Virtual Gourmet

  June 22, 2014                                                                                             NEWSLETTER

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Virginia Mayo and Jack Palance in "The Silver Chalice" (1954)




By John Mariani


By John Mariani

By Mort Hochstein


By John Mariani

  The pleasures of eating and drinking and traveling well make for good reading during the summer, not least at the beach when you can pick out a few recipes, then go shopping and cook them up that evening.  Here are books that seem particularly valuable this season.

Native Wine Grapes of Italy
by Ian D'Agata (University of California Press)--No one knows more about Italian wine that Ian D'Agata, whose training as a physician has caused him to turn a prognostic eye on the vast number of wine grapes found from Alto-Adige to Sicily.  It is easily the most comprehensive volume on the subject--ever--and promises to be so for years to come.   In the case of each varietal, based both on ampellograpy and tastings, D'Agata gives a complete description and history coupled with "Which Wines to Try and Why." And he skimps on nothing: a relatively unknown grape like Bombino or Nascetta gets as thorough an entry as one on Primitivo or Canaiolo Nero.  You also get to meet the people from small estates who make the best of the varietals. At 620 pages, there's little anyone could possibly want to find out about Italian viticulture and viniculture that isn't here. It is a magnum opus of daunting authority

The Old-Fashioned by Robert Simonson (Ten Speed Press)--Usually I'm not much impressed by 168-page single subject books, but Robert Simonson is such an engaging author that he makes this the perfect book to accompany an easy chair and a well-made Old-Fashioned cocktail.  Fully 65 pages of the book are meant for that--an incisive, impeccably researched story of this too often forgotten classic cocktail, resulting in some good rollicking stories that American history is rich in.  He takes you back to the 19th century, to Chicago during Prohibition, and the drink's "Postwar Heyday,"  when the New Yorker Magazine declare the drink "a national institution."  Following are dozens of recipes and variations, all of it well packaged in a small size with fine illustrations.

The Food Lover's Guide to Paris: The Best Restaurants, Bistros, Cafés, Markets, Bakeries, and More
by Patricia Wells (Workman Publishing Company)--Way back in 1984 Patricia Wells published the first edition of this requisite guide to Parisian gastronomy, not just to the Michelin-style restaurants and famous bistros but to her personal favorites among bakeries, chocolate shops, cheese stores and boulangeries. Now, 30 years later, she has completely revised her classic, and this new book shows just how much the  Paris food scene has and has not changed in all that time. "Many chefs have come and gone," she writes.  "Others have matured into excellence.  And, most exciting, I have had the pleasure of covering the new group of energetic young cooks who are expanding the culinary `musts' into  up-and-coming Paris neighborhoods."  You'll still find some old favorites, like Le Duc and Au Trou Gascon, updated along with new listings for new places like L'Atélier de L'Éclair and Albion, and Wells shows just how international Paris has become with good Italian, Thai, Chinese and other ethnic restaurants and eateries.

Marc Forgione: Recipes and Stories from the Acclaimed Chef and Restaurant
by Marc Forgione (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)--No chef has ever been prouder of his pedigree than Marc Forgione, whose father Lawrence, was a pioneer of what was called the New American Cuisine of the 1980s.  That Marc has distinguished himself by building on his legacy is evident on every page of this splendid new book, three years in the making.  He has some good stories along the path to opening his restaurant--including the time he unknowingly threw out a reporter from the NY Times-- then proceeds with a great deal of technique lessons in order to get the beginner to attempt dishes like his cuttlefish with papas bravas, chorizo and spicy mayonnaise and suckling pig face with mustard and pickles. There's a good section on cheeses and cocktails, too.

In The Charcuterie: The Fatted Calf's Guide to Making Sausage, Salumi, Pâtés, Roasts, Confits, and Other Meaty Goods by Taylor Boetticher (Ten Speed Press)--There have been several charcuterie books that have come out in the past few years, but this is easily the most authoritative and clear in its approach to a kind of food many people are fearful of trying at home. For a dish like the duck and lemongrass sausage patties alone, this book would be worthwhile, as for the pork bollito misto and the rabbit porchetta, which expand the usual repertoire of charcuterie. Some dishes are relatively simple, others take some doing and long prep, but everyone of them is packed with enormous flavor, and the instruction have been carefully edited for maximum ease.

The New Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook: 150 Fresh Ideas for America's Favorite Pan
by Ellen Brown (Sterling Epicure)--There have also been a few cast iron skillet books out recently, so that it has almost become a genre of its  own.  The superiority and versatility of cooking on well-used, well-seasoned cast iron, which is very much in the American, not European, tradition should be unquestioned after paging through a volume that makes perfect sense out of using the utensil for everything from basic steaks and burgers to Rhode Island clam cakes, Vietnamese spring rolls, Cajun halibut, an a marvelous array of upside-down cakes.  I doubt many cooks anywhere have the depth and breadth of Ellen Brown, who in her career has written books on everything from wraps to gluten-free breads.  I'd trust her to cook a shoe for Charlie Chaplin and have him gobble it up with pleasure.

Hungry for France
by Alexander Lobrano (Rizzoli)--I've long believed Alexander Lobrano, who's lived in Paris for 30 years, is the finest chronicler of all that goes on in French cuisine today.  His enthusiasm alone makes reading him  pure joy, and here he covers the different regions of France and its sprawling diversity of styles, from a
n Alsatian tarte flambé  to from a Provençal ratatouille gratin.   Lobrano starts each section telling you about the region's best cooks and restaurants, largely favoring bistros with delightful names like Youpla, Au Chapeau Rouge, Les Glazicks, and Ttotta, accompanied by a fine series of evocative photos by Steven Rothfield.  It's good to have a dining partner like Lobrano who writes, "To be sure, some people have been kicking France's ankles in a double-decade take-down of Gallic gastronomic superiority.  But the wonderful news is that they're all more wrong than right. I defy you to find another country anywhere in the world where you can so reliably find a spectacular meal--at all levels of the food chain--in it most remote and forgotten villages.



72 W 69th Street (near Columbus Avenue)

    The rich variety and quality of restaurants on the Upper West Side, now all the way up through Harlem, increases about as consistently as the trendy restaurants that close each month on the Lower East Side and in Brooklyn.  From the newly opened Tavern on the Green (reviewed last week) and Cecil’s to the well-established Bar Boulud, Lincoln Ristorante, Shun Lee Café, The Leopard at Des Artistes and Picholine, the West Side is as solid as any other section of the city in good restaurants.  Among the latter is Telepan, Bill Telepan’s exceptionally friendly restaurant that opened ten years ago near Lincoln Center.
    Telepan (below) had learned his craft at the three-star Alain Chapel near Lyons, then, back I the USA, at Le Cirque, Le Bernardin and Gotham Bar & Grill in New York, making his own rep at Judson Grill.  (He also has a new casual TriBeCa eatery named Telepan Local.)  With the kind of training he’s had, his grounding in French haute cuisine has made him one of the city’s most respected chefs, and his diligence has paid off with an intensely loyal crowd.
    The two dining rooms could hardly be lovelier, the summery pale green  walls, light wood floors, white tablecloths and wall-sized artwork of ripe fruits all work with the convivial lighting of the place (though for some reason, around 8 PM someone unnecessarily flicks on a dimmer) to buoy people’s spirits, and the sound level is very civilized for conversation. Waiters are nicely dressed, the greeting at the door is cheery, and the pacing of the meal is calmly professional.
      It is a cliché to say that Telepan is an “adults’ restaurant,” but with so many places now trying to appeal to a clientele more interested in the drinks and the vibe than the food and the enjoyment of an evening, it’s worth using the term here.
    Nothing on the menu makes you guess at what it really is; everything instead reads as if the ingredients came before the conception.  Pea pancakes ($23) with wild mushrooms and pea agnolotti were a simple, wonderful congregation of spring vegetables, while chilled pea soup ($14) with smoked pine nuts and herbed crème fraîche shows that when you’ve got great peas for so short a time, might as well flaunt them.  Lusty lamb sausage ($18) comes with fava beans and arugula with a touch of fresh oregano.
    Lobster bolognese—I’m not sure why it’s called bolognese—is a sterling example of Telepan’s refined taste and process: the lobster meat is melded with spaghetti, light herbs and a sprightly shallot-garlic-tomato broth. (It’s a pricey dish at $32 and shouldn’t add $5 to the four-course $85 tasting menu.)  Telepan’s is not an Italian restaurant but a whole lot of stultified Italian eateries around town could learn much from his gemelli di maiale ($28) with pork sausage, robiola cheese, pancetta bacon and greens.
    Among the main courses, I most enjoyed a fine snowy halibut ($40) with more spring vegetables, hash brown and garlicky ramps brown butter, and in a city with plenty of good pig dishes, Telepan’s Heritage pork “toscano-style”  ($35) with a white bean confit and wilted frisée is one of the best.  If possible, the seared duck breast ($38) with confited leg, rhubarb, farro grain, watercress salad and the fine addition of duck foie gras is the winner among all the entrees—as succulent and meaty and perfectly cooked as any duck I’ve ever enjoyed.
       Veteran patîssière Larissa Raphael is in lock step with Telepan’s culinary style, offering up carefully modulated tradition with bright new ideas, evident in her pineapple upside down cake ($13) with a terrific brown sugar financier and coconut ice cream, her buttermilk panna cotta ($14) with colorful rhubarb sorbet, rhubarb soup, and sesame seed tuile, and her chocolate crème brûlée ($15) with chocolate babka bites is tantalizingly rich.  If you order right after you finish your main course, a ten-minute wait for freshly baked pecan madeleines is worth it.  I also enjoyed the four well-selected artisanal American cheeses offered ($22).
    Sommelier Sam Clifton does not just stock a well-balanced wine cellar but does so, he says, by adding a “seasonal element to better complement our food and we promote the concept of drinking and eating in season.”
    If Telepan is full just about every night of the week it is not simply because it gets a pre-Lincoln Center or Beacon Theater crowd but because the people who dine here truly love the restaurant and have come to know what they like and what Bill Telepan and his staff consistently provide, which is first-rate, personalized food and civility.  I used to like Telepan very much, but now I love it more than ever, and think it ranks with the very best in New York.

Wednesday to Friday; BRUNCH 
Saturday  & Sunday; DINNER nightly





By Mort Hochstein

    I heard a wine speech the other day unlike anything I'd heard before.
    I was conducting my annual hunt  for white wines for summer drinking and my  research this time around embraced  the vineyards of Spain and Crete.
    The speaker, representing the wines of Rueda, a vineyard area 105 miles northwest of Madrid, described them  as “one and done, ” meaning  the wines would be best forgotten after one year from bottling.  It's not the sort of comment you hear from winemakers who more normally stress ageabiliy.  The speaker was Michael Schachner, who covers Spain and South America for Wine Enthusiast.
    Verdejo (right), a grape unique to the region,  yields wines  that make for  good quaffing, inexpensive and unchallenging.  Though many of us at the tasting thought Viño Verde was Spain's best-selling white wine, we were  surprised to learn that Rueda is actually the nation's favorite white. These are wines that retail in the single digit  range up through the $20 level.
       There are exceptions to the “one and done” idea.   The majority of the Rueda's are fermented and aged in steel vats, and the few that go into wood will have a longer shelf life  as well as a higher, but still moderate price tag. The wines have a unique flavor, coming from 
soil that is rich in calcium and magnesium, stony but easy to farm, with good ventilation and draining, and limestone outcrops on the hilltops. The common definer is good acidity and minerality, cloaked in citrus scents and flavors.  The fruitiness  sometimes carries a tinge of bitterness  which gives the wine even more distinctive  character.

    One of my  favorites was also the simplest, Gorgorito (left) from Bodegas Copaboca ($10.99),  almost transparently glass-like in color, with hints of lemon and grapefruit on the nose, nicely balanced with delightful minerality. Light in body and alcohol, it is the very model of a summer white.
     Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are relative newcomers to Rueda and are often blended with Verdejo. A growing number of wineries now produce barrel-fermented white wine, although new barrels are seldom used. Castelo de Medina showed as a most pleasant Verdejo ($18) with a bigger body than the norm, which had more than a year of aging before being bottled. Labels to seek out are  the lemony Montespina Sauvignon Blanc ($12)  and Campo Alegre, the most expensive of the lot I tasted at $30.




Wine Column Sponsored by Banfi Vintners

Summering with Old Friends

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

Warm weather calls for simple and refreshing wines; light, breezy, uncomplicated yet satisfying and well made.  In the summer my wine selections are what I like to refer to as “no brainers,” clear and easy choices.  Earlier this season we talked about some of my favorites from Tuscany’s coastline and southern hills.  Recently I’ve also gone back to a few favorites especially when company shows up; these wines are long familiar to the wine world, but no less interesting for it. 
    The first is Fontana Candida Frascati.  This wine hails from just south of Rome, where summers can be much like ours on the east coast of the US – sunny and sultry. Likewise, the cuisine of Rome is full of pepper and spice, sharp pronounced flavors that might clash with a heartier red but find the perfect foil in a flavorful, fruit forward white.  The name Fontana Candida takes its name from an abundant fountain in the area, and appropriately so.  For years now, this pristine winery has been turning out a fountain of very good wine, the kind that charms visitors to the Eternal City and brings alive the memories back home.  Like many of my fellow Italians, it is straight forward and wears its heart on its sleeve.  It is consistently good, always refreshing, and quintessentially satisfying.
    Another blast from the past is Bolla, and they offer two of my summer sippers.  Soave long ago became synonymous with Bolla, and Soave Bolla became synonymous with white wine.  To many Americans, Bolla was the first sip of sophistication, a white wine with noble European heritage yet appealing to our new world lifestyle in its breezy way.  Fish, pasta, barbecued chicken, Caesar salad, you name it, Soave Bolla goes with it.  The name seemed to have been overshadowed for a little while, but recently my family took a direct interest in resurrecting the wine’s image and – most especially – its quality, and the results are showing quite nicely in the glass this hot summer.
    Another fun summer entry from Bolla is their Bardolino, somewhat of a sleeper.  Younger sibling to the more popular Valpolicella in the heirarchy of Veronese wines, Bardolino comes from a neighboring town and is known for making lighter, less complex wines – which in my book is good for summer.  Sipping a glassful of chilled Bolla Bardolino is like diving into a bowl of icy cherries.  It feels so right with barbecue, be it flank steak and London broil or ribs and burgers, though its supple tannins and gentle acidity make it a refreshing fit for poolside as well.          Well, right now the kids are in camp and I’ve got a book calling from my beach chair – making the choice of which of my favorite wines to choose the hardest decision of the day.  Pretty cool.

Wines for a Mid-Summer’s Night – or Day:

Fontana Candida Frascati – This ancient wine, born in the Roman hills, has deservedly been called "the wine of popes and of the people." Fontana Candida Frascati exhibits a delicate fragrance of wildflowers with a hint of Golden Delicious apples. This wine is refreshing and lively in character. Dry, elegant and soft with notes of peach and almond on the finish.  

Bolla Soave – This wine is pale yellow in color with green nuances and has aromas of melon, ripe apple and pear. Trebbiano di Soave grapes add body and complexity. The finish is crisp and balanced.  

Bolla Bardolino - The wine is bright ruby red with hints of black cherry. In the mouth, the wine is soft and fruit-forward, followed by a bright and fresh finish. To be served young.  


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



"Frankly, all you’d have to tell me about a restaurant to get me in the door would be `duck-fat fried rice.' How could it not be delicious?"—Leslie Brenner, Dallas Morning News (June 4).



British 15-year-old Digby Elliott-Berry, whose family is in the brewery business, began producing his own triple-distilled juniper- and vanilla-nosed gin with his  older brother and two sisters. "I am a thrill seeker and I look forward to playing a bigger role as soon as possible," said the underage-for-drinking inventor, who named his distillation Sibling Gin, launched in Gloucestershire last week with a huge gin-and-tonic party.



 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." 

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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