ($17). I would hardly identify Tishbi’s 2006 Estate Pinot Noir ($20) as a pinot noir in a blind tasting, for that fickle grape has many expressions. Theirs is pleasant, well-fruited example, easy enough to drink with any kind of meat.

      Of all the varietals I tasted, I think syrah/shiraz has the brightest future in Israel, especially a 2009 Domaine Netofa ($21) from Lower Galilee, a well-wrought Rhone-style red with some mourvedre in it. And if you like your wines plummy, the 2005 Yarden Syrah ($25) with 14.5 percent alcohol is a dead ringer for some of the bolder Australian Shirazes.

      Focus and breeding will come with time, but the ancient proverb of Ecclesiastes 9:7 seems truer than ever during the holidays, “Eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.”

Domaine du Castel Cellars

John Mariani's wine column appears in Bloomberg Muse News, from which this story was adapted. Bloomberg News covers Culture from art, books, and theater to wine, travel, and food on a daily basis.



At a Pizza Lounge  in Dallas,  a 61-year-old man tried to buy a meal with a stolen credit card, prompting an employee who said he was "sick and tired of this type of thing" and proceeded to take the man outside, made him strip naked, and beat him with a pipe.


"Sushi-bar-and-open-mind: This is the way to happiness and enlightenment. The Buddhist concept upaya prescribes the right teaching for the right student at the right time. Through upaya, the skillful teacher offers not only salvation from ignorance, but movement toward understanding beyond the mere intellectual: understanding of the connection of all things great and small. . . . Sushi Kappo Tamura owner/sushi chef Taichi Kitamura used to own a Chiso Kappo upstairs,  [but] Kitamura didn't seem comfortable talking about his food then, even when asked. Once he memorably told a captive audience that his parents never told him they loved him."--Bethany Jean Clement, "Sushi Kappa Tamura," The Stranger (10/26/10).



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 Dec. 4 in Scottsdale, AZ, Sassi will host a holiday cooking class by Executive Chef Christopher Nicosia. Personalized instruction on antipasti ideal for holiday parties, Sassi's signature handmade orecchiette pasta and chocolate and espresso custard with ricotta fritters; $65 pp, inc. lunch, wine pairings and recipes; visit or call 480-502-9095.

* On Dec. 16 in Louisville, Ky, The Brown Hotel presents a holiday season dinner featuring the sparkling wines of Mumms. Guests will dine on seasonally inspired food prepared by executive chef Laurent Géroli paired with a variety of sparkling wines. Holiday music will round out this delightful and festive evening. $79 pp. Call 502-736-2998.

* On Dec. 18, La Quinta Resort & Club in Palm Springs, CA will host “Delicious Holiday Soup & Homemade Hot Chocolate” Interactive Demo. Participants will sip La Quinta Nectar and given tastes and  recipes. $12 pp ($5 for resort members and complimentary for resort guests). Call 760-564-4111 x 7259.

* On Dec. 18 – Dec. 21, The Grand Del Mar in San Diego, CA will host the 2nd Annual Nutcracker Holiday Tea in the Elizabeth Ballroom, with  a 2- course family service of tea sandwiches and French pastries, followed by a kid-friendly 45 min. performance of “The Nutcracker Suite.” $48 pp. Call 858-314-1988.

* On Dec. 19, Ouray, Colo., will host the “Third Annual Festivus Block Party” modeled after the classic “Seinfeld” television episode.  Ouray’s Festivus features food and beverage vendors, “Feats of Strength,” a “Burn Barrel of Grievances,” and the unadorned aluminum “Festivus Pole.”  Free to attend.  Visit or call  970-325-4746.


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: Beating the High Cost of Airfares; Letter from Paris: Terrific New BistroBeating the High Cost of Airfares


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


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

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

Family Travel Forum

All You Need to Know Before You Go

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