Virtual Gourmet

January 30,  2011                                                                   NEWSLETTER

                "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" (1962) with Lee Van Cleef, Lee Marvin, James Stewart, and John Wayne

This Week

Dining Out in Houston, Part One
by John Mariani

New York Corner: Lyon Bouchon Moderne
by John Mariani

Man About Town: Beauty and Essex
by Christopher Mariani

Quick Bytes

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.


by John Mariani


    Forgive my perpetuating the beloved notion that Houston is still a place where cowboys ride into town and order steaks and whiskey, but I just can't resist using the picture above from "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," a fine John Ford western in which bad guy Lee Marvin almost gets into a gunfight with good guy John Wayne about a steak dropped on the floor by lawyer-turned-waiter Jimmy Stewart.

    Houston does have a few good local steak houses (and all the national chains), but its excellence as a restaurant city is solid across the board, from Goode Co. Barbeque to Hugo’s Mexican restaurant, from the New Texas Cuisine of Robert Del Grande’s RDG + Bar Annie (see below) to the opulently grand Italian food at Tony’s (see below).  Américas pioneered Nuevo Latino cuisine here, and the Vietnamese immigrants, who control the city’s seafood industry, have contributed enormously to Houston’s vitality. Here are a few of my favorites right now.


    Since 1965--when Houston was still a dry town--no restaurant in the city has had the clout and celebrity clientele that Tony's has so carefully maintained. Now in its third location, Tony's is more glamorous, more beautiful, and better than ever, with more of an Italian cast and a tremendously impressive wine list.
    Owner Tony Vallone's guest list, which has included everyone from  Luciano Pavarotti to the Bush family, is younger now, a clientele that takes well to the superb design of an arched dining room with a high, angled, skylighted ceiling,  a 12-foot, free-form sculpture—“The Three Graces” by Jesus Moroles--an intimate “Wine Library Room” with a spectacular Venetian glass chandelier, and a wine cellar that seats 60.
    Chef de cuisine Grant Gordon (below) is himself young, and wholly dedicated to upholding Vallone's modus operandi, which is to gather from all over, not least the Mediterranean, the most seasonal products and to utilize them in both traditional and creative ways, as in his "napoleon duo," a sashimi of ahi tuna, wild salmon, Asian pear and Tuscan melon, just one of several crudi on the menu.  Under the "Passione" category, you'll find lusty fat-bellied pansotti pastas stuffed with butternut squash and sided by a Parmesan puff and lobster, truly a sumptuous dish.
    Among the main courses, the Elysian Fields Pennsylvania rack of lamb comes with an impeccable Madeira reduction and sweet peas, while seared branzino receives a gloss of Gavi wine and citrus butter, with cerignola olives.  Tony's is also famous for its salt-crusted whole fish, brought ceremoniously to the table for the obligatory "oohs-and-ahs!" then brought back filleted, plated and lustrous.  No one in Houston does an osso buco that even approaches the savoriness of Tony's.  The Prime steaks are aged 40 days and have plenty of flavor as a result. You might want to take a crack at the side order of truffled macaroni and cheese, too.  Pray Gordon is doing his lavish bollito misto (left) of long-simmered meats sliced tableside!
    Tony's wine list has always been outstanding and reasonably priced, with more than 1,100 selections, including great old vintages of Bordeaux and recent releases from California and, most of all, Italy.

    The desserts are big and gooey, including a fine dark chocolate  flourless mousse cake, and, even if it's a tad overwrought,  the Tuxedo Cake of devil's food, mascarpone, chocolate mousse, and HeatH bar crunch.
    Tony's has long been the Big Deal restaurant in town (for something more casual in the Vallone stable, see below), and none really challenges its eminence.  It would be a must-go restaurant anywhere; in Houston, it's a requisite evening out, just to see just how fine dining can be in town.

Tony's is located at
3755 Richmond Avenue; 713-622-6778;; Open for lunch Mon.-Fri., for dinner Mon.-Sat. Dinner prices for starters run $12-$28, main courses $24-$49.

Ciao Bello
5161 San Felipe (at Sage)

    Over the years Tony Vallone has owned, and sold, various casual Italian restaurants and trattorias, and last year opened his best yet, one that comes closest to his own passions about la cucina casalinga.  Ciao Bello, opened last year,  is  not 180 degrees from the elegant Tony's (above), for you'll find the same care of preparation by Chef de cuisine Cesar Toriz, even similar dishes like the fedelini amatriciana, crudi,  and osso buco with risotto.
     But Ciao Bello is very different in its brightly lighted décor, with high ceilings and very high decibel levels, more for a crowd that wants to eat without fanfare and be in and out in an hour or so.  It has a long menu, with salume and antipasti like shrimp Livornese with olive oil, garlic, and white wine; several salads;  and well-made, thin crusted  pizzas. The housemade pasta and risotto section alone lists 15 items, including outstanding renderings of osso buco-stuffed raviolo with porcini mushrooms; agnolotti with stuffed squash in a light sage sauce; linguine with shellfish, wine and tomato; and a daily risotto.  Portions for these are generous enough for  a main course.
    There are nine seafood dishes, with a terrific red snapper mandorlate with tomatoes, vodka, and the bright idea of crispy eggplant to give texture and sweetness.  For a hefty main course, go with the shortrib braised for a long time in barolo wine, and if you want something simple, the succulent "Aunt Mary's grilled chicken" with lemon, white wine and mushrooms is an ideal choice. One dish I'm dying to try next time is available only at brunch--Tony's fried chicken on a Belgian waffle with the Italian touch of amaretto syrup.
    Among the desserts, I liked best a nostalgic Sicilian cannoli and old-fashioned zeppole fritters with just enough lemon to cut their sweetness.

    There's a bar up front that's popular after six p.m., backed by a multilevel wine and spirits case that includes just about anything you could want to drink in this kind of atmosphere.   Wines by the glass start at $7, while bottles are split fairly evenly between Italian and California labels.

Ciao Bello is open for lunch Mon.-Fri. and for dinner nightly.  Starters at dinner run $5.95-$11.95, pastas $12.95-$22.95, main courses $15.95-$36.95.


2502 Algerian Way
713- 581-6101

Photos by Ralph Smith

     Even if Haven wasn’t one of the hippest new restaurants in Houston and Chef Randy Evans’ American food wasn’t so special, you might want to go straight to Haven just to check out a wine list on which most of the bottlings are under sixty bucks—damn good wines like Anne Amie’s Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and Ladoucette’s La Poussie Sancerre.  Evans prides himself on those price points, and his guests learn a lot about wine as a result. 
  It's a great-looking place, with wide windows and wooden slats, tones of coffee and chocolate, commodious, not too loud, not too dark, with an open kitchen that creates its own excitement.

      Local boy Evans (below), who had been chef at Brennan's of Houston for 12 years,  calls his food “Modern Texas Cuisine,” which he differentiates from the gospel of “New Texas Cuisine” pioneered by chefs like Stephan Pyles, Dean Fearing, and Robert del Grande  (see RDG +Cafe Annie below) in the 1980s. “Theirs was tied more to the Mexican influence on Texas,” says Evans. “I see Texas as unique, not really Mexican or southern or southwestern, but with all these other immigrant influences—cattlemen, Germans, Vietnamese—and I draw on food traditions of the Hill Country, East Texas, and the Gulf.”  He is also very committed to going green in every way possible.

       You might, then, start off at Haven with the signature Haven Airmail cocktail, a shaker of lavender-infused Railean rum made in Leon, Texas, lime, honey, and sparkling wine. That will give you time to choose from a menu where everything sounds way too good—an heirloom tomato “sundae” with lemon olive oil ice cream, aged balsamic, and tomato sprinkles; crispy pig’s trotter fritters, with frisée, charred tomato vinaigrette, and pickled Gibson onions. If you love chicken livers, Haven is your place--they are country fried, with an andouille gravy and fantastic buttermilk biscuits. There's wild boar chili with pepper jack cheese, minced onions and cornsticks.
    Gulf fish, whatever is freshest and seasonal, is served with  creamed cabbage and brown butter, and the dish not to miss when it's on the menu is the peanut-crusted soft shell crab, with green beans, eggplant, okra, onion, and a splash of pungent Vietnamese nuoc mam.  Oh, I forgot to mention the slow-roasted cheese grits, which goes great with the $20 bottle of Dona Paula’s white Torrontes.
    Haven is one of those restaurants whose owner/chef's ebullient personality is writ large throughout. Randy Evans clearly loves what he does and wants to make you just as happy.


Haven is open from 11 AM-11Pm Mon.-Fri. for dinner Sat.  Dinner appetizers run $4-$15, main courses $18-$32.

RDG + Bar Annie
1800 Post Oak Blvd

Photos by Julie Soefer

    Back in the 1980s, Chef Robert Del Grande, a former biochemist, and his wife Mimi  (below) pioneered New Texas Cuisine at Café Annie, bringing the flavors of the Southwest into wonderful focus, then afterward opening up a slew of more casual places that explored the possibilities of downhome and ranch-style cooking, which you can still find at his casual restaurant near the convention  center, The Grove.

    In those three decades Del Grande has proven himself a master whose ideas are often copied, and part of his staying power is that he's rarely strayed far from his original idea that Texas and southwestern grub can be elevated to the culinary sublime.  He closed Café Annie and moved not far away to open the new RDG + Bar Annie, which isn't too much of a leap in concept but a big one in décor.  The place is set on two levels, very modern, with big windows, a grand staircase leading to the main dining room, and a buzz created by people who know they are in a very stylish setting, one that flatters them and makes the entry of any new guest coming up those stairs reason to crane their necks to see who it might be.  At lunch some of the most beautiful women in Houston gather at RDG, and at night, they might well be with husbands and friends at Bar Annie.
    Del Grande does not shy away from generosity or big flavors, evident in dishes like his bacon-wrapped shrimp with habanero sauce or his lobster meatballs with rémoulade--two irresistible starters. Quail also gets the bacon wrap treatment, served with a jalapeño and buttermilk dressing;  hot crab beignets get gobbled up quickly.
    And those were just hors oeuvres to nibble on.  For larger appetizers the big flavors do not subside: a pan-roasted sea scallop comes with zesty tortilla and beef rib hash; seared foie gras is accompanied by a wonderful salted, aromatic honey and a celery almond salad; Del Grande's smoked quail became famous a long time ago and nothing will pry it off the menu lest his regulars revolt.

    Main courses toe the same Texas line, with hearty dishes like wood-grilled red fish with Texas oyster cornbread dressing; a Prime ribeye with smoked Cheddar steak sauce; and wood-roasted rabbit and enchiladas in a lush red mole sauce. The Colorado lamb chops with thyme, black pepper and tomato jelly and giant corona beans are as full flavored as they are mightily proportioned.

    By then you will either have to stop or just give in to desserts like the warm chocolate tart with kumquat compote or the delicious apple crisp with black Mission fig and Marsala ice cream.
    Throughout the day or evening, the amiable service staff keeps up with the crowd, iced tea is rampant and re-poured, and wines are taken seriously.  It would be very difficult for anyone dining here not to have a real good time with a little Texas twang thrown in.

See website when the various venues are open; At RDG starters run $10-$22, main courses $24-$48.






118 Greenwich Avenue (between 12th St & Jane Street)

  NYC has no lack of good bistros (see my recent articles on Benoit, Sel & Poivre, and Millesime), and most try to reproduce a semblance of the jolly ambiance to be found in so many Paris originals, from the leather banquettes and brass railings to the mirrors and zinc bars. Now along comes Lyon, which calls itself a "bouchon moderne," an homage to the small simple eateries in owner  Francois Latapie's home town.
    The word bouchon derives from Old French, bousche, referring to straw bottle stoppers, which is why Lyon bouchons sometimes have straw insignia hung above the door sign.  There has even been, since 1997, a group called L'Association de défense des bouchons lyonnais, with several benighted members in the city. 
    Ironically, the "moderne" part of the NYC equation is less easily understood, because although Latapie (below, with chef Leahy), formerly at La Goulue and before that at Le Cirque, and his partner,
real estate developer Penny Bradley, have given the West Village something brand new (replacing the well-worn and worn-out Cafe de Bruxelles in this spot), it's hard to believe that this darling little restaurant hasn't always looked this way or been shipped, piece by piece, from Lyon. 

    When you walk in, to your left is the cheery bar, to the  right the equally gregarious dining room, especially cozy at this time of year, when the wind whips in off Greenwich Avenue. The antiques and artwork on the walls have been collected for years by Mr. Latapie, and the Michelin road maps, the bentwood chairs, the old wooden walls and floors, and the blackboard specials of the day all conjure thoughts of romantic scenes from 1950s French cinema.

    Former BLT Prime chef Chris Leahy has been well trained in the particulars of this style of hearty bourgeois cookery. You see and taste it immediately with the boudin noir (below) whose bold flavor is tamed by spinach salad, sweet pears and candied chestnuts.  The onion soup is made with beef brisket and marrow, with browned fontina cheese on top--a meal all by itself.  Pig's trotter is properly fatty, silky, and delicious, with the added richness of foie gras, green lentils and a tangy vinaigrette.  The night we dined there, a special was a Lyonnaise version of fried chicken wings, and they went fast at our table.  But if you crave old-fashioned pike quenelles, Lyon Bouchon is the place to have them, lustrous beneath a rich cream sauce with mushrooms.
    As in all good bistros, the bread and butter are excellent, all the better to eat with the charcuterie platter of country pâté, smoked beef sausages, pig's trotter roulade and pickles. For $18, it's a very good starter for two people.
      Main courses are every bit as savory, from a good-sized lamb shank stew with white beans (below) to
guinea fowl with wintry root vegetables.  There is the obligatory strip steak au poivre with a peppercorn sauce, and silky skate wing--a bistro classic--with butternut squash, sage and classic caper-butter sauce. The menu is kept small so that everything can be rendered à la minuit, except of course luscious dishes like the lamb that takes hours and hours of cooking.  I can't say too much about the golden frites because they were devoured at my table with such dispatch.  The two or three I popped in my mouth were hot, crisp and marvelously meaty.
    There is only one cheese, St. Marcelin; desserts, so far, need some work, and I'm told that they are indeed working on them.
     Lyon Bouchon Moderne's wine list is all you could hope for in a place like this, with dozens of very fairly priced regional bottlings, many good ones well under $40 a bottle. Or you could order a pot lyonnais, a wine carafe used in bouchons whose colored rubber band indicates what wine is inside, like
Côtes-Du-Rhône,  Beaujolais,  Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.
    Lyon Bouchon Moderne seems so charmingly at home here on Greenwich Avenue, which cuts a diagonal through the West Village, and its bonhomie, led by Mr. Latapie and a very amiable staff guarantees you will become an old friend after one visit.   Drop into the bar some evening and smell the food aromas; I know you'll want to stay for dinner.

    Lyon is open daily for dinner  and brunch  Sat. &  Sun.  Appetizers run $10-$14, main courses $21-$29.


by Christopher Mariani

Beauty & Essex

146 Essex Street (between Stanton & Rivington Sts.)


    Owners of The Stanton Social, Rich Wolf, Peter Kane and Executive Chef Chris Santos,  opened their newest restaurant, Beauty & Essex, just last month on the Lower East side, with four unique dining rooms spread out between the upstairs and downstairs levels, with two separate bars, both seating around 12 guests each, and a posh low-lit lounge (below) filled with giant leather and tufted sofas  occupied by trendy guests, most covered by tattoos, all sipping champagne and/or house made winter sangria. The space  is huge and the vibe is definitely set to attract a younger, hip audience.
    Upon entering the actual restaurant, you must walk through what appears to be a pawn shop before making it to the main dining room, where a bar sits off to the left and the hostess stand to the right, both staffed with beautiful young ladies dressed in black. Straight ahead is the high-ceilinged dining room (above) packed with guests who sit either at wooden tables in the middle of the room or along the walls at oval beige banquettes, which are romantic, extremely comfortable and each with its own gold-draped chandelier.  Throughout the bustling room, waiters, drink girls and busboys whiz by, placing little plates of food to share.  There wasn’t a moment I waited for anything; drinks and food all came in a very well-organized and timely manner.

    The menu is influenced by many different global cuisines, specifically Italian, Japanese, Mexican and Thai, and all dishes are served in small tapas-style portions meant for sharing.  Chef Santos has put together a menu of  bold flavors and combinations, but some dishes lack just one final ingredient, a little extra spice, or simply an extra pinch of salt. The restaurant is new and producing food for a lot of people, maybe too many at once, and everyone is ordering multiple courses and dishes, so it’s obvious the kitchen is going through some growing pains. But once things are straightened out, I predict the food will really click.
    Right now, some notable dishes include the thinly sliced kobe beef carpaccio (served way too cold), topped by a wasabi egg yolk, crunchy fried wontons and a sesame
nori; the whipped ricotta smeared over toast and covered by chunks of sweet grilled pears, basil, chile, and drizzled with honey, a lovely starter; and the lobster bisque dumplings served around a bowl of hot lemongrass and with coconut milk for dipping.
    The highlight of chef Santos' menu was the grilled apple
pizzetta topped with Maytag bleu cheese, thick cuts of crispy smoked bacon and a sprinkle of a truffle honey.  On to meat courses: the Heritage baby back ribs (below) are delightful, covered by a sweet tangerine barbecue glaze and sided by a stack of tempura onion rings,. The oven-braised chicken meatballs (above) accompanied by a sheep’s milk ricotta cheese, and wild mushrooms in a truffle broth are a bit lackluster, but still tasty.

    Beauty & Essex’s desserts couldn’t be better:  my favorite, the black-bottom butterscotch pot de crème with coconut Chantilly cream, rich and velvety. Also worth a try, the soft, molten chocolate bread pudding topped with a hazelnut ice cream.

    Although Beauty & Essex may not yet be exactly where it they should be in terms of food and flavors, the potential is evident in chef Santos' dishes, and I will definitely be back to dine here, rather than nosh, in the near future.      


Open for dinner nightly. Weekend  brunch to be launched next month.

Starters $8-$16, main courses $16-$24, and steaks $16-$48; desserts $7-$12.

To contact Christopher Mariani send an email to




A college student who goes only by the name Ryan has invented a beer-shooting cannon from his mini-fridge that is controlled by his iPhone. Watch the video display here:

WHY THERE WILL ALWAYS BE AN ENGLAND, or as Shakespeare put it,
"And gentlemen in England now-a-bed/Shall think themselves accurs'd
they were not here."

"Billy Connolly (left) is a royal favourite, his wife Pamela Stephenson sanctified as a national treasure by Strictly Come Dancing, but I suspect the pair will find themselves off the list for Prince William and Kate Middleton's nuptials. Because Wills 'n' Kate are having a buffet instead of a sit-down meal on the big day. And Connolly revealed recently that his favourite thing at buffets is to lay his penis on a plate, surround it with lettuce, and 'mingle'”.--Nick Curtis, "A buffet is the perfect common touch for a royal do," London Evening Standard (1/7/11)


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

VALENTINE'S DAY ANNOUNCEMENT:  Because of the overwhelming number of events and announcements for Valentine's Day, Virtual Gourmet is unable to include any at this time. 

* On Feb. 1, in Brooklyn, NYThe Vanderbilt and Sixpoint Brewery will hold a four course nose-to-tail pig dinner byExecutive Chef Saul Bolton and complete with beer pairings.  Free growler of Sixpoint beer is incl. $50 pp; call 718-623-0571 or email

* From Feb. 3 - 5, Shanghai Terrace at The Peninsular Hotel Chicago will feature an authentic 6-course Chinese New Year Dinner.  $98 pp. . . . From Jan. 31 - Feb. 6, Chinese New Year Afternoon Tea will be served  and will offer guests the opp. to order dim sum items in add. to the reg. tea menu.  $40 pp.  . . . .On Feb. 5, the Traditional Chinese Lion Dance will commence at the front entrance of the hotel. . . .*On Feb. 12, The Lobby's Celebration of Love  is offering a prix fixe 4-course dinner + Choc. Bar and live music and dancing.  $95pp. Call 312-573 6695;

* On Feb. 2, Zink. American Kitchen in Charlotte, NC, will host a Robert Foley Wine Maker's Dinner.  Bob Foley will offer his insight into each wine while Executive Chef Scott Wallen presents a five-course New American menu. $75pp.  Call 704-909-5500 or visit

* On Feb 4, Phil Stefani’s 437 Rush in Chicago will host an exclusive wine dinner featuring Colterenzio Winery featuring 4-course dinner. Letizia Pasini, from Colterenzio Wine will be on hand to discuss the wines and menu.  $60 pp.  Call 312.222.0101 or visit

* On Feb 6, Henry's in NYC   will host its 3rd Annual Superbowl Party. Chef Mark Barrett is serve up a delicious Superbowl Menu <> for the game’s avid fans.  A lucky few will get their meals with our compliments in a special Henry’s Superbowl Menu Pool. Reservations required. Call 212.866.0600 or visit <

* On Feb 5, Quartino Ristorante in Chicago will celebrate the National Football League Championship Game with flat screen televisions, an open bar and a menu of small bites by Executive Chef John Coletta incl.  football favorites like signature pizzas, Italian subs, wings and house-made meatballs.  Raffle prizes include a case of wine, Quartino gift certificates and a party worth $200.  $50 pp.  Call 312-698-5000 or visit

* On Feb. 9, Mimosa Grill in Charlotte, NC, will host a Torii Mor Wine Dinner.  Margie Olson will be in attendance to lead guests through the selections and Executive Chef Jon Fortes will present five-course menu.  Portions of the proceeds will benefit Johnson & Wales University Student Co-op.  $85 pp.  704-343-0700 or visit

* On Feb. 10, in Atlanta, GA, Pacci Ristorante is hosting its second annual “Queen of Hearts” cocktail party in the restaurant’s bar area.  The event is free of charge and will feature complimentary appetizers, drink specials, free tarot card readings, raffle prizes and the chance to have relationship questions answered by Atlanta-based author and syndicated advice columnist Blane Bachelor. Call 678-412-2402.

* On Feb.  10, Moxie, the Restaurant in Beachwood, OH will host a Delectus wine dinner hosted by winemaker Gerhard Reisacher with 5 courses prepared by Executive Chef Jonathan Bennett. $99 pp.  216-831-5599.

* On Feb. 11, in Chicago, it’s “A Perfect Ten” at Petterino’s 10th Anniv. with an evening of cocktails, dining, song and dance in a supper club setting, situated in the lower level private dining area. Complimentary cocktail hour and hors d’oeuvres followed by a four-course menu. Entertainment by Beckie Menzie and Tom Michael, Jimmy Damon, and Nan Mason and Terry Higgins.  $95 pp; Call 312-422-0150 or visit

* On Feb. 11-13, in New Paltz, N.Y., Mohonk Mountain House will host the Art of Chocolate that offers guests the opportunity to learn about chocolate from a team of award-winning pastry chefs,  and sample some of the best varieties, in cooking demos with  Executive Chef Jim Palmeri and Executive Pastry Chef Eric Smith. Then, enjoy a wine and chocolate pairing and tasting with Oliver Kita, a Paris-trained chocolatier; and a design-your-own-chocolate bar workshop led by best-selling cookbook author Lora Brody. Rates start at $217 pp, per night. Call 800-772.6646 or visit

* From Feb. 15-March 15, Cleveland Independents, a group of northeast OH-based, locally owned independent restaurants, will feature comfort food in each of its 90+ member restaurants.

* On Feb. 15 - 16, Cemitas Y Clayudas Pal Cabron in Los Angeles, CA, will host Chef Joseph Mahon and Restaurateur/Sommelier David Haskell “Magnum Crew” food and wine pairing.  Four-course $75pp. Eight-course $120pp.  Call 323-798-4648 or email

* On Feb. 17 in Berkeley, CA, Spenger's Fresh Fish Grotto hosts an Anchor Brewing Co. beer paired dinner with a five-course prix fixe menu prepared by Chef Devon Boisen. $40 pp. Call 510-845-7771; .


* On Feb. 17 in Chicago, Cityscape Bar will host their February "Vino with a View" wine sampling. Guests will enjoy samples of several varietals by Palm Bay International in addition to antipasto trays, cheese and dried fruit. Complimentary. Call 312-836-5000 or visit

* On Feb. 18, award-winning cookbook author, Terry Walters, will do a chef demo and book signing at Chicago French Market. Walters will demonstrate 3 recipes from her newest cookbook, Clean StartOn Feb. 19, the Chicago French Market hosts an 8-course tasting brunch with Alpana Singh. The wine-paired brunch features food offerings from the market’s artisan vendors. Attendees receive an autographed copy of Alpana Pours. $40 pp

* On Feb. 18, in Atlanta, GA, Spice Route Supper Club and Dinner Party Atlanta are partnering to host a supper club event called “An Evening in Kerala”  at The Grand Atrium at 200 Peachtree. The event incl. a traditional 21-course vegetarian meal (called Sadya) inspired by the spices of Kerala, India,accompanied by traditional Kerala dance, music and storytelling. Proceeds will be donated to Raksha.   $100 pp and can be purchased online at .

FEATURED LINKS: 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: 25 Best Ski Resorts; Letter from Hawaii.


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).

The Family Travel Forum  - A community for those who "Have Kids, Still Travel" and want to make family vacations more fun, less work and better value. FTF's travel and parenting features, including reviews of tropical and ski resorts, reunion destinations, attractions, holiday weekends, family festivals, cruises, and all kinds of vacation ideas should be the first port of call for family vacation planners.

Family Travel Forum

                                                                    ALL YOU NEED 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

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