Virtual Gourmet

  December 25,  2016                                                                                             NEWSLETTER

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree


By Christopher Mariani


By John Mariani



BY Brian Freedman


By Christopher Mariani

"The Return of the Bucintoro to the Molo on Ascension Day" by Canaletto (1729-32)

    For much of its history Venice was the mighty ruler of the Eastern Mediterranean, yet it was lovingly called La Serenissima.  Today tourists rule Venice simply by outnumbering a dwindling number of residents.     "Sempre crolla ma non cade" is a Venetian proverb that means, the city is always collapsing but never fallen, for the city survives every assessment of its imminent demise as the waters of the Adriatic flow in and out of its lagoons, lapping over into the streets and up to the windows, regularly flooding the Piazza San Marco.
    To Byron the city was a reverie and revelry--"the greenest island of my imagination"; Henry James thought it a "vast museum"; Shelley called its "Earth's nursling," and Truman Capote said the city was like "eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go."  And the magic is still there, from San Marco to the meandering narrow streets leading from it.
    And now in winter, it is quieter, prices drop in the hotels and restaurants. Venice breathes a little more slowly. Here are three uniquely beautiful places to get a sense of Venice's grandeur.


    Having just spent seven days at sea stopping throughout Italy, the Greek islands and Croatia onboard Costa Cruises’ Costa Deliziosa I was in need of a change of scenery. We docked at the Maritimma terminal near the Piazza  Roma in Venice, Italy and immediately made our way to the first available water taxi and when asked where to, I smiled and said, “Hotel Cipriani.”
    “Si signore,” replied our driver. And off we traveled across the choppy lagoon towards the small island of Giudecca, across from the largely man-made island of Venice itself.  Our taxi slowed as we turned a corner and in the distance we saw the hotel’s iconic blue and white umbrellas offering cover to guests enjoying an aperitif or an afternoon espresso. I figured there was no better place to spend one of the final nights’ of my honeymoon than at the Belmond Hotel Cipriani. My wife seemed to agree.
    As our boat pulled up to the hotel dock we were greeted by a pair of sturdy hands which gently grabbed my wife’s arm to help her off the boat. We were led through the hotel’s well-groomed entrance and once inside approached the check-in counter where our presence was immediately acknowledged. Before introducing myself our host looked up and said, “Welcome Signore Mariani.” I knew from that moment on we would be very well taken care of. 
    Hotel Cipriani welcomed its first guests in 1958 and was instantly recognized as one of the city’s premiere hotels. Owner Giuseppe Cipriani who also opened Venice’s famous Harry’s Bar on Calle Vallaresso, known for its creation of the bellini cocktail, was a man who believed his patrons should be treated to the absolute best accommodations possible. That same tradition is currently upheld by General Manager Giampaolo Ottazzi who has an impressive résumé, working at a handful of other Belmond properties along with the Hotel Villa La Massa in Florence and the Grand Hotel Continental and Park Hotel in Sienna. Ottazzi was seen just about everywhere on property during our brief stay. He is clearly involved in every aspect of the hotel, its property and many gardens. 
    Our room was not quite ready so my wife and I walked to the hotel’s Giabbiano Poolside Bar (left) for a couple of cocktails as we peered out at the hotel’s Olympic-size salt water swimming pool, the largest in all of Venice. The property’s tranquility began to set in with the help of two excellent cocktails made by head bartender Walter Bolzonella, here since 1978.  (Frequent guest  George Clooney once jumped behind the bar to make a cocktail for the staff at three in the morning, now commemorated in a drink called the Bellanotte, with lemon, vodka, bitters, and cranberry juice.)
    Shortly after we were escorted to our suite, fitted with a quaint balcony overlooking the lagoon, where we sat and leisurely sipped two perfectly made espressos. Our deluxe suite was draped in elegance from every selection of furniture to the pristine lighting package and gorgeous bedroom chandelier. The property has a total of 25 rooms, 29 junior suites and 15 suites, many of which have stunning views of the hotel’s gardens. There is also the highly coveted and highly expensive Palladio suite with a panoramic view of the Venetian lagoon, its very own dock, private swimming pool, intimate deck and impressive marble bathroom the size of most hotel bedrooms. (The hotel also offers a complimentary shuttle service for its guests onboard their all-wood passenger boat departing every twenty minutes from the hotel dock to Saint Mark’s Square and back.)
    That evening we dined at Hotel Cipriani’s Cip’s Club (below) which sits directly on the water facing St. Mark’s. We began the evening with two glasses of prosecco while admiring a beautiful view of Venice lit up at night as a few small motor boats quietly passed us by. The night grew cold and just moments after my wife rubbed her arms a manager arrived to the table with two shawls, one to wrap around her body and the other to lay over her legs. These are just a few of the gestures that make Hotel Cipriani special. The service staff was extremely attentive and clearly trained with an emphasis on classic hospitality, a standard too often lost in modern day dining.
    Chef Roberto Gatto has been part of the Cipriani family since 1993 as chef de partie and now man’s the helm as head chef for Cip’s Club, concentrating on Venetian and Italian dishes. Start off with any of Gatto’s specialties, including the thinly sliced prime beef carpaccio with “Cipriani mayonnaise sauce,” or the simple and delicious sautéed shrimp served over a small mound of rice polenta drizzled with fabulous olive oil. Pastas are large enough to share as a mid-course and depending on the time of year can be topped with thin shavings of either black or white truffles, including the fat strozzapreti with porcini mushrooms and rosemary. Entrees include daily fish specials that can be either baked or grilled per the guests’ request. I enjoyed a large veal Milanese with a crispy coating and tender center served with a salad of pachino tomatoes. We finished the evening slowly sipping the remains of our wine before heading back to our suite for a well-deserved night’s rest.
    The following morning we dined inside the Oro dining room which offers a magnificent complimentary breakfast buffet abundantly displayed with an array of cheeses, endless baked breads and pastries, thinly sliced salami and prosciutto, yogurt and jams and freshly squeezed juices. You can also order eggs, omelets and coffee while seated. For lunch and dinner the dining room transforms into the Michelin-star Oro restaurant led by Executive Chef Davide Bisetto. I did not have an opportunity to dine at Oro for lunch or dinner.
    We reluctantly had to checkout after breakfast. We were headed to the Hotel Bauer Palazzo for our final night in Venice. The Cipriani’s staff was kind enough to walk all of our bags to the Bauer’s sister property on Giudecca island to ensure we were taken care of up until the very last moment of our stay, and from there the Bauer assumed the same congenial task, moving our bags across the Grand Canal. There are few hotels I have ever stayed at that embrace the kindness and geniality of Venice’s Hotel Cipriani.




    Another first-rate Venetian hotel is the Bauer Palazzo located in the heart of the city just a few blocks from Saint Mark’s Basilica. The hotel sits directly on the water at the mouth of the Grand Canal with gorgeous views of the Punta Della Dogana art museum just across the lagoon. Enter from the street or the hotel’s private dock where you can see an outside terrace filled with guests dining at De Pisis restaurant if the weather permits.
    I say this because twenty years ago my father brought me here and while dining outside a sudden rush of torrential rain came down upon us swelling the hotel’s red umbrellas with water that in moments would collapse onto the guests. We were quickly ushered inside by the hotel’s staff where we pleasantly finished our lunch, all done with a nonchalance that indicated this was not the first time they needed to save a passel of guests from impending disaster.  It was pure Italian sprezzatura—the art of concealed art.
    The original hotel, an 18th century palace,  opened in 1880 and was known as the Bauer-Grunwald, operated by Julius Grunwald, a young Austrian who married the daughter of Mr. Bauer. The two quickly partnered and went into business opening the hotel together.  Today the property is run by Chairman and CEO Francesca Bortolotto Possati, granddaughter to Arnaldo Bennati who bought the hotel in 1930, and it has  stayed within the family ever since. Today the hotel still holds the look and feel of its 18th century roots blended with every modern day amenity a guest could ask for, including dependable, free Wi-Fi.
    Over the past 20 years the hotel has seen major renovations, and if you take a quick boat ride across the lagoon to the Bauer’s sister property, the Palladio Hotel,  you can avail yourself of a full-service spa experience. The Palladio Hotel has a much more contemporary feel and is located next door to Hotel Cipriani on Giudecca Island.
    Rooms at Palazzo are lavishly decorated with an Old World feel. Beautiful stenciled designs and patterns coat the walls and high ceilings, doorways are ordained with dark wood moldings, gorgeous thick oak-wood dressers fill the living space and most of the rooms have grand windows with terrace views. There is a true sense of opulence that permeates the interior of the hotel with a genuine attention to infinite detail.     
   De Pisis Restaurant can be found on the hotel’s first floor next to the concierge desk. Like the entire hotel the dining room’s decor is a statement of Venetian beauty and sophistication, from its Murano glass chandeliers and rococo mirrors that reflect the soft light of the lagoon to the rich fabrics on walls and seating.
    Signora Possati recently brought in Michelin star-rated chef Andrea Ribaldone (left) to oversee and direct all food services within the hotel, and his influence is clearly apparent throughout the menu. Alessio Loppoli is the hotel’s resident chef, responsible for the day-to day operations and menu execution.
    We began our meal with two well-made Negronis while enjoying a view of the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Salute church across the water. For starters try the grilled octopus served with borlotti beans, salami and olives or the beef carpaccio topped with porcini mushrooms and Asiago cheese. Do not miss out on the pastas which can be ordered either as an entrée or a mid-course. There was a savory ravioli filled with chicken, Parmigiano-Reggiono, cream and saffron that my wife and I fought over to the last piece. 
Housemade spaghetti was cooked al dente, tossed with tender fresh shrimp and a slightly sweet marinara sauce. Chef Loppoli sources superb ingredients, and the dishes he is producing are well-balanced, allowing for each ingredient to be noticed and appreciated. The food is filled with many layers of flavor and texture but not one dish was overly complicated.
     Entrees include a terrific filet of turbot served with broccoli and clams in a subtle garlic sauce. There is also a roasted filet of veal served with crispy croquettes and spinach,  a very rich dish well worth indulging in. Desserts were clearly produced and plated by a talented pastry chef who equally values the look and taste of each dessert. My favorite was the “Oro Ciok” – a crispy dacquoise cake with hazelnuts and bittersweet dark chocolate topped with gold leaves.
    Prices are very reasonable for this height of cuisine--$26-$39 for appetizers, $22-28 for pastas, and $28-$36 for main courses.
    We spent the night in our suite but unfortunately had to say goodbye to this truly memorable hotel as our honeymoon came to a close. We checked out the following morning and jumped into a water taxi headed for Marco Polo Airport. With Venice in the rearview mirror we smiled at one another knowing we had made all the right decisions for what is supposed to be the greatest vacation of a married couple’s life.                 



        Venice is by no means short on terrific restaurants, but the city also has its fair share of mediocre restaurants concentrated throughout the streets surrounding Saint Mark’s Square, typically hustling potential guests inside with the help of a boisterous maître d’ with a crocodile smile and questionable Italian charm. This is not to say the food they serve is necessarily bad, but their turn-and-burn business model targets the masses of tourists roaming the streets with absolutely no clue where to dine. Recommendations from concierges are typically unreliable and most of the time are based on a kick-back system which is wrong for obvious reasons.
        Here is my personal recommendation for superb dining. Canova restaurant, located on the first floor of the stunning Bagiolini Hotel Luna, is an authentic Venetian dining experience that I assure you will not disappoint. The hotel itself is a shrine to some of the city’s most coveted artwork, paintings, furniture and actual building, formerly a city church, and you’ll see its historic remnants when standing directly in the hotel lobby and looking up.
        We dined at Canova on our final afternoon in Venice and couldn’t be more pleased with an experience that exceeded any and all expectations. Executive Chef Daniele Zennaro, born in the Veneto region, took over the kitchen in July and has quickly made his mark as a truly talented chef.
        We started with a generous portion of herb-marinated salmon served with sweet mango and a creamy Greek yogurt. There is also fennel escalope caramelized with orange and plump Taggiasca olives. Zennaro’s fresh pastas are extremely well executed, simple and delicious. We shared one tossed in a hearty beef ragù sprinkled liberally with the best parmigiano cheese, as well as a spaghetti “quadrati” lightly coated in a sweet tomato sauce.
        Entrees include a Venetian specialty of fried shrimp, calamari, scampi and sand smelts lightly coated, crisp and delightful with a glass of white Venetian wine. Cuttlefish is served in a rich sauce of the seafood, served over a bed of creamy smooth white polenta. There is also a fine selection of various prosciutti, mortadella, bresaola, local salami, pickled ham and many regional Italian  cheeses.
Desserts are just as impressive, specifically the tiramisu, one of which is more than enough for two.
       The dining room (left) is effusively gorgeous, with rich polished wood, and brocade wallpaper, and a 17th century French still life of food.  All tables are draped with heavy white table linens set with a small glass vase of flowers. Plates and glassware are of the finest quality, perfectly set with care on each table.  The lighting is perfect, enhanced by a delicate chandelier and lighted candles in silver scones.
       The hotel is very convenient to St. Mark’s and the Palazzo Ducale, Harry’s Bar and La Fenice Opera House. At the moment it is offering a “Stay Another Night” and breakfast is included in the room rates.  I did not have a chance to stay at the 91-room hotel, including its extraordinary suites, some large enough to host entire weddings. The gracious  General Manager Gianmatteo Zampieri greeted us after our lunch and was kind enough to tour us through the hotel, which could be mistaken for a museum, considering the wealth of artwork. His passion for the hotel is mesmerizing as he tells the stories behind each painting and the famous Marco Polo ballroom. Baglioni Hotel Luna is as much worth a visit as any of the city’s historic churches or landmarks. 



By John Mariani


322 East 86th Street (near First Avenue)

    I’ve known Francois Latapie for a good long while now, dating back to the days when he was mâitre d' at Le Cirque, then when he ran a trendy restaurant on Miami Beach, and later when he opened a very authentic French spot in Greenwich Village named Lyon Bouchon Moderne with the classic bistro dishes splendidly prepared.
    So I was very happy to hear that he recently opened Little Frog on the Upper East Side, where he’s already drawing a very local crowd. (If they ever finish the Second Avenue subway, maybe more people from elsewhere will find their way there.)  Latapie (below) has always been the epitome of French savoir faire and bonhomie, with a great smile upon greeting you and a way of seeming to be at every table at once, making sure everything is going well and that you are having a good time.  While speaking with you he is also aware what is going on five tables away.
    And, really, that’s the point of a good bistro. The food must be rigorously authentic, with wines to match, but the joie de vivre of the room is paramount.  You don’t go to a bistro like Little Frog to eat an ego-mad chef’s 20-course tasting menu; you go so you can flop down on a comfortable banquette in a clean, well-lighted place, have a nice conversation with the owner, sip a simple wine, and eat exactly what you want to eat. A bistro is a place where even a solo diner can feel completely relaxed and at home.
    Little Frog is a handsome, long slip of a white brick-walled room, seating 75, with a cheery bar up front, green tufted banquettes, bentwood chairs and the requisite tilted mirrors.  I’d prefer to see tablecloths than bare wood, but somehow the room doesn’t get overly loud when it’s full, thank heavens.
    Chef Xavier Monge, previously at Minetta Tavern, proves that consistency in every dish is really the key to this kind of cuisine. The grilled octopus with celery, pine nuts, arugula, pecorino and tapenade ($18) must always be this tender and nicely crusted. The  duck liver foie gras parfait with griotte cherries and grilled levain bread  ($16) must always be this creamy and flavorful. And, of course, the onion soup gratinee ($12) must be textbook perfect every time—a deep, dark caramelized broth with abundant, sizzling Gruyere cheese with a pliant, golden top.  The Little Frog salad ($15) is an assemblage of haricots vert, baby head lettuce and aged chèvre . 
    Coq au vin is often made with a lackluster white wine, when red is far more traditional, and here the dark meat of the bird is truly infused with a fruity, tannic red wine that also soaks into the carrots and bacon, served with buttered mashed potatoes ($26). Côte de porc  ($29) comes as a very tender, rosy Heritage County pork chop with lady apple and  jus cassé, and Scottish salmon is cooked quickly on the heated plancha ($29), with eggplant caviar, tomato, grilled scallions and aged balsamic vinegar to embolden the subtle flavor of the fish.
    And then there’s good old steak au poivre ($36), which absolutely must have the right chewiness and the right amount of black peppercorns crushed into the meat and the sauce, with a brandy reduction  and impeccably golden French fries in a paper cone.
        The desserts stay within the beloved canon of floating island in a vanilla-rich rich crème anglaise, and a deep dark chocolate pot de crème (both $12).  Only a panna cotta was lacking in flavor that night.
    Bistros should always have a solid but compact wine list and Little Frog’s is just that: About 50 good selections with regional wines, mostly from France, but some from Italy, Argentina and Austria.  Mark ups are high: A Serge Dagueneau et Filles 2015 Pouilly Fumé sells for $23 in a store; at Little Frog it is $60; a Mercurey Maison Chanzu 2015 Clos Roy is $27 versus $79 here.
    NYC has a good number of fine little bistros already in place, but you can never have too many, at least not when they are as classic and well-run as Little Frog.


Open for dinner nightly, for brunch Sat. & Sun.





By Brian Freedman
Photos by Chad Keig

The Tucker Torpedo from "Tucker: The Man and His Dreams" (1988), directed by Francis Ford Coppola 

    As a rule, I read every press release that finds its way to my inbox—with one exception: Wines claiming some sort of affiliation with a particular celebrity.  Not all of them are terrible, of course, but lately it seems as if even D-list status is enough for the collective population of our American pop-culture trash-bin to cynically justify slapping their vaguely familiar name on a bottle of plonk and hope that that’s enough to sell it to the fans of their show.
      In general, it’s fair to say that appearing on any of the “Real Housewives” franchises is, shockingly, not the grape-juice equivalent of a degree from the University of California at Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology, and it’s certainly no guarantee that the liquid in the bottle bearing said housewife’s name will taste like anything better than cough syrup mixed with a bit of sugar.
         But that doesn’t mean that all celebrity wines are soul-crushing; there are plenty of them that are perfectly decent, and some even better than that.  Then there are the wines of Francis Ford Coppola, which have, steadily over the course of the past four decades, become among the most reliably well crafted, easy-to-find, and pleasure-providing bottlings on the market, regardless of producer. Indeed, the team at Coppola has pulled off that most difficult trick: The Coppola name is now just as well known for excellent wine as it is for film—no small feat, considering the fact that Francis Ford Coppola made a little movie called “The Godfather.”
    Coppola and his wife, Eleanor, purchased the Niebaum mansion and a sizable chunk of the legendary Inglenook property in 1975, including 1,560 acres of land. The first wine, Rubicon, was crafted in 1978, and released in 1985. Over the course of the intervening decades, Coppola has worked with a who’s who of consultants and winemakers (André Tchelistcheff, Stéphane Derenoncourt, longtime winemaker Scott McLeod) and expanded the winemaking operations to now include nine winemakers and six viticulturalists, who work with fruit  purchased from other growers as well as with grapes that are grown on Coppola’s own 220 blocks spread across 13 counties throughout California, including Napa, Sonoma, Santa Barbara and Monterey.
    The result is a remarkable tapestry of terroirs and micro-climates with which the winemaking team can work to craft the wide range of wines in the Coppola portfolio. I spent several days with the Coppola team in the Alexander Valley this past summer, and came away more than impressed by not just the scale of the operation, but also by the attention to detail that is paid to each and every one of the nearly two dozen bottlings they produce, from the value-priced Diamond series to the $89 Archimedes Cabernet Sauvignon, which has earned critical praise vintage after vintage.
    The 2013 is a subtle yet powerful gem, with sage, floral pink peppercorn, sweet currants, mocha, and cedar that can be enjoyed now with a stint in the decanter, or held onto for the next decade. Among the Diamond Series, I particularly enjoyed the 2014 Merlot, with its generous vanilla spice framing gulpable flavors of blueberry and cobbler shell. These wines are crafted from fruit grown in appellations across the breadth of California, and the focus therefore is on the character of the grape variety itself as opposed to the terroir of their origins. From a Quality-Price Ratio standpoint—they are line-priced at under $20—they represent an excellent option in the everyday category.
    A step more specific in terroir expressivity are the Director’s Cut wines, bottlings made from grapes grown in specific AVAs within Sonoma County. The Director’s Cut Chardonnay 2014 showcases
generous fruit flavors and a beautifully creamy texture that never sacrifices liveliness and energy, with a healthy dose of acidity slicing through all the stone fruit and orange blossom richness. The Director’s Cut Zinfandel is a quintessential Dry Creek Valley bottling with its chocolate ganache, blueberry and spice notes.
Even more tied to a specific patch of the planet is the Reserve line of wines, each of which comes from a single vineyard in Sonoma. The Reserve Pinot Noir is from the justifiably venerated Dutton Ranch, and the 2014 bottling is a spicy beauty, with brambly berry fruit, forest floor notes, and lingering acidity that keeps it all fresh. The Reserve Syrah 2013—it’s 90% of that grape variety perked up with 10% Viognier—showcases sweet and spicy dark berry fruit as well as chocolate and an unexpected note of charred kumquat.
    The range of wines that Coppola produces is little short of astounding. From the higher-priced bottlings like Archimedes and Eleanor (the 2013 is a steal at $65, a mineral- and spice-zipped blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Cabernet Sauvignon with notes of blackberry, blueberry, toast, and tobacco) to the Great Movies bottlings and the entirely separate brand Virginia Dare Winery (I loved the Two Arrowheads 2013 in particular, a Rhone-style blend of Viognier and Roussanne with white peach, lemon drop, and honeyed notes carried on a rich yet lively frame), the wine empire that the Coppola family has built is beyond impressive.
    So, too, is the hospitality of the brand: From Cafe Zoetrope in San Francisco and Rustic Restaurant at the Geyserville winery to the movie-set pool and cabins that are available to rent (and which sell out very, very quickly each year), Coppola has created that rarest of things: A wine brand that was begun as a result of its founder’s celebrity, but that has surpassed those origins a thousand-fold and become a major player in the world of wine in its own right. It’s an amazing, delicious story, and a fascinating tale of how one man has managed to make his name helping to define not one but two quintessentially American art forms: Movies that stand the test of time and wines that express the stunning terroir of California.
    Someone really should make a movie about it.



“Less exciting was the Yolk and Swine, a two-egg sandwich with barbecue-sauced bacon and cheddar on a brioche bun. I just didn't like the ketchup-ness of the liberally applied sweet sauce, which seemed to tomato-up the whole thing. It made it hard to tell if the bacon had much of a smoky flavor.”--Debbi Snook, "Rebol," Cleveland Plain Dealer ( 12/16/16)


A food truck named the Unwanted Animal Kitchen (left) run by two artists in the Dutch city of Breda, is serving the “wild flavor” of animals otherwise doomed to die, like old horses, pigeons, canal crayfish, coots, rats and parakeets.  Bambi Balls were early favorites, but the $18 “My Little Pony burger”  has not sold well.  Says co-owner Babbe Hengeveld,  “People do feel bad about the idea of eating horse,” she told Vice. “For people to understand, you really have to explain to them clearly about the unwanted ponies and horse meat. When I’m cooking in the kitchen, I don’t always have time for this.” The ponies are sourced from Slagharen amusement park.


 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:

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, Geoff Kalish, Mort Hochstein, and Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographers: Galina Dargery. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.

To un-subscribe from this newsletter,click here.

© copyright John Mariani 2016