Virtual Gourmet

  JUNE 21,  2015                                                                                             NEWSLETTER




By John A. Curtas

By John Mariani


Via Quadronno and Marta
By John Mariani




By John A. Curtas

    Yee ha! Vegas is back, baby, with a vengeance, and the doldrums of 2009-2014 are now as forgotten as last night’s losing streak at the craps table. You can see it in the faces of waiters; you can feel it in the upbeat attitudes of the staffs in hotels all around town. Dining rooms are full, check averages are up, and bargains are getting tougher to find than a loose slot machine. Las Vegas Restaurant Revolution 3.0 (the first two versions rolled out in 1998 and 2005) may be a bit more modest in scope, but it’s just as tasty, with big-hitter chefs expanding their repertoires without diluting their brands. Here are the big three, all opened within the past nine months.  

Aria Hotel and Casino
3730 Las Vegas Blvd. South

    French bistros and brasseries are about as hip as a dickey, but in the hands of Michael Mina (below) and Chef de Cuisine Joshua Smith the classic and time-worn suddenly seems as fresh and effervescent as the rosé champagne you will be offered here to begin your meal. Bardot Brasserie is resolutely a copy of a Parisian brasserie, with lots of traditional-yet-modernized bistro recipes thrown in for good measure. No matter what you call it, Mina and Smith’s cooking has had this place packed from day one.
       All bistro cooking is based on classics like omelet aux fines herbes, steak frites and croque Monsieur or Madame. Here, each of these (along with a superb soup à l’oignon gratinée and steak tartare) are done with top-shelf ingredients and attention to detail you usually don’t find with this type of cooking. The croque Madame starts with good brioche toast, upon which lightly cured, not-too-thinly-sliced French ham is placed, along with some Gruyere that melts into that soft, eggy bread, the whole then bathed in a proper Mornay sauce that emits the subtle creamy-silky tang of a cheesy béchamel. Screw up any one of these ingredients and you have a lousy ham and cheese sandwich; pay close attention to each and you have a thing of beauty.
    Smith’s frisée aux lardons salade is nothing short of textbook perfect, and entrees – from skate wing to roast chicken – remind you, with every bite, why this food has again become so popular. Dishes like foie gras parfait, Parisian gnocchi and moules marinières, duck wings Maltaise, and escargots Bardot (encased in puff pastry with Chartreuse butter) are as much a “must-try” as a show-stopping lobster Thermidor, bathed in a brandy cream and topped with an ethereally rich Béarnaise sauce – a dish at once a throwback and emblematic of Vegas’s regained, Bacchanalian swagger.
    The dining room also hits all the right notes, carried through the glass, wood and polished metal theme as if it were lifted straight from the Left Bank. There are the obligatory cocktails ($12) and a special list of four rosé wines by the glass that go perfectly with this food.
    More than a few friends have asked me how BB compares with db Brasserie, the other relatively new French restaurant in Vegas with a similar concept. Summoning my most diplomatic demeanor (something at odds with my personality, generally), all I can say is Daniel Boulud’s brasserie feels like a corporate calculation, made to feature the “best hits” of his other restaurants. As such, it’s always lacked a theme and suffers for it. (He should’ve had the guts to go full-offal, à la Bar Boulud in NYC, and feature his panoply of sausages and cured meats, but the bean counters said otherwise.) Mina, on the other hand, made the commitment to go balls-to-the-wall bistro here, and make these cuisine classique recipes sing with their own special tweaks and twists, and, because of it, the passion behind these plates is palpable.

Hors d’oeuvres $14-$27 (for the charcuterie platter), with soups and salads $12-$18, and mains $24-$48 (for the lobster Thermidor).

SLS Hotel
2535 Las Vegas Boulevard South

    Calling Bazaar Meat a good steakhouse is like calling Liz Taylor just another pretty face. What it is is a meat emporium, pure and simple, featuring the best meat on the hoof money can buy. Las Vegas may not be the steakhouse capital of the world, but it runs a close second to the Big Apple, and with José Andrés’ entry into the fray (this is his third Las Vegas restaurant) things have gotten a lot beefier, with an equal amount of pulchritudinous pig thrown in to get your heart beating faster.
      Everyone begins with Jamón Iberico de Bellota (below), the creamy, gamey and dense Spanish ham that is truly the ham all hams want to be. That is probably the easiest decision you’re going to make as you tackle the two-sided plastic board of the dauntingly large menu – one side comprised of  appetizers, small bites, carpaccios and other beginnings, while the other is all about the big-ticket items. But it’s no understatement to say you could comprise an entire feast from the giant pork skin chicharron, croquetas de pollo (chicken-béchamel fritters that come stuffed in a little shoe), tiny Reuben sandwiches encased in micro-thin, crispy “air bread,” and a couple of tartares: the table-side tossed classic, and the beefsteak tomato, which is a triumph of trompe l’oeil ingenuity. In fact, the tomato tartare might be the most jaw-dropping thing on the menu; it resembles raw chopped meat, but surprises the palate with a burst of sweet and acidic tomato ripeness – the perfect expression of summer eating.
      But sticking to the first side of the menu means you’d miss out on half the fun, such as bison carpaccio or the giant spiral of butifarra Catalan-style sausage – too much for two, but just the right nibble for a table of hungry fressers. The conceit of this menu is you can go big or small, raw or cooked, large-format or tiny tapas, depending on your mood and/or the size of your party. It’s really quite ingenious on Andrés’ part to re-invent the American steakhouse as a Spanish food hall, but as huge as the enterprise is (360 seats), there’s an intimacy to the space (and a softness to the lighting) that blunts any sense you’re in a head-em-up-and-move-em-out corporate cattle call.
     Another stroke of brilliance is packing a meat-obsessed menu with all sorts of top-notch vegetarian and seafood items. Whether it’s a roasted Padron pepper or a cauliflower “steak” with pine nuts and preserved lemon, or drop-your-fork-delicious Brussels sprouts “petals” with “lemon air,” you’ll find plenty of antioxidants to applaud without getting close to any dead animal flesh.
    Pescatarians won’t complain either, since the raw bar here puts out the sweetest clams this side of Nantucket – these bathed in leche de tigre (tiger milk) – as well as top-shelf oysters, either raw, grilled or smoked.
    Now, for the show stoppers.  As good as the oak-grilled, bone-in, rib eye steaks are (and the priced-by-the-pound Washugyu Ranch wagyu/Angus and the Harris Ranch Angus are all you could want in a piece of beef), it is the suckling pig that elicits the most huzzahs as it is paraded through the dining room. A whole one (around ten pounds) will set you back $520, but is more than enough for a table of 6-8. The good news is $125 will bring a quarter of one of these beauties to your two-top, and will have both of you swooning over the meat-candy quality of the crispy-sweet skin, and the melt-in-your-mouth quality of the flesh.
    Andrés’ chateaubriand is old school meat eating at its best, as he reinvigorates this warhorse by pairing it with a classic Périgord sauce that would pass muster in any high-falutin’ frog pond. No self-respecting steakhouse is without its Japanese wagyu/Kobe options these days, and the Hyogo Prefecture Eye of the Rib is requisitely fatty and rich, which you will have to be to afford it ($100 for four ounces).
    There’s always braised lamb neck with fried oysters and oyster “catsup,” and a Tortilla Sacromonte egg omelet with kidneys, sweetbreads, and marrow, which may be the last word in offal edibles.
    After all that, desserts may seem like overkill, but you really shouldn’t miss the sinful things this kitchen does with foie gras – putting it between two house-made graham crackers in “José’s s’mores,” or serving a soupçon of sweet and savory foie gras soup with corn espuma (foam), or  yet another espuma of succulent duck organ, paired with peanut butter and honey in something called “Foieffle” – none of which is listed as a dessert, but all of which should be. If you still have a hankering for something sweet after all that, then you’re a better man than I am.

Starter courses and small bites $8-$32. Steaks from $38 to $80/lb. for the Wagyu/Angus cuts, with sides and vegetables all in the $10-$15 range.

Bellagio Hotel and Casino
3600 Las Vegas Boulevard South

    Julian Serrano (below) may not be a Las Vegas native, but after seventeen years here, we pretty much claim him as our own, since he is, by far, our best and most successful local chef. He is also one of the very few name chefs who actually live and work in the city full-time.  His Picasso continues to dazzle as much as it did on opening night in 1998, and his namesake restaurant – Julian Serrano in the Aria Hotel – brings forth the flavors of his homeland and shows his range as both a chef and restaurateur. It certainly qualifies as one of the best Spanish restaurants in America, and can go toe to toe with Jaleo down the street for the best traditional or modern tapas in town.  Serrano – unlike many lesser chefs and most famous ones, which would include both Michael Mina and Jose Andrés – is a constant presence in both restaurants, and he toggles between them every night they’re open, checking on the kitchen and guests without breaking a sweat.
    With the opening of Lago by Julian Serrano, he has decided to leave Spanish and high-toned French-Mediterranean cooking behind to bring forth Italian small plates, done family-style, in a modernist, cutting-edge setting, which tries to simultaneously please the purists and appeal to the party-as-a-verb crowd.
    Whether you like the room or not will pretty much depend on your age. The décor is as far away from the defunct Circo (in whose spot it sits at the Bellagio) as the Jersey Shore is from the Amalfi Coast. “Cutting edge” is the kindest way to describe the overbright, overwhite, aggressively casual-chic décor, although “cruise ship moderne” and “all-night drug store waiting room” may impolitely creep into your assessment if you’re not feeling charitable.
          If all that illuminated whiteness interferes with the enjoyment of your meal, take solace in knowing that restaurants these days are not built with an eye towards maximizing enjoyment of food. That rather quaint notion – that upscale eateries are there to soothe your fevered brow and quell your appetite – is so 2005. In the dystopian restaurant universe of 2015, it seems, it’s far better to catch the eye than provoke the palate. Gastronomic bliss takes a back seat to building buzz these days, and Vegas’s best restaurants, with a few exceptions, are as much about feeding (and feeding off of) the nightclubs as they are about what they are actually feeding you. Thus does Lago perfectly fit the zeitgeist of our current age – built to grab your attention, cause a stir, and capture those clubbers, coming and going.
    This is not to say that one cannot dine well here. Rather, only that the food, good as it is, plays second billing to the scene. Whether you’re tying one on or not, the small pizzette are a good way to start. Unlike the focaccine, their crusts are thin and crackly, designed to highlight the cheeses – smoked provolone, house-made mozzarella, bufala ricotta – not overwhelm them with dough. Just as satisfying are the toasted crostini: the n'duja (a fine, almost pureed spread of spicy pork sausage and Gorgonzola) and the chicken liver with capers and pepperoncino will get your salivary juices properly flowing.
    Everyone seems to get good fish in Vegas these days (thank you Fed Ex), and Serrano’s pesce – be it in crudo (raw) form or a baked whole orata (sea bream) – are as good as you’ll find this far from an ocean. There’s no faulting them, or most of the pastas (although the veggie “ragù” with the pappardelle really doesn’t bring much to the party). The standouts are the risottos: alla trippa e funghi (tripe and mushrooms) or with red wine and burrata. Both are done al dente (somewhat firm, as opposed to soupy), and both are so vivid with their primary flavors you will forget, for a moment, that you’re in an American restaurant run by a Spanish chef that looks like a Caribbean cruise ship.
    If you peer into the open kitchen, you’ll see the reason why these risottos, and most of the pastas, sing as they do. Serrano had the good sense to employ Nico Chessa as his chef de cuisine. Chessa is a veteran of Piero Selvaggio’s Valentino group, and he delivers solid renditions of osso buco, veal piccata and grilled lamb chops scottadito, as well as a potato gnocchi with lobster knuckles that will have you fighting for the last bite. About the only dish that I could fault was the vitello tonnato (chilled, thin slices of veal with tuna caper dressing), only because there was not enough sauce. Of course, there is never enough sauce for me. I can never get enough of a great sauce, unlike the décor here, of which you will quickly get too much.

Small plates of pizzas, soups, salads, fish, meat and pastas are priced between $10 and $20; main courses $28-$60.



By John Mariani

The media’s coverage of celebrity sightings is as old as when Napoleon dined with Josephine at Le Grand Véfour, and in the late 19th century NYC’s social columnists dutifully reported on who dined at Delmonico’s, Louis Sherry’s, and Rector’s.  Later on, with Hollywood in full swing, The Brown Derby, Café Trocadero, and Chasen’s always had photogs outside, and the rest of the world caught on with the rise of the paparazzi of Rome, who flash-bulb shot every star on the Via Veneto.
         Celebs have always had their favorite spots, usually places where they feel most cosseted—from Spago in L.A. to The Pump Room in Chicago—and nowhere is this more true than in NYC, where, if the local paparazzi are not quite as viciously intrusive as those of Hollywood and London, they can still be a repulsive nuisance.  For this reason, if you happen to be a celebrity idolater who wants to eat where your favorite actor or actress eats, you might as well stay clear of the city’s trendiest restaurants of the moment, because the stars overwhelmingly avoid them.
     Why would, say, Brad Pitt want to eat at a 20-seat storefront on the Lower East Side or Jennifer Aniston trek out to a gastro-pub Brooklyn when they can have a far more relaxed meal with colleagues who long ago found places uptown far less likely to cause them discomfort?
         It is hardly surprising, then, that celebs rarely venture south of midtown—unless it’s a Brian McNally restaurant like Balthazar or Minetta Tavern, where their names are on the V.V.V.I.P. lists.  To prove my point, take a look at two listicles that came out this week, one, in New York Magazine’s Grub Street about celeb sightings (many culled from the New York Post’s Page Six) this past week: Stephen Colbert at Isabella’s (Columbus Ave. & 77th St.); Bon Jovi at Beautique (West 58th St.); Jennifer Lopez at Good Enough to Eat (Columbus & 85th.); David Spade at Hunt & Fish Club (44th & 7th Ave.); Michael Moore at Swifty’s (Lexington & 73rd). The only cited celebs found south of 42nd Street were
Bill Murray and Bryan Cranston at Cookshop in the Meat Packing District.  
                                      James Stewart and Ginger Rodgers at Café Trocadero
    Now look at Zagat’s list of the “Hottest” restaurants in NYC: 
The Clocktower;  O Ya; Fuku sandwich shop; Oiji; Dirty Candy; Lupulo; Streetbird, and others, almost all way down town, in Brooklyn or up in  Harlem.  Only Ralph Lauren’s tony midtown Polo Club, which is rich in nightly celebs, made the list.
           I’m sure some stars do occasionally slum and bring their glamour to a hot new eatery serving chicken wings and kabobs, but you’re much more likely to see them in old standbys with their colleagues or in places right around the corner from where they work, like ABC and CBS on the Upper West Side, NBC at Rock Center, the theater luminaries on Broadway, the artists and actors at Lincoln Center, etc.  God knows where Anna Wintour of Vogue and Graydon Carter of Vanity Fair are entertaining fashionistas and cover models out of the new Condé-Nast headquarters down at One World Trade Center building.  It’s hard to imagine Katy Perry or Caitlyn Jenner chowing down with Ann and Graydon at Adrienne’s Pizza Bar or Mad Dog & Beans.
         Celebs are as susceptible to kindly hosts and comfort food as any of us, which is why the wall at Patsy’s Restaurant in the Theater District are hung with scores of star photos, including Michael Bublé, Al Pacino, Placido Domingo, Alec Baldwin, Tom Hanks, Madonna, David Letterman, Oprah Winfrey, Keanu Reeves, Robert DeNiro, Don Rickles, Liza Minnelli, and Chevy Chase.  Recently George Clooney and his wife Amahl came by for dinner.

  Tony Bennett with Joe and Sal Scognamillo, owners of Patsy's Restaurant

         So, if you are dying to gaze across a dining room at your favorite stars, here are your best bets in NYC. They’re not necessarily the best restaurants in the city—though many are—but they are rife with stars.

Polo Club; Beautique; Minetta Tavern; Balthazar; Da Silvano; `21’ Club; Mr. Chow; Harry Cipriani; Le Cirque; Swifty’s; Bobby Van’s; Fresco by Scotto; Elio’s; Nomad; Waverly Inn; Patsy’s; Sardi’s; Orso; Marea; The Modern; Nobu; Il Gattopardo; Michael’s; Russian Tea Room; Porter House.




By John Mariani

1228 Madison Avenue (at 88th Street)

    Via Quadronno on Madison Avenue is one of two Italian eateries by that name (the other is on 73rd Street), borrowed from a street in the Porta Romana district of Milan, where, at Bar Quadronno, the panino sandwich is said to have originated. One of the panini makers there was Giuseppe Tusi, who came as a consultant to start up the NYC branches.
        Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, VQ (as I’ll call it) is set on two levels: downstairs is the pastry and sandwich counter, with a few tables to the rear, and upstairs a quiet, skylighted room that is very much a respite from the city’s sounds. In the morning people flock here for the kind of basic Italian pastries and espresso and cappuccinos so hard to find elsewhere in town, without any of those garishly flavored coffees offered at Starbucks.
        The panini crowd starts before noon and continues through and after lunch, and dropping by VQ is a good idea if you’re visiting the nearby Guggenheim Museum or trekking through the vast Metropolitan Museum on Fifth Avenue.  In the evening things are slower, the pace more civilized, the ad posters Italian, and people take their small tables to relax in front of the faux fireplace, have a negroni and eat fine renditions of classic Italian cuisine. A few dishes--the best on the menu and the reason for going to VQ--stray from what you’ll find elsewhere around the city, and most are deftly done, starting with tender braised baby octopus with red onions in a light tomato sauce ($15.50).
        Full pasta portions are generous, and right now is the best time to have one with basil pesto, such as al dente fusilli and pine nuts (at a very reasonable $16.50). The hollow tubes called paccheri come with an unusual potato sauce, walnuts and a touch of summery rosemary ($18.50), and there is a risotto of the day ($22) that is a very good dish to split for two.  The night I visited the perfectly cooked rice came with smoked mozzarella and sweet dried figs--not something I’ve encountered elsewhere in NYC.
        Large shrimp have a good dose of garlic and a nice spike of pepperoncino atop quickly cooked spinach ($28.50), and if you enjoy a fillet of branzino,  VQ does a splendid pan-roasted one with capers, olives and cherry tomatoes, with broccoli di rabe on the side ($27.50). For meats the breaded veal cutlet Milanese-style ($53.50) is good, if not exceptional, while the grilled, sliced chicken (at just $22) is juicy to the bone, with a mixed mushrooms sauce and buttered spinach. All main courses also get a side of fingerling potatoes.
        This is a place to indulge yourself with housemade gelati and sorbetti, and their tiramisù ($12) really is one of the city’s best. Once tasted anywhere, affogato al caffé ($11.50), scoops of rich vanilla gelato with a pour of hot espresso, is not easily forgotten.
        VQ is, with its twin down the street, an honest place, very close to a true Milanese caffe/trattoria, and well worth visiting morning, noon or night. If you live nearby, it’s probably already your neighborhood go-to spot.

Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Martha Washington Hotel

29 East 29th Street

    Located in the Martha Washington Hotel and operated by the Union Square Hospitality Group, Marta is an all-day eatery that specializes in Roman-style, thin-crusted pizzas, via Chef Nick Anderer (also of  the company’s Maialino), with Joe Tarasco as chef de cuisine.  Wine director Jack Mason has put together a terrific, long list of Italian regionals at all price levels, with hard-to-find small estates from Valle d’Aôsta to Sicily.  Price mark-ups are, by NYC standards, very reasonable, with plenty of bottles under $50.
      Marta is a huge, high-ceilinged space, with a mezzanine above the main dinning room that includes the kitchen counter.  The service staff has its tempo down pat, but the place is so loud that it’s very difficult to hear their patter, and, after half an hour, the need to ask one’s tablemates to repeat what they said becomes wearying.  Restaurants need not, and should not, be this loud--and music surely isn’t warranted to keep things lively, since you can’t hear it anyway through the bass and drums.  There are plenty of ways a designer or acoustical technician can tamp down sound, even working with all hard surfaces of dark tile floors and hard, undressed tables.
    The pizzas are good--we tried the delicious macellaio (above)with a topping of soppressata, guanciale, pork sausage, mozzarella, and grana padano ($19) and patate alla carbonara with potatoes, guanciale, black pepper and egg ($18), which didn’t add up to much in flavor.  At these prices--for relatively small pizzas--with a $50 bottle of wine, maybe an antipasto or two, tax and tip, you can easily run up a bill of $130 for two people.  Add in main courses ($24-$36) and you’ve hit the big leagues for Italian food. 
    That said, the pizzas are of a crackling, thin-crusted type, which is really more like a flat bread than a pizza. They’re good, but not what  people might expect when pizzas are so central to the menu.
    I enjoyed the antipasti of green risotto croquettes called supplí ($7), but the rabbit meatballs with black olives and ricotta ($14) were so-so.
    Why Marta serves no pastas at all, but offers four entrees, is puzzling indeed.  For a full-service, three-meals-a-day operation, it’s not like they can’t handle a pasta station, the way similar places like Roberto’s, Naples 45, and Obica do.
    Oddly enough, then, I preferred the three entrees I tried, especially a superlative, big-proportioned beef short rib ($34).  Also recommend are the duck, chicken and pork sausages (a good buy at $24) and the succulent beer-brined half chicken ($25), some of which I happily took home for lunch the next day.
    Dolci include the increasingly trendy olive oil lemon cake, but with a touch of spearmint ($8) and a buckwheat tart with risotto and cherries ($8) that was applaudably out of the ordinary. The coffees here are decently priced, from $3 to $3.75.
    Marta is fun but, given the noise level, not for very long. If they’d get that sound down to a reasonable number of decibels and vary the styles of pizzas, maybe add pastas, it could be a real addition to highly competitive Italian trat scene in NYC.

Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner.



The Nordic Food Lab and Cambridge Distillery, has created “Anty Gin”: gin made with ants. Each $310 bottle of Anty Gin contains the essence 62 ants, mixing them with ethanol, juniper berries, botanicals, and nettle. "The result is a spectacular, one-of-a-kind gin that is being very well received worldwide,” creator Miles Irving, a professional forager, said. “People are astounded at how good it tastes. It's expensive because it's so labor intensive — Anty Gin was almost a year in the making."


An American chef working in Scotland posted a  classifieds ad for a line cook, with the heading, "Looking for someone fast, progressive, and not a total **** for a new restaurant in Clarkston." Further notes on the working environment included:

• "It's a breakfast/brunch/lunch place to start, but there are no eggs Benedicts. Go on, wrap your head around that and then continue reading. I'll wait."
• "If you have a cover letter that says you're a 'hard-working team player that can also function well alone' and that you 'value customer service and punctuality' I will stab myself in the face with a pencil and nobody will get a job."
• "There's no money. There's £7/hr and some tips, 25-35 hours a week. Deal with it. Don't come to an interview and then say it sounds great but you've got your kid's school clothes to buy or whatever. I don't care."
• "What you cannot do is be a pain in my balls because my life savings is on the line and I have to work with my wife all day so I don't have time for any primadonna bullshit."
• "If you think I sound like an obnoxious dickhead, congratulations. You are observant and will go far in life. Don't let it discourage you, though. I'm only a dickhead for the first three years you know me. After that I'm a total sweetheart."


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

   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  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.


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,  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 2015