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  May 25, 2014                                                                                             NEWSLETTER

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By John Mariani

By John Mariani

By Dotty Griffith




By John Mariani

     Fans of Francis Ford Coppola’s “Godfather” movies are known to search out all the locations in Sicily where the director shot the scenes of Vito and Michael Corleone in the Old Country, not least the charming hilltop town of Savoca, where Michael woos and marries a local girl.    
    But if you want to see how Coppola and his daughter, Sofia, think a modern gentiluomo should live, you have to drive through the gorgeous territory of Basilicata in southern Italy, along the Ionian coast,  up to the hill town of Bernalda, where the Coppolas have restored a 19th century palazzo into a grand and glorious resort.

Cupped in the arch of the Italian boot, the territory was settled first by the Greeks and has as long a history as any province in Italy, including periods of Norman and Aragonese domination, when a castle was added to the primitive settlements.  Today, other than the requisite number of churches and a pleasant square, Bernalda is basically one long main street lined with shops and trattorias.    
     The Palazzo was built in1892 by the Margherita family, and Bernalda itself was the birthplace and home to Francis Ford Coppola’s grandfather, Tino.  Palazzo Margherita would be easy to miss behind an unassuming façade, but once through the wooden doors and pillared archways, you find yourself in a fragrant Italian garden and arbor, where Sofia was married.
     The restoration of the palace, by French designer Jacques Grange, has resulted in a welcoming quiet and lack of ostentation; its ornate elements are softened by the gray and white colors chosen for the rooms, whose ceiling might be stenciled with folkloric motifs. The fine marble has been restored, the bathrooms, with claw-footed tubs, have been enlarged with every modern amenity, and there are two dining areas--one at the bar and one with a large communal table in front of an open kitchen.  It is a place--complete with swimming pool--that the Coppolas designed for families.   
        The seven suites and two garden rooms, some with a Juliette Balcony, are spare but very comfortable and well lighted. Two of the largest suites are done in, respectively, Italian décor of the early 20th century and in Modernist art deco, while a third, with a Rococo ceiling fresco representing Amore and Psyche, was designed as a gift to Coppola's first granddaughter, Gia.  Still another, honoring his Tunisian-born grandmother, Maria Zasa, is done with a mix of Southern Italian and Tunisian motifs.
     Meals at the Palazzo are casual affairs, with no formal dining room. In the Cinecittà Bar (below), the walls are lined with black-and-white photos of Italian actors, from Sophia Loren and Monica Vitti to Marcello Mastroianni and Rossano Brazzi. This is a cozy and colorful spot to have drinks or a good meal of simple food.  My wife and friends had first planned to have lunch at a nearby trattoria, but after a glass of Prosecco and a few nibbles of superb salumi and bread, we just sat back and let the kitchen send out more and more dishes, from burratina mozzarella with a julienne of red eggplant, a creamed barley with pesto, strascinate (“little rags”) of pasta with turnip tops, and slices of rare beef, finishing with fresh fruits of the season.  With our meal we drank the local wine, Aglianico del Vulture. The eatery is open for lunch and dinner.
     The equally unpretentious eat-in kitchen (below) is where you might meet other guests and watch the cooks make the pasta shape called orecchiette (“little ears”)--only enough for the evening’s meal--sauced with zucchini and almond pesto. We also enjoyed tempura-fried hyacinth bulbs with sage and vino cotto (cooked wine) and a plate of fried squid with a lush fava bean sauce.
    Next came linguine with tiny sweet mussels and ravioli stuffed with ricotta and artichokes with a simple, bright tomato and basil dressing. The local Lucanian black pig was grilled up with the scent of rosemary, along with fresh chicken sausage with strips of fennel. For dessert there was a ricotta cheesecake with dried figs. Our wine that night was a hearty Poderi Materani Rocco Matera Primitivo 2008.  Prices are very reasonable, with antipasti 8-10 euros, pastas 13 to 17, main courses 13-17, with a fixed price at 56 euros.  Good house wines run 7 euros.
     To sit in that kitchen, inhaling the wonderful aromas of the food as it was being cooked, made it easy enough to imagine being a part of a big Southern Italian family of extended relatives that included the ebullient cooks themselves.
     And then, after dinner, a fabulous surprise. This being a Coppola production, the Palazzo has a grand upstairs living room (right) with plush sofas and divans where, at the touch of a button, a huge movie screen descends from the ceiling.  You then have a choice of more than 200 Italian movies--everything from silent films to the best of Fellini, Visconti,  Rossellini and De Sica.  We chose the last’s magnificent “Two Women,” for which Sophia Loren won an Academy Award in 1960.  Watching the sad film in that room,  knowing that Francis Ford Coppola had stocked such films with obvious affection for his guests, further made me feel that we were truly guests in his home, believing that, in his absence, he told the impeccable staff, “Take good care of my friends. Anything they want.”
    In fact, when my wife chipped a tooth prior to our arrival, the Palazzo staff immediately arranged for her to see a local dentist, then two of them accompanied her to his office,  interpreted for her, and brought her back to the Palazzo in fine fettle. They’d do the same for their own family, so why not for their guests?

 Palazzo Margherita is located at Corso Umberto I, 64, Bernalda, Italy; Telephone: +39 0835 549060



By John Mariani

Le Colonial

149 East 57th Street (near Lexington Avenue).

  There is a very bright new culinary star pulsating on New York’s dining scene, and, given Chef Ron Hsu’s background, it’s really not all that surprising.  What is, is that he is making his mark in a restaurant now celebrating 20 years on East 57th.
    Le Colonial, owned by Jean Goutal, Jean Denoyer, François Marchand and Rick Wahlstedt, with a branch in San Francisco, has been decorously renovated this past year, and it was high time to move the Vietnamese menu forward with the kind of fresh ideas only a chef like Hsu could bring. For eight years, he had worked in the kitchen of the illustrious Le Bernardin, four of them as poissonier.  Anyone who knows the exquisitely refined seafood cookery chef-partner Eric Ripert creates in his kitchen will immediately see how and why Hsu is translating all he learned onto a Vietnamese template.
    Historically, Vietnamese food is a marriage of indigenous Asian cookery with French, absorbed during France’s long colonial occupation of what it named Indochina.  Hsu, though Chinese-American, worked for months to learn and appreciate the traditions of Vietnam’s cuisine while measurably adding his own ideas, like placing foie gras into a traditional pho atop beef carpaccio on which he pours a hot broth that semi-cooks the foie gras and beef.  It is a marvelous, transformative idea and tastes every bit as Asian as it does French or even, since beef carpaccio came from Venice, Italian.
    Yet never does Hsu swerve far from the essential Asian flavors or away from dishes that have long been favorites at Le Colonial, which was the first upscale Vietnamese restaurant to open in New York two decades ago.
    Back then, Le Colonial had something of an off-putting snob appeal that attracted a certain Upper East Side crowd for whom a Vietnamese menu could not seem too exotic.  That crowd has been faithful to the restaurant, in large part because Goutal and DeNoyer have always known how to cater to their clientele; the food was always good, sometimes very good, but its luster, like some of the crowd, had grown stale; young blood was needed to refresh what has long been a very beautiful space, an evocative movie set of a restaurant—not of the Vietnam War era, but of 1930s Indochina, with its potted ferns, lattice woodwork, tile floors, black and white photos, and slowly turning ceiling fans.  One expected actors like Sydney Greenstreet in white linen to appear, along with Anna Mae Wong in embossed satin.
    Fortunately, the management has not radically changed this décor, but from lighting and rattan furniture there have been updates and creature comforts added, especially in the upstairs lounge, where  hand-carved Lenga wood panels were created for the restaurant by the Saigon team of Nguhen Quoc Khanh and Ly Quynh Kim Trinh.
    Bartender Moses Laboy has brought a new seriousness to the cocktail menu  (he literally steams the essence from the fresh fruits he uses), while wine director Marie Vayron, whose family owns Château Bourgneuf in Pomerol, has completely revamped a once-tired wine list to reflect her ideas on the way modern wines match up with food that is not nearly as spicy as some people believe.

    To celebrate its 20th anniversary the restaurant is featuring two six-course tasting menus ($85, $125 with wine selections) of “then" and "now” dishes, the first symbolizing dishes popular back in 1994, the latter showing off Hsu's new ideas.  A friend and I sampled both, happily passing each dish back and forth.  I cannot begin to describe all twelve, which is too bad since every one was impressive from both menus, because Hsu has worked his expertise on the “then” side by refining everything that needed attention. Thus, with ca bam, monkfish is seared till just past translucence, spiced with turmeric, basil, and the crunch of roasted peanuts and sesame rice crackers--certainly traditional but a dish with a dash of modern finesse.  So, too, the texture and temperature of canh chua tom hum lobster and preserved pineapple in a tamarind broth, and cha hap of impeccably steamed snapper with glass vermicelli, shiitakes and a warm soy vinaigrette were exemplars of Hsu’s technique. This last might easily slip onto a menu at Le Bernardin.
    From the ‘Now” side comes banh cuon, steamed pork ravioli with headcheese and cucumber salad dressed with nuòc cham sauce, and ca kho to is succulently braised sea bass in a clay pot of richly caramelized broth.  Hsu gets a breed of ducks he favors for a dish called vit quay so he can render fat while keeping the skin crisp and juicy, dusted with five-spice powder and served with shredded jicama and a tamarind-ginger sauce.
    Desserts are every bit as impressive, from a banana tarte Tatin with Vietnamese cinnamon ice cream to a chocolate caramel tart spiked with sriracha.
    This is very exciting food, far moreso than it used to be at Le Colonial, so that everything you might have loved about this now classic New York restaurant before you may fall in love with all over again.
    As for Hsu, he learned everything from one of New York’s great master chefs (and Eric Ripert often dines here on Sunday nights), so he is well on his way to earn that same honor.  If Le Colonial had just opened in the West Village or Williamsburg, the food media would very probably declare it one of the most tantalizing new restaurants of the year. But it would be highly unusual if such a place had the beauty, grace and polish that have been achieved at Le Colonial over the past two decades.

Le Colonial is open for lunch Mon.-Fri. and for dinner nightly. À la carte dinner appetizers run $11-$19, main courses $24-$33.




By Dotty Griffith

    Fire and smoke. Malbec and rib eye. Add in some Texas ranch culture and you’ve got one of the best little wine and food festivals in the world.
    Yes, right in Buffalo Gap, Texas--population 450, more or less--Tom and Lisa Perini, along with some top-notch wine makers and chefs, put on an annual culinary tour de force whose tickets sell out within hours. This April, Tom and Lisa hosted Argentine superchef Francis Mallmann (below with Perini) as guest star chef for the 2014 Buffalo Gap Wine and Food Summit  focusing on the wine and food of Argentina.
     Past guest chefs have included celebrities such as Jacques Pepin. West Texas homegrown superstar chef Stephan Pyles, now of Dallas, regularly headlines the Summit’s chefs lineup, as he did this year.  Pyles ramrodded the Saturday lunch featuring traditional Texas fare, including barbecue brisket (below) and fried chicken, signature dishes at his acclaimed Stampede 66 restaurant. 

    Culinary optics this year were spectacular, with gaucho chef Mallmann and staff building six of his iconic “seven fires” on the ranch grounds for a day of Argentine wood-fire cooking to prepare beef, whole salmon encased in sea salt, chicken, and lamb for a spectacular five-course dinner with multiple wine pairings for each course.
    Internationally renowned, Mallmann’s 1884 Restaurante is part of Gascón Winery  in Mendoza, the heart of Argentina’s wine country. The restaurant’s namesake year marks the founding of the winery, which pioneered malbec as THE grape of Argentina. Gascón was the first winery in Argentina to bottle 100 percent malbec as a varietal. That year was 1941.
    In addition to Argentine wines, the 2014 Summit lineup included California and, of course, Texas vintages. The traditional “who says wine isn’t for breakfast” tasting on Saturday morning is an oenophile’s dream sampling. Thoughtful and well-designed flights were built for mano a mano comparisons of Argentina, California and Texas varietals.
    Led by Master Sommelier and brilliant wine conversationalist Guy Stout, the 10 a.m. tasting of 
21 wines began with flights of white varietals and blends from Texas and California, then went on to reds including, but not limited to, pinot noirs, malbecs and tempranillos from Argentina as well. Commentary from winemakers and growers of every wine tasted added further insight to the characteristics of each bottle.  

Among my favorites:

Brennan Vineyards Viognier Texas 2012: This vintage lived up to the varietal’s reputation as the winery’s signature with great acidity and a lingering finish. Aromatic with touches of peach and honeysuckle, this lovely white wine goes quite nicely with poultry, salmon and mild cheeses.   

Sanglier Cellars Pinot Noir Russian River 2011:  Rich red fruit flavors, complemented by notes of black tea and baking spices, with medium flavor intensity and body plus good acidity and length.

Bending Branch  Texas High Plains Tempranillo 2012: Tempranillo is recognized as one of the preeminent Texas varietals. Bending Branch Tempranillo offers classic notes of espresso grounds, sweet tobacco, smoke and green herbs with a rich cranberry finish. If you are a lover of Spanish riojas, you’ll like the Old World charm and complexity of this wine.

Llano Estacado Winery  Cellar Reserve Merlot Newsom Vineyard Texas High Plains 2012: This wine has a complex bouquet from barrel aging with hints of dried cranberries and cherries. Excellent on its own or with smoky beef, pork ribs or pork tenderloin.

Don Miguel Gascón  Malbec Mendoza 2012: Taste this and you’ve tasted the classic malbec profile. The wine opens with intense aromas of blackberry, plum and a hint of mocha. On the palate, dark fruit flavors are intertwined with notes of spice, licorice and chocolate. Round tannins lead to a plush mouth feel and a long, velvety finish.  

Robert Hall Winery  Cavern Select Malbec Paso Robles 2012: A bold, full-bodied, Rhône-style blend delivers a mouthful of berry flavors with a lingering spicy finish. Complements hearty cheeses, grilled meat and roasted lamb.

Alamos Torrontes Mendoza 2013 proved to be the workhorse white of the weekend. With bright floral aromas of orange and jasmine, this high country wine defines spring on the palate with citrus and peach flavors ending with a crisp finish. At a very affordable $11.99, this could be my house wine of summer 2014. 

Red Caboose Winery  “Some of that Red” Port Style Texas NV: This tawny port-style dessert wine is a blend of tinta madera, touriga, souzao, tinta coa, tinta ruiz, and lenoir. It was great with Mallmann’s desserts of fire-roasted pineapples and oranges with mascarpone and rosemary.

    As was the very unusual John Anthony Vineyards  Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, Napa 2011: The honey-gold color and intense fragrance of ripe apricot, peaches accented by honeysuckle, all spice and nutmeg explode in the mouth with flavors of dried pear and apricot, peach and a hint of orange blossom and baked lemon custard.  

    Given the historic setting, casual ambiance, intimacy and star power of the chefs and winemakers, instant sellouts of tickets for Buffalo Gap Wine and Food Summit aren’t surprising. The Summit is held in a tiny historic town 15 miles south of Abilene in West Texas. The name derives from its strategic location as a mountain pass that funneled buffalo on their yearly migrations. Also running through “the gap,” Elm Creek was a major watering hole for buffalo and indigenous people including Comanche and Apache tribes.   
 Yes, Buffalo Gap is remote. That’s a big chunk of the Summit’s charm.  The Friday dinner event is limited to 250 diners. Tastings and symposia are considerably smaller.  That means no large crowds and as much one-on-one time as you can wrangle with chefs and winemakers who, like other attendees, are as much guests as stars of the show. Only at the Saturday night dine-around, featuring multiple chefs and even more wines, plus a band and lots of Texas two-stepping, does attendance swell to 600 or so.
    Summit events take place on a weekend in April (2015 date not yet set) amidst spreading live oaks on the grounds behind Perini Ranch Steakhouse , one of five restaurants nationwide to receive 2014 James Beard Foundation America’s Classics awards. The prestigious designation recognizes restaurants “that have timeless appeal and are beloved for quality food that reflects the character of their community.”
    Add this to your outlook calendar: Patron tickets (all events) will go on sale February 4, 2015.  Tickets for this year’s event were $695.  Most attendees stay in nearby Abilene but there are a few bed and breakfast accommodations in Buffalo Gap.
    Shoot the gap in 2015.

Dotty Griffith is the face and voice of She’s the author of 9 cookbooks, sought-after culinary raconteur and former Dallas Morning News food editor and restaurant critic. She lives in Dallas.


Wine Column Sponsored by Banfi Vintners
Reliable Old Friends

by Cristina Mariani-May         
co-CEO of Banfi Vintners America's leading wine importer

White for Chillin’, Red for Grillin’, and Rosé for Thrillin’

    We are finally on the cusp of summertime and the livin’ will be easy… so let's focus the summer program on just three wines right now. Who needs to think of more than that?  I am simplifying my life – and yours – to think about one superlative white wine to keep us refreshed around the pool, one great red wine for those summer barbecues, and one awesome Rosé wine that is just like that pair of khaki shorts – it is appropriate almost anytime and with anything.

    When I think of the glories of summer, I think of the Tuscan coastline – the area called “The Maremma.” It is a place marked by the same rolling hills and lush green underbrush as inland Tuscany, but distinguished by a cool sea breeze, kilometers of pristine beaches, the gently lapping waves of the docile Tyrrhenian sea, and relaxation, Italian style.  This is where mothers and toddlers bond free of boundaries, where teens find summer love, and where gourmets find the freshest seafood and most delightful wines.  

    The shores of Maremma are dotted with seafood restaurants that pluck the catch of the day from local waters, and prepare it with the simplest yet most delectable flavors.  Their sauces have evocative names like marechiara (clear sea), aquapazza (crazy water)and pescatrice (fisherman’s wife).  Fresh ripe tomatoes, briny capers, deeply green olive oil and fragrant herbs are the only adornment to the vivid freshness of the sea.  

    Such dishes simply scream out for the zesty fresh flavors of Vermentino, a crisp white wine that is unique to this part of the region.  White wines are usually associated with cool climates, but Vermentino is unique in that it maintains a solid backbone of acidity in these warm conditions.  This spring my family introduced La Pettegola, appropriately named for the birds that flitter around the beaches chirping away like chattering gossips, which gives us the second meaning of the word La Pettegola - a gossip! This wine is as light, breezy and flavorful as that seaside chatter. One glass calls for another, enhances the flavor of any dish it is served with, and emphasizes the relaxation and “dolce vita” that summer on the Tuscan coast is all about.  

    On the first hills that rise up from the shore, the front line of Tuscan hilltop towns let down their guard as well and welcome visitors into streets that were originally designed as mazes meant to confuse invading armies.  Each town celebrates its annual “Sagra” or festival dedicated sometimes to a patron saint, but more often than not to a favorite local food.  “Sagra del Raviolo,” for example, celebrates the glories of one town’s ravioli, while “Sagra della Granochia” festoons, of all things, another town’s frog’s legs.  But all of the sagras offer grilled sausage, ribs, fried potatoes, and the ubiquitous Tuscan beans – definitely fare for a hearty red wine.  The Tuscan coast is known for its big reds, and my family's newest entry here is ASKA, a cuvee of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc from Bolgheri.  Aska takes its name from the ancient Etruscans who inhabited this area, and means, appropriately, a vessel for wine. Aska is a worthy match to the grilled meats of our summertime barbecues.

    Finally, I have to follow my heart just a little more inland for another quintessential summer sipper.  Centine Rosé is from my family’s Castello Banfi vineyard estate in Montalcino, Tuscany, just a 20 minute drive from the seaside.  Mostly Sangiovese with some Cabernet and Merlot thrown in for balance and body – the same cuvee as the red version of Centine – this is a wine lover’s rose.  Dry and full of fruit flavor, it is a refreshing aperitif or poolside beverage but will also pair perfectly to all those great Tuscan summer foods we just mentioned, be it fish, salads or barbecue.

    So Happy Summer!  Let’s toast it with a glass of wine on the coast, be it the Maremma or somewhere else.

Cristina Mariani is not related by family or through business with John Mariani, publisher of this newsletter



An armed man held a 7-Eleven clerk at knifepoint
in Saitama, Japan,  pulling two knives on the employees at the register and said, “Onigiri [rice ball] will do.” He thereupon grabbed one rice ball filled with shrimp and mayonnaise and two filled with tuna and mayonnaise and ran out the door, all worth about 300 yen, or $2.94.  Police caught the robber and said he was very drunk at the time.


“Poor Guam.”—Anna Roth,
SF Weekly.




WINE & FOOD FESTIVAL --Celebrity Cruises, whose ten of its restaurants received Wine Spectator’s “Award of Excellence,” now hits another milestone with the industry’s first-ever wine and food festival. The Celebrity Cruises Great Wine Festival is May 31, 2 to 5 p.m. at the Great Park in Irvine, CA. More than 40 wineries, craft breweries, spirits companies and top Orange County restaurants will be present. Each winery also serves their wines onboard Celebrity’s ships. Proceeds from the festival benefit LegalAid of Orange County, a non-profit organization that provides legal services to individuals of Southern California who might otherwise be denied access to justice. Tickets are $75 per person and discounted tickets are available for government and non-profit workers, as well as sitting judges. A sampling of participants includes: Wineries: Cakebread, Jordan, JUSTIN, Freemark Abbey, Zaca Mesa, Mazzocco, Benziger, Malibu Rocky Oaks Restaurants: Clay Oven, Maro Wood Grill, Bluewater Grill, Riptide, James Republic Celebrity’s Sommelier Chanelle Duarte and Executive Chef John Suley will be on hand to serve up Celebrity’s cuisine and wines. Purchase tickets and see a full list of participants Celebrity Cruises Great Wine Festival




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

The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink by John F. Mariani (Bloomsbury USA, $35)

Modesty forbids me to praise my own new book, but let me proudly say that it is an extensive revision of the 4th edition that appeared more than a decade ago, before locavores, molecular cuisine, modernist cuisine, the Food Network and so much more, now included. Word origins have been completely updated, as have per capita consumption and production stats. Most important, for the first time since publication in the 1980s, the book includes more than 100 biographies of Americans who have changed the way we cook, eat and drink -- from Fannie Farmer and Julia Child to Robert Mondavi and Thomas Keller.

"This book is amazing! It has entries for everything from `abalone' to `zwieback,' plus more than 500 recipes for classic American dishes and drinks."--Devra First, The Boston Globe.

"Much needed in any kitchen library."--Bon Appetit.

Now in Paperback, too--How Italian Food Conquered the World (Palgrave Macmillan)  has won top prize  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,  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. Editor: Walter Bagley. 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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