Virtual Gourmet

  February 19,   2017                                                                                            NEWSLETTER




, Part One
By John Mariani


By John Mariani

by Patricia Savoie


Part One

By John Mariani


    I doubt anyone would question the superlative that Vienna is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, with a level of sophistication that surpasses any shy of Paris.
      Given its central location on the continent, just a few miles from the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, Vienna has always drawn in other cultures that have influenced its history, science, art, history and cuisine.  It was once a royal city and capital of the vast Austro-Hungarian Empire, and 152 years ago Franz Josef I created the Ringstrasse that encircles the city’s historic center, still dotted with historic cafés, and around which runs the always-on-time tram and puts you within walking distance of every grand attraction, from the Hofburg Palace, the Rathaus Town Hall, Parliament and State Opera (left) to the magnificent museums that include Kunsthistorisches Museum (below)—which has the world’s greatest collection of Breughels—the endless corridors of the Naturhistorisches Museum,  and the very modern Museumsquartier, converted from the former Imperial Stalls.
    Simply strolling along the broad, winding
Kärntner Strasse, lined with designer boutiques, cafés, chocolate shops, restaurants and street performers, is a sure way to get a palpable sense of Vienna’s street life.  Dominant on the Strasse is St. Stephen's Cathedral (below), dating, as a smaller church, back to 1147.  Saved from destruction in World War II only because a German captain refused his superior’s orders to reduce it to rubble, it has been undergoing renovation ever since, with most of the exterior scrubbed clean, though the interior is still dark with centuries of soot and grime.
    Of course, like Salzburg, Vienna is one of the world’s great music cities. Franz Schubert, Johann Strauss and Arnold Schoenberg were born there, and Mozart, Salieri, Beethoven, Haydn, Mahler, Liszt, Bruckner and Brahms all came to work there.  All have their works performed throughout the year at many venues —the State Opera, Musikverein Golden Hall and Konzerthaus, the Volksopera, and Kursalon concert hall.
    Like all great capitals, Vienna has its great hotels—the Imperial, the Sacher, the new Park Hyatt—all of them completely brought up to 21st century standards.  This year my wife and I stayed at the Hotel Ritz Carlton Vienna and the Hotel Grand Ferdinand nearby, both proximate to the Ringstrasse.
    The Hotel Ritz Carlton Vienna is composed of
four historic palaces in different architectures—Renaissance, baroque and Gothic—along with magnificent 19th century marble staircases with superb ceiling murals, to which have been added a very modern lobby and lounge, done in an equestrian motif, a spa and indoor pool (with underwater music) and rooftop bar. The bar has a breathtaking panorama on the city and in December turns into a cheery Christmas market and place to get hot drinks.
      The hotel’s 202 rooms (above) and 43 suites achieve a balance of comfort and modern amenities that go with being a five-star property, and it’s no wonder the extravagant Crystal Ballroom  and other banquet rooms host more than 450 balls each year.  The Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge, located on the 7th floor, not only offers morning through evening respite and good food, but I found the concierge could not do enough to help my wife and me with plans and change of plans.
    (Next week I shall report on the hotel’s unique DSTRIKT Steakhouse, which has garnered great popularity. )   
    The owner of the
Hotel Grand Ferdinand, Florian Weitzer, says that his aim upon taking over a landmarked 1950s building, once headquarters for the research company Veitscher Magnesitwerke AG, was to make it “splendidly contemporary, free of forced flashbacks—and filled with unparalleled spirit." He calls it “Viennese Elegance Re-Loaded.” In that spirit he named it in honor of Emperor Ferdinand, retaining several of his favorite recipes in the Restaurant Am Ring (of which I shall write next week) and in the building’s Grand Étage above Vienna's rooftops, which is used for the breakfast buffet, as well as lunch and dinner.  There’s also a rooftop pool (left) overlooking the city.  Wi-Fi is free and there is an exercise room.
    The rooms and suites have a canny blend of contemporary black-and-white minimalist design and Secessionist flourishes in claw-foot bathtubs, tufted divans, round mirrors and glass brick walls (right).  There is one unusual room, called the Dorm, set up with eight bunk beds and brass ladders, surrounded by polished, cherry-stained wood, as if awaiting a teenage aristocrat and his chums on a lark in the city.

• Just about everyone speaks excellent English in hotels, restaurants, shops, cafés and on the streets.
• Buy a Wien-Karte (Vienna Card) coupon book with more than 210 discounts at  museums, sights, theaters, concerts, shops, cafés, restaurants, and free travel on Vienna's public transport system for 24, 48 or 72 hours (€13.90/€21.90/€24.90).   You can easily purchase them at your hotel and the Tourist Office at Albertinaplatz  at the Vienna Main Station or on-line.

• Gas stations are few and far between in the city, so gas up with discretion, and fill up before you return a rental car.
• Wi-Fi Internet access on the streets is spotty, but the cafés and shops are quite happy to link you to their hot spots.
• ATMs are abundant.
• Since service charges in hotels are included, minimal tips are recommended—a euro or two—for porters and chambermaids.
• The Viennese are music mad, so plan ahead for tickets to the opera and the endless series of Mozart and Austrian music concerts.  Check with your concierge.



By John Mariani
Photos by Pierre Monetta

60 West 55th Street (near Sixth Avenue)

    It’s now been nine years since The Ducasse Group opened Benoit New York, an offshoot of the Paris original opened in 1912 in the 4th Arrondissement at 20 Rue Saint-Martin, and now with another branch in Tokyo.  Through some ups and downs, but with only three chef changes, the New York operation has become a stalwart among the West Side of Manhattan’s French bistros and a mainstay of the Theater District.
    Now there is a new chef—Benoit’s first woman—a Parisian named Laëtitia Rouabah, previously at Allard in her hometown, who is carefully balancing traditional French bistro cooking with the evolution of modern cuisine.  She’s kept the majority of dishes that have always been on the menu at Benoit, from a textbook perfect onion soup gratinée ($16) and pig’s trotter (offered as part of the hors d’oeuvre) to an array of charcuterie.  Gone, at  least for now, are the lobster bisque, in favor of a creamy chestnut soup ($16), the quenelles of pike with sauce Nantua and the brandade. In their place are new dishes, including a seaweed striped bass with spelt and olive-lemon condiment ($40) and a silky roasted cod with a tart-sweet mango-and-passion fruit rougaille sauce ($36).  You also still get a  complimentary plate of puffy, cheesy gougères, and good bread and butter.
    The roast chicken, once only available for two, now may be ordered for one ($30, or $55 for the whole bird), and it is a very generous portion indeed, its skin golden and crisp, the interior juicy, the bird itself quite flavorful, as are the accompanying French fries in a paper cone.  No one ever leaves the table without polishing them all off.
    The  Alsatian tarte flambée is—hurrah!—still on the menu, a very crispy flatbread mounted with plenty of bacon, cheese and sweet caramelized onions ($14), while the flakey pâté en croûte ($19) dates back to an 1892 a recipe by Master Chef Lucien Tendret; it stays put on the menu for all the right reasons.  So, too, is a steak tartare with mesclun ($32),  chopped by hand for the ideal texture, chunky, not ground, and the savory seasonings never detract from the flavor of the good beef.
    It’s winter and cassoulet ($38) is on the menu, so it was requisite to order, but ,while it had good, dark, winey, rich flavors and plenty of pork, beans, sausage and duck confit, it lacked the traditional crusted top.  I defer to Larousse Gastronomique, which has two pages on the subject, noting in typical French academic style that way back in 1906 “the Grand États Genèreaux de la Gastronomie française” decreed what a cassoulet must contain:  “Above all, purists insist on breaking the gratin crust several times (seven times in Castelnaudary and eight times in Toulouse.”  For some reason, Benoit’s cassoulet has never had a crust that would hold up to a single blow of the spoon.
    Desserts are better than ever, including a baba doused with Armagnac and lavished with crème fraîche ($12) and an impeccably cooked hazelnut soufflé with grapefruit sorbet ($14), not too soft, not too firm, not too eggy.  Benoit’s superb tarte Tatin costs $24 because it is more than ample for two, even four, people, and it is much closer to the century-old Tatin sisters’ original recipe of cooked apples with plenty of butter on an inverted crisp pastry crust than to those flat apple tarts now found everywhere going without shame by the same name.  Benoit's profiteroles require fondue forks to dip  the puff pastries into hot chocolate ($22), but, since they are intended to be shared, they work and it's a good dessert.
    The wine list is extensive, especially for a bistro, with more than 40 Champagnes, 11 Chablis (the classic bistro wine), and plenty of regional wines, and prices are actually not bad by NYC standards. Cocktails run $14-$15.
     I regret ending this report with a description of what must be among the worst re-decoration of a once beautiful restaurant in memory—right up there with when the Grand Central Oyster Bar’s historic ceiling tiles were once  painted a ghastly aqua blue.  Benoit NYC did not look very much like the Paris original, but it was a joy to be in on its own: You’d enter the red-faced building through a r
evolving door, with a jaunty bar to the left, then be ushered into a good-
sized dining room done up in golden-blond wood, bright red banquettes, brass railings, tile floors, wall scones, mirrors and an enchanting trompe l'œuil cloudy blue sky above you.
    For reasons that escape me, everything but the red banquettes has been transformed into a monochrome room the color of Milk of Magnesia. The wood-paneled walls have been whitewashed, the bar is now almost denuded of color. (There is still jazz entertainment there.)  Even the once inviting façade has been painted bone white, suggesting a Greek estiatorio.  What once looked like a chic neighborhood bistro now looks like a drab dining room in a third-rate hotel in Alsace.  To paraphrase the French cliché, “Plus les choses changent, plus elles sont mauvaises.”

    The service staff, now under manager Christopher Charradeau, is quick on their feet and cordial, although on the night I was to meet a woman from one of NYC’s premier p.r. firms--the rez was under her name--I found that she’d first been seated, in a near empty dining room, at a table next to the kitchen door.  Pas bon.
    So, Benoit goes on serving the same fine bistro food with a new spark from a new chef who breathes new vitality into the kitchen, but in its new white dress, the dining room has lost much of its charm and bonhomie as a place to soak up that once tantalizing sense of true French joie de vivre.

Open daily for lunch and dinner.




By Patricia Savoie

Marco Mosconi Vineyards, Veneto

    It’s official: the 2013 Amarones were released the weekend of January 28 at Anteprima Amarone in Verona, Italy. Eighty-three producers debuted wines from the 2013 vintage. That this vintage is being released only now is a result of the rules specifying that Amarones must be aged for at least four years from the year they are made. "Riserva" Amarones are cellared even longer. I attended the Anteprima as a guest of the Consorzio per la Tutela dei Vini Valpolicella, which oversees the producers.
    Amarone della Valpolicella—its full name—is a full-bodied red  from the Valpolicella wine zone of northern Italy. Most Valpolicella wines contain several grapes: Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella, plus other approved red varieties such as Molinara, Oseletta and Spigamonti. From these grapes come four different wines—Valpolicella, Valpolicella Ripasso, Amarone and Recioto—all distinguished by the amount of time the grapes are left to dry and by whether they are fermented using the must of other wines.
    Valpolicella is the simplest of the four and is easy to drink. It receives only one year aging. The current vintage in the market is 2015, with a few 2016s showing up.
    Valpolicella Ripasso is made by aging the Valpolicella pressing on the Amarone grape skins, or must, for anywhere from 15 to 20 days. By using the skins, and putting the wine through a second fermentation (ripasso), tannins and phenolic flavor compounds are absorbed by the wine, giving it a higher alcohol content, lower acidity and a pleasant roundness.
    Grapes for Amarone are air-dried in trays  (left) for up to 120 days after harvest. Cold winter temperatures and air circulated by large fans help keep mold from attacking. The loss of water reduces the grape volume by about 40 percent, but also intensifies the flavors. Generally, 220 pounds of grapes will produce only about 10 gallons of Amarone, resulting in a powerful wine that can be aged for several decades. Amarones are aged in oak, often many different types. Alcohol levels may be as high as 18 percent, with a legal minimum of 14 percent.
    The word Amarone comes from "amaro,” meaning bitter, not in the sense that it tastes bitter but that it is less sweet than Recioto, which is fermented longer. When that fermentation is stopped early, the resulting Recioto wine contains more sugar. In 2009 Amarone and Recioto were both promoted to the status of Denominazione di  Origine Controllata e Guarantita, Italy’s highest wine designation.

          According to the Consorzio per la tutela dei Vini Valpolicella, the region produced almost 14.5 million bottles in 2016.  More than 10% goes to the U.S.; the percentages increase to 14% for Valpolicella and 21% for Ripasso. When presented with a list of Italian red wines, 11% of Americans recognize and say they have drunk Valpolicella wine at least once over the past year, while 10% have drunk Amarone. The rate for Ripasso and Recioto is slightly lower at 9% and 6%, respectively    
The 2013 vintage was described as challenging by winemakers at the Consorzio, but overall a good vintage. A long winter, rainy spring and a relatively cool August resulted in a late ripening of grapes. Most wineries started harvest at the end of September or the beginning of October. But continuous rains prevented the usual conclusion of harvesting, especially for the grapes used for Amarone and Recioto.
    When it rains, vine roots absorb water, diluting sugar content and taste compounds, and wet clusters cannot be dried for the production of Amarone. In the end there was an average production decrease of about 20-30%, and in some cases reached 50%.
    I visited ten wineries and spoke with the owners and winemakers, also tasting older vintages. Of the 80-plus bottles of Amarone presented at the Anteprima, I tasted all blind. Most showed good red fruit—often the typical red cherry notes—and good acidity. However, many of the wines are not imported into the U.S. In addition, although the release of the 2013 vintage was officially January 2017, many producers do not release their wines until months or years later.
    Below are a few of my favorites, all available in the U.S. I’ve indicated the release date, but I suggest getting whatever vintage is available. I’ve also shown latest vintage listed on Wine Searcher and average price.

Bertani – A veteran winery, founded in 1857, Bertani is a brand that is well known to American drinkers.  The 2011 sells now for $75.

Vigneti di Ettore – I visited the winery, a small, family-owned place where Ettore Righetti and Paolo Grigolli are winemakers.  They have plantings of some of the less-available indigenous grapes: Oseleta, Pelara and Molinara. Only 40,000 bottles come from their small vineyard. Release date: April 2017. The 2012 is $46.

Corte Rugolin
– Started by Elena and Federico Coati in 1998, the winery is a continuation of their family’s involvement in grape growing for several generations. Release date: September 2017. The 2010  is $50-55.

Bolla – Bolla’s Soave was one of the first Italian wines imported into the U.S., beginning in the 1960s. It is surely one of the first that many readers remember drinking. The Bolla winery was established in 1883, making it one of the oldest wineries in Valpolicella. It has seen multiple owners, currently the Gruppo Italiano Vini. Director of the Cantina, Christian Zulian, recently came from Tuscany, where he worked for Antinori.  Release date: December 2017. The 2011 is $32.

 Le Bignele – It is produced by the Aldrighetti family winery, which was founded in 1818. All harvesting is by hand. Total of 30,000 bottles produced. Release date: late 2017 or early 2018. The 2012 is $20.

Marco Mosconi – Mosconi comes from a family of winemakers, and in 2006 he broke out on his own. His wines are elegant and structured. Only 10,000 bottles produced.  Release date: January 2018. The 2011 is $60.

Riccolo Grassi – Ricolo Grassi was founded in 1996.  Winemaker Marco Sartori also makes a lovely Valpolicella. Total production is 50,000 bottles. Release date: February 2018. The 2012 is $65.

Cantina di Soave – Located at the food of the mountain on which the Castle of Soave reigns, the Cantina is one of the largest producers of Soave. Wine maker Giancarlo Piubelli (right) also makes a fine Amarone Rocca Sveva. Release date: Spring 2018. The 2012 is $26.

Villa Canestrari  –The Bonuzzi and Franchi families founded Canestrari in 1990. They also created a small but interesting Wine Museum. Production is a total of 150,000 bottles. Release date: January 2019. The 2009 is $42.

Vincola Sartori – Founded in 1898 in the heart of the Classico region near Verona. Total production is 2.3 million bottles. Release date: January 2019. The 2012 is $20.

Fidora Monte Tabor – Owners Emilio and Lawrence Fidora converted the vineyards to organic in 1974. They produce 150,000+ bottles. Release date: January 2019. The 2010 is $60.

Zỳmē – (left) Founded in 1999 by Celestino Gaspari, this small winery (its name means "yeast" in Greek)  practices sustainable vineyard management. Producing only 35,000 bottles, Gaspari none-the-less makes 11 different wines. Release date: January 2020. The 2009 is  $145.



Director of operations David Simmons of Bombshells restaurant chain out of Texas  insists, “It is not a so-called ‘breastaurant,’ Our uniform  (left) is like a cheerleader outfit.”


“I cover [fast food restaurants] for a simple reason: People eat at them. Show up at a Wendy’s in New York at 11:30 p.m. on a weeknight and you’ll wait in line. Having spent a bit of time at various outposts of Popeyes, Burger King, and elsewhere, I can say without equivocation that you’ll encounter a more diverse crowd there than you would at most of the restaurants we critics cover.”—Ryan Sutton, "Ranking America’s Fast-Food Chicken Nuggets,” (1/18/2017)


Sponsored by Banfi Vintners
By John Fodera    

    The story of coastal Tuscany, the Maremma -- or Bolgheri as its interchangeably referred to -- began with Sassicaia, but it's not anywhere close to reaching its pinnacle.  The region has been a prime area for nurturing vitis vinifera into compelling wine for decades.
         As I've written many times, the expansion to Maremma of wineries based in central Tuscany and even beyond to Piedmont, has taken on a frenetic pace.   The wild, untamed Maremma countryside, replete with water buffalo, wild horses, and cowboys called butteri,  has become the perfect cradle for cultivation of classic Bordelaise varieties.
         Castello Banfi acquired 5 small hectares of vineyards along the Tuscan coast with the aim of producing a classic Cabernet-based wine that portrayed the hallmarks of their elegant style.  The result, Aska.  The legend relates that  Aska  is the ancient Etruscan name for "wine vessel".  These ancient people, who called Tuscany home a millennia ago, used Askas  to contain and transport wine and olive oil.
    Aska  was a touchstone for the Etruscans because they believed that beneficial human emotions were conferred by the Etruscan Gods of Sun and Moon.  This legend is symbolized by the two luminous discs on the wine's label. First released in the 2012 vintage, Aska is predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon with minor additions of Cabernet Franc.  The vineyards giving the fruit are young, and the debut release of Aska was elegant and approachable.  I harbor the same sentiment for the subject of today's review and look forward to following this vineyard as it develops. We decanted the 2013 Banfi Aska for about 45 minutes before dinner, a simple pasta with earthy flavors of wild boar and chanterelles.
boar and chan
 In the glass, the wine exudes aromas of crushed red plums, cherries, soft vanilla and spice notes and a faint hint of pine.  It's attractive to smell.   On the palate, the flavors echo the nose with primary red plum flavors backed by soft wood and vanilla notes.  The round, elegant mouth feel trails off delicately and there is little "bite" from the well-integrated tannins.  This wine stays fresh and lively and will be best enjoyed over the next 3-4 years.   Aska is vinified in stainless steel and then transferred to French  barriques  for 10 months of refinement. A brief bottle aging takes place before release. 


 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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