Virtual Gourmet

  JULY 31,  2016                                                                                             NEWSLETTER


CONEY ISLAND, NY, circa 1950


By John Mariani

By John Mariani

By John Mariani

By John Mariani



By John Mariani


    Twelve years  ago I went on a two-day cruise around Tampa Bay on the then brand new Queen Mary 2, which joined the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria as part of Cunard Line’s legacy on the high seas that dates back to 1839.  Sad to report, while I found the ship itself impressive, the food onboard was atrocious at a time when it seemed oceanliners were just beginning to improve their food and restaurants.    
    Then last year I was invited to give two lectures aboard the QM2 on her Atlantic crossing out of Southampton, and I leapt at the chance. My wife, who as a child was a veteran of crossings on ships like the S.S. France,  Flandre, and Liberté, found the idea of seven nights at sea a little daunting, but I was thrilled to experience it for the first time.  I was praying the food would be better.
    This past June the QM2 emerged from a short make-over that brought in 6,500 pieces of new furniture, 4,000 new works of art, 438,00 square feet of new carpet, even ten more pet kennels.  Prices for this season, which ends in the fall (when the ship switches to warm water ports of call) run from $1,653 for inside rooms up to $21, 210 for the most posh of accommodations.  All include room, food, pool and gym, and all entertainment, which ranges from first-run movies and amazingly good Broadway-style musicals to a Shakespearean play.  The lowest fares are hard to believe for their economy, but even were you to pay $10,000 or more, you get far more luxury, service, and entertainment that you could expect for seven nights at even a mediocre hotel, restaurants, and shows in London or NYC.  No wonder, then, that this season’s crossings are almost sold out. 
    Our arc-shaped stateroom suite (left and above) looking out over the prow of the ship, with a modern art deco refinement, was exceptionally well-designed, from the bedroom, with King size bed, spacious and walk-in clothes and luggage closet—no need to slide bags under the bed!—to a well-equipped bathroom roomy enough to move around in easily.
    Service throughout, from our butler to the restaurant workers drawn from a wide range of internationals speaking many languages, were clearly trained in the British way of hospitality: Remember that Lord Nelson demanded that “England expects every man to do his duty” on an English ship, even if the crew are  mainly from Slovenia and Rumania.
    The options for dining seem endless, at least until you’ve eaten onboard for five days.  The two top-tier dining rooms, tied to your package, are the Queen’s Grill and the Princess Grill, where, as is the custom, you dine with the same people every night.  (You may ask to dine alone, and there were some who did, described by the staff as people who more or less spend their entire year cruising the world.)
    We ate each evening in the beautiful Princess Grill (right), where we were extremely fortunate to have six tablemates who could not have been more diverse or more affable,  including two Californians, a movie stunt coordinator and his wife, and two jolly retired Brits. We’d usually start with cocktails at the always packed Commodore’s Club lounge, whose bartenders get to know your cocktail preference on the first night, then proceed to dinner, where three nights were black tie.  The food was for the most part very good, as were the wine choices, though, except for one special each night, the menu never changed, so that four nights in, we had  pretty much ran through everything on it.  But it’s no hardship to have fine lamb chops or Dover sole twice in a week.  The cheese and dessert offerings were excellent, too.
    The menu at the more glittery Queen’s Grill is the same, and I see from the current menus that they’ve also added some Canyon Ranch Spa Selections, with calorie counts, though to me the idea of not splurging on the Queen Mary 2 is like driving an Aston Martin at the speed limit.         The Brittania Club restaurant (left) set for lunch is exceptionally handsome and sunny—when it is sunny—and the menu more or less overlaps with those at the Grills.  The King’s Court is where most people have breakfast, lunch and dinner and everything in between. It’s a huge place with tandem dining areas and the look of a cafeteria, which it is, and among the various stations there is hardly a cuisine or any kind of food you won’t find every day, from pancakes and freshly made eggs, to pizza and sushi, from Thai spring rolls to Indian curries, from New York-style sandwiches to London-style bubble-and-squeak.  I must say I was very impressed with the quality, not least because all the food had been brought aboard in Southampton (reprovisioned in NYC), yet freshness was never an issue.
    After all the days at sea, the dips in the pool, tea time, movies, quiet visits to the library, lectures, and even a daunting Planetarium show (right), our urge to get on American terra firma had set in.  Dutifully getting up just before dawn, we joined the throngs outside to watch the sun silently creep up over the magnificent New York skyline stretching from Brooklyn to Staten Island, with Lady Liberty in the harbor, holding her torch aloft. I half expected them to play “Rhapsody in Blue.”
    I had never seen New York from out at sea, and I suddenly felt that the gorgeous lines William Wordsworth had penned back in 1802 about London’s Westminster Bridge could not have been more aptly applied to New York: 

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air. . . .
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

    There were a few eccentric people onboard who never disembarked from the QM2 and intended to sail back to England that afternoon, but for me the cruise had been just enough to make indelible impressions on me, so that I would probably never repeat it, content in the way I was once to join Mardi Gras in New Orleans and the Fourth of July fireworks in NYC.  My time onboard was unforgettable but never fleeting, and I feel that a second voyage might sap the wonder of it all.



By John Mariani

    Last week and its “partner,” Vox Creative, came out with a list of New York’s top Power Lunch restaurants, yet, with only three exceptions, few would ever be considered for a serious business lunch, where the emphasis is on business and lunch is secondary.  The Power Lunch thrives in NYC as nowhere else in the U.S. in restaurants that have been around for a very long time, including the just-closed Four Seasons in the Seagram Building.  Indeed, the term Power Lunch was concocted by Lee Eisenberg in an Esquire magazine story (October 1979) entitled  “America’s Most Powerful Lunch” about the Four Seasons (left), to the point of showing the Grill Room’s lay-out and who usually sat where.
      Earlier, in March 1976, the “Power Breakfast” was unofficially inaugurated (though the term was not used until 1980) at the Regency Hotel’s 540 Park Restaurant (below) by Preston Robert Tisch, president of the Loews Corporation, as a way for businesspeople to fit in an early meeting before the regular business day began. For the privilege of having breakfast—some regulars fit in two successive meetings—at what is now called the Regency Bar & Grill, you will pay $25 for eggs “any style,” $18 for yogurt with Granola, and $22 for pancakes.  But as someone said of the outrageous prices for the food, “You can’t really complain about the price, because it’s cheaper than office space.”
    After the Esquire article, the term Power Lunch caught on fast, and many restaurants sought to be part of the idea, including the well-established `21’ Club, a branch of the L.A.-based Michael’s, steakhouses like Sparks and Patroon, and high-end French places like Le Cirque in midtown; downtown in the Wall Street area private dining clubs were more popular for business lunches.
        The reason places like these were chosen was always about access and recognition from the restaurants’ owners and staff, preferential seating, and the ability always to get a table. From such considerations grew the idea of the “negative reservation,” which referred to a businessperson who dined most days of the week at an individual restaurant and called to relinquish their table only on those days they would not be coming.
        In such restaurants territory was critical to image: at the Four Seasons it was the Grill Room, at ‘21’ the first dining room by the bar (left), festooned with corporate toys. Being relegated to “Siberia” would be considered a demotion by one’s peers. That term originated in the 1930s, when a society woman named Peggy Hopkins Joyce (below) entered the class-conscious El Morocco nightclub in NYC and found herself being led to a less than desirable table. “Where are you taking me,” she asked the maître d’hôtel, “Siberia?”  Thus, the contortions and extortions that take place to assure being seated at an “A” table can be fierce. 
It should be noted that an “A” table is not always the same thing in a celebrity-rich or fashionable restaurant as it is in a Power Lunch. At the former the most conspicuous table is the most coveted; at the latter, discretion is more the rule, and having distance between your table and your competitor’s in the same industry is assumed. 
Every maître d’ can tell horror stories of being harangued by old and new guests for a very specific table, even if someone is already sitting there.  The young Sirio Maccioni, later owner of Le Cirque, on his first day as maître d’ at the high society restaurant The Colony back in the 1960s had to cope with Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant and Aristotle Onassis all coming for lunch and assuming they would get their regular table—the same one for each of them.   Sinatra was not happy but moved, Grant was wholly gracious, Onassis got the table but griped anyway.  (One can only imagine Rick’s dilemma in the movie “Casablanca” when freedom fighter Lazlo asks him for a table “as far away from [Nazi] Major Strasser as possible,” to which Rick wryly remarks, “Well, the geography may be a little hard to arrange.”)
    Lunch at fashion industry favorites like Polo Bar by Ralph Lauren is much more a matter of seeing and being seen than deal-making. But a Power Lunch is always a business lunch, even if little business is actually discussed, and for this reason, the trendier, the noisier, the more out-of-the-way and the more extenuated the meal, the less useful it is for business.  The food should never dominate, and the Three Martini Lunch has been dead and gone for two decades now.  You’ll now find far more bottled water and iced tea on the table than even a glass of wine.
Just to show how unimportant food was to his business lunches at Le Cirque, the monstrous power-mad lawyer Roy Cohen would emerge from his limo carrying a bag with his own lunch and iced tea in it, which he handed to the maître d’ to have plated.  And, of course, everyone remembers the line in the movie “Wall Street” (below) when Gordon Gekko invites his acolyte to `21’ and five minutes later leaves him at the table, snarling, “Lunch is for wimps.”
So, I was amazed to find the Power Lunch spots in the Creative article so out of tune with the established rubrics of what a Power Lunch is really about: “
The iconic restaurants and traditions remain, but the idea of what power lunch means today has shifted significantly. For many, that rare-yet-cherished working lunch is more kale salad than mid-day porterhouse. And the power lunch spots of yesterday no longer attract the elite and powerful, as seen by the ever-changing trends and restaurant openings in New York. (In case you were wondering, ramen, raw bars, and tasting menus are in for the lunch crowd).”
        The article does mention `21’ Club, Odéon and Betony, but the rest are so fraught with problems for the Power Lunch crowd that they are clearly better suited for those willing to wait for a seat at the counter or to endure a gargantuan three-hour meal.  Thus, at Ippudo in the East Village, Creative writes: “Get there early for lunch — no reservations, and eager lovers of the noodle soup will most certainly guarantee you a wait — and settle in for a ramen bowl, rice bowl, and small salad for lunch.”  At Eleven Madison Park (right), lunch is a seven-course affair: “Be forewarned—a table for two at lunch, without the wine pairing will cost you nearly $1,000 with service and taxes. But this is power lunch 101: So order the wine pairings and ease into a decadent meal.”
        Since the average Power Lunch meal in Midtown costs roughly $50 per person, a tab like Eleven Madison Park’s would be quite a stretch even for an investment banker on a roll, not to mention a Brazilian billionaire who never eats lunch before two PM.
        Balthazar does get a good business breakfast crowd, but its hugeness, its frenzied atmosphere and ear-splitting noise do not make it an ideal spot to discuss mergers and acquisitions.  And I wince at Eater.comn/Vox Creative’s  notion that “Nothing says power lunch more than a lobster bib.”
For any business person not located way over west in the Village, High Street on Hudson would be a trek during midday, when traffic is at its worst.  Still Creative calls it “the new powerhouse lunch spot. If you’re there before 11:30 a.m. (official lunch hour), feast on an elevated breakfast sandwich or pick from the stunning selection of pastries.”  Does the photo of High Street on Hudson below look ideal for a serious business lunch?
    Santina, inconveniently located even farther west under the High Line, is “an easy yet trendy place to make your sprawling group lunch into an extended afternoon event.” The NY Times critic called Santina’s sound level “oppressive at peak capacity”—just the place to have a face-to-face with your toughest client!
        Lure Fish Bar’s “lively atmosphere brings Manhattan’s media elite to this Soho hotspot” for “a taste of the yacht life [in] a subterranean dining room designed to look like the boat of your dreams,” which might be fun after you clinch your multi-million dollar deal at a quieter venue uptown. Creative is certainly correct that their choices are widely popular, the food very good, and they might be great fun for after hours business entertaining on expense account, perhaps followed by karaoke.  But I doubt even a VP of Marketing for Stella McCartney, Rag + Bone or Lululemon in the Meat Packing District is going to try to bring in business over saketinis  at Spice Market or Fatty Crab.

    Like most listicles in the foodie media these days, heat and buzz mean everything and anything, two terms antithetical to the Power Lunch crowd, for whom the last thing they want to hear over the booming sound system is Wiz Khalifa and Big Sean while a waiter explains why it’s taking fifteen minutes to get a chicken fajita.



By John Mariani

41 W 42nd Street (near Fifth Avenue)

    For the moment, let me say nothing at all about the food at Chef Gabriel Kreuther’s namesake restaurant across from Bryant Park. Instead let me focus in on what this splendid, year-old restaurant represents in 2016.
    When it opened, the food media questioned whether a restaurant of this high style and refinement would garner a clientele at a time when it was presumed people had moved away from fine dining in preference to downtown eateries with brick walls, barn wood tables, t-shirted waiters and cacophonous music. The question was hardly worth posing, for in the two years preceding the opening of Gabriel Kreuther, New York saw the debut of Nomad, Betony, Morini, and the re-configured Eleven Madison Park, all opened to great acclaim and packed houses.
    Given Kreuther’s résumé and reputation at restaurants like Jean-Georges and The Modern, there seemed every reason to believe his restaurant would succeed admirably. And it has indeed. GK, as I’ll call it, has become one of NYC’s most respected and popular midtown restaurants—with one Michelin stars and three from the NY Times—in both its 100-seat main dining room and its amiable bar-lounge area.
    Prices for the four-course prix fixe dinner have angled upward since last year, now
$125, with too many supplements, but they’re still below those at comparable venues like Le Bernardin’s $147 (four courses), Daniel’s $142 (four) and Jean-Georges’ $138.
    And what do you get for your money, which is about one-fifth the price of a ticket to “Hamilton”?  First, a most civilized young waitstaff, not least manager Thierry Chouquet and wine director Emily Perrier, all impeccably dressed, never intrusive, always knowledgeable.         
     GK’s flowing dining spaces, including a chef’s table near the kitchen, are inspired by the town squares in Alsace, whence Kreuther hails, with street lamp light fixtures, huge wooden beams, an etched-glass wall adorned with stork imagery, and a stainless-steel bar top.  The retro-style chairs are extremely comfortable, the lamp-lighted tables are set with thick white linens and napkins, so the acoustics make for very civilized conversation. (The elongated and awkward silverware still strikes me as more apt for a fondue set.)  Now a year into its prime, the place looks fresher than ever.
    Peek into the glassed-in kitchen and you’ll see a brigade all in traditional crisp white chef''s coats—no t-shirts, no sandals, no cargo shorts, no earphones channeling hip-hop.  In such a place as this, pride of professionalism trumps trendiness.
    Now that I have set the stage for dinner, let me say that GK’s cuisine continues to impress by refinement and detail, from the very Alsatian tartes flambée served at the bar-lounge to the wispy applewood smoke in a bell jar lifted from a course of sturgeon and sauerkraut with American caviar mousseline.  Kreuther has kept this and other signature dishes on the menu, including the ethereal langoustine tartare with flying fish roe, cauliflower, and a lush macadamia puree.  The continuing service of various breads is also—thank heavens—maintained, for there simply are no better breads in NYC, from the herbed buckwheat House rolls to the nicely chewy baguette.  Colorful amuses live up to their name.
    Now the crispy sweetbreads are roasted in duck fat with honshimeji mushrooms, pancetta and mildly spicy pasilla chilies.  The sight of Everglades frogs’ legs cooked in a Mason jar is odd, but with woodsy chanterelles, zucchini and puffed farro, the dish is a little masterpiece of taste and textures and fun to scoop out.  On a summer’s eve, there can be nothing better than Kreuther’s chilled honeydew melon soup with husk cherries, dried tomatoes and cantaloupe, and his classic training shows impeccably in a terrine of creamy foie gras with brittle black truffled praline, Muscat jelly and seven grain toast. There is never a jarring note on any plate, no surprise for the sake of it.
    Among the main courses, I love the pork tenderloin with fennel, roasted broccolini and pickled mustard seeds, while duck came with breast and confit-ed leg touched with chamomile oil in a spiced consommé—a dish as contemporary as anything in town.  But in every dish, in the way it is conceived and presented—the drizzle of jus, the pour of broth, the minimal explanation by the captain—there is elegance and a dexterity that shows the depth of the entire staff. Kreuther is one of those chefs who is always in his kitchen, so he hovers over his cooks to make sure all goes well.
    This most certainly includes the dessert kitchen under Marc Aumont (his sous-patîssiére is my daughter-in-law, so I’m well familiar with the detail work and complexity of the desserts, chocolates and petit-fours).  Some sound simple, like a vanilla-coconut pannacotta with fresh pineapple and sorbet, but there are ten flavors within that sorbet.  Sauté cherries come with an almond mousseline and perfect sable Bréton.  And white chocolate mousse (left), which seems to have disappeared from dessert menus 20 years ago, has been marvelously restored to life with a bergamot marmalade and raspberry sorbet.
    At the end of an evening at GK, you’ll realize several things: First, fine dining is alive and well in NYC; second, as Marc Aumont told me, this kind of excellence is inspiring a young generation of cooks (“They are the future.”); and third, you will leave the dining room not only well fed and well cared for but feeling you have had a share in something rare and special.

Open for lunch Mon.-Fri.; Dinner Mon.-Sat.




By John Mariani

    Sometimes—often, actually—it’s better not to think too much about the wine you are drinking and just enjoy it for what it is. Special in small ways, refreshing, surprising, appealing because you don’t have to think about it.  And in summer that’s the philosophy I generally follow when it’s 95 degrees outside and I haven’t the energy to be highly critical.  Here are some wines I’m enjoying right now.


CHÂTEAU TOURRIL HAVANA 2015 ($12)—Located near Carcassone in the Languedoc, Château Tourril is just 32 acres in size and its name is taken from a Gallo-Roman tower on the property.  The owner likes calling his wines after Cuban cigars, hence Havana, a rosé made from Minervois grapes like Cinsault, Carignan, Roussillon and Grenache that give it a cheery color and bright flavor. It’s wonderful as an aperitif or with a crab salad, especially while listening to Soeur Sourire sing “Dominique” in the background.  

CHÂTEAU MESSILE-AUBERT  2009 ($20-$25)—A Grand Cru Classé Montagne Saint-Émilion, Messile-Aubert is made from 80% merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon.  It’s very smooth, unprovocative, and an apt choice for anything you toss on the grill this summer.  Its age has provided balance, with the tannins mellowed out, but somehow I find it difficult to taste the “crushed rocks” that Wine Advocate does.  

TASCANTE BUONORA 2014 ($20)—The Carricante grape is showing good promise in Sicilian vineyards like this one, both fermented and briefly aged in stainless steel to give it as fresh a profile as you could wish for in summer.  Tascante is one label of the 1,480-acre Tasca d’Almarita estate dating back two centuries, and this bottling comes from grapes grown around Mount Etna, so it picks up minerality in abundance. Still, no crushed rocks.  

CHÂTEAU SAINT-MAUR 2015 ($25)—Just a tad high for a rosé but, at 13% alcohol, it has more body and aromatics than many from the Côtes de Provence, this one specifically from around Golfe de Saint-Tropez. It really is more pink than rose-colored, and the fruit component is well complemented by its citrus acids. The wine is made from 54% Grenache, 26%  Cinsault, 13% Carignan, 2% each Mouvèdre and Cabernet Franc for the body, and 1% each Syrah, Ugni Blanc, and Rolle for complexity. It’s the kind of wine you remember drinking on your first visit to the French Riviera when you were either in love or longing to be so. 

MURPHY-GOODE LIAR’S DICE ZINFANDEL 2013 ($21)—“This wine is no roll of the dice,” reads the label. “It’s a sure-fire winner.”  Fair enough.  (The name comes from games of Liar’s Dice co-founder Tim Murphy played with Sonoma County growers.) It’s a big, bold zin, briary and lip-smacking, and if you drink it with anything that has a char on it, you’ll be very happy indeed. Slosh it into the glass. Good price, too.  

MASSOVIVO AMMIRAGLIA VERMENTINO 2014 ($18)—Made by the Frescobaldi family of Tuscany, this shows off how a commonly bland white grape, Vermentino, can show its character (Massovivo means “living rock,” a nickname for the Ammiraglia terroir). With a fine 13% alcohol, the wine emerges from four months in stainless steel and one in bottle. Just about any seafood will match well with this sprightly wine, but it would be equally good with a vegetable-based pasta. 

DOMAINE GEROVASSILIOU AVATON 2012 ($60)—The name Avaton means “inviolable and sacred,” which seems a stretch, but this is an impressive modern red wine of Greece, made from ancient but unfamiliar grapes--Limnio, Mavrotragano, and Mavroudi—which makes it at the least a curiosity and at best the kind of hearty, layered red wine at just 14% alcohol that will be perfect with roasted or grilled lamb and warm pita bread. Still, at $60 in U.S  wine shops (much less in the UK), it’s not a wine to uncork too casually.



Robert Irvine (left, with Paula Deen), star of the TV show Restaurant: Impossible star will be getting a new show described as  "Dr. Phil–esque" called simply Robert Irvine, to air on the CW network
in the weekday 3 p.m. time slot.  The show will be built around one-on-ones with
"chef-therapist" Irvine  "dishing up tough-love advice and conflict resolution options"
after "making people understand what they're doing wrong."




FOOD WRITING 101: Less Is More

“Seward's Folly at West Rib Pub and Grill, Talkeetna Alaska: This bad boy touts itself as being the biggest burger in Alaska and considering it weighs in around 5 pounds, we can't disagree. Topped with over 2 pounds of Caribou burger, sliced ham, 12 pieces of bacon, 12 slices of cheese, lettuce, tomato, and grilled onions, and smothered in West Rib's famous `Fat Ass’ sauce, anyone who can eat this all within an hour earns the title of Master and gets a free T-shirt.”—Shana Lynch,” The Most Over-The-Top Burgers In Every State,”




Sponsored by Banfi Vintners

Poggio alle Mura Rosso di Montalcino
By John Fodera,

    In 1992, Castello Banfi planted the Poggio Alle Mura vineyard after over 10 years of Sangiovese clonal research that determined which clones where most properly suited to the vineyard based upon soil composition, elevation and exposition.  Today that vineyard is almost 25 years of age and bearing the best grapes it has ever produced. 
    This "maturation" is exemplified by the creation of two additional wines in Castello Banfi's portfolio. Originally planted to create a unique expression of Brunello only,  in optimal vintages the estate is now producing a second Brunello Riserva and a vineyard designated Rosso di Montalcino.  The result have been impressive. 

The 2013 Poggio Alle Mura Rosso di Montalcino opened my eyes.  I have to admit, while I enjoy Rosso di Montalcino in general,  I don't often find one that surprises me, but this one did.   The wine is vinified in Castello Banfi's hybrid stainless steel and oak fermentors for 7-10 days and then racked to French oak barrique for 12 months.   In fact, the distinction between the Poggio Alle Mura and it's sibling estate Rosso di Montalcino - other than the fruit source - is the oak aging regimen.  While the estate wine spends 12 months in a combination of barrique and botte, only barrique are used for the Poggio Alle Mura. 
    In the glass, the wine is a deep ruby color.    Lovely, expressive and almost delicate aromas lift from the glass with little coaxing.  Floral notes, crushed cherry, spice and fresh herbs form the bouquet that will carry through onto the palate.  In the mouth, the wine is medium to full bodied; there is very nice ripe, weighty fruit to this Rosso.  Vibrant and fresh, with refreshing acidity, the core of cherry fruit is strong but graceful at once.  There are few nits to pick with this.  A really wonderful example of the type.  91 points.  About $24-$28.  


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

   The Hound in Heaven (21st Century Lion Books) 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 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 ABOUT VILLA RENTALS

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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© copyright John Mariani 2016