Virtual Gourmet

  January 8,   2016                                                                                             NEWSLETTER


Travel poster by Franz Lenzhart (1955)


Houston Dining, Part Two
By John Mariani


By John Mariani

By Andrew Chalk


Houston Dining,
Part Two
By John Mariani

Liberty Kitchen at The Treehouse

    With the Super Bowl being played in Houston's NRG Stadium this year, visiting fans may well want a break from wings  and tailgate fare.  Here are some top places to consider.

5000 Westheimer Road

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe Houston’s Arcodoro is the only true Sardinian restaurant in America.  And, if it’s not, I feel confident that it’s the best, for not only is owner-chef Efisio Farris proudly Sardinian, but he works very hard and happily to educate his clientele as to the diversity of and difference from what too often passes for Italian food in Houston.
    With his wife, Lori, Farris has managed to keep Arcodoro in the top ranks of all the city’s restaurants for more than twenty years now, and he has built a unique network of Sardinian food and wine suppliers. Farris makes his own fresh pastas, including gnocchi-like malloreddus and ravioli-like culurzones, and he has his own Gourmet Sardinia private food line of imported products and
five Signature Family Wines. In 2007 his cookbook, Sweet Myrtle & Bitter Honey, was published by Rizzoli.  And, since Sardinia is considered one of the world’s “blue zones” for healthful eating, he has a menu of typical Sardinian dishes that manifest that idea.
    The beautiful dining room reflects the Farrises’ intent to make it feel like you’re dining at an affluent home on the Costa Smeralda, with warm colored tiles and stencilings, arched ceilings, and tables draped in thick cloths. There’s a fine bar and counter up front where you can eat, too.
    Whenever I go to Arcodoro I always just put myself in Farris’s hands, knowing I’ll have dishes I can find nowhere else this side of the Tyrrhenian Sea. There is a wonderful slew of pizzas—try the one with porchetta, m
ozzarella, Gorgonzola, wild mushrooms and mustard dressing ($18);  you’ll find yourself nibbling away on the paper-thin carta di musica wafers.
   I  might begin with an array of antipasti like
house-cured meats and Sardinian cheeses ($19).  Or enjoy  a soup of fregula toasted pasta pellets with baby clams in a saffron broth ($12). 
    There is a special hand-braided pasta (above) called lorighittas (made exclusively by two Sardinian women) with baby octopus and sweet potato or with roasted goat ($36), and linguini with fresh clams,  tomatoes and bottarga ($28).  Anzelotos (right) are stuffed with cheese and mint ($26). Duck breast is pan-roasted with myrtle and fennel, served with mosto d'uva (grape must), caramelized baby onions, and butternut squash ravioli  ($32).  Gulf red snapper is pan-roasted with orange zest served over  black risotto and topped with a cardomon-scented lobster juice ($28).
    For dessert seadas ($10.50) are cheese-filled pastries that are fried then dressed with honey, or try the sampling of five Sardinian desserts for $14.50. 
    Arcodoro's wine menu  has a wide range of wines,  with a long list of hard-to-find Italian regional wines, but the phrase "Serving current vintages" compromises the list: The vast number of wines have no vintage at all, even for wines that cost $220 and up, like the Ca' del Bosco Chardonnay, with no vintage, at $220, whose current vintage in a wine store is about $80.   

     That said, what you eat at Arcodoro will be a revelation, unless you’ve visited the beautiful island of  Sardinia in the past.  If you haven't, the Farrises will make sure you put their beloved island on your bucket list.

Open daily for lunch and dinner.

936 Bunker Hill Road

   You can pretty much sum up what American food is in 2017 by perusing the expansive menu at the cavernous and gregarious Liberty Kitchen at The Treehouse Memorial City, where most of what you’ll find comes off a 13-foot-long wood-fired grill bordered with a brushed stainless steel exhaust hood. That grill imparts enormous flavor to the food, some of it cooked in cast iron Dutch ovens.
    The 5,750-square-foot dining room has tall glass walls, reclaimed wood,  and a soaring ceiling hung with  chandelier globes that throw plenty of light into a room of bright prime colors and onto “Yee Haw” wallpaper. Fine pictures of the Gulf Coast and ranches by Houston photographer Geoff Winningham give you a sense of place and historic context. Even at lunch, the room  can get brutally loud, not helped by the needless, pounding bass-and-drums music piped in.
        Liberty Kitchen is another corporately owned restaurant, in this case F.E.E.D. TX Restaurant Group, which operates several other Liberty Kitchens that more or less share the same vast menu.  Opening other branches has apparently allowed the partners and kitchen staffs to practice a recipe until it’s both perfect and easily transferable to the other branches; consistency is key to such an operation.  Still, there’s really no reason to have a menu whose front and back are bewilderingly jammed with 80 items, including eight varieties of poke ($12.50) with three sauces and four “bases.” Desserts are not even listed on that screed.
    There are a lot of sharing plates, which make sense, including hush puppies with chopped bratwurst meat, cherry peppers, cheese, bacon, jam, scallions and hot sauce ($8.95), a dozen “specialties,” including five kinds of hamburger, and a dozen sides ($4.50 to $10).  It’s all way too much to digest in even ten visits, but I have to commend Culinary Director and Partner Lance Fegan, whose recipes derive as much from his Italian grandmother as from his Texas upbringing, for the food's overall integrity.  Eric Laird is Executive Chef, whose 23 years on the road as an army brat, gave him an international culinary perspective.
    In one visit with a couple of friends I barely made a dent in the menu, but I thoroughly enjoyed dishes like the heritage Angus rib eye (MP) and a red snapper (MP) that came off that wood grill nice and juicy.  A hearty rendering of chicken and andouille with red beans and gold rice ($22) took on a good dose of hot sauce, with scallions and hush puppies on the side.  Also good was Creole whole crab, shrimp and andouille gumbo (left) with potato salad, fried oyster, okra, and scallion ($8.50-$12). 
I do recommend a platter of à la carte meats ($4-$5 each), that include excellent chorizo, pork belly with Taipei-style duck sauce, sweet Italian sausage with cherry peppers, morcilla with aji pique, and brats with beer and ballpark mustard.  The only dessert I tried was a decent if not exceptional chocolate cake.      
    The wine list is quite extensive, about 100 labels,  about half white, half red.  Mark-ups can be steep, like an $18 Argyle Pinot Noir at $60 on the list, others just a bit over 100%.


3209 Kirby

     I suspect many people don’t realize that the vast, ever-expanding Houston metro area reaches into the Gulf of Mexico, thereby assuring the city’s chefs of excellent seafood. So Director of Culinary Operations Brandi Key of SaltAir Seafood Kitchen and its corporate company, Clark Cooper Concepts, have the wherewithal to command the best that comes into the market, owing to the thriving Vietnamese community that now dominates the seafood industry there.
    Key, who has long tenure in Houston restaurants, uses that first-rate product with global effects that range from North Africa to Coastal America, from lobster rolls to carpaccios.  The menu itself has a typewriter font, hinting it was all just printed that day, beginning with the requisite raw bar items that include a very good scallop ceviche With coconut, lime, ginger, basil and shrimp chips ($14),  none of which overpowers the delicate flavor of the scallops.  Similar is the seafood campechana of shrimp and crab with a spicy tomato sauce and avocado, with tortilla chips for scooping it all up ($13).   Of the very few non-seafood apps, I recommend the dumplings filled with pork and green onion laced with a red chili oil ($10).
    As for the pasta section, the goat's cheese ravioli with crushed tomato sauce, basil pesto, and crispy garlic ($19) is a fine contemporary take. They also serve saffron fettuccine with crabmeat and bottarga ($21) and garlic-rich spaghetti with sautéed shrimp, lemon, chili and basil ($20).
     The best way to appreciate the product quality here is to order a simply cooked whole fish like the “branzini,” which, despite its misspelling, shows how good this sea bass (left) is when it comes from Mediterranean waters rather than a fish farm.  At SaltAir it is roasted simply with olive oil, salt and pepper and lemon butter, then sauced with chimichurri and nuoc cham it didn’t need (MP).  There’s also a grilled fish sandwich on brioche bun with a tasty remoulade and French fries. ($16).  If you do want to enhance the richness of a dish, order a side of Joël Robuchon-inspired potatoes with equal amounts butter to starch ($7).
     There is a section  for carnivores, listing lamb chops ($36), a 16-ounce ribeye ($38), and Cornish hen ($24).
      For dessert don’t say no to the brownie with vanilla ice cream ($9) or the butterscotch pot de crème with dulce de leche ($8).
     SaltAir is a very large restaurant, with two main rooms and others for private dining, and while the menu might easily be cut back by 20 percent, most of what I tasted had impeccable freshness and flavor, the seafood was never overcooked, the plate presentations always nicely  colorful.  The place has the cast of a dockside restaurant, complete with blue canvas chairs and sunny bright walls,  as well as the main dining room of varnished wood and very warm lighting.  Tables are bare, the bar very popular, the decibel level high.
     Cocktails run $12-$14, with about 30 wines by the glass, 16 half-bottles and several of sake. Bottle mark-ups are remarkably fair-minded in most cases.
     I can imagine any number of reasons to go to SaltAir—bop in for a beer and some mussels in white wine, have a good crab Louis salad for lunch, bring the family in early and share some pastas, or go full tilt with the shellfish platter.  The place lends itself to all kinds of conviviality, but without that pristine seafood it might be not be the big draw it clearly is.

Open Tues.-Sun. for lunch, brunch on Sat. & Sun., for dinner nightly.

361 East Broadway
Pearland, TX

     By the way, although Houston is far from a great barbecue town, I keep trying to find the good ones, and I’m always happy to find good new ones.  But having heard wonderful things about Ronnie Killen’s namesake ‘cue place in Pearland, I just wasn’t able to get there on my last trip, so Ronnie was nice enough to drop some brisket and ribs off at my hotel to take back on the plane with me.
    I felt that was a reasonable though far from ideal way to sample Killen’s product, because if any food in the world can be packed up tight and survive a four-hour flight home, it’s barbecue.  (What you have to do is prevent the ever-vigilant TSA inspectors from getting the aroma up their noses, because they just might confiscate the ‘cue right there and take it home for further testing.)
    Anyway, the ‘cue and I arrived home safely and, with a cold beer on the side, I dug in and loved what I tasted, without apparent loss of flavor.  After all, a big part of the business is catering by the pound.  So, next trip I may have to make time to get out to Pearland and eat Killen’s Texas brisket, pulled pork, bone-in pork belly and beef ribs  at the store.  And I’d like to shake Ronnie’s hand.


By John Mariani

Photos by Nicole Franzen

376 Greenwich Avenue

    Ten years ago Greenwich, Connecticut, had perhaps five good restaurants—two of them long gone—but since then this Gold Coast town, for which the term “affluent” almost seems a snub to the enormous wealth in the area, has seen the opening of a remarkable number of restaurants of every stripe.  Most, however, are still copycats of a kind you’ll find in any NYC bedroom community.  So the arrival of The National has brought a finer degree of sophistication and good taste to the upscale but casual segment.
    Which is what you’d expect from Geoffrey Zakarian (right), who, despite a celebrity status that turns most chefs into mere QVC hucksters, has managed to maintain an array of six restaurants with high standards of cuisine, service and design, from The Lambs Club in Manhattan to the Georgie at Montage in Beverly Hills.  That he cannot be at all properties at once and still devote time to his TV shows is worrisome, but Zakarian is not the kind to let things drift into mediocrity.
    The National (abbreviated on the menu as The NTL), set along Greenwich’s prime retail street, looks terrific: Gray velvet curtains inside the door give way to spacious banquettes along the wall, gray and white floor tiles, and bare marble tables, with a few palm trees dotted around to give it a omni-seasonal ambiance.  A glass panel separates the dining room from the mirror-backed bar.  All those hard surfaces make the room fairly loud, the decibel level further hiked by wholly unnecessary piped-in booming music.   (Who would ever go to an upscale restaurant like this to hear music? Greenwich is not the Lower East Side.)
    NTL’s  menu is very well balanced and has been carefully crafted to appeal to a contemporary palate, although there isn’t much on it that will surprise anyone who has dined at The Lamb’s Club (where prices are somewhat higher.)
    There are four pasta dishes—no American restaurant can fail to serve pasta—the best of which was squash-plumped ravioli with crushed walnuts, rich brown butter and a touch of sage ($23).  Squash was also the main ingredient of a soup, the vegetable first roasted, served with a Sultana raisin emulsion, candied pumpkin seeds and brown butter ($12), whose contrasting textures and sweetness were in perfect equilibrium.  Hawaiian tuna poke was a good example of a dish fast becoming something of a cliché on menus, with ample scallions and avocado, spiked with a ginger lime vinaigrette ($22). 
    I sampled two seafood entrees, a wood-grilled dorade ($36), which is not a fish easy to love, but it was nicely cooked, its own bland flavor helped by celery, olives, and a little bite of grilled lemon.  Spanish octopus was tender, served with gigante beans, fennel, black olives and taramasalata ($33).
    It’s not difficult to cook a duck (above) till juicy but to retain all the flavors of fat, its meatiness and crisp skin as done here, with radicchio for bitterness and figs for sweetness ($36), is to break from the ordinary.  The Prime hanger steak had the right chewiness, riddled with beefy juices, served with a creamy shallot confit and watercress ($32); and a side dish of crispy Parmesan-dusted potatoes ($10) is well advised for a table of four.
    I’m helpless when it comes to judging sticky toffee pudding for dessert, and NTL’s is as good as the best around town. But is there any real reason to include yet another tiramisù on a menu? Instead go with the delectable (O.K., yummy) strawberry ice cream sundae (bellow).  With two spoons.

    The wine list is overseen by Geoffrey Fischer, previously at WD-50 in NYC; the cocktails menu by Brian Van Flandern.  Cocktails,  run $14-$16, but there are two “craft classics” priced at $24 and $75; beers run $7-$9; wines by the glass number fourteen.  The bottle list is well chosen to go with the food and includes many out-of-the-ordinary bottlings from France and Italy. Some wines are priced at a reasonable 100% above retail, others 150% or more.  There are plenty of wines above $200 but, I’m happy to report, many good bottles under $50.
    You can dine well in Greenwich, but The NTL raises the bar for this kind of contemporary comfort food, priced right and served with care. Its popularity—the room was full on a cold Monday night—makes it seem like a place Greenwich and the surrounding area had been waiting for.  Look for some others to copy its virtues.





By Andrew Chalk
    At a time when Greece's economy, now in its third bail-out, has been teetering on the brink of chaos and concerns about staying in the EU, all sectors have been affected, with more than 23% of working-age Greeks unemployed and public sector pay and pensions have been cut by more than 40% in many cases, while taxes have gone up by around 25%.

    The Greek wine industry has launched a comprehensive marketing program aimed at education and increasing exports. Just what effect has Greece’s financial crisis had on the country’s booming wine industry? I spoke recently with Sofia Perpera (right), enologist and director of the Greek Wine Bureau for North America, for some answers:

What domestic problems did the Greek economic crisis cause to Greek wine producers?

Sofia Perpera: When the economic crisis hit Greece, there was not an actual decrease in consumption domestically, just a general trend toward more inexpensive wines. More than half of the wine consumed in Greece is bulk, and during these tough times this increased at the expense of higher quality bottled wine. The restaurant scene was obviously impacted, as people ate out and spent less, especially at higher-end restaurants. In the last couple of years there has been a revival in Greek wine bars, beginning in Athens, where people can go and get a good glass of wine at a decent price, get a bite to eat, and not break the bank. This trend is also forcing traditional taverns and café/bars to include good wine by the glass in order to compete for this segment of the market that has extra money to spend, but is looking for something different and of quality.

What about export sales?

Twenty percent of Greek wine is exported. On the export side, the economic crisis in Greece has created an even greater sense of urgency to focus on the export market. Because of their promotional activities over the last decade, many of the top wineries were already involved in exports and establishing foreign distribution networks, which helped them weather the storm at home. According to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, sales of Greek wine, beer, and similar products increased by 27 percent over the past five years; in Canada, Greek wine sales are up by 25 percent for the same period. The U.S. is No. 2 in terms of the value of exports. Germany is No. 1. However, there is a difference in composition. Germany is cheap wine. The U.S. is premium wine.

What has the effect been of the scramble to raise tax revenue since the crisis?

With the Greek government’s implementation of a new excise duty on Greek wine, Greek wineries have been put in a difficult economic position and placed at an unfair marketing advantage compared to other European wine producing regions. Greece has been producing wine for more than 4,000 years, longer than most any other EU producing countries. For the Greek government to propose the enforcement of an excise duty on Greek wine is inconsistent not only with Greek policy, but also with the current European economic situation. The issue of imposing excise duties on wine has been extensively discussed within the relevant European Union institutions and the framework of the Common Market Organization for wine. No other winemaking country and member-state of the European Union has imposed an excise duty on wine. On the contrary, only member-states that are not producing wine, for obvious reasons, have done so. Other EU countries that produce wine have been very firm in their decisions to have no excise tax on wine. Wine is considered an exclusively local agricultural product, which is an integral part of the Greek diet. The tax would increase the financial burden to the end consumer, since it will have the largest impact on less expensive wines that make up the bulk of purchases.                       Ancient Greek ceramic and stone wine storage facility

    The Greek wine sector has several good reasons to oppose this special tax on wine. In order for the Greek government to be able to implement the collection of the tax, Greek wineries will have to create bonded warehouses. Each warehouse would require substantial guarantees through letters of credit from the banks, which are also in economic distress and are not lending to help even viable business survive these unprecedented economic problems. Since the procedure of creating a bonded warehouse takes several months, the wineries must pay the tax on the total of their stocks, which also includes older vintages in tanks, barrels, and bottles. Of course, the nature of the wine market is that the wineries might not actually sell the wine until some years in the future or not at all. The current tax requires that the wineries must pay all of the tax due at once, even for unsold wine! Most of the wineries in Greece are small, family-owned businesses that stand to be the most affected by the tax, with many projected to be forced out of business. Capital controls in July 2015 caused problems importing equipment (barrels, bottles). After one month, controls were eased.

Was there a differential effect on small versus large producers?


Would devaluation have fixed the problem?

No, because 80 percent of the things used in wine production are imported — things such as corks, bottles, additives, and barrels. Although devaluation would make Greek exports less expensive, it would have increased the cost of these imported inputs.

How has the crisis affected the planning of Greek wine producers and grape growers?

It has made exports more important in their plans.

I understand that one industry response was the drawing up of a strategic plan in 2009. Tell me about what that plan proposed.

The marketing strategy for Greek wine in the most important export markets was focused on differentiation from other wine regions, with the goal of creating a separate category for Greek wine while promoting its quality and perceived value. To achieve these goals, EDOAO (the Greek National Inter-Professional Organization of the Vine and Wine) has been managing an ambitious promotional program that included: establishing the Greek Wine Bureau of North America; creation of a new educational website; creating a social media marketing campaign; creating a 45-minute educational wine video; cooperating with major wine educational organizations and institutes in North America (Guild of Sommeliers; Court of Master Sommeliers; Culinary Institute of America in New York and California; Johnson Wales Colleges of Culinary Arts; Cornell University; Society of Wine Educators; Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers; TEXSOM [Texas sommeliers] Conference; and others) to provide education and tastings for our sector; creating Greek wine ambassadors from key opinion leaders in the wine and gastronomy fields; starting an annual North American Winemakers Road Show for trade/media with stops in key metropolitan markets in the U.S. and Canada; participating at key wine and food festivals for trade and consumers; starting annual trade/media visits to the Greek vineyards; creating an ongoing media sampling/outreach campaign; and organizing Greek cultural events for consumers that combine Greek wine, gastronomy, and traditions in major metropolitan areas throughout North America.

Has EDOAO placed any demands on its members in order to achieve greater international success?

EDOAO has designed a voluntary agreement that it is asking the Greek wineries to sign. The agreement’s goal is to standardize proper viticultural and vinicultural practices to ensure the production of high-quality wines and the added value they possess around the world. To achieve these goals, the Greek wine industry has made the following stipulations in order to protect the wineries that are using fair trade practices: Wineries must provide proof of their production declarations; donate an annual fee to EDOAO (based on production) to be used for common promotion of Greek wine and other important sectoral activities; abide by the rules of Greek and European wine legislation; commit to use only legitimate wine production practices; guarantee the accuracy of the content and the labeling of their wines, based on Greek wine legislation, as well as the legislation used in destination export markets; not participate in unfair competitive market practices; not distribute bulk wine without adhering to Greek wine labeling regulations; and accept the strategic plan as a useful developmental market tool.

What is the go-to market proposition behind Greek wines?

We have more than 300 indigenous grapes. The wines are food-friendly. Greek wine goes with food sourced from great terroir. Today, consumers take "good wine” for granted. What you have to do is differentiate your product. We should not be at the low end. For example, a white wine from Santorini should be considered as an alternative to a grand cru Chablis or a German riesling.

Should the Greek wine industry simplify the impenetrable names of Greek wine grapes, like agiorghitiko or xinomavro, to boost sales in anglophone countries?

No. Distribution networks, not names, are the big issue.

Has the Greek wine industry fully recovered from the Greek economic crisis even though the country has not?

It is one of the bright spots; 2014 was very positive for exports, creating jobs and bringing in foreign exchange

Greek wine museum in Koutsoyannopoulos.

This article first appeared in The Daily Meal.




For the eleven years that Tyler Hives has been alive,  he has refused to eat anything but canned beans and sausage, because, as his mother explained, he “didn’t like the sensation of chewing or swallowing.” Doctors  eventually diagnosed him with a made-up malady--selective-eating disorder.


"I’m not a beer geek, but No Anchor could make me one. The warm hospitality, the ethos of sustainability and the subversive sense of humor afoot at this Belltown beer bar is a large part of its appeal, but mostly, I’m besotted with the way the food and drink are so simpatico."--Providence Cicero, "Beer geeks and food lovers, No Anchor will be your happy place," Seattle Times  (12/1/16)


 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.

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