Virtual Gourmet

  October 26,  2014                                                                                             NEWSLETTER

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Una O'Connor and Claude Rains in "The Invisible Man" (1933)



By Brian Freedman


By John Mariani

By John Mariani



Brian Freedman

    It was, in the truest sense of the phrase, an offer I couldn’t refuse.  I had been hired to host a wine lunch last October for the National Italian American Foundation during their gala weekend in Washington by my friends and colleagues Patrizia Marin and Valentino Viloni, who specialize in working with Italian wine producers. After lunch, Valentino asked me when I’d be in Italy next. I had no idea, I told him, but I’d love to get there soon.

    Before the end of that evening, I had agreed to spend the month of June at his family’s summer home in Puglia. Never mind that my wife was pregnant with our second child and that we already had a three-year-old girl. Never mind that we’d never been to Puglia. Or that neither one of us spoke Italian. The opportunity to spend a month in Italy was too tempting for us to ever allow minor concerns like work or normal grown-up responsibilities get in our way.
         It turned out to be one of the best decisions my wife and I have ever made. The house, with sweeping views of the Ionian Sea and stunning beaches a quick walk from our front gate, was in the town of Torre Colimena, a quiet seaside destination for summering Italians from all over the country. And while there wasn’t much going on when we arrived on June 3rd--most of the shops and restaurants were just starting to open for the season--the town was in full swing by the second week, and from the Deja Vu Café with its excellent espresso to the Casa di Formaggio, from Ziu Belo Pizzeria to Macelleria da Enzo Fanuli and more, it proved to be an ideal base from which to explore all that Puglia has to offer.             And there is plenty of that, to be sure. Indeed, no other region of Italy has garnered quite so much adoring American press recently about its marked uptick in popularity among travelers. And while the more familiar Tuscany-Rome-Venice trifecta promises to maintain their primacy among first-time visitors, Puglia is bursting with its own unique charms, and enough of them to make it a part of the country that I strongly suspect will become a major international destination in its own right.
       The food and the wine are major contributors to its appeal. And while the great local grape varieties are perhaps less familiar to American consumers, Primitivo and Negroamaro promise to gain in popularity once they become better known. The spice and friendly fruit of the former and the depth and richness of the latter are well suited to the American palate and phenomenal, whether vinified as reds or rosati, with Puglian food.
Negroamaro Wine Festival, held annually in the bustling city of Brindisi, is occasion enough to warrant planning a trip to Puglia around its schedule, spread out over a week in June. Much of the city center is transformed into a huge open-air gala, replete with wine and food stands on the sidewalks, music and activities, and even, this past year, a performance by Kool and the Gang to wrap it all up.
      In addition to Brindisi, make sure to visit Lecce, a city of nearly 100,000 residents that, with its museums, exceptionally urbane vibe and excellent restaurants, more than earns its nickname, the Florence of the South. Over the course of our month in Puglia, we ventured there three separate times, and each resulted in the discovery of another side of this exceptionally beautiful and friendly city.
Alle Due Corti provided one of our most memorable meals. The restaurant features the classics of the region prepared with the careful technique of a highly accomplished chef, and the result is stunning. Ciceri e trio (left), a dish composed of boiled and fried pasta whose sauce is thickened with the starch from cooked chickpeas, is a prime example of the heights that the cuisine here can achieve.    
Doppiozero is not only known as home to one of the great bars of the country, but also features a menu that modernizes Puglian food without losing its soul. All’Ombra dell Barocco allows guests to enjoy their meal either inside, beneath stone arches, or outside in the cafe. We opted for the café--it was warm and sunny, as it was most of the time in June--and we were not disappointed. Frisa leccese multicereali, like a bruschetta on steroids but built on a base of rehydrated dried multigrain bread, is worth the trip by itself, as is so much of the rest of the menu. And, since this is Italy, no meal--or moment, for that matter--is complete without a scoop or three of gelato. Crem, a cheery Lecce storefront, is home to some of the best we tasted the entire month.
        Time and again, we found ourselves stunned to silence by a particularly wonderful bite of food. At Panificio Due Emme in the lovely town of Laterza, hearty, deeply soulful breads are baked the old-fashioned way (right): A fire is built in a stone hearth with wood, olive-tree clippings, and, when in season, apricot stones and almond shells, allowed to burn until it consumes itself, and then the ashes are swept out. Doughs are then placed right on the scorching stone, and the ambient heat of the oven cooks it all through. The result is a bread so hearty, so protected by its thick crust, that you can let it sit on the counter for a week before cutting into it without losing any of its texture. Not that you’d want to, of course. The aroma alone guarantees that you’ll tuck into it before you even get home. Or, rather, before you leave the shop.      

Laterza in its entirety is an excellent destination. Thanks to my new friend Monica Caradonna of Cantine Due Palme, we were fortunate enough to spend a day in Laterza with her, Mayor Gianfranco Lopane, and a phenomenal entourage, including Silvana Caldarazza, a translator who also rendered into English the book “Like A Song of Beauty…,” about the beautiful Santuario Mater Domini in Laterza.
         Naturalists will adore La Gravina di Laterza , a sweeping gorge lovingly referred to as the Grand Canyon of Italy; foodies will swoon over the magic woven in the kitchen at
Trattoria del Purgatorio--the polpette were among the best I’ve tasted, and chicorelle con fave bianche, one of many memorable chicory dishes we enjoyed in Puglia, was transporting. Art lovers should make a visit for the famous blue-and-white ceramics that are perfected here at venues like SuMo Maioliche d’Arte, the level of detail breathtaking; and the Piazza Spagnola, a hidden gem of frescoes hundreds of years old.
Located in the heel of the Italian boot, Puglia boasts countless beaches and beachfront communities, seemingly all of them pedestrian friendly and lined with cafés and restaurants  specializing in the sort of seafood that this part of Italy is famous for. Santa Maria di Leuca (left), the very bottom of the heel, is a breathtaking seascape with gorgeous grottoes that are easily visited by booking an inexpensive ticket (15 euros for adults) on one of the tour boats that leave the port regularly.
       If you do venture there and want to stay overnight, consider Villa Arditi, an agriturismo run by Francesco Arditi of a noble family. He is a young man of ambition and vision, and the work he has done transforming his family’s villa and grounds in nearby Presicce is remarkable.
      Further north in Puglia, towns like Gallipoli, Porto Cesareo, Ostuni, Otranto, and more are absolutely worth seeking out. And the good news is that the magnificent seafood of the region is available everywhere. Osteria Sud e Terre Lontane in Avetrana, for example, prepared a dish  I still dream about months later: spaghetti glistening with a crab-infused tomato sauce. Accompanied by some of the great local olive oil and washed down with a carafe of rosato, it’s pretty much perfect.
       As for that olive oil, it is more or less guaranteed to ruin you forever.  I have spent every day since returning to Philadelphia as an insufferable olive oil snob, glaring hatefully at the oversized bottle of Bertoli on our kitchen counter. It’s just what happens when you get so spoiled with the good Puglian oils.  
Olive trees cover a significant portion of the land here. As you drive along at dusk, the sunlight slashes against the silvery leaves of the olive trees (right) and casts the entire landscape into a distinctly silver-toned glow. And the olive oil itself is amazing. Producers like Masseria Guidara and L’Acropoli di Oliva are crafting extra virgin olive oils as profound as the most accomplished wines. Le Ferre has won me over with its particularly delicious infused olive oils. Interestingly, you’re generally not offered olive oil to dip your bread into, and it was only at L’Acropli di Oliva that it was explained why: Because the local bread, so hearty and full of character itself, will overwhelm the oil, which is better suited to anointing more delicate dishes instead.
          The wines of the region are every bit as delicious, and I’ve rarely had so many great wines for such fair prices. The local markets sell nice bottles for around $7 each, and if you want to go just a bit higher, you can really taste something special. Over the course of our stay in Puglia, I toured and tasted at Cantine Due Palme, Cantele, Masseria Li Veli, and Gianfranco Fino, all of which were spectacular. From value-priced bottles to pricier ones that have been garnered with awards all over the world, they embody exactly what makes Puglian wine so special, as does the Cantine Risveglio “72100” Negroamaro: expressiveness, terroir specificity, and food friendliness, as well as a sense of exuberance that demands a second glass, and then a third,  let’s be honest here, a fourth, as long as you’re not driving.

       At the end of each day, it was nothing short of magic to drive back to our home in Torre Colimena, and every time we came through the roundabout in our little Fiat Panda and glimpsed the sea stretching out in front of us, and listened to the whisper of the olive trees as we sped on past, we were washed over by a perhaps paradoxical sense of calm and excitement: We were home, and giddy to be able to call this home for an entire month.

For a very good insight and authentic recipes for Puglian cuisine, The Puglian Cookbook by Viktorija Todorovska (whose The Sardinian Cookbook was a finalist for an IACP award last year) is an excellent resource.--John Mariani



By John Mariani


1356 1st Avenue (near 73rd Street)


    For three decades Petaluma in the Yorkville section of Manhattan’s Upper East Side was a dependable, consistent, and always very popular neighborhood Mediterranean restaurant with a name derived from a city in California.  Back then California cuisine was all the rage, and the restaurant had the open kitchen requisite at the time.
    After being closed for a couple of years, the space was  bought and redecorated this past summer by the Line Group, which also operates Sons of Essex and The Raven.   They kept the original name, and people responded favorably from the day it re-opened.
     The room still has the lineaments of the original, spruced up now, with a front café and bar with high-top tables and a main dining area done with leather banquettes, patterned tile work, bare tables, a wall of mirrors, and a fireplace set with tall glowing candles; the kitchen has been completely recast with
marble countertops.
    The owners have brought in Executive Chef C.J. Bivona, who formerly worked at Miami’s acclaimed Yard Bird Southern Table & Grill, and his preference for gutsy, hearty, full-flavored Italian food is evidenced in every corner of the menu.  There are a lot of standard dishes everyone expects in this neck of the woods, and with the wood-fired pizzas and a roaring rotisserie, the kitchen is put the test at peak hours, though the wait staff tries mightily to keep up.
    I ordered a pizza with fried eggplant, mozzarella and basil ($19), and its crust was both pliant and crisp, the sweet eggplant melding well with the fresh cheese. 
    All the pastas are housemade, which makes them easy to under- or overcook.  Sadly, some seem to sit a little long in the kitchen and may be tepid upon arrival at the table.  The best, however, was a terrific take on classic spaghetti carbonara ($19), here made with chubby Asian udon noodles, poached egg, peas, and black pepper (below) well married in a luscious novel way.  Also excellent was a beautifully cooked, tender risotto—there’s a different one each day at market price. Nonna’s Fried Pasta, made from pan-seared angel’s hair pasta with meatballs, was a pleasing, homey recipe that in fact was based on that of Bivona’s own grandmother.
    Gnocchi “Bolognese” ($23) was compromised by being both lukewarm, and, though the menu indicated it was cooked  with “manzo croccante” (crispy beef), the potato dough dumplings themselves were chewy and tough.
    I was impressed with every one of the main courses I tried, beginning with an impeccably cooked branzino, roasted whole on the bone, served with bitter greens and charred lemon (market price), each element ideal for bringing out the flavors of the meaty fish.  One could hardly improve on the roasted chicken with a roasted tomato chimichurri ($26) and rich garlic jus, and a churrasco skirt steak with more chimichurri ($26) had the right chewiness and an eyebrow-raising heat.  Porchetta, now become somewhat trendy in New York, is often dry and made too far in advance, but at Petaluma, the kitchen handles this rolled pig, with succotash, charred scallions and a fine romesco sauce ($29), with great aplomb, the skin crackling, the thickness of inner fat intact, and the meat truly juicy.
   By all means share a dessert—perhaps the very good warm chocolate cake or the affogato of gelato with unsweetened espresso poured over it.  The sorbetti here are really intense and served at just the right texture.  There’s also a Nutella chocolate pizza offered ($12).
    The wine list has a judicious 75 labels, just right for this size restaurant, with 20 available by the glass.  Most are Italian but some are Italian varietals made in California.
    Which in a way brings Petaluma full circle, drawing on a creditable history of how Italian food in this country was in fact improved back in the ‘80s by California culinary techniques.  It’s as if the doors had never really closed. 

Petaluma is located at 1356 1st Avenue (near 73rd Street); 212-772-8800; Open for lunch and dinner daily, brunch on weekends;  A four-course meal is offered at $64. 






By John Mariani

                                                                                                        The City of Bordeaux  

Do not look for mountains or valleys in Bordeaux. Do not look for rich red earth or vast forests.  And don’t look for spa resorts with Olympic-size swimming pools and cabanas.  That may be all well and good for Napa Valley or the hills of Tuscany or the stunning mountains along the Rhine, but Bordeaux has its own virtues: castles and chateaux of great beauty, impeccably maintained vineyards on gravelly soil, and some superb restaurants.
    The fact that you can easily arrange to visit the great wine estates of Bordeaux while staying in some sumptuous nearby hotels makes this area of southwest France one of the most soul- and appetite-satisfying vineyard regions in the world.  Indeed, most chateaux are open to the public, as long as you write ahead. (To obtain names and addresses, contact the Bordeaux Wine Bureau in NYC; 212-477-9800.)
    It is a huge area of more than 280,000 acres of vineyards, with 22,000 vineyard proprietors and 7,000 châteaux, or domaines, producing 800 million bottles of wine annually—compared with less than 36 million produced in the far smaller region of Burgundy.  Way back in 1855 the wine merchants of Bordeaux created a classification of the region’s very finest estates of the Médoc, Sauternes, and Barsac regions, based on the consistently high prices their wines sold for over the decades.  These were broken down into quality categories called “crus” (growths), which in Bordeaux referred to an estate. Thus, there were Premier Crus (First Growths), Deuxièmes Crus (Second Growths), and on down to Cinquièmes Crus (Fifth Growths). The wines of Graves and St. Émilion were also classified; those of Pomerol and other regions were not. One St. Émilion wine, Château Haut-Brion, was listed under the Premier Cru appellation.  In 1973, one wine of the Médoc, Château Mouton-Rothschild, was awarded First Growth status, but no other estate has succeeded in elevating its status since 1855. 
Many of the classified crus are set on exquisite properties, usually home to their proprietors, with glorious manicured lawns and pebbly walkways leading to clear-cut vineyards ringed with roses. (If a pestilence is about to hit the vineyards, roses will catch it first and give the vineyard workers advance notice).  Château Margaux (right), for instance, is a butter-yellow 1810 Neo-Palladian edifice designed by architect Louis Combes for the Marquis de la Colonilla. It has been called “The Versailles of the Médoc” and since 1946 has been listed as an “historic monument” of France.
     The side effect is that visitors to the region are welcomed with open arms, by both the restaurants and the estates, which wouldn’t mind at all if you go home with several cases of their wines.  At Château Giscours (a Third Growth), which dates back to the 14th century, you may not only visit, you may also dine in their splendid restaurant with the estate’s enologist, who will explain the wines you are drinking.  There are also beautiful banquet rooms available for meetings and receptions.
     The region, cut through by the Gironde River, which irrigates all the vineyards, also has some lovely places to stay while visiting the wineries.  The city of Bordeaux has become a much livelier place than it used to be, now with 15 museums, including the Bordeaux Wine Museum, and beautiful squares and mansions that date back to the time of Victor Hugo, who was a member of the National Assembly here.
The city has many fine restaurants—including three with Michelin stars.  Le Chapon Fin (left), with its fanciful fin-de-siècle décor, opened in 1823 and still keeps a classic Bordelais menu, with plenty of foie gras, roast squab, and a renowned roast lamb with sage butter.  In warm weather take a table on the terrace of the more modern Pavillon des Boulevard, known for its delicious lobster in chestnut cream.  And the small, intimate Jean Ramet, on the river’s bank, is always populated with estate owners and merchants who come for the namesake chef’s refined regional cooking, like foie gras with candied dates and orange. For something more casual, the rustic bistro Tupiña cooks many of its dishes over an open fire fueled by grape vines.

In the village of Pauillac there is the spectacular 17th century Château Cordeillan Bages (below), once a Carthusian monastery, with 25 rooms and 4 suites, and a Michelin two-star restaurant that serves cuisine of great finesse, from eggplant marinated in olive oil with langoustines with lemon-thyme, and rack of lamb with a fricassée of vegetables. In St. Émilion the place to stay is the Hostellerie de Plaisance, restored to pristine 18th century grandeur.
    With 7,000 châteaux to see, visiting Bordeaux may take a while.  But the pleasures of visiting once can only serve to bring you back again, wondering what wonderful wine you may have missed and what charming chateaux you haven’t seen.





In D.C., at Second State restaurant the ice cubes are "handcrafted,"
so if you want your cocktail on the rocks,  that will
cost you $1 extra.



 "The corn-fed, dry-aged Nebraskan rib-eye, with a carbon footprint big enough to make a climate-change denier horny, is bloody marvellous: rich, deep, earthy, with that dense tang that comes with proper hanging. And at £100 a kilo it bloody well should be. At that price they should lead the damn animal into the restaurant and install it under the table so it can pleasure me while I eat." —Jay Raynor, “Beast,” The Guardian (Oct. 19, 2014).


Wine Column Sponsored by Banfi Vintners

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

Halloween is almost here!  Whether you will be dressing up or dressing down this year, ringing doorbells or answering them, leave most of the candy for the kids but make sure you have your own tricks and treats on hand.
    Inevitably, there will be candy around the house, be it from your own trick-or-treaters, leftovers from the unpredictable costumed traffic at the front door, or the ambitiously planned Halloween party.  When it comes to the usual assortment of treats, savory or sweet, don’t forget the basics of wine pairing!   You will want to have some matches that highlight contrasting flavors, others that bring two similar qualities together to intensify a flavor.  Here are some fun wines to consider:

Maschio Prosecco Brut (left) is a great all-around choice to have on hand – a delightful, crisp, gently sparkling wine, this will help refresh the palate worn on anything from Twizzlers to candy corn.  Will go nicely with salted popcorn and pretzels too! 

Pacific Rim “Solstice Vineyard” Riesling has a wonderful dry feel, with a hint of tangerine on the finish after a nice hit of peach, apple and floral flavors.  Could be an interesting match to the rainbow flavor of Chuckles candies, or contrast to the coconut intensity of Mounds bars and Almond Joy. 

Luna Mater Frascati Superiore (right) will go great with caramel flavors of butterscotch candies and toffee, such as Mary Janes, Twix, and even Butterfingers.  You can also enjoy this with savories such as grilled salmon or fried chicken for dinner. 

I Saltari Amarone  is a great example of the juicy flavors of Verona’s classic wine made from carefully dried grapes, almost raisiny in character.  Its berry and jammy flavors are balanced by hints of spice that will make it click with classics like Snickers, Kit Kats, and Nestle Crunch. It will also go quite well with barbecued steak or burgers.

And if you want to send your adult trick-or-treaters home with an appropriate treat of their own, consider filling their goody bags with one or two 187ml single-serve bottles.  You can find these cuties from any of the following, usually sold in 4-bottle carry packs:

Riunite Lambrusco, Bianco, Rosato, D’Oro and other flavors.

Bolla Valpolicella, Soave, Chianti, Pinot Grigio and Merlot.

Walnut Crest Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Rosa Regale in the same pretty decanter bottle as the full size package, and an outrageous match to anything made with dark chocolate!

Whichever treats you choose, have a happy and safe Halloween.

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



I'm proud and happy to announce that my new book, The Hound in Heaven (21st Century Lion Books), has just been published through Amazon and Kindle.  It is a Christmas novella, and for anyone who loves dogs, Christmas, romance, inspiration, even the supernatural, I hope you'll find this to be a treasured  favorite. The story concerns how, after a New England teacher, his wife and their two daughters adopt a stray puppy found in their barn in northern Maine, their lives seem full of promise. But when tragedy strikes, their wonderful dog Lazarus and the spirit of Christmas are the only things that may bring back his master back from the edge of despair.

“What a huge surprise turn this story took! I was completely stunned! I truly enjoyed this book and its message.” – Actress Ali MacGraw

“He had me at Page One. The amount of heart, human insight, soul searching, and deft literary strength that John Mariani pours into this airtight novella is vertigo-inducing. Perhaps ‘wow’ would be the best comment.” – James Dalessandro, author of Bohemian Heart and 1906.

“John Mariani’s Hound in Heaven starts with a well-painted portrayal of an American family, along with the requisite dog. A surprise event flips the action of the novel and captures us for a voyage leading to a hopeful and heart-warming message. A page turning, one sitting read, it’s the perfect antidote for the winter and promotion of holiday celebration.” – Ann Pearlman, author of The Christmas Cookie Club and A Gift for my Sister.

“John Mariani’s concise, achingly beautiful novella pulls a literary rabbit out of a hat – a mash-up of the cosmic and the intimate, the tragic and the heart-warming – a Christmas tale for all ages, and all faiths. Read it to your children, read it to yourself… but read it. Early and often. Highly recommended.” – Jay Bonansinga, New York Times bestselling author of Pinkerton’s War, The Sinking of The Eastland, and The Walking Dead: The Road To Woodbury.

“Amazing things happen when you open your heart to an animal. The Hound in Heaven delivers a powerful story of healing that is forged in the spiritual relationship between a man and his best friend. The book brings a message of hope that can enrich our images of family, love, and loss.” – Dr. Barbara Royal, author of The Royal Treatment.

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: TAOS, NM; The new Park Hyatt Vienna.

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,  Misha Mariani, John A. Curtas, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Andrew Chalk,  Dotty Griffith and Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographers: Galina Dargery,  Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.

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© copyright John Mariani 2014