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  February 10,   2013                                                                                                NEWSLETTER

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"Priscilla" (2012) by Galina Dargery



High on Beaver Creek

By Carey Sweet

Delmonico's Kitchen
by Christopher Mariani

Notes from the Wine Cellar 
Italian Wines Get Real with Prices
by John Mariani


High on Beaver Creek
By Carey Sweet


    The name of the ski slope should have been my first clue. “Birds of Prey,” the sign said, right above the pretty black diamond.
    I hadn’t skied for nearly 20 years, yet I’d come on this “First Tracks” outing at Beaver Creek, Colorado, where VIP skiers are the first to swish down the pristinely groomed trails each morning, before the mountain opens to the public.  Really, I’d come just for a lavish post-ski special breakfast being prepared at the Spruce Saddle Lodge that sits mid-mountain, where guest chef  Richard Sandoval was making his delicious chilaquiles. But somehow I’d missed the directions to get off at the first lift stop on Centennial #6, and I had proceeded to the next lift, the Cinch #8, which runs to the tippy top summit of the mountain. That’s where, at 11,440 feet, Birds of Prey awaits its victims.  Let me just say that yes, it is possible to hop-slide sideways down a black diamond slope if you have an hour-or-so of time and a bit of fear and hunger to motivate you.
    Figuring that skiing wasn’t my forte at this winter wonderland at Eagle Creek in the White River National Forest, I came back in summer. The glittering white blankets of snow had given away to emerald meadows of green, so I signed up for the Village to Village Hike, described at the Beaver Creek Hiking Center as a 4-plus mile moderate, guided stroll. Moderate wasn’t the word that came to mind as I dragged myself up steep mountainsides, crawling at points, and digging my trekking poles into the ground on the way down to stop from toppling into pretty forested caverns and babbling creeks. Polite conversation with my fellow hikers wasn’t an option; just breathing was a priority as I struggled through Bachelor Gulch and up Arrowhead Mountain.
    Lesson learned. Beaver Creek is a year-round Nirvana for outdoor sport lovers, encompassing the Beaver Creek Resort, several hotels, Beaver Creek Village boutique mall (right), and a collection of upscale residential areas. But Beaver Creek is not for wimps. There are some gentle ski bunny slopes here and there, yet the property is better known for its hosting the World Ski Championships in 1989, and its annual Audi Birds of Prey World Cup. During the summer, it’s the site of the annual XTERRA Mountain Cup off-road triathlon, and a wacky competition called Tough Mudder, a 12-mile course traversing more than two dozen military-style obstacles including ice cold plunges, 10-foot walls, barbed-wire crawls, 100 foot long mud pits, and electroshock.

    "Not exactly roughing it." Amid all the testosterone, that’s still the slogan for this posh masterplan community that was inspired by the designs of Switzerland's St. Moritz, Italy's Cortina, and Spain's Val d'Aran resorts. Luxury abounds, from posh resort hotels, to high-end clothing and jewelry boutiques in the Village mall, to restaurants like Zach’s Cabin steakhouse (below) for grilled lobster tail with lemon truffle butter ($47) eaten in a château high atop a mountain, or Grouse Mountain Grill (left) for marinated elk loin ($48) enjoyed in a luxe-country inn ambiance just steps from the Village.
    Beaver Creek is also home to many culinary events throughout the year, including the Food & Wine festivals held in winter (a near sell-out this year) and the Wine & Spirits festivals in the summer (the next one is Aug. 8-10). And these weekends are where I found my lazier niche, eating, drinking and sightseeing – a guest doesn’t even have to walk, since a complimentary shuttle runs all through the property, to the farther flung resorts and restaurants. Regardless of the weather, Festival activities are attractive, featuring wine pairing dinners with top chefs from Beaver Creek and around the country, wine and spirits tastings and tastings, and educational discoveries such as a glassware seminar hosted by Maximilian Riedel, president of Riedel Crystal of North America (no sales pitch, the glass really does make a difference for fine wines). A highlight is the interactive cooking demonstrations, though they’re often not for wimps, either. I’ll never forget the sick thrill of watching Bravo Chef Stephanie Izard work with her Girl & The Goat butcher Norbert Moniz to skin an entire pork head--while Moniz was blindfolded!
    The weekends wrap up with a grand tasting, where all the chefs and wine/spirits folks come together for elaborate samplings – I’ve eaten my way through goat's cheese apricot jam donuts from chef Christian Apetz of 8100 Mountainside at the Park Hyatt, a goat's cheese and beet éclair from chef Daniel Joly of Mirabelle, and Berkshire pork belly tacos al pastor with pineapple and tomatillo salsa from chef Sandoval, for example.
    To  miss 
completely the stunning beauty that can be fully appreciated only when in the wilderness would be a huge mistake, however. Aspen trees blaze in brilliant colors though the seasons, lodge pole pines spike skinny salutes to the sky, and this is prime bird watching territory in crystal clear air. Last summer, while riding a ski lift up to the Spruce Saddle Lodge, I saw an elk that, even from my seat in the sky, looked enormous with his antlers spanning like a small aircraft.
    It’s entirely possible to balance between breathless activity and mouthwatering fare. One popular winter Festival activity is the Snowshoe & Gourmet Lunch, where guests trek to their dining spot (keep in mind that the average annual snowfall at this Colorado Rocky Mountains oasis is 325 inches). Another treat is when slope time is followed by an Après-Ski Burgers & Beers party, showcasing outrageous creations from Festival chefs, such as a crazy piled-high creation I tried to tackle, from chef Tim Love of Tim Love Restaurants: a lamb, foie gras and huckleberry jam burger atop two other patties of prime tenderloin and brisket, then mounded in curried pickles, wild boar bacon, quail egg, American cheese and heirloom tomato on a grilled bun.
    This past summer, like a sumptuous carrot dangled in front of my face, the hike ended with lunch and a wine tasting at the Beaver Creek Chophouse hosted by chef Bernd Spreitzhofer from Austria. I’ve never had such magical pork, cut thick and roasted to a crispy edge over sauerkraut and steamed bread, served after an ethereal soup of silky parsnip (below) studded with grilled sweetbread and parsley root.
    Perhaps my wimpiness is exaggerated, I admit. It’s not like we’re thrown to the wolves. People more limber and less vertically challenged than I am on skis can start their trip with a complimentary two-hour guided Mountain Tour to keep them off killer slopes. And as I limped back towards my hotel after my summer hike, several elderly hikers zipped past me, chatting glowingly of their “refreshing jaunt” on a beginner trail.
    Summer is a fine time for a horseback ride, as well. Beaver Creek Stables is adjacent to the Centennial Station, and a three-hour horseback ride ($120) crisscrosses all the way up and around Beaver Creek Mountain, offering spectacular views punctuated by a picnic lunch break complete with an apple to feed your trusty mount. There are gentle horses for beginners, and miniature horses (below) for kids, but overall, these well fed, well-groomed equines keep even expert riders like me interested with their take-charge spirits. My young guide rode backwards most of the time, chirping “there you go, good job” as she watched horses dragging their heads into the grass for snacks, and biting their brothers’ butts for fun.
    With so much activity, I spent little time in my room except to sleep. The chateau-style Park Hyatt Beaver Creek is a nice choice, having recently undergone a $20 million renovation, and though the 190-room hotel still feels a bit corporate, the Antler Hall is nice with floor-to-ceiling windows for views of Beaver Creek Mountain, and the new billiards tables in the Whiskey Elk lounge. Guests who want to ski-in and ski-out can do little better, with valets for extra convenience, and five hot tubs beckoning for achy muscles.
    The Pines Lodge  (right) is more my style, though, set away from the Village, with just 60 guest rooms and the  Grouse Mountain Grill with its European inn ambiance.
    Part of the charm of Beaver Creek is its intimate scale – whether at Festivals, or just enjoying a meal out, guests mingle with the ski instructors, hiking guides, and local chefs. This up-close nicety is how I learned how chef Jay McCarthy gets the cider-glazed “pork wings” he sometimes serves as a signature special at his Blue Moose eatery in the Village. “We come out on a full moon and catch the low-flying pigs of Colorado with nets,” he told me. “The little guys put up a fight.”
    In other words, life at Beaver Creek calls for athletes in the kitchens, too. No wimps need apply.





by Christopher Mariani

Delmonico’s Kitchen 

 207 West 36th Street

     Walk through the front door at Delmonico’s Kitchen but don’t expect the same experience found at Beaver Street’s Delmonico’s Restaurant. The Kitchen certainly looks and feels different, not to mention the distinctiveness in diners who fill the chic dining room and bar. The Kitchen, on 36th Street attracts a younger, dressed down, more energetic crowd than that found at the downtown hangout that Wall Street’s money pushers attend frequently. But take one whiff of the Kitchen’s gorgeous steaks as they passes you by, and you will realize that the two restaurants, although greatly distinguishable, have more in common than meets the eye.
     At entry, there’s a bustling bar directly to the left, fitted with dimly lit hanging bulbs. To the right, burgundy red banquettes divide the barroom and a modern yet cozy dining room. The walls are coated with a black and white diamond pattern, adding texture to the otherwise simple and crisp décor. After a hospitable greeting from the restaurant’s hostess, I was led to my table and acknowledged by just about every staff member along the way; an absolutely charming quality, similar to Martin Scorsese’s famous scene in "Goodfellas" when main character Henry Hill is chaperoned to his prime table at the Cocacabana with his very impressed date.
      The ambiance is similar to that of NYC’s staple steakhouses: a dining room filled with machismo and servers who are a tad rough around the edges, yet Delmonico’s still screams sophistication and refinement. The sommelier didn’t walk over and recommend a massive cabernet to accompany my steak but instead favored a well-balanced Bordeaux.
     The meal began in mediocre fashion, starting with an unimpressive plate of charcuterie and cheese but quickly gained praise as a dozen east and west coast oysters hit the table, along with a generous lobster cocktail, served in the shell. Our waiter immediately softened his demeanor as he showcased his tender side, personally plating our lobster after meticulously removing it from its shell. Professionalism and experience overcame his previous delivery.
     For the main event, Delmonico’s Kitchen’s steaks parallel some of the best NYC has to offer. Order Delmonico’s double bone-in ribeye for two and wait with great anticipation for three pounds of well-fatted, delicious meat to arrive. Sides include thick, hand-cut fries and a terrific, garlicky order of creamed spinach. After informing my server of the spinach’s excellence, he responded, “A great steakhouse is  defined by its cream spinach.” I must agree. That is, of course, if the steak it accompanies is equally praiseworthy. Desserts were unorthodox compared to those of most NYC steakhouses, where mediocrity is generally accepted and even sometimes celebrated. A beautifully presented chocolate-hazelnut mouse was filled with crushed hazelnuts and topped with sea salt. Cheesecake sat on top of a buttery crust and was drizzled with a berry compote.
     There are few if any qualities unattractive about Delmonico’s Kitchen. The idea of a contemporary steakhouse is not a new one, but rarely is it done with such panache. If you are a loyal patron of Delmonico’s Restaurant, jump in a cab and head up to midtown for an equally memorable meal at Delmonico’s Kitchen.

Open Mon.-Fri. for lunch and dinner; Sun. for dinner. Dinner appetizers run $11-$25, main courses $19-$48.




Italian Wines Get Real with Prices

by John Mariani

    The news two years ago that Italy had for the first time surpassed France in wine production was not greeted as welcome achievement. Aside from bragging rights, Italian vintners were faced with having to sell more wine than ever at a time when consumption was dropping.  And it meant more Italian wine would be dumped into the so-called “Wine Lake,” a surplus of wine produced within the EU, which buys the stuff and turns it into industrial alcohol.
         In a European market of increasing supply-and-less-demand, that is not a winning scenario.  Fortunately, however, Italian wineries are having their “Duh!” moment: by offering more well-made regional wines at reasonable prices, they can sell more wine.
         For two many years, too many Italian vintners suffered from a hubris built on the international success of very high-end wines like barolos and barbarescos and Super Tuscans. Buoyed by industry bureaucrats eager to award the prestigious D.O.C.G. appellation (a denomination of guaranteed high quality wine) to wines of little regional distinction, wineries tried to attach high price tags on wines of no real excellence.
    Importers tried to convince wine drinkers that a bottle of unfamiliar verdicchio was worth $50 or a Santa Margherita pinot grigio $60 in a restaurant. As a result, wine lovers began moaning, “The Italian wines are pricing themselves out of the market.”
         Now, with sales sputtering and the Wine Lake brimming over, some very fine Italian vintners are getting into the market with delicious wines at prices right on the money.  And it’s happening at the retail level more than in restaurants, which continue to hike up margins three and four
times above retail.
So, happy about what I was seeing, I visited one of the best Italian wine stores in the U.S. for bottlings you won’t easily find in larger emporiums. San Pietro Wine & Spirits (below) in Tuckahoe, NY, a suburb of Manhattan, is run by Gerardo and Lucia Bruno, who search out a broad range of the best old and new wineries in Italy, from legendary makers like Bruno Ceretto of Piedmont to small estates like Flaminio in Brindisi. They proudly carry seven wines from the region of Campania, where the Brunos come from.
     “Nowadays the economy is what it is,” Lucia told me at the store, “and the Italians realize that people who want to enjoy wine more often are looking for affordable value. People will still pay a lot for a great wine, but they don't want to feel cheated with a lesser one at a high price.”
    I rounded up a slew of bottles Lucia (right, with Gerardo and their sons)recommended and drank them over the next few weeks with a wide range of dishes, from pastas to chicken burgers. What delighted me most, beyond the very reasonable prices, with none above $29, was that they all had a typical Italian balance of fruit and acid, with alcohol levels below 14 percent, and, whether robust or mellow, not one was an overripe fruit bomb or overpowering, tannic blockbuster.

         Here are some I thoroughly enjoyed, all available from the store.

Dorigo Cabernet Franc 2009 ($22)—Cabernet franc is not widely propagated outside of Colli Orientali del Friuli in northern Italy, but this fine example can stand with the best examples from France, where it is more usually a blending grape.  With 12.5 percent alcohol, it is as easy to drink with poultry, as it would be with a strong fish like salmon.

Agricola Querciabella Mongrana 2009 ($20)—Such a terrific price for a wonderful small estate wine in Tuscany’s Maremma region. It has the same blend as some of the Super Tuscans at three times the price—50 percent sangiovese, 25 percent cabernet sauvignon, and 25 percent merlot, making for a well-structured complex red wine perfect with bistecca all fiorentina.

Agricola Vallone Vigna Flaminio Brindisi Riserva 2007 ($15)—Five years of age have brought maturity to this Apulian blend of malvasia nera, montepulciano, and negroamaro, grapes only now being recognized for their regional excellence, with the power of the last varietal melding with the silkiness of the first and softness of the second.

Vinicola del Sannio Barbera Vitigno 2011 ($14)—An unusual barbera, the principal grape of Piedmont, in this case a clone planted south of Naples in Castelvenere in the region of Campania, where the varietal has had this name since the mid-1800s. It has vegetal notes in the background of sturdy tannins, and is a young red wine that is both very versatile, and extremely well priced.

John Mariani's wine column appear bi-weekly in




A Seattle woman named Beautiful Existence who "designs year-long challenges for herself" has decided this year to eat only food from Starbucks and their acquisitions Tazo Tea and Evolution Fresh.   Her reason: "We're really lucky and I would say actually spoiled as Americans because we have all these different eating options...You go to all these other countries and they don't have these luxuries. Really? Is it really going to be that hard for one year of my life to limit my menu? We'll find out."


Steven Soderbergh says he is giving up directing films and is now importing a Bolivian liquor named Singani. "Technically it’s a brandy," he said. "I was turned onto it while I was doing Che and everybody on the crew got hooked. You don’t get that burn in your throat like you do with most hard liquor, so it’s dangerous. You can drink it like water and then you’re invisible."  



 Any of John Mariani's books below may be ordered from

My latest book, which just won the prize for best book from International Gourmand, written with Jim Heimann and Steven Heller,  Menu Design in America,  1850-1985 (Taschen Books), has just appeared, with nearly 1,000 beautiful, historic, hilarious, sometimes shocking menus dating back to before the Civil War and going through the Gilded Age, the Jazz Age, the Depression, the nightclub era of the 1930s and 1940s, the Space Age era, and the age when menus were a form of advertising in innovative explosions of color and modern design.  The book is a chronicle of changing tastes and mores and says as much about America as about its food and drink.


“Luxuriating vicariously in the pleasures of this book. . . you can’t help but become hungry. . .for the food of course, but also for something more: the bygone days of our country’s splendidly rich and complex past.  Epicureans of both good food and artful design will do well to make it their coffee table’s main course.”—Chip Kidd, Wall Street Journal.


“[The menus] reflect the amazing craftsmanship that many restaurants applied to their bills of fare, and suggest that today’s restaurateurs could learn a lot from their predecessors.”—Rebecca Marx, The Village Voice.

My new book--Now in Paperback, too--How Italian Food Conquered the World (Palgrave Macmillan)  has just won top prize 2011 from the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.  It is a rollicking history of the food culture of Italy and its ravenous embrace in the 21st century by the entire world. From ancient Rome to la dolce vita of post-war Italy, from Italian immigrant cooks to celebrity chefs, from pizzerias to high-class ristoranti, this chronicle of a culinary diaspora is as much about the world's changing tastes, prejudices,  and dietary fads as about our obsessions with culinary fashion and style.--John Mariani

"Eating Italian will never be the same after reading John Mariani's entertaining and savory gastronomical history of the cuisine of Italy and how it won over appetites worldwide. . . . This book is such a tasteful narrative that it will literally make you hungry for Italian food and arouse your appetite for gastronomical history."--Don Oldenburg, USA Today. 

"Italian restaurants--some good, some glitzy--far outnumber their French rivals.  Many of these establishments are zestfully described in How Italian Food Conquered the World, an entertaining and fact-filled chronicle by food-and-wine correspondent John F. Mariani."--Aram Bakshian Jr., Wall Street Journal.

"Mariani admirably dishes out the story of Italy’s remarkable global ascent to virtual culinary hegemony....Like a chef gladly divulging a cherished family recipe, Mariani’s book reveals the secret sauce about how Italy’s cuisine put gusto in gusto!"--David Lincoln Ross,

"Equal parts history, sociology, gastronomy, and just plain fun, How Italian Food Conquered the World tells the captivating and delicious story of the (let's face it) everybody's favorite cuisine with clarity, verve and more than one surprise."--Colman Andrews, editorial director of The Daily

"A fantastic and fascinating read, covering everything from the influence of Venice's spice trade to the impact of Italian immigrants in America and the evolution of alta cucina. This book will serve as a terrific resource to anyone interested in the real story of Italian food."--Mary Ann Esposito, host of PBS-TV's Ciao Italia.

"John Mariani has written the definitive history of how Italians won their way into our hearts, minds, and stomachs.  It's a story of pleasure over pomp and taste over technique."--Danny Meyer, owner of NYC restaurants Union Square Cafe, Gotham Bar & Grill, The Modern, and Maialino.



FEATURED LINKS: I am happy to  report that the Virtual Gourmet is  linked to 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:

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).

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.

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