Virtual Gourmet

  August 16,  2015                                                                                             NEWSLETTER



By John Mariani


By John Mariani

By Brian Freedman


By John Mariani

Chez Philippe at The Peabody Hotel 

    Does one need to say more about Memphis eats than the word “barbecue”?  If the food media had their way, that’s about the extent of coverage they’d give this wonderful, newly vibrant Southern city.  And, while there is indeed plenty of good ‘cue in town, it is sheer ignorance to stop there.    Over the past five years Memphis, like many other Southern cities, has grown diverse and global in its food scene, while still maintaining an abiding affection for the culinary heritage of the mid-South.
    Just to get barbecue out of the way, the one that still gets all the legitimate publicity is Charlie Vergos Rendezvous (left). Opened in 1948, it is justly famous not only for its celebrity clientele over the years--not least musicians like Vince Gill,  the Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra--but for the consistency of its idiosyncratic style of dry-rubbed, un-sauced ribs. They’re only open for dinner, but when the door opens at midday they are kind  enough to pack some up for you for take-out.  A combo of ribs and pork will run you $19.75; a ham & cheese sandwich (the first thing ever on the menu here) is $10.95.  Practice has put perfection within their grasp.  They also ship anywhere.
    More traditional barbecue is found at the award-winning Central  BBQ, which smokes all its own
ribs, pork, chicken, turkey, beef brisket, sausage and bologna.  As at the Rendezvous, they cook the meats without sauce, but four varieties are readily available in bottles at your table.    
    Central BBQ began after Craig Blondis and Roger Sapp met on the BBQ competition circuit in the mid-80s and became business partners when the first store opened in 2002; there are now three Central BBQ’s, the original in Midtown on Central Avenue, where they also park a ‘cue truck splashed with psychedelic colors. Needless to say, lines start forming around 11 a.m. each day and on Saturdays the rafters ring with the cries of fans who come here to watch the Univer
sity of Memphis Tigers on the big TV screens.
    Central has a big menu, from excellent, subtly chewy, succulent ribs (half a slab runs $15.99, full slab $22.99) and a pork plate ($9.99) to the much recommended combo plate ($18.99; right). There are also ‘cue sandwiches, including that Southern favorite and acquired taste BBQ bologna ($3.99), along with hot wings ($5.99), nachos ($5.75) and a sausage and cheese plate ($9.99), not to mention sides and huge desserts at very low prices--hot fudge brownie and ice cream for four bucks; you’ll need two forks.
The Four Way Restaurant (left) has been the city’s go-to place for soul food of the most satisfying kind--very good and very cheap. Get owner Willie Earl Bates talking about how the place started and flourished, who’s eaten here, and how he doesn’t think much about putting in 12-hour days and you could be here for hours.  The man loves to talk and is a natural raconteur.
        The neighborhood is run down now, but nothing has changed inside the restaurant, which has fed everyone for decades. You’ll see as many Cadillacs and Lexuses in the parking lot as you will pick-up trucks and old Datsuns. Black and white people dine here together, everyone jammed in at tables that might be occupied by Gladys Knight and The Pips,  Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner and other stars of Memphis music.

       The wait staff at Four Way is as welcoming as the aroma of the fried chicken being cooked to order. (White meat is $7.99, dark meat 50 cents less.)  Country fried steak ($8.99) is big as a flattened football, crisp and juicy, with a peppery milk gravy lavished over it. Then there’s a big scoop of mashed potatoes, mac-and-cheese, bitter, soupy collards, and a good cornbread muffin. You’ll have to do with lemonade or soda for a beverage.  Prices haven’t changed in three years.
        Memphis has most any ethnic eatery you could want, from sushi at Bluefin and Sakura (two locations) to Jamaican at Evelyn & Olive.  I was taken to an delightful and very colorful Venezuelan spot called Arepa & Salsa, whose brochure offers a long, fascinating history of the stuffed corn muffins (right) that give the place its name.  Start off with empanadas ($6) or arepa pernil with shredded seasoned pork ($8), then pebellon “Oscar D’Leon” with shredded beef, black beans, cheese and fried plantain ($10).  The food is as pretty as it is delectable, and they have a cut-out of  Dos Equis’ “Most Interesting Man in the World” to pose with in the dining room.

   At the other end of Memphis’s dining scene is Chez Philippe, the beautiful, marble-pillared, gilded, three-level restaurant at The Peabody Hotel, and for many decades now one of the grandest rooms in the South, with an unstinting commitment to haute cuisine, now under Executive Chef Andreas Kisler, who is not above adding modern, global flavors.
    Start off with a cocktail in the Lobby Bar--you just might catch the famous Peabody ducks coming out of the marble fountain and waddling toward the elevators. Then go up a few steps into the stately, richly appointed dining room, where you will definitely be pampered with the best linens, silverware, and service with a distinct Southern gloss.  Three courses are $80 ($34 more with wine); a five-course tasting menu is $105 ($46 more with wine).
    Kisler’s is a sumptuous cuisine, evident in a dish like his pan-seared pheasant with braised Brussels sprouts, mixed dried berries and a truffle Peruvian potato in cassis sauce.  A seared crab cake comes with barley, sweet potato and an orange-green peppercorn butter sauce.  There are sometimes one or two too many items on a plate, but I’m not going to argue with a superb dish like the lamb chop and braised lamb shank set in a profiterole with baby garbanzo beans tapenade, purple potato croquette and roasted garlic jus.  The French onion soup needs more caramelization and a more deeply flavored broth.  Desserts, as you can imagine, are extravagant, from a trio of crème brûlées to the Peabody’s signature Equinox Cake, a chocolate-hazelnut torte with gianduja brûlée center.    
    What La Grenouille is to New York, The French Room is to Dallas and Commander’s Palace is to New Orleans, Chez Philippe is to Memphis and proudly so.

         Chez Philippe’s former Maîtres Cuisinier, José Gutiérez (below), took over the restaurant River Oaks in the ‘burbs, and it is representative of the modern style of international restaurant Memphis is now acquiring. With its shadowy, relaxed ambiance and murals by local artists, the dining room gets a cross-cut crowd of people who may enjoy a cocktail at the bar (below) before letting the ever jolly Gutiérez tell them the specials. His fried crab cakes ($17) are truly made with jumbo lump meat, and Gutiérez’s French background shows off in a textbook perfect duck confit with house-made fettuccine ($26).  In such a place I would not usually order a burger, but Gutiérez swore I would love it and he was right. It’s a glory, with bacon bits on a crusty roll and hot pommes frites that deserve to retain their French name, and a choice of cheeses, caramelized onions, or even an egg on top ($15).
        The crème brûlée ($7) here is as good as you’d expect, and don’t miss the warm “Mojo” chocolate chip cookie with ice cream ($12), easy enough to share.  The wine list is not extensive but does the job and prices are very fair.

      Some of the best Italian food I’ve had in the South is being done by boyhood friends Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman, whose Italian grandmother’s Sunday dinners were the inspiration for their Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen (below). They also run the acclaimed Italian-Southern restaurant Hog & Hominy across the street, and their cookbook is appropriately titled Collards & Carbonara. Both studied under José Gutiérez at Chez Philippe, so their technique is solid, and they understand that Italian food should never be overly elaborate or showy.  So, while their personal stamp is everywhere on the menu, it all hearkens back to “Maw Maw’s Ravioli” with tomato sauce ($10). 
    Opened in 2008, AMIK (I’ll call it) segments its menu into antipasti, which includes a very good chicken liver parfait on a generous charcuterie plate ($15); starters, with a delicious dish of leeks, romesco dressing,
straciatelli of egg, red onion and pecorino ($11); and pasta, with stand-outs like the agnolotti with morels, peas, black truffles, tarragon and lemon ($14) and bucatini with a short rib ragù, taleggio, Serrano chiles, shiitake and breadcrumbs ($11).
        Sorry, but Maw Maw’s ravioli didn’t live up to my expectations, and entrees were not quite as wonderful as what precedes them. I would recommend the pork with fennel, passatelli, ramps,  pancetta ham, radish and red peas ($29), though its aggregate of ingredients goes against the Italian idea of simplicity.
     I loved three desserts I tried (all $7) from a very good, crisp and creamy cannoli  to an irresistible chocolate sticky pudding and a perfectly rendered
budino pudding with chocolate, salted caramel and toffee.
    Oh, and if you ask them nicely to turn down the wholly unnecessary loud music, they will.
    Although I wish I’d gone for dinner, I was able to have a sumptuous brunch at the 10-year-old
Majestic Grille (right) on premises built in 1913 as Majestic No. 1 movie house in a gorgeous Beaux Arts style that took on a lot of art deco.  Chef-owner and Irishman Patrick Reilly and his wife, Deni, have maintained a movie screen in the two-tiered restaurant showing silent films, and the restaurant has won just about every award possible from the local and regional press.  There are usually lines outside waiting for a table on weekends, and on Sunday people tend to dress as if they have just come from church service or are on their way to their country club.  There's a lot of sweet iced tea on tables but also a lot of  Champagne from an excellent list.
    The brunch menu is huge, from house-smoked salmon ($10) and cornmeal crusted calamari ($9) to their signature flatbreads ($10-$12), sandwiches and burgers. And the specialties include thick-cut French toast with bacon and strawberries ($12),  jumbo shrimp (left) sautéed in plenty of garlic with cheddar cheese-rich grits ($15), biscuits and gravy ($9), and much more.   Generosity is the key word to what's on every plate.
Everything I tasted I knew was made from the best ingredients Reilly can procure and all were cooked with a sure degree of attention to textures, not to mention the kind of largess that Memphis is famous for. Brunch was packed, the flow of food was easy, and it was clear that everyone was going to stay on longer than they’d planned, maybe for another Bloody Mary.



By John Mariani

206 Spring Street (off the Avenue of the Americas)

    Tweaking is as important to a serious restaurant as tuning is to a violin.  So, after opening two years ago, Costata is now a better restaurant for the changes that have been made to the three-story premises, which include better lighting, more colorful artwork and a far more affable service staff.
    Costata is very much in the tradition of the New York Italian Steakhouse, a genre pioneered in 1926 at the first Palm (now undergoing a “major facelift”), whose raffish atmosphere, barebones look, and menu of steaks, lobsters, tomato salad, a few pastas and cheesecake defined the idea, replicated at its nearby competitors Christ Cella, Colombo’s, Pietro’s, Joe & Rose’s and Bruno’s Pen & Pencil.  That template is still in effect on scores of contemporary steakhouses, although these days new entries tend to be far more swank, and Costata falls into that category.
    The new artwork at Costata is by
London-based artist Nasser Azam, with sixteen  installations, including large abstract paintings and prints on aluminum and mirror.  Hardwood floors are buffered by softer elements, and it’s good to see double tablecloths and good lighting (though they dim it mid-evening). The music, though unnecessary, is not all that intrusive. 
The 36-page wine list is exemplary, though pricey: a Trebbiano d'Abruzzo Emidio Pepe 2007 by the glass is $36; a bottle at the store is $65. But the number of older vintages of top labels makes this screed very impressive indeed. 
    Costata is part of chef/restaurateur Michael White’s Altamareagroup empire, which now extends to Marea, Morini Trattoria, Morini Ristorante, Ai Fiori, and The Butterfly, all in New York; Due Mari in New Brunswick, NJ, two Nicoletta pizzerias; Bedford Post Inn in Bedford, NY; Chop Shop in London;  and Al Molo in Hong Kong.  Costata is something of a homecoming for White,  who first established his rep as chef in these same Soho premises when it was Fiamma. 
he menu is not dissimilar to the majority of the steakhouses in NYC, except that Costata’s pastas are among the very best in the city, as they would be anywhere. Fusilli with a pork shoulder ragù, pomodoro and robiolina cheese ($22) is lusty and rich in every morsel, the pasta impeccably al dente; pansôti are bulked up with ricotta and mascarpone filling, corn purée and red wine-laced sugo ($22); and garganelli alla fiamma, studded with prosciutto and English peas, in a lush truffle cream ($24) is irresistible to the last bite.  
    The menu is shorter than it used to be—-no more American “caviar” and no lamb chops.  For starters
White reprises several of his hits from other restaurants, including a selection of crudi like lustrous amberjack dolled up with Calabrian chilies and pickled cauliflower ($19).  A half dozen East Coast oysters served with mignonette and spicy arrabbiata cocktail sauce ($18) were good and briny, and a each species in a fritto misto of calamari, halibut, shrimp, artichokes with Calabrian chili aïoli ($19) was perfectly cooked, crispy and hot.  Beef tartare with sauce gribiche, pecorino, capers and thin croutons ($16) was well seasoned and very good, though the portion was a little smaller than elsewhere in town.
    Among the seafood items, a branzino of very meaty quality with sweet
heirloom tomato, charred corn and sopresatta ($35) came together well, but the medium-sized langoustines à la plancha didn’t justify the price of $19 a piece. The way to go here, of course, is with the 40-day dry-aged, 44-ounce costata cut, in the U.S. often called a tomahawk steak ($126 for two, or more, people-—well below the $145 côte de boeuf at Minetta Tavern). We also enjoyed a 15-ounce New York boneless strip ($43).  The black Angus beef was very good, though I’ve had better marbleized steaks in NYC and the char on the outside could be darker on the costata.
Side dishes are all $9, and sauces are extra at $4 each.
    As with the pastas, Costata’s desserts, by Robert Truitt, are far above any of its competitors’, including a first-rate crème brûlée ($12), mascarpone torta  ($12) and affogato of strong coffee poured over vanilla gelato with a shot of amaretto ($10).  Gelati and sorbetti (three for $9) are also delicious.

Given his far flung empire, your chances of seeing Michael White on premises are pretty slim, which is understandable but disappointing because he is a very ebullient, spirited fellow who imbues his restaurants with his presence.  Lacking that, Costata has a very affable staff; our waitress, Mary, was terrific on all counts.
    So, while there is no strong personality up front to fill White’s chef’s clogs, this is now a much better, more inviting steakhouse than when it opened in 2013 and a clear evolution of the New York Italian steakhouse. Even if you just had a bowl of pasta here, you’d think it was one of the best Italian spots in town.




By Brian Freedman

    In this era of the overly familiar, I have always been struck by the reverence with which the name “Mr. Mondavi” is invoked. Over the course of several days in the Napa Valley this past spring, on a trip hosted by the Robert Mondavi Winery and with a focus on their own wines as well as the wholly unique terroir of the Oakville AVA, his name, almost always preceded by a reverential “Mister,” was uttered countless times.
    That deeply felt respect, of course, is understandable, because it is impossible to talk about the history of American wine without mentioning Robert Mondavi (1913-2008) as one of the most important catalysts of this nation’s ascent to become the global wine powerhouse it is today. Indeed, precious few names around the world are as synonymous with a particular country’s wine industry as Mr. Mondavi’s is with our own.
    The downside of Robert Mondavi Winery’s long, successful run is that occasionally, consumers not well-versed in the various bottlings bearing the Mondavi name, find themselves confused, conflating, say, the Mondavi Private Selection Cabernet Sauvignon with Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. (The difference between the two is difficult to overstate, and while both more than admirably achieve their individual aims, those goals themselves are quite different—the former to be a budget-friendly bottling meant for immediate consumption and the latter a deeply complex expression of vintage and terroir, and often one that benefits from extended time in the cellar as it takes on stunning layers of added complexity; Mr. Mondavi himself spoke of this general concern during his lifetime.)
    Any confusion, however, is immediately clarified as soon as a range of the higher-end RMW bottlings is opened: They remain deeply profound examples of all that Napa can be and is, and beautiful expressions of both the places of origin and the vision of the team behind them. (
This has been the case both before and after Constellation Brands acquired The Robert Mondavi Corporation in 2004, leaving the winery without a Mondavi.)
    A good example of this is the most recent release of the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, which, in fact, marks an important turning point in the legendary bottling: The 2011 is the first vintage of the Reserve whose label bears the vineyard designation of To-Kalon, as it’s crafted entirely from fruit harvested from there. Indeed, To-Kalon, in the Oakville AVA, resides in the uppermost echelon of American vineyards: Ask a dozen wine professionals to name their top five favorite vineyard sources for Cabernet Sauvignon around the world, and I’d bet that To-Kalon (which appropriately means "highest beauty" or "most beautiful" in ancient Greek) is mentioned far more often than not.
    To-Kalon has always been the primary source for the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (as well as for the Robert Mondavi Winery Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon and the famously expressive, deeply complex To-Kalon I-Block Fumé Blanc), but 2011, with its designation on the label, ties RMW and the vineyard even closer among the wine-drinking public. The result is a wine of grace and pleasure, boasting aromas of brambly purple berry fruit, pencil led, cedar, spice, cassis, and a bit of grilled sage. It’s young still but in a fantastic place already, and against the richness of the fruit, there is also a nice sense of minerality and freshness, marking both the quality of the vineyard’s terroir and the nature of the vintage. On the palate, this is velvety in texture, and the purple berry fruit from the nose comes through clearly alongside flavors of graphite, cedar, pencil led, tobacco leaf, coffee, and grilled sage, all interwoven with elegance and just enough power to keep on pushing through to the finish tinged with violets, raspberries, Chinese five-spice, and eucalyptus. It’s a wine of structure and richness in equal measure that will continue to evolve for another 15-plus years.
    Of course, a winery of Mondavi’s size and power sources its fruit from other notable vineyard sites as well, and under the guidance and vision of Director of Winemaking Geneviève Janssens (left), produces notable bottlings from other grape varieties, and in other styles, as well. Among the crop of standout bottles from the winery that I’ve tasted lately are the Napa Valley Chardonnay 2011 with its lemon oil, mushroom, and honey aromatics that lead to a creamy palate zipped through with lime, orange blossom, apricot, and lemongrass; the Napa Valley (Carneros) Pinot Noir 2012, which rises from the glass with cherry cola, rose petal, and sarsaparilla and tastes beguilingly of cherry, red plum, and Middle Eastern spices; the Oakville-sourced Fumé Blanc 2013, with its ambrosial nose of smoky apricots, passionfruit, vanilla pod and mineral and its bright flavors of lemongrass, lime, and white tea; and the Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (below), a big wine at 15% alcohol that still maintains stellar balance as it speaks of dark-cherry liqueur, flowers, Fig Newtons, black licorice, creme de cassis, charred sage, baker’s chocolate and dried lavender.
     (I also recently had the insanely good fortune to taste the Robert Mondavi Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon 1994 from my father’s cellar, which was a gift from our good friend Scot “Zippy” Ziskind of Zipco Wine Cellar Services and My Cellar Wine Storage, and was bowled over by this fully mature beauty, its dried red currants, tobacco leaf, eucalyptus and wild mushroom aromas leading to a palate of porcini dust, licorice root, spice cake and violets. Other older bottlings of RMW’s Cabernets and Reserve Cabernets have been equally delicious: This is a winery that knows how to craft wines that age more than gracefully.)
    Recently, a bust of Robert Mondavi was inaugurated on the iconic grounds of the winery, and I was lucky enough to be on hand this past spring to hear his widow, the indefatigable Margrit Biever Mondavi, who serves as Vice President of Cultural Affairs, speak. The sculpture, by artist Len Urso, is a fitting tribute to a man who changed the face of American wine, and whose namesake wines continue to standout even today, nearly 50 years after he founded the winery. No wonder that honorific “Mister” is used when referring to him. He deserves it more than anyone.



"In the glass: Pop Crush white blend is a fine pale citrine-yellow color with a light translucent core going out into a watery meniscus showing a medium viscosity. On the nose: There is a plethora of olfactory pleasers led by honeydew melon, white peach, nectarine rind, cornflowers, sweet aromatic white grape juice, lemon balm and white tea."--Gil Lempert-Schwarz, "Pop Crush White Blend," Las Vegas Review Journal (7/25/15)



Scientists at Purdue say that they've added a sixth sensation to the list of five basics tastes (sour, salty, sweet, bitter, and umami), and it is ... fat!  Purdue's researchers speculate that fat on the tongue  acts exactly like salty and sweet do as far as people's perception of food. People  can also distinctly finger fatty as a taste apart from, say, umami or bitter. "The combination of those two things," the lead researcher told the Washington Post, "is what's important."



 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: 5 MYTHS OF WOMEN TRAVELING ALONE

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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