Virtual Gourmet

  March 5,   2017                                                                                            NEWSLETTER


"Bridesmaids" (2011) with Rose Byrne, Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig, Ellie Kemper, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Melissa McCarthy


Next week there will be no issue of Mariani's Virtual Gourmet because Mariani will be off in Bangkok drinking and dining on your behalf. The next issue will appear March 19.


Yucatan's Inviting Capital
By Joanna Pruess


By John Mariani


By John Mariani


Yucatan's Inviting Capital
By Joanna Pruess


      With the U.S. dollar particularly strong in Mexico at the moment, visiting the Yucatán is both affordable and easy. While many of the pristine beaches have become overbuilt and touristy, Mérida, the state’s capital and largest city, is cosmopolitan yet still uncrowded, with stately colonial mansions and pleasant promenades, cultural and UNESCO World Heritage sites within close proximity, and exceptional food. In 2016, 1.9 million people visited Mérida, a 20 percent growth over the previous year.
      Mayan hunter-gatherers migrated into the Yucatán peninsula around 2,500 B.C. and between 300 and 1000 A.D., they built cities like Chichén Itzá and Uxmal. Another early city, T’hó (a reference to five nearby pyramids), was already abandoned when conquering Spaniards, led by Motejo y Léon, arrived in 1542 and renamed it Mérida.
    Much of the town’s colonial center was constructed during the golden era of the sisal barons—from the early 1800s to the end of WWI—when sailing ships relied on the pliable rope made from the indigenous henequen (sisal) plants able to withstand extreme weather conditions. Several henequeneros became immensely wealthy, and, by the beginning of the 20th century, Mérida was said to be the richest city in the world. European-inspired limestone mansions attested to a lavish life style.
     Many of these 19th century homes, in various states of repair, still line the cobblestone roads, several, in recent years, meticulously restored as banks, museums, office buildings and elegant boutique hotels. Two gracious examples of where you can feel like a magnate are the 8-bedroom, bright blue Casa Azul (left), with its tranquil courtyard, restored tiles, and period furniture collected from throughout Mexico, and the 7-bedroom Casa Lecanda, with tasteful antiques and French-Caribbean accents. Both award-winning hotels offer meals. Casa Lecanda also has cooking classes led by chef Christian Bravo of Crabster.
    Along Paseo Montejo, Mérida’s tree-lined main thoroughfare, the Anthropology and History Museum  is housed in an outsized early 20th century marble mansion built in the neoclassical and French baroque styles. Inside, bilingual descriptions of artifacts provide a thoughtful overview of life in Mérida and Mayan culture (below).
     There are striking contemporary structures in Mérida, as well. The new Gran Museo del Mundo Maya focuses exclusively on Mayan history. On Pasaje de la Revolución, MACAY (left), the contemporary art museum, is another popular destination, next to San Idelfonso, the oldest cathedral in the Americas, dating from 1562.
           There is great civic pride in Mérida, and it’s best shown off at night, when the municipal center is lighted up for visitors each evening. Mérida’s town center is an inviting place to stroll, especially during temperate evening hours. Along with casual bars at which to enjoy a drink, particularly mezcal—the local liquor made from smoked agave—there are family-oriented activities every evening. In Parque Santa Lucía there are performances of Jaranas Yucatecas, traditional dances where intricate lines of colorfully dressed performers sashay in and out of formations, accompanied by musicians.
          Pok Ta Pok is a reenactment of an ancient Mayan ball game, held in front of the Cathedral. Costumed warriors play with a ball on fire. Rather than seeming touristic, the spirit and professionalism of these activities make the events enjoyable for all ages.
Some top chefs, like David Cetina (right) at Tradicion, promote the Yucatecan culinary legacy and local ingredients. Since beginning his career in 1973, Cetina has used ancient cooking techniques in traditional dishes. His pork filling in a hollowed-out Edam cheese wheel is seasoned with sweet chiles, cinnamon, vinegar, olives, raisins, capers, tomatoes and hard cooked eggs. It’s then served with an epazote-scented white sauce and xcatik, a chile and tomato-based red sauce.
     Edam cheese is a mainstay of the cuisine because the red wax-coated balls kept well during the long sea voyage from Holland. Roberto Solís of Néctar (below) also uses the cheese as the puréed base for a contemporary cauliflower “steak” with pancetta-parsley vinaigrette. His blackened, smoke-charred onion served with chile mayonnaise incorporates ancient techniques in a modernist presentation. He calls his cuisine “New Yucatecan.”
    Solís, like other progressive chefs, has traveled the world representing local gastronomy and working with renowned chefs like René Redzepi of Denmark’s Noma. Recently, he and his partner, Luis Barocio, were the main promoters of “Kooben, Gastronomic Meeting of the Mayab,” a four-day festival in Mérida where 31 chefs from across Mexico came to cook and learn about the traditional and new Yucatecan cuisine.
    The menu at Apaola, (below) a lively eatery bordering el Parque de Santa Lucía, features Oaxacan and Yucatán cooking. Carlos Arnaud and his sister present tasty fare including Mezcal margaritas with tiny bowls of chapulines, fried grasshoppers, crunchy zucchini flowers stuffed with Oaxacan cheese and mole amarillo (made with guajillo chiles), seared top sirloin tacos with pickled cabbage, and aguachile white fish with cocoa. Have a look downstairs at their trendy speakeasy, Malahat, named for a 19th century ship that smuggled liquor from Canada into the U.S. Reservations are required.
     If you’re just off a cruise ship, or out for a day at the beach in Progreso, Crabster (below) is the place for minutes-fresh seafood with a playful twist. Chef Christian Bravo, a Puebla native who has cooked in stellar restaurants throughout Mexico and Spain, was a Top Chef Mexico finalist. (He’s also currently the chef at Casa Lecanda.) Christian’s riff on shrimp cocktail comes in a tall Bloody Mary glass complete with celery; his burgers are crammed with shrimp and/or crab, and seafood salads are all tasty and more than generous.
     The food at Oliva Kitchen (below), while not Mexican, is definitely noteworthy. Chef Stefano Lecanda, who also owns another restaurant in town and the nearby hotel Casa Lecanda, celebrates the food of his Roman father. He describes the intimate restaurant as “urban Italian: a comfortable place to have good food”—an understatement judging by impeccable ravioli alla romana and roman-style meatballs.
     And once your desire for haute cuisine is sated, there’s a lot of buzz about Mercado 60, a recently opened place near the el Parque Santa Lucía that’s got the feel of a hip food court. Along the perimeter, food vendors sell tasty small plates of international cuisines, drinks (including excellent Mexican craft beers), and desserts. Leave room for the ice cream, which you can’t miss. It’s a welcoming place, with communal tables at the center and frequent live music.
    To get a sense of life on a working estate, or hacienda, where sisal was grown and rope was spun, take a cab or rent a car to drive 20 miles south to Hacienda Yaxcopoil (left). At its height Yaxcopoil comprised about 22,000 acres and was considered one of the most important rural estates of the Yucatán. Today it is a parador and museum, with an atmosphere reminiscent of scenes in the movie Like Water for Chocolate. A nominal fee allows visitors to wander around the property, visit the chapel with its St. Geronimo statue, as well as rooms inside the hacienda.
     From here, it's a short distance to the Mayan temples at Uxmal. While smaller than Chichén Itzá, this archeological site is a manageable place to discover the region’s aesthetically exciting late-Mayan style of art and architecture (700 to 1000 A.D.). Several buildings include etched abstract symbols as well as serpents, turtles and birds. Climbing the 60+ steps of the Temple of the Magician, the imposing central pyramid, provides a mild cardio workout.
  Only a small part of the site has been unearthed. What is visible is in a very well preserved state, so visitors get a good sense of how the ceremonial center once looked. It’s worth hiring a well-informed, English-speaking guide.
     The Mayan ruins at Dzibilchaltún (right) include the Temple of the Seven Dolls and the Temple of the Sun, aligned so that during the fall and spring equinoxes, the rising sun shines through both windows, which was an event of significant religious importance. Even today, many people come to witness the event. Inside the archeological site is the cenote at Xlacah, a swimming hole that is home to small fish that nibble on calluses, a bonus for your tired feet.
IF YOU GO. . .    American Airlines now offers five nonstop flights a week from both Miami and Dallas-Fort Worth to nearby Manuel Crescencio Rejón International Airport. Flights also arrive from Milan and Toronto, and cruise ships dock in the port of Progresso, about 30 minutes away. 


By John Mariani



    Few hotels in America are as storied as The Carlyle, which was built in 1930 but barely survived the Depression.  Through successive owners, now Rosewood, the hotel, which has prided itself as being “staid not ritzy,” has maintained a certain exclusivity through its high room rates and small number of rooms (190). Its management never fails to remind guests of the number of U.S. Presidents—not least JFK, whom Marilyn Monroe paid visits to by coming up to his suite via secret tunnels—and celebrities like the Beatles, Mick Jagger and Lady Diana (right) who have stayed at the art déco hotel. 
    Genteel is not a word much in favor these days, which unfortunately has too many connotations in the dictionary: “Having an aristocratic quality relating to the gentry class; elegant or graceful in manner; free from vulgarity, polite; middle-class respectability; and marked by false delicacy; conventionally or insipidly pretty.”  Depending on which one you prefer, it might be applied to the general tenor of The Carlyle Hotel.     Designed by the firm of Bien & Prince, the hotel was for some odd reason named after the wholly un-genteel Victorian writer Thomas Carlyle, of whom Samuel Butler said, “It was very good of God to let Carlyle and Mrs. Carlyle marry one another, and so make only two people miserable and not four.”
    The entrance does not open onto a grand lobby but to a dark ground floor second entrance that leads you to the Bemelsman Bar (left), with its cherished Ludwig Bemelsman murals, or to the Café Carlyle (below), famous for the late Bobby Short’s long tenure as saloon singer par excellence, now host to the better remaining cabaret singers and musicians like Judy Collins, John Pizzarelli, and Christine Ebersole.  On Monday nights Woody Allen regularly plays Dixieland clarinet here. Or you may enter the two-tier Gallery for light food and tea after a grueling shopping spree along Madison Avenue.
    Beyond that is the Restaurant, two dining rooms that are indeed staid, in the most polite sense, without being ritzy in the garish sense.  Centered by four dark brown upholstered booths and a huge spray of flowers, the room would fit easily into a feature of any recent decade in House Beautiful. Mirrors, mantelpieces, patterned William Morris-like wallpaper, heavy draperies, a gorgeous patterned carpet, wall sconces with lampshades, and the requisite equestrian prints abound; a rear room for larger parties, done in Fortuny silk, has a light level kept funereally low, though that can be turned up on request.  The decibel level, thank heavens, will never be an issue for conversationalists.  So pick your definition of genteel and you’ll find it here.
    Surprisingly, the food has been quite good for a long time under successive chefs—currently, Vincent Raith, though you’d never know from the menu or website, an omission that suggests that the menu is intended to seem timeless, if uninspired, and there will be something for everyone.  The service staff is unlikely to win any medals in foot races and much of the evening they are nowhere to be found in the dining room. 
    The menu (which has  tasteless “V/GF” notes to indicate vegetarian and gluten-free items) has a page of very expensive “Carlyle Classics,” most, like Dover sole (a whopping $98) and escargots à la bourguignonne ($29), easily found elsewhere, but they do serve lobster Thermidor ($69) and, quite unusual for this kind of menu, a pork and foie gras pastry called tortière ($65).
    The other side of the menu is of sufficient interest to anyone not looking for innovation, and overall the cooking and presentation are of consistent quality.  Oven-dried Roma tomato and prosciutto with burrata, basil and aged balsamic ($27) is predictably satisfying, and seared octopus with a warm salad of kale, potato, olives, Bell pepper and Key lime aïoli ($28) is competently rendered. Hamachi tartare (below) with avocado, pink peppercorns and soy-truffle vinaigrette was a pleasing mound of Asian flavors ($29).  The stand-out appetizer on a recent visit was green French lentil soup with lardons, truffled crème fraȋche and brioche crouton ($19), which had depth in the balanced incorporation of salty vegetable and meat flavors.
    Roasted halibut, slightly overcooked, came with a lovely fennel gratin and eggplant caponata with rosemary sauce ($45).  I applauded the lusty flavors of slowly braised veal cheeks with pine nuts, well-made soft polenta, gremolata and baby leeks (a very pricey $57), and that Carlyle Classic tortière should definitely stay on the menu forever; it’s a terrific, rustic dish.   Disappointing, however, was a rack of lamb with salsify and gastrique ($48), because the lamb was not of the highest quality, lacking any rich fattiness. Its provenance is not listed on the menu.
    There are side dishes you do not need and a selection of artisanal cheeses from the well-regarded Murray’s Cheese ($23-$31).
    As you might guess, in a place that is known for its tea service and banquets, desserts here are very, very good, from a quickly baked apple tartine to dense but moist flourless chocolate cake as good as any in town.
    The Carlyle has had decades to build a first-rate wine list, so it’s currently 30 pages long and strong in every category, but prices can be steep, with next to nothing under $60.  A 2012 Ponzi Pinot Noir you can get in a NYC wine store for about $35 runs $120; the more expensive wines, however, are marked up less.
    À la carte prices are high—especially for appetizers—but a three-course meal can easily come in under $100 per person, and with that you’re getting an elegant dining room now rare in NYC.  True, the Carlyle is staid, though sometimes that can be a balm to the harried soul just out of work or just off the FDR Highway. It is not a place to find ill-dressed foodies ravenous for novelty.   If there still exists something called New York Society, you’ll find its remnants here, and if that’s genteel, then so be it.

The Carlyle Restaurant
35 East 76th Street (at Madison Avenue)

Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.



By John Mariani


    “We have to learn something new every day,” Aurelio Montes Jr., 42, says of his family’s namesake winery in Chile, founded by his father in 1988. “We had a big problem with birds eating the grapes in the vineyards. So an expert told us our problem actually came from rabbits, after we’d cleared all the bushes from the vineyard. So the rabbits were more exposed to the eagles, so they both disappeared.  Without eagles, small birds came in and started eating our grapes.  We solved the problem by building corridors to protect rabbits, so the population of rabbits grew, the eagles came back, and small birds flew away. So now we don’t have a bird problem.”
    Montes Wines has achieved an eminence with extraordinary speed. Back in 1980 Chile was exporting only 100,000 cases to the U.S.; today it ships more than 3 million to its biggest importer—-and 60% of total production is exported.  Oddly, Chileans consume very little wine compared with other wine-producing countries, and most of what they do drink is cheap, commercial wine. 
    Originally, Spaniards brought the vines to Chile, with the most widely planted varietal Pais (known in California as Mission), and the industry was long dominated by huge family-owned wineries. Under the dictator
Augusto Pinochet in the 1970s and ’80s,  heavy taxation of wineries and lower local wine consumption forced the ripping out of about half of Chile’s vineyards.
    Montes was among the first to see a real future for premium Chilean wines, along with mid-1990s foreign investors that included Spain’s Miguel Torres, France’s Lafite-Rothschild, Mouton-Rothschild, Cos d’Estournel, and Grand Marnier, and several American producers. There was even a joke among California winemakers that the best place to meet their neighbors was in the lobby of the Hyatt Hotel in Santiago, Chile.
     Their optimism was based on new assessments of the kind of quality wine Chile could produce, especially in the beautiful Maipo and Colchagua Valleys, whose unusual, isolated geography of protecting oceans and mountains kept vineyards free of phylloxera. To this day Chile’s strict agriculture laws prevent importation of any foreign plants.

   One of Montes’s proudest achievements is its commitment to the environment—the first winery in the world to receive National Wine Industry Sustainability Code Certification—not least in using drip irrigation to decrease water consumption by up to 35%, which totals 200 million gallons.  “Too much water makes the vines grow too fragrantly,” Aurelio said over dinner in NYC. “They need to be stressed to make good grapes. Eighty percent of a great wine is made in the vineyard.”
    They even use lambs and llamas to keep the grass in check, and they play Gregorian chants in the cellars as the wine is aging. Says the elder Aurelio Montes (left, with his son Aurelio), “Somebody asked me if the grapes seem to enjoy it, and I answered, ‘I really have no idea.’ But I love it—it keeps me calm in the cellar.”

    The high-altitude winery recycles everything possible, from glass to metal screwcaps, which Montes uses instead of cork stoppers.  The family has also been admirably devoted to their work force, providing support to local schools for children of their employees.
    I have long admired Montes for those efforts, but the proof is in the bottle, and I rank their wines among the very best—and most expensive—coming out of Chile right now. 
Opened in December 2004, their state-of-the-art Apalta winery and cellar, with a capacity to hold 2.3 million liters of wine, is where they make their finest reds: Montes Alpha, Montes Alpha M, Montes Folly and Purple Angel.
    Malbec is one of the grapes that has put Chile’s wines on the global stage, and Montes’s supple,well-priced very, very rich example ($23) shows why. It’s a blend from two vineyards, respectively 40 and 15 miles from the Pacific coastline—45% each—plus 10% cabernet sauvignon for body.
    Montes Alpha Cabernets (they also make wine in Mendoza under the Kaiken label) are
aged for 12 months in French fine grain oak barrels and achieve remarkable complexity, even in a recent vintage like 2014, but will achieve greater maturity as they age. I certainly count their benchmark Montes Alpha M ($90) among the finest Bordeaux-style red wines in the world, a blend of cabernet sauvignon (80%), merlot (10%), cabernet franc (5%) and petit verdot (5%).
    I asked the younger Aurelio about two aspects of his red wines—aging and alcohol— since he releases them young, with alcohol levels that now hit 14.5%. (My notes from prior tastings showed that t
he 1997 was listed at 13.5 percent, the 1998 at 13.9, and vintages like 2004 and 2005, a percentage point higher.)
    “I make wine to be drunk now,” he said over a dinner in New York. “They will improve if you keep them, but not enough to delay you from enjoying them right away. As for alcohol, I never consider it, as long as I have fruit when it is properly ripe.  I know that there are red wines that go much higher in alcohol, but to me that is not balance.”
    He also defends the controversial use of micro-oxygenation, by which bubbles of oxygen are added to the wines to simulate the slow, controlled oxidation of wines aged in stainless steel tanks, making the wines softer to make them easier to drink earlier.
    “We do use it in our carmenère,” Aurelio said, “because it rounds out the spiciness of the varietal.  The secret is to use very tiny bubbles,” as large bubbles, or too much oxygen, can turn the tannins hard and dry.
    Their Kaiken white torrontes ($14)  is remarkable for its balance of fruit, acid and a touch of grass, tasting as a good chenin blanc (a wholly different varietal) should but so rarely does.
    Montes was also the first
Chilean winery to make a convincing syrah, called Folly, from Santa Cruz (about $78). It is a huge wine with an excellent ratio of fruit to tannin that promises it will be among the best New World Syrahs of the future.
    Back in 1988, when Montes began, Aurelio Montes Sr., was more than once close to bankruptcy with his project, but today his winery has become a powerful global brand, and his son has particular faith in selling wines to China.
    “Just think,” he said. “If every Chinese drank just one glass of wine per year, the consumption would be astounding! I’d just like to have some of them drink a lot more of our wines. Our number one market is currently the U.S., then Japan, so can China be far behind?”



A restaurant called Modern Round in Peoria, AZ, opened by the former chief executive of Smith & Wesson, claims that 2,800 people have signed up for five-dollar memberships that allow them to reserve tables  set up in front of giant screens, where customers can shoot off replica guns, including semi-automatics, at a  series of different scenarios that include  zombie-killing,  duck-hunting, pig shooting, and actual live-action police and military training scenarios.



“Atlanta: Hello Kitty bento box at Tea House Formosa. Is it gimmicky? Oh yeah. Is it the best bento box in Atlanta? Nope. But is it — thanks to both its intrinsically cute Instagrammability and its scarcity (with only 30 available per day) — driving Atlanta diners into a tizzy? You bet.”—“30 Essential Dishes to Eat Across the US,” ZAGAT online


 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: PHILLY IN WINTER

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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