Virtual Gourmet

  NOVEMBER 15,  2015                                                                                             NEWSLETTER






By John Mariani

Part One
By John Mariani


By John Mariani


By John Mariani



By John Mariani

    The terrorists bombings in Paris aimed deliberately at people enjoying themselves at cafes, bistros, stadiums and theaters reminded me, sadly yet again, of the real importance of such leisure activities at a time when they must be treasured.  The article below originally appeared on the occasion of the 9/11 bombings.  I feel it worth while publishing again today.

    On the day the day the World Trade Center was destroyed, Sirio Maccioni, owner of New York’s famous restaurant, Le Cirque 2000, called then Mayor Rudy Giuliani to ask how he might help in the crisis. Giuliani said two words:  “Stay open.”   That night Le Cirque did only 65 covers. Two weeks later, on a  Saturday night, the restaurant served 260.
       That sentiment has always carried weight with me, not only because sitting down to a meal requires the harried mind to re-focus attention on a basic human  ritual but  because it truly helps to return to a normal need.  After hearing of a tragedy, the appetite may flag, eating may be the last thing on one’s mind, and dining seems downright frivolous.  But to restore one’s appetite is to restore one’s strength, as anyone who has long been sick knows.
    A year earlier when I heard the news that my mother had passed away overnight, I was tying my tie in a room at the Crillon Hotel in Paris, ready to go down to dinner. The news had the obvious effect of bringing me to my knees, but after commiserating with my wife, I determined that going down to dinner would be the very best thing, rather than stay in the room and weep.  We went to dinner, sure that my mother, who gave me life, nurtured me as an infant, and imbued me with a love of good food, a woman who was a great hostess and loved nothing more than going out to a fine restaurant, would have insisted I do so.  And so, we ate very well and drank a very fine wine, toasting my mother as she so richly deserved.
    As a food and travel writer what I do for a living may seem odd (T.S. Eliot wrote, “We measure  out our lives in coffee spoons,” but I measure out mine in morsels of foie gras), but, whenever I think of it as ephemeral to the great issues of the day, I am reminded of a scene in the play based on The Diary of Anne Frank, in which the family, isolated for months in an attic but still believing they will soon be out, fantasizes about the first thing they’ll do when they return to the world outside.  Anne  (left) says she yearns to go to a dance. The teenage boy wants to go to a movie, a western movie! And the adults all start remembering and dreaming of a wonderful pastry shop, a good stew, a romantic restaurant with thick linen and fine wines.  None, not one, declares that the first thing he wants to do is to change the political structure of Europe.   This scene made me realize not only that deprivation takes away freedoms of movement but also access to the most wonderful sights, sounds, and tastes of life--the very things we live for until they are taken away from us. Every human being on earth who has ever gone hungry thinks first of survival, then of doing something seemingly superficial--a dance, a western movie, a visit to a restaurant.  For when all goes well, when the doctor cuts out the cancer, when debt is retired, when the debris is cleared away, returning to normal means returning to those things that make life worth living.
During World War II director Frank Capra made a series of powerful propaganda films entitled “Why We Fight,” and if seeing yet again the cheesecake photos (an interesting turn of phrase) of Rita Hayworth and Betty Grable in servicemen’s lockers seems pointedly nostalgic, that does not destroy its touching allure.  “Why We Dine” is as reasonable a proposition as any other, once we survive the inevitable rigors and horrors of life that must be endured.  “Animals feed, man eats,” said Brillat-Savarin, “but only a man of culture knows how to dine.”
       So I carry on extolling and criticizing our world’s food culture, sometimes whimsically, sometimes with vitriol.  For the importance of dining out, and drinking good wine, and falling in love under the spell of candlelight at the dinner table is to enjoy all that terrorists--especially those whose religious fanaticism seeks to deprive people of all pleasure--would seek to destroy.  By indulging in life’s passions we do much more than live out our lives.  We gain strength in the belief that they are part of the goodness of man.
     Eat well, be well.


By John Mariani


    If Chicago isn’t America’s best restaurant town, it is certainly the most rollicking about its food scene and, with the exception of those exorbitantly priced modernist salons, the city also gives you a square meal for a square deal.     
    This becomes most obvious each fall when the city holds its Chicago Gourmet—this is its eighth year—easily the nation’s premier culinary experience. Instead of bringing in the same tired celebrity faces from other cities, Chicago’s  focus is on the local chefs and their restaurants. The event was created by the Illinois Restaurant Association and the Anton Family Foundation “to celebrate and honor both Chicago’s culinary achievements and the creative vision of the chefs, Master Sommeliers, and wine-, spirit-, and beer-makers who participate. It also spotlights Chicago as an international culinary destination via its unparalleled epicurean talent.”  Fair enough. I attended and was delighted by each of the sold-out events in tents and the
Hamburger Hop, a kick-off evening among 15 grill masters (won by Chef Dino Tsaknis of David Burke’s Primehouse). There was also a charity toast to the late Charlie Trotter, a Grand Cru Tasting, and much more. And holding it all in that glorious  Millennium Park made it all the more enticing.
    I had a ball at the gala, but of course I also ate around Chicago, and I managed to visit several   restaurants while in the city.  Here’s Part One of where I ate with pleasure.  


621 W Randolph Street
312- 466-1000

    Ashlee Aubin (below) has a résumé that was bound to get him investors to open Salero, where he is chef-partner.  Wisely dropping out of law school to cook instead, he did stints at two of  Chicago’s most avant-garde restaurants, Zealous and Alinea, then opened his own place, an American bistro named Wood, in Lakeview, which he still runs.
        Salero is a modern Spanish restaurant in the West Loop, but if I had any fears that Aubin was going to follow the El Bulli molecular route, I was happy to be wrong.  Salero is every bit an expression of Aubin’s own personality, but it shows rigorous respect for the traditions of Spanish cooking. He calls it “Midwest, inspired by Spain.”  And that seems about right.
    It was an early autumn evening when I dined at Salero (which means “salt shaker”) and I was able to sit outside on a restaurant-rich patch of Randolph Street, which was a lot less noisy than inside the dining room.  The interior of white stucco is handsomely designed, with a high ceiling and lights set within rustic iron chandeliers;  a set of bull’s horns reminds you this is a Spanish place.  There is a bar that seats 20 people, with 50 seats in the rest of the room, and the array of tapas, or pintxos, is lavish, from grilled shishito peppers with an appropriate sea salt crunch ($5) to a tempura-fried pimento pepper stuffed with more shishitos and housemade cheese. Unusual was the fried hominy dusted with cumin and pimentón ($3).
    I simply left myself in Aubin’s hands and those of his chef de cuisine, Anderson Hardy, and the entradas (appetizers) came out with dispatch, beginning with olives
marinated with citrus, garlic, chili pepper ($5) and marvelous chorizo-stuffed quail (below) with wilted spinach, garlic, golden raisins, pine nuts, piquillo pepper puree ($14), a small dish with very big aspirations to please.  Gulf shrimp, heads on and very juicy, were quickly grilled à la plancha and served with a grits cake, pepitas, huitlacoche mushroom puree and a spicy piperade ($15).
    One is very tempted to just keep the entradas coming, but there is so much more on the platos fuertes main course menu, you wouldn’t want to miss the confit of potatoes à la plancha with a sunny-side-up egg, green romesco, sweet grilled eggplant and tetilla cheese ($25), or the juicy, nicely chewy hanger steak with crispy zucchini fritter, tender sweetbreads, roasted carrots, black garlic and grilled tomato,  all gilded with a lush Béarnaise ($29).
        Force yourself to try at least one dessert (all $10), either the flan with fresh cheese, annatto seed, blood orange gel and saba caramel, or the piping hot churros fingers with whipped, salted chocolate, espresso pudding and milk jam.  The wine list at Salero is decidedly chosen to go with such food and if you are a fan of Sherries, there’s a very impressive list of them, from finos to palo cortados.
    Aubin manifests all the virtues of contemporary Chicago dining—big flavors, big portions, moderate prices, all within a personalized framework of dishes that are all his yet owe so much to the traditions he loves.

Open for dinner daily; lunch Mon.-Fri.



3361 N. Elston Avenue
773- 478-4000 

       “We believe that you should feel good about your food—where it comes from, how it’s prepared, how it is served and by whom. So when you eat our chicken, our sides and desserts, we hope you’ll spend some time thinking about the ideas behind every bite.”
    So reads the home page of Honey Butter Fried Chicken, written by owners Joshua Kulp (once a fifth grade teacher in the Bronx) and Christine Cikowski (who believes in fortune cookies).  But you really need not read any further—about where they buy their antibiotic-free chickens (Miller Amish Farms in Indiana) or how all their disposables are environmentally friendly (their used frying oil is converted into bio-fuel).  All you have to do is go through the door of their little restaurant, be greeted with a huge smile, order anything on the blackboard and prepare yourself for bliss.
    To some people, making fried chicken is not all that difficult, but, in fact, without first-rate chicken of a kind they buy here, you might as well eat at KFC. Treating great ingredients the right way, from chicken to desserts, makes an enormous difference easily understood from your first bite of creamed corn with Thai green curry ($3.75) to the chocolate toffee cocoa nib cookie ($2).  The glory of Honey Butter Fried Chicken is, of course, meaty pieces of poultry slathered with their housemade honey butter, which almost brought me to tears because the first time I had such a dish was fifty years ago, when my family visited Disneyland upon its opening in Anaheim, California.
    Honey Butter’s is probably a lot better than I recall of Disneyland’s, and I’d rate it as among the best fried chicken I’ve had, largely because of the flavor of the bird itself (two pieces with corn muffins $8, four pieces $15, 8 pieces $28). It's got audible crunch, the batter stays on the meat, the inside is juicy, and the whole of it is not greasy. There’s also a fried chicken sandwich with candied jalapeño mayo and crunchy slaw on a buttered bun ($8).  They add schmaltz (chicken fat) to the smashed potatoes ($3.75), and the collards get a dose of bacon and a tang of preserved lemon  ($3.50).  I have to say I’m not yet past my puzzlement as to why pimento cheese is such a Southern favorite, but the version here comes melted over macaroni with garlicky breadcrumbs ($3.75), so I’ll give it a begrudging but amiable shrug.
      And, thank heavens, they have booze and beer, even fountain sodas and lemonade.
    We all know how Midwestern hospitality can be infectious, so ten minutes after you’re inside, you’ll feel like an old friend to the owners and servers.  Half an hour later, you might be singing their playlist right along with them.

Open for lunch and dinner Wed.-Sun.


2049 W Division Street

      You need search no further for Anglo-Indian fare in Chicago than Pub Royale because nowhere else will you find it.  Fortunately, what Matt Eisler and Kevin Hiesner, along with culinary developer Jason Vaughan, have fashioned in this neighborhood that straddles Wicker Park and Ukrainian Village is a winning example of this not-so-unusual amalgam of food and drink, the latter in the Anglo camp, the former in the Indian.   
    The place, whose doors open to the street in good weather, is basically a cheery, six-month old gastropub (80 seats, with patio hedged with flower boxes), with dozens of beers on tap and in bottle, along with cider and wines, and “Royale Cup” cocktails using Pimm’s Cup.       
       The décor has the cast of a Hollywood set trying to look like it was somewhere in the Punjab in the 1930s, with artifacts of Indian pop culture, including a white peacock. The booths are comfortable, the stools are stools.  I can’t comment on the noise level because I was there at lunch, but I can imagine it’s not like a tea party after 6 p.m.
    The menu is arranged on a broadsheet almost like a game board, with squares of dishes around the edges.  At prices that range from $4 to $13, you are likely to binge, and the portions are of good enough size to share.  There’s a tilt toward vegetables in dishes like crisp fried samosas filled with potatoes, onion and peas, and delicious peanut noodles with eggplant, long beans and shredded cilantro. The Gobi Manchurian is a fine dish of cauliflower, sweet and spicy Manchurian sauce, sesame and cashew, and there’s a terrific garlic-scented, smoky naan bread with fried onion, butter and touch of coriander. 
    My companion and I ate greedily, scarfing up everything on every plate, not least a marvelously aromatic India hot chicken (right) with “crazy pickles” and “chewy” naan. For dessert there’s a very large donut flavored with tea and dulce de leche, and the “banoffee sweet stack” is everything it suggests—bananas, peanut butter, caramel, and whole wheat flatbread, rather like an IHOP brunch item.
    It’s fair enough to say that the food at Pub Royale would pass for contemporary Indian, but the owners and kitchen have given everything a distinct twist that shies deliberately away from the muddy-sauced staples of so many Indian restaurants in  Chicago, where chicken, lamb and shrimp can all be found in the same five preparations.  Pub Royale is far more inventive, more concentrated on textures, and whatever the Anglo connection, it’s really more about the amusing décor than about the good old days of the Raj.
    Add in some perky, sometimes funky servers, and you’ve got a pub quite distinguished from all others on this very crowded street of competitors. 

Open for lunch and dinner Mon.-Fri., for brunch Sat. & Sun.



By John Mariani

5 W 21st Street (near  Fifth Avenue)

  When I heard that Kat & Theo’s executive chef, Paras Shah, had proudly listed on his résumé a stint at Ferran Adria’s El Bulli in Spain and Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York, I assumed I was in for a rollicking trip through molecular idiocy, trying to figure out what I was eating and why I was bothering to do so. So it came as a very welcome surprise when I sat down at this new Flatiron District restaurant to find a wholly sensible menu with a good number of items I was dying to try.
    I wouldn’t call the food simple, but Shah’s use of fewer rather than more ingredients on a plate makes a world of difference between chefs who wish to please guests and those who wish to dazzle them.  His menu consists of four raw dishes, six small plates (like appetizers), seven main courses, three side dishes, and desserts—a good number for a restaurant this size, which seats 70 and is long and narrow, with an open kitchen facing the favored booths.
    The décor has the usual brick walls, here nicely lighted, in this part of town, along with sea foam-colored tufted booths and some art déco-ish metal trellis work supporting the tin ceiling.  Unfortunately, the decorator chose to paint much of the room charcoal gray, also the color of the tables, so there is an absence of color at night.  The actual color in the room comes from a waitstaff whose hairstyles you will find either hilarious or just plain silly. 
What I found annoying is K&T’s archaic host’s command that those who arrive before the rest of their party must wait up front or at the bar—which is a wholly uncordial way of saying, “We don’t want you two to sit down and occupy a table if your late-arriving friends never show up.”  Nice.
    Yet, ever at hand to smooth feathers is owner Renée Typaldos, who with her husband, Andreas, named the restaurant after his parents, Katerina and Theodosius.
    The short wine list, printed amiably on the back of the food menu, is by
Stephen An, formerly of Aquavit,  and not one of the bottlings is over $84, with many below $50.   Cocktails  ($13) are by Michael Timmons, plucked from The Lamb’s Club.
    Our finally seated party of four began with a fine portion of raw fluke ($16) with a blood orange citronette dressing, Buddha’s hand fruit and a touch of dill. The most applauded appetizer at our table epitomizes Shah’s approach to cooking: his ajo (garlic) blanco soup with pickled lemon and American-made Surryano ham was a small masterpiece of subtle elements whose richness of flavor was buoyed by citrus and the salty luxury of the ham.
    A dish called matrimonio à la riojana ($10) was simpler still—anchovies laid atop housemade flatbread with charred shishito peppers and an aïoli—a rendition of a popular tapa.  Charred octopus with a gigante bean puree, sweet orange and oregano ($16) was also in the tapas tradition.
        Curiously enough, the main courses were more exciting than the apps, from a very good halibut of fine texture and flavor, with fennel and sweet heirloom tomato in a saffron broth ($28), to a first-rate, succulent lamb shank ($34), which had echoes of North Africa, incorporating figs, lamb belly and roasted vegetables.  On the same level of excellence was carefully cooked skate wing with a lush corn chowder, tangy pickled beet and a dash of chili oil ($27), and a generous chunk of tender Berkshire pork loin with kohlrabi and mustard ($27), yet again another nimble act of showing off the ingredients rather than the technique.
        Serena Chow, formerly at Eleven Madison Park and Pearl & Ash,  follows the same culinary pattern, creating some of the best, unfussy desserts ($14) I’ve had in NYC, including a cheesecake with berries, maple, chestnut and Graham cracker, whose elements are familiar but taste brand new. 
        Kat & Theo has a real swing to it, and the bustle can be a lot of fun.  Happily, the noise level is convivial, not ear splitting, and it’s a pleasure to watch Shah run his kitchen with that delicate dance of rhythm and urgency.  The Typaldos want their labor of love to feel like a neighborhood spot, but Shah’s cooking should draw gourmands from any NYC zip code.

Open Tues.-Sat. for dinner.




By John Mariani


    The gastronomic challenge to find wines that will go with the wide array of flavors--from sweet potatoes with marshmallows to cranberry sauce, from Brussels sprouts to well-seasoned, herb-inflected stuffing and marshmallows—makes choosing bottles for Thanksgiving daunting.  Especially since one's extended families have their own preferences in beverages on that holiday.
    It would be easy enough just to trot out a nice white wine and serve it throughout the meal, but there are so many distinct, often conflicting flavors in  the traditional turkey dinner that one has a lot of leeway to make the right or wrong decision.  The rich flavor of a good mahogany-skinned turkey with a dark brown gravy is better served with a red wine.  But the stuffing usually has several assertive herbs and spices, and the sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce are very sweet indeed.
    Next week I shall be tying Thanksgiving wines and spirits to those that might actually have been enjoyed in the years that followed the first feast, in 1621.  For the moment, these are a variety I have enjoyed this far this fall and would happily drink on the third Thursday of November. 


FERRARI BRUT ($23)—For more than a century in the province of Trentino, Ferrari has made one of Italy’s finest sparkling wines, according to the traditional “metodo classico.  Made from 100% chardonnay (and not to be confused with Asti spumante, made from moscato), the wine is matured at least 24 months on the lees, with a gradual turning of the bottle to concentrate sediment that is then disgorged, followed by a small dosage of sugar liquid.  At such a good price  (there is also a reserva at $56), this sparkler is easily a competitor for Champagnes three times its price, and with a pleasant 12% alcohol and a delicious apple ripeness, it is the perfect first wine of a Thanksgiving dinner and will last all the way through it, toast after toast.


PAZO DAS BRUXAS RIAS BAIXAS ALBARIÑO 2014 ($20)—This light (12% alcohol), frisky wine from Spain’s Miguel Torres is named after the bruxas (witches) of Galicia, but they would seem to be very convivial ones. Too many albariños—and there are far too many—are bland and taste like sweet-sour water.  This example has much more flavor, and the tangy sour apple component will most likely please every wine drinker at your table and may be the only wine to cut through sweet dishes like cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes.


WENTE VINEYARDS MORNING FOG CHARDONNAY 2014 ($15)—Here’s a price point for a quality chardonnay that reminds me, perhaps nostalgically, of the way a good, old-fashioned California chard used to taste: a tad sweet, with a little coconut flavor and some ripe tropical notes. Wente has never wavered from producing wines easily recognizable as their own, and the very reasonable 13.5% alcohol makes this a very good choice for white meat turkey and most everything around it.


CAIRDEAN VINEYARDS PICPOUL BLANC 2014 ($25)—Now here’s a varietal you don’t run across every day:  Picpoult blanc, whose principal region of production is the Languedoc, is one of those wines you drink when you’re in the region, an easy, light, almost astringently lemony little wine that goes as easily with seafood as with poultry. Cairdean (which means “friends” in Gaelic) is the only California producer (Rutherford Valley) of the varietal I know, and it’s an enchanting if modest wine everyone will love. . The winery is owned by Edwin and Stacia Williams, who also make a well-regarded gewürztraminer.


FEL PINOT NOIR SAVOY VINEYARD  2013 ($70)—While I still decry out-of-balance, high alcohol California pinot noirs, the Anderson Valley produces the better examples in the state, and FEL proves it with this young but vibrant wine at a not unreasonable 14.4% alcohol.  Remarkably this is one of FEL’s early  efforts (the winery is named after proprietor Cliff Lede’s mother, Florence Elsie Lede, “a home winemaker who provided the early inspiration for Lede’s love of wine.”)  Their pinots usually sell out quickly, but the 2013 is still in play,  with 605 cases produced.  The tannin is definitely there and the hint of sweetness you find in California cabs, but it’s also velvety right now and the fruit makes this admirably priced pinot wonderful with turkey dinner.

DONNACHIARA TAURASI RISERVA ($50)—Located in Montefalcione in the province of Avellino, Italy, Donnachiara is owned by the Petitto family, who also make the DOCG wines fiano di avellino and greco di tufo.  The winery is only ten tears old but the vineyards have been in the family for 150 years, named after a great grandmother who maintained them through two world wars. This is one of the finest, and most expensive, Taurasis, made from 100% aglianico, with the richness and refinement not always evident in this big bold Campanian varietal.  With the dark meat and stuffing of the turkey, this is a terrific match.

GOUGUENHEIM MALBEC RESERVA 2014 ($20)—I continue to be impressed with the wine of Mendoza, Argentina, especially its malbecs, and this example, from the high desert climate of the Oco Valley shows how fine a wine can be when its grapes have to work for its nutrient. Patricio Gouguenheim entered the business only in 2002, producing small batches, so that the consistency of the wines can be better gauged throughout the seasons.  Soft, with a yielding backbone of tannin, the wine has the right amount of acid and minerals to match up with something like pumpkin soup, parsnips, chestnuts, and even mild cheeses.

SUSANNA BALBO CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012  ($25)—A true pioneer in Mendoza, Balbo began as an enologist, then began making her own wines, always experimenting with all the factors, from yeast to oak, that effect grapes in the winery. She has several lines at different price levels but her signature series is top of her line.  This still young cabernet, with 5% merlot, aged first in new French oak, then in old, surmounts the difficult challenge of taming so much cabernet with just a little merlot so that the wine is muscular without being muscle-bound.  I’d give it a year or two more time to achieve greatness.

ROBERT MONDAVI RESERVE TO KALON VINEYARD 2012  ($155)—This is the second vintage of Mondavi’s To Kalon Vineyard-designated Reserve from the western edge of Oakville.  The first vintage was  named  “Vineyard of the Year” by the California State Farm Bureau in 2011. Mondavi’s Vineyard Manager, Matt Ashby, says that “Following two cooler and wetter growing seasons, the 2012 vintage was a walk in the park with warm days and cool nights that slowly built of the fruits and sugars to allow an ideal hang time, hand-harvested between September 27th and October 26th.” The final blend was 90% cabernets sauvignon, 7% cabernet franc, and 3% petite verdot.  Here’s an example of California cab at its best, not overly alcoholic, at 14.5%, with all the elements integrated along with abundant spice notes.  It will go well throughout a Thanksgiving dinner.





Self-described “Chili King” Li Yongzhi (left) says he east five-and-a-half pounds of chile peppers a day, even brushing his teeth with them. "In the morning, other people always brush their teeth, but the first thing I do is eat chili and rinse my mouse with that," he said. "If the food has no spiciness then it has no taste."  Li maintains that he is physically normal and suffers no ill effects from his extraordinarily spicy diet. "I don't have any supernatural powers," he said. “I just like to eat them, so I eat them. The hospital checked and they said that I am no different from anyone else."



“I was in Dominica. So why did everyone want to know why I wasn’t in Trinidad?”--
Baz Dreisinger, "On Dominica, a Carnival Celebration as It Was Meant to Be."  NY Times (10/9/15).


 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