Virtual Gourmet

  February 14, 2016                                                                                             NEWSLETTER


Margot Robbie and Leonardo DiCaprio in "Wolf of Wall Street" (2013)




By John Mariani


By John Mariani


By John Mariani


    All the destination islands of the Caribbean have, more or less, their own appeal, but Bermuda is decidedly not a Caribbean island. It is in the Atlantic Ocean, 640 nautical miles east of the U.S. mainland, which makes it much more of a year-round attraction and one I tend to prefer for its own particular, fairly subdued character.  Call it British reserve, if you like, but Bermuda does exude a far more genteel spirit than do the British Virgin Islands or Jamaica.
    The pink sand beaches are truly spectacular, nudging along a rugged coastline of dramatic beauty, and, when it’s not being pummeled by a hurricane—the last was Gonzalo in 2014—it has a subtropical climate with average monthly temperatures in the low
60s in winter (the record low is 43°) and in the low 80s in summer. When I was there in June many of the more secluded beaches were nearly empty, and, since you can’t rent a car on the island (only scooters and bicycles), the pace of traffic is very civilized indeed.
    Mark Twain was a regular after the Civil War, proclaiming, “You go to heaven if you want to, I’d rather stay right here in Bermuda,” where he found “no rush, no hurry, no money-getting frenzy, no fretting, no complaining, no fussing and quarreling; no telegrams, no daily newspapers, no railroads, no tramways, no subways, no trolleys, no Tammany, no Republican party, no Democratic party, no graft, no office-seeking, no elections, no legislatures for sale.”
    Well, that was then, and Bermuda now is far more modernized, with its major industry being re-insurance, which has had its ups and downs in the global recession.  But, largely speaking, the island retains that calmness of which Twain spoke; the buildings are in every shade of pastel, the water as blue as anywhere in the Atlantic, and the pace of life unrushed.
    As did Twain, I stayed at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club, long nicknamed the Pink Palace.  The original structure dates to 1885 and took its name from Queen Victoria’s daughter Louise, who’d visited Bermuda a few years prior.  Affluent Americans were the intended targets for the hotel and they’ve never stopped coming.  During World War II, the hotel became an
intelligence center nicknamed ''Bletchley-in-the-Tropics'' after the English country house where the ''Enigma'' code was broken.
    Today the hotel is sister, though not twin, to The Fairmont Southampton on the island’s south shore.
In 2012 the Princess was sold to the local Green family under the Fairmont aegis and has been renovated to the tune of $100 million; the main lobby is now a veritable museum of modern art, including works by Andy Warhol, David Hockney, Damien Hirst, Banksy and others spread throughout the resort.
    The 400 rooms and 43 suites are flooded with light and are all in view of Hamilton Harbor, with modern amenities, excellent bathroom facilities, dependable WiFi, access to the Inner Sanctum Spa and Riddell’s Bay Golf and Country Club.  Booking jet skis, kayaks, even a catamaran from K.S.  WaterSports, gives you freedom to sail through gorgeous seascapes in view of some of the grand mansions built on Bermuda’s hills.  There is also a new 60-berth marina, which will be official host to the 35th America's Cup.
    There are three dining options at the hotel, including the open-air 1609 Bar and Restaurant, set on the marina, and the Crown & Anchor Bar, Restaurant & Terrace, which is open for very good breakfast, lunch and dinners.  The big news when I visited was the opening of celeb chef Marcus Samuelsson’s vast Marcus’ restaurant (below), with a menu that fell way short of expectations.  Marcus himself played the natty greeter at the opening party, but was headed back to New York the very next day. A $20 appetizer called “Aunt Bonita’s crab and codfish cake with charred mango, salsa, bacon, and salsa verde” was third-rate; the catch of the day, wahoo ($36), was overcooked; the blackened redfish and grits ($38) were bland, and Samuelsson’s much ballyhooed fried chicken for two—$75!—could not even keep its crust on the meat.
    Otherwise, dining out in Bermuda can be trying—and expensive—with the hotel restaurants trying to please everyone with similar menus that pretend to offer a few questionable items of Bermudian cuisine, which, I’m sorry to report, is barely identifiable in any case.  I asked repeatedly of the locals where to eat something that resembled true Bermudian cooking, and, after visiting a few recommendations, found none that would give any foreign traveler much to talk, much less rave, about.  Avoid at all costs The Spot in Hamilton, a kind of diner with terrible food.  You’d do as well at the numerous pubs, like the Frog & Onion at the Royal Navy Dockyard, and, for a taste of something as downhome as you’ll find, Art Mel’s Spicy Dicy is a place where you line up to get a good fried fish sandwich, then eat it at the nearby park (but watch out for the beseeching beggars already on their third beer).
    The best restaurant I dined at was very, very good: Little Venice in Hamilton (below). It has been around for 40 years and has fine-tuned every dish, along with the ebullient patter and opera singing of owner-chefs Umberto and Tony, who have earned the respect of their guests enough to ask them for “
Proper attire"--no tee shirts, tank tops, bathing suits, or baseball hats."   They also stock a wine list of tremendous breadth and depth.
    Even though the food is not particularly Venetian in style, I would return again and again for Little Venice’s roasted octopus brightened with lime juice and a pesto sauce along with roasted potatoes ($20.75) and any of the housemade pastas, such as the tortelli filled with pumpkin and crushed amaretti in a butter-sage truffle sauce ($25.75), gnocchi filled with pumpkin and ricotta and sauced with a tomato-basil coulis ($24.75), and Mario’s ravioli alla caprese ($24.75). 
    Equally impressive was a risotto made with Arborio rice, rich with seafood and colored with squid ink ($29.75).  For dessert consider the torta caprese.
While Hamilton is a fine town, though on the verge of overdevelopment, historic St. George’s, a World Heritage Site, gives you a much more relaxed sense of the island’s past. Settled in 1612, it is quiet and low in density, with its center at King’s Square, where the Bermuda National Trust Museum is located. Otherwise, one could spend every daytime hour walking the miles of pink beaches on Bermuda, reveling in being, in the truest sense of the word, isolated from the rest of the world.



By John Mariani

20 E 76th Street (off Madison Avenue)

         Daniel Boulud has not been the first master chef to trade his prior principles for a huge profit.  Once he swore he would never have a restaurant in Las Vegas, and now he does (an earlier entry failed); he said he needed to be in his kitchens to guarantee the level of excellence he demanded, but now he runs sixteen restaurants on three continents, including seven in NYC, so that's a tough commitment.  I assign no blame; it's become what celebrity chefs do.
    Like his French colleagues Guy Savoy (with seven),  Joël Robuchon (24!), Alain Ducasse (25!!), and Jean-Georges Vongerichten (30!!!), Boulud no longer pretends to keep his finger in every pot, even infrequently.  Nor are his restaurants all carbon copies of each other, ranging from his deluxe namesake NYC flagship to his Épicerie pastry shop and charcuterie-driven Bar Boulud.  The quality of these units varies, of course—many are little more than management contracts—but of those I’ve dined at, the quality, overall,  remains at an admirable level.
    Café Boulud was Boulud’s second restaurant in NYC, after moving Restaurant Daniel from East 76th Street to much larger quarters on East 65th Street.  From the start Café Boulud was to be somewhat more casual than Daniel, though its Upper East Side regulars tend to dress well to dine at the Café, and the service staff is first class, from the suave manager, Sherif Mbodji, to the highly affable sommelier,  Eduoard Bourgeois, previously at Hôtel de Crillon’s Restaurant Les Ambassadeurs in Paris, Château Les Crayères  in Reims, and Restaurant Daniel. 
    Café Boulud’s menus have long been “inspired by Daniel Boulud’s four culinary muses: la tradition, classic French cuisine; la saison, seasonal delicacies; le potager, the vegetable garden; and le voyage, flavors of world cuisines,” all executed by Executive Chef Aaron Bludorn (below) at breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week.  It’s a daunting undertaking but on any given night the place is doing turnovers of seatings until ten o’clock. 

    The wine list is impressively international, with some excellent moderately priced choices on up through some of the most expensive bottlings in the world, with 35 wines by the glass, kept fresh via the Cravin system.  
    Over the years I’ve tended to slide towards the la tradition and la saison, with occasional choices from the other menus, as anyone might; you need not stay within a category.  The prices are à la carte at dinner, but at lunch you may opt for two courses for $39 or three for $45.
    My recent winter’s night dinner, with a Champagne producer, allowed for a bit of lagniappe on Chef Bludhorn’s part, which included a barely coddled egg with shavings of white truffles, with which there is no more perfect match than a fine Champagne, in this case Charles Heidsieck.
        The foie gras dishes here—offered both seared with hazelnut, quince, parsnip brioche, and vanilla ($29), or as a roulade with mustard and “hidden rose apple” ($26)—are always among the most dependably delicious choices, but a dish of plump panzerôti pasta  came with a drab tomato sauce that seemed more ratatouille than Italian. Maine peekytoe crab became a fad item a decade or so ago and I for one wonder why: The shreds of meat have very little flavor, and combining with green apple, yuzu, crème fraîche and hackleback caviar ($29)  did nothing but make it taste salty.
    This being the start of game season, New Zealand venison with sausage, sweet potato, Swiss chard, Seckel pear, pecan crumble and red wine jus ($46) was very appealing, and I also loved a roast breast of pheasant that was a special that evening. Poulet aux chataîgnes with chestnut pasta, braised leg ragȏut, salsify and jus de volaille ($39) was a superb example of what happens when you take a first-quality chicken and cook it to perfect succulence and add autumnal notes.
    In the same seasonal style, Pastry Chef Ashley Brauze brought a “Caramelia blackout” biscuit with pecan bavarois, caramel popcorn and dark chocolate ice cream ($15), a coffee délice with coffee mousse, espresso granité, cocoa nib and condensed milk ice cream ($15), and, from the le voyage section, a marvelous cardamom-scented kulfi pistachio cake with pomegranate coulis ($15).
Mont Blanc vacherin with Mandarin orange sorbet, Cognac cream, cinnamon meringue and chestnut ice cream ($15) was lighter than one might imagine and thoroughly refreshing at meal’s end.
    The dining room itself is a stunning example of NYC sophistication, adorned in colors of cream and dark brown and perfectly lighted from above, with added color from artwork and sprays of flowers.

    Café Boulud is one of those restaurants whose consistency seems not just a product of having been around long enough to make things go smoothly, but, with an ever-changing menu and dependence on the seasons, it is the result of everyone there caring, starting with the man whose name is on the door. 

Breakfast daily, lunch Mon.-Sat., dinner nightly, brunch Sun.




According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, at a Waffle House in  Kennesaw, Jennifer Mary Nicholson (left) was arrested for allegedly  "stripping off all of her clothes off in front of Waffle House staff and patrons during a suspected excited delirium state,” then punched another customer in the nose and heaved several platters at people and the window in the restaurant. . . .Meanwhile two employees at an Arkansas Waffle House location were fired after they were caught on camera using kitchen equipment to wash and style their hair. . . . And wait, there's more! A customer at a Waffle House in Charleston, S.C. opened fire on  and killed a would-be robber but and will not be charged for the shooting, police said. “No one was hurt, which is the best part,” Waffle House division manager Brandon Rogers told the Post and Courier. “No one was injured — besides the suspect.”


"One hundred and 16 years after his birth, and 54 years after his death, Ernest Hemingway hasn’t lost his allure. Over the past year, Papa’s life or works have inspired three local [Seattle] restaurants. Wallingford’s Manolin is named for a character in `The Old Man and the Sea.'  Ernest Loves Agnes, a 2-month-old Italian restaurant on Capitol Hill, pays homage to the real-life love affair behind `A Farewell to Arms.' Kirkland’s Bottle & Bull nods to two of the legendary writer’s many passions: bullfighting and imbibing."  -- Providence Cicero, "What would Papa Hemingway eat?" The Seattle Times.


 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: HELSINKI

Eating Las Vegas JOHN CURTAS has been covering the Las Vegas food and restaurant scene since 1995. He is the co-author of EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants (the fourth edition of which will be published in early 2016), as well as the author of the Eating Las Vegas web site: www.eatinglasvegas. He can also be seen every Friday morning as the “resident foodie” for Wake Up With the Wagners on KSNV TV (NBC) Channel 3  in Las Vegas.


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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